| Tech Sergeant
Eddie Graham and his wife Hilda
8th Air Force
My memories on looking back to that time are vivid in my mind.
I was in a sub-depot attached to a B-17 group stationed at Beccles,
England with the rank of Tech Sgt. and was section head over 25
mechanics. We worked 12 hour shifts from midnight till noon but were on
call at any time depending on how many planes came back damaged,
we rotated shifts every two weeks. Our job was to repair all
except very major battle damage to planes that suffered damage in
combat. We replaced engines, wings, fuel tanks landing gear, (salvaging
many parts from planes that could not be made airworthy) patched
holes in the fuselage caused by anti aircraft or fighter planes. We
repaired any damage we could handle with the equipment we had
For a couple weeks before D-Day we were told
to get as many aircraft air worthy as possible but we all assumed
that the air raids over Europe would be increased. We made every
plane possible ready to fly into combat, even the drone plane used
to line the group into battle formation was made capable for combat.
This plane would take of first and circle the base and the other
planes would take of in their proper order and get into formation
following the drone. Then they would fly of to the target for
that nights mission. On the night the offensive began planes from
all the surrounding air bases were taking off and getting into
formation, it was then we realized that something very special was
going to happen, we did not know what but knew it was going to be
something big. Unfortunately the weather turned bad with poor visibility so
many planes had to return to base unable to complete their mission.
The noise level was extremely high with the sound of so many
planes in the air at the same time, it was unbelievable. Later
we found out that this was the beginning of the big offensive D-Day.
This is how I remembered it.
My worst experience came after D-Day when a group
of B24 planes returning to a neighboring base were
making their landing approach with landing lights on and two
German fighter planes shot down several of them. The problem
was the gunners on these planes got lax and dismantled their
guns (strictly against orders) before landing and consequently had
no way to defend themselves, it was dusk when
these planes followed ours over the coast of England by hiding in
the overcast skies and were not detected by the coastal radar, by flying just
above our planes. The German planes were shot down by our fighter
planes but too late to save these planes.
At this time our base was gearing down getting
ready to come back to the states so there was not much for our depot
group tjerefore some of us were assigned the gruesome
task of recovering the remains of those who perished that day. These
planes went down in the swampy marshes near the coast with only
the top of the fuselages visible. We took axes and cut through to
gain access. Our orders were to remove the classified equipment
and the bodies. This memory will live with me forever.
I seem to recall a few days earlier there was a lot more activity
with the big troop carrier trucks on our hi-ways going toward the
coast. The expressions on the faces of the young soldiers seemed
somewhat grim as if they knew they were going on an important
I remember that the weather was dreary and early
in the morning on June 6Th, 1944 there was a roaring that kept
building up that I had never heard before. It sounded like
millions of bees only much louder. I glanced up into the sky and
saw what seemed to hundreds of planes taking off from all the bases
around where I lived. I could hardy believe my eyes, many other
people were standing around looking at this spectacle. The roar
of the engines on the planes was almost deafening and the sky was
darkened by so many planes in the air.
We all had a sense of fear as to just what
was happening, we felt surely that some of these planes would collide
flying so close together. Later that day we kept listening and watching
for planes returning to their bases and alas many did not make it.
I remember just like it was yesterday. Later we learned
it was the beginning of D-day. Our thoughts turned to those troops
who were going to battle to end this war which had been going on
I said a silent prayer as I am sure others did
for the safety of these brave young soldiers knowing in my heart
that there would be many casualties. Many were storming the
beaches while others were fighting from the skies above, with planes
being shot down and many lives were lost. No one will really ever
know unless they were there and witnessed all the horror seeing
there comrades facing a cruel cruel enemy, the sand on the beaches
turned red from the blood shed by so many heroes.
What price was paid that day for freedom which
many did not live to share and many more wounded whose lives
were changed forever. We see many in wheelchairs everyday and it
is so sad that many of our young people today do not realize the
price these veterans paid for the freedom they enjoy today. We were
so happy when WW2 ended in England (V. E. Day March 8.1945),
people were laughing, singing and dancing in the street as peace
had come for us at last. War was still raging in the Pacific
with many more battles to be fought and won before victory could
be declared on (August 8, 1945). This was supposed
to be the war to end all wars but alas this was not to be.