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REALITY

by

Wally Hoffman

Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved

   


"I did not die, and did not remain alive; now think for thyself, if thou hast any grain of ingenuity, what I became, deprived of both life and death" -Dante's Inferno-

"Once one has reached the Point of No Return--Reality then Begins".


One more time I realize there is that pesky flashlight in my face, and I hear the invitation -- "Breakfast at Five and Briefing at Six." I lay there dragging my eyes open and getting my thoughts together, little did I know how the reality of this fateful day would end.

This will be mission number four. I wonder what hellish target is on that map in the Briefing Room? We've been to Cologne, Bremen, Kassel and flew as a Spare yesterday. If nothing else we are surely learning the geography of Germany. This time around I shaved in warm water, as I had remembered to fill my helmet and put it on the stove before going to bed. There had been hot water last night, so had the luxury of a hot shower. I'm learning as we seem to be getting into a routine as I dressed from the clothes laid out the night before.

As I walked out the door I looked at those empty beds and thought those guys were here yesterday doing the same things I am doing today. Little did I know that by tonight there would be a great many more empty beds as over 60 of our planes would be shot down leaving 600 more empty beds.

Outside it was not only black, it was foggy. I was thinking, "would they have us take off with this fog"? Walking into the Combat Mess there was that same knot in my stomach, and those eggs were still staring at me. Sitting down at the table there again was Bob (Sgt Robert Smith) with a full plate with a blank look on his face. Resnik (S/Sgt John Resnik) was no longer interested in eating too much after that first mission when at altitude he ended up with terrific cramps. "Soon we were outside and again that hurry up and wait."

I began thinking of some of the things you learn with each mission: (1) using a condom to put over the mike in your oxygen mask to keep it dry, (2) squeezing your oxygen mask so the ice doesn't clog it up, (3) then shaking the ice out. I then began getting smart enough to carry two masks. Using a condom to urinate, tying a knot in it, and then throwing it out as a gift to Germany (When my children ask what I had done during the war I told them, "the pleasure of pissing all over Germany").

On the first mission I had noticed soon after we left the target many of the planes would again open their bomb bay doors and you would see one or two cardboard chaff boxes come tumbling out (chaff were thin strips of tinfoil used to confuse the German radar). When I ask about it I received a big laugh and was advised this is "Our Secret Weapon", you will soon find out! On the trip to Bremen one of the crew had to answer nature's call. He used one of the chaff boxes and we were also able to bomb Germany twice on that trip..

Suddenly the doors to the Briefing Room swung open. Soon we are all enveloped in a heavy smoke haze, with temperature increasing noticeably from the body heat and everyone sweating out the mission. As I look around I notice everyone is sitting at all angles and postures. Some are sitting up straight as a ramrod, and some are even sound asleep. Others are engaged in animated conversations with their neighbors while the rest are staring straight ahead at nothing. You can feel the fear, the dread, and the underlining thought of death in the room, but we are all are confident in our training and each other.

Abruptly a nattily dressed Major (a ground pounder) steps on the stage and begins roll call, calling the names of each crew commanders. Each answers for his crew. The Major then moved to the back of the stage and drew the black curtain of doom. This revealed the map which dictated our lives for the next fourteen hours. There is a hushed silence as everyone leans forward looking at the fateful end of the red yarn. "Its Schweinfurt" the Major says with a smile, and gives us time to think. Abruptly a buzz of voices breaks out, and one voice says "Sonofabitch This is my Last Mission", and it was!" as he was one of those who never made it back.

The Security Officer steps forward and instructs us, "Do not talk about the mission once you have left the room, and this also applies to a Scrubbed Target. Anyone flying this mission who has not had POW (prisoner of war) instruction report to the S-2 officer after this briefing. Be sure to wear your dog tags, GI shoes, and don't wear any insignia. Carry your rank, name and serial number, and no billfolds, pictures, nor letters. No one will leave this briefing until dismissed." We were told this at every briefing.

Everyone is sitting up attentively listening to the intelligence officer. There is no longer any screwing around for his instructions are life and death to us. There is an immediate feeling of immense doom which goes through the briefing room, and no one tries to look at one another. We are all thinking the same thing, "Who will be missing from here tonight? How many crews will get it today?"


   
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