THE WARTIME EXPERIENCES OF BENTLEY WEITZMAN, BOMBARDIER, 5AF, 380 BG, 530 BS, SOUTH PACIFIC
Dear Taigh Ramey:
Attached with this short note is part one of my WWII Memories. The remaining 4 parts to follow.
My presentation to high school history students is basically a condensed version of my written memories. My talks range from 40 minutes to one hour depending on the time allocation of the class.
I take the students on a combat mission including the bomb run, so I want them to have some knowledge of how the Norden Bombsight works. I explain (displaying a sketch) of how the bombs are dropped automatically when the two indices meet; I show the cross hairs on a screen using a transparency , a projector and a screen and explain the use of the knobs to keep the crosshairs on the target. Because of time restrictions the Norden Bombsight explanation has to be done quickly but thorough enough for a fast understanding.
I don't have a picture of the Norden to display and if you can forward several of the pictures we discussed, it would enable me to project a more accurate image of the bombsight to the students. I will be most appreciative of the pictures and literature which are available.
My sincere thanks to you for your warm reception to my recent telephone call.
Bentley is the one on the right end of the bottom row.
It was January 1943 when we boarded a
freezing troop train at the
It was balmy, it was breezy, it was full of
sparkling stars and a moon with a sardonic smile that said "welcome
Aviation Cadets". The scenario was calm and fantastic at the same
time---for one glorious hour. That's how long it took to be voluntarily dumped
on the corner of 30th and
The next day we moved in. Some of the guys
would like to have moved out. Dirty mattress covers, no sheets, 5 in a room,
double time up and down the stairs-- all put together in one nice cozy package.
The elevator? Don't make jokes---we were naive young guys. The
Who can forget the . marches down Collins Ave. singing the Air Corp song at it's screeching loudest when passing a civilian hotel and who will never forget not having GI shoes for 3 weeks and marching, day after day, with cardboard stuffed in our loafers to cover the holes?. Those were days etched in timeless memories.
And how about KP at the fabulous Cadillac Hotel and marching down Indian Creek Drive to various golf courses for hours of close order drill in the hot afternoon sun. It was devastating and overpowering but it was the Air Corp and we were young and resolved to get through the training no matter what happened.
It was all new to the new Air Corp trainee. An unbelievable, dramatic, no holds bared change from civilian life. The naked truth reared its ugly head with the tough, inescapable knowledge our country was at the beginning of a world wide war and the prognostication of the ending was obscured in a fictitious time frame.
We were close to the German submarine patrols; the war was in our back pocket. Now you grow up and reach into your brain and come away with the realization you are part of a powerful force dedicated to defeat the enemy regardless of sacrifices.
It was going to be a world of Aviation Cadet nomenclature, months of great expectations and the steady, unrelenting progress of winning the war was now held in the capable hands of the young and innocent.
Time flew by quickly and it was now time to move on. And so we left the Beach with fond and solemn memories and now it was the beginning of some serious training.
From the Beach to Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. for intense classroom studies on physics, mathematics and world geography plus dynamic physical training and a small dose of flying at the local airport.
This was a solid college program and gave the potential cadets a background for important lessons to come.
After three months of a kinetic lifestyle,
we were off to
The Air Corp had many scintillating tests programmed for the little boys, now young men. Psychological, map reading, math, hand-eye coordination, eyes, hearing, physical fitness, intelligence, depth perception, color blindness, and a host of others which I can't remember. After 3 weeks of being screened, interviewed, tested, poked, prodded and perused and confessing to my indiscretions, the big news was posted---I made Bombardier and I didn't have the vaguest idea of what it really meant.
Our group was now shipped to
We marched for hours in long parades, ran
mucho miles every day, learned Morse code, learned with split second timing to
identify airplanes and warships and learned to respect officers and the uniform.
Hard work and tough training were handsomely rewarded. The Air Corp gave us an
occasional week end pass to visit
On the amazing positive side is where the
ingenuity and shrewdness of the
The master overall plan of instruction was to take Aviation Cadets with little or no mechanical ability and show them how to take apart and put together the 100 some pieces of a 50 caliber machine gun. Time allocation to learn---One Week. Time allocation to perform-----30 minutes. Kicker in the master plan---do it blindfolded. In the eyes of a shaky Cadet this was a difficult project.
But we practiced and worked unrelenting for 7 straight days, 8 hours a day to learn the 50 caliber gun and then the blindfold was put on. At this juncture in time, all the moves and all the pieces became part of our existence and the blindfold only sharpened our ability to think on a higher level and it provided the positive concentration to get the job done. A huge kudo for the Air Corp.
After several grinding weeks of firing the 50 at stationery and moving targets on the ground, it's time to shoot the 50 in the air from a B17. A cloth sleeve attached to another B17 is the target. All rounds of ammo were color coded with each color representing a shooter; thus the colored holes in the sleeve represented a hit and the scoring was based on the number of hits divided by the number of rounds fired.
Finally the Kingman drudge was over and the big announcement was posted.
I walked into a huge classroom expecting to see the Norden Bombsight, instead I was face to face with a 5' high wooden mock-up of the Norden. Wheels, knobs, dials, bubble levels, spokes, plates and bars all meshing together, reminiscent of a Rube Goldberg invention.
As you turned the top dial you could see every move and the interaction with every piece within the structure. Basically, this is how the Aviation Cadet discovered the dark, unspoken and complicated secrets of the bombsight.
We studied navigation, the theory of the bombsight, the theory of bombing and we learned about the destructive bombs---from fragmentation to two thousand pounders. Long gone were the early enthusiastic, unaffected, Cadet days of marching to the drummer's beat and singing the Air Corp song.
Now it's time to move to a serious plateau---time to fly and bomb the targets.
We flew in a twin engine plane, equipped with the Norden Bombsight with two potential bombardiers, an instructor, and a pilot as the crew. Wooden shacks about 1000 square feet in size and located in the desert were our targets. The bombs were live, the instructors insensitive to stupid mistakes and the hot shot pilots were especially tough and contemptuousness when they put you on the right heading at 5,000 feet and you had no clue as to the target location.
Within 3 months all the difficult problems and all the exasperating situations fell into the right slots and the overall results became exceedingly positive. The skill to bomb a target from 10,000 feet with knife-like accuracy became obvious and efficiency scores and ratings soared.
In May of 1944, I graduated from
We had 3 short months to become a cohesive team. 10 young guys with different backgrounds, different personalities and different skills were assigned to form a new B24 bomber combat crew.
All had been highly trained for months---all dedicated and committed---all team players and each man had reached the summit of his action in the Air Corp------now a member of a bomber crew determined to bomb the enemy and fight the war in any part of the world.
It was the summer of 1944 and fight
time was in short supply. The Japanese, all over the Pacific, were beginning to
feel the relentless
Our new combat crew---Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Engineer, Radio Operator, Tail Gunner, Upper Turret Gunner and two Waist Gunners, working long and arduous hours, meshed together as a proficient, disciplined unit.
Almost every day and night we few simulated
bombing and navigation missions up and down the massive
All too soon the 3 months came to an end and reality set in. All our training and all the hard work lead to a poignant fact---What did we know about actual combat? NOTHING. Ambivalence reared its frightful head again. We were shooting craps with our futures.
Precise orders came in---fly to Hamilton
always amazed me that the US Air Corp would have the confidence, the belief and
the trust in 21 year olds to give them a half-a-million dollar war machine,
recently off the assembly line and say "fly it to
The sun was shining brightly that early
September morning in 1944 when we took off, fully loaded, from Hamilton Field,
flew over the majestic
From the big H it was island hopping all
The skies were a soft blue and the clouds seemed friendly, but we were flying over war zones and we were constantly on the alert for enemy shipping and enemy planes. All guns were fully loaded and all gunners ready for action. This was first tingling sensation of actually being involved in the war.
The 380th was a tough, battle seasoned
group of combat veterans. In June of 1943 they were sent to
The 380th fiercely terminated these air attacks by destroying enemy bases, aircraft and supplies. This group flew and fought courageously, with tenacity and with the inner capacity to face danger and with the determination to neutralize and annihilate the enemy. There were many heroes who paid in blood and with their lives. For all of these accomplishments the 380th Bomb Group was awarded 2 Presidential Citations.
It was now April of 1945 and the great
invasion to take the
Quickly we moved our base from
Our crew was now seasoned, courageous combat veterans. We flew and bombed every mission assigned to us---the easy ones and the tough ones. On a daily basis it seemed routine, but it wasn't. Every mission had its' danger--- take off with a full bomb load---engine failure---enemy aircraft---enemy flak---only the young could manage the life-threatening exposure of aerial combat.
Bentley is the second from the right on the bottom row.
One of the specific, difficult targets was
An interesting anecdote----Coming back from
It was now August of 1945 and time to move
A few days later the reality of this
awesome bomb was heard. While watching a movie on a cloudless night on
capitulated--- surrendered---they were finished---the War was over!!! Amiss a litany of yelling and the raucous sound of exploding shells, from our ships in the harbor, I experienced a timeless sense of relief. It's over, it's really over---no more missions, no more flying with fear, I'm finally going home.
Thank you for writing this great account of your experiences Bentley. We really appreciate this and what you did for our country!
Should you, or someone that you know, want to share your wartime experiences with us please send them to me and I will post them for others to read. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
TO ALL OF OUR COUNTRY'S VETERANS, WE HERE AT VINTAGE AIRCRAFT WOULD LIKE TO SAY:
THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID FOR OUR COUNTRY!
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