The 94th Bomb Group, to which my Uncle James was assigned in 1943 held a reunion in San Antonio in 1995. I had been attempting to locate other members of his B-17 crew, or anyone at all who might have remembered him. I borrowed a tape recorder, so I would have another good reason to talk to as many as possible, and went around asking just one question:
"What was your single most vivid memory of that time?"
It's a good question to ask of a large group of people: they stop and think, and distill their experiences, and the answers are all revealing.... and as variable as people are themselves.
".... I bought a bicycle, in England it rains every day, so you and your bicycle need to get yourself a slicker, and you in business! I learned to dislike that bicycle promptly, it didn't take long, but I rode that bicycle until I left, and I didn't sell mine, I just left it where the last time I rode it."
1Lt. Miller Pope, Pilot
"Seeing the aircraft go out in the mornings, counting them out in the morning and counting them home, and seeing them come in damaged and shooting red flares which meant wounded on board... we could see the 94th land if the wind was in one direction, if it was another, we could see the 385th land at Great Ashfield."
Wendy Hall, Civilian, Bury St. Edmunds
"I was sort of like an MP, guarding the ammunition dump. I'd watch the V-bombs coming over in the sky, with a drone, oh, an awful, dreadful drone. If they kept going, you were OK, but if they ran out of fuel..."
Pvt. Edward Meltzer, Leiston
"The Christmas Eve that Colonel Castle got shot down. That evening the field was inundated with B-17s because the other fields around couldn't, they were socked in with fog. The next morning, it was a fairyland... there was a hoarfrost, all the planes were white with frost. The trees, one side was white, the other side black. The sun came up, and the whole countryside was glistening."
PFC Carl Nowacki, Base Defense AA Gunner
"Meeting everyone on the crew and working as a team. It was a great thing, that you carry all the rest of your life. As far as rough missions, yeah, we had our share of those. Lost a wheel one day, lost an engine over Berlin. You remember those things."
1Lt. Irving Christianson, Co-Pilot
"My first mission, with my crew, wondering if I could do it! Even after our training, I was oncerned if I could do it."
Lt.Col. Tony Bommarito, Co-Pilot
"I can't remember what mission it was, but we were taking off and one flap stuck, and we were going down the runway sideways."
SSgt. Harold Jefferies, Waist-Gunner
"Christmas Eve, 1944. 2,000 some-odd bombers in the air, the most ever assembled. In the evening, when they came back, our base was one of only three open. We had seven other units land at our base that night... one mile run-way, six or seven airplanes on the runway at one time, landing!"
TSgt Grant Synder, NCOIC Technical Supplies
"Takeoffs, because out plane was loaded double what it should have been hauling, and we would just get airborne and there went the end of the runway! It was just that close every time we took off, just scared me every time, every mission, all 25 of them, seeing the end of the runway disappear and we'd be just off the ground a little ways."
TSgt. Milton Hawkins, Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner
"I was scared all the time, of course--- wasn't everybody? Landing in a farmyard, coming home from a mission only a couple engines left. We landed in a farm, wheels up, we didn't know whether we had cotter pins in the bombs or not. We couldn't remember, so we all ran like fools as soon as the plane stopped."
1Lt. Bill Reed, Bombardier
"I got caught in the turret one time when the plane was one fire. Took the waist gunners to get me out because I lost all power. I'm in the turret with no 'chute! When I went over(seas) the newspaper said "little red-headed Larry Dunn" ... but when I came home it had a blondish tint and never went red again."
SSgt Lawrence Dunn, Ball Turret Gunner
"Cold. It was usually 60 degrees below zero at altitude and that's pretty frigid weather. The worst day we had for cold was, we were going out over the North Sea and we always test-fired our guns... a spent 50-caliber cartridge came drifting (back) and hit the nose of our plance, broke a hole in the nose about big enough to put a basketball through. That made it pretty drafty, up in the nose; 60-below wind at 300 miles an hour is not much fun. The bombardier took his parachute and jammed it the best he could in that hole, and then he had to sit on it to keep it here! He had a cold rear-end before the mission was over!"
1Lt. Pat O'Meara, Navigator
"I flew fifteen missions as a private which was very unheard of, because I got busted for hunting in Sir. John's forest with a Thompson sub-machine gun, when the Battle of the Bulge was going in and we got scrubbed and the rabbits were coming out! I got court-martialed for taking a firearm off the installation. Fifteen missions as a private and ended up a Sgt. when I should have been a Staff-Sgt.!"
Sgt. Keith Dewey, Tail-Gunner
"When we splashed down in the North Sea, 6th of August. Picked up by the Germans the next day, August 7th, and I spent the rest of the war in Stalag Lift 4."
SSgt. Charles Brown, Top-Turret Gunner
"More than once, flying over enemy territory and seeing our right-wingman B-17 blow up. Smoke and sometimes seeing parachutes and sometimes not."
Lt.Col. Bert Withom, Operations Officer
"Getting wounded. I was hit by a piece of flack over Munich. July 13, 1944. Trying to figure out how things are, you come back with all kinds of holes in the airplane and nobody hurt. The day I was hit, there was only one hole in the airplane."
SSgt. Wilber Richardson, Ball-Turret Gunner
"There were so many terrible ones, with all the people who were killed... but all the guys left their dogs at the club when they were flying. We had all these dogs; what was amazing, all those dogs never fought. And one dog, his name was Satchel, he had two puppies in the club; it was a she, not a he! And the fliers trained those puppies to do funny things, like untie their shoelaces."
Louise Palmer, American Red Cross, Rougham
"I was the squadron intelligence officer and people say "What?" and I say "Well, some of us had to be intelligent, you know." June the 4th, 1944 was the night before D-Day, and we had a mission planned for the next morning, but Eisenhower postponed the invasion for 24 hours. And all of us (who) knew about all the details were locked up in our rooms, they wouldn't even let us go to the bathroom without a guard. They thought someone would tell, you know."
Capt. L. Roy Babb, Squadron Intelligence Officer
"Raid on Berlin, our radio operator got hit--- he wasn't killed. We just had a great time over there, as great a time as you could have in a situation like that. We had a great crew and we all came through OK except our navigator which I think got lost, but we weren't sure 'cause they took him away from us when we got over there and put him on a lead crew. And we never saw him after that but there was a rumor he was shot down. We've never been able to locate him."
TSgt. Dudley Brown, Top-Turret Gunner/Flight Engineer
"Having to face the flack barrage on our bomb runs, just sitting there knowing there was nothing I could do about it. Facing fighters did not really concern me too much, because being a brash young kid I was better than they were, so they were at the disadvantage, not me. Going into a bomb run, seeing flack hit, that's what I remember, more than anything else."
SSgt. Henry Arnold, Ball-Turret Gunner
"I don't know what was worse for me, flack or the engine on fire. On a bomb run, you fly straight and level, the bombardier's controlling the airplane, not the pilot or co-pilot. They turn it over to him, because he's got a computing bomb-sight. He's got a little knob down there that he turns on, and he flies that plane. He gets into a position that he can drop the bombs and hit it! We hope, so we don't have to come back. But the flack, like he said, you can't do anything about that. You don't know where it's coming from, you don't know where it's going to hit at, but fighters you can always shoot back at 'em. We spent a lot of ammunition on 'em, don't know if we did any damage or not."
SSgt Allen Rakes, Top-Turret Gunner/Flight Engineer
"German fighters. They gave us a hard time."
Capt. Luke Blanche, Pilot
"The raid over Merseberg, when our airplane was shot up badly by anti-aircraft fire. We managed to drop our bombs on target and head home, but the plane was badly damaged. We lost one engine soon after we left the target, and had to feather another engine propeller shortly after that. We were struggling along to get back home by ourselves on one and a half good engines. We were throwing everything we could out of the plane to lighten the load, we expected to ditch in the English Channel, but we did make it back to base."
SSgt. PrestonClark, Waist-Gunner
SSgt. Dixie Grinnalds, Bombardier (Enlisted)
"When we were loading the planes, and I was screwing a fuse into one of the bombs. One of the bombardiers came back with a load of bombs, like they went over and couldn't see through the clouds if they were over France or someplace like that--- they'd bring them back. And they were supposed to put a cotter key back in, so when the bombs would drop, the thing would spin and detonate. And I got this one fuse screwed in, and the thing started ticking! I screwed it out as far as I could!"
Cpl. John Becker, Ordnance
"35 missions, never had a wounded man on our ship, never lost an engine. It was a very famous B-17, made I-don't-know many missions over there, and we used it for quite some time, and some (other) crew borrowed it and never came back in it! We're still mad at them."
TSgt. O.J. Moss, Gunner "Myassis Dragon"
"Berlin, April 18th, 1944. We lost ten airplanes out of about 20."
SSgt Charles Sauer, Waist-Gunner on "Myassis Dragon"
"They got us up very early in the morning, 2:30, 3:00 in the morning, and missions were very long, we averaged over eight hours. The weather was good and we flew very frequently, which was exhausting but got the thing over with in a hurry. I guess the most spectacular thing was in three days in a row we went to Cologne and our crew led one of the missions one day. You saw about three thousand planes when we flew out and came back ten miles north of the planes coming in. We took off, bombed Cologne, turned around and came back, and when we were landing, the planes were still going over. A steady stream of planes going over."
TSgt. Bill Staley, Radio Operator/Gunner "My Ideal"
"Mission on October 6, 1944. In England, the officers were billeted together. There were four officers on a crew: pilot, co-pilot, navigator and bombardier. There were three crews lived in a Quonset, a total of twelve. To make a long story short, we were hit heavily by German fighters and we came back and there were four people in the barrack instead of twelve."
Maj. Seth Caperton, Pilot
"One of my duties was acting as intelligence officer, interrogating crews when they needed extras, coming back from large missions. There were several missions when we interrogated not in the building, but out on the hardstand."
Capt. Charles Rankin, Staff Judge Advocate
"A crash, Rougham, Bury St. Edmunds, January 28th 1945. We didn't have enough airspeed, and the tale is the pilot was looking at his briefing sheets and his mission information and letting the co-pilot take it off, and the co-pilot got a little nervous, that's just my opinion. Took it off too quick, not enough airspeed. Now I think the pilot tried to help him, and he dived the plane a little bit to get more airspeed, and the left wing dropped and hugged the ground, and we crashed... I had a broken arm, chipped tooth, a big knot on my head and when the medic come to the crash and ask me where I hurt I said "I think my right arm is broke, high up, or even broke in the shoulder. " Anyway, he gave me a quarter-grain of morphine and that's the last I remember until I came too in the 65th General Hospital."
SSgt Wayne Ward, Tail Gunner
"Staying scared. You were put in the system and it was just like you were regimented. So help me, I'm not even sure I even met the squadron commander while I was over there. We were put in the rotation and they called you, you went out and you flew, you came back, you went to sleep and there wasn't time much for anything else."
Lt. Leroy Taylor, Navigator
"Our field was strafed, we were getting ready for a mission. Although the field was shut down, we hand an n-energizer to service the lights while we installed out guns. And the field was strafed, ok? We scattered in all directions and we could see the flames dropping off this German fighter, I think it was an ME-109. We could see the bullets as he was strafing us, popping along the runway. I was 19 years old at the time, and believe me, I was scared to no end. Something I'll never forget."
SSgt Joe Nervo, Right-Waist Gunner
"The day I got shot down! Our group lost 11 planes that day, April 28th, 1944, practically the whole group. We were the lead squadron, and they got five of our six. Frontal attach with fighters, and boy, they clobbered us, right as we turned on the I.P. Plane blew up, I found myself falling. Fortunatly it was the second time in combat I ever put my chute bundle on... and I remembered how bad that flack was over Berlin. I happened to look down at it, I thought "ach!" I picked it up, slid it up under my flack suit and strapped it on, and five minutes later I was using it. Radio operator was the only other one that got out, plane just blew apart. And I had a date that night with a young lady from London that was coming up to Cambridge to meet me (I'd been in London the night before) and I said "I have a mission tomorrow, my navigator is grounded, so when you get to Cambridge, you call and he'll tell you what time we'll be back." And I was probably sitting on my duff in Berlin! God, I was mad, I said "That son-of-a-gun's in there with MY date!"
1Lt. Chris Christianson, Bombardier
"I started as a co-pilot, and my crew were all killed on the sixth mission. I got a crew of my own and made 19 more. I was the first pilot to finish the 25 missions, which was on the 23rd September, 1943. I remember just about every one of those raids, particularly ones like the 14th of July when I was flying on the wing of Ralph Saltsman, our squadron commander. And he got shot down and I could watch him go down. It got awfully lonely up there, because he wasn't the only one, there were four of them that went down. I was one of the lucky ones that kept going."
1Lt. Bill Dailey, Co-Pilot
"We were original members of the 94th. I was a tail gunner on several different crews. My crew got shot down, afterwards (and) Lt. Dailey, his crew got shot down, and I wound up flying with him and some replacements that came in. We completed our tour of duty, he was the first pilot to finish all his missions. Our squadron was just about depleted of all the original men. We had only about 21 left out of 90."
SSgt. John Denayor, Tail Gunner
"I was on the mission with Colonel Castle, who was (by) then a Brigadier General, when we lost him on December 24, 1944. It was in support of the Battle of the Bulge... the weather had been bad for a long time and we couldn't support them. Finally, the weather broke and Colonel Castle, who had been our CO for a long time, had been moved up to command the 4th Combat Wing. He was chosen to lead the whole 8th Air Force. He was flying with the 487th, and we were second in the bomb stream that day, Our figher cover was a few minutes late meeting us, and we got hit by about 75 or 80 FW-190s and ME-109s. Of course, the attacked the first group, where Col. Castle was in comand. They lost one engine, then another engine, and finally it caught on fire and he urged the crew to bail out. And he rode it into the ground... because we were over our own troops. (Very long pause) I'm sorry. But there are a lot of other memories, a lot of them are happy memories. Colin Storey and I flew all missions together, although different crews, and he and I were on leave in April, 2945. We're at the Rainbow Red Cross Club on Bond Steet, and we went out that night, it was very fpggy, very misty and we were walking back to the club rather late in the evening. This old English gentleman came across the street, doffed his hat, said "Oi say, Yank, 'ave you 'eard the news? He took his hat and put it over his heart and said "Oi say, yu've lost yer president." And we hadn't heard it, that's the first we had heard. We said we were very sorry about that, and he said "By the way, 'oo is this man Truman?" "
1Lt. Jim Oberman, Pilot
"Getting my butt shot off! I wasn't even with our own group, I volunteered to go with another group and didn't get back, it's as simple as that. May 1, 1943. We arrived in England on what, 17th, 18th April, hell, I hadn't even been to town yet, hadn't even been off the base! It was a very short stint for me. I spent the time in the POW camp."
Capt. Maurice Roesner, Pilot
"We had to leave out one night in January, 'bout midnight in sleet and snow, and there was ice on the ground 'bout a foot thick to start with, and we was out in the weather for about three-four days. Then they put us in boxcars and we moved down to Merseburg, all in this turrible weather, we like to froze to death. Another thing... the food. Now the Germans themselves didn't have too much food, I don't think. We had even less... we hadn't got Red Cross Parcels in... we wouldn't have made it... I wish I could speak of it, I'm sorry...."
2Lt Allen Posey, Bombardier/POW
"The anxiety we felt in the prisoner of war camp. We never knew what was going on."
2Lt. Rocco Masca, Co-Pilot/POW
"The second mission. I always remember that, 'cause we got over central Germany and got down to 10,000 feet which was usually low... there was a railroad track down below us and here comes a train, choo-chooing down there just as fast as he could go! Man, he was pouring the coal on, getting away from these B-17s that were bombing him, you know. And lo, and behond, the track went down and made a turn, and what he didn't know was that past the turn a little way there was a bomb had went right down on the track and he was heading right for the great big hole! I never did get to see what the heck happened, but I've often wondered what the devil those guys did!"
2Lt. Charles Martell, Navigator
"We were bombed during the winter of 1940 and I slept all the winter of 1940 in an air raid shelter in the garden. When I used to come into the air raid shelter from the house, I would put a tea-cosy on my head, covered with a colander so that if there was any shrapnel around, I wouldn't get hurt. It was one of those things you got used to after a while, with the shelling going on every night."
Vanda Healey, Civilian
"The privilege of working with the guys on my crew. I was very fortunate... now, there's only four of us that's left."
1Lt. Maurice Miller, Pilot
"Being shot in the leg over Holland.... and when we dropped the canister-bombs (supplies) to the French Maquis. After flying miles and miles and miles, we finally came to a plateau in the mountains. We were supposed to look for three signal fires. We expected to see columns of smoke rising, but no, they were just three little spots of smoke, and we flew over them and could see no one. We made a big U-turn and flew back and dropped our bombs, and our tail-gunner said "Hey, there are men jumping out from all the bushes, behind the rocks and they-re even catching them before they touch the ground."
1Lt. Richard Getz, Navigator
"I think it was the same one they've been telling you about, when they went in to bring food and ammunition and so on to the Maquis. It was about 25, 30, 40 (feet) above the ground, because we didn't want to drop it too far, mess it all up. They wanted arms, guns, food... one of 'em stuck, and we couldn't land. I think it was a parachute. And Fred Mueller had to go down into it (the bomb-bay) and I had to hold his feet to keep him from falling out. There was only an opening so far, and this parachute was wedged there, and we couldn't have landed if we didn't get that cleared."
1Lt. Raplh Taylor, Co-Pilot
"Oh, boy... I guess the time we supposedly had a real easy mission flying supplies to the French Maquis... wasn't supposed to be anything to it, we were flying 'bout tree-top level down a canyon in the mountains there, and all of a sudden out of another canyon came a whole bunch of German fighters! We had aerial battles right above the treetops in that valley!"
SSgt. Ray Stringer, Ball-turret Gunner
"We were dropping supplies in Southern France and the German fighters came in. They set our plane on fire. Pilot and co-pilot were noth shot and burned. So anyway, we got fire extinguishers, put the fire out, and we did get back. Pilot and co-pilot were both in the hospital and I did lack one more mission. So they put me with another crew to fly my final mission so I could come home. I flew #30 with some other crew. I can't tell you any more than they've already told you."
SSgt. Angus Senn, Right-Waist Gunner
"We dropped Supplies to the French Maquis... up on top of this plateau was this little saucer-like valley where they lived. We dropped them ammunition, guns, dropped them about 500 feet, they were waving and giving is the "V" sign. One of the parachutes caught in the bomb bay and one of our crewman cut it loose and hauled it in. We all got a piece of that nylon parachute, which was kind of a scarce item at that time."
Capt. Bob Offerman, Group Bombardier
"Flying combat, I guess. That's the ones you remember the most, and of course, when you get scared. But actually, the other memories are just as great, going to London, having a good time, enjoying yourself..."
Tsgt. Troy Wiley, Top-Turret Gunner/Flight Engineer
"My first mission, I flew over Kiel, to bomb sub-pens. We had been briefed on flack and such things, but a target like that, where the German knew what the target was... They put up what was called box-flack. They just boxed in an area, you had to fly through it, they weren't tracking you. I dunno, the discipline of sitting there and flying through it... Couple of planes in the squadron of Thunderbolts got hit, they had to leave formation. I guess that's about as vivid as anything I recall.
1Lt. Harry Bissonnet, Co-Pilot
"Merseberg, our sixth mission. We had a lot of flack. People say "Don't give me so much flack", we really know what that means! I think the most memorable experience was when those two planes crashed at the end of the runway. I was on my bicycle on the end of the runway, and two planes came together like this, one pulled up, they flipped over like that, the whole insides were exposed. I have very vivid memories, but it was certainly and exciting adventure. You know, if you could know the exact outcome, it would be a thrill. We never know what was gonna happen..."
1Lt. George Olerich, Co-Pilot
"I was shot down in a bomber, when I had to jump out four miles up in the air... I've had several of 'em, couldn't single out any one of 'em and be accurate. i started out with the group at the very beginning, with Major Saltsman, out in Tucson, Arizona, and up to July 14th 1943 I can recall it pretty good. We were shot down that day. I done about two years in Stalag 17 POW camp, liberated by the Russian Army."
SSgt Warren" Available" Jones, Tail Gunner
" Seeing, going through, and knowing that there was no turning back, once you got on what we called the IP for the target, seeing all the flack come up and you could hear it underneath.... and still we knew there was no turning back, we had to go on with it and hope that we didn't get a direct hit. Then watching, since I was the tail gunner and I could see and report at the end of the mission. We were interrogated every time we came back from a mission, the intelligence people always came and interrogated us as a crew. Since I was tail gunner back there, I could really observe and see what happened as far as the bombing was concerned, how many 'chutes came open from planes that went down. You'd try and count and you'd say "Hurry up now, we've only seven out, we need three more!" We didn't always get all of them out, But to see those 'chutes go down, open up--- it was always great to see one open up, we knew somebody got out at least. But not always all of 'em got out, so I had to count these things sometimes..."
SSgt Allan Hansen, Tail Gunner
"On a raid to Leibzig, watching about eight or ten airplanes being shot down. Saw them in the distance, going down with a fire under them."
Maj. Bill Healey, Command Pilot
"Our plane got two engines hit, and some of the oil lines hit, oil coming out all over the wing... we had one good engine and two running about half-speed. To top it off, we had a head-wind going down, and be damned if it didn't turn and we had a head wind coming back. We was making about 90 mile an hour, ground speed. Got back, we had about 40 gallens of fas left, and 162 holes in the ship. Three engines had be be replaced.
We had a little bit of armor plate in the waist gun window, about yay long... pull that gun down over your shoulder, hunch up against that, wasn't much bigger than this! And all of a sudden, PLANG! Piece of flack hit my armor plate that I was leaning against. When we got back there was a hole that big, weren't for that little piece of armor plate, I wouldn't be there, that's for sure. Rang like a bell! If I had a video camera in them days, could have took down pictures nobody would believe."
SSgt. Ken Oseth, Waist-Gunner
"On D+1 we had bombed Nantes. The idea was to keep the Germans from moving armor up to the beachhead, so we were after the bridge, the railroad bridge, because they transported their tanks by rail to the combat area. It was a late afternoon mission, and we went to the Channel, it was starting to get dark and the weather forced us down to about 8,000 feet. About 30 miles southwest of London, my pilot says to me "I got the buncher", which is our base. But the "buncher" was restricted to about fifteen, twenty miles so the Germans couldn't use it. And here we were about sixteen miles away, I said, "Joe, you sure you got the buncher?" So I tuned in, and sure enough, it was the exact same signal, but it was a German outfit! The Germans would send out a transmission to get us to go back, anyway I said to him, "You got a German station there, get back on course." By this time, we had already split up, it was everybody on his own. We got a report there were enemy intruders in our base area, shooting down the bombers that came in to land. So they directed us to Ireland for half an hour, then back, and by this time it was past mid-night and we were getting low on fuel. In the dark over England, you couldn't see a thing on the ground. All we had was radar navigation and ADF. I was doing dead reckoning all this time, and when we got to within twenty miles of the base, the ADF needle pointed right to it, we hit it right on the button. We called in, they turned the lights on for us so we could land, they identified us--- there was a transponder code that was changed every day--- we came in and landed, our engines quit before we got to a hardstand, that's how low we were on fuel!"
1Lt Abel Dolin, Navigator
"Having an engine on fire as we went into Germany at 27,000 feet and the pilot was on his second mission and he didn't tell me the #3 engine was on fire. I was the enlisted bombardier at the time, we were called toggleers. When we lost the rest of the formation, I asked him what was wrong. He kept telling me he had a problem and I finally found out the engine was on fire! We started to drop and pretty soon we were in the clouds, down to 25,000 feet, couldn't see a thing in front. We eventually got back and landed at a P-51 base with a full load of bombs... I think the base was called A-92 and the base commander was BG Elliot Roosevelt, President Roosevelt's son. He was about to courtmartial me because I landed with a full load of bombs on his airbase and he was about to have a stroke! I didn't tell you the funny part: we got down to about 15,000 feet and I said "Everyone keep an eye peeled, see if you see anything on the ground, see if you see any fighters." And I run an oxygen check and I wasn't getting any answers, and finally when we got down to 800 feet I got up and went back and all the crew members were sitting in the radio room, talking! The tail-gunner'd left his position, the ball-turret gunner was there... I said "What are you all doing up here?" They said, "We can't see anything!" I said "Get on back to your darned positions, you don't know when you're gonna get shot at, for crying out loud!"
Sgt. Thomas Marine, Tail-Gunner/Bombardier
"Schweinfurt, October the 14th '43. That's the most... exciting one, because of the losses. Roughest one, I suppose. There were others that were dangerous, but by far this one was the most dangerous."
TSgt Clyde Burkhardt, Ball-Turret Gunner
The "Lonesome Polecat II" was lost on the Schweinfurt raid, one of about 60 B-17s lost in a single day. I didn't find anyone at the reunion who remembered them personally: most of the surviving members of the 94th BG were from after that time. It had been the Lonesome Polecat's first mission: I calculated that the crew had been at the base for about two weeks, hardly long enough to make any impression at all. But the interviews allowed me a sense of what my uncle would have been like, what he would have seen and experienced, and perhaps what he would have become, if he had survived.