WAR LETTERS: COMBAT - WWII, North Africa

LETTERS HOME FROM SOLDIERS AT WAR

Letters about combat situations make up the largest section of the project.

WWII, North Africa

This is an excerpt from Operation Recognition, a book published by Ivan Schoone of Upland, Nebraska. The book contains this letter written by Corporal Stanley R. Tweedly of Grand Island, Nebraska.

68th Coast Artillery, North Africa
Corporal Stanley R. Tweedly

68th Coast Artillery
North Africa

Dear Mom:

You get to know, Mom, why millions of dollars are spent everyday, why there are high taxes, and why the government asks you to buy war bonds and stamps — you get to know this, Mom, when you see an enemy bomber blasted out of the sky.

It came at 4:30 in the morning. The clouds were low, and it was raining a bit. This was just right for us. It meant the planes had to dive below the clouds, and some of them never pulled out of their dives. They were blasted right out of the air.

The alarm sounds. The gun crew jumps to the guns. Everyone knows just what has to be done and where to do it. The searchlights go on, one by one, and search the skies hurriedly a second or so. Then in one of the beams appears a silver object. It's a bomber, and it isn't coming on a friendly visit. Thousands — yes, thousands — of shells, Mom, suddenly fly into the air. Tracers from smaller guns travel on their course to the plane. Straight and true they travel.

The plane tries its darndest to get out of the beam of light, but not a chance. The boys know every trick and are always one jump ahead. More planes. Other searchlights pick it up and stay with it. Others take care of others.

All hell breaks loose now as gun crews pour everything they've got into the sky. Now the first plane's bomb bay doors open. It's getting ready to drop its load. It comes in on its bomb run, a straight level course in order to get on its target. Hundreds of shells fly at it, burst all around it, and rip into it. But that plane's crew is determined to drop its load of death.

The bomb bay doors are open wide now. But the bomber doesn't drop its load. Its number is up. A shell bursts right under its open bomb bay doors. The plane rocks heavily, then a second later it explodes, and the plane is no more. One less foe to bomb us.

All this happens in less than five minutes. The regiment has gotten its first taste of warfare and its first kill. The boys are on the ball. They get the range on the other planes. Tracers criss-cross. This time a smaller gun gets the range on a plane and pours shell after shell into it, riddling it from tail to nose. It flies on a second or two, then starts to plunge to the ground. Number two for the fellows, and he didn't have a chance dropping a bomb either.

Then we hear that loud whistle of a bomb on its way down. Where it will land no one knows, but it's coming. No one gives a damn. The crew sticks to its guns. The lights stay on, and the bombs fall, but the guys fight on. The enemy is determined to drop its bombs, and the regiment is determined the enemy won't get away alive.

It's finally over, and two-thirds of the enemy planes are down. There's the last one — like a duck hit while in flight, first absorbing the shocks of the shells, then pouring out a black smoke trail, finally plunging to the ground in a mass of flames — the grandest sight.

LEVITY

COMBAT

WWII, North Africa          1944 Orland to Naples
1950 Korea          1944 Germany
1944 Normandy          1945 England
Vietnam War,  Okinawa          1970 Vietnam

DEATH OF LOVED ONES