This book is the story of my flying experiences during World WarII. It covers primarily the period from February 1943 to April 1945. At thebeginning I explain why and how I got into the Army Air Corps, as it wasthen called, and at the end I include an account of my partialconvalescence in a U.S. Army hospital in England. Otherwise, I stick closelyto my actual flying experiences and the events of that era. I omit all but atrivial amount of personal experiences outside of flying. I have compiled this account from several sources: (1) my memoryand my official flight record; (2) the letters I wrote to my immediatefamily while I was in the Air Corps, which I repossessed after my parentsdied; (3) official Eighth Air Force records of bombing missions; (4)accounts written by former crew members, Larry Locker, John R. Wingfield,and Fred Stoker; and (5) the book, The 388th at War, by Edward Huntzinger.During the war, I had a diary in which I kept brief accounts of day-to-dayevents. However, some eager lackey, who must have known that diaries wereofficially forbidden, removed it from my belongings in March 1945 when hetransferred them from my bomber unit to the Army hospital where I wasconvalescing. Fortunately, I could verify the dates and events that Iinclude in this account by means of these other sources. Long ago, I determined to write this chronicle if I survived mycombat tour. I felt that it would be the least I could do for those who willnever grow old and can never speak for themselves. I do not pretend to speakfor them. Nevertheless, if my account is only one among many that bearswitness to the trauma and agony of politically organized human conflict, itwill have served its purpose. The title I have chosen derives from the common thought many of ushave when we are suddenly enveloped in Big Events, such as, for example,World War II. "Boy, if they could see me now," we think, as we imagine allthe people--family, friends, and "enemies"--who might gasp in awe andadmiration at our exploits. But . . .They Never Saw Me Then. Since "they"did not see me then, I decided to tell this story myself. I was a young man--a boy, really, 21-22 years old--during 1943 and1944. I was one among millions of young men fighting millions of other youngmen, all of whom might have been friends if not for the circumstances oftime and place in which they happened to live. All my fellow airmen and Iknew that Hitler and his henchmen were atrocious and loathsome examples ofthe human race. Yet, any U.S. soldier or airman, who thought even brieflyabout his job of trying to kill and destroy "the enemy," knew that he wasnot within range of damaging Hitler and other Nazi leaders. We could notreach their personal environments or influence their decisions; ouractivities were many magnitudes removed from hurting them. We could onlychip away at the peripheries of their domain and hope that our efforts woulddestroy their capability to continue. To do so, we had to try andkill our enemy counterparts with whom we had no personal quarrel at all. Weaimed our bombs at their strategic war-making industries and infrastructure,but in the process we knew we could not avoid hitting churches, schools, andinnocent people. Many of us thought that a better way must exist. Fifty-sixyears later, I still think so. The first section of this book describes my experiences as anaviation cadet. I began flying in August 1943, and advanced through thethree phases of the Air Corps flight instruction program--Primary, Basic,and Advanced. I received my silver Pilot Wings in February 1944, whichmeant I was in the pilot class of 44-B. Air Corps orders then assigned me tothe role of copilot on a B-17. I was placed on a crew for operationaltraining at Drew Field near Tampa, Florida. Upon completion of thattraining, my crew and I were shipped to Scotland on the British liner,Aquitania, and then traveled by train to a replacement depot in centralEngland.We then were assigned to operational duty with the 388th Bomb Group nearKnettishall in East Anglia. From this base, I flew 26 missions to bombstrategic targets in Germany. I was wounded three times, twice on my lastmission. The last section of the book tells something of my subsequenthospitalization and recuperation at the 65th General Hospital near Diss,England. I and the young men I flew with were anything but cocky warriors.We knew that we were in a roulette game, facing the real probability thatour lives wouldend before they had fairly begun. Those of us who survived became the otherside of the statistics for those who did not. Neither we nor they can evertell their story. But perhaps the reader can glimpse something of it inthese pages. If so, my main reason for writing this account is fulfilled.
I was born in 1922 at Steubenville, Ohio. During my early years, I lived in both Steubenville, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I attended Kenyon College in Ohio before World War II, and was called into the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943. After the war, I studied at Columbia University in New York City and The University of Chicago, from which institution I received a PhD in Economics. I then taught economics at three universities. I retired from the University of Georgia in 1990. I am married to the former Hildegard Weber of Essen, Germany, and we have five children.