Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Horror at 25,000 feet (Part 1)

People occasionally ask where I find the stories I put up. Some I've known about for years, others I stumble across as I'm reading, such is the case today. While researching another story I was reading a newspaper archive, when a story in the column beside the one I was interested in caught my eye, and so here is the story of Ruthie II, a B-17 bomber flying out of RAF Alconbury.
Senior Pilots of 92nd bombardment group
Its no surprise that when Lt. Robert Campbell landed Ruthie II that three of his crew were seriously injured. The plane had been shredded from tail to nose by German fighters. This was on a short trip to Nantes, France. Worse was to follow.

On 26th of July 1943 which was Lt Campbell's fifth mission, the target was a synthetic rubber tyre plant at Hannover. Ruthie II took off from RAF Alconbury and headed out over the North Sea, then turned into the German coast with the rest of the bombers. As usual their escorts had to turn back from lack of fuel, and the German fighters soon fell upon the formation.
The first attack came from 7 o'clock position, the FW 190's riddled the B-17's side. One of the cannon shells flew in the window, narrowly missed the co-pilot and caused massive injuries to the back of Lt Campbell's head, splitting open his skull and splashing brain matter everywhere. At the same time another German fighter made a pass from the front of the plane smashing the window in front of the co-pilot, one 2nd Lieutenant John C Morgan.
Lt Campbell's body slumped forward on the control yoke, and it took all of 2nd Lt Morgan's strength to wrestle the aircraft level. Then much to his horror the corpse of Lt Campbell lurched to life and started punching and clawing at him.
2nd Lt Morgan fought off the pilot, and managed to hold him back with one arm, all the while piloting the heavy bomber. The injury to the back of the head had caused such damage to Lt Campbell that he was entirely delirious.

The same attack that had injured Lt Campbell had knocked out the intercom so 2nd Lt Morgan couldn't call for help. Not that any help was available. The cannon fire had shredded the oxygen system for the waist and tail gunners who were all unconscious from the low oxygen levels.
The dorsal turret gunner was Staff Sergeant Tyre C Weaver Jr. His war had ended with the attack from the FW190. One of the shells had blown his arm off just below the shoulder. In shock, with blood pouring from the wound he dropped from the turret and rolled through a hatch into the navigator's position. There 2nd Lt Keith J Koske saw the injured man appear and grabbed a first aid kit. He tried to inject SSgt Weaver with morphine, however the needle was bent and wouldn't go into the skin, so 2nd Lt Koske started trying to stem the blood pouring from the arm stump. With the limb severed so close to the shoulder he was unable to stop the flow of blood.

Back in the cockpit 2nd Lt Morgan had a choice to make. He could either try to stay in formation, or drop out. As they were still near the coast they'd soon be safely away over the sea, where they could hopefully pick up the fighter escort and return to England. With no gunfire coming from the rear of the plane, 2nd Lt Morgan assumed that the crew back there had bailed out when the plane first dived out of control. 2nd Lt Morgan also had to fend off Lt Campbell, who every few moments would start fighting and trying to take over control of the plane, causing it to lurch out of control until 2nd Lt Morgan could regain control and subdue Lt Campbell.
With that in mind, and considering that there were at least several hours of the mission still to fly and 2nd Lt Morgan couldn't see to his front as the windshield was smashed, its remarkable that 2nd Lt Morgan made the decision to hold his place in the formation and complete the mission.

Part Two is here.