Heroes: the Army Air Corps
"...Then a Lt. passed and called the pitcher, "John did you hear about Frank". Sure did, had breakfast with him this morning, Heard a twenty millimeter went through the waist and blew his head off. They then proceeded to play ball and I proceeded to my barrack to think whether I really wanted to be a Ball Turret Gunner or not..."
Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley. Image taken in 1943.
Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley
- Branch of Service: Army Air Corps
- Unit: 305th Bomb Group/364th Bomb Sqn. [Heavy]
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: S/Sgt., Ball Turret Gunner
- Birth Year: 1921
- Entered Service: New Orleans, LA
Ball Turret Gunner
"On My arrival on the base in April 1944. I immediately went to My Barrack and proceeded to unload my belongings into my foot Locker. Upon hearing the sound of ball hitting a bat and being a Baseball nut. I went out to see what was going on. They were playing Chicago or you batted until you got out, so I went out in The field. Then a Lt. Passed and called the pitcher John did you hear about Frank. Sure did, had breakfast with him this morning Heard a twenty millimeter went through the waist and blew his head off They then proceeded to play ball and I proceeded to My barrack to think whether I really wanted to be a Ball Turret Gunner or not. But of course I had no choice. Before leaving the States I wrote My Mother that I would advise her how many Missions I completed by Baseball games, she knew I was suppose to make 25 and I would write that I played so many and had so many games yet to play and that our team was undefeated.
Article of September 8, 2002, Section E-8, "Pictures from the Past" of the Times Picayune illustrates the catalyst for this story.
The image of the B-17 bomber crew grouped proudly in front of their aircraft offered an opportunity to conduct an interview with one of the men in the photo -- Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley.
On the morning of June 6,1944 my crew was awaken at 0400 breakfast at 0430 and our days briefing at 0500. Our mission was to carry 10 250 lbs Demolition Bombs to be dropped 30 seconds after arriving at the French Coast. To return to base for a return loading and second mission. The weather over the English Channel was foggy and the ships below were Barely visual from our height.
Our crew was flying Tail End Charley which was the last aircraft in the low Squadron of our formation. After dropping our bombs on the Lead Aircraft's Sighting we turned to head back to base. We were hit with flack just before entering the channel and lost the #3 engine, also the bomb bay was hit and Couldn't be closed.
In order to save the aircraft and crew our Captain thought it necessary to land on a P-51 fighter plane Airfield. We were unable to complete our second mission and was trucked back to our base.
S/Sgt Leonard J. Hurley
38 377 482
305th Bomb Group 364th Sqdn B-17 Heavy Bombers
Click on image above for larger view.
Pictured are, from left, front row: Lt. Robert Stone, pilot; Lt. Ed Abbey, co-pilot: Lt. Al Haycox, navigator, and Lt Douglas Franklin, bombardier; back row: Tech. Sgt. Rufus Waters, engineer; Staff Sgt. Bill Armstrong, waist gunner; Tech. Sgt. Luke Lukacs, radio operator; Staff Sgt. L. J. "Mickey" Hurley, ball turret gunner; Staff Sgt. Ken Stephans, top turret gunner, and Staff Sgt. Charles Hopkins, tail gunner. Stone, a graduate of LSU, was from Baton Rouge.
All of the men pictured in this photograph returned to the U. S. after their tour of duty.
According to Mickey, the following men have passed away: Douglas Franklin, Rufus Waters, Luke Lukacs, and Ken Stephans.
Interview with Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley:
On the 8th of September, 2002, a short article appeared in the local newspaper, the Times Picayune, in which an image of a bomber crew standing in front of their B-17 ran with information about the crew in the picture. Placing a phone call to the gentleman who submitted the photograph and article, Leonard J. Mickey Hurely began a quest to tell his story on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words.
On October 28th, I was invited over to share the hospitality of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hurley and to conduct an interview with regards to the flying career of Mickey, or so his crewmen came to know Leonard.
My hosts, Mickey and his gracious wife, Mary Jane allowed me the privilege of sitting down with them for a couple of hours to talk about Mickey's World War II experiences.
Mickey is a member of the VFW and is a member of the "working group" of this Veterans group -- spending time each month working with veterans at the local Veterans Hospital in New Orleans.
The following essay on Leonard J. Mickey Hurley is the result of that interview and a phone conversation held on September 8th prior to our visit. During this visit, I was allowed to tape our conversation and along with some memorabilia, notations, photographs, and other personal articles presented to me, the following story of our subject of this essay is presented...
Mickey's War Story:
Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley was inducted into the service on 28 December 1942 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He attended an Aerial Gunnery Course in Kingman, Arizona in 1943 followed by a Radio Operator Mechanic Course in Sioux Falls, South Dakota later in the same year. This training prepared Mickey for his upcoming military career -- a ball turret gunner on a B-17 over occupied Europe. During his training Mickey qualified in 'Aerial Gunnery' as well as in 'Carbine Sharp Shooter'. He was told that either you became a radio operator or you die. It was the only way he was going to get out of the school. He chose to take the course.
Mickey departed from New York for Liverpool, England aboard the converted British luxury liner, Mauritania, with approximately 5,500 men on board on March 30, 1944 and arriving on April 6, 1944. They dodged submarines for nine days. Memories of this voyage were not pleasant for Mickey, for he was sea sick most of the way.
Eventually he was assigned to the 305th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 364th Squadron, 8th Air Force operating out of Chelveston, England.
During his tour, Mickey rose to the rank of S/sgt and completed a total number of 33 missions over occupied Europe. At the time he was required to complete 32 missions to finish his tour. His crews plane, the Piccadilly Lilly, participated in the aerial bombardment on D-Day and the crew were awarded a citation by the French government to honor their part in this opening chapter in pushing Hitler's armies back across France and eventually into Germany.
Mickey's TOS (Time Overseas) ended up being but a short six months and nine days. One can only imagine that this "short period" was probably the longest six months in his entire young life.
Coming home was much better for Mickey. He returned on the converted liner, the Queen Mary, and even though some of his memories are not the most pleasant -- seeing the hundreds of wounded service men returning, the trip took only 3 1/2 days [note: his DD214 indicates five days for the return] leaving Liverpool on October 2, 1944 and arriving in New York on October 8, 1944. Mickey recalls Bing Crosby, among other celebrities being on board on this trip home. Mickey remembers cutting up and laughing with buddies and then would look around and see a bunch of fellows watching a movie. These fellows would have no legs, arms cut off, basket cases. Of course this sight would have a very sobering effect on him.
When asked if they had to dodge German submarines en route to or from England, Mickey's answer was 'No, we were just too fast for them and they could never catch us.' I am sure that he was relieved to have this bit of information to ease his mind while en route to and from his overseas assignment.
On December 15, 1944, Mickey was demobilized from active duty with the notation placed on his DD214 (Report of Separation) as being the reason for separation: "Convenience of Government".
During his six month tour of duty, Mickey managed to bring home a little extra baggage including: the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters and of course the Good Conduct Medal. Additional awards included the American Defense Medal, the European Campaign Medal and the Victory in Europe Medal.
Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley is retired from a colorful career in the airline industry [Pan American Airlines] and currently lives with his wife, Mary Jane in Metairie, Louisiana. The Hurley's recently celebrated their 51st year of marriage and have raised a family of two children and have four grandchildren.
On September 8, 2002, a short article, complete with caption appeared in the local newspaper.
This researcher/web master called the gentleman mentioned in the newspaper article -- Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley. We talked for a brief time [about 20 minutes] and during the phone conversation, we discussed the newspaper article and related subjects.
Beginning the conversation, the one thing that Mickey brought out was the fact that the only real thing on his mind back during those 33 grueling missions over occupied Europe was simply 'I want to go home!'
His memories of those days, some 58 or so years ago are mainly of having a good time and going out and drinking with the boys.
Mickey also recalls that he, as a ball turret gunner on a B-17G, was personally credited with at least "two probable's" [enemy kills] -- including a Folke Wolf 190 and an early jet aircraft over Leipzig, Germany [Mission #24 -- 22 July 1944]. He indicated that the jet aircraft were so fast that they had to actually pull their power back and glide into firing positions among the B-17 formations in order to fire on the massed airplanes. The B-17's were cruising at about 125 mph while the jets were doing about 500 mph and would have to cut his power to throw 20mm's at them. He says that he is 'almost certain that he hit the plane -- for it was dead in his sights [firing recticle] and unless his sights were off, he hit the plane.'
When asked about what they thought during a mission, it usually was that they were going out and getting drunk after the mission. They never thought about the fact that they might not be getting home after the mission.
According to Mickey, the name of the plane that he and his crew flew most of their missions in was the Piccadilly Lilly -- a B-17G. This was with the 305th Bomb Group (Heavy), 364th Sqd. which was based out of Chelveston, England.
The mission that comes to mind as one of his most memorable, was the mission on D-Day when his plane carried a load of bombs which were to be used to bombard the fortifications for the allied landings. After dropping their load of bombs, they were to return to England, and load up for a second trip back.
However, during the bombing run, their plane was hit by flak and the No. 3 engine was damaged along with additional damage to the bomb bay doors. The crew brought the plan back to England, landing on the first available landing strip -- a P-51 landing strip. Needless to say, there was no second mission for the crew of the Piccadilly Lilly that day. They were trucked back to their home base instead.
We talked about the high casualty rate of the Air Corps and Mickey mentioned that on D-Day they were to have done two missions. With the flak damage on the first mission and diverting to a P-51 airstrip, they returned later to their barracks to find some soldiers going through their personal articles, packing them up. Very efficient, indeed.
Micky mentions that in his opinion the B-17 was a much better plane than the B-24 Liberator for the B-17 brought their crews home while the B-24 was not as reliable a plane.
At some point during Micky's tour, a decision was made to eliminate one man from the crew of ten men which usually manned the big bomber. The decision to eliminate one of the waist gunners was not to save weight or any similar reason, but for the purpose of giving more freedom to a lone waist gunner in order for him to move around more efficiently during combat. It seems that with two men in the confined space, during times of action against fighter attacks, they would get into the way of each other. Interesting.
On 28 October 2002 about 10am, this web master/researcher went over and visited with Mr. and Mrs. Hurley. Mickey, his lovely wife of 51 years, Mary Jane [Wolf] and I sat down at the kitchen table and talked about the days that he flew as a crew member on a B-17 over occupied Europe.
In their home there are wonderful memories of those days back during World War II including photographs, framed citations and other memorabilia.
A large print in the living room with accompanying article tells of two B-17 pilots who received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Mickey then showed me a photo of himself and one of the pilots taken a couple of years ago. These two men had become friends as a result of their days in the 305th. Mickey speaks fondly of these two pilots and is visibly proud to have the autographed print hanging in his home.
Still very active at age 81, Mickey plays golf three days a week and walks daily when not playing golf. He is an avid golf fan and loves the game for the sake of the game. Mickey proudly displays his array of golf memorabilia including his photo taken in his "green sport coat" -- not the Master's sport coat, but one that he bought to satisfy a sister-in-law's request as to why he did not have one like the fellows on TV.
During the later stages of the interview, Mickey began talking about his training days at Aerial Gunnery Course at Kingman, Arizon in 1943. He mentions that he was not particularly fond of shooting guns. As to qualify this statement, he tells of gunnery training consisted of traveling around in the back of a truck on a skeet shooting range. They were given 12-ga shotguns to us for gunnery practice. A visual picture easily comes to mind of this truck bouncing around in the desert in Arizona while the men in the back attempt to fire off 12-ga rounds at skeets being shot off all around them. Due to the fact that Mickey actually disliked firearms, he always seemed to have some extra ammo still around after his instructor was finished firing off his rounds. He would always offer his unused rounds to his instructor who happily and eagerly used these additional rounds -- thus saving Mickey from having to fire off the rounds. He mentioned that firing a 12-ga shotgun usually left his shoulder very sore and this contributed to his attitude towards guns.
Mickey currently belongs to the Honor Society of the VFW and showed me a recent portrait taken in his uniform. [see photo] Mickey tells me that the Honor Society is the "working group" of the VFW and that they go to the VA Hospital on the 2nd Monday of every month.
The 305th Bombardment Group (H) Memorial Association meet each year at a different location and Mickey and Mary Jane have attended the past 20 reunions. However, due to family health problems, their reunion trip this year was missed.
Originally, Mickey and the crew of Piccadilly Lilly were assigned 25 missions as their final goal with the final goal climbing until the final number of missions became 32! Mickey did his 32 PLUS one more.
Mickey told me that they used V-mail to write back home and that he had told his Mother about a little code they would use to let her know that he had completed another mission successfully. He had taught his Mom the game of baseball and for each completed mission, he would tell her that they had another baseball game and his team had won the game. This way she would be able to keep tabs on the number off missions he had completed and at the same time foil the attempts of the military censors to censor his mail. He could never have told her how many actual missions he flew nor if he had had a mission on a certain day. But she knew -- thanks to their little code. While talking about the V-mail with Mickey, his wife Mary Jane showed me a V-mail sent to her Dad from a friend serving in Burma.
During our visit, Mickey mentions about his plane being Tail End Charley on June 6, 1944 on the mission that resulted in their unscheduled early end to their mission when flak hit the plane. He says that being Tail End Charley is the worst position that you can be in during a raid -- for you were an easy target. That was because by the time you arrived over target, the German flak had the range and altitude or the fighters had the opportunity to pounce on you from your unprotected rear. Either way, it was not the most enviable position in the formation.
B-17G with markings of the 305th Bomb Group
From: The Mighty Eight by Roger A. Freeman
Mickey brought out a very interesting fact that I had not heard before with regards to the always surprising "German ingenuity". It seems that in some cases, a B-17 that had been shot up would at times make emergency landings which in cases were usually belly landings. If you are familiar with a typical B-17 Flying Fortress, you would easily recognize a very distinguishing feature -- the ball turret. However, during a belly landing the ball turret would always get crushed. The Germans were very resourceful and could and sometimes would be able to patch up a B-17 and get one flying again. When this happened, the resourceful German crews would attempt to penetrate Allied formations of B-17s and when within firing range, wreak havoc among the groups of tightly knit formations and cause rather extensive damage.
This of course would not go unnoticed by bomber crews. The word got out in 8th Air Force, that if a B-17 was observed in a formation, without a ball turret, the procedure was to immediately shoot it down.
On one mission, Mickey did notice a B-17 which strangely was missing its ball turret and promptly notified his flight crew. The word was passed to the 'little friends' -- the escort fighters and then before you know it, out of the blue, a P-51 came screaming down and this B-17 went down. So evidently, the 51 got him. Score one for the good guys.
Briefly describing a typical mission, Mickey would say that they would usually get up about 4 in the morning, and then go to breakfast prior to their briefing. There would be an officer there who would tell you were you were going, how much gas you had on the aircraft and if there was full tanks you knew that you were going a long way, eight hours or better. You would see a map that indicated where you were going with a red line. If the line came below the map, you knew you were going a long way. You would then go to your equipment and get your guns, get your parachute, harness, etc., and go to your aircraft and put it all together. Upon taking off, you would go over the English Channel and the group would form up and then you would check your guns out to see if they all fired right. Then you were on your way. When asked as to when Mickey would crawl into his ball turret, he told me that when they reached 10,000 feet or when entering into enemy territory. 10,000 feet was also when you went on oxygen.
Surprisingly, Mickey did not fire his weapons on every mission. Not all missions encountered enemy fighters -- but all missions did encounter enemy flak.
One of the lowest missions flown by Mickey, was over France and they flew in at 10,000 feet. The target was a bridge, and they busted the heck out of that bridge according to Mickey.
Being as Mickey was in the ball turret, one of his jobs was to see that all bombs were released according to how many bombs you carried on the aircraft. If you were carrying demolition bombs [HE -- high explosive] you had to make sure all were dropped out of the aircraft before they closed the bomb bay. But if you were dropping incendiary bombs -- then you were talking about something that was really pretty to watch. It was like if you had ever been around various types of colored glass with the sun shining down on it. They were made to set fire on the target.
According to where you were going you could fly as high as 30,000 feet. On one of these missions, Mickey's plug to his heated boots came loose from the plug in his chair and as a result he received a case of frostbite that sent him to the hospital for three days. His treatment included him being made to sit on the side of a bath tub with his feet in cold water.
About this point, Mary Jane produced a section of folded material and Mickey commented that it was an escape map -- in case you got shot down. The map was large, about 3 ft by 3 ft across and was a detailed map of France, Belgium and Holland with details on both sides. Every crewman had one of those maps. The map shown to me was in excellent -- pristine condition -- considering that it was something like 56 years old. It was printed on cloth so that it could be easily carried as part of their escape kit. Asking Mickey about their being giving an escape map for Germany, for missions over Germany, he indicated 'No' for that was the only one they had. I guess the rest of that story can be left to the reader's imagination.
When the D-Day Museum opened in New Orleans, the Hurley's offered the map to the museum for display with the museum turning them down! Mickey is a bit miffed that the museum seems to be centered on portraying the ground troops and did very little in portraying the other services including the Air Corps.
On another occasion, Mickey was in the mess hall one morning before a mission and saw a fellow who looked familiar. He asked him if he had gone to Peter's High School. He told Mickey that he had and wanted to know why. Mickey told him that he had also gone to Peter's High School He introduced himself as Joe Fitch. During their conversation, he found out that Fitch was in the 365th Bomb Squadron. The old school buddies said that they would get together one day soon and talk about old times.
A couple of days later, Mickey ran across a fellow who asked him if he had talked to Joe Fitch the other day. He said that he had -- but had not seen him since. The fellow said that he would not be seeing him, for the crew had been shot down. So that was the end of Joe Fitch.
When he came home, Mickey was downtown at one of the hotels eating and when he was getting up to go to the bathroom, his chair bumped into the chair behind him. Upon turning around, he came face to face with Joe Fitch. It seems that Joe had been rescued after the invasion of Europe. Joe Fitch was a gunner on another crew. He recently, according to Mickey, passed away.
In 1980, Mickey and Mary Jane went back to England for a reunion of the 305th and produced some photos of one of the hangers still standing at Chelveston. They indicated that there was still part of the original runway and the hanger there -- with the hanger being used now to store groceries. The hanger in the photo looked in remarkably good condition.
While in England, the group of gathering former warriors dedicated a plaque at the Chelveston, Parish of St. John the Baptist Church. This placque, honors the 769 airmen from the 305th Bomb Group that were killed or wounded in World War II. The church, in 1980 was 750 years old and still had dirt floors. The 305th Bomb Group donates to the upkeep of the plaque.
One of Mickey's jobs on a mission was that of bomb damage observer -- reporting to the pilot just where their bombs landed. After all, he did have a ring side seat for the show!
Mickey got a reputation among his fellow crew members -- that maybe was not totally deserved. He once 'drifted off and took a nap during a mission.' This was pointed out in a letter from Mickey's former pilot when in the letter opening he stated: 'I am very pleased to hear from you. I have told at least a 1,000 times about Armstrong [Bill Armstrong, waist gunner] carrying a hammer on our missions to beat on the ball turret to wake you up. So you see, you are quite famous, at least in my circle of friends'.
In actuality, this little joke was due to something very different that happened to Mickey on a mission. Mickey's nose, for some reason did not allow his oxygen mask to fit snugly on his face. His oxygen mask did not always seal properly around his nose and mouth and on at least one occasion, the mask leaked while Mickey was in his ball turret. The leak was severe enough that he passed out due to oxygen deprivation! This was the basis for the little ribbing by his former pilot. Mickey further clarifies the story in that this happened during his first mission to Berlin [May 24, 1944 and at an altitude of 27,000 ft.] and that he actually slept through the run over Berlin...saying that he did not see Berlin at all -- at least on this run. Actually, they did return for another mission over Berlin and he was awake on this one. Mickey said that they did a radio check on missions to check the condition of the crew and on this one radio check, he did not answer. So one of the crew members banged on the ball turret, waking Mickey from his 'altitude inducing sleep!'
Asking Mickey about how he became a ball turret gunner? and suggesting that his size had something to do with it. He indicated that it really did not, even though others thought so. He went to gunnery school, to learn to shoot. However, there was no school to train you to be come a ball turret gunner -- you learned on the job.
Discussing the ball turret itself, Mickey said that the ball turret was 5 five in diameter, and had twin 50-cal machine guns and you had a 'push to talk switch' on the bottom of the turret. You sat in a chair and you could roll around. It wasn't bad. The only bad part about it was that you had to watch it so that your oxygen mask would not hit your site [gun]. To rotate the ball and maneuver it to fire on attacking enemy aircraft, you would use a set of hand controls -- which also contained the firing controls. Using the hand controls properly, you were afforded a remarkable amount of flexibility. The ball actually pivoted within a 180° arc on one axis as well as rotated 360° on another axis. The view from this ball rotating around varies axis must have been tremendous!
Note: Check out the following web sites for an excellent description and illustrations of the ball turret installed on the B-17.
B-17 Ball Turret
Sperry Ball Turret
We discussed the option of should the plane be hit and the crew have to abandon the stricken B-17. Here, Mickey, was not that happy about the consequences of this action. Being in the ball turret, he was isolated from the remainder of his crew mates and the only access to his ball turret was via a small hatch located in the roof of the ball turret. The space in the ball turret was cramped to say the least.
In fact, his oxygen mask was but a scant inch or so from his gun site. Additionally, because of his tight quarters, there of course was no room for his parachute. It was located right above him, OUTSIDE of the the ball turret. If he had to get out, he would have to rotate the ball turret to allow him to open his hatch, crawl out into the belly of the bomber and then strap on his parachute and then if there was time, make his way to an escape hatch -- all this while the plane might have been spiraling down or in the best case scenario, while the flight crew attempted to hold the plane in a somewhat level attitude. Either way, it was not the most happy memory of his job. And again, when queried about this, Mickey's usual comment came to mind 'We only thought about going out and getting drunk when we got back from the mission -- we never considered the fact that we might NOT be coming back.'
Mickey said that he had heard of some fellows actually taking a small chest pack parachute in the turret with them -- but he doubted that this was true. There simply was no room.
He was then asked if they had taken much flak damage during his tour. Mickey said that there was not that much damage to the plane. There was one occasion when the bombardier took a piece of flak in the eye from a hit in the plexiglass in nose. The small piece actually went into his eye. Mickey does not recall if the bombardier actually lost his sight in that eye. He further recalls that it happened on the bombardier's as well as his birthday, June 22, 1944 [Mission #20, Northwest France].
Another mission, he believed it was en route to Mannheim, Germany, was when, '...they lost the no 3 engine -- you are in a bomb group, and you look up and see nothing but airplanes LEAVING you. You are all by yourself up there, and the lead captain told us that they had not encountered any flak on the way over and for the crew to go back the same way. So we went over the Zeiderzee [Holland] and they had the German anti-aircraft guns right there. The waist gunner had just moved his hand when a piece of flak came up and took the aileron line out -- we had no control over the tail. But finally we made it back in. But we did not have too much time over Germany when we had holes in the aircraft other than the fact that the no. 3 engine was gone...'
'...Talk about funny -- was the fact that I was only supposed to go on 32 missions. And when I got back off the 33rd one [Mission #33, August 30, 1944 -- Kiel, Germany], one of the ground crew asked if they had recorded the aborted mission where we turned back from over Normandy. I said that they had and he said that they had given me credit for it.
We went over the Keil Canal, which was a real tough target, which was my last mission and I would not have had to go on that mission if I had got credit for that one mission -- the one previous...' Here, Mickey was -- understandably peeved!
Asking about the crew actually doing all their missions together, Mickey said that the original crew pull about 20 to 22 missions as a crew together and they then were sent on R&R [Rest and relaxation] for two weeks. When they returned, the captain, who was originally from Baton Rouge, decided that he did not want to fly anymore. He had had enough. So the crew got sort of broken up in a way.
The bombardier became a lead bombardier, the navigator went to lead navigator, so they left the crew and they then had various pilots. The co-pilot took over for a while and then others were assigned as the cockpit crew. Shortly, after, the bombardier was eliminated from the crew and was replaced by an enlisted man called a 'toggelier' who followed the lead of the lead bombardier on the bomb drop. Mickey thought that he was the only one who made 33 missions, out of his crew.
When not assigned a mission, you were assigned as a 'stand-by crew member' in case they needed a ball turret gunner. If so, he would have to go with that crew. On one particular time he went to the tent where they were getting their equipment together and they told him that he was the ball turret gunner on stand-by. This crew was the craziest crew he had ever seen. The crew was preparing to fly a mission with a new cockpit crew. One guy, whom he ask where his parachute harness was and the fellow told him that he was going to make one. The fellow had some straps and he was strapping them on himself. Mickey thought that he was crazy -- so he took off. He ran across the field and for a while hid in the grass -- for they were looking for him. He returned to the barracks, and while he was still in his clothes, he was in his sack pretending to be asleep. The sergeant came wanting to know where Hurley was and he made out like he was sleeping. The sergeant shook him awake and he did not want to take off his blanket, for he was still in uniform. The next day a letter was posted that stated that if you were on stand-by you would remain there until the aircraft had left the area.
He was not about to go with that crew.
Mickey mentions a somewhat amusing incident regarding a cousin and his German wife that he married after the war [German War Bride?]. She will tell Mickey upon seeing him "You bomb my house." Actually, on one mission, his group actually did bomb the town, Munich [Mission # 23-24, July 11 or 12, 1944] where she lived and indeed, her home was hit by a bomb dropped on one of those missions. Maybe, his crew actually did bomb her home.
Additional information that was added after a phone conversation with Mickey Hurley on 17 October 2003.
In August 1944, on a mission to Leipzig, Germany their plane, the "Piccadilly Lilly" -- a B-17G, was flying the "Low Squadron, Tail End Charlie". This position was the position that the pilot liked to fly.
On this mission, Mickey saw an Me-262 jet, sitting back in the back of the formation (He had cut his power to keep up with the formation) "throwing 20mm shells at the formation".
Mickey lined up his recticle -- two little hairlines -- one horizontal and one vertical and when line up, you knew you had him in your sights.
"If I didn't hit him, the gun site was off."
The speed of the B-17 was 230-235 mph.
Mickey also indicated that the plane they flew possibly had the numbers ------947 as the last three digits. The plane was a B-17G model. His tour was from April 1944 until August 1944.
Information on the Operational Bomb Groups:
Identification: TRIANGLE G
B-17F & G in olive and grey factory finish. Originally B-17F with medium green blotching on wings and tail Natural metal B-17G from March 1944. Some a/c with yellow surround to national insignia. Many 422 BS a/c with black undersides from autum 1943. Squadron codes 364BS -- WF, 365BS -- XK, 366BS -- KY, 422BS -- JJ; in grey on camouflaged a/c but later also white, forward national insignia, a/c letter aft. Group markings: G in triangle; also under left wing from spring 1944. From August 1944, bright green 48 inches wide horizontal band across vertical tail; existing marking remained. Many 422BS a/c on leaflet dropping duties had G removed from triangle. 422BS a/c did not carry triangle G again until reformed in June 1944. C & I normally used for a/c letter.
Source: The Mighty Eight (A History of the Units, Men and Machines of the US ith Air Forece), by Roger A. Freeman. pp. 287
The Missions That Mickey Flew:
364th Bombardment squadron (H) AAF
Office of the Operations Officer
subject: Completion of Operation Tour.
To Whom It May Concern.
1. This certifies that S/sGT LEONARD J. HURLEY , has completed Thirty-three (33) Bomber Sorties over Occupied Continental Europe and Germany as a Ball Turret Gunner with this squadron on the dates indicated.
1. Apr. 29,44
3. May 1,44
4. May 4,44
5. May 8,44
6. May 9,44
7. May 19.44
8. May 22,44
9. May 24,44
St Joubes, France
St. Andra, France
Total Combat Time 220;50
Awards: Air Medal, Three Oak Leaf Clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross
For the Commanding Officer:
------ROBERT E. SIMONO
Mr. Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley and his wife Mary Jane live in Metairie, Louisiana. He is still a very active 81 years young and plays golf three days a week and takes long walks on days that he does not play golf. Mickey and Mary Jane have two children and four grandchildren. Mickey is retired from working all of his life with the airlines.
The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the subject of our story -- Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley.
We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley our most profound THANK YOU for his poignant story of his personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for Mr. Hurely's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".
Original story transcribed notes taken during a phone interview on September 8, 2002 and from hand written notes made from a taped interview conducted at the Hurley home on October 28, 2002.
Story placed on the web on 31 October 2002.
Additions made to story on 18 October 2003.
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
Army Air Forces: 305th Bombardment (Heavy)
Army Air Forces: B-17 Flying Fortress Tail Markings
305th BG Unit Markings
8th Air Force 305th BG
305th BG (H)
Louis Belk's 305th Bomb Group Web Site
Markings of the 8th USAAF Bombardment Groups based in East Anglia
USAF Aircraft Serial Number Search
USAF Aircraft Serial Number Search Help
National World War II Memorial
World War II Causality Search
September 5, 2002.
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