Briefing. Mission: Swinemunde. Oil tank deposits on the Baltic Sea. Longest mission I ever flew. Weather cloudy - under clouds and high clouds. Bombing run made on radar only. No visual sighting of target. Altitude: Twenty-five thousand feet.
The bomb run was uneventful, as we were over clouds and couldn’t see a thing. The bombardier was working on radar bombing, nothing visual. Apparently, this was successful. When we turned, going west, we could look back and see great big black clouds of smoke rising from the ground up through the clouds. We hit something.
After leaving the target, we started letting down and for awhile, nothing really happened. There were no fighters and no flak. As we dropped down, I figured that we were going to break out over the harbor at Kiel. Since, there were no flak guns out in the water and we were far enough from the shore, there was no danger of being shot. As we let down, the clouds started parting, underneath us. When we got to an altitude of seven or eight thousand feet, the clouds broke. I looked down and to my absolute horror, I was looking right down the smokestacks of the biggest German battleship I have ever seen in my life! The thought occurred to me at that time, “Boy we’ve bought the farm this time.” We were sitting ducks! We were so close to that battleship and right over it. If they had fired, they couldn’t have missed us. But, strange as it may seem, they never fired a shot. As I watched this battleship, it turned and ran the nose of the ship up on the shore. For what reason, I have no idea. We weren’t a danger to it.
When I got back to England, the debriefing officer was very interested in this story. In fact, he didn’t complete our debriefing. He ran off, apparently, to report that this German battleship had been located in the Kiel harbor and had been nosed into the shore. This information was very important to him, and I’m sure it was important to Allied headquarters as well. I never did see this battleship again, but I sure saw it from the standpoint that I thought we were dead ducks. You never know what you’re going to see!