Monday, May 26, 2014

Every picture tells a story...Happy Memorial Day

    This is Grandpop Bliss' story. He is the fourth one from the left of kneeling heroes. Thanks to Joe Bliss for sharing his research about the B-24's missions. Grandpop was the kindest, gentlest soul you could ever meet. He talked about his tailgunner days rarely, but when he did, his voice was reverent. Grandpop loved the men who served with him. They were family, like brothers. My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting one of his WWII family members, Don Catherman, another sweet, gentle soul. I did not get a chance to speak at length with Don. My girls were toddlers at the time, and Don had an elaborate Christmas village that he kept on display throughout the entire year. They were so excited to see that village! Meeting Don was my husband's moment so I ushered the boys outside, offered to make iced tea and prayed the girls would not break anything.
      You cannot see the complete picture, but there's a picture of a donkey's ass carrying two heavy sacks, hence the name Mi Akin Ass. After 32 weeks of basic training, B-24's crew flew their Akin Ass to some exotic locales such as Trinidad, Belem, Foralee, Dakar and then they waited in Morocco for two weeks for their orders. It was in Morocco that they received the nose art for Mi Akin Ass for the cost of a good old bottle of whiskey. They had one more stint of training in British and American techniques which they did in North Ireland before they flew to Flixton, England and became part of the 446th bomb group, known as the Bungay Buckaroos. Their mission was to slow down the german war machine by bombing oil refineries, bridges, chemical plants and aircraft factories. From December 16, 1943 to April 25, 1945 the 446 lost 58 planes and 447 lives.
      The B-24 was a heavy plane weighing at 41,000 pounds. The tailgunner position was a very cramped one, located at the very back of the plane. Grandpop was not able to stand or fully extend his arms. The cabin of the B-24 was not pressurized, and the crew had to wear ill-fitting rubber oxygen masks for hours at a time. Grandpop used to say, "now and then because of the high-altitude cold, I would take off the mask and bang it against the plane to shake off the ice that would form on it." The crew were instructed to use and dismantle the guns wearing gloves because if not their flesh would stick to the cold metal. The temperature would range from 20-30 degrees below zero. The B-24 would fly 5 to 10 hour missions with 6 of those hours directly over enemy territory.
      June 25, 1944 was Grandpop Bliss' 22nd mission. Their mission was to fly to Boulogne, France to bomb a power plant. It was this mission that explains why he never flew in a plane once he returned home. Before flying this last mission, he remembered how he flipped a coin to receive his tailgunner position. He was not very happy about winning this position when the boys first started flying their missions. Mi Akin Ass dropped their bombs then received a flak burst from enemy planes that riddled the nose of the plane. A second burst in the left rear bomb bay cut the main hydraulics. A third burst killed the left waist gunner ssgt John Tabak. The other waist gunner tsgt Ernest E. Harrison suffered a wound in the calf of his right leg. This third blast cut the oxygen to the tail and set fire to the oxygen bottles on the command deck. The ammunition exploded on the plane. Captain Laning managed to fly Mi Akin Ass back to base and made a crash-landing downwind on the runway. The bomb bay had burst into flames before the plane stopped. Grandpop crawled out of his cramped quarters, helped drag the dead body of his fallen brother, and escaped to safety. Mi Akin Ass burned on the runway.

No comments:

Post a Comment