On the Catania mission we were making a turn to the right - and the first attack came in off our left wing. When you're in a turn your wing blocks out the view and they came out of the sun that way. I don't think we really saw them at first. It was reported about 20 ME-109's hit us. They damaged our plane - I think it was #4 engine and we feathered the prop and for some reason it unfeathered. I don't know whether we did something wrong or whether it was a malfunction. The prop ran away - the Tachometer went all the way around and was coming up the other side and it made a terrific noise and of course it shook dust allover and the fighters made some more passes at us. I pulled the plane up and almost stalled it to slow it down so we could get that prop under control. There was a great big blast of shells from the fighters that went just ahead of us so maybe it was a good thing we had slowed down. I know I pulled a terrific amount of power on the engines and I had two good engines - one feathered and the other one didn't have much power at that altitude. I tried my best and got under the rest of the formation and I don't remember who it was now but a B-24 got on each side of me and we had quite a battle. I know #99 - Lt. Field's crew - his airplane blew up.
Of course I was busy and couldn't see it but that’s what the report came in. We had just dropped our bombs and were making our turn after dropping the bombs. Lt. Brown on my crew was killed and the Navigator, Assistant Radio Operator, the Radio Operator and all the gunners had injuries. The only people that weren't hurt was the Tail Gunner and the Co-Pilot, the pilot and the Engineer. We made it into Malta. Of course they were getting ready for the invasion of Sicily and the whole Harbor was full of ships. We didn't have any IFF or anything to identify us and we had to fly over some of the Navy Battleships and defenses in the Harbor. We were afraid they were going to shoot us down. The plane was really damaged - we didn't have any brakes - we couldn't change the prop RPM by then and we knew the nose gear wouldn't stay down because the lock was shot off.
There was something wrong with the controls - it didn't fly right. You had to get where you could anticipate where it was going to go. I called in for landing instructions and I couldn't understand them as they had that British accent - so my Co-pilot said "I’ll take it over - I went through flying school with them so I can understand them." He said "they think they're going to land you on the short runway” and he helped me make up my mind that no way could we land on the short runway in the shape we were in. We cranked the main gear down but we couldn't lock it.
We made one circle of the airport and the next time around I told him "we gotta go in and land anyway” cause I couldn't hold my altitude with the drag from the gear and our whole hydraulic system was out - and there was something wrong with the flaps - we couldn't adjust them either. We landed just before we got to the surfaced runway. I think the back end of the airplane was out over the water and it went right over on the nose. Well we had landed with a flat tire on the nose wheel before, and you can normally hold the nose gear up until you’re going real slow before it would go down on it but there was something wrong with the controls and it went right over on the nose. That gives you quite a sensation at that angle when you’re going over 100 mph.
It seems like the runway was coming right through you. It didn't seem to slow down and finally the co-pilot and I - instead of holding back on the controls - we pushed them all the way forward and we got it stopped just as we were looking down that rock quarry on the far end. The emergency crew brought a ladder out and I had the injured taken out of the back end first because I knew they were all wounded and probably shook up after that landing. Everyone was taken to the hospital and later they had services and buried Lt. Brown there on Malta. On Malta you go way underground - they had an elevator to take you down. Of course, it was just before the invasion of Sicily and they wanted to get all the information they could. The Commander of the Island took us down and we had a critique - we didn't have much information to give him except what had happened to us.
They were getting ready for the invasion and the whole Harbor was full of ships. That night they sounded the air raid alarm during the night and the next morning there was a brand new ME-109 that had landed. I don't know what happened, I guess the engine quit right above the field and the German Pilot brought it in. It was sitting there and you could go right out and look at it. In my plane there was one death and four hurt. Lt. Alexander was probably the worst - he had a shell right through his wrist. He was in the hospital quite a while. The others were injured mostly from exploding shells and shrapnel - and all pulled through. The only one of my crew live been able to contact is Lt. Alexander. I heard that Sgt. Hartman, Assistant Radio Operator and Gunner had passed away.