Lt. Ernest M. Duckworth Navigator/Bombadier

by John S. (Jack) Duckworth
(Burke, Virginia, USA)

I always remember the story my dad told me about a problem he kept having at Benghazi as a navigator computing his mission fuel. He said that every time he came back from a mission he was shorter on fuel that his calculations kept indicating. My dad was a college-graduate science major and a stickler for math and exactitude so the fuel calculation errors were driving him nuts.

One day he went to his plane early and found one of the gunners on his plane pushing a large boulder up a wooden ramp into the belly of the B-24. He asked the crew member what the hell he thought he was doing and the crewman said that he felt like he wasn't doing enough just waiting for enemy fighters to shoot so when Dad dropped the bombs on a bomb run this crewman would push the boulder out of a hatch and that way he felt that he might do some damage on the ground.

My dad said that at that moment he understood why the crewman had asked him early on to say bombs-away over the intercom when he dropped his bombs, because that was not established protocol even though old war movies propagate that myth.

He said he gave the crewman a real dressing down because the added weight was causing an increase in fuel consumption and that could cause the loss of the plane in a tight fuel situation because his calculations might say that they could make it back to base when in fact they could run out of fuel.

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