Crew # 555

Crew # 555
Crew # 555 - planes flown: DAMIFINO , DIXIE, LET ER RIP, TIMES A WASTIN

1st. LT. J. William Smith

1st. LT. J. William Smith

Monday, December 28, 2009

Co-Pilot Lt. Wesley Vawter "DAMIFINO" B-24J #42-50465

8th. Army Air Corps. 466th Bomb Group 785th. Squadron Crew #555

I've looked at the photos I have of "Damifino" B-24J #42-50465 numerous times. Looking at a slightly different view of the aircraft I suddenly realized that Lt. Wesley Vawters name was written on the right side of the fuselage below the co-pilots window.......Dad and Wes were life long friends...Wesley passed away last May and he will be missed. Dad said he was his closest friend throughout their war years. They shared the same dangers / fears and were very close.... another veteran who did his duty has passed.

I used some different contrast / highlighting to see the name clearer and sure enough, there was Wes's name.......Doesn't show too clearly in this photo but it is there......Wes sent Dad some documents related to their service a couple of years ago and I will post them when I look them over......

This photo below is one that Dad took in England but the angle is such that you cannot see Wes Vawters name on the side. Look at the number of mission "Penguins" in this photo Dad took and you can see that this was early in Damifinos' career...........

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"TIMES A'WASTIN & B-24 Interior Photos

"Times A'Wastin" was another aircraft flown by crew #555 ........
Dad flew on "Damifino"....."Dixie"............Times a'wastin............and a couple other aircraft whose names have been forgotten over time..................

Early B-24 Cockpit view.....
I pulled these photos from various sites on the Web............
View from Bombardiers Position on early B-24 nose turret on this early model......
Dad trained on these type earlier model B-24's in the Southern United States before heading to England.
Navigators View from flight position......

Earlier Model B-24 before the electric powered nose turrets were in use......
Quite a view from the nose position I bet.............
Nose gunner / Bombardier position
Later B-24 Model with electric powered nose turret. This is also a 466th. Bomb Group Aircraft

Tail Gunners View...........

Top mechanism of Ball Turret ....Waist Gun Positions............

Waist Gun Positions facing towards Tail Gun Turret Position............

Bomb Bay catwalk, facing cockpit.................

Saturday, November 7, 2009

B-24 interior crew positions.......

The B-24 was a fairly large aircraft, but the interior spaces were as cramped as can be....the few crew seats provided were not even padded (to save weight) ....just solid aluminum.

This photo is from the rear of the bomb bay looking forward towards the flight deck. Note the skinny , narrow walkway between the bombs to access the front of the ship...the pilot/co-pilot were in the upper area and the Navigator / Bombadier had to crawl under the pilots position to reach their small, cramped escape in an emergency situation the Bombadier & Navigator had a pretty slim chance of getting out of their positions with their parachutes. It was a tight squeeze on the an in - flight emergency situation add "G-Forces" and a certain amount of panic......... You can see the ill fitting bomb bay doors at the bottom of the photo.....a lot of air would come through the seen gaps at over 150 MPH....

Crew Locations:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

WW2 Crew Members Reunited

Pilot Mel Westbrook's final Navigation Log , performed by Navigator 2ND. Lt. J. W. Smith, from their final flight from Goose Bay Labrador to Bradley Field, U.S.A. May 22ND. 1945

Lt. Col. Mel Westbrook, 466th Bomb Group, Crew #553
Received a comment this morning on my site from the son of Pilot Mel Westbrook. My Father flew as Navigator with Westbrook on ATC Missions to Sweden during WW2. Seems that Westbrook is still alive and kicking. I'm hoping that the son will contact me with a phone # or e-mail address so our fathers can reunite, by phone at least......He commented as "anonymous" so I have no way to contact him....... He said there is a B-24 reunion in September somewhere...I wish I could get my Dad there....another link to related information is at the past couple of years I have done searches for Pilot Melvin Westbrook but have had no luck.....hopefully I'll receive a reply from Westbrook's son................

The above photo was taken by my Father in Sweden in April 1945 During their clandestine A.T.C. supply missions.

2ND. Lt. J. W. Smith , Navigator, Photo taken in Stockholm , During clandestine A.T.C. Missions into Stockholm Sweden, April 1945

Pilot, Mel Westbrook with Crew #553 during Combat Bombing operations in 1944 at Attlebridge England

2ND. Lt. J. W. Smith (Montana) of crew #555 during his 36 Mission, Combat Bombing Tour in Attlebridge England, 1944.

Posted by BMW HACKER at 12:10 PM

Anonymous said...
Well, I'm not Mel Westbrook's son, but I did Post. I'm his daughter :). Apple of his eye,,, my email is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. In fact, the tail gunner of this crew, Richard Chapdelaine's secretary called me today from NY to let me know you were looking for my contact info. My dad - Mel, would love to chat with your dad. Please email me asap and let's see what we can do. The reunion is in Chicago and it's all B24 crews.Look forward to hearing from you,Anne Westbrook (Walls)
July 8, 2009 4:27 PM
BMW HACKER said...
Well, Mel Westbrooks' "son" ended up being his daughter. An acquaintance of hers in N.Y. saw on my blog that I was attempting to contact her and she sent me a note.....Tonight I talked with Pilot Lt.Mel Westbrook, aged 86, and tomorrow he will visit with his old Navigator, 2ND. Lt. J. W. Smith (Dad, aged 93)) after 64 years. They last saw each other in May 1945 after their last B-24 flight together, from England to Bradley Field U.S.A. This is the 2ND. WW2 crew member of Dads' I've found in the past year via this web site.
July 9, 2009 12:05 AM
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

B-24 losses, Luck and Fate...........

This B-24 ended up in a precarious position. One can only imagine how the aircrew in the front came out on this one.......The early B-24's had a serious design flaw with the front tricycle landing gear, obviously failed during this landing.

B-17 Battle Damage. This plane flew in after taking this amount of damage. I can't even imagine. The wind roaring through the cabin must have been tremendous. Obviously the front crewmen were casualties.

This B-24 (named "Pegasus", I believe) was in my Dad's Bomb Group, the 466th. They had their hydraulics shot out, losing the brakes and threw out a tied off parachute to help slow the plane down upon landing.

A direct Flak hit. Cannot imagine anyone getting out through the flames.

Another direct Flak hit, cutting the plane in two. Don't know if anyone got out of this one.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Flight Engineer Sgt. Alexander Boris

Below is a photo of Sgt. Alexander Boris. He entered the service at about the same time frame my father did. He was a Consolidated Factory Trained Engineer and specialized on the B-24's which were in use with the 466th. Bomb Squadron. Boris was promoted to Sgt. at some point and he flew as a Flight Engineer on various aircraft, including the Jamaica? . The photo below depicts Sgt. Boris on the engine nacelle of B-24H "Damifino" sometime in late 1944. Flight Engineer Boris was shot down on a mission over France at some point and was picked up by friendly forces, returning to Attlebridge. The name of the plane he was on is unknown. My Father and Boris were stationed at Attlebridge during the same time frames , were involved with the same aircraft and no doubt crossed paths at some point. There were thousands of servicemen stationed there so many men were just" faces in the crowds" to others. The closest friendships were among the crew mates who flew together.

(Below) 2nd. Lt. J. William (Bill) Smith during Air Cadets Training down in the southern U.S., possiblly at Selma Field, Alabama. Dad had over 250 pilots flight hours in before going into Navigation Training. He was given the option to fly as a forward observer for the Army. This would have entailed flying the little Piper Cub type aircraft over enemy lines at low altitude to give artillery fire directions. Thankfully he chose Navigation Training. If he had taken the Forward Observer offer, he may not have survived the war.

This is a Bendix Company poster showing a very early model Consolidated B-24 without any guns or gun turrets installed.

Sgt. Boris and his mates had a mascot / guard dog...he looks pretty ferocious! On the wall is the name of the aircraft "Times-a-Wastin' which is a plane my Dad flew on...

Boris took this photo of a snow - covered "Damifino" during the winter of 1944 - 1945. My Father flew numerous missions on this aircraft. Note the numerous bombs laying on the ground under the aircraft. Bombs were loaded before missions and were not "fused" until after the aircraft was in the air and underway. Normally if the bombers primary and secondary targets were obscured , the bombs were dumped in the English Channel. My Dads' Pilot, Lt. Paul Bridgeman, more than once returned to Attlebridge with unfused bombs on board and landed with them. He told Dad that he just couldn't see wasting them as long as the landing conditions were good and the plane had not suffered any damage.

A photo of the Attlebridge Air Control Tower taken during operations in 1944 and 1945.

Aerial View of Attlebridge Airfield (from Mark Brotherton collection.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fate of B-24H "Jamaica" #B24-H-41-28746 Missing Air Crew Report #9575

Pictured below is Private 1st. Class Alexander Boris. He was stationed at Attlebridge England during the same time frame as my Dad, 2nd. LT. J. Wm. Smith. They were in the same unit and Alexander Boris' son Ron is trying to unravel some of his Dads' service history. Ron has sent me the photos in this post. They were all taken by his father. Ron's dad never spoke much about his service years so there is some missing information.

This newspaper clipping speaks of Alexander Boris' service with the 8th Air Force in Attlebridge.

This photo is interesting due to some of the names shown on the huts walls. The names of aircraft "Jamaica" and "Times - A - Wastin" are on the right. One of the planes my Dad flew on was "Times-A-Wastin." The names "Bailey", "Richards", "Boris", and "Jackson", are on the door. On one mission which my Dad was a part of , a raid on Onsabruech Germany, Oct, 12th, 1944, he witnessed the aircraft "Off Limits Again" take an anti-aircraft hit and go down with all on board killed. With the help of the Aviation Archaelogical Investigation & Research (AAIR)Organization, I obtained the Official Missing Air Crew Report # 9486 for that particular crew. The Pilots name was "Quinton E. Bailey" from Galveston Texas. No way to know if it is the same "Bailey" that was on the wall. The little "bubble" windows on the hut are actually B-24 navigators Plexiglas side windows, probably salvaged.
Ron Boris identified his Dad, Alexander as the one on the far right wearing the sailors hat. The other mens identities are unknown.
photo below. Behind and to the right of the snow covered B-24 is a hut exactly like the one photographed above. I can't tell if it is the same hut. This hut was likely a maintenance building / shelter for the ground crews.
Alexander Boris on the left (below) in flight jacket. Ron believed his Dad was on board the aircraft "Jamaica" when it was lost on a fuel hauling mission on Sept. 25th, 1944. Through the AAIR, I was able to obtain the Official Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) #9575 for the "Jamaica". The plane was last seen leaving Attlebridge flying to France with a load of fuel. The aircraft was piloted by 2nd. Lt. Joseph F. E. Diamni, of Donora, Pennsylvania. The crash of the aircraft was not witnessed by any U.S. personnel. The MACR lists all 6 crewman aboard as killed in action. The names, ranks and next of kin is shown in the MACR documents. Pvt. 1st. Class Alexander Boris was not among them. There was no listing of aircrew personal items recovered or burial by the German Authorities. The loss of the "Jamaica" and its' fate is somewhat of a mystery other than the crew were all listed as Killed in Action.
One thing I've found is that all flying crew members who were enlisted men (not officers) were automatically promoted to the rank of Sargent. This way they were given better treatment if captured by the Germans. Whether Ground Crew members were allowed to fly on any missions is not known to me. I know for a fact that my Dad snuck his older Brother, Claude, on a training mission over Scotland at one time. His Brother was an Army Artillery Sargent and was visiting him in England.

A photo of Alexander Boris & "Jamaica" with her full nose art. The names on the aircraft were probably the original crew who flew into Attlebridge. My Dad told me that they would fly many different aircraft , depending on ships under repair or maintenance. No one crew flew just one particular aircraft on every mission.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The raw reality of the B-24 Bomber

The B-24 was built like a 1930s Mack truck, except that it had an aluminum skin that could be cut with a knife. It could carry a heavy load far and fast but it had no refinements. Steering the four-engine airplane was difficult and exhausting, as there was no power except the pilot's muscles. It had no windshield wipers, so the pilot had to stick his head out the side window to see during a rain. Breathing was possible only by wearing an oxygen mask -- cold and clammy, smelling of rubber and sweat -- above 10,000 feet in altitude. There was no heat, despite temperatures that at 20,000 feet and higher got as low as 40 or even 50 degrees below zero. The wind blew through the airplane like fury, especially from the waist gunners' windows and whenever the bomb bay doors were open. The oxygen mask often froze to the wearer's face. If the men at the waist touched their machine guns with bare hands, the skin froze to the metal.
There were no bathrooms. To urinate there were two small relief tubes, one forward and one aft, which were almost impossible to use without spilling because of the heavy layers of clothing the men wore. Plus which the tubes were often clogged with frozen urine. Defecating could be done only in a receptacle lined with a wax paper bag. A man had to be desperate to use it because of the difficulty of removing enough clothing and exposing bare skin to the arctic cold. The bags were dropped out of the waist windows or through the open bomb bay doors. There were no kitchen facilities, no way to warm up food or coffee, but anyway there was no food unless a crew member had packed in a C ration or a sandwich. With no pressurization, pockets of gas in a man's intestinal tract could swell like balloons and cause him to double over in pain.
There was no aisle to walk down, only the eight-inch-wide catwalk running beside the bombs and over the bomb bay doors used to move forward and aft. It had to be done with care, as the aluminum doors, which rolled up into the fuselage instead of opening outward on a hinge, had only a 100-pound capacity, so if a man slipped he would break through. The seats were not padded, could not be reclined, and were cramped into so small a space that a man had almost no chance to stretch and none whatsoever to relax. Absolutely nothing was done to make it comfortable for the pilot, the co-pilot, or the other eight men in the crew, even though most flights lasted for eight hours, sometimes ten or more, seldom less than six. The plane existed and was flown for one purpose only, to carry 500 or 1,000 pound bombs and drop them accurately over enemy targets.
It was called a Liberator. That was a perhaps unusual name for a plane designed to drop high explosives on the enemy well behind the front lines, but it was nevertheless the perfect name. Consolidated Aircraft Corporation first made it, with the initial flight in 1939. When a few went over to England in 1940, the British Air Ministry wanted to know what it was called. Reuben Fleet of Consolidated answered, "Liberator." He added, "We chose the name Liberator because this airplane can carry destruction to the heart of the Hun, and thus help you and us to liberate those millions temporarily finding themselves under Hitler's yoke."
Consolidated, along with the Ford Motor Company, Douglas Aircraft Company, and North American Aviation -- together called the Liberator Production Pool -- made more than 18,300 Liberators, about 5,000 more than the total number of B-17s. The Liberator was not operational before World War II and was not operational after the war (nearly every B-24 was cut up into pieces of scrap in 1945 and 1946, or left to rot on Pacific islands). The number of people involved in making it, in servicing it, and in flying the B-24 outnumbered those involved with any other airplane, in any country, in any time. There were more B-24s than any other American airplane ever built.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the B-24 won the war for the Allies. But don't ask how they could have won the war without it.

Consolidated B-24 Heavy Bomber

Cut away diagram of B-24 fuselage

While a workhorse of the Allied bombing effort, the B-24 was not hugely popular with American air crews who preferred the more rugged B-17. Among the issues with the B-24 was its inability to sustain heavy damage and remain aloft. The wings in particular proved vulnerable to enemy fire and if hit in critical areas could give way completely. It was not uncommon to see a B-24 falling from the sky with its wings folded upwards like a butterfly. Also, the aircraft proved highly susceptible to fires as many of the fuel tanks were mounted in the upper parts of the fuselage. In addition, crews nicknamed the B-24 the "Flying Coffin" as it possessed only one exit which was located near the tail of the aircraft. This made it difficult to impossible for the flight crew to escape a crippled B-24.

I had the opportunity to tour through this particular B-24 a few years ago in Carlsbad CA. I think the Collings Foundation operates this aircraft and a B-17 which was also present that day. The B-24 interior is a lot smaller than it looks from the outside. Figure 10 crewmen and a load of bombs and things are pretty cramped. The Navigator / Bombardier position are very cramped into one small space. Dad flew most missions without a bombardier and he performed that task along with navigating. They would normally follow a lead aircraft and would drop their bomb loads when the lead plane dropped theirs'.

I've read that there is only one flying B-24 left but this one is definitely a different one from the Collings aircraft. These photos were pulled from various sites on the Web.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

World War 2 Celestial Navigation

Dad's Flight Log from May 22, 1945. The Navigators' Log has many hand written reference notations in it. There are references to locations in Germany, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and England. These must have been for a quick reference to different flight areas. Also are listed some common words such as "Gigantic" and "Novelty". These must have been call names for missions. The "Air - Sea Rescue" Radio Channel was 665.

I don't know much about Celestial Navigation but Dad said he was constantly busy on missions. As soon as one heading was given, he began all over again to plot their location and give heading corrections to the pilot. Wind and Air Speed were the main variables. Dad said some of the high altitude cross winds were ferocious and more than once the Pilot would question him on his heading directions. The Pilot flew the plane, but the Navigator actually gave him all directions on where to go. Such a complicated, mathematical technique is now ancient history with GPS Systems in use today. No such thing as portable calculators back then.

These are some of the Navigation Aids Dad used during his Missions. Each clear disc has a different quadrant of the night skies. All based from sextant shots to Polaris, the North Star. I've read some sections of the Manuals shown below and it is a VERY complicated process to say the least. The Chronometer and Sextant were used in conjunction with these tools. The Navigator position on the B-24 had three plexiglass bubbles from which the Navigator could get his unobstucted sextant shots at the night skies. In his pre war civilian life Dad was an accountant so his knowledge of math and numbers were put to use.

These are some of the Navigation Instruction Manuals from Dads' service years. They are in as new condition and were marked as "restricted" information. I've tried to absorb some of the information but it quickly goes over my head......