39th Bomb Group (VH)


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S/Sgt David Smith
Tail Gunner

After bombs away we headed for land's end. As we reached the relative security of the water, we discovered that several bombs had hung up in the still open bomb bays. Due to hydraulic lines that had been severed by flak, the doors could not be closed. Bernie Greene, with the help of others, somehow managed to free the bombs from their hangers. We limped back to Iwo assessing the damage to wheels, brakes and controls as well as diminishing fuel supply. "Tut" and I attached our parachutes to the aft part of the aircraft and popped both out the hatches as we hit the runway at Iwo Jima. They helped to slow us down somewhat although we dropped off the end of the runway into a ditch. This did little damage to the gear but the crew of "Four Aces" were not especially happy about our messing up their airplane. This would be the first of many landings on Iwo for fuel and/or repairs. The tiny pork-chop shaped island would be a welcome sight for others and us in times of emergencies.

For this mission against Kobe, we received the DFC. It had been truly a Baptism of Fire experience for this green rookie crew. Even though this had been a close one, many more frightening situations lay ahead. We would lose Tuttle for a few missions after he received a gunshot wound in his foot. There was even one mission we had only four enlisted men on the crew. All the rest of the crew were officers.

Twenty-two missions later, the war ended. We were then able to get a perspective of the extensive damage we had done as well as the unparalleled destruction dealt out to Hiroshima by the first atomic bomb.

We remembered with immense gratitude our hard-working unsung ground crews that had kept us flying and were so instrumental to our safe return. Our dedicated ground crew consisted of Norman Brug, Joe Hanna, Alan Niedhardt, Jeff Caron, and Jerome Jacobs. Each contributed a tremendous amount of skill and untold hours in the hat tropical sun to keep us in the air. The challenge of engine problems, as well as a multitude of others, was constant and unrelenting as they labored to have our plane ready for that next mission. I am sorry that they and we never had time to get better acquainted.

As much as I abhor war, then as well as now, I will never forget these two and a half years that changed me from a rural youngster into a proud and mature member of the Air Force. I will always remember and love those ten other guys that shared this special part of my life with me. Our aircraft, "Little Bully," so appropriately named after Clarence Beevers our flight engineer would also live forever in my memory.

Upon return to civilian life, with thanks to Uncle Sam's "GI Bill." l was able to attend Ohio State University, graduating in 1950. It has been my good Fortune to work in the field of my choice - commercial art, encompassing the areas of advertising, art and education. In working with both professional people and high school students, I have been stimulated and challenged making my vocation a happy and satisfying one.

My marriage to Marge for over forty years has been both enduring and fulfilling. Our two sons and two granddaughters have been an added reward and further fuel my realization that I have been blessed in so many ways.

And now that we have rekindled old service friendships with buddies never forgotten, it is added frosting on the cake. The chats and reminiscences with long ago comrades at our reunions have been, and continue to be, a rewarding part of my later life. I look forward each year with anticipation to these cherished reunions. Hopefully there will be many more of them with increasing numbers of our comrades joining us.

Dave Smith co-authored of "History of the 39th Bomb Group" the following page appeared in the Star Beacon News, Dave's hometown paper, click here to read
David C. Smith passed away 29 March 2003

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Source: "History of the 39th Bomb Group"