The story behind THE TAIL GUNNER novel, based on the WWII experiences and collection of Keith B. Lile
March 14, 2014 — On this day in 1945 Dad wrote:
Flew 33rd Mission — Vitegro Bridge by Campo. 1 hole by tail. Knauss pilot. Mac & George got in a little a little scramble. Got a swell picture of Betty today. It looks swell. Heard from Carol and it was good to hear too. No letter from Betty. Kink heard Ruth was getting hitched.
Betty was Bish’s fiancée and Carol was his oldest sister. Mac, George, and Kink are mystery men. Reid Knauss was one of the very few men Dad kept in touch with after the war. I recall him and his wife visiting a couple of times when I was a kid. They lived in Moses Lake, WA.
While Dad’s diary entries are pretty sparse, I realized later that he was keeping his own mission journal. For some reason, it seems that the base recorders were no longer adding to his typed list.
To that, however, his diary is far more interesting than a list of missions and targets only. His entries at least give a sense of what made the missions worth it. They were flying for the Bettys, Carols, Ruths, and other folks back home.
These young guys, most of them between 18 and 24, were doing what it took to survive. The pictures here are likely the pictures snapped to send back home—to prove that they were still alive even though they’d seen and done things they’d rarely, if ever, talk about later.
Their stories are hidden in time, but are slowly emerging as more people connect through groups like the 57th Bomb wing Association.
If you know any of these men, please post a comment below or email me so that I can update these posts. Dad noted some names in his diary, but not much more.
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