Courtesy photo Ernest ÔBud' Brown reported for military duty the day after his high school graduation in 1944. He served in B-24 bombers over Europe. ÔI was so young things didn't bother me the way they would today,' he said.
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published: Sunday, July 29, 2012
I was too young to really worry
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- Ernest "Bud" Brown graduated from high school in Ithica, N.Y. in 1943.
The very next day he was on his way to Camp Upton on Long Island, for induction into the Army.
"You knew you were going to go; the physicals were all done," said Brown, who lives on Oak Beach Boulevard in Sebring. "I was drafted with my graduating class along with six or seven teachers. There were about 150 of us. One day you're in school; the next, you're Uncle Sam's boy."
Assigned to the Army Air Corps, he headed to Mississippi for basic training. Following that he spent six months in mechanics school, six weeks in gunnery school, and another six months training to be a member of a air crew.
He shipped out to Shipdam, England in January 1945, assigned to the 8th Air Force, 44th Bomber Group, 67th Squad to serve as a flight engineer aboard B-24 Liberator Bombers.
Part of a permanent 10-man crew that manned different planes, Brown flew 15 missions as the war wound down in Europe.
As an engineer, with the rank of technical sergeant (which became first sergeant in 1948), he sat between the pilot and co-pilot, keeping an eye on the plane's gauges, making in-flight repairs as needed and serving as the turret gunner when under attack.
Brown is modest about his service, saying the men who served earlier had a much more dangerous time, but Germany had not given up and he and his fellow crew members saw their share of action.
One of the more unusual duties the crew performed was bringing supplies to Gen. George Patton and his tanks.
"Patton was moving so fast," Brown said, "it was difficult to keep him supplied. The plane was stripped down and all we did was fly at tree-top level, throwing bundles of supplies out."
He spoke of another mission, one where their target was a pocket of 250,000 German troops who had been by-passed by advancing allies and left for French. Brown's crew flew the lead plane in the air attack to wipe the force out.
Brown described how cold it was in the bomber. "It was cold, cold, cold," he said. "Thirty degrees below." One mission he lost his gloves and flew the entire way back standing behind the pilot with his hands tucked into the pilot's armpits.
He said the worst times, however, were not in the air. "I was too young to really worry," he said. "At 18 and 19 you think you can do anything. It was what you go through before and after the mission that was hard."
One afternoon he described what was going on around him. He still has the piece, written in pencil on now yellowed paper.
Published in the summer of 2009 in the 44th Bomb Group Veterans Association newsletter, Brown writes how time dragged in the afternoons and evenings in the "Flack Shack," what amounted to their home.
The men spoke in hushed tones, on any topic but the next mission, he wrote.
He told how they wrote letters home, and how officers censored what they wrote.
Brown wrote about the coal stove, around which the men gathered as music from the States "drifted out on radios; and the late night snacks they liberated from the kitchen, where Spam was a treat."
Going to sleep was another matter. Crews didn't fly daily, but no one knew who would fly come morning.
"It's not much fun trying to go to sleep not knowing if it's your turn to fly tomorrow or not," Brown wrote.
Crews were awakened at 2:30 a.m. with the announcement of their names, the briefing time and how many gallons of fuel their plane would be carrying. It was a way of giving the men a heads-up about the mission, the greater the amount of fuel, the further they had to go -- 2,700 gallons topped off meant they were headed for Berlin.
After a breakfast including all the fresh eggs they could eat, the bomber crews were briefed, then led in prayer by Catholic and Protestant chaplains.
Finally they began to get into their flying equipment.
"I headed for the rear of the room where my locker was, walking past the rest of the fellows struggling into their heavy equipment.
"Getting dressed for altitude flying is quite a job. First came our electrical flying suit, an extra pair of wool socks, heated shoes, summer flying suit, leather flying shoes, a .45 pistol slung gangster fashion around the chest, Mae West life jacket, parachute harness, silk gloves, electric gloves, flying helmet, goggles, and lastly, an oxygen mask strapped to the side of the helmet ... I slowly treaded out to the truck."
Briefly, Brown describes the pre-flight routines, but breaks off his story at this point.
He writes nothing of the mission -- during which the planes bombed German headquarters in Zossen, a few miles south of Berlin.
Suddenly, he is simply safe and sound in his bunk.
"I lit a cigarette and settled back, my head resting comfortably on a blanket roll, half asleep, trying to settle my nerves after today's mission.
"It wasn't too bad. None of them are bad once you're back and safe in your sack.
"Half (of the men around me) in this world and half in the world of sleep, occasionally I would grasp the conversation of today's mission. The talk was always the same once you're back."
According to the 8 Ball Tails, the 44th Bomb Group Veterans Association's newsletter, more than 350,000 Americans served in the 8th AF between January 1942 and April 1945.
At its peak, the 8th could put up more than 2,000 four'engine bombers and more than 1,000 fighter on a mission. They sustained 47,000 casualties and 26,000 deaths.
Bud's bravery... (by: Annie - 7/31/2012)
Thank you for serving our nation Bud. Wishing you a long, happy and healthy life.
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