The 8th Air Force
by: Jamie T.

The fog that surrounded the airbase was so thick that you could barely see 20 feet ahead of you. As Capt. James Carter stood outside the door of the barracks, he looked out at the bleak pre-morning light. He could see the dim outline of the bombers parked next to the runway. The announcement the evening before from headquarters had stated that the mission the following morning would be to hit a factory on the outskirts of Berlin that manufactured German tanks. The announcement also stated that all pilots, ground crew, and any other personnel should be awake and ready by 0:500 hours.

 

James hadn’t slept much of the night thinking about the letter he had gotten from home the day before. It was from his Mother telling him his Father’s cancer had taken a turn for the worse. James had stayed awake most of the night wondering what would happen if his Dad… he couldn’t think about that anymore now, had to concentrate on the upcoming mission. He turned to walk toward the mess hall.

 

From the table where he sat, he watched the controlled chaos of the ground crew running to get the bombers ready. He took a sip of the brown liquid the English cook called coffee. Not by the merest stretch of his imagination could that brown liquid be considered coffee. He would ask the cook, what he did to coffee to make it so horrible, but he figured “Cookie” as they called the cook, would strain it through an old sock the next time. Maybe that is what he does to it. At that thought, he looked a mug and slid it away from him. He had tried drinking tea before, but Major Trevor Windsor nicknamed “Windy” gave him hard time about tea, and just about everything else.

 

“Well I say, the Yank is trying to be a proper Englishman,” said. Capt. Windsor.

 

After that remark James thought to himself, “Sure Windy, but what’s so special about being English? When this war is over then I’m going to punch you in the nose!” None of the Americans had gone 2 hours after setting foot on the base that “Windy” hadn’t ridiculed each of them about something. “Windy seems to make a career out of ridiculing,” thought James.

 

After that thought, James got up and walked back to the barracks to grab his leather flight jacket that had the bombers name “The Chow Hound” on the back with a drawing of Pluto the dog sitting on a bomb. He also grabbed his parachute, which hopefully he wouldn’t have to use on this mission. He walked over to the shelf above his bed and took his old worn Bible, which always went on missions with him. He headed back out the door and stopped to look up at the large clock on the tower and remembered that it was broken.

 

. When he reached the B-17 bomber know as “The Chow Hound” a jeep pulled up with the news that clouds had covered the factory and the mission was postponed until the clouds had dissipated. For the next hour the crew played poker in the shade of the bombers wing. James slept lightly with his cap over his eyes and his jacket as his pillow. That is until Trevor came over smoking his pipe and woke James up.

 

Under the wing James could hear the men playing cards. “I’ll take two cards, and I’ll raise you ten bucks.” said one man.

 

“Ha! Full house, oh yeah! Well I got a pair of…” they argued for a few moments then one of them collected all the money and started a new game.

 

Suddenly, the jeep drove back up to the men and the driver said, “Cloud cover has dissipated, prepare for flight.” He then drove on to each plane spreading the word.

 

As the pilot glanced out the port side of the plane at engine #1 it began to sputter, roar into life with a trail of smoke out the exhaust pipe. This stopped after a moment or two. He hit another switch and engine #2 began to start up the same way. The same was done for engines #3 and #4. Everywhere men were preparing to launch the bombers. Everyone in the plane was also preparing for take-off. The radio operator checked his equipment for malfunctions, and the navigator got his maps and other instruments ready.

 

The pilot gave a signal out his window for the ground crew to remove the chalks from the tires when another jeep pulled up in front of the bomber. This time it was a Willy painted red and white checkerboard. On the back of the Willy was a “Follow Me” sign and a red and white checkerboard flag waving from a pole attached to the back of the vehicle. The ‘Follow Me’ jeep was used to direct the pilot to the correct runway. The flag on the pole was up high so the pilot could see it from his cockpit.

 

One by one the bombers taxied to the end of the runway, then after a minute each pilot would rev all four engines and begin to run down the runway. Once hitting the right speed, the pilot would pull back on the wheel causing the plane to gradually gain altitude. When in the air, the pilot would slowly turn the plane towards Berlin, checking all the instruments and settling in for the 3 hr flight.

 

They were within half an hour of getting to their target when the German BF-109s began their attack on the B-17s. “The 109s will most likely come out of the sun and begin to strafe the bombers. “Oh yeah, by the way they will hit fast and hard so be ready” said Trevor over the radio. Once the bombers knew of their presence they too would open fire. And to make matters worse when coming up on Berlin, flack started to explode all around the planes shaking them and everyone inside. The pilot was doing his best to avoid the flack but since all the B-17s were in formation this task was nearly impossible.

 

From the nose of the aircraft where James sat alternating firing his machine guns he heard the ball turret gunner call out “bandits coming fast, heading your way Jim!”

 

James jumped to the correct machine gun and began to fire. He got the first 109 but the other got by him but was hit by another bomber. Another 109 came by and strafed the cockpit. James heard screaming and someone yelling they had been hit.

 

The pilot yelled down, “James get up here we need you!”

 

James climbed up into the cockpit and saw there was blood everywhere. He started unbuttoning the co-pilots shirt to see where he had been hit, but he found a can of tomato soup with a hole blasted through it. He held it up and said, “Thank goodness for Campbell’s!”

 

After James saw that the co-pilot was just grazed he went back to the nose of the aircraft and took his place at the machine guns. The navigator asked, “What happened up there?”

 

James replied, “Oh nothing, just the co-pilot got shot in the Campbell’s.

 

“One of these days, I’m going to ask you what you meant by that,” replied the navigator.

 

The Chow Hound and the other B-17s were coming up on Berlin. None of the the B-17s had been shot down but two had to turn back due to heavy damage. James thought to himself, “Lord, thanks and keep looking after us.” He leaned over and looked through his bomb site but just then a half destroyed 109 came crashing to a halt directly in the nose of the Chow Hound where James sat. In the process, the pilot of the B-17 was killed and the lone Bomber fell from the sky with a tower of smoke coming from behind it. It crashed in a field three miles from the factory, killing all onboard.

 

Capt. James Carter awoke gasping in the barracks of an airbase outside of London. He hadn’t slept well in the 3 months he had been there. But when he did sleep his dreams were too vivid. He got up and went outside for a breath of fresh air. The fog that surrounded the airbase was so thick that you could barely see 20ft. ahead of you. He stood outside the door of the barracks and looked at the pre-morning light. He bowed his head and prayed that the Lord would look after his Father and Mother and that the Lord would protect them all during their mission today.