Donald L Bock
by James Brinker
I retyped the original letter written to my grand parents Mayme and CF Bock after the war by crewmate Fred Petitt of Cloer Crew after his release as a POW
637 Norway Avenue
Trenton, New Jersey
May 30, 1945
Dear Mrs. Bock
This is the 4th time I started this letter. I may tear this one up also. I thought the hardest part of this war as over after surviving the Germans for 9 months but its writing to all of the wonderful parents of the wonderful boys in the crew.
On our way back from Ploesti, Rumania, after flying through intense flak at Ploesti and getting numerous holes all over the ship, we received a direct flak burst in our stabilizer section or tail section. Donald was flying tail turret as he always did fly at that position. He came through in a pinch more than once and he also has two German planes to his credit (109 ME and JU 88). As I have said before we received a direct flak hit in the tail which also blew up the tail turret and made it flap in the breeze. It later came loose from the plane as we (the radio man Charles P. McKeague and I) found it on the ground at least a mile or so from where the plane finally crashed. Donald’s body was found 100 yds. In back of what was left of his tail turret.
McKeague and I took 3 hours or more examining his body. We wanted to make sure it was him. The poor boy never had a chance. I saw he was dead before I bailed out and could do nothing to him. I am the ball turret operator. My heated suit plug was out in the turret and had to come out occasionally to plug in the waste gun plug to warm up. It is always 0° F below. Up at 20,000 which we flew at all the time plus the drafts in the ball made it very cold. I would stay in the ball as long as possible until I became numb and could hardly move then would come out for ten minutes to warm up. I didn’t want to be caught outside if fighters attacked us and yet I didn’t want to freeze to death or get frost bitten as it would take me longer to get in my missions.
I was out at the time the flak hit. I heard 3 burst. The third hit our tail I was about 5 ft. from Donald and cannot understand to this day why I was not hit also as flak sure splatters. I was thrown to the other side of the plane. I got up and looked back at the turret. You could walk out the back standing up without any trouble at all. I saw Donald. The last thing I remember him doing was reaching for his flak helmet. I knew he was dead. Don’t ask me how I knew as I don’t want to describe him. It has been haunted me ever since. When we found him on the ground we wanted to make sure it wasn’t another member of the crew.
He wasn’t recognizable at all. Sat first we thought it was the co-pilot, Walter Greene but I remembered what type of clothes all of them wore. We also knew Donald had very light hair. None of the others did. We recognized the piece of scrap metal 100 yds. from him as being that of the tail turret. I knew Donald wore a ring and a watch but the Albanians were there when we found him. I am positive they stole them. They stole Trentzrch’s watch as he was knocked out when he landed. When he came to it was gone. McKeague and I buried Donald in the woods by the dried up river bed where he lies. I don’t know the proper way of burying the dead but I did what I thought was right. One of the men of the village helped me dig his grave. He made a stretcher from branches and we put him on it. We then lowered the stretcher and all in the grave. I piled on more branches on top of him, said a little prayer and then proceeded to cover him up. McKeague and I made a small wooden cross and put it at the foot of the grave. I hope I didn’t do anything wrong or leave something out.
I prayed many a time afterward that God find a place for his soul in heaven. I know he has. God bless you Mrs. Bock. I just can’t write anymore. If there is any more you want to know write me at my mother’s address.