King - #39-?
Standing L-R: Smiley, Herbert M. [KIA]; Cook, Quentin D. (B)[KIA]; Berg, Emil H. [KIA]; Smith, Van V. Jr. (TG); Buehler, Bernard V. [KIA]
Kneeling L-R: Connell, Charles (B) [KIA]; Taylor, Zachariah T. 'Zack' [KIA]; Admire, Roach L. 'Tex' (CP) [KIA]; King, Willard R. (P) [KIA]; Hager, Paul M. [KIA]
From Van Vernett Smith Jr. Fifteenth Air Force, 49th Wing, 461st Bomb Group, 765th Squadron (Tail Gunner)
October 13, 1944
I never made it to the Vienna Marshalling Yards. On this day, we awoke at 6 o'clock AM and dressed, had breakfast and then caught the truck, our transportation to the flight line, about a half mile away. Stopped at the equipment shed and received our flak suits and parachutes, which was a chest, pack. Caught a ride to the assigned plane. Arrived at plane flight line.
Our bombardier wanted to trade his seat pack chute for my chest pack which I did. We loaded our gear in the B-24 and took off around 7 o'clock AM. We formed up our formation. We were flying next to our lead plane who developed engine problems and abandoned lead position. We took over the lead position. The formation was formed. We headed off to Vienna. We were about at Phoggie, Italy at 9,000 feet. Our former leader had got his engine going and caught up with us. He then started to take over lead position again, but came over us to low and landed on top of us. One engine propeller cut into fuselage above where our oxygen was stored. When oil from the plane engine hit the oxygen it caused a blow up and cutting us in half. I don't remember what happened for I was knocked out of the tail (I was the tail gunner). This is what the other crew that was flying beside us said. Tail section flipped and I was thrown out. Having a seat pack chute I had mine on. About half way down I came too and pulled my ripcord, my chute opened and I floated down very slowly. My chute was a 28 foot chute and weighed about 110 pounds. They thought I never would land but I finally did.
Being just a few miles over the front line, the foot soldiers had a jeep and picked me up and took me to their field hospital, where they patched up my face - the only place I was cut and scratched up. I stayed over night at the field hospital and they took me back to my base the next morning. They told me that the rest of my crew did not make it. They carried most of them in three mattress covers - the parts they could find. I didn't fly for 3 months. Then I finished my missions.