S/Sgt. William Crawford Dudley
The following text has been provided by William Crawford Dudley. He is in into his eighth decade of life as he recalls some of his memories of the time he spent in Manduria.
William, as are most veterans, is a quiet unassuming man, not wanting praise and thanks for the deeds and actions he did, without question, when asked to do so by his country, so that we all can enjoy the freedoms we have today.
The following line is typical of what many veterans, including William, had to say: "I got to rub shoulders with some men who were really brave. I'll never forget them."
On his wedding day with his new bride Adrian
My first attempt at a mission was one of the most shake me up experiences I ever had.
The day we landed at the 450th in Manduria, We were a replacement crew and plane. As I remember, there were other crews just like us who landed that day because when we began to be
briefed for what to do and expect I remember others besides us being in the group. The first thing I remember was that the guy who briefed us had the worst case of "war nerves" that I saw
or heard the whole time I was there. It showed everytime he opened his mouth. Along with other things it was to give me the impression that the morale in the 450th when we got there was
really low. First, he told us we would have to sleep that night in the mess hall because they didn't have room in regular quarters, but he assured us that after tomorrows mission we would
be in our barracks. That turned out to be one hundred percent true. The next afternoon after the mission returned, I was moving into our barracks as orderlies were moving out the belongings
of those quartered in the barracks who did not return that day. I had all my belongings in two barracks bags that were tied together and slung over my shoulders. To keep them from cutting
me I had worn my leather flying jacket. As I walked in someone was tugging on my jacket so I had to stop, and I turned and said to the guy who did this, "What's up?" I really
did not know what was going on. He asked, "What size jacket is that you are wearing ?" I said, "It's a size 40," (wondering why he asked). He said, "I'll take that when you get shotdown
." I'm thinking thats a hell of a welcome to this barracks. It was a continuing insite into the morale for me. I got inside and unloaded my stuff beside the army cot that was to be my home for
my stay in the 450th. Before I ever flew a mission this kid who met me at the door borrowed my heated gloves. He did not return from that mission so I was missing them when
I was unexpectedly awakened at 4 o'clock and told that I was to fly replacement gunner on a crew whose tail gunner was sick. If Fred Barlow had not gotten up and helped me
I would have never made it to the plane. When I got out to the plane that morning there sitting on the ground about 20 yards from the plane was the guy I was supposed to replace.
To say that he looked sick, was to make a tremendous understatement, I could not believe that he had come out. Here is verbatum what he said to me, "I would not ask anyone to fly this as
their first mission. I will fly it if you don't want to." I told him I came out to fly it and I would. I had nothing to eat or drink, did not get to the pre-flight briefing, so I did not know where we were going.
I know that I would not have offered to fly like he did. He had somehing special inside. I don't know that I ever did get his name. The target I found out for that mission, was Weiner-Neustadt, Austria,
which wound up being my first credited mission in about a week. The props were turning and we took off in about 5 minutes or less. Suffice to say, we were an hour or so up the Adriatic
sea when the pilot comes on the intercom and says, " the mission has been recalled, the target is blocked over by bad weather. Disarm the Bombs and we'll drop them in the Adriatic and head Home."
Landing with bombloads was a real no no if my memory serves me correctly (the Adriatic must have a pretty good store of them).
When I first started flying my missions we had P-38's for escort and P-47's for top cover. Later on the 38's were replaced with P-51's with wing tanks to increase range.
We also had tracers in our ammo belts but the gunners were using them to aim rather than the n6a sight so this ammo was replaced with armor piercing incendaries and they had
to use the sight reticle. I shot on the Tyndall Field gunnery team of Class 43-40 that was held at Ft. Myers .Fla. between the nations 6 gunnery schools.
While in gunnery school I meet a guy John R, Thompson, He wound up in the 450th while I was there. His crew baled out over northern Yugoslavia, July 8th of 44 and he
escaped his would-be captors and returned to our base ten days later. He wrote me a very short account on a paper money bill that was in his escape kit which I have and value very much.
I never did see or hear from him again. He had a little song he was always singing that I thought was funny as hell and I always got a laugh out of it.. "Can Uncle Sam use a mountain
boy like me------Dont judge my courage by my twisted knee" John applied it to himself .
I remembered the name Ross Anzalone. When I found his name in the crew roster I decided to share this little tale.
Someone set up some crew boxing matches. I remember Ebert tried to get some of us to volunteer. Thank God I had my senses that day.
None of us volunteered but I did go to the matches that night. I had talked to Ross Anzalone one time and he was a real nice fellow.
That night in the ring, he was like most Italian boys who boxed, a real competiter in the ring. I stayed long enough to see Ross flatten his opponent out on
the deck before the bell ending the first round sounded. I was so glad that I had saved my courage for just flying missions. I dont know what squadron Ross was in or his crew.
I only knew that I never did want to ever make this guy mad. It's funny how things come back to our recollections.
Lt. Victor kenneth Todd for some reason did not like the name Victor and wanted to be called Kenneth. If ever a name fitted a guy though it was Victor for him.
It was like the name was tailored for him. He was a real victor for my money, absolutely fearless. He was also a tower of strength for our crew when Ebert and Lessard were grounded
and Avery was shot down. He became our pilot during the latter part of our missions after Lt. Radue had piloted us for about 8 or 9 sorties.
One unusual thing I remember that happened. When we first arrived at Manduria and had been there a day or two some of my crew went out to the field to see the bombers take off for a real mission.
The last plane to take off crashed and blew up. Some of the guys got out.. It was just part of what seemed to be a rough welcome for us. I really never expected to complete my missions
and thought I had come to Italy to die. After I had made my 50 missions I felt immortal and nothing could kill me. In all honesty, my trust was in God to get me home safe.
Flying tight staggered formations meant we were able to put 2 or 3 turrets on an incoming fighter which was from different directions, a withering fire. The Germans always tried to bust up
our formations for this reason. Most of the formations were not as good this way as they should have been,to our own weakness.
The following story, though true, has had some names removed to save embarrassment.
I first ran into xxxx when we landed at Phoenix, Arizona. We had words, he had the words and I had the yes sir. I knew that I didn't like this guy. When we got overseas to Manduria,
who should arrive too but xxxx and his crew.
I got to know his tail gunner about as good as I knew anyone from another crew. For about 10 days before we flew any missions , we had to practice flying tight formations.
On these practice flights xxxx also flew opposite us. He could not fly formation and almost ran into us several times.
I got the impression that some of his own crew was scared to fly with him. After Ebert, Lessard and Avery were no longer with our crew, we began to get a variety of pilots to fly with us.
This one day we go out to the bulletin board to see if we are flying tomorrow. Surprise, Surprise, guess who our pilot is to be? None other than xxxx. All the enlisted crew were in an uproar.
We went to see Todd. He said, "I'm neutral but you all can do whatever you want to and its alright with me." Lt. Nathanson said, "I'll be the spokesman and we will go see Capt. Caywood."
We set out for the CO's office. ( Now, please forgive me but I am going to paraphrase what went on and you can use your imagination). We knock on the office door, a voice says, "come in."
We march in and Caywood says, "WELL?" Lt. Nathanson says, "Sir, Lt. Ebert's crew after much deliberation and with sincere regrets has decided to pass up the very sweet invitation to fly
with xxxx tomorrow. Capt. Caywood, his face slightly red, says, in a faraway voice, "Is that all?" Lt Nathanson replys, "Sir, That is all." We do a SMART ABOUT FACE and march out.
When we get to the barracks it isn't long before we start receiving company of other guys in the 720th. They all have the same advise. "You guys have played HELL." An orderly comes
from the Captains office and removes our names from tomorrows flight list. I think the next thing we hear is that xxxx and his crew did not return from their next mission. We heard nothing
else after this. We flew our next scheduled mission with Lt. Radue and he was our pilot for the next 8 or 9 sorties. We never had any more bitches about who we flew with and everything
really went smooth. Radue had no complaints about us and Capt. Caywood picked our crew to fly with him to Frederichshaven, which was supposed to be a real toughie. We must have
done something right.
Paul F.C. Radue signed my combat record July 29, 1944 his title was Captain, Air Corp Assistant Operations Officer, 720th Squadron.
I flew eight sorties with him from May 26 through June 22, 1944. He was Lt. then and took Ebert's place as our pilot during this time.
Another B-24 that was in the 720th was named Bondolear. As I understand a large group of people in Pensylvania somewhere got together and bought enough War Bonds to buy this plane.
I may have flown more than one mission in this plane but I remember one for sure. It was Schwechat,Austria on April 23,1944and Lt. Ebert was the pilot.
When we got on the IP some of the superchargers were not working properly --we dropped down from 21,000 feet to about 15,000 feet and lagged behind our formation.
It was the perfect formula to draw enemy fighters which the Germans always kept at the targets to finish off any damaged straggelers. For some reason we didn't have any and the only
answer had to be that they had to go back down to refuel and reload. It gave us a window of opportunity to slip in and go out, and was probably one of our luckyest days in Italy.
As I remember we teamed up with 2 other stragglers about in our shape and flew along some distance away from the target with no mishap. We had flown in to Yogoslavian territory f
or a little while when a lone P-38 came and flew under our left wing for about 5 minutes. It was real comforting to know that someone in the escort group knew where we were.
We made it on back to the Base but flying allalone through that territory was a real strain. I have a picture of DiCamillo and me standing in front of the Bondolear .
The name is just clear enough to make out. I'll send when my expert helper can handle the pictures. I probably need to say something about our Chow. Get ready because it wont be
anything good. For a start we had powered eggs, dehydrated potatoes, and butter that would not melt in the middle of the SARAHA DESERT. I only had one good meal the whole time
I was in Italy and that was on abattleship in the harboir of BARI . Some of us met some sailors who invited us to have dinner with them. It was rerally great. Ther were times when I went thru
our mess line with my messkit --had it full, and never stopped until I got outside to the empty drums and dumped it in. We supplimented our food by buying local things like oranges in season..
When we first got over a package of US cigarettes would get a crate of oranges. Dutch Holland was a good forager for us and found loaves of bread and other food which we were glad to have.
The food just wasn't good and we got hold of K-rations and I think C-rations from somewhere and believe me that food was better than the regular. Incidentally, I could never eat any breakfast
before a mission. My stomach just said NO.. I usually drank about a pint of coffee. Oh, Another thing when We came back from a rough mission someone from the Flight Surgeons office was
there to give us about 2 0unces of whiskey. We learned quickly to take empty pint bottles and save it for Rest Camp. When we went to rest camp we had 3 or 4 full pints to celebrate with..
They let us put it in bottles--no problem.
Captain Caywood was the Commanding Officer of the 720th Bomb Squadron. He picked our crew to pilot to Frederichshaven, Germany July 20th of 44. When we began our bomb
run we were flying over Lake Constance with Switzerland about 20 Miles off to our left. When we went over the target flak hit and ruptured a gas line in our wing and gasoline began to
pour out from our plane. Capt. Caywood ordered, "do not fire your guns" The ships flying with us pulled away from us expecting us to blow up. Don't know why we didn't. with the gas
line rupture we made it back to friendly territory and were able to land and get help. I forgot where we landed. After this I had two more sorties to complete my missions.
On one of our missions, I can't remember which, the hydrolic system in the bombays was shot out and our landing gear would not go down. The best engineer in the 450th and elsewhere,
Charlie Black, Without a parachute (couldnt work with one on) and with hydrolic fluid all over the catwalk got out and cranked down the main lanfing gear by hand then he had to crank
down the nose wheel. The bombay doors had frozen up so the bombs had to be salvoed through them leaving them hanging open. Charlie got a well deserved citation for bravery.
Caywood also wanted him to stay and be his personal plane engineer which Charlie, I think, wisely turned down.
Lt. Olney piloted Ebert's crew on three sorties which I will list: April 25 of 44 I flew with him to Ferrara, Italy. On this mission we had alternate targets because of cloud cover in the general area.
I think Ferrara was an alternate rather than the original. we flew into bunch of clouds and couldn't see anything for a while. I was glad we had Olney that day. He didn't give an inch and we did
not throttle back an inch. Not so with three of the ships making up the ones behind us. They did throttle back and when we finally did come out they were about a mile or two behind the rest of us
who were still in aright formation.. About 6 ME-109's were waiting for this to happen. I watched as the fighters attacked them. They had not even formed they own tight formation for protection.
The B-24's didn't seem to be doing any damage to the six as they attacked. I could see some of the 20 miller cannon projectiles exploding. The 20 mm aircraft cannon of the Germans was an
ingenious piece of armament. The projectile had 2 fuses ---contact fuse and a time fuse. If the contact fuse hit anything the projectile would explode-- if it did hit anything but went thru the air,
they would begin bursting in train. They made a line of exploding shells that I believe could be use to help aim the fighter. at any rate it was a sickening sight to see the bombers start smoking and
spiraling down in a spin. I did not see any parachutes come out. About right after this someone called out a fighter to Avery which would be about 10 o'clock level. I remember hearing Avery say
on intercom " I dont see any:. About that time the fighter broke by my tail turret with his belly turned up to me, He was so close I could see the rivets where they joined the wings joined the body.
He went by fast and I had no shot at him and it was just as well because he had a P-38 on his tail and was then diving on down. was sure glad our escort had showed up but it was too late for the
three who had fallen behind. I remember when the fighters were spotted Lt. Olney come on intercom and said " all right gunners ,get on the son of a bitches and let them have it. I liked Olney.
When we would take off with him at the controls about time the engineer said landing gear up and locked Olney would start a real steep bank-- the bombs in the Bombay would rattle like hell the
engines were straining like helland the whole plane was shuddering under the strain. I"m saying Pratt & Whitney please don't conk out now or we are goners. he Prat & Whitney engines really had
to take it and the pilots didn't hesitate to pour it them.The other sorties we flew with Olney were April 29th Toulon, France, the submarine pens and 13th 44, Piacenza,Italy. I don't know what
happened to Lt. Olney. I would sure like to know. I'm sure I had learned somewhere that he was from Alabama. I hope he made it through his 50th
I remembered the name Pete Zalesky he was in my Barracks. I really dont know much about him but his cot was right across the isle from me.
He was a quiet guy and didn't have much to say I remember him being of what I considered small stature. Pete had someone in the states that was thinking about him cause he got more
packages than anyone else I remembered. Believe it or not he got a jar of pickled pigs feet and I watched him enjoy them like I enjoyed my first ice-cream cone .
One of his packages had some sausage in and he gave me a piece. It was greasy and spiced up but it sure was good. It must have come from a first-class delicatessen.
My mission to Orbatello with Col. Mills at the controls was one too remember. Usually when we hit the IP or a little before, the pilot would say, "alright waist gunners start throwing
out the tinsel". Well it looked to me like it was overtime to throw it out and the Col. had not given us the word. I went on intercom and asked, "Shall we throw out the tinsel?"
To which the very authoritative voice of the Colonel came back and said, "Sargent, I'll tell you when to throw out the tinsell." About that time, and I'm looking out the waist window,
a big puff of black smoke exploded, it seemed like right in my face. It surprised me so I fell back on my head and my oxygen mask came off. As DiCamillo was putting my oxygen mask
back on my face I heard the frantic vioce from the cockpit say, "Throw out the tinsel, throw out the tinsel." It was too damn late. That burst of flak was absolutely level with our plane .
I dont think any of the shrapnel hit us, and the rest of the mission was uneventful.
We were flying back from a mission and had dropped our bombs through the bombay doors and they were hanging loose, as usual.
We were flying down the West side of Italy. The pilot saw a pretty rough storm ahead of us so he turned our plane out over the sea to our right.
We were flying along out of enemy territory and had come off of oxygen. I was looking out of the left waist window when a big puff of flak burst off to our left and much too close for comfort.
I ran and got back in the tail and got on intercom in time to hear someone say there is a Spitfire flying under our formation. Gunners in our formaion were already returning fire at the ships, me too.
When we got on by with no real mishap we realized that our bomb bay doors looked and were open to the sailors on the ships.
This recalled to mind a crew of the 450th who got shot at by friendly forces when they were headed to a Northen Italian city occupied by our forces.
We heard that they forgot to turn on thier IFF (identification friend or foe) and were fired at by friendly forces.
When we went on a mission, we could usually tell how tough it was going to be by the number of tinsell boxes in the plane.
If we had to get rid of excess drinks of coffee or liquids we had consuned, there was a gosport tube that was vented out of the plane,no problem there.
If we had to get rid of excess solids we had consumed we used a tinsel box.
They were big and served the purpose. Of course, if we were in enemy territory we didn't want to be caught with our pants down.
If anyone needed to use the box they did so either going up or back while we were in friendly territory and not on oxygen or at gun positions.
On most missions only one or two men would have to go. One particular mission that was long, it looked like everyone made a trip to the box.
The box usually had a supply of tinsel in them for insulation and cushion and this time things got rough. Dutch Holland was the only one brave enough to get close to the box.
He said, "We got to do something about this we can't stand it, and I'm going to throw it out." I thought he meant throw it out the waist window,but no he tried to kick it out of the camera hatch.
A terrific gust of wind caught it and with a circular motion carried it swiftly to the top of the plane unloading everything that had been deposited in the box including the tinsel.
Luckily none of it got on anybody but it was a riot to see what was hanging from every wire and most other places. We decided to call Charlie Black from up front and not tell
him what happened and see what his reaction would be. I'llnever forget seeing his face peer through the little door from the bomb bay to the back part of the bomber.
He broke into a big wide grin and then busted out laughing. I don't know who got the cleanup job but I'm sure we were the object of some fancy cussing.
After we had flown a number of missions, right after the bombardier said, "Bombs away" this voice would come over intercom and say "LETS GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE."
I absolutely did not recognize whose voice this was. As it kept recurring on every mission, it was like we had an extra person riding with us. Every time I would hear it I'd laugh for it sure
expressed everybody's sentiments. It was a long time before I learned that the voice was Neil Coulter's. What I am going to tell you next Involves Charlie Black. We had a Captain Robinson, a
West Pointer come into the Bomb Group as a pilot. We only flew one mission with him as pilot and Todd as co-pilot. It was one of the raids on Ploesti on May 31 of 1944. While he, Todd and
Black were doing a cockpit check preparatory to getting ready to take off, Robinson moved the lever setting the fuel mixture for the engines. Imagine his surprise when Black's hand moved the setting
back to the correct position (too rich a mixture and we run out of gas before we get back, too lean and we have engine problems. Robinson then moved the setting back to where he wanted and again
Black moved it back to correct position. It was then that Todd said, "Robinson, leave it where Black put it. It's his job as engineer to know the right setting." Robinson said, "I'm going to leave it
but if it isn't right by the Manuel there is going to be Hell to pay." Guess what Black was right. You know what I said about Charlie earlier. Charlie is modest guy and if I didn't tell it he never would.
DiCamillo was one hellova good gunner. Anytime something needed to be done in the back part of the plane you could count on "DEKE". The jackbox that my earphones were plugged into got
shot off the turret wall with just some copper wires left showing . It was Deke with a walk around Oxygen bottle who came to see if I was still alive. Another time when both of my guns
(in a ship out of the service squadron) jammed Deke was the only one who could fire at some fighters who were attacking at 6 o'clock level. They were driven away, we had just come off the
target at Brasov, Rumania. Some other crew was flying the Deb and we realized we would probably not fly in the Deb any more. Incidentally someone had jimmied up the feed system on both
of my guns where they fired OK in the test firing at 10,000 feet. There was just enough rounds left to go pop-pop-pop and I became the scaredest gunner in the airforce. As long as my guns had
a healthy blast when I squeezed the trigger I was too busy doing what I was trained to do to be scared. Deke was really dependable when you needed him.
Gunners on their first missions had to be careful not to get trigger happy and shoot up all their ammo without controlling their burst. In the excitement of combat ,
it was possible to burn the barrels out even at temperatures of 30 or 40 degrees below zero. My first recollections are that we had about 800 rounds a gun for my tail turret. I
remember the ship we were in on the Brasov raid had about twice this many each gun and a new feed system. It made no difference since they had been jimmied up to jam and scare
me the worst I had ever been scared, I always felt that if I had been in the Destiny Deb I would have shot down 2 enemy fighters. Let tell you why. We flew over the Transalvania Alps
on this one and the terrain from the air had the color almost a blackboard you use in school. The Germans had very cleverly painted the fighters that attacked us the same color.
I did not see the fighters first-- I only saw the orange cannon flashes because they came up from 6 o'clock .low which I did not expect. The Germans had matched the paint
on the fighters perfectly to blend with the background. This is just chatter that I wanted to add to the explanation of the Brasov raid. Had my guns functioned perfectly I don't think I
could have missed, and frankly I don't see how the fighter missed us.
On our mission to San Stefano, Italy, on 12 May 1944 I saw my worst sight, a mid air collision between two planes close enough for me to see everything . One plane swept across and behind the
other and knocked the tailturret off with the tail gunner in it. It went spinning through the air, that plane with part of its tail damaged nosed up at about 45 degrees angle and 2 gunners
came out of it without their parachutes on and a big barracks bag with them. I'm sure this raid had some bearing on the switch to back pack parachutes for all we had then were chest packs.
The swaps had to have been made after our crew left. I had a habit of keeping my pack right outside of my tail turret and I did not close my tail turret doors which ran on a track I was afraid they
might get hit by flack and not work and let me out. It was cold that way but that was OK with me.
When I finished my 50 mission and was getting off of the plane from our mission to Stubing, Austria I had snapped my parachute on to the harness straps which I often did getting out of the plane
after a mission, as I stepped out and before I had even time to think, Dutch Holland ran up and pulled the ripcord of my parachute. It opened up and then billowed out into a pool of oil. Two
seconds later I was looking at the Supply Lt. who came over and said, "that is going to cost you a few hundred dollars, Sargent." I was dumb founded by the swiftness of how quick everything
happened. Dutch was celebrating my 50th victory and I was not angry with him at all. I had beat the odds and was free now of anymore missions. It was quite a release of tensions.
Incidentally, I was never billed for the chute.
The mission to Port Margherawas on 25 May 1944, I arrived at the briefing late and everyone who came out of it seemed upset. It seems that the different bomb groups were given
different targets that day and there was to be no fighter escort on any of the missions. Our target was a feeder bridge for the Germans at the Anzio Beachhead.(an unlikely target for
B-24's but Black agreed with me that this was so).. When we got to the IP and began our bomb run we were flying into a extra strong headwind. A 105 mm anticraft shell exploded
halfway between the right wing tip and the tail section. It made a helova explosion. DiCamillo was bending over to pick up some tinsel and when he stoodup there was a hole in the roof
he could stick his head in.Had he been standing at the time he would have been killed. Between the right waist window and the tail there were over 75 holes, mostly pretty large.
The jackbox my earphones were in was shot off the turret wall and one of my oxygen lines was shot in two. Because they were in parallel and had cut off valves I was still able to stay on oxygen.
DiCamillo came back to the tail turret with a walkaround oxygen bottle to see if I was alive.
Ebert was our pilot. This was our 15th sortie.
On my fifth and last trip to Ploesti. we got to the IP a little late and had to make a wide circle again to begin our bomb run. Fred Barlow told me we were in flak for 29 minutes.
I called Ploesti the graveyard of the 450th. The 15th flew more than 20 missions to Ploesti. Black and I were on 5 of them. When the ribbon ran from our base to Ploesti and we
entered the briefing room you could hear the air crews groan.
Fred Barlow was a help to me in alot of ways. I remember something he told me. He said, "Dudley, you need to keep your eyes open and alert when you are going through the flak.
There are credible reports that some German fighters are flying through their own flak and knocking off a bomber or two while the gunners are drawn up in a tight ball and not looking for them."
When Fred Barlow spoke I listened. He helped me a lot. He said that the fighters were getting word from the flak batteries when they were going to stop firing. Maybe from different color flak
bursts. From then on when I was going through the flak I had my guns elevated, kept my eyes searching and my gun switches on. It was a long time before it payed off but on a raid to Tulon, France ,
as we were coming off the target, there he was at 6 o'clock high and just dipping his wing and beginning his dive. I was ready and got a quick rad lead and began to fire short bursts as he got within what
I thought was about 600 yards . Must have been getting some hits for he broke off the attack before he could get in range of his 20 mm Cannon. This was my observation and I really believe
Fred's advise kept us out of trouble. There was a barracks room saying that when we were going through the flak that you could not stick a greased needle up a gunner's backside. Another
expression I remember was about the German's famed 88 mm anti-aircraft gun. That they could thread a needle with it at 20,000 feet. The Germans to my knowledge had fine armament.
Our 50 caliber was a good machine gun, but it had a little tip on part of the mechanism which controlled the automatic fire. This tip would break off and we would have a runaway gun.
The only way to stop it was to charge and hold a shell out of the chamber. I had this happen to me twice that I remember. Once when we were advised to load our guns before take off
after some fighters had made a sweep and shot one down on a quick pass as it was taking off. I was loading my guns on this occasion and for somereason the crew chief was back there
on a ladder. The guns were well evelated, but as the shell went into the chamber the tip broke and about three quick rounds went through before I could charge the chamber empty. It blew
the crew chief's hat off and changed his color to 5 shades whiter than normal. Another time was when I was firing at a single fighter that made a pass on us but did not get in anywhere close.
I never shot down an enemy fighter, never let them get in close enough except at Brasov when my guns jammed.
Dutch Holland and I got a liberty pass to Leece. We left about the middle of the afternoon and were supposed to come back on the last truck to pick up who ever had passes that day.
It was understood you had better be there to meet the truck on time. It didn't ever wait for anyone foolish enough to be late. Leece wasn't much of a place to find anything to do, and frankly,
I don't know what Dutch and I were doing that we should get careless. I do remember telling Dutch, "It's time for us to get back, we don't want to miss the truck." I remember Dutch saying,
"Aw we got plenty of time." Well, we missed the truck. It was night time and dark and we had to start back to the Base on our own two feet. About this time a Limey came by on a motorcycle
The motorcycle had a sidecar on it. The Limey was about half crocked but he offered to take us as far as he was going which was probably about 5 miles I'm guessing. Dutch and I both hit the
sidecar at the same time and it was evident the only fair thing was to match. I lost and had to sit in back of the Limey with my arms around his waist to keep from falling off.
Dutch positioned himself in the sidecar like he was General Patten and down the dark road we went. The motorcycle had a small blue light on it so it was hard to see.
(No bright lights in a war zone at night). We went from one side of the road to the other and finally the Limey had to go a different way and Dutch and I got off and began walking .
I don't think I mentioned, but we were scheduled to fly a mission the next morning, so I'm already thinking "Court Marshall" for missing a flight. Along the way an Italian farmer came
along in what I remember in the dark was a 2 wheel wagon of sorts with a load of hay on it. Dutch and I got to ride on it for quite a long way. As we walked on the Base it was just
beginning to get real light and had started raining. We walked on the Base, nobody stopped or questioned us. I still had my pass in my pocket, and have it with my memory material of
Manduria. To this day , It was like nobody missed us. Incidentally, the mission was cancelled because of the rain. (Lady Luck had a beautiful smile on her face for me and Dutch)
I spent the rest of the day on my cot trying to get some sleep.
When I finished my missions, I was sent to Naples to await being sent back to the U.S. along with other guys. Eventually, we boarded the converted luxury liner
"Santa Paula" and headed back.
There were at least 2,000 plus returnees on board. If you wanted to walk on deck, you were lucky to find a space between the crap games ,poker, etc. When we were coming into New York
harbor and the Statue of Liberty came in view, someone said, "get your messkits." It sounded like an order so everybody got their messkits. As we went by the Statue of Liberty everybody threw
their messkits into the ocean. I don't know whether it was a last fairwell or not but 2,000 plus kits hit the drink.
After we completed our 50 missions, I remember the Flight Surgeon meeting with a group of us (maybe 10 or so) Here is what I remember him telling us;
"You guys have really been through hell. I am going to do the only thing I can do to help you. I am going to put on your medical record that each of you is suffering from extreme
combat fatigue and recurring nightmares. If you have to fly anytime after you have now completed your combat they will have to pay you combat pay, even though you are not in combat."
Well I did fly after this but I never did get my combat pay.
After I got back to the US, I was assigned to the instructors school at Nuevo Laredo, Texas.While there I immediately went over to the records dept and talked to a non-com who
seemed to be in charge. I told him what the F.S. had told us and that I was due some combat pay. He said, " I never heard that one." I did ask him to just check my records and tell
me if it was on my records. He told me he would if I would comeback that aftnoon. When I did, he said,"you were right, I have made the notations on your records and you will get that
pay in the next payday you have. This turned out to be true, I think the extra pay was about $40 to $70 dollars. I never did hear anyone else tell about theirs, but I did not dream this one up.
You can see why I never told it before.
June the 8th of 1944 I had a cold and my nose was stopped up. Since my crew was scheduled to fly tomorrow June 9th , I decided to go on sickcall and get them to spray my nose so
I could breath alittle better. The medic that examined me said. I'm going to ground you for tomorrow since this will make it hard to breath at altitude on oxygen.
Wow, I had not counted on this- Now I'm going to have to miss a mission with my crew and make it up after theyhave finished their 50 missions.
I still did not have any idea which mission would be the name of the one I missed. The next morning, the 9th, I found out it was Munich, Germany. I was almost relieved but not really.
The name Munich sent chills down my spine. Now I had to sweat out my friends coming back from this very rough one. When they did make it I was so thankful and then I had to look
forward to completing my 50th after they were all through . My 50th turned out to be Stubing .Austria.
With his grandson, Chase
In 2006, Mr. Dudley was interviewed for a High School Project by Jennifer Davis.
The following is a transcript of that interview:
- Tell me about your life before the
before the war I had gone to a two year college here in Americus,
(Georgia) and I got a job with the Buick dealer as a bookkeeper and
accountant, so that's what I was doing right up to the time of the war.
Now of course, some things got pretty rough in 1939, and they had a draft
over here, so I had to volunteer for the draft, but I got a deferment
because my dad wasn't in good health, and I was contributing money for
the family. My sister and I were both working, and we were contributing
money for my dad and my mother. So, what happened when Japan got into it
and attacked us, then, I realized I was going to have to lose my draft
status because they were calling for men, so I decided to join the air
force, and I volunteered for the air force. I volunteered as a cadet. I just barely got in. I was
- How old were you when you went into
the military and why?
enlisted on April 2, 1942, but I did have a deferment. My deferment
lasted for several months and so eventually I had to go in. I had never
flown, but I volunteered for cadets, and I passed the test. Then I went
out and got a friend of mine to take me up in an airplane. I had never
been up in one, and one of the reasons was I was just a little uneasy
about getting in one, but I realized that in the war things were going to
be different. I didn't want to be on the ground. I'd rather be in the
air. Everything happened in a hurry there; if you got killed you got
killed right away. You weren't hanging around along time, and there was
something kind of spectacular and exciting about it too."
- What type of training did you have to
prepare you for the war?
I went to primary. I got through primary alright, and I got in basic
training, and my dad died, and I came home, and I really got messed up
when I came home. I didn't get home in time for my dad's funeral, and
when I came back I was a bunch of nerves. I was washed out, but then I
got into what I really was tailored to be and that was a gunner on a B24,
and I went to gunnery school. They sent me to gunnery school down at
Florida at Tyndall Field, and I was in class 4340 there, and there were
525 men in there, and I was the top student. I was the top gunner, and I
got to shoot on the Tyndall Field Gunnery Team against the competition
between the other five gunnery schools in the United States, and we met
down at Fort Myers Florida then. Fort Myers had a gunnery school down
there, and that's where they had the shoot down there, so I shot on the
Tyndall Field Gunnery Team down there. We placed third out of the six.
That was what we did, and then I was sent to bomber school where I
studied about bombs and how they rigged bombs on the planes and
everything; the things that held them. I had to study how all those
things worked so in case a jam up or anything we could go in there and
cut them loose…and that was at Denver Colorado…Like I said, studied about
bombs, and how they were on a plane and there were different types and
all the things like that. In gunnery school they taught me how to shoot
machine guns and aim and everything, and I was already pretty good with a
gun, so I got along good there…Then we were made up as a crew. I was sent
to Salt Lake City, and they made up the crews there, so I got with my other
9 men who were on my crew with our bomber and we started flying together
on training missions, and one unusual thing; the pilot looked at me when
we all came together and he looked at me and he said, "You're my tail
gunner." So, I was a tail gunner on there and we trained there. We went
to Pocatello Idaho, and the weather got real bad there, and then they
sent us out to Muroc California, to Lake Muroc, and we wound up training
out there. Then we went to Hamilton field and picked up a new bomber, and
we named it "Destiny Deb," and everybody chipped in, and they painted a
picture on it there, the little girl riding the bomb. We flew that one
over seas. We flew over seas to Manduria Italy and that was in March. We
got over seas in March of 1944. It was down in the heel of Italy and that
was a heavy bomber crew and they were also called "The Cotton Tails."
They had quit a reputation, but the Germans had gotten real upset with
our bombing crew because they had tore them up one time on a real
important mission, and they attacked our bomber crew. They said, "the
white tails," so our CO said, "It isn't but just a little bit of white on
there, so get some white paint and paint the whole thing white back there
on the tail where they'll be able to see it real good, so you can see
what it was then, and from then on it was a war of the Cotton
- How would you describe your first
mission in the war?
flew my first mission April the twelfth… but what you would do is go out
and look at the bulletin board to see if you were flying yet. I went out
this day and I looked at it and my name wasn't on it, but that night, at
two-o-clock in the morning a guy was shaking me and had a flashlight in
my face, and he said, "Hey Buddy. Your name Dudley?" and I said, "Yes."
And I just hardly knew where he was. He said, "You're flying replacement
gunner on a crew whose tail gunner is sick, Lieutenant Becktail…You got
five minutes to get your flying gear together, get over to briefing, and
get something to eat." It was pitch black dark. He had a light in my
face. I didn't know where the light switch was in the thing and he was
gone and I said, "Wait up, I done forgot who you told me to go to." and
he was gone! I couldn't get him! My heart was beating a million miles a
minute. I ain't kidding you. I didn't know what I was going to do. I
didn't know where I was going. I didn't even know where the light switch
was! I was in pitch black dark. It was between two and three-o-clock in
the morning. That's how early you had to get up for a mission. And so,
one of the old guys that had been there a long time got up, and got the
lights on, and helped me, and got me out there, and I got out to the
plane. The props were turning, and we took off in about five minutes, but
before that, when I got out there, sitting on the ground was the guy that
I was supposed to replace, and here's what he told me. He said, "I
wouldn't ask anybody to fly this as their first mission, and if you don't
want to fly it, I'll fly it." And boy, I'm telling you, he did more then
I would've done. I would've never done that. He had a lot of internal,
what you call g-u-t-s. You know what I'm talking about. But I told him
I'd come to fly it, and I was going to fly it. So I got in and we took
off and we flew up the Adriatic about an hour and a half and those
bombers fly close to 200 miles an hour, loaded and everything. And so, we
were up the Adriatic probably over two hundred miles and the pilot came
on the intercom and he said, "Crew, the mission has been recalled… The
target is blocked over by bad weather. Disarm the bombs." We had already
armed them to fly in and that was part of our job on there about studying
bombs when you take off you didn't want them armed because is anything
crashed in it that thing would blow up. So we disarmed the bombs, dropped
them in the Adriatic, and they just went down there, they didn't bust or
anything, they were disarmed. And then we came back, and I tell you what,
I was so happy to come back from that mission. I had the worst strain
trying to get out there…and I said, "Never again will I get caught like
this." And I had all my gear laid out before. Every time I had a mission
again, all I had to do was jump in it and go, and I could do it in the
dark! You know what I mean? It was so important to me…"
- Where were you stationed over seas and
what were the living conditions like?
conditions were primitive. The German's had owned that base… and the
German's had just taken everything that was worth anything out and just
left it stripped and when we landed there I thought, man that is the
worst looking place that I ever saw. It had dirt runways and over in
England, you know, they had paved runways and everything: Broke down
houses, hangers and stuff over there. So it was real discouraging when we
first got over there to see it, you know, like that. But everything
turned out alright. What we had to do, we had to fly practice missions
before we actually got on a regular mission, and then what they would do
they would take one green man off of my crew and put him on a replacement
on a nine man crew that already had missions and had experience., you
see? So, that way we were getting our break in. So, on the mission that I
actually flew in…I forgot who the pilot was that I flew with, but it was
a real good crew and we came back and I got out and there were nine holes
back in the tail section back there where the torrent was from flack
where they had shot at us, you know? But we had flack holes all over the
plane. Flack was almost accurate almost all of the time. And it hit us
one time, and there was a hole about that far from a parachute pack. I
always kept my parachute pack outside… so in case we had to get out in a
hurry, we could grab our parachute, you could slap it on, and you were
ready to jump out. I would have never thought about jumping out of a
plane, but in war you do it automatically… You did what you had to do
then because people were dying around you all the time, so you were just
trying to stay alive almost by the minute…"
- What is your most vivid memory from
were on a raid and another crew had got our plane…and we had to fly in
some planes that weren't very well kept up, and we were flying in one
this first time…it was around our sixth mission I think it was, and when
we get up to altitude we fired our guns to be sure that they were working
alright. So we got up to altitude and I fired the guns and it fired
alright. And then, we were coming off the target and we got attacked by
two fighters and they had been painted the same thing as the terrain,
it's just like a blackboard when you look down at the terrain, and so I
didn't see them first. The first thing I saw when they came up to attack
us was a cannon flasher…so I knew I was going to shoot one of them down,
so I squeezed the trigger on my two guns and it went, "POP, POP, POP,"
and quite, and I had to cross charge them in such a crowded space…and I
couldn't charge them. Somebody had jimmied up the gun and I was scared
literally to death that I was going to get hit then, but some of the other
crews drove them off and we got by alright but that scared me the worst
that I had ever been scared. I knew I was dead then, you know, because
they were firing at us and my guns didn't work…and there wasn't no
missing, you know what I mean, it was that kind of shot. But anyway, the
Lord took care of them and me both, so I got out alright."
- After completing your fifty missions
and returning to the United States, describe how your life changed?
never will forget when I came back. When I came back I had been
discharged from Fort McPherson in Atlanta and I came home on a train and
then I walked from the station to my home, which was probably about a
mile and a half, and I thought then it was just like I was in a different
world, you know. I just had a strange feeling that I had lived through
the war, you know, and it was just like things were going to be
different, and they were different. I had my old job back, my boss, the
job that I left, they had to save your jobs for you when were taken into
the service, so he wanted me to come back in a hurry, but I took about
two or three weeks to take a little time off and get some relaxation, and
for a while, it looked like I couldn't eat anything. My momma would cook
me everything that I used to love. She would ask me, "What would you like
me to cook?" and I'd tell her, and I'd sit down, and I couldn't eat
it. It was just something inside
of me. I had gone through a shock or something. But other then that, then
I gradually began to get alright. Of course back then too, we'd pour up a
few drinks, you know what I mean…"
- In your opinion, how did the roles of
women change after the war?
women were a lot more into things after the war. So many of them went to
work in factories, and they were working on ships, so they'd be working
late at night or some of them would be working all night long on an all
night ship. And they (women) did a tremendous war effort, and in doing
it, it took them to where they were more aggressive in life, you see what
I'm talking about? But that's the way it was."
- Did your mother have to go to work?
my mother couldn't work. She was already pretty well up in age. I was the
last of six children. Of course, she lived until she was 82, which was
good. My sister stayed with her. And I had two other brothers, one that
was too old to be in the service and one that was a banker, and he was in
the money end of it and he went right up, he got to be a major, but he
didn't get in combat…"
- If you could tell people one thing
about the war, what would it be and why?
thing I'd tell them about the war: that if I had died it would have been
worth my life and that I was glad I went to it. Hitler was one of the
cruelest people to the Jewish people that ever lived that I knew anything
about and I would of gladly died if I had to to get rid of him. And I was
so thankful that I was sent to the European theatre, yeah, and I really
meant that. I mean I meant
Information courtesy of William C. Dudley, 720th Squadron
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