Fighter Pilot's Story
Dive bombing targets that were heavily defended was a part of our
regular assignment as close support
fighter pilots. We not only ran the risks involved in flying through
heavy flak, or being caught in the
explosion of our own bombs, but we also were faced with the problem of
bombs not dropping off
when we hit the release button. Whenever this happened, we would pull
up to a safe altitude, and
rock the plane to try to shake off the hung bombs. If this didn't work,
we would try another dive
with a sharp pullout hoping the force of gravity would do the trick. If
none of these options were
successful, we had to fly back to our base, and try to land with these
lethal weapons still attached to
our wings. If they fell off on landing, there was a high likelihood
that the bombs would explode, and
the odds of the pilot surviving were quite small.
The plane shown above was flown
by Lt. Karl Hallberg of my fighter group, the 366th. He
had one hung bomb and tried to land at our base at Asch, Belgium, in
January 1945. As you can
see, the bomb fell off and exploded, but, amazingly, Lt. Hallberg
survived. He suffered a head injury,
but made a full recovery.
Such were the risks faced by
the Thunderbolt pilots, as they went about their job of
providing close support for their buddies in the infantry and the
tanks. It was a dangerous calling.
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