No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky

by R.C. Cline


Publisher AuthorHouse

Published in Biographies & Memoirs/Memoirs, Entertainment, Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction

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Book Description


In the fall of 1942, the first year of the war was ending. For young men in Bloomville (Ohio) Township High School’s senior class, school was the last opportunity to be free before graduation, adult responsibility, and manhood. For them and many other young men across the nation, war was about to become a reality, including J. Emerson Krieger. Life was about to turn in a new, dramatic, and uncharted direction.

The book is a tribute to the U.S. Army 8th Air Force and Crew 136 who flew "above the angels," and fought in constant peril in the cold, unforgiving skies over Europe web site: I hope you enjoy the new edition of "No Man's Sky." “May the skies always be clear above you.”

Sample Chapter

A day in the life of combat Crew 136 started early in the predawn hours.

AROUND THE CLOCK, 24 -7. The ground crews had completed its maintenance, retrofits and repairs on planes throughout the night.

Nighttime is for sleep, a time for rejuvenation of tired minds and weary bodies; but for American combat fliers, the wake-up call always came in the early morning hours of a mission. Teams of Mechanics had worked around the clock to repair, service and ready aircraft for the day's new mission. The idea of "long ranged, daylight, precision bombing." was a team concept. Instrument and communication specialists calibrated flight instruments and checked radios; Mechanics patched flak holes and leaks, fueled bombers, loaded bombs, installed retro-fits, tuned engines and check and rechecked every system of a B-17 bomber. No detail was to small to ignore. System checks and rechecks were necessary before sending crews and planes into battle.

0 DARK THIRTY. The teletypes clicked cryptic messages to Group Commanders at air bases across East Anglia. Strategic Orders from VIIIth Bomber Command at 8th Air Force Headquarters in Pinetree listed targets and objectives for each Bombardment Group. Air Group Planning and Intelligent Officers at the 490th Bombardment Group had prepared aerial maps, photographs and coordinated for Group's Squadrons who would bomb specific objectives in Germany. Supply, record keeping, air traffic control, medics in the dispensary, meteorologists, cooks, mechanics and the motor pool all supported flight operations. Many members of the team had worked through the night.

A small city of service personnel including the Medical staff, mechanics, ground assistants, transportation crews, the motor pool, supply and service groups, intelligent officers, weather experts, planners from bomber command, communication specialists, flight control personnel, Administrative Officers, clerks and record keepers all worked to make each mission successful. The team had one goal: to put maximum effort and planes on the target over Germany. More than 2,300 men and women were housed on a typical airbase. They fed, housed, maintained and assisted flight crews. Airbases, like AAF Eye Station 134, were scattered across East Anglia, with about two hundred and fifty other American bases located all over England, Scotland and Wales.

A typical bomb crew consisted of ten Specialists, four Officers and six Enlisted men. The First Pilot commanded the ship; the Copilot flew in the right seat of the cockpit, ready to support or fly if he was needed. The Navigator was the direction finder, trained to guide the aircraft and keep it on course. The last Officer was the Bombardier, the expert who sighted the objective, directed and dropped the bombs over the target. The enlisted men were Gunners, an Armorer, a Flight Engineer and a Radio Operator. Each man had trained for specific work, but he could fill-in for a team member in case of emergency. If a vital activity needed attention, every crew member stood ready to help. Camera Operators and Photographers sometimes accompanied air crews in flight. All crew members had primary and secondary duties. Each man could substitute at another battle station, performing new duties if his buddy was injured or killed.

2:30 A.M. TO 4:30 A.M. The wake-up call came early.

At 2:30 a.m. sleep ended for flight crews, and a new day began. The mess cooks had prepared Breakfast. The wake-up call was a signal to bomber crew that it was time for a hearty breakfast of coffee, ham and eggs, toast and pancakes at the mess hall — mess cooks served food that would stick to the ribs all day. The crew dressed and hurried to the mess hall. After breakfast, the Supply Officer issued flying equipment, checked and readied. The supplies and high altitude gear included survival rations, electrically heated flight suits, oxygen masks and head phones, parachutes, Mae West Jackets, [a flotation vest used in water landings] individual O2 bottles, maps, flares, high altitude shear ling outer wear and a Norden bomb sight. Bomb Loaders racked bombs in the bomb bay and stored boxes of .50 caliber ammunition at the Gunner's platforms or stations. Ground crew had worked on planes all night. The bombers were ready, serviced and airworthy.

4:30 A.M. TO 5:45 A.M. The preflight briefing followed breakfast.

Crews were notified of their flight status the night before a mission. The pre-flight briefing outlined the target objectives, map coordinates, rally points and the formation patterns. The lecture gave crew the flak and fighter reports, weather conditions, maps of the target, formation and decoy orders, confirmed secret radio codes, communication ciphers and call signals. The most sensitive codes were written on edible rice paper. The papers were to be eaten--destroyed in case of capture.

5:45 A.M. TO 6:00 A.M. Transportation to the airfield runway was compliments of the motor pool drivers.

6:00 A.M. TO 7:30 A.M. The planes were ready for taxi, take offs and forming.

Drivers from the Motor pool chauffeured air crews to the runway. Aircraft engines were switched on. Each engine sputtered and fired. One by one, each plane began to taxi down the runway like a crab. A signal flare announced the take-off each aircraft at 30 second intervals. Engines revved up as heavily loaded planes lumbered and strained to gain altitude and build a formation aloft. Planes circled above, formed a battle armada by grouping the planes in a tight, preplanned formation. The lead group headed the attack; a high or top flight watched above, and low group protected the rear of the formation. Planes flew in a pre-established order, usually 12 or 13 planes from a single squadron, with a total of 36 planes from the Group making the complete armada. It was an ominous array of fire power and a force highly respected by the Luftwaffe. During the trip, Escort fighters joined the armada; near the end of the war when fighters had auxiliary fuel tanks, they protected bombers all the way to Berlin and back to England. Crews checked and rechecked their equipment, and readied their guns for action. Squadrons of the planes rose over England and France. The target was Germany.

8:00 A. M. to 2:30 P.M. Planes flew missions called bomb runs. As flights flew toward their assigned targets, Bombardiers marked the coordinates. When the bomb bay doors opened, the bombardier gave the order, "Bombs Away." After the ordinance fell to earth, planes circle again, reforming as they turned away from targets to a "rally point" toward a new course homeward. Pilots reformed the armada. The next stop was the home airfield in England.

In flight, Pilots had a few, but limited options when they flew over Germany or back to England. A few options were safe choices, but most were risky:

To successfully complete the mission unharmed and return to base or to

— end or abort the mission before dropping bombs and return home

— drop the bomb load and fight off flak and enemy fighters

— limp home on a 'wing and a prayer'

In the case of severe damage over land to

— abandon the aircraft in occupied territory, parachute to safety and internment

— crash land at any available airfield or in a neutral country

In the case of severe damage over water to

— ditch in the English Channel

— abandon the ship and parachute to safety in unoccupied or neutral territory

A crash landing in a damaged plane was a pilot's decision of last resort. A crash landing was dangerous, risky and simply unsafe. As battle damaged planes with injured men limped toward home, Flight Engineers fired flares to alert ground crews of the conditions in each aircraft. A red flare indicated that badly wounded men were on board. Ambulances stood ready to assist injured fliers; and fire trucks were on the field, manned and ready, and on high alert to suppress any potential fires.

Usually, a mission lasted for 8 or 10 hours. It was absolute boredom for most of the flight — but occasionally the tour had an act of complete terror when a German fighter passed on a 'turn-in' shooting 20 mm cannon shells at the bomber. The fighter's pass lasted a few seconds and after several short burst of fire from the gunners on the B-17's, the M2 Browning Machine Guns fell silent and the enemy fighter broke away. The air battle was over.

3:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. After landing an Interrogation followed the air battles.

As planes limped toward home, Ground Spotters anxiously searched the skies, looking, counting and listing the planes that had returned from battle. If the plane and crew made it back, an Interrogation, called a debriefing, provided intelligence on the target, flak, weather conditions and the mission. Pilots, Navigators and Bombardiers wrote separate reports. Red Cross Workers or mess cooks provided hot coffee or Scotch whisky, donuts and sympathy. Crew prepared mentally for the next mission. Mechanics quickly assessed the damage to each aircraft and began the repairs to make planes battle ready for tomorrow's bomb run.

5:00 P. M. to 5:30 P.M. The men assembled in the Mess Hall for dinner

6: 00 P. M. to 9:45 P.M. In the evening, Recreation included reading, letter writing or listening to "Germany Calling" from Radio Hamburg.

10:00 P.M. The lights in the Nissan huts went out.

A Waist Gunner fired a .50 caliber M2 Browning automatic machine gun. The Gunner, dressed in body armor, wore an electrically heated suit, gloves and shoes, head phones and a throat microphone which connected him to other crew members. A fleece lined leather helmet and heated boots finished his dress. A breathing mask supplied each Aerial Gunner with Oxygen from the plane's reservoir tanks.

On the next day — near dawn, a new wake-up call summoned bomber crews across England, as weary fliers stumbled into a new day. Before daybreak, the 490th Bombardment Group began to recycle its previous day's routine, repeating yesterday with a new enthusiasm. Men ate a hearty breakfast; then they checked equipment and attended a Pre-flight briefing. Planes taxied down the runway as bomber crew cycled toward Germany skies once again.

Flares fired from the control tower paced the planes down the runway. A new bombing armada formed and headed toward a new primary target. Krieger and the Crew 136 repeated this pattern of flying and bombing targets in Germany twenty-eight more time. Most of the missions were routine, but a few contained enough excitement to last a life time. When the fight had action with enemy fighters, the combat lasted only a few seconds. It was sheer terror and then slowly, quietly, life returned to normal. But the recollections and fear always lingered; the memories of intense flak in German skies never faded. On the third mission, Krieger and Crew 136 had haunting moments that last a life time. The Mission over Cologne confirmed each flier as a combat veteran.


"He is my refuge and my fortress" Psalms 91: verse 2.

Mission to Cologne, Germany. Eighth Air Force Mission 789: Wednesday, 10 January 1945.

The targets were two bridges, which spanned the Rhine River in the "Happy Ruhr Valley." The objectives were the Hohenzollern and Deutz Bridges in Koln, Germany

Mission No. 3 ... Krieger could not conceal his fear when he wrote an emotional letter to his girlfriend. "On my 19th birthday I was praying ... the flak was intense ... we lost a plane on each wing." Nothing in his family background or his personal experiences, nothing in his hometown, nothing in his high school education and nothing in his civilian life prepared Krieger for the panic that came from flying in combat. The crew had its orders and flew toward Cologne, Germany.

Bam!!! Flak hit the plane piloted by Lt. Walter A. McGrath; and the aircraft exploded in midair. The gates of hell had opened. On his nineteenth birthday, J. Emerson Krieger saw McGrath's plane disintegrate just off his wing. Later in the barracks, Emy recalled the mission, as he and James Cox wrote accounts in their Diaries about 'the mission from hell.' The squadron received orders to bomb two important railroad bridges, the Hohenzollern and Deutz Bridges, in Cologne. Both bridges were vital transportation links spanning the Rhine River.

As the 849th Bomb Squad flew in the Low Squadron toward the target, McGrath's aircraft was hit first, downed on the Pilot's 33rd mission in 'No Man's Sky.' Lt. McGrath and four other members of the crew were killed instantly when his ship exploded in the intense flak barrage. The plane received a direct hit on the right wing; "it flipped over on its back and went into a tight spin." The aircraft, "Old Patch," was on fire — the aircraft had lost a wing — and then, the ship exploded and disintegrated in midair.

Three members of the crew, the navigator, bombardier and top turret gunner were blown clear of the ship when it fragmented. Each man pulled the 'D' ring on his parachute. Hess saw parachutes open and float toward the ground. Sgt. Richard Lynde recalled that the Navigator and Bombardier were taken to a German hospital; but he never saw them again.

The two enlisted men, Top Turret Gunner, James E. Chambers, and the Ball Turret Operator, Richard Lynde opened their parachutes as they escaped from the damaged aircraft. Sgt. Lynde managed to escape from his gunner's platform just before the explosion. Both Chambers and Lynne spent the rest of the war in Dulagluff Stalag 13 in Nurnberg, Germany. When the Allied Forces approached the camp late in the war, the Germans moved prisoners to Stalag 7a in Meeseburg. The 14th Armored Division of Patton's Third Army finally liberated American POWs from Stalag 7a camp on 29 April 1945. The men had spent about three and a half month in captivity.

James C. Cox wrote about the heavily armed target. 01-10: Number three. [Mission Number 3] The roughest yet. 200 guns -flak accurate- lose three ships in our sqdn. [squadron] 12 holes."

Krieger remembered: "Jan 10"

To-day we went to Koln [Cologne] We were suppose to bomb a Bridge Clouds were to]o] thick so we bombed the marshalling yards. The flak was intense. We lost a plane on each wing first rough target we had 10 holes. Ball gunner and I both had close calls.

25,000 [altitude] 1000 [bomb load] Lost 3 ships [damage report]

2 fellows are B. W. [badly wounded] 7 are ok but rest were killed 6:30 [air time]

Hesseltine echoed the story with technical data: Jan. 10- 1945

"Today's target was a railroad bridge at Cologne. The secondary target was marshalling yards at Cologne. The secondary target was bombed P. F. F. Mission time lasted five to six hours. Bomb load six 1000 lb. bombs. Intervalometer setting was 240 M P H G. S. X. distance between bombs 50 feet. No fighters encountered but moderate flak was very accurate. Two or three of our bombers were lost over the target. Saw one ship in flames on our right. Four chutes were seen to open from the ship [McGrath]. we were in the low squadron at 27,000 feet. Temperature at altitude -55°F."

[Mission] "(3)"

The purpose of the raid was to destroy the transportation links and railroad system crossing the Rhine River. Fifty years later Professor Arthur Struempler wrote about his experience in a narrative about his mission and the combat over Cologne. In his Autobiography, Struempler wrote an unpublished memoir which he completed in 1994.

Struempler remembered the flak]BL Dover Cologne.

"January 10 is at the peak of the cold weather in Northern Europe and January 10, 1945 was particularly cold. At 13:00 we came down the Rhine [River] from the south so as to take advantage of a tail wind to spend minimum time over the heavily defended target....

Flak appeared on the horizon as we were approaching our target at 30,000 feet. Sergeant Runkel [Fight Engineer] ... said, "Look at all the pretty flak." The next thing we experienced was a churning, rolling, bouncing and uncontrollable airplane like being on very rough, turbulent rapids. The concussions from the artillery shells were bouncing us around and we were being hit. Shrapnel hit everywhere. The engineer's next words were a very slow ''Jesus Christ.'"


Excerpted from "No Man's Sky" by R.C. Cline. Copyright © 2015 by R.C. Cline. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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