My memories on looking back to that time are vivid in my mind. I was in a sub-depot attached to a B-17 group stationed at Beccles, England with the rank of Tech Sgt. and was section head over 25 mechanics. We worked 12 hour shifts from midnight till noon but were on call at any time depending on how many planes came back damaged, we rotated shifts every two weeks. Our job was to repair all except very major battle damage to planes that suffered damage in combat. We replaced engines, wings, fuel tanks landing gear, (salvaging many parts from planes that could not be made airworthy) patched holes in the fuselage caused by anti aircraft or fighter planes. We repaired any damage we could handle with the equipment we had on base.
For a couple weeks before D-Day we were told to get as many aircraft air worthy as possible but we all assumed that the air raids over Europe would be increased. We made every plane possible ready to fly into combat, even the drone plane used to line the group into battle formation was made capable for combat. This plane would take of first and circle the base and the other planes would take of in their proper order and get into formation following the drone. Then they would fly of to the target for that nights mission. On the night the offensive began planes from all the surrounding air bases were taking off and getting into formation, it was then we realized that something very special was going to happen, we did not know what but knew it was going to be something big. Unfortunately the weather turned bad with poor visibility so many planes had to return to base unable to complete their mission. The noise level was extremely high with the sound of so many planes in the air at the same time, it was unbelievable. Later we found out that this was the beginning of the big offensive D-Day. This is how I remembered it.
My worst experience came after D-Day when a group of B24 planes returning to a neighboring base were making their landing approach with landing lights on and two German fighter planes shot down several of them. The problem was the gunners on these planes got lax and dismantled their guns (strictly against orders) before landing and consequently had no way to defend themselves, it was dusk when these planes followed ours over the coast of England by hiding in the overcast skies and were not detected by the coastal radar, by flying just above our planes. The German planes were shot down by our fighter planes but too late to save these planes.
At this time our base was gearing down getting ready to come back to the states so there was not much for our depot group tjerefore some of us were assigned the gruesome task of recovering the remains of those who perished that day. These planes went down in the swampy marshes near the coast with only the top of the fuselages visible. We took axes and cut through to gain access. Our orders were to remove the classified equipment and the bodies. This memory will live with me forever.
I seem to recall a few days earlier there was a lot more activity with the big troop carrier trucks on our hi-ways going toward the coast. The expressions on the faces of the young soldiers seemed somewhat grim as if they knew they were going on an important mission.
I remember that the weather was dreary and early in the morning on June 6Th, 1944 there was a roaring that kept building up that I had never heard before. It sounded like millions of bees only much louder. I glanced up into the sky and saw what seemed to hundreds of planes taking off from all the bases around where I lived. I could hardy believe my eyes, many other people were standing around looking at this spectacle. The roar of the engines on the planes was almost deafening and the sky was darkened by so many planes in the air.
We all had a sense of fear as to just what was happening, we felt surely that some of these planes would collide flying so close together. Later that day we kept listening and watching for planes returning to their bases and alas many did not make it. I remember just like it was yesterday. Later we learned it was the beginning of D-day. Our thoughts turned to those troops who were going to battle to end this war which had been going on for years.
I said a silent prayer as I am sure others did for the safety of these brave young soldiers knowing in my heart that there would be many casualties. Many were storming the beaches while others were fighting from the skies above, with planes being shot down and many lives were lost. No one will really ever know unless they were there and witnessed all the horror seeing there comrades facing a cruel cruel enemy, the sand on the beaches turned red from the blood shed by so many heroes.
What price was paid that day for freedom which many did not live to share and many more wounded whose lives were changed forever. We see many in wheelchairs everyday and it is so sad that many of our young people today do not realize the price these veterans paid for the freedom they enjoy today. We were so happy when WW2 ended in England (V. E. Day March 8.1945), people were laughing, singing and dancing in the street as peace had come for us at last. War was still raging in the Pacific with many more battles to be fought and won before victory could be declared on (August 8, 1945). This was supposed to be the war to end all wars but alas this was not to be.