Harold Christensen

Harold Christensen story about the mission on Aug 24, 1942:

A "hot pilot" (refering to Norm Appold) because at times he took some damn extraordinary chances. Whoever heard of a heavy bomber flying over the target at the same speed, in the same direction and at the same altitude nine straight times? And during all that time the flak was coming up so thick that one could seemingly have gotten out and walked on it!

That incident occurred on a mission over Tobruk. We'd had instructions to make two or three passes over that seaport town and drop several of the 10 500-lb. bombs we were carrying that day on each pass. Christ. I'll never forget that mission because I've never been so damn scared in my life. A commando team of the British Eighth Army was to invade Tobruk from the sea in an attempt to capture that vital German stronghold. There were 10 B-24Ds from the 376th in our formation. We were to go over in a single file, make several passes and then head for home. Well, the other bombers did make several runs but Norman Appold had other ideas. It was thought that if enough bombs were dropped, the ensuing harassment would keep the enemy busy defending themselves. Thus enhancing the chances for the British Commandos having a successful raid. The British did a lot of damage to the port but did not capture it.

On our first pass over the target, I heard Lt. Appold say on the intercom to Lt. John Hogan, our bombardier, "Okay Johnny. Drop one this time." Then the German gunners started to bracket our plane with flak. On the next pass it was the same, "Okay, Johnny, drop one this time." I then thought to myself, Oh, good. On the next run he's going to salvo the rest of the bomb load. But that was not to be, for we made nine maddening runs over Tobruk that day. On each ensuing flight over the target the German antiaircraft gunner's aim improved and the flak was bursting all around us and when a salvo burst directly below our plane it actually tossed us several feet up in the air. That was when I thought, Hell, they're going to blow us right out of the goddamned sky!

The pilot then finally said the words we'd all been waiting to hear, "Okay. Johnny, drop me other two and let's get outta here."

When we turned and headed for home I started to unwind and I looked at my right knee as it was jammed right up underneath my chin. I had been so completely petrified that I had curled up in a semi-fetal position. It was during times like that when I became very close to my Maker as I made one very fervent prayer after another. Atheists don't occupy tail turrets!