The first greeting that American bomber formations had on the way to a target in Europe was from anti-aircraft "flak" batteries along the North Sea and English Channel. The work "flak" is a Americanization of the German word Fliegerabwehrkanone. Current US slang for these types of guns is AAA - Anti-Aircraft Artillery.
One such battery that operated near the Zunder Zee in Holland (Netherlands) was nicknamed "Cross-Eyed Charlie" by members of the 734th Sqd in the 446th Bomb Group 20th Wing 2nd Air Division which Bill Washburn was in.
Flak Greetings Over Bremen Germany
Bill Washburn took this photo from the right waist gunner position in his Consolidated B-24-J Liberator heavy bomber in January 1945 over Bremen Germany. This was scanned from his original print given to him by the photo lab after the censor's cleared it.
Note the three flak bursts in the left side of the picture.
The two smoke trails are from the special bombs dropped by the lead bomber so that trailing bomb groups toggle theirs bomb at the same point in space. This is why the lead bombadier had to be REALLY good - else the whole group would miss the target.
The Air Force Museum has it labeled as being taken over Tours France in their museum. The curator suggested I use the river and match it up to prove it - and I did - perfect match of the river at Bremen. I used Google Earth® to place the vantage point at 23000' - the normal high bombing altitude for B-24s. Most of the forests are even still there! I colored the river a darker blue so it would stand out more on the Google® image.
I scanned this in from his original print he got back from the base photo lab. It still has the censor stamps on the back as does all of his prints. He used an Argus C3 to take the aerial photos.
It seems that he could get film by writing directly to Kodak and they sent him free film - but he could only turn in the film for developing at the base lab. They developed his negatives and printed them - but only gave back prints to him that cleared the sensors and the Army Air Force kept the negatives. This negative is now in the National Archives - and it has fingerprints on it. When they print it they crop the image!
The name was an affectionate compliment since this battery caused damage to planes every time they went over that area. He never missed damaging at least one plane.
A new book out that examines the idea of bombing cities to kill civilians was published March 7. Written by A C Grayling it uses the above picture on the dust jacket and inside. However, it labels them as British Avro Lancasters! I bought the book and plan to read to see what other mistakes he has in there.
Among the Dead Cities:: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan
He took these other pictures with the same Argus C3 with a UV filter on the lens. He eventually became one of the official photographers on missions (in addition to his combat duties) and they gave him military type cameras to take photos during bomb runs to get strike photos during the drops. The strike photos are from the Air Force Cameras.
Bomb strike image taken during B-24 raid on a German rail yard
by the 446 BG(H) 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force.
He kept taking photos with his own camera however. The back of the prints that I scanned in still show the censor stamps and initials clearing them for release.
446th BG Formation Photo 1
446th BG Formation Photo 2
Bill Washburn and the Crew of the 'I Hope So!'
Bill completed 13 of 17 missions in a B-24 Liberator as flight engineer and top turret gunner. Never bailed out, never shot down.
"I Hope So" was decommission after the war and ended up in Arizona for scrapping.
This info is available on the 446th BG (H) web site Bungay Buckaroos.
Bill died in October of 2004.
Just like WWII flyers, pilots interested in flying for the armed forces today must pass strict vision tests. In the past, if an applicant had undergone corrective laser eye surgery, he would have been automatically disqualified from flight training. Since 2007, however, LASIK surgeries have been allowed for anyone interested in pilot or navigator training. Fighter pilots now have the same flexibility for vision correction options as civilians, whether they choose a LASIK Denver surgeon or they simply stay with glasses and corrective lenses.
The US Air Force Academy is located at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The view of destruction of a target from 20 to 32 thousand feet is vastly different than seeing it on the ground. A site that shows before, after and now photographs is Third Reich in Ruins. After the war the US publised the Startegic Bombing Survey where they documented both the damage, what the Germans did to repair the items, how long it took it before it became fully operational, and how many tons of bombs it took to really destroy a factory.
This link at this site, the 303rd (H) Bomb Group Association , has pictures showing what the standard bomber box formation is supposed to look like.
"I served as a fighter pilot in the 15th Air Force, 52nd
Fighter Group, 5th Fighter Squadron. I flew my combat missions in the North
American P-51 Mustang."
"It was during a bomber mission when I saw the most shocking sight my eyes had yet seen. I was flying Red-Two, the wingman for the squadron leader. We were patrolling parallel to the side and above a bomb wing when it started its run. I noticed an exceptionally large and accurate burst of flak exploding directly in front of the lead aircraft."
"The altitude of the burst was precisely calibrated. ... I thought, oh, that next burst is going to hit right in the middle of them. Within seconds, the next burst did exactly that. ... That poor B-24 did a sudden quarter roll to the left, away from the formation ... and then in a blazing explosive flash, it simply disappeared."
"No parachutes, no traces, other than a few small smoking falling pieces. Nothing. Gone. Ten men, gone. I felt as if someone had hit me in the pit of my stomach. I was stunned. I could visualize in my mind the young pilot and his crew, who only seconds before were just as much alive as I was. And now there were no traces left of them or their aircraft. They no longer existed."
"I would see similar scenes of disaster several times, and I always felt a sense of personal loss when it happened, but that first B-24 is the one I'll never forget."