Wilbur C. West mission June 12, 1942

In 1973, Wilbur wrote a letter to Robert Brooks, who was doing research on HALPRO.  In it, he described HALPRO's first mission:

You have indicated that our airplane was number 4 to take off for Ploesti. I don't definitely remember that, but I do recall that we were one of the earlier ones to leave and I believe only 13 airplanes went on that mission. (I had a good diary on all of this but Bob Storz came to Pine Bluff about 11 years ago trying to get some things straighten out in the book "Ploesti", and some things stated in the book I know are incorrect, and he borrowed my diary. I called him a couple of times and he said he lost it.) Bob is the son of Storz Brewery people in Omaha I Nebraska.

Our take off from Fayid was at night, and I believe we had 4- 500# bombs and 2 full bomb bay tanks of gasoline. We were told that we were not supposed to fly over Turkey, but then we could not make the round trip if we did not, so we flew across Turkey at about 14,000 feet.

Pilots were briefed by Col. Kraw, ( I wish I had that diary _ Kraw doesn't look right) but he had been a Military Attache' to Turkey and he told us the Turks would get us gasoline and get us out if we had to land in Turkey. (Col. Kraw was an infantry officer and was killed during the invasion of North Africa later that year.)

Our landing (? Bombing) altitude was to be 30,000' and our target E.T.A. was daylight. When Charles Davis thought we were over Ploesti it was still black dark and we had been in the air about 7 hours. We were eager to do our job and were stupid enough to fly around at 30,000' over Romaina for another hour waiting for daylight. By this time we knew we would have trouble making it back to Ramadi, however we felt confident that we could get out of Turkey if we were forced to land there because of the briefing. While we were circling the waist gunners had opened their waist doors and set up their guns. Albertson's oxygen mask froze up and he had passed out. I grabbed a portable oxygen bottle and a spare oxygen mask and made my way thru the bomb bay to him. I quickly removed his frozen mask and plugged in the new one. Almost immediately after placing it over his face he regained consiousness.

When I returned to the front, it was getting light and I could see a solid cloud cover below us. Some few thousand feet below I thought I saw an ME-210, but when I think about it I suppose it could have been another B-24. We did not encounter any enemy aircraft or A.A. fire at this altitude so we headed East where we could see the edge of the overcast. It was further than it appeared and we were almost to the Black Sea when we could see the ground. Getting low on fuel already, we made a bomb run on Constanta and released our bombs there. We then headed back across the Black Sea to Turkey toward Aleppo, and as luck would have it, we came across Istanbul at about 12,000'. We were real happy to be off of oxygen after 4 or 5 hours, it was a long time. About that time black puffs of smoke were all around us. The Turks, our friends were shooting at us. We were on auto pilot and quickly we took over manually and took evasive action. The shooting did not last long. By this time our gas gauges were all below sight level and all the fuel from the bomb bay tanks had been transferred.

By the time we reached Ankara, we had been flying 12 1/2 hours and much of it at 30,000 feet. The extra hour over Romania waiting for daylight made it impossible to go further. The 900 meter runway at Ankara looked too good to pass up, so we landed there. Immediately we were surrounded by armed Turkish soldiers. A young English speaking officer approached and we asked for gasoline we thought we would get, but were told immediately that we would be interned there for the rest of the war. Looking up 2 more B-24's were approaching to land. It was Brown and Cave.

All were escorted to an area of the airport where they took all of our weapons and personal possessions, including several hundred dollars we were still carrying to make the payroll for the crew. It was late that evening before we were given a meal about 24 hours since our last one, and it was very good, the best one we had for the next 6 months.

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At the 2017 reunion, the board approved the donation of our archives to the Briscoe Center for American History, located on the University of Texas - Austin campus.

Also, the board approved a $5,000 donation to add to Ed Clendenin's $20,000 donation in the memory of his father. Together, these funds begin an endowment for the preservation of the 376 archives.

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2019 River Cruise

2019 REUNION

DATES : Sep 19-22

CITY : Dallas, Texas

HOTEL: The Wyndham Garden Dallas North Hotel

2019 hotel reservations


previous reunions

For Sale

The Other Doolittle Raid


The Liberandos


Three Crawford Brothers


Liberando: Reflections of a Reluctant Warrior


376th Bomb Group Mission History


The Last Liberator


Full Circle


Shadows of Wings


Ten Men, A "Flying Boxcar," and A War


I Survived Ploesti


A Measure of Life


Shot Down In Yugoslavia


Stories of My Life


Attack


Born in Battle