Why Flying a B-17 Bomber over Nazi Germany Was Nearly a Death Sentence

Warfare History Network

Key Point: Defense against fighters is characterized as a gleaming three-dimensional sword, its edges tempered by skill and experience. The marksmanship of No. 176 gunners Avery, Grogg, Downham, and Hammond is superior, not to mention Papousek, responsible for the electrically driven chin turret and sharing the two cheek .50s in the nose with Jackson. They represent the initial edge.

When the call came that morning, it was not unlike the 25 times previously when they had flown, or all those other times when weather intervened and postponement was ordered.

The door to the Nissen hut bangs open, the dim center-ceiling bulb winks to life, heavy footsteps, a grasp and shake of the shoulder, “OK, sir, mission today, you’re scheduled to go, breakfast at 0500, briefing at 0530.” Hugh Hunter Hardwicke, Jr.’s, leaden eyes open imperceptibly, and to the figure silhouetted against the eerie glow he responds with the traditional, “Go away, just go away, OK.” Nonetheless, he sits up, stretches, scratches, yawns, slides from under his double thickness of wool blankets. He sort of scurries, perhaps shuffles, across the cold, wooden floor, stokes what remains of the fire, barely alive within the cast-iron relic cleverly disguised as a stove, and calls to his co-pilot, “Roll out, Flick, we’re on.”

“OK, Guys, Up, Up … and Away”

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