If at First You
Don't Succeed ...
Lt. Eugene L. Senfield - North 1 Compound
down 2/22/44 - 97th BG 341st BS
LT. Milton H. CISCOE, Pilot
LT. Eugene L. SENFIELD, Co-Pilot
LT. Robert S. TAYLOR, Navigator
LT. Milton C. STANEK, Bombardier
T/SGT. Sam MOORE, Engineer
S/SGT. George T. WATERS, Ass't Engineer
T/SGT. Tom B. FOOTE, Radio - KIA
S/SGT. John S. LABUDA, Ass't Radio - KIA
S/SGT. F. J. McCAFFERY, Gunner
S/SGT. Richard L. MAJOR, Gunner - KIA
was a nemesis to
us. Four consecutive mornings we were briefed for it, and each morning
we left for the briefing room with a chill inside us. Regensburg was a
tough nut to crack. The first two times the mission was cancelled; the
third was begun, but weather necessitated our return. The fourth was it,
and I oft times wish it, too, had been cancelled.
We had a circular route,
flying from our B-17 Base in Italy via Jugoslavia, Croatia, and northern
Italy to the aircraft plant at Regensburg. No flak or fighters were seen
along our route, but, man, was it cold at 24,000
thermometer read 45 degrees below, and ice completely covered the
plexiglas nose. Poor Taylor had an awful time navigating, for he could
barely see the ground because of the ice and the heavy undercast. This
was Tuesday, February 22,
1944, a day I'll
addition to our regular crew of ten men, there was a cameraman aboard.
Because of a malfunction of his camera, he went forward to act as nose
We flew along with the
30Ist Bomb Group (we were in the 97th) in a double-Group formation, but
as we approached our target a complete undercast made the 301st decide
to take on the secondary target. However, our Group Leader chose to bomb
on his navigator's estimated time of arrival.
Heavy flak hit us over the target, and a brief break in the undercast
gave us a look at our target; it was destroyed. Perfect bombing! As the
flak burst around us we involuntarily dodged, and butterflies jumping up
and down in my stomach had a heyday. Anyone who doesn't feel fear during
a heavy barrage is too busy, void of emotion, or a cockeyed liar.
One of our left engines
was hit, signaling us by the oil pressure gauge, and then by violent
vibration. Before Ciscoe could feather the prop, the cowling came off,
followed by various parts of the propeller assembly. Expecting the wing
or the engine to leave the ship made me sweat. To make the situation
complete, we started dropping back.
feather the prop and its windmilling slowed us down. We then saw the
fifteen enemy fighters (twin- and single-engined Messerschmitts)
below-and coming up. Our other left engine went out just before the
attack; with two engines inoperative we rapidly dropped back.
Two passes were made by
fighters on the 301st as they pulled up to rejoin our outfit. We tried
to join the 301st, but it was no go. When the fighters saw us, crippled
and losing altitude, they came at us. The first attack was from our
left, at the nose of our plane. To quote Lt. Taylor's story: "I had
Stanek and the cameraman working frantically with three triangles
[celluloid navigation instruments] trying to scrape ice off the windows.
When fighters were called off by our gunners we didn't see them. The
first thing I knew, the cameraman grabbed his face and dropped. I
thought he was gone, and all I'd heard was a whine by my left ear.
Stanek and I tried to help him, but it was then that we went into the
spin. I've never been so scared in all my life. We were stuck, literally
glued to the floor by centrifugal force, and I couldn't even move my
fingers. What a
horrible feeling! I can promise you I left that ship in nothing flat
when it momentarily came out of the spin at 16,000 feet. All three of us
made it; the cameraman had been spattered with shell fragments and
suffered only minor injuries."
Continuous attacks were being made on our tail, and a steady stream of
tracers and 20-mm. shells made their way up to our compartment. Sgt.
LaBuda, a steady veteran of twenty-two missions, began to call over the
interphone, "Fighters at 0600!" in a strange, screaming yell. We could
only conclude one thing: his guns had jammed! This tail attack cost us
Sgts. Major, Foote, and LaBuda; the last was killed when our tail
assembly broke off. The ship's controls refused to function, and our
plane fell off to the right in a spin.
I shall never, to my
dying day, forget those seconds. The only part of me that functioned was
my heart; it beat in my ears in a terrific wail.
The screaming of
the plane as it wound up was like nothing earthly; no man-made noise
could ever equal that sound. My every nerve was frozen and I couldn't
even swallow. I was unable to break the spin. Ciscoe had pulled
alarm, but it did me no good at all.
I figured, "This
is it!" but with no comforting reaction.
16,000 we suddenly came out of the spin. The bomb bay doors were stuck,
and the engineer led me in a spurt for the navigator's escape hatch; Lt.
Ciscoe was behind us. As we hit the catwalk we saw Taylor, Stanek, and
the cameraman leave the plane. Then the ship went off again into another
spin! It was like a thing gone mad; we didn't know what it would do
next-or when. Again that whining, screaming, pounding and the inability
of my body to function. What a sensation!
10,000 the ship righted and started a long climb. The engineer and I
were out in a very few seconds, but Ciscoe didn't make it. The plane,
after another spin, crashed a few seconds later.
Upon landing I suffered a broken ankle, but even at that, old terra
firma felt good. German home guards met us; and we learned the fate of
the rest of the crew.
From ”Behind Barbed Wire”
by Morris J. Roy