Flying Fortress Combat Tale
Facing the possibility of not making it back,
Jerry Osadnick gives a detached but poignant view
of his 25th and last mission.
Sitting Pretty Mission No. 25
13 April, 1944, Framlingham, England
I'm wide awake, just lying in my sack thinking of today's mission. Off in
the distance, I can hear the occasional roar of an engine being run up on the
flight line. Our ground crews have been working through the cold, wet night
getting our planes ready for another maximum effort. I wonder if Burt got our
I light a cigarette. It is 0135 hours. Another one of those nights,
difficult to get to sleep. The potbelly stove in the middle of the hut was glowing
red when we got to bed. Now, it's black and cold, the fire long dead, but the
hut is too cold for us to get up to stoke it. It seems as if I have just
closed my eyes, when I hear the door of another hut slam shut. Now the clink,
clink of someone coming along the squadron walk with his boot hasps unbuckled. I
take another look at my hack watch, it is 0445 hours. The door opens, the
light is turned on. I don't even look to see who it is. An unwelcome voice
says, "Osadnick, Wagner, Corn, Morris: briefing at 0530!"
We stand on our beds to get dressed - too cold to stand on the floor. There
is little conversation. Our thoughts are persona, thousands of miles away. At
the mess hall, we line up for our "fresh eggs". The coffee has a bluish
cast because of the powdered milk. Fried Spam today and crumbly white bread. But
better stock up, it may be a long one.
I was right. At briefing we find out our target will be the Messerschmitt
factory at Augsburg, Germany. No milk run today! Our climb-out and assembly go
well. As we depart the English coast, I turn the controls over to my
copilot, Lloyd Corn. We each fly 15-minute stints whenever conditions permit. While
over the Channel, I get sleepy and I grab a 15-minute snooze. This will be my
last one until we get back to England.
En route to the target area, the crew reports occasional bursts of flak,
most of them far off. Now, as we approach the IP (initial point), the flak
bursts come nearer, and they are very intense and accurate. Left waist Ed Allen
reports that a B-17 off to one side - looks like one of the 94th BG planes -
has been hit and is in trouble. Three chutes are seen to open, but the pilot
appears to have regained control and seems to be headed for Switzerland. If
they make it, their war may be over!
As we drop our bombs, several bursts of flak go off, almost overhead. I hear
shrapnel hitting the plane. The window behind Lloyd is shattered; a piece of
razor-sharp flak continues on and hits top-turret gunner Riley's flying-suit
leg zipper. It does not penetrate through to his leg, but he feels the
heat. I call for a crew check. All report they are OK. A few seconds later, tail
gunner Ken Vantries calls back to report. "I think I'm hurt"! I ask if he
needs help; he says, "I think so". I call radio operator Jim Tschudy and ask him
to go back and advise me of Ken's condition. Several minutes pass and then
Jim exclaims, "This guy says he thinks he is hurt; hell! I can put my fist in
the hole in his thigh!" I instruct Jim to get Ken up to the radio compartment
and take care of his wound. Jim now reports that Ken is beginning to feel
severe pain, but there is little bleeding, and Jim says he is going to give
him a shot of morphine. No one else has been injured, nor is there any apparent
serious damage to Sitting Pretty.
I monitor channel C - the fighter-escort channel - and get a report of a
few bandits in the area. Ball-turret operator Don Oviatt says three Me 109s are
attacking a straggling B-17 and adds that a flight of P-47s have just
appeared on the scene and is driving them off. Small wonder we in the bombers call
the fighter jocks "little friends". They actually go out looking for a fight.
I look out of my window; the cloud cover below has changed from scattered to
10/10 covered. We are approaching the Brussels area and I make a 10-degree
correction to the left. But too late! Suddenly, the sky is filled with huge,
red-and-orange flak bursts. They're on the money! I feel the plane lurch and
hear the flak burst. As it hits the plane, the shrapnel sounds like rattling
pebbles in an empty tin can. Almost immediately, I see the oil pressure on
no. 3 start to drop. I call to Lloyd to feather no. 3, but it does not respond
and continues to windmill. Thick, black smoke pours out of the nacelle.
Lemaster, right waist, reports the smoke, but says there are no flames. Be
thankful for small favors. Riley, now standing between the pilot and copilot seats,
excitedly points to the oil-pressure gauge on no. 4 engine. It is falling. I
call to feather no. 4. It responds properly and soon slows to a complete
stop, blades turned into the slipstream.
I increase prop pitch on 1 and 2 to high rpm and add full throttle; no. 1
responds, but no. 2 does not. We are unable to maintain our position in the
formation and have to drop out, losing altitude at about 700 feet per minute. I
try to trim up the plane as well as I can, but it wants to yaw toward the
right. I find it difficult to keep the dead engines high and avoid flipping
over into a split-S. Riley begins to transfer fuel to the left-side tanks, and
this helps the trim a bit. Lloyd calls for a crew check. No one else is hurt!
Meanwhile, I'm on the Air Sea Rescue channel, calling "Mayday! Mayday!" I get
an immediate response to key their frequency so they can get a fix on us.
Navigator Joey Wagner comes up to the cockpit with his estimated position.
There's no chance of making it back to Framlingham. Air Sea Rescue calls and
gives us a heading for Manston, the RAF base at Dover, and says it will
dispatch Air Sea Rescue boats to pick us up in the Channel. Lloyd tells the crew to
put two Mae Wests on Ken; everyone else is to put one on, move to the radio
compartment and get set to ditch. When we ditch, two crew members are to
climb out of the radio compartment, secure the rafts and assist Ken into one.
Jim Tschudy cannot release the ammo box from his gun, so he fires off all of
the ammo. He burns both hands severely as he tries to remove the hot barrel
from his gun. No we are slowly approaching the coast. I look out my side
window and see two P-47s sliding alongside of us; they cannot slow down to our
speed, but give us a salute, wag their wings and sart to climb. Having them so
near helps to ease the tension; it means there are no enemy fighters
Our course will take us out over the Channel between Oostende and Dunkerque.
We are now at about 8,200 feet. Lightening the plane has helped slow our
descent and improve the trim, but engines 1 and 2 are running at two different
sppeds and out of synch. This causes them to vibrate violently, and I'm afraid
one of them may tear loose.
As we near the Channel, more ground fire, but there is little I can do in
the way of evasive action. I'm afraid to turn into the dead engines, but I do
dive a bit and bank to the left, then climb slightly, aided by the increase in
speed gained in the dive. Again we hear the shrapnel pepper the plane and
see the automatic-weapon tracers around us. It lasts only about a half minute,
but seems like forever. I just pray the good Lord gives us the ability,
strength and wisdom to hold out a little longer. Lloyd again checks on the crew.
No new injuries. Now we are over the Channel. We have low, scattered clouds,
and in some of the breaks, I can see the white cliffs of Dover. Joe Morris,
the bombardier says he sees the wake of two boats coming from shore and
approaching our line of flight.
I get an immense feeling of relief at this news. However, we are now down to
1,400 feet and I am trying to maintain altitude. The cliffs loom before us.
It's going to be close. Turbulence is picking up, and I am trying to keep up
the airspeed to avoid stalling out. We're down to 800 feet, but I think we
can make it over the cliffs.
Lloyd calls Air Sea Rescue and advises them we will not ditch. He also tells
them we owe them a drink! We stay on course and barely skip over a few
trees, then just ahead of us I see the biggest most beautiful runway in all the
world. I don't even remember calling the tower, but as I was about to throttle
back a bit, no. 2 engine coughed and died! A few seconds later, we touched
down. I felt the plane veer to the right but was able to keep it from ground
looping. The right tire had been hit by flak and was in shreds! When we came
to a stop, no. 3 prop, which had been windmilling for more than an hour, gave
a grinding curnch and fell off the engine. At this stage, she may have been
overdoing the drama, but Sitting Pretty had brought us back to England.
John Riley fires off a red flare to alert the medics we have injured men
aboard. The ambulances arrive in seconds and rush Ken and Jim to the station
hospital. Several RAF officers and enlisted men arrive in two lorries to survey
the damage. Ed Allen and John Lemaster start to count the holes in the
bottom of the right wing. They get to 157 before we are loaded into the lorries
and taken to base operations.
We were interrogated by two RAF intelligence officers and then taken to the
base hospital to check on Ken and Jim. Ken was under sedation and ready to
be wheeled to surgery. His hands were folded on his chest. Left waist gunner
John Lemaster stepped out of the door, picked some flowers out of a small
garden and placed the little bouquet in Ken's folded hands. Our guys still hadn't
lost their sens of humor!
Jim is released with bandages the size of boxing gloves on each hand. As we
leave the hospital, another ambulance pulls up and the medics rush a wounded
P-38 pilot into the receiving room. He has been wounded in both thighs and
has a broken arm. We are told he was found by the Air Sea Rescue boat, hanging
on to his life raft in the spot where we were supposed to ditch. The ASR team
had no prior knowledge of his having gone down. Call it an act of God!
After being assigned rooms for the night and getting cleaned up, we headed
for the officers' club and bar for the recover and repair that can only be
found in bottles from the good people of Scotland.
The next day, one of our other ships comes down to pick up up, and we take
off for Framlingham. As we pass the control tower I say goodbye to Sitting
Pretty. She was a great plane, she got us home from a great many raids.
Eventually, she was returned to the 569th. Then on 29 May 1944, she was assigned to
Wallace Shymanski and crew for a mission to Leipzig, Germany. They were
forced to crash land safely in the Belgian Ardennes, and that was the final
chapter for Sitting Pretty.
Over these many years, I've often thought of the P-38 pilot and wondered
what happend to him. I decided to look him up. I wrote to the archivist at the
RAF base at Manston who confirmed a P-38 pilot was rescued on April 13, 1944.
He was a member of the 55th Fighter Group. His name was Melvin Hawes. Then I
contacted Social Security. They had a listing of a Melvin A. Hawes and a
Melvin Jr.; Melvin Sr. died in 1991. I had waited a year too long to locate him.
What he had successfully eluded in combat had finally caught up with him, as
it will with all of us.
Submitted by son, John Osadnick
Created on ... January 07, 2009