Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Mission: Schwechat Oil Refinery

(Continuation of Captain Charles Estes's War Memoirs)

"So after we had lifted off we started to make a slow turn
to the left and the planes behind us turned off a little quicker
after they got off of the ground, and they started their climb
and they fell into place in our formation, and we were on
our way to Austria. I don't know the exact time of the mission
that it took, but it probably was about an eight-hour mission
from the take-off to landing.

We crossed the Adriatic and we had the Alps in front of us
and we were high enough by then that there was no danger
of the Alps being below us. We were well above 'em and we
went over 'em about 12,000 feet, and we continued to climb
until we got to our initial point, and at that point we turned
onto the target run which would carry us over our target,
and we'd hopefully drop our bombs and they would land
in the right place and do the right damage.

I had been assigned a bombardier, Ernie Swanson, who came
from another crew. He was assigned to us for this particular
mission because we had no bombardier. Our flight engineer,
Frank Delois, was unable to fly because of illness and
Sgt. Scott took his place.  And we had another
man that served on our crew, he was Jim Mulligan. He was
in the back and his job was to watch the formation and keep
them in close. And he was the only one that could speak on
the air while we were in progress. Radio silence was kept
unless he saw something that needed to be attended to,
and then he could come on and tell them to get in formation,
or pull in closer or do something that was being done wrong.

We had another man that was assigned to us. He was a
warrant officer. His name was Joe Dopkins. He was a
navigator, and I think that he was assigned to us more
as maybe his first mission or to learn something about
what went on on a mission so that he could be a
navigator for another crew or the crew that he was on,
but would have the experience of having flown a mission.
Other than our regular crew, that was the only additions.

When we got to the IP we turned left and headed onto the
target and that's when we realized that we were really going
over a hot spot because the flak was something awful;
it was these black little smoke puffs coming up in front of you
everywhere, and I was not on automatic pilot. The Norton
Bomb Site was so designed that I could put it on the automatic
pilot and the bombardier was then in control of the airplane,
but it was pretty rough, and I determined that it would be
better that I fly the airplane down the bomb run, and so
I did.

I had an instrument on my panel that was the PDI,
Pilot's Directional Indicator. Whenever he made an
adjustment on his bomb site, this instrument recorded
that change and I could make a turn to the left or the
right or make a slight adjustment to the left or to the
right and keep on track and on line to the target."

(To be Continued.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The 34th Mission - The Mission they would remember for a Lifetime.

(Continuation of Captain Charles Estes's War Memoirs)

"Well, this was our first lead mission and everybody on the
crew was real nervous about it because we didn't -- we had
no experience with leading a mission, and we were unsettled
as to our ability to do it, but we felt like we could, and they
felt like we could, so we were assigned the duty to fly the

And the morning that we were to fly this mission, March 15th,
1945, those in my tent, John Congleton and Bob Swain and
myself, we were awaken by the sound of this orderly coming
down our little gravel sidewalk that lead to our tent. We
could hear his feet, and he didn't have to wake us up, we were
just waiting for him to come, so to speak. When he got there,
he told us what time the briefing would be and so we
prepared ourselves for it and slipped out of our beds into
our -- I can't think now what we call the garment that we
wore prior to a flight or a mission, but we had a duffle
bag each one of us, and in the duffle bag we had all of
the high altitude garments that we needed to keep warm
when we were up at altitudes, because as you got up to
altitude the temperature got down to below zero and it
was more dangerous for the men in the back of the plane
than it was for those in the front. Those in the back had
to operate out of open windows and that wind coming in
that blows zero temperature could freeze their nose and
fingers and all kinds of things could happen to 'em if
they were not properly prepared for that kind of temperature.

Well, we went to briefing and they briefed us on our mission
to Schwechat, and they said it was a very important mission
and that we should do our very best to knock it out so that
we wouldn't have to go back there again. Well, of course,
we didn't want to go back again either, so we were prepared
to do the very best we could to bomb Schwechat in a way
that it would put it out of commission.

After the briefing we got into a truck and went out to the plane
and jumped in the airplane and waited for the signal for us to
start our engines and this was all prepared well in advance of
us getting to the plane. So when that time came we started
our engines up and began our taxi out to the end of the
runway to take off. All of the flight was behind us and we
got out to the end of the runway, and I recall we held our
brakes and then the green light or the green flare was shot
up from the tower which says "go" and so we wound our
engines up and pushed our throttles to the stops and that
ol' B-24 was just a dancing around, the vibrations and
everything else with our engines at that RPM, and when
we released our brakes and we started forward, and we
were on our 34th mission.

We had no idea what the day was going to bring, but
we were not afraid; I had done this many times before."

(To be Continued.)

The Green-Eyed Ikey - The Crew's Plane

The name of the crew's plane was the Green-Eyed Ikey.
These are photos shot of the plane during one of its missions.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Aviso Viaduct Missions

(Continuation of Captain Charles H. Estes's War Memoirs)

"Well, after that came many other missions. We flew the
Aviso Viaduct. That was a -- there was a river that came
out of Germany into Italy, and there were many bridges
over it, and all of these bridges were necessary for the
supply lines of the Germans to stay open; and we were
always bombing the bridges on the Aviso Viaduct.
I can recall several of those, and they were fairly
good missions because we were not bothered too
much with flak on these missions. The missions
we caught hell on were the ones that were around
big towns like Vienna, Austria. That place was
protected like you just wouldn't believe, and we
had flown 33 missions when -- and I had been named
squadron leader when it was -- became evident that
I was going to be a lead pilot of my flight on a mission
to Austria, Schwechat Oil Refinery.

We were always after oil refineries, and they were very
very protected by flak and everything else. Well,
thankfully I was over there at a time when the German
Air Force, Luftwaffe, was not very active. They didn't
have a lot of fuel and they were more engaged in trying
to keep the 8th Air Force off their back than they were
the 15th flying out of Italy, because we couldn't reach --
well, like Berlin, we couldn't get to Berlin and get back
home. So we -- we were assigned this mission to lead
our flight and were going to bomb Schwechat Oil Refinery
which was outside of Vienna, Austria."

(To be Continued.)

Avisio Viaduct - Northern Italy - 1945

The Avisio Viaduct located in Northern Italy was a bridge in the
valley that entered into the Alps. It was an important German
supply line.

B-24 Making a Bomb Run on the Oil Refinery at Ploesti, Rumania.