The Arthur Hughes Crew
After finishing Phase Training in Mountain Home, Idaho, the crew met in Topeka, Kansas to pick up a new B-24 to fly to the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy. Nothing of note happened on our flight to Bari, Italy where we left the plane and went to the 461st Bomb Group, 765th Squadron in a six-by army truck. We arrived after dark in the rain and they unloaded our gear and the makings of a tent and said here is your quarters.
We arrived at the Squadron on October 20, 1944 and were assigned replacement crew no. R90.
The crew flew its first mission in November 18, 1944. The target was a German Airfield in northern Italy. It was a relatively easy raid with little resistance.
The second mission was November 20, 1944 to Blechhammer, Germany. We flew ship Stumpy Joe. Flak was very heavy, scoring hits on the fuel tanks, oxygen system and intercom system. One bomb hung up in the bomb bay and bombardier; Bates Boles had to climb out in the open bomb bay with a portable oxygen tank to release it.
The plane had to drop out of formation to a lower altitude and flew alone over Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Hungary and into Yugoslavia where the plane ran out of fuel and the crew bailed out.
Eleven men parachuted from the plane, one more than the complement of a B-24. The extra man was Dorance Shaffer, a German speaking American radio intelligence expert who had joined for this one mission to monitor German military radio traffic.
All 11 airmen made it safely to the ground with only three suffering minor injuries. The crew was picked up by Tito's Yugoslav Partisans and for the next two months they dodged German troops with the help of the partisans who hid them in farmhouses during the day and moved them through the forests and over hills and mountains at night. Food was scarce and consisted mainly of turnips and potatoes, which had been left in the fields after harvest and gathered by the crew. There was no salt, and all the crew came down with Yellow Jaundice.
The crew and their escort crossed the Drava River from Yugoslavia into Hungary by boat. When the boat was in the middle of the river a German fighter plane dropped a bomb, which missed the boat. The partisans then turned the crew over to the Russian Army who moved them in their convoy, which was moving up to the battle for Budapest, Hungary. One night the convoy was moving with lights on and German fighter planes strafed the convoy. None of the crew was hit but there were some new openings in the bus they were riding in. Later the Russian Army moved the crew on to Bucharest, Romania where they arrived on January 11, 1945. On January 18, 1945 the Fifteenth Air Force sent a C-47 to Bucharest and flew the crew back to Bari, Italy where they were deloused and given new clothes and later flew back to the 461st Bomb Group.
After a few days at the Group, the crew was all promoted one grade and orders cut to return them to the States.
Edited by CNY Militaria, 20 April 2012 - 02:16 AM.