Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. My brother-in-law texted me and asked what my dad, a B17 navigator, was doing on D-Day. I couldn't remember what he was doing on that specific day. I knew he flew bombing missions before and after June 6, 1944, and I knew he was shot down and became a POW after D-Day, but I needed to consult his memoir of his military service here in order to find out the answer to the question. Here is his first-hand account:
During the month of May I was finishing up my first tour of duty. I only flew twice in May, once to Berlin and my final mission of my first tour was to the marshalling yards in Luxembourg. I never will forget that day. As we got back over the field and landed, it just seemed like, “Well, it’s all over. It’s a load off of my mind.”
Then I began to think about my future and, of course, I was anxious to get back to the States, in one sense; but then I began to think: “Well, what do I do now? I don’t want to go to training command.” That’s what happened to a lot of the guys that went back from combat. I know of many of them that were killed in training command, because it was a known fact that the maintenance of the planes there was secondary, not nearly as good as the maintenance we had in combat.
So I was offered an alternative, and after about three days of pondering the issue, I decided to volunteer for a second tour. And what this entailed was that I would be given first class passage home on the Mauritania and I would have a thirty day leave at home; two weeks in Atlantic City at the Redistribution Center, and then a return to England on the Mauritania. So I took this because it entailed then the idea that I would wind up as Squadron Navigator, a promotion to Captain, and with the idea that down the road there, I might even wind up as Group Navigator.
I realize that I was young and foolish and I didn’t take a long look, but at that time it seemed like a wise choice. I was home on D-Day and although I had been bombing much up until then, I missed that experience that many of the guys had on D-Day. At that time the Allied air power was so much stronger than the Luftwaffe, that the main force on D-Day was on the ground and not from the air. I think our bombing had made D-Day possible, and in a wide sense, I regretted not being able to participate in the action on that day.