Time: Wartime Place: AirField at Chelveston, England About 4:00 a.m.
Weather Conditions: Raining, Miserable, Cold Temperature: Probably lower 40's
Conditions: Extremely dark and low clouds
For some reason, I needed to go to the equipment shack, prior to briefing, to get something out of my equipment bag. Since there was no traffic going to the flight line, it was necessary that I walk. Going down, the trip was miserable; it was slippery, muddy, dark, cold, rainy, wind blowing. As I got to the equipment shack, I noted that there were no lights. Apparently, the attendant had not arrived to open the building. Needing to get out of the rain, I quickly ducked into the darkened doorway and stood there for a few moments, contemplating what I was going to do during the time I had to wait for the attendant to arrive. Suddenly, without warning, a figure ducked into the same doorway where I was standing. We exchanged greetings and stood there for a moment, saying nothing. I was the first to speak. I turned to this man and said, “I don’t recognize your uniform. Are you a member of our squadron or group?” He said no, he was a war correspondent. Interested, I interrogated him further, “Well, what are you doing here?” He said that he was a writer and had, about a year prior to this time, come to the 305th and flown a mission with the group and had written an article about it, which I think he said was published in Esquire magazine. Esquire, at that time, was a rather popular magazine. He stated the article had created quite an interest and the editors of the magazine had asked him to come down to fly with the 305th again and write another article as a follow-up piece. This was interesting to me due to the fact that he didn’t have to do this. I turned to him and said “You mean to tell me, that you’re gonna come down here and fly a mission with you and us don’t have to?” and he said, Yes, that was his idea. I said, “I think you’re crazy.” He laughed and we continued talking for a while and, finally, he said, “My name is MacKinlay Kantor.” I told him my name. At that time, I had no idea who the man was, other than he was a war correspondent. Later on, after the war, there was a movie called “The Best Years of Our Lives” written by MacKinlay Kantor. The picture was a big success and he was a famous writer. I never did determine whether or not he flew the mission that day, but if he did, and he didn’t have to, I still think he was crazy.
It was the common practice of the group when coming back from a raid to come over the airfield in squadron formation at about fifteen hundred feet. Going over the station, one or two airplanes would peel off and go into the traffic pattern for landing. On this particular day, we were coming back around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. The weather was clear, broken clouds, sunshiny. As we came over the airfield, I looked down and there by the control building were a number of English limousines. There must have been ten or twelve of them. Prior to landing the tower notified us that General Jimmy Doolittle and the Duchess of Kent, together with several military officers, were in attendance to see the raid return. The following story was told to me by the men involved.
One of the planes of our squadron in landing, taxied over to its parking place; near to the group of cars and the notables who had arrived. As soon as the plane came to a stop, General Doolittle, the Duchess of Kent and their group moved to this parked airplane. When you face a B17 and look at its nose, just to the right, under its nose, there is a hatch that opens. The navigator and bombardiers can climb in and out of this hatch when on the ground, or bail out, if necessary in the air. According to the men nearby, General Doolittle and his group walked up to the nose of the airplane. General Doolittle then went over to the hatch, opened it and spoke in a loud voice, “Come on down here,” he ordered. The navigator in the nose, not knowing who in the world it was and not really caring at that time, said “Awe go to hell, I’ll be down in a minute.” General Doolittle walked over to the group and said, “He says he’ll be down in a few minutes” and he smiled! They turned around and walked over to the control building.
After my plane parked and I got all my equipment together, I walked over to the control building for my debriefing. As I came into the room, I got my usual three or four ounces of straight whiskey, a sandwich and a cup of coffee. I then proceeded to walk to my debriefing. As I came through a large room, I saw that enough officers to run the entire European Operation surrounded General Doolittle. I didn’t feel it was any of my business to interfere or do anything. As a matter of fact, after that whiskey and because I was in such a fatigued and mental condition, I wouldn’t have cared if he were the Holy Trinity. I wasn’t going to go over and intrude on his presence. I don’t mean this as any disrespect for General Doolittle. I was mentally and physically worn out and about half-drunk. All I wanted to do was get the debriefing over; get something to eat and go to bed.