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Our War Stories

Jinxed

by George W. Carney (778) — as told to Diane Carney

Page 1
[Photo] George W. Carney's (778) "Jinxed" Crew.
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 jinxed."

      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 Operations.

      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 less.

      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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      From the Dec. '01 issue of the 464th Bomb Group Newsletter.
Published with the permission of Tony Schneider, Sec./NL Ed. (464th, 776)
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