Saturday, September 17, 2011

Granddaddy's WWII Adventures

Henry Murray Huffman and Betty Sue Huffman
Enlisting in the Air Force

"We joined Aviation Cadets because I would have been drafted to join something later I’m sure, and I thought I would enjoy flying more than I would foot soldiering. It was quite an ordeal before it was all over. I know Sue went with me down to the place where I signed up to be an Aviation Cadet, and she approached some recruiter or someone standing there advertising the war and asked, 'Aviation Cadet is not as dangerous as foot soldier is it?' He said, 'Lady, it’s all dangerous. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not going to have any widows crying on my shoulder.'"

The Crew

Third Mission:  Ragensburg

"I think it was my third mission that we did a shuttle mission where we bombed Ragensburg which is deep in Germany. Then [we] cut off towards North Africa and went inside Italy and flew beside the Alps there to try to avoid the fighter aircraft. They always had an awful lot of them on a return trip from target. I hope it was a surprise to them. I think it was; we didn’t encounter much there. It was about a twelve hour flight, and that was about maximum for the B-17. An awful lot of people started to run out of fuel over the sea there. You could see them ditch and land in the water quite often...We were short too, shorter than some [because] we got off a little early due to missing an extra field order. We were in the air thirty minutes before an awful lot of other people were. We knew we were in trouble so we cut our fuel mixture back to the red line till it was practically unsafe to run any leaner. We had enough fuel to get into the pattern but didn’t have enough to go around again. We just landed, and the runway was there, and we just dove into the landing area and made it alright...Everybody threw their guns away to lighten the planes."

Bombs Exploding on Ragensburg
Over the Alps

Over the Mediterranean Sea

Tenth Mission: Munster

"It was October 12, 1943...It was about the 10th mission...Yeah, it was flack I think, anti-aircraft bursts that come from the ground that came up and you could just see big black bursts everywhere. The ones you could see missed you, and I was always happy for that. One came through our wing and just took the oil tank.  The flack burst - I don’t know if it was in it or barely under it or what - it just emptied our oil tank on number three engine, and the engine props feather with oil pressure to stop them from turning. They’d turn the blades into the wind so they don’t windmill. Trying to feather that one just did not work because the oil was all gone. Of course we knew we were going to have problems because the prop was running away. It also controlled the pitch of the prop. It was turning - I think we were trying to run about twenty-eight hundred rpm or so and it was up about five thousand rpm back of the red line. [There was] no oil to lubricate it, and I knew something was going to happen. Pretty soon the prop just started leaning back and chewing into the cowling and moved into the number four engine. It knocked the prop real crooked; the bouncing was so bad I didn’t think we had a chance at all of surviving it. But the oil was there, and it feathered, and we stopped the vibration. We just had two engines, and they were on the same side. One had about half power because the turbo charger was frozen up on it or something. We made it alright on everything except fighters were sticking on us until we picked up our fighters. They looked like they were amazed at our damage. They flew along beside us and looked at the bad side, and [the fighter piolot] shook his head and pulled ahead of [us] to look at the other side, and his prop wash nearly downed us...We didn’t have much more flying speed anyway. But it worked out alright, and he and another one stayed with us all the way there. We got to England, and it was fogged in, and you couldn’t see anything. It was fog, fog, fog.  We didn’t know really quite what we were going to do with that. We knew we had a good navigator, and he kept us in the direction of the field. When someone said 'there’s the Fernlinham Castle,' and we knew then we were right at it. We were familiar enough to know what course to take from it to hit the field. When we saw the field it was half covered and half not covered. We didn’t even look for the runway; we just landed crossways and rolled to a successful stop. We ran over a power plant out near an intersection of the runway, but it didn’t hurt anything. We had one man injured, and he wasn’t seriously injured, but he never fought again. We got him off to help, he was tail gunner. That plane was shot up so bad they considered not putting it back in service....They worked on that thing about three weeks and sent it up, and it didn’t come back."

3rd Engine After Munster (no propeller!)

 Returning Alive


Danny Huffman said...

Great job Murray with web page.

terry huffman said...

wow this is great to be able to see grandad on the computer

Alexa said...

What an awesome job you did Murray! It was nice to see everything he did.