Kenny’s Commentary salutes our Veterans with “An Unforgettable Sight” – a story from The 390th Bomb Group Anthology. Thank you Dad.
One of the most outstanding sights that stands out in my memory happened on the 26th of February 1945 mission to Berlin. The 100th Group led the 8th Air Force that day. The 390th was the second group in the bomber stream over the target. On the bomb run we kept very close behind the 100th bomb group This was a good position for us. The 100th Group encountered very heavy flak. The group behind us also experienced a great deal of flak. We had very little. I assume this was due to the time required on the ground to reload the AA guns. They didn’t have time to reload and fire at us since we were so close to the first group.
Although we did not know it immediately, the lead aircraft of the 100th was hit by flak over the target. They continued to go straight east rather than turn left after dropping their bombs, as we were briefed. We followed them for a short time but then realized that something was amiss. The 100th group attempted to reform on the deputy group leader. Recognizing that we were proceeding in the wrong direction, we made a left turn to get back to our briefed return route to England. At this time we took over the leadership of the entire 8th Air Force.
As we turned, I looked down and recognized the Oder river. That was the eastern front at that time. Each group behind us turned left slightly inside of us.
On this particular day the visibility was excellent. There were no clouds or haze at our altitude.
After several minutes, I looked back to my left at the trailing bomber groups. I don’t think I have seen or ever will see such a sight. I could see the ENTIRE 1,500 B-17 airplanes of the 8th Air Force stretched out in echelon behind us. This was a real sight – Once in a lifetime!
As a result of the very high mortality rate experienced by B-17 crewmen during that phase of World War 2, these men were not required to fly more than 17 missions over Germany. H. James Kenny Jr. volunteered for and flew an additional 14 . 31 in total. Though he began his service as an enlisted man, he ultimately made it to Captain, Lead Pilot of the 390th Heavy Bombardment Group. He was also the sole survivor of a crash landing in occupied France. He was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by Colonel Joseph A. Moller – Commander of the 390th Bomb Group.