For many reasons, our squadron had airplanes that we considered being gas-guzzlers. They seemed to use an enormous amount of gas compared with other planes of similar manufacture. As it happens, we were frequently scheduled to fly in one of these gas guzzlers and, frequently, had to land on the continent because we could not make it back across to England and our own base. One particular mission, we were in a typical gas eater. My recollection does not identify what we had bombed that day. Coming back, when we got over France, the pilot realized that we were getting pretty low on gasoline, but we had sufficient altitude. He decided that it was safe for us to try to reach England.
Upon reaching England, we found that the cloud cover had gotten down so low that we were just a few hundred feet off the ground. We were then all by ourselves, having left the formation over France and utilized our altitude, in a gliding form, to increase our range in hopes of reaching England and the base. Thus, once over England, we are about two hundred feet off the ground, going toward our base in a semi-fog. We could see...less than a quarter of a mile. In this position, visual navigation was impossible. But, I had my trusty “G box”(which I’ve described, heretofore). This is an electronic instrument that tells you your ground position.
We were coming over the English countryside pretty low. I would be tempted to tell you that we had to lift a wing and go over a church steeple, but it wasn’t really that close, even though it was a little too close for comfort. On the way in to the base, we did not pass any airfields to make an emergency landing. The pilot was still insisting that we had enough gas to make the base. Every three or four minutes I was taking a “G” fix and was actually, crawling toward our base. To give you some idea of what navigators did: On the maps of England, our base was shown as a big round circle. The navigator knew the direction of our main runway and would draw this runway, as a line through this red circle, for approximately fifteen or twenty miles on either side of the base. We would navigate to this line. Turn the formation on this line and come over the air base right down the main runway. It was putting on a show… Getting back to my story. I G-crawled until I hit this line and we turned on the line. We were then ten to twelve miles from the field and still approximately, one hundred to two hundred feet off the ground. The tower gave us the “Ok” to make a straight-in run and we did. We came in, landed and went about 3/4 of the way down the main runway and stopped! And when I say stopped, I mean we stopped. The engines cut out! They had to send a tractor and pull us to our parking place. We had run out of gas! A few minutes earlier and it would have been serious. That’s cutting it a little too thin.