The night before the Mission, our Engineer (Sgt. Syd Serio) came down with jaundice. The next morning at 6 o'clock, we were all at the flight line to pre-flight our equipment before take-off. We were introduced to our new Engineer (Sgt. Walker) and then to our surprise a combat photographer was assigned to our crew (Sgt. Pitchurski). We took off pounding down the runway. My radio equipment was behind the co-pilot's seat, with a bulkhead separating us. Maximum load at take-off was 35 tons including 5 thousand pounds of bombs and approximately 2000 gal of high octane gas. I could see our right landing gear with all 4 engines pulling maximum horsepower. The tires would start bouncing once then pause then 2 times, 3, 4 and so on, and then our Pilot (Lt. Dick Klee) and our co-pilot (Lt. Joe Jester) would pull back on their controls to bring the plane up. It always looked as if we-were about –15 feet off the ground.
I forgot to tell you that was the end of the runway. This was the same on all takeoff. After a sigh of relief we were at rendezvous over Bari, Italy, and on to Vienna, Austria. Meanwhile, our nose gunner (Sgt. AI MacKenzie) was resting in the rear of the plane with the other crew members and in his article, A Good Day, tells what happened in the rear. On the flight deck, all was very tense. Our navigator (Lt. Morris Mindick) had his seat behind the pilot. He and I were about 4 to 5 feet apart. I really liked being stationed on the flight deck because I was close to all the action and could always count on Morris to keep me informed if we were in enemy territory or friendly underground.
MacKenzie tells it all about our return to friendly territory on our 2 engines. We were about 17 miles from touchdown and making our final approach to our base, San Pancrazio, Italy. I can't remember what altitude it was but thank God our wheels were still up. When the 2 engines quit, our Pilot, Dick, shouted to our Co-Pilot, Joe, to hit the crash bar which cut out all electric power. Our engineer, Sgt. Walker, was standing between Morris (our navigator) and me. Whatever killed Sgt. Walker came over the top of my head slicing my scalp and hitting Walker although Morris did not get a scratch. When we hit the ground my head went forward into my radio equipment.
Before I passed out, I realized that what sliced the top of my head had severed poor Sgt. Walker's head exposing his brain. I do not know how I got out of the plane. I was standing outside with our pilot (Dick) bleeding from the top of my head and my right leg. Next stop 35th Field Hospital.
There were other engineers available, but Walker was assigned to our plane. Sgt. Pitchursky (combat photographer) was also seriously hurt. He also could have been assigned to another plane. This is why I say The Luck of the Draw.