A Strafe Job
A group from my Nissen hut had been down at the flight line working on our P51's late into the night in preparation for the next days possible mission, and after they had returned from a long and late mission. After we finished our job on the line we all headed for the mess hall to get a cup of coffee and a cookie, as we usually did after a long day. When we were finished with our coffee, we all started walking down to our Nissen hut, about 1/4 mile distance, when the air raid siren sounded an alert. We continued on to our hut and had just entered when the enemy overhead siren sounded and at this time all lights had to be doused. We ran out side into the darkness, but with a moon shining to give us a little light.
As soon as we got outside, we could hear the unsynchronized drone of a twin engine German night fighter/bomber. We could see the silhouette of the plane in the moon light. I yelled "Its a Jerry" and we all took off running to a drainage ditch that encircled our living area and about 100 feet from our hut. As we approached the drainage ditch the Jerry started strafing with machine gun and cannon fire and we actually dove into the ditch. At this time we had been ordered to carry our arms at all times, as there was a definite fear that the Germans might launch a paratrooper attack and we might have some of them drop in for a visit. When I dove into the ditch I had stuck my carbine deep into the mud in the bottom of the ditch.
After my buddy Joe Moores and I had jumped into the ditch, he started yelling at me and asking if I was alright. I didn't answer at first, as I was scared to death and hastily crawling around a 90 degree bend in the ditch to give myself more protection in case he returned for another pass at strafing. However, I finally answered and Joe came around and joined me. Our ground anti aircraft artillery had opened up by this time and we raised up to take a look. It was quite a show, as the tracer ammunition really lit up the sky. When in the ditch, we talked about firing at the plane with our carbines if he made a return pass and we also talked about running to the parked 6 X 6 trucks that had 50 caliber machine guns mounted above the cab. I have often wondered what would have happened if I had fired my carbine with that barrel filled with mud!!!
The Jerry actually hit the mess hall in a few spots with machine gun and cannon fire. The pilot had evidently seen some light filtering out from behind the blackout curtains and headed for that. Later, there were some small aircraft parts found on the ground, so we thought that the anti aircraft fire must have hit the Jerry. I never did find out if he went down over the water-that has remained a mystery to me.
I think that I can speak for all of the ground crew-We all appreciated what our pilots were doing-Risking their lives each day!! However, I think the whole group really thought of themselves as a team trying to do a job. We also believe that we were extremely lucky to have England as an ally and to furnish us a base, where we could launch our attack on Germany. We always talked a lot about our great ally, England and the warm welcome given to us by the British. We also said that during the war England was really acting as a giant aircraft carrier for the allied forces. We were equally blessed having the Free French helping our downed pilots.