Wednesday 9 September 2020

The Lone Bomber

by Henry Lewi


The American built B17 Flying Fortress was alone in the dark sky above France as it flew in a south western direction, Strasbourg was now far behind them, they’d dropped their payload a couple of hours earlier. 
  The four engined plane had been fully rebuilt after a crash landing some months earlier, following an Allied bombing raid on Hanover. Now fully operational and crewed by its full complement of  10 men, it steadily flew on;  the US built Pratt and Whitney engines working harmoniously.  For the 10-man crew it had been a long, long, war and by late summer 1944 they were exhausted;  they’d flown numerous missions into and out of Germany and France, and somehow, they’d all survived.
Below them were the flashes of artillery fire as the Allies tried to advance across Northern France but the Lone Bomber continued in its south westerly route, hoping to avoid any anti-aircraft fire. Unexpectedly, below and ahead of them they saw a formation of American B17s obviously heading home and their plane joined the rear of the flight,  giving their call-sign of the 392nd Bomber Group.  Switching radio frequency, the wireless operator, a farmer’s son from North Dakota, confirmed that they’d been separated from their group somewhere over Stuttgart. The flight they joined acknowledged their presence and the Flight Commander in his Bostonian accent welcomed them to temporary membership of the 41st Bomber Group ‘Party’,  and happy to provide them with company and an escort home. 
  Over Clermont-Ferrand they ran into unexpected heavy anti-aircraft fire and were pounced on by a pack of German Fighters. The flight of B17s broke up, and to escape the ground fire and fighters the bomber turned due South and was soon was over Toulouse.

   The Lone Bomber continued in its southerly route, crossing the Pyrenees into Neutral Spain. It  had clearly taken a hit as one of the engines now failed, but with three engines running and adequate fuel, the navigator calculated they could reach Valencia on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
 As the B17 rolled to a stop in the early dawn on the runway at Manises Airport just to the west of the city of Valencia, its Luftwaffe markings could be clearly seen, with the Hakenkreuz or swastika emblazoned on its tailfin. The 10-man crew climbed down from the aircraft and drank in the fresh morning air of Spain.
  The German Luftwaffe Special Forces men of Kampfgeschwader 200 had finally left the war far, far behind, and the four agents they had dropped over Northern France would have to fend for themselves.  The war was lost anyway, so why worry?

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