During my enlisted days I was an instructor at the Ordnance School at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. We impressed on all students there that the ordnance has the initial responsibility for everything that shoots or explodes. So from there we took our responsibility very seriously.
At Wendling we had the 1825th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Company (Aviation). Each of the group's four squadrons had its ordnance section. These were the people who were responsible for the bombs, ammunition, and the Very pistols which shoot colored signal flares. We even were responsible for the shotgun shells that so many requisitioned to shoot the King's pheasants.
We had an automatic supply system which worked very well. If, for example, today's mission dropped two hundred 500 lb. bombs, then the order went in from Wing Headquarters to supply the 392nd with an additional supply of two hundred 500 lb. bombs. The supply route was long and tedious in that they were bringing the bombs across the Atlantic by ship, loaded onto trains or trucks, taken to the bomb parks, then brought to our bases on trucks. Sometimes we'd get five or six bomb trucks, sometimes 18 or 20 trucks loaded with 500 or 1,000 lb. bombs, or whatever it was.
The hassle came when a convoy of trucks arrived when we were trying to load out a mission. We had 20 or 30 trucks lining the narrow English roads while the ordnance crews were trying to get past on the way out.
We inspected individually every bomb that came in to the bomb storage area, referred to fondly as the "Bomb Dump." We inspected each bomb to ensure that the threads, the nose and tail fuse, the fins were all right so that there would be no problem inserting the fuse in the tail fin. We also had to make sure that the lugs weren't bent because they' d just come across on a ship. And we had to check that none of the explosive was exuding from any of their wells or wherever. If a bomb had been in storage, it got down to the bottom part of the rack. After it sat there for three or four weeks, we would inspect it again.
Our office and barracks were on the right side at the entrance to the bomb dump; and the fuse hut, where we stored our fuses, was on the opposite side of the road. Each squadron had its own revetment, which consisted of two to four different bays for the storage of different size bombs, the 250s, the 260 lb. fragmentation bombs, 500s and the 1,000s. Everything except the 100 lb., the 2,000 lb., and the chemical bombs. The 2,000 lbs. were so big that we stored them on the side of the road where we could get at them with a crane. The chemical bombs, which were never used, had to be kept away from the bomb dump. The 100 lb. bombs were so small and we used so many on a mission that we stored them alongside a road or in a field area made available to us.
When the battle order came in, it would be called in to the bomb dump office, giving us the number of aircraft each squadron would fly and the fuse settings that were to go into the nose and tail fuses of each of the bombs. Probably about 30 minutes after this order, telephone calls came in, and the squadron ordnance would begin arriving with their bomb service trucks and trailers. These trailers were originally designed to carry six or eight 500 lb. bombs because initially that's what the old B-17s could carry. They hadn't counted on the B-24. So these people were loading twelve to fourteen 500 lb. bombs on a trailer so they wouldn't have to make so many trips into the bomb dump.
Each squadron would go to their own revetment, load their bomb service trailers and pull out and stop at the office. We would check them to see how many bombs they had so we could keep a record. The fuse people, in the meantime, as soon as they got the call, went into the fuse hut and started to set up the fuses. They set the settings on the nose or tail fuse, whether it was instantaneous or attempt (that's the two settings we had on the nose fuse). We would select the detonators for a tail fuse as to the timing, if it was .025 or whatever it was, we would assemble those along with the arming wires.
As soon as the bomb service truck in the squadron was checked out by the office, we gave them the number of fuses per bombs. If they had 12 or 14 or whatever on their trailer, we'd give them the appropriate fuses and arming wire. They would go out on the flight line and station those bombs at their particular airplane. But they wouldn't load the bombs until they got the word from the B-24's crew chief or someone else in charge. They waited as long as possible before inserting the fuses in the event that the airplane wasn't going to take off or there was something wrong and we had to remove the bombs.
If there was an abort, then we had to recover those bombs. They were brought back to the bomb dump and we again made an inspection before we put them back into the revetment. If an airplane crashed on takeoff, it was our job to go out with whatever equipment we needed and recover those bombs and inspect them before putting them back into storage.
We had to get up very early on mission mornings, have breakfast, then go up to the armament shack on the flight line and get the B-24's bomb shackles and releases ready. The Ordnance Section men arrived at the hardstands with the bombs on trailers from the bomb dump and we worked as a three- or four-man crew loading the bombs.
We had a winch to lift the 500 lb. bombs but what we used to do was to roll each bomb underneath the bomb bay, get one man on the tail of the bomb, one on the nose and the third man in the middle used his back to hoist it up. So the three of us would lift it up while another man got up on the catwalk in the bomb bay and hooked the bomb on to the shackles.
We did good work quickly and I don't remember anyone having any back troubles. I recall some missions when we had to put a temporary set of shackles in the front of the planes to carry 2,000 lb. bombs. It involved quite a bit of work, but we got it done. Quite honestly, I think we did a hell of a job.
When I was in Alamogordo in 1943 I got to know a few of the flight crews, but when we went over to England it wasn't too long before things started to happen. For a while I didn't know anybody there. Consequently, we didn't get too close to the crews. It was a different job over there, but we were always on the lookout for the planes that came back and those that didn't.