The Last Sketchbook
379th Journal, Volume V, June 1944
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Bob McKee: June 6, 1944.
The Unfinished Fracas (the night before D-Day)
Although the world knew
that the invasion of Europe was imminent, no one knew exactly when or where. One effort to keep this secret was to allow a certain amount of freedom of the personnel by letting them leave their bases, subject to recall. So it was with us.
The Big Show
Bob McKee: June 6, 1944. D-Day.
I was flying the CO's wing,
Lt. Col. Joe Laughlin, in the number 2 position. Very dark, very low clouds with a 300' ceiling, foggy,
and a steady rain falling. Eerie. Our takeoff, join-up and climb-out was tricky, yet we
managed to join a large group of C-47 aircraft just south of Portsmouth which were towing
gliders with troops. We escorted them to the beachhead where they dropped onto the Cherbourg
peninsula. The weather was better, with an 800' ceiling; misty/hazy and very crowded with
Allied aircraft. Our mission then called for us to patrol just south of the beachhead for enemy
fighters and, since there were none, we hit ground targets at will before returning to Headcorn,
Bob McKee: June, 1944.
Much of our flying after the invasion of France involved very low sweeps of ground forces to ascertain that we were not hitting our own troops. Often only 100 to 200 feet separated allied troops from the enemy and this called for very accurate bomb drops and strafing runs.
Those Non-union Aircraft
Rarey's letter: June, 1944.
I suppose you've read of the pilotless aircraft Germany has developed. It's an amazing thing aeronautically speaking but is proving rather ineffective as a weapon. We get quite a kick out of them. They are referred to as "The Doodlebug" or "The Sears Roebuck Job." And Tom Liston has dubbed them "Those non-union aircraft."
Rarey's letter: June 21, 1944.
Every night I crawl into my little sack and light up the last cigarette of the day and there in the dark with the wind whippin' around the tent flaps I think of you - of your hair and eyes and pretty face - of your lovely young body - of your warmth and sweetness. It isn't in the spirit of frustration but of fulfillment. I've known these things and knowing them and having them once, I have them forever. That wonderful look in your eyes when we'd meet after being apart for a few hours - or a few weeks - always the same - full of love. Ah, Betty Lou, you're the perfect girl for me - I love ya', Mama!
Killed in Action
Bob McKee: June 26, 1944.
Our flight of four was assigned to a Search and Destroy mission for enemy targets of choice in central France. Dad Rarey was leading and I was flying #3 on his left. The other two pilots were newly assigned replacement pilots. Weather was clear and visibility unlimited. Most of our mission was rather routine, hitting a few ground targets along the way. No enemy aircraft sighted in that part of France at that time. I spotted an open German lorry quite close at 12 o'clock with an estimated 40 troops standing tightly in the bed. It's impossible to see under the huge nose of the P-47, so, as I lowered the nose to verify the truck as being German, I called to Dad as to what I observed moving under us. He responded, "Roger, let's hit the deck." As all four of us started down, 20mm AA flak appeared around us. Through my right side peripheral vision I saw an airborne explosion. Dad's aircraft had taken a direct hit and disintegrated. He never knew or felt a thing. I was now committed to continue my strafing run on the truck as 40 rifles and flak was saturating my airspace. The truck exploded and burned and I was immediately hit amidship by a round of 40mm flak from my left. The #2 and #4 pilots, seeing all this, continued northward on the deck and returned to Headcorn. They reported that Dad and I were BOTH seen to crash and we were listed as KIA. I managed to limp my aircraft home, arriving 25 minutes after the others.
On to Nose Art