Monday, September 1, 2014

An Ordinary's Not So Ordinary Life

Here is a series of posts by Bishop Rene Gracida titled "An Ordinary's Not So Ordinary Life."  This appeared on Bishop Gracida's blog, "Abyssus Abyssum Invocat / Deep Calls to Deep."

His has been an extraordinary life, and even today, at the age of 91, he remains active -- especially in the pro-life cause.

Saint Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square in New Orleans where my maternal grandparents were married.
A number of my friends who are familiar with my life history have urged me from time to time to write my autobiography.  I have thus far successfully resisted their urging.  However, as I draw closer to the end of my life at age 91 it has occurred to me that there are aspects to my life history that shed light on the mystery of God’s love and providence and sharing some information about those aspects might have some benefit for anyone seeking to make sense out of this crazy world in which we live.
So, trusting in God’s grace to help me avoid anything that might seem like vanity I rely on the wisdom expressed in Psalm 115:   Non nobis Domine, non nobis, sed nomine tuo da gloriam,  not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name I give glory, and begin this series of autobiographical posts on my website.
The beginning seems like a good place to begin.
I was born on June 9, 1923, ten feet below sea level, in the Lakeview section of New Orleans, Louisiana.  My mother was Mathilde Marie Derbes and my father was Enrique (Henry) Joaquin Gracida.
My mother was the daughter of Josephine Saizan and Numa Joseph Derbes.  The Saizan family was part of the French Acadian people who were expelled from Nova Scotia in 1775 and were deported to Louisiana where they settled in the area between Lafayette and Houma.  The Derbes family came from Toulon, France in the 18th Century and were officials in the Bonaparte colony of Louisiana.  After the Louisiana Purchase by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 they became American citizens. In the Eighth Century, with the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the Derbes family had probably emigrated to Southern France from Derbe just north of Tarsus the home of Saint Paul.  Saint Paul visited Derbe on his First and Second Journeys.  Perhaps there is a connection in this with my spiritual life in this since I chose Saint Paul as  my Confirmation saint and the Feast of his conversion, January 25, as the date for my ordination as a bishop.
My father was the son of Rafael Gracida Carrizosa and Margarita Marquez.  The Gracida family emigrated from Spain in the 18th Century and settled in Oaxaca, Mexico where they became prominent land owners.  The Hacienda La Soledad south of Oaxaca was the principal estate of the family.  In the second decade of the 20th Century Rafael Gracida fled Oaxaca with his five sons because of religious persecution; his brother, Monsignor Carlos Gracida, was Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Oaxaca.   Rafael moved first to Merida in Yucatan and then on to New Orleans with his five sons.  In New Orleans, Enrique (Henry) my father,  met my mother and married her in 1917. in 1918 my grandfather, Rafael, died and was buried in New Orleans.  My father never spoke with us of his family in Mexico.
My sister, Carmita, was born in 1918.  English and French were the languages spoken in our home since we had no contact with my father’s family.  Actually I did not meet my father’s family until 1972 when I was ordained a bishop, having invited them to come to my ordination.  However, my father took every opportunity to take his family to restaurants where the cuisine was Mexican and Spanish was spoken.  In addition he would paint oil paintings with Aztec and Mayan elements and through questioning of him I learned much about Mexico and its culture.
My first five years were spent in New Orleans.  I attended school at the Pierre Gustav Touton Beauregard Elementary School and grew to love New Orleans and my mother’s family.  All of the women in my mother’s family were good cooks and so creole and cajun cooking was like ‘mother’s milk’ to me.  All my life I have loved to cook and creole/cajun dishes are a special delight for me to cook.
My mother, and all her family, was very pious and faithful in the exercise of the Catholic faith; my father was less so.  He had, in the periodic absence of his father who had business interests in the Yucatan and Cuba, been raised by his uncle, Monsignor Carlos Gracida Carrizosa who was something of a strict disciplinarian.   Perhaps that is why my father was what one would describe as a “lax Catholic.”  My father was a polymath.  He was not as gifted as Leonardo da Vinci or Michaelangelo, but he mastered anything he set his mind to:  oil painting, sculpture, architecture, engineering, etc. all without a university degree.
In 1928 my father was offered employment as an engineer by the Edgar Zinc Company and we moved to Saint Louis, Missouri where the headquarters of that Company was located.
I fell in love with Saint Louis.  I loved visiting Forest Park and it was in its zoo that I probably developed my love of animals that has been such an important part of my life.  We lived just a few blocks from Saint Louis Cathedral and it was there that I fell in love with the Church’s Liturgy.  After Mass in the Cathedral we would spend the day in Forest Park.  Forest Park had an amphitheatre where light opera was performed on the weekends.  It was there that I got my first introduction to Texas via the musical play, Rio Rita.  Here is the plot that made such an impression on this five-year-old boy.

Rio Rita is a 1927 stage musical with a book by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson, music by Harry Tierney, lyrics by Joseph McCarthy, and produced by Florenz Ziegfeld. This musical united Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey as a comedy team and made them famous.
Rio Rita may be said to be one of the last, great, “light musical comedies” or “Follies-based” type of musical. With the introduction of Show Boat, later in 1927—as well as the subsequent introduction of George Gershwin‘s musicals that year and thought the early 30’s — the American musical became much more a dramatically cohesive “musical play”. This form reached its maturity in the Rodgers and Hammerstein productions, beginning with Oklahoma! and culminating with South Pacific.
The captain of the Texas Rangers, Jim Stewart, is in San Lucar Mexico on the Rio Grande, in disguise in order to catch the notorious bandit Kinkajou. While there he falls in love with Rita Ferguson, an Irish-American-Mexican girl who sings in the local hotel after being displaced from her family ranch along with her brother Roberto.
General Esteban, the Governor of the San Lucar District, also loves Rita and hates all gringos. He hatches a plot to set Jim and Rita at odds by making Rita doubt both her own brother, who may be the Kinkajou, and Jim, who may be spying on her brother through her.
Amid all of this intrigue, Chick Bean, a soap salesman, and Dolly, an American cabaret girl, arrive in San Lucar and get married. Unbeknownst to Dolly, Chick also went to Mexico to obtain a quick divorce from his unfaithful first wife, Katie. But then hours after Chick and Dolly are wed Ed Lovett, a lawyer of dubious reputation, informs Chick that his divorce is not recognized by the U.S. Government. Complications ensue.
- Wikipedia

We only lived in Saint Louis for a year and then my father was transferred to the the Edgar Zinc Company office in Cherryvale, Kansas, located in the southeastern corner of Kansas near both Arkansas and Oklahoma.  The year we lived in Cherryvale was one of the happiest years of my life.  For the first time I lived in a rural setting and after living in New Orleans and Saint Louis it was wonderful.   Some members of the Clements family lived in Cherryvale and so I came to know of Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer.  My happiest years have been spent in rural settings as opposed to city life.
In 1930 the depression really hit hard and the Edgar Zinc Company went bankrupt and my family moved to Houston and then Texas City, Texas where my father found employment with Pan American Refining Corporation, a subsidiary of Standard Oil of Indiana.  I finished my elementary and high school education in the public schools if Texas City.  Texas City at that time had a population of less than 2,000 people and so I was again in a rural setting.  I joined the boy scouts, became an altar boy in our mission church and began to think about becoming a priest, but by the time I graduated from Central High School in 1941 I had become too interested in girls to think about the priesthood.
As the Valedictorian of my class I was accepted as one of the 400 students matriculated at Rice University in 1942 and began my study of architectural engineering.  At that time Rice taught architectural engineering with a heavy reliance on the Beaux Art system of study which consisted of a whole year of reproducing ink drawings of Greek temples.  I was bored stiff.  I wanted to design and build contemporary buildings, not eclectic recreation of classic Greek and Roman architectural monuments.  After the war, even though I loved Rice University for its excellence, I chose to not return there to resume my architectural studies.
Since the United States was now at war I knew that I would be drafted into the infantry before long and so I chose to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve as a student since I hoped to be able to fly in the war.  In the summer of 1943 my studies at Rice were interrupted when I was called to active duty and after processing at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio the Army sent me to the Infantry Training Camp at Mineral Wells, Texas where I barely survived 18 weeks of infantry basic training in the Texas heat of July, August and September of 1943.   In the 18th week of my infantry basic training, an Army Air Corps officer ‘miraculously’ came looking for me and the mistake in my assignment to the infantry was corrected and I was transferred to the Air Base  in Wichita Falls, Texas.  God is good, this was the first of many interventions in my life by divine providence which gradually led me to understand that God expected something of me in return.
Eventually I ended up at the Kingman Arizona Air Base learning gunnery in B-17 bombers.  From Kingman I joined my bomber crew in Florida and after some months of training there, in January 1945 we flew a brand new B-17 Bomber from Savannah, Georgia to Prestwick, Scotland by way of Maine, Newfoundland, Laborador, Greenland, and Iceland.  In England we joined the Eighth Air Force 303rd Bomb Group (H) in Molesworth, 359th Squadron.
In my next post I will write about my experience in the Second World War with the Eighth Air Force.
B17g and b52h in flight.jpg
LSFM B-17G Thunderbird in flight with a B-52H at 2006 Defenders of Liberty Airshow at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., May 12, 2006.
TYPEBoeing B-17G Flying Fortress
MANUFACTURERDouglas Aircraft Company
IN SERVICENovember 1943 to 22 March 1945
FATERetired to the Kingman, Arizona aircraft disposal plant
PRESERVED ATCurrently flying with the Lone Star Flight Museum
I flew several of my 32 combat missions over Germany with the 359th Squadron of the 303rd Bomb Group (H) of the Eighth Air Force out of our Base at Molesworth, England in this airplane.  It’s tail markings are accurate, it is the insignia of the 303rd.  The plane was destined to be destroyed in Arizona after the war but was rescued, rehabilitated and placed in the Lone Star Air Museum in Galveston, Texas.  I actually flew again in this airplane a couple of years ago with Governor Rick Perry and his father.  The Governor’s father was a tail gunner in a similar B-17 and I was a tail gunner in this very airplane for several of my missions.
The chorus of those singing the praises of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber has existed almost from the time the airplane went into service.  It soon proved itself to be indeed a flying fortress armed with ten 50 caliber heavy machine guns.  When flying in tight formation the 17 planes offered enemy fighters a wall of 50 caliber fire from 270 machine guns.  It is a wonder that any enemy planes were able to shoot down B-17’s but they unfortunately did.  Frequently it was because a plane was unable to stay in the formation and as a plane flying alone it was an easy target.
Shortly after Christmas 1944 my crew traveled to Savannah, Georgia to the Boeing plant there and picked up a brand new B-17G (recognizable by the gun turret under the nose of the aircraft) similar to Old Thunderbird and began our flight to deliver it to the 8th Air Force in England.  We flew to Bangor, Maine where bad weather forced us to spend a couple of days on the ground.  Then we flew to St. John, Newfoundland where again bad weather grounded us.  Then we flew to Goose Bay, Laborador where a blizzard kept us gounded for a few more days.  Then on to Bluie West One on the west coast of Greenland where we refueled and took off again, barely missing an iceberg floating in the fiord at the end of the runway.  Next we landed at Reykjavik, Iceland.  After refueling there we flew on to Prestwick, Scotland where we left the aircraft and traveled to Wales by train for assignment to a base.
Beginning with the B-29 (the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima) all bombers have been pressurized just like modern commercial aircraft.  The B-17 was not pressurized.  On the contrary, it was more like a flying sieve!  The wind whistled through it.  The cockpit where the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer sat was relatively air tight but even so there were places where the air could penetrate the airplane.  But the waist and the tail were like wind tunnels.  We wore heavy leather flight suits lined with sheepskin, but while those suits may have saved us from freezing to death, with the outside temperature at 25,000 feet in the winter usually between 30 and 60 degrees BELOW ZERO our hands and feet would get very cold.  The suits had electrical heat wiring sewn into the waist of the suit but that only meant that your stomach got toasted while the rest of you shivered.  I first encountered the problem of extreme cold on the flight from Reykjavik to Prestwick when the temperature inside the B-17 measured 50 degrees below zero.
From Wales we traveled by bus to Molesworth, England in Bedfordshire just northwest of Cambridge.  Here is a photo of the Molesworth Airbase as it appears today:
[RAF Molesworth GLCM bunkers in 1989.]
Most of the World War II airbases in England have been closed and demolished, but the Molesworth base was kept and modernized and is used by the RAF and the USAF as a Joint Forces intelligence center.
I must confess that I was not happy at being assigned to the 303rd Bomb Group because when the Group was formed in Boise, Idaho in 1942 they chose to nickname the group “Hell’s Angels.”  I was not yet thinking again about becoming a priest, but even so, as a Catholic I did not like to be part of a group so named.  Eventually I got used to seeing the name but no one of our Group ever referred to it by that name and so it became a non-issue with me.   Still, in retrospect I think that it was ironic that God let me serve in a Group with that nickname; God has a weird sense of humor   The Group nickname became famous when Clark Gable flew with us making promotional movies for the war effort at home.
Most of the month of January was spent in training flights over England.  Those flights were really enjoyable for me for several reasons.  First of all, I was an Anglophile.  By the time I arrived at Rice I had read all of Shakespeare’s historical plays and I knew a lot about English history.  Then, at Rice one of my classes was in Architectural History and I had learned a lot about the Gothic cathedrals of Europe.  Many of those training flights in the last two weeks of January and the first two weeks of February 1945 were low level flights and I had an opportunity to study and photograph some of the great cathedrals like, Lincoln, Durham, Peterborough, Ely and York.
By the second week of February the period of training flights was over and it was time for us to fly our first combat mission.  Our first mission occurred (with great irony) on Saint Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1944.  There is something antiseptic about strategic bombing.  Our target was the railroad station in the city of Dresden.  We joined a column of 1,000 other B-17 and B -24 bombers and flew at 25,o00 feet to and back from Dresden.  By the time we got to Dresden we were flying in continuous clouds formed by the engine contrails of the bombers.  There was very little flak and no fighter attacks, but there were midair collisions.  When 27 bombers of a squadron are flying in a tight formation of nine low aircraft, nine middle aircraft and nine upper aircraft and you were trying to hold a tight formation for protection from fighters even while flying through clouds it was inevitable that B-17’s would crash into each other.  The effect on a crew when you see two planes in your formation collide is indescribable.  There is usually an explosion followed by the falling bodies and wreckage of the two planes.  For me midair collisions were worst than fighter attacks and flak.
The pilot-captain of our crew was Lieutenant William Beasley.  Beasley had been a tank officer in the tank corps.  He decided he wanted to fly and so before the war started he transferred to the Army Air Corps and began to fly.  He was a great guy, a good pilot and officer.  The only problem for our crew is that he flew the B-17 with the same firm control that he manuevered  his tank and in formation flying that meant that he would put the wingtip of our plane practically in the waist window of the B-17 alongside of us.  The prop wash from the other planes engines made for a very rough ride for us and it was very dangerous and one of the more scary aspects of aerial combat.
In the briefing before the mission the intelligence officer told us that the mission was simply to destroy the railway station in the middle of Dresden.  What he did not tell us, and perhaps he did not know, was that Air Marshall Tedder of the RAF after months of trying had finally convinced the allied high command that our strategic bombing should begin to focus on German cities in order to destroy the morale of the German population.  So, for four days 1,000 US bombers by day and almost as many RAF bombers by night pounded Dresden.  The result was a holocaust.  We never saw Dresden.  The smoke was so dense over the target from the firestorm that the bombing created that we were bombing blind.  Of course at the time none of us in the air knew that the total destruction of Dresden was deliberate and well planned.  After the war when I saw the result of our four days of bombing Dresden I was filled with guilt and shame.  The human death toll was estimated to be 300,000 persons.  The immorality of the Dresden raid will be a black mark on our military history forever even though the idea for the Dresden holocaust originated with British Air Marshall Tedder.  Air warfare is so impersonal that at the time one does not feel guilt, but later the reality of what was done sinks in.  Truly, war is hell and strategic bombing should be directed at military targets such as industry and fortifications and not at civilian populations.
This is not the place for a long dissertation on the correctness of the Church’s teaching that there can be such a thing as a just war.  Suffice it to say that there was never any doubt in my mind that the western democracies had every right and obligation to prevent the Third Reich from establishing itself throughout the whole world and the atrocities committed by the Japanese military would have justified our war against Japan.

After the horror (for the people of Dresden, but not for us flying at 25,000 feet above them) of the four days of bombing of Dresden they had to be followed by some bad missions for us.  Indeed, on the fifth day after Dresden we flew on a mission to Langandreer, a suburb of Bochum located in the industrial and heavily-defended Ruhr Valley region of the Rhine.   Langandreer was important to the Germans for its coal production and steel manufacture.
Everywhere in the Ruhr valley the German military had placed batteries of their famous 88mm antiaircraft cannons.  These guns were so deadly the Germans decided to also mount them on their Panzer tanks.  My crew had seen the black puffs of 88mm shells exploding in the distance but never close up, until today.  As we approached our target, an oil refinery, we began to experience accurately placed flak, all of it 88mm.  It is hard to describe the explosion of an 88mm shell nearby.  To me, wearing a flying helmet with earphones that muffled the explosion somewhat, it sounded as I would imagine a great dane dog barking in your face would sound.
Of course, it was not just the sound of the explosions that was unnerving, it was also the concussion.  88mm shells exploding within 100 feet of the aircraft literally shook the aircraft and threw one about.  I was flying as tail gunner on this mission and several of the nearby exploding 88mm shells threw me against the wall of the fuselage.  One particularly close explosion sent a jagged 8 ounce piece of the steel casing of the 88mm shell crashing through the skin of the B-17 where it hit the heavy beam supporting the tail of the aircraft and dropped into my lap.  If it had come into the plane a few inches lower it would have taken my head off.
Because I was facing the rear away from the rest of our B-17 I could not see the damage being done to our plane.  One shell took out our No. 1 engine and another set the No. 3 engine on fire.  I could sense that we were losing altitude rapidly.  Then Lt. William Beasley, our pilot, announced over the intercom that he was trying to save the airplane but was not sure that he could do so and therefore we should prepare to bail out but stand by for the order.  I moved back from my seat in the tail, located my chest parachute, jettisoned the door in the tail and knelt there, praying, waiting for the order to bail out.
I must tell you that I suffer from acrophobia, the fear of heights.  For some unknown reason I only experience acute fear of falling from heights when I am standing on a cliff, or a place on the edge of a exposed floor high on a skyscraper.  I had never felt the fear of falling from a height in an airplane, until I knelt by that open door looking at the ground some 15,000 feet below me, preparing to bail out when the order came.
I did not have to bail out, thanks be to God!  After what seemed an eternity Lt. Beasley announced that he had managed to put out the fire in the No. 3 engine and even though it was inoperative and we had lost the No. 1 engine he could control the airplane and we were going to descend to tree top level and make our way across Belgium to the coast, and hopefully across the English channel to Molesworth.  Lt. Beasley’s previous experience as a tank commander would serve him well in the next few hours.
We safely descended to tree-top level and proceeded, unhindered by the Germans, to fly to the coast.  Along the way we scared the life out of a number of bicycle riders when we roared up on top of them on the road.  Then I experienced something I had only experienced once before when I was in training in gunnery school in Kingman, Arizona;  after we practiced firing at a towed target the pilot flew our B-17 down to the surface of Lake Mead and flew to Boulder Dam leaving a wake in the water from the prop blast of our four engines.  It was not something I enjoyed.  However it was only slightly less unenjoyable as flew across the English Channel leaving prop wake on the surface of the Channel because I realized that we had survived a really bad raid.  Still, the thought of drowning in the English Channel did not appeal to me.  Thanks again to the ability of William Beasley, we managed to make it safely back to our base at Molesworth.
After I had flown a dozen or so combat missions I inquired as to whether or not my engineering education at Rice might not qualify me to have my MOS (military occupation specialty) changed from tail gunner to flight engineer on the B-17.  I was told I would have to take a test.  I took the test and passed it with flying colors on my first try and got promoted to Flight Engineer.
Being  a Flight Engineer on a B-17 was nothing like it became on a B-29 and other later and larger bombers.  B-17’s did not have all the sophisticated electronic gear that later aircraft had.  My job as the Flight Engineer was to be in charge of the enlisted crew under the authority of the pilot.  In addition I had to check with the crew chief of the ground crew to determine the flight worthiness of the aircraft.  I had to have a working knowledge of all the electrical and mechanical systems on board the aircraft and once airborne the Flight Engineer’s job was to trouble shoot and repair any malfunctioning part of the aircraft.
The flight engineer’s position in flight was on a jump seat between the pilot and the co-pilot.  I had to constantly monitor all of the flight instruments looking out for any sign of a malfunction.  To my great joy I now had the power to start the engines and taxi the aircraft on the ground if it needed to be moved.  During combat my position changed to the top turret with its two 50 caliber machine guns and I had the duty of calling for a mike check from all the enlisted members of the crew every ten minutes.
The downside of my promotion was that I could no longer fly with the crew I had trained with in the U.S. and with whom I had flown all my combat missions up to then.  Worse than that, on every new crew’s first combat mission I would replace their Flight Engineer as an additional element of safety for the crew.  That is how I had one of the scariest missions of my 32 combat missions.
I became the substitute Flight Engineer for this particular crew that was going to fly its first combat mission.  The target was near Munich, railroad marshaling yards.  We took off and everything was normal until we began to approach the target.  On a routine mike crew check the radio operator failed to respond.  I tried several times to get him to respond without success so I informed the pilot of the situation.  Since we were flying at 25,000 feet and on supplemental oxygen there was a danger that the radio operator had accidentally disconnected his oxygen mask and had passed out.  So the pilot instructed me to go back to the radio room and see what was wrong with the radio operator.
Now you have to visualize the interior of a B-17 bomber.  The interior is divided into three compartments.  The first, beginning at the nose, contains the navigator-bombadier, the pilot, the co-pilot and the flight engineer.  The second compartment is the bomb bay.  It occupies the entire interior of the aircraft from top to bottom.  There is a door between the pilot’s compartment and the bomb bay and there is another door between the bomb bay and the radio operator.  The rest of the aircraft is one big compartment all the was back to the tail.
For me to check on the radio operator I would have to go through the door into the bomb bay and then walk about 15 feet on a 10 inch wide beam to reach the door to the radio operator’s compartment.  When I opened the door to the bomb bay I saw that the navigator-bombadier had opened the bottom of the bomb bay and I was looking down 25,000 feet past the bombs to the ground.  My first thought was to put on my chest parachute before beginning to tread my way along that narrow beam, however the beam was supported midway by two struts that tied the beam to the ceiling system and there would not be room enough for me to past between the struts wearing a parachute so I had no choice but to step into the bomb bay without a parachute.  As I did so, the navigator-bombadier released the bombs and I stood there paralyzed as I watch the bombs fall away from the plan leaving me standing on the beam looking at the ground 25,000 feet below.  For a moment I had the feeling that I was falling with the bombs.  As I have described before, I suffer from acute acrophobia, the fear of falling from heights.  How I found the courage and strength to walk the remaining ten feet or so to the door of the radio compartment, God only knows!
When I opened the door to the radio compartment I was greeted by a blizzard of chaff.  Chaff is the name given to the bundles of aluminum foil strips identical to what one puts on Christmas trees.  Chaff is deployed out of the bomber as it approaches its target.  When deployed, the bundle of chaff bursts apart and tens of thousands of the aluminum strips float down in a cloud confusing the enemy’s radar thus making his flak more inaccurate.  It is the radio operator’s job to open the cardboard box of chaff under his radio table and to feed bundles of chaff one by one out of a slot in the fuselage to his left at the level of his radio table.  The radio operator evidently did not know that that was what that slot in the fuselage was for.  Knowing that there was a well in the floor of his compartment in which a camera is sometimes placed by Intelligence to film the bomb strike he opened the trap door to the well and seeing that there was no camera in the well he got down into the well and tried to stuff the chaff out of the hole in the bottom of the fuselage.  Big problem:  the blast of air coming up through the camera hole once he removed the trap door meant that every bundle of chaff would explode in his hand and fill the compartment with millions of particles of aluminum foil.
In the course of trying to push the chaff out the camera hole the radio operator had accidentally disconnected his mike; thank God he did not disconnect his oxygen.  I pulled him out of the well, closed the trap door in the floor, sat him down on his chair and reconnected his mike.  I had no way of talking to him since my mike was not connected but I am sure that he read the look of disgust on my face and that said enough to him until we could get back to Molesworth.
My trip back to the forward compartment was not as bad as my trip to the radio compartment because by the time the little drama had occurred in the radio compartment the bomb bay doors had been closed and I was no longer looking down at the earth as I passed through.
That mission did not compare in danger to the mission to Langandreer, but in it own way it was the most memorable of all of my 32 combat missions over Germany.
I missed not flying with my original crew.

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