My dad was a pilot in WWII. He was part of group called the Carpetbaggers that flew after dark and low to the ground to deliver supplies to the underground.
His time in the service was never really a topic of conversation when I was growing up, but I did try to glean what I could from his not so-often-stories.
Dad and his crew were stationed in England. After his second mission he wrote in a letter home:
I’ve got my 2nd mission in and all is well. It cuts a funny feeling inside when there’s enemy soil under you, and makes a fellow really feel relieved when there’s English soil in sight again.”
Here is an excerpt written by his co-pilot Norman Russell
Scary Return From Denmark
Our crew was assigned a target in Denmark on 10 September 1944. We had one earlier Denmark run which had been in mid-August and, as I recall, we were not able to drop because we could not contact the ground reception group. The flight to Denmark was not particularly long but all of it was over the North Sea. Actually the only land we flew over was England. Norman Russell
Again, as on our first trip, we were unable to locate the ground reception party so knowing better than to look for them we did a 180 degree turn and headed back to Harrington. We had only been flying east a few minutes when we felt the plane pulling left. Both Jake and I looked at the instruments and saw that number one engine tachometer was indicating an RPM of about 3000. Normally it should be showing 2230. Manifold pressure was a little higher then normal but that shouldn’t have been a problem. As we looked at the instruments and each other the plane began to noticeably pull to the left and without saying anything to each other we both put our feet on the right rudder pedals and were both turning the wheel to the right. I rolled in full right aileron trim and full right rudder trim to try to lift the left wing, hoping that we could keep the plane level. It didn’t work and we were slowly losing altitude. By now we were straining to keep the left wing up and the plane headed straight. I reached overhead to feather number one engine by hitting the red feather button. We expected the engine RPM to slow down to a stop but much to our consternation nothing happened. I pulled the feather button out again and pushed it in…..nothing! I looked over at Jake and noticed that he was sweating profusely. So was I. In fact, we were both drenched. We alerted the crew that we had a problem with the plane. We didn’t have to tell them. They could sense that something was wrong. Finally, we called the crew and told them our problem and since we were still losing altitude we were going to drop our bomb bay containers and we wanted the waist cleared also. This was accomplished quickly. We leveled off but had no altitude to spare.
Holding full right rudder and keeping the wheel full right was beginning to strain both of us. We had advanced the power on the three good engines, number one being our problem, so that we were using our fuel at a far greater rate than usual, which wasn’t all bad because with each gallon of fuel burned the plane became lighter. We were in no danger at that time of running out of fuel.
Eventually, we were flying over England and called Harrington explaining our engine problem. I didn’t mention earlier that Jake and I took turns holding the number one throttle full closed because we wanted as little fuel into that engine as possible. The blades were stuck in low pitch so that run-way propeller was acting as a big area of resistance rather than doing any pulling. We landed without incident. Jake and I sat in the cockpit for a few minutes after we cut the engines. I guess were just too tired to get out. It didn’t occur to me to get scared until later when I was in bed. And then I began to sweat again.
Next day our crew chief found a restriction in the oil line leading into the propeller control housing. No oil was available to control the pitch of the propeller and obviously none to the feather. A propeller rotating at the speed ours was is a constant threat of letting go of its blades. Had that happened we would have had a cold swim in the North Sea.
Our crew was composed of Maurice “Jake” Jacobson, pilot; Norman Russell, co-pilot; Jim McKenna, navigator; Dave Cleveland, bombardier; Bob Marriet, engineer; Mitch Hart, radio operator; Seymour Chinich, tail gunner; and Joel Carter, dispatcher-gunner.
My dad lived a life I never really knew or understood.
But Dad, I thank you for every thing you did.