487th Bomb Group (H)
Station 137 - Lavenham, Suffolk, UK
22-Sep-43 to 7-Nov-45
487th Bomb Group (H)
Comments of Leonard Davis of his war experiences
provided by Leonard Davis
June 30, 1944 Left Ardmore,
OK in afternoon on Santa Fe. 56 crews on one train with enlisted men in troop
sleepers and officers in pullmans with a G.I. kitchen car between. Went to
sleep at Winfield, KS.
July 1 Woke up in Topeka, KS, train switched to U.P. tracks. Everyone got off Train in Marysville, KS for only time on trip and bought everything. available to eat on a Sunday morning.
Passed thru Hastings and huge Navy ammo. dump arriving at Kearney AAF, NE in
July 2-10 Had a good mess
hall and P.X. with everything. Kearney was small and dead. A multitude of
excellent clothing and flying equipment of the latest type was issued for
overseas. Issued equipment went in my A-3 bag and personal in my B-4 with
navigational in a large box. Excess was sent home. We were assigned B-17
(43-338041) built by Boeing. I rated my watches and collimated my sextant.
The planes emergency equipment was tested and we gave it a two hour test hop to
swing the flux gate compass. It had been flown straight from the factory.
July 11 We took off early
morning in murky weather with lights to light the horizon. All 56 Ardmore crews took off at intervals. We flew the airline route to Bangor, Maine via Des Moines, Chicago at dawn, and Buffalo. The flight was nine hours non-stop.
We landed about noon. This field of the North Atlantic Wing of the ATC was
beautiful. I made a $125 allotment.
July 12 We scraped a
wingtip with Shields ship trying to get out of a tight parking space and were
delayed for repairs.
July 13 We got off late on
the flight of about 4 hours to Gander Lake, Newfoundland on the airline route.
I reswung the compass over Newfoundland to satisfy myself for the ocean
July 14-18 Bought last
minute P.X. items, went to show with Canadians and civies, took shower and
slept in excellent barracks, visited lodge on beautiful lake, and watched
Canadian hurricanes and Patrol Bombers. Met John DeVries from my navigation
July 18 We were briefed for
the direct flight to Ireland and took off before dusk. Dropped my sextant on
take-off. Ate sandwiches & coffee and checked metro positions in different
zones by star shots. Allowed plane to go 50 miles north of Mercator or rhumb
line course and corrected in half way over.
July 19 Passed thru front
after sun up and let down from 10,000 feet to avoid ice. Saw other B-17's and
one other plane. Sighted land at time previously estimated. Flew over Ireland’s Donegal Bay and made landfall on ETA (estimated time of arrival). Passed over Derrynacross
radio beacon and arrived over Nut's Corner air base 15 min. late because of
wind shift (gas load 2780gal.) 200 gal./hr. or 13:50). Left everything but
baggage in plane & went to Nissen huts for rest after 11 1/2 hour flight.
July 20 Boarded Borinquen
in Belfast 11 miles away in afternoon. Saw an athletic meet and carnival put
on by RAF & WAAF personnel of base before leaving. Saw P-38's minus wings
on dock. Ship was army transport formerly of US-Cuban line just back form
invasion of France and trip to England with Drysburg, TN group.
July 21 Sailed for England in early morning. Saw DE's (destroyer escorts) enter port.
July 22 Passed Isle of Man. Ate two fine meals a day in dining hall plus K rations. Slept 5 in stateroom.
Arrived outside Liverpool and waited.
July 23 Made port in
morning and boarded train for Stone with K rations. Arrived in evening.
July 24-27 Spent time at
transient base eating poor food, writing V-mails, seeing shows free, buying
weekly P.X. ration. Walked into town with crew members to see typical old
English town & visit pub.
July 28 Left for base by
train with canteen & K rations. Went thru Rugby. Arrived at station
(Cockfield) just east of base in afternoon and went to base about 1 mile by
July 29-Aug. 8 Settled down
in Squadron 837 of 487th Bomb Group on base 1 1/2 mile north of old village of
Lavenham England, half way between London & Norwich, in 3rd Bomb Div. Went
to ground school and flew practice missions. Have free shows & good mess 4
officers of crew share Nissen hut with 4 others. Pilot flew his first mission
with another crew.
August 9 Started first
mission. Was sweating it out over channel with flak suits already on when
pilot's & navigators oxygen line lost all pressure and we aborted.
Maintenance officer objected on landing. And no trouble was found when we
tested the ship that afternoon. We turned back 6 minutes from Holland. The
mission was recalled over France.
July 10-24 Flew first
mission to Evereux, France to bomb roads near Seine to hinder German retreat.
Saw flak on other groups. 2nd mission to airfield 10 miles north of Mannheim;
bombardier got plexiglass in eye from hit. 3rd to Dresden without Hubbard.
Aug 25 Mission to Rechlin
A.F. on Muritz Lake. Barth A.F. as secondary. Saw Duncan go down over
target. Met him later in Compound North II.
Aug. 26-Sept 21 Flew two in
row to Brest which was holding out. Hubbard went on second one. 7 to 11 were
Dusseldorf, Liepzig, Darmstad, Nurnberg, and Schowen Is. We made about 4 trips
to London despite the buzz bombs and rockets.
Sept 22 Flying to Kassel,
the group overran a turning point going over the Weisbaden flak. We and
another ship of our element turned out of formation at 25,000! The turning
point was at 1003, we turned back at 1006, reached the T.P. at 1011 (according
to my dead reckoning) and turned west with partial undercast. The last time I
noticed was 1017. We bailed out at 6,000 feet with No. 4 engine feathered and
a fire behind it. The slip down had failed to put it out & an explosion
was imminent. I joined the co-pilot & bombardier on the ground. We came
upon the pilot's body shortly between 25 & 30 miles south of Coblenz (as
near as I could tell). Location was established to be 7 Degrees, 40 Minutes East;
48 Degrees, 58.6 Minutes North in 1993.
Sept 30 We were captured
trying to cross Moselle bridge at Bullay about 1:00 a.m. Were taken to a camp
just west of Trier (possibly in Luxembourg) by truck. Marched to station in
West Trier and went by train back down Moselle to Coblenz. Got hot ersatz
coffee in paper cups in station canteen. Station showed bomb damage; no water
in fountains. Guards had terrible argument with civies in forcing their way
aboard the crowded night train for Frankfurt. Visited basement latrine in
Frankfurt station and spent an alert with civies and soldiers in basement. Re
Oct. 1 Got off train at
dawn & changed to trolley for Oberursel. Was interrogated, slept, &
had feet dressed.
Oct 2 Was taken from cell 3rd
time for interrogation. Taken to transient barracks, saw Huber and Hubbard
again & marched to train at 1:00 p.m. Got off train at sundown and stood
on station platform until about midnight waiting for truck to take us around
shot up track to Wetzlar.
Oct 3 Arrived at Dulag Luft
about 2 miles NW of Wetzlar Searched got 2 min. shower; clean clothes, and meal
of mashed spuds and salmon, stewed prunes and raisins, black bread and marge.
and coco. Huber and Hubbard left in afternoon.
Oct 4 & 5 Col. Starck
raised our spirits with community sing, wit, and news from new prisoners. Spent
hours in air raid shelter. Bovier (our ball turret gunner) came in. Was free
for 11 days
Oct. 6 Marched in to
Wetzlar at 4 pm and boarded train. Car was Italian with barred windows. 10
men were put in the 8 man compartments. Got one Red Cross box per man plus
German rations. Pulled out during night.
Oct. 7-9 Car was switched
from train to train clear across Germany. Some slept in aisles, on hat and
parcel racks, under benches. More time spent sitting in yards than moving.
Got hot water in stations for coffee. Were at Marburg on first morning. Went
thru Kassel, Eisnach, Weimar, Halle, Berlin, & Stralsund. Parked in
Stralsund on afternoon of Oct. 9 (and were stoned because of air raid on 8th,
visible from Barth, our eventual POW camp).
Oct. 10 Marched into camp
in morning. Had barley & entered 14 man combine with Heath making 16. T K
cooked. Got picture taken and Kriege dog tag in few days. Had one parcel per week
Oct 28 Col. Spicer put in
cooler (solitary confinement) for speech.
Nov. Got down to one parcel
in 10 days. Saw Deanna Durbin in movie “Spring Parade”.
Dec 25 Was on half ration
of Red Cross before getting 4/5 Christmas parcel per man.
Dec 28 Moved to North III
Compound. Compounds were open Christmas and New Year. "Rauchy"
Rawlins flew 1,800 mile mission to Konigsberg with 8th AF in B-17. 1500 E.M.
(enlisted men) came in from east of Oder River.
Jan/Feb, 1945 Al Goodman,
Larry Schacner, & Klarsfeld moved to North I & separate barracks as
Jews. Issue drops from one parcel to 1/2, 1/4, & none after Feb. 25.
Seven new Krieges came in on Dec. 30 to make 24 in room. 1/4 Red Cross on Feb.
15 & 26. Had two 12 man combines then 12-6-6.
March 27 Until this date
lived on 1 1/2 cups stew, 1/4 lb. marg. per week, 3 bowls sugar per week for
24, 1/6 loaf bread per day, barley once per week & ersatz coffee. In the
week following this day 90,000 parcels came in from Lubeck. Everyone in 4, 2, &
1 man combines. Am in with Andy, Boom & Ed.
April 28-30 Great German
air activity. Flak school blown up 30th with other surrounding
installations. Dug Slit Trenches. Germans turned out lights and left at
May 1 Our men in towers at
1:00 a.m. Ju 52 over in morning and He 111 in afternoon while finishing
trenches. Heard Russians were in Stralsund on 10:00 p.m. BBC news. Were
listening to Hit Parade on AFN when Col Zemke broke in at 10:23 & said
"The historic moment has arrived when British & American trapped
parachutists have been joined with the Russians" At 10:30 it was
announced that Hilter had died according to German radio. What excitement!
After the 11:00 p.m. news the Star Spangled Banner was played. The Russians
were in Barth. We could see nothing but went wild anyway eating all and more
than we could hold.
May 2 In the morning we
remained under our self imposed strict discipline. At 2 p.m. a Russian Col.
was reputed to have asked our CO, Zemke, if we wanted to be free. When he was
given the answer yes he said, "Then why don't you act like it?" In
the midst of carrying in 18 more Red Cross parcels to complete the room's issue
for the week April 30 to May 6 we were given the order to go out and tear down
the fences. The fences and towers not only went but POW's swarmed out to
pillage, plunder, and tear up German barracks, warehouses, the flak school, and
Barth. Much Red Cross equipment which had been needed but never issued by the
Germans was found. Among it was cooking utensils & clothing plus German
blankets, bedding, good beds, mattresses, straw, utensils, light bulbs, and
such. Barth and the flak school yielded untold plunder to the liberated
POW's, parachutes, helmets, insignia, flying boots, clothing, liquor, chickens,
onions, fish, knives, tools, and everything. Civilians would give or do
anything for Americans hoping to gain favor or protection against the Russians
apparently. Most of the first Russians were members of an advanced terror
unit, were drunk, wild and resembled Atilla's Huns. Another group belonged to
a convoy moving thru. They exchanged gifts and salutations, liquor and
plunder. The Russian Col. wanted to march us out to a town 67 kilometers south
and thence to Odessa this evening or in the morning. It was drizzling and I
hurried to prepare a pack instead of leaving camp. At about 7 pm it was
announced that we wouldn't leave. I went up to the warehouses on the north of
our peninsula and got only what I could use on the march just before this, a clean
jerry blanket, towel, & GI shirt. Some souvenirs were given to me by the
boys who went to town. The people had plenty to eat. Five persons, women and
babies were found shot in the head to the east of our camp at the water's
edge. Some men packed and left for the lines, the Russians having said they
had reached Rostock and joined the British and Americans. Some were killed by
mines or Russians. All discipline was lost probably not to be regained. 3
parcels per man issued.
May 3 A morning roll call
was held. Plunder was ordered turned in then not. Zemke spoke to us saying
the Russians were permitting us to stay on the peninsula but only 1% in Barth
per day. They put the area under martial law. Poles and Lithuanians plus
German refuges are being sent home. All Russian men are responsible to their
superiors for their actions. Russian women with the army are at least partly
in charge in town. Germans can keep their food. I walked all over the
peninsula. In the afternoon it was announced that we had definitely made
contact with our forces and would fly out. We thought we saw P-47's circle the
airport and land.
May 4 Heard planes again.
Krieges cooking outside and eating food from can, boating, fishing, picnicking,
visiting, and spreading rumors galore. It was announced that Eisenhower told
POW’s to stand by. Everyone impatient to get out with no sign of our forces.
Airport will be cleared in the morning. 5:00 p.m., Russian commander in Barth
says our ambassadors in Moscow have been informed of our position, has ask our
needs, provided 50 guards for protection and said keep men in camp. Russian
DC-3 with officials is waiting to fly in at noon tomorrow when airport will be
cleared. Zemke announces our air transport to England has been arranged. Col.
Jovinik commands in Barth. Heard Hope, Crosby and Andrew sisters on command
performance over AEF. All German armies north of Berlin surrender
unconditionally. Russians wonder why we aren't in mourning for Roosevelt so we
are to wear black armbands.
May 5 Donating Cigs, soap,
& clothes for French, Italian, Polish prisoners etc. in camp south of
here. Saw plenty of Russian rank from Marshall down (Marshall Rokossovsky).
One gave a speech accented by our cheers when translated. Best of all to see
were two American jeeps with an Airborne Colonel from Wismar. Four Ruskie
generals in camp. Driver spoke of all makes of U.S. cars. Saw Russian
May 6 Many are leaving for
the lines on their own. Russians ask our needs and are providing them. Drove
in 50 cattle, brought white bread, 2 tons sugar, & movies Smithline and
May 7 British L.C. came in
command car. Said he was authorized to say we would be out in a few days and
fly directly to England. 3 G. I.'s followed in jeep not on official business.
Had May 2 "Stars & Stripes with headline "Hitler Dead."
Russians bought in stage show in Ford trucks, band, chorus, singers, dancer,
and 3 girls also in uniform. BBC announces war will end officially at 1300 GCT
tomorrow. Colored flares shot tonight. BBC also announces our liberation and
notification of relatives.
May 8 VE DAY Two medical
majors came in command car, took back mail. Our representative sent to lines
May 9 Got beef. Part of
1000 pigs Russians got for us brought in yesterday. Must have passports made
before clearing here. Walked thru Barth to air base and back. Peace signed at
May 10 Major with photo
equipment arrived in evening Got story of going by truck and train to LeHarve
from his driver. Mailed a letter home.
May 11 Bill Sherling left.
Ate nine home sized hamburgers plus french fries for supper. Signing passport
late tonight, Zemke expect planes from Hagenau tomorrow or Sunday at latest.
May 12 Two B-17's over
field at exactly 1400 Russian time as scheduled. At 1600 two C-47's then 36
planes of the 91st Bomb Group came in, Triangle A. 920 English taken out.
May 13 First planes in at
0800 Triangle A, L, H and G. Left camp at 1400 got to airport at 1500, plane
landed at 1613 took off again at 1630 or 1530 British time. K or Kimbolton
flew us (block 7). I was in 338695 (L) with Cuddy & Collins. Flew over
Wismar, Osnabruck, Munster, Dusseldorf, Muchen to Laon, and A-26 base where we
landed at 1910 British time.
May 14 Arrived at bivouac
& C-47 base outside Reims at 0100. Had first G.I. meal. Jerry POW's washed
dishes. Had real eggs and shredded wheat for breakfast after short sleep
outside with 6 blankets. Flew to LeHarve at noontime in C-47. Had coffee and
doughnuts on arrival from R.C. girls who said we were late getting back (8
mos.). Went immediately to RAMP camp (Reclaimed Allied Mil. Personnel) near
Cany and LeHarve by 60 man trailers. Join with Andy, Cuddy, K.B. & Boom.
Got mess kit, cot in tent city, fatigues & sleeping bag. Left Hub at Reims
and met Evans here. Sent V-mail & free cable home.
May 15 Evans found Huber
& Hub in C block. In packet 21
May 16 Got P.X. issue.
Found Cummins in my area then moved out to separate officers & E.M.
Airstrip has been in operation two days now. L1's, C-47, P-47, AT-7's have
May 17 Got in 6 man tent
last eve. Eating fresh frozen beef and chicken, canned meats and turkey, fancy
canned vegetables, fruit, jam, milk, and coffee, white bread, butter. German
POW saluted and stood at attention to get water. Found Johnson.
May 18 Went to see Johnson,
Bauchmann captured at Stromberg on landing. POW's flown in.
May 19 Today's Stars and Stripes
has article on Spicer's speech and says Halter wanted to kill POW's.
May 20 Showers again. Saw
"Destination Tokyo" again.
May 21 Sent V-mail. G.I.
cable sent home.
May 22 Sent V-mail,
May 23 Drew gratuitous
May 24 V-mail home. Got
combat boots and hair cut. Saw French Special Service Show. Hubbard on leave.
May 25 Saw "Mr. Winkle
Goes to War", Evans moved to D' Block.
May 26 Looked at photo
albums of 8th raid. Showed 487th on Sept. 17 at Schowen Is. & 3rd Div. at
Brest on 3rd & 5th, Dusseldorf 9th, and Leipzig on 11th.
May 26 Saw 3 shows,
"Merry Manahans", "Together Again," & "Murder My
Sweet". Didn't go to church. Rode on water truck.
May 28 Saw Special Service
Show. Wrote 4 V-mails home. A-26 gear failed on landing. Walked to beach and
May 29 Wrote letter hone.
Moved to "D" block.
May 30 Processed this
morning. Saw show "Impatient Years"
May 31 Had ice cream
today. Met Bob Ferrel of 44-6, said more than 8 others were at Sagan and later
moved to Nurnberg--Munich area. Correspondent made transcription of Iowans
experiences for rebroadcast in US. Sent airmail letter.
June 1 Got paid $100.88 or
June 2 Saw AF combat
movies. Hub. left for U.K. Met P.F. Todd's (crew 117 Ardmore), ball gunner was
sent to 15th and shot down twice.
June 3 "I Love New
York in June"
June 4 Cummins left, Al
Meyers in his packette. Cummins took letter.
June 5 Sent air-mail letter
June 6 Second haircut here.
7 candy bars
June 7 Going on Paris
pass. Pass canceled, bought lace and wooden shoes.
June 8 25 officers of
packette left. Saw French S.S. Show
June 9 Those going to
separation center 7 but living in D-40 with us left. 30 E.M. & 8 officer
going to S.C. 17 left in packette. Saw movie. Met Held.
June 10 Went to church and
June 11 7 more candy bars.
180 stragglers moved in with us in D-40.
June 12 Wrote last letter.
June 13 Got up at 3:30 a.m.
Had orange. Boarded Admiral Mayo in LeHarve about 0800. Had ice cream at noon
& apple at supper. Ship is brand new & USCG manned. Vic Mature on
June 14 Set clocks back 2
hours last night. Sailed at 11 am.
June 15 Seasick. Set
clocks back one hours. Got 9 candy bars, sack of hard candy, 3 bags peanuts,
& can of cashew nuts in rations. Only Capt.'s & some 1st's got
officers quarters. P.X. in officers mess is selling all candy, cigs. &
cigars you want. Was sworn in two years ago.
June 16 Felt pretty good
today, had felt lousy with seasickness. Visited ships bridge.
June 17 Went to church on
deck. Bought two German pistols.
June 18 Heard ship's band. Set
clocks back one hour. Clear skies
June 19 Fog. Set clocks
back another hour or 5 altogether.
June 20 Fog
June 21 Docked in Boston at
00:30:14 Debarked at 0800. Went to Camp Myles Standish in about one hour by
train. Placed call home, no answer.
June 22 First buying
secession in real P.X. Left at 5:00 p.m. on New York, New Haven & Hartford
RR. Went by New London sub base. Changed to New York Central line NYC, NY at
dusk. Went up Hudson River to opposite Albany. Called home at 2:30 p.m.
June 23 Woke up in
Rochester. Buffalo, Akron, on Erie R.R., Huntington Ind.
June 24 Changed to Wabash
in Chicago. Woke up in Decator. Thru Spring field, Ill, Hannibal, Mo &
Moberly Gen. Bradley's home. Got to Ft. Leavenworth about 9:00 p.m.
June 25 Called home at 7:00
a.m. Got orders at 3:00 p.m. By bus to K.C. Got Santa Fe Streamliner at 5:45
p.m. for Wichita.