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RR Reminisces

Richard Russell snippet
Dow Theory Letters
Posted Dec 28, 2012

It was May 7, 1945. I was in Senigallia (an Air Force base near Ancona, Italy), during World War II. I was a bombardier flying with the 321st Bomb Group of the Twelfth Air Force. My job was to crouch over and operate the top secret Norden bombsight, located in the nose of a B-25 Mitchell bomber. On every mission, we would lose at least one plane. We were supposed to fly a total of 50 missions. It didn't take a mathematical genius to figure out my odds on being shot down before my 50 missions were up. Actually, it was almost guaranteed that if I continued to fly, I would be shot down before my 50 missions were up.

That ominous math continued to haunt me. In fact, I toyed with the idea of telling my CO the very next day that I'd "had it." I was through flying. The worst that could happen to me was that I might be court-martialed or I might be put in section 8 as a brain-shattered nut case. I thought and rethought about whether I should actually go ahead with my fantasy-plan. Daylight turned to dusk and dusk turned to scary, rat-filled night. I tossed in my blanket roll in a quandary and in a sweat.

Morning came. Should I carry out my mad plan? I woke up to the sound of cheering and shouting. It was May 8, 1945. I staggered out of my tent, and asked the nearest officer, "What the hell is going on?" He was waving a bottle of spumante and spraying it all over himself, "Didn't you hear, the War is over! Germany has surrendered!" I couldn't believe my ears. The thought went through my brain like a knife. "Saved by the bell." I felt that God had given me a ticket to stay alive.

But it wasn't that easy. The next day I was given orders -- a thirty day leave with my family and then I was to be redeployed to the Pacific and switched to a different type of plane -- it was the new Douglas A-26 Invader. That was a plane I had always wanted to fly in -- it was a two-place plane -- just a pilot and bombardier gunner, and it was fast -- much faster than my B-25. A few days later my crew and I had orders to head for the States. Our route was to fly with five other B-25s down the west coast of Africa, to the Ivory Coast, then head across the Pacific Ocean to Ascension Island, fly from Ascension to Natal, Brazil, and then north to Dutch Guinea, and continue north to the States. I might add that Dutch Guinea (Devil's Island is off the coast) was the hottest, most humid country that I've ever been in. My orders were to report to the Air Force authorities in New York and from there to train on the A-26 before flying to the Pacific and war with Japan.

I arrived in New York on the same day that a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State building. My parents were hysterical, believing that it was my plane that had crashed. I spent two weeks drinking in the City with my buddy, Captain Al Robbins -- all the while trying to forget about the war in the Pacific. My thought -- I got out of Europe alive, but would I be as lucky in the Pacific? At the end of my initial two weeks, I heard cheering and saw the newspaper headlines. A second atomic bomb had been released over Japan, and V-J had arrived. Over the heads of his savage military brass, Japan's Emperor Hirohito affirmed that his people had suffered enough. Hirohito demanded that the war be ended. Japan had bowed to unconditional surrender. The fierce war against the Empire of Japan had ended. I had been saved again by what seemed to me to be a second miracle. And I was still alive with two arms and two legs -- alive by the grace of God.

A week later I applied to NYU, and I was on the road to a college degree.

(Below -- Douglas A-26 "Invader." Actually, a mixture of a fighter and a medium bomber -- with six 50 caliber machine guns in the nose and carrying a 500 pound bomb)


Richard Russell
website: Dow Theory Letters
email: Dow Theory Letters

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