I was drafted and signed up in Portland, ME. the first day of Sept. 1942. I went into the Army on Sept. 15,1942. I was married Sept.12, 3 days before I went into the Army. My wife was a senior in high school. I left to Lewiston,ME. by bus, then took a train to Ft. Devins. I had never been away from home before. I had marched to the train 2 different times at Ft.Devins with my barracks bag in the 2 weeks that I was there and was sent back to the barracks with others. The 3d time I boarded the train and went to Atlantic City, NJ. I took basic training there. We used to walk the boardwalk and it was miles long. The hotels were by the boardwalk. We were marched down the boardwalks to the drill fields. I was boarded at a hotel (not on the boardwalk). It was the Carlton Manor. We were given aptitude test and I had wanted to be an airplane mechanic. I passed.
Then I went to Lincoln, Nebraska by troop train at the last of Oct. I went to airplane mechanics school. Carl Webster was in the barracks next to me. In fact he cut my hair one time. Alice (my wife's) brother was there also. As was Randolph Page(although I didn't see him). School was done in three different shifts. My shift was mostly nights. It was done in three different shifts because airplane mechanics were so sorely needed. I walked a mile from my barracks to the hangers for classes. It was the coldest walk! We had scarves around our faces and necks, but the wind just whipped through us . Some soldiers were frostbitten. Every airport seem to have a lot of wind . I saw it go from 60 above to 6 below zero in 6 hours twice. They would put us out on the field to work om planes and would give us sheeplined clothing and we would still be cold. The engines would be in enclosed areas, but the doors weren't closed. The fellow that slept next to me, Tillbrook, saw a posting at headquarters that airplane aerial gunners were needed. He asked me if I wanted to volunteer. I was told never to volunteer. we both volunteered. I should have known then that I was going to get stuck on a bomber someplace. I graduated from there in February.
Then I went to Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti, MI. for about a month to get familiar with the B-24's. My wife and my Mother came by train to visit me for about a week. They stayed with the Throops. We soldiers go into the factory, they had midgets working in the wings,riveting. They had a small power plant of their own to produce power for the bomber plant,
Next I went to Laredo, TX. toward spring. It was humid. There were rattlesnakes in the area in pens fenced with chicken coop wire. They laid over each other in the sun. Each outhouse had a sign, "Watch out for snakes" We would scrape mold off our shoes, I went to gunnery school. We started shooting BB guns ,then 22's then shotguns. We were also learning 30 caliber machine guns , taking them apart and putting them together. We had to do it blindfolded. We needed to be able to do it by the feel of the touch. There was a big tank of sand, with moving targets above that were pulle by jeeps on a track on the other side of the sand. We would shoot at these targets . Also they had about a dozen of us on a truck riding around shooting at targets that popped up in a field. This was considered the biggest gunnery school at the time, I believe.
My right sholder was black and blue. I would put hankerchiefs in there trying to soften the impact. We had to learn 50 caliber machine guns which were the machine guns that were actually used on the bomber planes in combat. We used to go up in four light planes together and the lead plane would let out a target (we called them Boots), Each of the other 3 planes student gunners would shoot at it . We had different colored bullets so that it would be known which planes gunner had the hits, When the targets were checked back on the ground they would see the hits. Each student gunner needed so many hits to qualify. Some were washed out of gunnery school when they were unable to hit enough targets. The pilots would work with the student gunners, flying the target close enough to be hit when the student needed more hits. The pilots would ask, "How many more trips do you have to qualify?") Then they would ask,"How many more hits do you need?" I never saw a 30 caliber gun after gunnery school. Infantry ground troops used the 30 caliber machine guns. I was able to pass all of the test that I had taken, with the Lords blessing. He blessed me all the way through. The base was far south near the Mexican border. We went to the Alamo when we went to Mexico. We could only take $2.00 bills . The living conditions were less than desireable in Mexico at the time, chikens ran in the street. Food and drink drew flies.
Our graduating class went to Salt Lake City, UT. We were only there three or four days All of our 30 caliber "souvenir" shells were taken away from us at the base. I went through the Mormon Tabernacle while there.
There was more training in B-24 bomber liberators at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, Casper WY. and Scotts Bluff NB. After Scotts Bluff, I received a furlough home. I had 8 days, and 3 days were travel time with 5 days at home.
When I went back , Alice went with me. She had graduated from high school. We went by train to Scotts Bluff,NB We stayed in a one room cabin, it was a nice place. The bed folded up into the wall. We bought a few utinsils. we were happy there. The pilot would let me come in and not have to fly all night so that I could be with Alice. She was there a month with me. I was put on a combat crew there. There were 10 on the crew There was a pilot and co-pilot, a navigator,and a bombardier, which were officers. There were two armament men, 2 radio operators and 2 airplane mechanics. Of these 10 men only four are living today. We stayed in touch with the other 9. We had reunions through the years (the first reunion was at our house in Maine after the war) It lasted two days . I was shipped to Mountain Home,ID. for three weeks, we were training other crews.
Alice went home and I went to Harrington,KS. We were issued suntan clothes. Someone in the know said that we were headed for the Pacific. Three days later they took these clothes back and gave us heavier clothing and sent us to England via Jacksonville,FL. West Palm Beach, Peurto Rico, British Ghana, Belem, Brazil,Natal, Brazil, then to Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean which is halfway between South America and Africa. We slept in tents there for one night. It was very very dark. we stumbled on something and turned on our flashlights. It was the body of a crew member whose plane had crashed that day. The next day we flew to Liberia in Africa. >From there we went to French Morocco (Marakech and Dakar) The Saraha desert was deserted and we would not want to land there. We landed in Glasgow, Scotland We left the plane there at a modification depot,prepairing it for combat. We never saw that plane again. They put us on a truck with our gear and we went to another base in Scotland. The food was lousy and we had to walk a mile from the barracks to the mess hall. It was cold. We found a source of coal and were able to use it for warmth.
Then we went to Wendling, England on the east coast. We arrived in Wendling in Dec. and on Jan. 11,1944 I flew my first combat mission. All 30 of our combat missions were flown out of this base. Our first mission we dropped our bombs on a cheese factory in Germany (we couldn't find our target) The mission depended on the weather There were times we got out over the English channel and were called back because we would have been fogged in upon our return from a mission.
There were 4 squadrons on this base (each squadron with several planes) As different planes were lost or shot down they would be replaced by others sent in. We could tell in the mess hall how successful a mission was as a lot would be eating there when all or most of the planes come back.
When we went up we would circle about an hour for all planes to fall into formation. Then the pilots would tell us to put on our oxygen mask as we were going up. we might go up to 20,000 ft. after 12,000 ft. you had to be wearing oxygen.
We had what they called "milk runs" because you could see the White Cliffs of Dover. when we bombed the targets in France. Germany had invaded France and occupied it. We bombed in Germany too (Neurumburg, Gotha, Fredrickshaven) The last two had German planes up in the air attacking the bombers. We lost more bombers on these two flights than any other missions we had. We had to dodge antiaircraft also.
On the waist they had two big windows. We could open these up and a gunner was at each window with a hand operated 50 caliber. The tail gunner was in the tail of the plane I was the ball turret belly gunner, Between the waist and the tailwere three small steps . I would be sitting on the three steps if I wasn't in the turret. On one mission one of the gunners at the big window signal me to come forward. As I did the seat that I had just been in was hit by flak(bullets). It was just where my head had just been. Without the man having called me forward I would have been killed. I feel The Lord moved me forward
They were always briefing us for Berlin,but would then give us another target (alternate) One day we did go to Berlin and antiaircraft missles were shot at us but they didn't have enough height. We were at a higher altitude than they could reach. We bombed Berlin 2 days later we went back again and bomb again,
We had chaff that we threw out of our plane to throw the enemy 's radar off. Chaff were small strips of paper , like the silver foil on a gum wrapper, and the radar would pick it up . We were briefed for a target in Germany that was near Switzerland and accidently we bombed Switzerland.
Once we were shot badly in the windshield and the wings by German fighters. We got the plane back and crash landed it Oct.29,1944 and it was never flown again. It's name and number was Blanid's Baby number 42-7560 Another plane was used for the rest of our missions Our old plane was robbed for parts to help keep others flying.
One time in formation, one American plane hit another as it was flying to close, the two planes went down , spiraling downward until we saw a large ball of flames when the first one hit then another large ball of flames when the second one hit the ground. We would watch like a hawk to see if any parachutes came out of the planes that were on the way down.
Another time we were flying formation right straight towards our target with about a minute to go when we flew into a solid cloud front . We couldn't see anything and I don't know why any planes didn't collide. It must have been Gods providence.
One time we flew up into the clouds and came into a clear area, where bombers were flying. We went up further into more clouds then into another clear area and there was bombers flying there and up again to at least another clearing with other bombers again Then the time came that we had to go down and we had to go through all those clouds and bombers not knowing if we would hit another plane or not .
On June 4th when flying a mission(this was my last mission) I saw on the coast of England many many many ships and boats . This was 2 days before D-DAY
When I originally started flying missions we were given 25 missions. Later the number changed and was boosted to 30 missions As the German factories production was being wiped out American missions were increased.
After my last mission was done I said to myself "I AM DONE AND I AM STILL ALIVE"
We came back to America in Oct. 1944 It took 9 days to come HOME I was on the AQUATANIA, a large vessel. we had German prisoners on the ship with us. We came back by the Statue of Liberty. I came home on furlough I had another year in the service and was released on Oct.15,1945
Some of the men on the crew would say "That Jack Tupper, he's always praying" I read my Bible through twice during my time in England. After I got back from overseas I gave a testimony at 547 in Boston giving glory to God and thanks for His Protection over me.
Pilot 1st LT. Burrell M. Ellison Jr.
1st Lt. Earl F. Bassett Bombardier
T/Sgt. Howard F. Samples Radio
S/Sgt. Jackson A. Tupper Asst.Radio
S/Sgt. Harold E. Picking Tail Gunner