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The Weatherman was very pessimistic, advising it was still 100 percent cloud-cover over the target, however there was a chance of broken clouds over the target. Coming home a 50 percent chance, all of Northern England would sock in with a total fog cover. I don’t think anyone in the room batted an eye, soon someone said, "Lets go."

It was over 20,000 feet before we broke out of the clouds, and were soon formed up. As we crossed the channel there was Europe with nothing but fog and a solid cloud cover; making it very difficult to even see the other planes to maintain the flight formation. As we turned on the Initial Point (the point, which you turn to make the bomb run to the target to be bombed,) we were advised the mission be scrubbed, and return to base. We took a course for Polebrook and home with our bombs still on board.

As we turned for home we were advised the 50 percent chance of fog had now become 100 percent fog cover; and except for a few fields in the south end of England, there was no place to land. We scattered and each group ran for England with everyone taking their own course to the open fields. We finally landed at Bath in Southwest England after breaking out of the cloud cover at about 150 feet. The weather was so bad that even the seagulls were walking. By the time it was over, the planes from our group were scattered over six fields. We had accomplished nothing, and the poor guys on the lines in the Bulge were continuing to take a beating. Everything was again fogged in for five days.

The sun came out on the 24th of December in England and Europe. General Eisenhower ordered maximum effort, meaning that every plane possible was to fly that day. Those of us landing at Bath were briefed and the orders were to form composite groups of the planes from the various Bomb Groups into one unit. The bombers, from where ever they were located, were assigned various targets. No one needed a second invitation and we were soon on our way. This time the Weatherman told us there appeared only a 10 percent chance the weather would remain clear by the end of the day. We took off from where ever we were and assembled into composite groups our target was Kaiserslautern (our bomb group went to four different targets that day.). We never reached the IP of our assigned target, as there was nothing but solid clouds below us. The target was changed to any target of opportunity, so we ended up dropping our bombs on a crossroads. As we crossed the channel there was nothing ahead of us but a solid cloud cover where England should be.

We were vectored to an emergency base that had gas piped down the side of each runway, which was ignited to burn off the fog. The landing was a little touchy, because this was a small field and the flames gave the plane additional lift. Stepping hard on the brakes, we finally stopped as we rolled off the end of the runway. This was before we had reversible props and jets. There was hardly room to park the plane. It seemed everyone had also landed there.

We went through debriefing with a cup of Irish Coffee which was more Irish than coffee This was not Polebrook, but a small British Emergency Field. The British personnel were totally over run with people, and soon ran out of food in the mess. All transportation was tied up as nothing was moving because of the fog. It would take 24 hours to get additional supplies. The British have always been able to make do. We were all fed, but we ended up eating fishballs and beets, but there was plenty of the “British Irish Coffee”

That huge Christmas party and Christmas Dinner we had planned for the local children at Polebrook in the main hangar just never happened as we sat on the ground at an emergency field on the “Wash”. The ground crews at the base tried their best, but it didn’t work out too well. All of our hoarded supplies and gifts were still where we had left them when we finally flew back to our base at Polebrook

We had spent a frustrated week flying here and there trying to help the fellows in the Bulge and ended up accomplishing nothing. We had only achieved a lot of frayed nerves with white knuckles and a lot of tight “pucker strings”. More disappointing was the many small sad children who had looked forward to a “Yank” Christmas”.

Soon after Christmas the weather cleared, and all of us in the Air Force managed to give the Germans a taste of "Hell" from the heavens.

On New Years Day, all the planes in the main hangar, where major repairs were made, were moved out and decorated in true Christmas fashion. When the children arrived we were given the names of three children and placed the name tags on our hoarded packages as we put them under a large Christmas tree. Santa Clause arrived (by Jeep) and began calling out the names on the packages under the tree. Santa gave each of them a bag containing candy, candy bars, oranges, apples, and bananas. This was followed by a concert of Christmas carols, which was suddenly a huge community sing along, as this became our Christmas.

We then proceeded to the combat mess with our charges for that delayed Christmas Dinner. There was the usual turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. As the day ended we all seemed to share the same wonderful feeling of contentment. When we took our charges full of turkey to the busses to take them home, I can still see that permanent smile on their little faces as they clutched their toys and waved good bye.

We may not have been able to help the fellows on the line in the bulge, but we sure helped some children through a dreary wartime Christmas. It made up for not being home for the holidays.

Wally Hoffman - 1997
Wally Hoffman
email:flyingfortress@olywa.net




   
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