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Adelbert W. Kenyon
723rd Squadron
A W Kenyon

Shot down on his thirtieth mission on 25 April 1944, Del Kenyon was captured and became a POW
This registration card was found at the German HQ after he was liberated by Paton's army on 29 April 1945

Link to Crew Picture

The Story of a Bombing Mission
or
How To Keep From Growing Old

written December 1996 by A.W. Kenyon


Oh Boy, we're going to the beautiful city of Vienna. We're going to ride in a great big airplane and we have a bunch of bombs and lots of real bullets.

The waist gunners are checking out their machine guns to see if they are loading OK.
Oh, crap. Green, the left gunner has a runaway gun. (that happens when you jack in a shell and the damn thing starts firing without touching the trigger) He finally got the thing shut off after putting a bunch of holes in some planes that were getting ready for take off. No one killed or hit but all nerves shot to hell.

Everything under control and we're headed for the runway ready for take off, all engines running smoothly (so far). Down the runway we go. We're off, wheels up, 15' flaps and we're on our way.

Headed Northeast over the Adriatic Sea. Looking back at the rest of the formation I see a real bad scene. Two bombers have collided, no chutes. They all went down. This mission is getting off to a bad start. (hope it gets better. It doesn't) Well, we're getting close to target, time to arm the bombs. This is done by removing the cotter pins that keep the little propellers on the nose and tail of the bomb from turning and arming the bomb. If they are not armed they make a little hole and no noise. When armed, they nake a great big hole and a very loud noise. What am I doing staggering along the bombay catwalk carrying an oxygen bottle, pulling bomb pins? I wish I was home in bed under the covers. With this 180mph draft all those little propellers are spinning and they are all alive now and will blow when they hit or are hit.

Looking ahead I see many little black clouds. Flak (anti-aircraft fire). The group in front of us is catching hell from the flak.Geez, the plane in front of us just blew up. Two chutes out. Oh crap, the plane on our right is on fire. Boy, they better get the hell out of it before she blows. I see the waist gunner trying to get out but he's on fire too. He's out, maybe the fire will go out when he falls. He'll be OK if his chute isn't burned. I think those people down there are trying to kill us. We're over the target right now and dropping all those bombs we brought along.

The fellow who slept next to me in the barracks came from Indiana and I got to know him quite well. Whenever we would fly in sight of one and other I wouold wave my guns at him and he would wave his back. He flew in the ball turret, same as me. After we dropped our bombs I turned my turret around to see how he was doing. All that was left of him and his plane was a big ball of fire. He must have caught a direct hit or his bombs blew up. Empty bed that night.

I just knew our luck would run out. We're hit. Burst of flak real close. A large piece went through the nav dome then through the left windshield. Cut up the Major who was flying with us. He wasn't hurt too bad but bled a lot. Put a lot of holes in the ship. Knocked out some of our oxygen supply. I hope we have enough to last until we get away from this area. If we run low we will have to drop below 10,000 feet. That woould be real unhealthy with all those flak guns down there. (we didn't run out) No one else hurt so on we go.

Flak pretty light now and we are headed back to the base. Geez, here they come. Fighters and more fighters. Thank goodness they are not after us yet but they are knocking th ehell out of the group below and behind us. I can see three bombers in trouble. One is on fire, one is flying on three engines and one is going down (five chutes out of that one). Here comes a ME109 with a P-38 right behind him. The ME is all shot to hell and explodes. The P-38 is right under our left wing and must have run into part of the ME and he blows up.The explosion raised us up and to the right and we almost crashed into the plane next to us. Oh, that was close to a diaster.

Well we're finally back on the ground. Boy, am I glad to get out of that thing. Looking around, there seems to less planes than there was this morning. And, after that nerve racking flight I didn't get to shoot anyone........rather disappointing. And guess what? We get to do it all over again tomorrow. And that's the way it was.

My Longest Mission
written October 1996 by A.W. Kenyon

My 30th bombing mission was my longest, one year and five days. Damn, what an exciting flight that was! Target, Varese Aircraft Factory, Milk Run. "No fighters, no flak. Just drop your bombs and fly home." Of course I knew they were joking. Take off time, 25 April 1944, "Pilot to crew", is what I heard. "We're going to take a ride in this big ass bird." So, we're cruisina along about I80 mph at I8,000 feet. About an hour from target I lowered the ball turret and climbed in. That's when everything went to hell. I heard the pilot scream "Fighters I2 o'clock!". Then we were hit real bad. Sounded like someone hit us with about a I00 feet of heavy chain. I looked out to my left and saw someone sail by my turret. I thought to myself, I sure hope I don't know who that was. (I did know... it was the co-­pilot with his leg shot off below the right knee)

I got out of the turret and opened the door to the bomb bay. Looking toward the flight desk through a red mist, I saw the bombardier sitting on the catwalk ready to jump. The red mist came from all the blood that was leaking out of him. One of his arms was all shot up and I thought I saw some holes in him. Made me real nervous as I knew that bullet holes allow the soul to escape. I went back to the waist and told the waist gunners to open the camera hatch and get out. I put on my chest chute and headed for the camera hatch that's on the floor in the back.

The tail gunner was almost to the hatch facing me, when that big ass bird went up on it's right wing in a hard right turn, throwing me to the floor on my face. I was Stuck by centrifugal force- couldn't even get on my knees. The tail gunner fll on his back and I could hear him screaming. He was stuck as bad as I was. I thought, this is it. I'm going down with this damned thing.

By really stretching I managed to get a couple of fingers hooked to the lip of the hatch and slid out. I was off oxygen too long and woke up tumbling backwards and I didn't remember to pull my rip cord to open my chute. I was all curled up and my mind told me that I was stuck up there. I glanced down and saw this shiny thing on my chest then I remembered that's what opened the chute. I yanked on it and the chute opened. With a 28 foot chute and being pretty light, I didn't know if I was going up or down having nothing to judge movement by. I really thought I'd be up there for the rest of the day.

Looking down, I could see three trucks coming along a road full of men. When they stopped some of them jumped out and started to shoot at me. I could hear the bullets buzzing by me. Poor shots- lucky for me. I was on a hillside about a mile above them.

I buried my chute with one dog tag, then took off up the hill and headed for some brush and trees hoping to hide out until dark.

It didn't get dark and it wasn't long before a guy came up to where I was hiding and put an automatic rifle to my head. Geez, this is the end for good old AWK! I don't know who was shaking the most, him or me. He probably thought I was armed, I wasn't. More men showed up and slapped me around some then dragged me down the hill. Don't know why they were so upset, we weren't going to bomb them. I guess they were sore at us for bombing their factories, air fields and everything else.

A little later they turned us over to the Germans. Ended up at Verona and was put in solitaire for three to four days and interrogated. After a long train ride I ended up at Stalag Luft III and became Kriegsgefangenen 42I3.

I realize now I should have told about the train ride to Luft III.

I arrived at Forli, a small town in Italy, by way of parachute. When we were turned over to the Germans they took us by car to a railway station. The train took us first to Florence, then on to Bologna, then Verona where I was interrogated. Next stop, Vienna. My first look at what our bombs had done a couple of weeks before. Broken glass, broken buildings, broken people everywhere. The people were a little upset when they found out that we were the American gangsters that dropped the bombs. In fact, they were down right belligerent. I think they would have had us for dinner if the German soldiers hadn't kept them away. Back on the train. Next stop Stalag Luft III.

I was put in the West Compound. It had just been opened, most of the other compounds were full. My luck was still with me as this was an officer's prison camp. The Germans thought the American army was like the British army, who allowed orderlies. The American officers took advantage of this and took in as many crew members as they could, knowing that being under the control of the Luftwaffe they had a much better chance of staying alive. The only work we had to do was sweep out the barracks and pick up the rations... if there were any.

The day starts by being counted. The Goons (Germans) frown on anyone leaving in the middle of the night, or any time. They get real upset. I know there were a couple of tunnels being dug but didn't know where. Very few involved, less chance of detection. Two weeks before I got to camp is when The Great Escape took place. Everyone was still nervous because the Goons had killed about fifty prisoners as they came out of their escape tunnel. There were a few escapes that succeeded and a few that failed. One I thought was real funny. It was snowing with about three inches of snow on the ground. One of the (Kriegies) prisoners wrapped a bunch of white cloth around himself and crawled towards the fence to escape. One of the tower guards put a light on him and just let him lay there in the snow until morning. He was alive but spent what you might call a cool night.

We had a fire pond that froze over that we skated on when the YMCA got some shoeless skates sent in. We would borrow someone's belt and, using our own, would strap them on and fall down a lot. That all came to an end when someone made a pair of shears out of a set to cut the barb wire. No big deal, they were all size eleven and didn't fit anyway.

Money had no value so a lot of swapping went on. A pack of American cigs was worth twenty packs of English cigs. A D bar was worth plenty. We would receive a Red Cross parcel every two or three weeks that contained a variety of food. Along with the Goon ration of potatoes, blood sausage, cabbage and bread (a loaf of bread weighed 4 pounds).

We got along OK at Luft III. The Red Cross sent special labels to the families to send to the tobacco companies. They would send a package of six cartons to the prisoner free. The long day ends and we are counted again, then locked up for the night.

Winter arrives, snow is falling. We won't be liberated this year. Well, maybe next year... We could hear and see the gun flashes of the Russian army coming about twenty kilometers East of us. Ah, we are going to be rescued... No, you say the Goons have given orders to move out in 30 minutes? There's six inches of snow out there. It's ten below and I'm cold already. This does not, I repeat, does not look like a very pleasant hike to me. I really can't get excited about wandering around in the middle of the night in six inches of snow. So, we grab all our clothes (which isn't much), take all our food (which is less) and out the gate we go.

After leaving camp we had to run for a mile or so to keep from getting run over by the men behind us. I don't know how far we went that night. I do remember seeing a few bodies lying along side the road. It got so bad that we were helping the old guards along and had to carry their guns. Escape? I guess we could have run off into the woods and froze to death. Dumb move. We just kept going hour after hour. A couple of us staggered into a small barn and nearly froze. I saw a pile of cow manure, made a hole underneath and went in feet first with just my head sticking out. A little smelly but I slept warm until morning. I don't know how many days and nights we hiked but we ended up at Spremberg. We were put on a train with forty by eight box cars. "Forty by eight" meant forty men or eight horses. We ended up with fifty to sixty men in each car. Not everyone could sit down at the same time so some sat and some stood, then we'd switch. We were on that thing for three days and nights with very little to eat or drink. Arrived at Nurnberg, our new camp Stalag VIIA. What a rat hole... lice, bugs, filth, poor sanitation. The food was terrible. Pea soup, with a bug in each pea. That provided us with meat. Then we had dehydrated cabbage soup that we called the Green Death.

The Bomb

Picture this in your mind... Right around midnight we were all about half asleep in our bunks when we heard what sounded like a big bumble bee off in the distance. It got louder and louder and we recognized it as a Wimpy (Wellington bomber). We knew that they were capable of carrying a blockbuster six ton bomb. We all wondered where he was going. He was over us now. Oh: shit! His engines are racing. He's dropped the damned thing! We hear it coming. Terror. Panic. Where to run, where to hide? Too late. BOOM. This is the end.

Geez, I'm still alive... That was the loudest explosion I ever heard. Blew the wall of the barracks out about six inches and put a lot of holes in the building. Scared the hell out of everyone. It landed six hundred meters from camp. One bomb like that is enough to last a life time.

It was bad enough to be almost killed by a bomb but now the entire camp is in big trouble. We ran out of toilet paper. In fact, there isn't a piece of paper of any kind to be found. Ah well, I'll just use a piece of my pants cuff. Next day another piece. If the war lasts much longer I won't have any pants.

Then, hundreds of bombers came. Day and night. At night a pathfinder plane would drop red and green flares. Do not drop until past the red flares. The wind was blowing the damned flares towards camp. Fifteen more minutes of the bomb run and they'll be dropping on us. But, it was over. It was spectacular. Of course, all the artillery that was fired at the planes had to come down along with broken and burning bombers, fighters and people.

At last the Yanks are coming. We can hear the guns. We're going to be saved. What's that I hear? I don't believe it... we're moving. I don't want to go. I like it right here. But, they insist I go.

A lot less to pack this time. The sun is out, warm with no rain. I've had enough of this hiking bit with no food. I think I'm running out of gas. Whenever we would come to a village we would steal everything we could to eat. Pickings were slim as so many prisoners were ahead of us. I arrived at Moosburg where we were put behind wire again. This camp was the worst. It had been built to hold fourteen thousand prisoners. In the end it confined one hundred thirty thousand of all nationalities and ranks.

We were finally liberated by Patton's Third Army on April 29, I945. (Glory Day)

Average, three missions. Fifty five percent or 18,418 planes were lost in action; 30,099 killed; 13,360 wounded; 51,106 were missing in action, POW and Internees. Did you ever feel fear? Panic? Scared to death? I DID.

We're free. When do we go home? No one seems to be in a hurry but us.

I'm still hungry. All anyone thinks about is a giant hamburger or maybe just a hunk of bread. Patton's army outran their supply lines and had just enough food to keep going so they couldn't help us any. In fact. some of his tanks were out of gas. After a couple of days we were told to hike up to a German airfield to be flown out to LeHavre, France, where we would board a ship home. Hot dog, we're on our way! Well, almost...

Where in hell are all those big black clouds coming from? Why is it raining so hard? There's not going to be any planes flying today and I'm still hungry. Well, I'm not going to sit around here and starve.

My buddy and I decided to take a hike cross country, maybe steal a chicken or rabbit or something. We hadn't gone far before we stumbled on a Russian prison camp. (The USA had no control over the Russians and they could do whatever they wanted to do.) They were sure a rough lot. I don't think there was a bottle of wine left in any town within twenty miles. Ah, they had food. Great big oatmeal cookies in the shape of animals. (animal cookies) They gave us a gunny sack full of them.

Just outside the tent there was a guy lying in the rain. I thought he was drunk and sleeping it off. The next day we went back for more cookies and he was still there, but his shoes were gone. I knew then that he was asleep forever. His own brother lived in the same tent and hadn't gotten around to burying him. The next day all his clothes were gone. That afternoon his brother and a couple of guys threw him in the river. We stood on the bank and watched the body tumble down the stream. The afternoon sun flashed on a wet leg, then on an arm. We watched until he was out of sight and his brother didn't even wave goodbye.

The next day we were flown to LeHavre. After a couple days of physical exams and, given new uniforms, we were put aboard a ship bound for Boston. Seven day later we were back in the good old USA. Next, we were on a fast train headed for Sacramento. We really rode in style. Compartment cars. Four of us in each room. We ate a lot, drank a lot of whiskey and played poker all the way to CaIifornia. (Each of us was given $180 to get home on).

After two days of poker one guy had it all. He confessed and told us he was a professional card player, gave us all our money back and told us never to play with strangers.

Hitch hiked from Sacramento to San Francisco. Called my wife as soon as I hit town and told her what time to meet me on the corner. I told the guy sitting next to me on the bus that I had just got out of prison camp and would meet my wife in a couple of blocks. Of course, he had to tell everyone on the bus what was going to happen.

And, there she was on the corner. My beautiful wife. I jumped off and gave her a bug hug and a long kiss. Everyone on the bus clapped and shouted and the bus waited until we headed for home before pulling out.






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