Heroes: the Army Air Corps

 

"...Lost thirty-seven planes today. Two crews next to us shot down. Lt. Well and Dixon were flying in our element and shot down. We were the only ship in our element to get back. Angel in each wing. Said prayers many times. Everywhere you looked planes were going down..."

 

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 Edward C. Penniman

  • Branch of Service: Army Air Corps
  • Unit: 453rd Bombardment Group
  • Dates: 1942 - 1945
  • Location: European Theater
  • Rank: T/Sgt
  • Birth Year: 1923
  • Entered Service: Providence, RI

 

 

 

DIARY OF COMBAT MISSIONS

8th Air Force

February - September

1944

 

Tech. Sgt. Edward C. Penniman

 

 

 

Feb. 6    First mission was a noball. Almost 5 hours long. 2nd mission of group- rookies.

 

Feb. 10    Mission to Gilze Ryin. Took pictures, saw flak thru lens, no more pictures.

 

Feb. 11    Another noball, coast of France.

 

Feb. 23    Lieutenant Adams couldn't get plane stopped because of icy runway. We crashed into a ditch and rock pile. I thought we'd had it. Eberhardt and myself went to hospital. Said I had a concussion, but that was from whiskey they gave me.

 

March 3    Started for Berlin, but because of excessive contrails turned back. Cold as Hell-50, everything froze up. I damn near did. Not sorry we came back.

 

March 6    Well, we finally got a Big B. Rough, plenty of fighters and flak. Cold as Hell. Sent B. S. Adams hit in head. I thought he was dead, but bandaged him, gave him whole box of sulpha pills. I was worried because I thought that I gave him too much. He is O. K.; paralyzed in right side. Had to have operation. Plane full of holes, lucky again, seems as though I am stretching it already.

 

March 15    Started to Brunswick, prop govenor leaked and had to turn ack, not sorry. Brunswick's a tough place. Lt. Benorsick's first mission as 1st pilot.

 

March 16    Last night Jerry was over with a load Incendiaries. I beat Perk to the Air Raid Shelter. He ran out for his helmet. Bombardier that had was stinko - Scared.

 

March 18    Friedrichshaffen - 9.45 long. Target located near Lake Constance in southern part of Germany on Swiss border. Alps are pretty, but cold as Hell. Factory was the target. Carried 1000 pounders. Lt. Benarsick was first pilot. Sent B. S. Lt. Stokes of 75 co-pilot, Adams of same crew was waist gunner. Uncle Joe's plane was hit, and he took off for Switzerland, who wouldn't? Saw two planes collide in midair, no one got out. Flak not too bad.

 

March 19    Anyone who rakes a hut is chicken shit. Jumped a mile. Never was the iron nerve type.

 

March 20    Mission to Frankfort. Major Sears was co-pilot. His head revolves more than the top turret. Like a picnic to fly with him. Bloody Conway was waist gunner. Eberhardt still in hospital. Guess we'll have to get replacement. Sent B. S. Flak hot. We were lucky. One plane whuf. Six hours long. Cold as Hell - 20 and 25 below.

 

March 22    Jerry over, comes over every night on way to London, stopped here, stayed in sack. Getting fatalistic or whatever you call it. Didn't fly today. Ones who did went to big B. Lucky me.

 

March 23    Mission to Meunster, Germany. Took off at 6:30. Landed at 1:30. Target was airfield and factory. We had a full load of incendiaries. Sent B. S. Cold as Hell. One plane hit by flak, blew up right off our tail. Incendiaries not nice to carry, but I sure would hate to be underneath us. Flak heavy. Briggs had his top turret plexiglass blown half off. Lucky Briggs! Asher can't fly for S----. We almost cracked up on take off. Hope he never flys with us again.

 

March 25 to April 3    Edinburg, Scotland.    Some town. Had a Hell of a time.

 

April 8    Flew mission to Brunswick. Seven hours. Sent B. S. Bombed ME 109 Plant, hit right on the nose. Mike flew with us. First mission with Tarbell and he can fly with the best. Lost thirty-seven planes today. Two crews next to us shot down. Lt. Well and Dixon were flying in our element and shot down. We were the only ship in our element to get back. Angel in each wing. Said prayers many times. Everywhere you looked planes were going down. Shot up box of flares calling for assistance, but there were too many of the Dummer Lake boys. Tarbell sits there and laughs, said they are the ugliest planes he ever saw. I didn't think it funny. Flak was like a carpet. Brigg's turret hit again. The bastards were coming thru us fifty at a time. Those guys know the ropes, must be veterans. Briggs lucky. Had plenty of attacks. 47's and 38's looked good helping us. Little brothers. go to church all the time now. Would go more if could, strickly God-fearing.

 

April 9    Easter    What a way to spend it! Tutan, northwestern Germany, Me 109 plant, but we hit an air field. Hope we did a good job. Sent B. S. Fighters were Hell today. Attacked us when we had not escort. Someone up. Fifteen came at us in head on attacks at a time. We were lead and can't figure out why we weren't hit. Two planes collided. We went into a cloud bank, and after that everything was mixed up. All groups were broken up. Worst fighter attacks I have ever seen. Those guys mean it. Major Sears was our co-pilot. I dropped bombs, he didn't have strength to pull salvo-handle. I hope they did damage. Dizie flew with Neary and never came back. That leaves us and Stokes only flight leaders in our Sqdron. After today, I know odds against us. Some day we won't come back.

 

April 11    Asherslaven    Component part plant. Flak heavy in couple of places. Fighters attacked high right. More of them than us. Several planes went down. Capt. Harris flew with us, also Major Sears, lead group, and to my surprise hit the target. New crew member flew with us, seems like a nice fellow, Grant. We are alerted to fly tomorrow. Lost half of squadron already, replacements in, but not like the old boys.

 

April 13    Target Munich - Der Fuhrer's home town. Hope we got him. Ten 500 pounders. Eight hours long. Cold as Hell. Had a few fighter attacks. Flak not bad. Asher co-pilot. I like Major Sears, he instills confidence.

 

April 19    Padenbarn, Germany    Milk run. Had beautiful escort. I love 38's and 47's. 51's I adore. Sent B. S. Dept. Lead.

 

April 20    Just came back from 48 hr. pass and found that Munsey went down, felt like Hell. Knew those boys for long time. High headquarters screwed up. Sent mission out and it arrived back after dark. English A. A. and Spits, also enemy followed them back. Five of Munsey's boys got out. Munsey and co-pilot stayed with ship, burning like Hell. Both got Silver Stars, post-humously. Old Grady, R. O., was blind before he left the ship. Bloody Conway jumped thru doors so rest could get out. Big John hit square with 20 M. M. five who died, married with kids, five who didn't not married, - doesn't make sense. God damn the limies, Ju 88 got them though. Dark and Mack sew it too late.

 

April 24    Augsburg, Germany    Lead group. Major Sears along again, he likes to fly with us. Lt. Elkins did pilotage in nose. Hell of a good guy. Sent B. S. Flak not bad. Two fighter attacks. Eight hours, thirty five minutes long. Just over enemy coast, No. 3 fuel went to minus 5 and Major Sears said we had better turn back. Tarbell said we might as well fly a little longer and walk 50 miles back.

 

April 25    Wiesberg never came back today, said he headed for Switzerland, hope he made it.

 

April 26    Got up 2:30 A. M. Target near Meunster, supposed to hit airfield, but bombed thru overcast. Flak not bad.

 

April 27    Blainville, France    Marshalling yard -- sent B. S. Blew it to ------. Lead. Landed nine o'clock at night. Blainville way down near Swiss border. Flak light. Saw railroad wheels fly up.

 

April 29    Colonel Sears, best man I've ever seen, went down - Berlin.

 

May 12    Leipzig    Synthetic oil plant. We were lead, sent B. S. Flak light. Fighters attacked other groups and left us alone.

 

May 20    Rheims, France    Six hour mission, marshalling yard. Plenty accurate flak today. Lt. Elkins did pilotage again. Carried six 1000 pounders.

 

May 19    Jack flew with Fosdick, but was hit in seat with flak, didn't hurt him.

 

May 23    Mission southern part of France. Target ammunition dump not far from Paree. Dump well hit, whoosh Lead. Sent B. S. Left wing man almost ran into us several times.

 

May 28    Rhur Valley    Flew up Rhur Valley around past Dummer Lake, led 2nd section. Well planned mission, eight hours long. It was warm. Leitz was target.

 

June 4    Tours, France    Hit target between Tours and Orleans. Flak rough at coast going in. They had us. We had to let down under overcast on way coming back. We came in over England too darn low for comfort. I was staring cows in the eyes and afraid we weren't going to clear the next hill.

 

June 5    We were told to report for briefing at nine in the evening. General Timberlake said, this is it! We led first wave of heavy bombers, took off at 3:30 A. M. Bombed a target for the troops coming ashore. It sure looked like someone was catching Hell down there. Never saw so many boats in all my life. Bombed thru overcast. I guess the boys below us took a pounding. I know that so many boats could mean only one thing. None of us had the slightest inkling before briefing, so that shows how well the secret was kept.

 

June 8    Bombed invasion target just off the coast at Fleurs. Weather bad. Some old captain flew Group 52 rode with us. Lt. Elkins flew also. We led group. Carried 100 pound demolition bombs. Sent B. S.

 

June 12    Mintford near Rennes, a railroad bridge. Four 2000 pounders. Deputy lead. Flak!

 

June 29    Flew lead -- Major Low -- Lt. Telford. Airplane engine plant, Germany. Flak quite bad. Six hour mission, fairly cold. Conrad was suffering from the night before, had quite a time, filled the flare box. He and I rode the flight deck. He was sick in the flare box. I put his flak suit on when it started popping. That is one mission that he will never remember.

 

July 4    Halle, Germany was the target. Hit it right on the nose -- got cited. Lead Group, sent B. S. Flak at target was hot, heavy and big. Ship in low left disintegrated, ran thru another formation. Right wing man went down, Capt. Beckett. We were lucky the guy turned into him instead of into us. Major Webster flew with us and Tarbell told him off, but proper. Dick had a runaway gun and shot elevators up some. 76 German fighters shot down today. Tarbell's last mission, he sure made good.

 

July 15    Saarbrucken, Germany    Flew with O'Connell who made 1st pilot. had all old boys and were about thru, so we made chin out like veterans. Beautiful takeoff and landing. First pilot extra now. Always knew he could fly, nice good-natured Irisher. Target Saarbrucken, marshalling yards, flak hot as hell. Lucky again, really stretching it now, getting close to the final curtain.

 

July 17    Caen, France    Target Caen, France, flak rough, flew with Lt. Irwin.

 

July 18    Caen, France    Irwin again. Bombed for Canadians. Flak rough, saw several dog fights.

 

July 21    St. Lo, France    Last mission. Flew with some new guy named Moore, what a beaut! Hope he makes it. THRU ! ! ! Got much flak, hole in wing, big enough to crawl thru, ship flew badly.

 

July 25    Signed to fly more combat from Scotland with Capt. Tarbell as old Pilot. Got two good pilots and best navigator in group. Can't lose. There's always a sucker.

 

July 31    Going to school and learning new tactics. Lot of radio work in conjunction with R. A. F., live on R. A. F. base, we have a big town to go to, going hog wild. It seems we drop guns and ammunition to the Norweigian Maquis. We drop from very low altitude. I don't like low flying in these damn 24's. got the ship painted black, and black muzzles and super chargers. They tell us our main worry is Ju 88's and mountains.

 

August 13    Flew first mission. Boy, what a rugged country. First time I had seen glaciers, all ice and snow and Fjords. Couldn't pick up target, so returned with load. Limeys are damned good with radio work. We fly across lots of water, so I shall try to be on the ball.

 

Aug. 15    Target same area. Couldn't find it.

 

Aug. 22    Used glacier for check point, and dropped on target. Maquis shot flares and rockets at us.

 

Aug. 25    Mission in Oslo area, solid overcast, could not find target.

 

Aug. 31    Solid overcast, could not find target, sweat these damn mountains out more than anything else. Weather is out worst enemy here, but I think B-24's can take it. On Aug. 2t, coming back, we ran into a hell of a lightening storm and much turbulence. My trailing antenna was out, so I jerked my headset off, and shut off all electrical equipment. The lightening loaded up on it, and exploded inside the plane. I thought a gas tank had exploded, and was ready to leave. It knocked us all out. Boy, was I scared! If the hatch had been open, I would have left, North Sea or not!

 

Sept. 6    Flew to northern part of Norway -- very cold. Roughest country I have every seen, a man hasn't a chance. We dropped. I could see those guys running around down there. I guess they were glad to see us. I almost fell out of the bombay. I was out pulling in the static lines, and he racked it over, but my chute harness caught. Lucky me!

 

Sept. 9    Mission -- 10 hour and 10 minutes long. We dropped and one of the packages exploded, probably roused the Nazis from all around. I was down in the B-Bay watching, and the first thing I thought of was flak. They got the stuff though. O'Hara never came back.

 

Sept. 11    Target near Oslo, plenty of activity on ground. Saw Oslo in distance. We dropped. Going to visit this country after the War to see what the hell it looks like in the daylight.

 

Sept. 12    Oslo area. Flak close as hell, scares the out of you at night.

 

Sept. 18    Target same area, dropped, good weather. Good thing these altimeters work O. K.

 

Sept. 21    Target same area. Bad weather. Couldn't drop.

 

Sept. 27    Made drops good on target. Ran into old St. Elmo again. Not too bad though.

P.S. All flying over North Sea at 300-700 off water to escape German radar.

Drops made at 200-500 off ground.

 

 

Edward C. Penniman

 


The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the contributer, Mr. Herman Kohlman.

We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Edward C. Penniman and Mr. Herman Kohlman our most profound THANK YOU for exerpts of the Diary of Mr. Penniman detailing his personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for Mr. Penniman's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".

 


Original story transcribed from a typed transcript of the diary received on 26 April 2008.

 

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