Franklin Christianson was a pilot. He and his crew were assigned to the 515th Squadron.
Click here to read of his account of the Sept. 8, 1944 mission.
Frank recounted an episode during one of their practice missions:
One day in the summer of 1944 our Air Base in San Pancrazio, Italy, we had the afternoon off for extra gunnery shooting on some islands west of Tarranto, Italy. The whole crew went. We arrived at our gunnery location and started practice shooting at targets on the ground.
Now it had been my practice to give all crew members at least one shot in the pilot's seat for several minutes. We had shot up some targets for awhile, and then I decided to head back to the base. On our way back home, I gave Charles Brooker, my tail gunner, a call to come up and sit in my seat while I sat in John Griffin's co-pilot seat. Okay! Up comes Charlie and sits in my seat. After a short while I suddenly noticed a drastic change in ship attitude! I looked at Charlie and he had pulled the pilot control wheel sharply toward his stomach! My God! Our attitude was in a critical climb and the air speed indicator was sharply showing a fast rate of speed loss! Much more of this and we'd have been in the position of a flat spin - normally a fatal one!
Wham! I quickly jammed my control wheel ahead. We came down rather violently onto a steady course. Yeah! You said it! AII the men in the back waist - both windows open - no parachutes on - suddenly were faced with the horrifying dilemma of floating in space!!
You can imagine a bunch of fellows with screaming terror in their minds. They said those few seconds were the longest in all time! Yeah! They had taken their first simulated rocket flight! I apologized profusely to some badly shaken men. Of course, I don't know what happened to Brooker after we got back to our squadron barracks?! Ha! These shaken guys al! said, "Geez!"