Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Small Tribute We Held Back to and for a Special Veteran

     And a final tribute, based on yesterday's salute to friends and family who are veterans, is this one to the grandfather-in-law of El Gringo Viejo's daughter. 1st Lieutenant Ted, United States Army Air Corp, pilot of the B-17, (retired) who saw considerable action, and was fortunate enough to have served into those moments when it became very apparent that the Wehrmacht and its madman commander-in-chief were done.    Ted and his wife are still spry and living well in Central Texas.  
     We include some notes about what his experience might have included. 

The plane that the  "Veteran Emeritus"  we saved back for a separate recognition flew is this one.  The animation pictured above is shallow tribute to the ardours of the B-17 Flying Fortress crews that flew into Germany during the last half of World War II.   The B-17 Flying Fortress and various other American and British sister ships bombed and bombed and bombed almost incessantly.   The Germans were resilient, resourceful, and effective in their resistance.  Whether Nazi or not, when these huge flights of bombers came over, the German was fighting for his/her homeland, family, and the big church in the village, and the 400 year brewery over there four miles to the south, not to be captured by the Russian, to save what could be saved.  Most knew by the middle of 1944 that the War was lost.
Our boys....an old man would have been 25 or so....there were many, many 18 year old tail-gunners, flew at 20,000 to 30,000 fasl, with on-board temperatures at times around -20 F and noise that damaged almost all their hearing permanently for the rest of their lives....and that was if they were lucky.
Early in the bombing runs, they had a bit of fighter protection.   Later, there was little or no fighter escort as the lumbering bombers, majestic but slow at 150 -170 mph outdistanced their lighter cousins and had to face Hans and his Messerschmitt.   It would be fairly late in the War when German attrition, in pilots, mechanics, petrol, and airplanes would make the flights a little more tolerable....except for the flak that would blacken the sky until almost the very end.   Escort in the form of the magnificent P-51 fighter, the finest ever built gave the bombers further cover by a plane that could outfly anything and then return to England, strafing trains and troop convoys as he went.
Luckily, very late in the War, the Germans turned out a two-engine jet fighter that could stand up to the P-51, except for a couple of things.   Very few qualified pilots and no kerosene for the engines.  German production of petrol had been converted almost entirely to diesel and gasoline.  Col. Chuck Yeager in remembrances after the War recalled finding a Me-262 apparently limping back to his home field, nursing his fuel.    Yeager went up on top with his P-51 and "put the 262 out of its misery".   Later he lamented having picked on the cripple, so to speak, as well as for not having taken note of the landing spot and/or  devising a plan to capture the plane and the pilot.
Another American encounter that resulted in victory over the Me-262 that was not crippled-up is chronicled in this clip:

Finally, it is well to consider that almost 60,000 Americans were lost in these bombing raids.   This does not count the Americans who had the good fortune to have been captured, after bailing out, by elements of the regular German Army and not the Gestapo or SS groups.   Civilian Guard people were usually rough, but not brutal....so almost 12,000 fly-boys (Brit and Yank) wound up in prisoner of war camps for the duration.   But, more were KIA than in the entire Viet Nam War, and their universe of actives was much, much smaller.   The casualty count for these men was approximately 25% KIA, WIA, MIA, or POW.
Salute to all once again.
El Gringo Viejo