Recently, I wrote about the WWII Diary kept by Shouppe Howell, who participated in bombing missions over Germany and nearby countries during WWII as a tail gunner on a plane. Here are more entries.
Hamm “This is Number 11 and we are on our way to home or heaven.” Nov. 21 1944 “
Today’s railroad schedules were really ruined at Hamm when we hollered “Bombs Away.” Today we headed for the railroad yards at Hamm and I’ll bet quite a few trains were late that day. We got Flak as we got into the Holland roast and several trains in the Rhyne Valley. We didn’t lose any shape and it wasn’t a very rough target but I guess there will be easier ones. It was 45 degrees below celsius.
Sitzendorf “This is Number 12 and quite a bit of Hell.” Nov. 30, 1944
I went to Sutzendorf and got shot at good and proper as you can see in the newspaper clipping above. (Shouppe had access to a daily newspaper and included a clipping to accompany each day’s diary report.) We got a few bursts all around and you could hear the explosions and see the flames. We saw fire boil up when our bombs hit the targets. Saw 4 chutes open out of a plane going down. I hope I don’t go on any rougher ones. A piece of flak liked to have gotten me.
Mainz “This is Number 13 and about the worst we’ve seen. Dec. 5, 1944
When we woke up I expected a roughie, but it wasn’t too rough.
Today we hit Mainz and though it was a little rough I’m glad I didn’t hit the big B or Marsberg. We drew Flak several times but all we got was a big piece just missing the navigator.
We go on pass tomorrow or sometime this week so I hope we don’t fly.
This was number 14 and no Jerries to be seen. Dec 10, 1 944
Coblenz was about as easy as I ever saw.
Today we hit Coblenz and expected them to throw the works at us but we didn’t get much. A pilot flew over the ship and toggler almost hit him with a bomb and scared hell out of us. There were fighters in the area but we had plenty of fighter we had plenty of fighter support so we didn’t sweat much.-
Hanover No. 15 Dec 13, 1944
(Shouppe stopped writing his little verse to begin each day’s report at this point).
Today we hit the Railroad Marshalling yards at Hanover. We expected fighters and there were fighters in the area but protection was too stiff so they steered clear. There wasn’t much flak until we went into the target and came out and then they really threw it up. We fired our gun toward the target hoping to hit something but we didn’t, more than likely .
Klarseclartein No. 16 Dec 23, 1944
Today we hit Klarseclartein and just before we started the bomb run we had 2 ME-109’s dive through the group. Tracers streamed by the tail and scared the hell out of me.
Then we got a few passes by a 109 and a 180. They took their time for our escort was somewhere else and they really played with us. One of my tail guns went out and I couldn’t repair it so I fired only one gun but Baby did they pour out. They got only one B-17 and the gunners claimed 3, but we probably got only one and everyone saw it and everyone claimed it.
No. 17 Dec. 24, 1944
Today we were to hit the barracks around an airfield and boy were we expecting trouble and we got it. We saw fighters for the first time before we got to enemy territory and did the 51’s make good time bringing ‘em down!
One P-51 pilot chuted out and floated off our wing rather close. There were planes all over the ground that had been shot down. We got hit by flak and had to turn around. I had two pieces come straight for me and a life raft saved my life. Another roughie gone by and was I glad. (The soldier makes no mention of this being Christmas Eve.)
Nok. 18 Mannhei Dec 30, 1944
Today we hit the rail yards at Mannheim and practically took a tour of Germany while we were at it. We went across the target, made a turn so long that we came in sight of the Swiss Alps. Two planes behind us collided but no chutes were seen and I mean the planes were torn apart.
No. 19 Hamberg Dec 31, 1944
Today we flew across the North Sea to Hamberg and what a long flight. We didn’t get any direct fighter attacks but one group got wiped out by fighters. Flak was heavy and accosted just before ” bombs away.” The waist Gunner, Sgt. Harry E. Holmes, got hit in the leg. But he is O.K. We lost a ship from my Squadron to flak and I hope they got out L.K. P.O.W. is better than death, I know.
No. 20 Ponsfield Jan 5, 1945
Today we hit Ponsfield and did I sweat this one out for we expected fighters but they failed to come. We had a visual target and hit it on the top. I guess we really hit ‘em hard according to the intelligence report.
No. 21 Karlsruhe Jan. 1945
Today we hit this target after a little difficulty and had to make (?) runs on the target. I hope that the men below sweated out the bombs as much as I sweated getting rid of them. We got away without getting hit and boy was I glad.
No. 22 Kassel Jan. 1945
Today we hit Kassel and did we hit it. We were due to bomb through clouds but they opened up and bingo, it was a visual target. Flak was moderate and not too accurate. There were fighters up but we luckily didn’t get hit. So Thank God.
No. 23 Chemnitz Feb 6, 1945
Today we headed for an oil refinery near Merseburg but due to weather we hit another target and were we glad! Quite a few rockets came up but no hits. We were in Enemy territory nearly 5 and 1/2 hours and was it rough on our nerves.
No. 24 Chemnitz (no date)
Today we were to hit Chemnitz but while on the bomb run we like to have run into another group so we had to keep bombs and bomb a rail center on the way out. Flak was moderate and inaccurate.
No. 25 Cottlina (No date)
Today we were to hit an oil target at Cottlina but hit Marsholling yards instead. We got accurate flak and our toggler’s flak suit stopped a piece. It was a long journey and boy were tired.
No. 26 Cottlina (No Date)
Today we headed again for the Russian Front but changed targets to bomb Frankfort. However as we made the run on Frankfort amid the flak another group almost bombed us so we proceeded on to Cisson to bomb the rail yards with little flak.
No.27 Nuremberg February 17, 1945
Today we hit Nuremberg and did we hit it. I saw bomb bursts in the center of the target and the newspapers say it was a wrecked town. I did hear a little flak but weather was the roughest of all to contend with.
No. 28 Southeastern Germany Feb 23, 1945
Today we hit a little town of Hall in Southeastern Germany and bombed from 1f3f00 feet and did we wreck it. The Volley was quiet about 1000 “forts” loosed a hail of destruction on them. The war really came to their “house” town.
No. 29 Feb 24, 1945
Today we hit Bremen and we destroyed quite a few docks, I’d bet. The largest was visual and flak came up. We lost 2 ships but located 2 that crossed into friendly territory. I think we really did a day’s work when we found (?) them.
No. 30 Berlin Feb 27 1943
Today we went back to Berlin and surprised as we were we still didn’t get the flak or fighters we expected. The trip was long and hard on us but other than that we had an uneventful trip other than sweating out gas.
No. 32 Ulm March 1, 1945
This is it, the last one for all. We crossed the line and the Rhine with no flak. We sweated out fighters and none came. No flak at battle line. We landed. We celebrated to get ready to return home for rest leave. (I was sent to St. Petersburg to Don Cesar Hotel.)
Rewriting this diary has once again reminded me of what our Veterans went through to assure our freedom. It still blows my mind that these 18- and 19-year-olds who were such heroes of WWII had the maturity to carry out these life-threatening missions. In spite of their realization of the daily threat of imminent death and/or injury, they bravely persevered to finish the task to which they were assigned, not a path they chose but a path that was thrust upon them. We are eternally indebted to all those who bravely served in defense of our country.
Hazel Wells Tison is a local columnist.