by George W. Carney (778) — as told to Diane Carney
The 778th's "Jinxed Crew."
"Captain, we're jinxed!"
I was on the airstrip walking towards the squadron operations office
when a young sergeant came running up beside me and saluted.
"Excuse me, Sir, but you've gotta break us up cuz we're
I stopped to consider this fellow.
It was a February morning in Idaho. Over fifty Consolidated B-24
heavy bombers stood down in rows off the airstrip with wing tips aligned. They weren't pretty planes.
Not like the high-finned B-17, which was a beautiful, easy-flying ship. Bulky-looking, with two shield
shaped vertical stabilizers, B-l 7 pilots snorted that the B-24 was the "crate our ship comes
in." Still, with all those planes lined up ready, and with the winter light shining through the
Plexiglas nose turrets, I was awed. In a day or two all of these planes would roll out together and
leave that tiny Idaho town for their combat duty assignments in the Mediterranean Theater of
I loved flying. I had breezed through cadet training partly because
by the time I was 21 years old and enlisted, I already had my private pilot's license, instrument
rating and acrobatics certification. I enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941. The training was a
hoot. We flew just about everything: PT-17s, BT-13s, AT-6s. I figured that I could fly just about
anything. I'd wanted to be a fighter pilot but they put me in bombers. I trained in the B-17, flying
cross-country through the Grand Canyon - below the rim.
Everyone had trained for months. Pilots, navigators, engineers,
bombardiers and gunners. We'd flown cross-country, formation, night runs, and practice bomb
runs. The gunners had been given their positions on the ten-man crew and shot ribbons of bullets
in target practice.
Of the six gunner positions, the ball turret usually went to the
smallest man. Ball turret gunners gained respect and notoriety by flying their missions encased
in a Plexiglas carbuncle pasted to the belly of the ship. You couldn't find a job anybody wanted
I was 23 and excited to be a part of the massive war effort and
to be able to fly. It was an electric feeling. Our training was over. The next thing was the real thing.
So I looked at the sergeant, shivering a little in the hard cold of that Idaho morning. Three of his
compatriots stood a bit away, gloomy and foreboding like MacBeth's witches. Their hands were
pushed deep into their pockets, their arms rigid against their bodies and their shoulders drawn
up under their ears.
"Ya just gotta break us up," the sergeant repeated.
His friends nodded in agreement.
"Let's go inside," I said.
Our feet crunched the dry cereal of a thin layer of snow and ice.
We walked across the ramp to my tiny office, I was the squadron's operations officer. I took off
my fleece-lined leather jacket and hung it on a nail beside a poster of Uncle Sam admonishing
us: "You've Got What It Takes, Soldier, Now Take Care of What You've Got!" I turned
back to the men, and told them to help themselves to coffee.
"Now, what's this all about?" I asked.
One of the others stepped up. He was a little guy with black hair .
"Sir, we've already had one close call, near miss, mid-air collision. We've run off the end of
the runway, we blew a main landing gear tire when we were taxiing out for take off, had to feather
the number two engine just after take off...."
The fellow who first had approached me spoke up. He composed
himself and spoke slowly.
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Back to Our War Stories.
From the Dec. '01 issue of the 464th Bomb Group Newsletter.
Published with the permission of Tony Schneider, Sec./NL Ed. (464th, 776)