Next Wednesday is Veteran's Day. Jim Drummond, President of our region's Stockman Bank found his dad's diary from WWII. Jim wrote a moving commentary to accompany selected entries he shared with colleagues and friends. Jim kindly agreed to let us post his introduction to the diary as a FREE Insight.
James Drummond, Jim's father, was an MSU student during WWII. In 1944 he left college to join the Army and became a First Lieutenant in the US Army Air Corps. He wrote a brief diary of his missions leading a Liberator B 24 bomber over Europe. At age 23, he was the oldest man in his crew of ten.
Lt. Drummond piloted 50 bombing missions and miraculously came home at the war's end. He returned to MSU and earned a degree in Animal Science. He then when to the Univ. of Wyoming for graduate work and came back to MSU to teach and conduct research. Professor Drummond was a Professor of Animal Science and became Director of MSU's Wool Lab.
When Ramona and I began raising sheep in the late 1970s, Professor Drummond was a great and patient advisor. We were indeed fortunate to have him as a helpful friend. He never told us of his part in America's WWII victory.
We are grateful to Jim for sharing his dad's story on the eve of Veterans Day. Here they are.
Next Wednesday is Veterans Day and is a Federal holiday. While we all enjoy an extra day off from work it is important that we not lose sight of why our nation celebrates Veterans Day.
Last week we were going through my dads military box looking for a picture of him for the Chronicle Veterans Day publication. In the box was a 1944 diary he kept during his 50 missions piloting a B 24 liberator bomber. I have shared a few of his entries below.
I have to remind myself that in 1944 my dad was just 23 years old. He was one of thousands of Montana farm and ranch kids who were called to defend the world from the relentless march of Nazi Germany. In his case he was recruited from the ranch, given 6 weeks of basic training, then 40 hours of flight training. Then along with 10 other crew members he climbed into a newly built 4 engine bomber and soared into the sky to fly alone over the ocean to a home base in Italy. My dad was the pilot and head of the crew at his young age. The crew included a copilot, bombardier, engineer, navigator, radio operator, gunners in the front, bottom and top turrets, tail gunner and two waist gunners. At 23 he was the oldest member of his crew. At the beginning of world war II, the air crews were required to complete 35 missions. By 1944 so many crews had been shot down and couldn’t be replaced that the number of required missions was increased to 50. Statistically a third of all allied airplanes were shot down each mission so the odds of completing 50 missions were extremely low.
My dads diary did make me think about what a 23 year old today would answer if asked, “how was your summer?” Or when someone is asked in a job interview, “what was your biggest challenge in life and how did you handle it.” I wonder how the veterans mentioned in his diary, or for that matter veterans from all our conflicts, would respond.
When my 94 year old dads weathered fingers were turning the pages of his re-discovered diary last week he got a bit teary eyed. I suppose he was thinking not only of his lost youth in the skies above Europe, but also his young comrades who never came home. I think that is why all Veterans hold Veterans Day so sacred. They know about the commitment and sacrifices made in the sky and on the oceans, on the beaches of France and in the forests of Germany, on small atolls in the Pacific, throughout the jungles of Asia and in the sands of the middle east. That is why the rest of us need to remember that those sacrifices are why we enjoy our freedoms and lives we live today.
Veterans Day shouldn’t ever be viewed as just another day off. Let’s remember and honor those veterans who didn’t make it home and especially those who came home but have the scars and memories of war and service. If you see a Veteran on the street next Wednesday, please make it a point to shake his or her hand and say, “thank you for your service.”
May 11, 1944
Wiener Neustadt, Austria
Mission carried out by 484th bomb group to date. Flak extremely heavy, intense, accurate. Ships ahead of us, on our right and on our left shot down and left us as a single plane. Hydraulic system shot out. Landed with no brakes. Large hole in left rudder, large hole in left aileron. All scared but no casualties. 48 missions to go.
May 25, 1944
Flack heavy to our left and in front. Made a 360 degree turn over target with weather too bad to locate target. P 38 fighter escort ran low on gas and started for home. 461st bomb group made run on target without fighter escort and lost two planes and wounded 12 men when jumped by German 109 fighters. Earned Air Medal today. 43 to go.
May 29, 1944
Assigned to Wiern Neustadt, Austria but had to turn back when lost oil in number 3 engine. Had to feather. Dumped our bombs off of coast of Yugoslavia and accidently set off German minefield and exploded 30 to 50 mines. No mission credit since we didn’t drop on target.
May 31, 1944
Hit oil refinery on edge of Ploesti. Flak extremely heavy. B-17 pilot with 35 missions said there was more flak than all his missions put together. Hit target and oil spouted flames up to 18,000 feet. Four squadrons lost two planes apiece that we know of. Two planes made it to home field but were too shot up to land. Everyone baled out. Copilot of one jumped with unconscious engineer and pulled his rip cord then pulled his own. We were lucky as usual and only got one little hole in Aileron. Getting used to flack cause we get it on all raids but we are darn lucky, so I guess we will make it. This life is doggone hard on your nerves. 40 to go.
June 8, 1944
R.R. bridge on Ventimiglia above Nice. Very heavy flak. High explosive shells. We got hit in number 3 engine and oil line shot out. Landed at Corsica Island for temporary repairs. No one hurt in the crew. Came home and tent all ripped down and clothes burned because of a haystack fire close by. 37 to go.
July 8, 1944
Second most heavily defended area in the world. Flak very intense. Our target was oil storage tanks and we got no hits. I counted 16 parachutes about 10 miles from target. I think they came from three separate ships. 28 to go.
July 12, 1944
Flak fairly accurate and heavy. Hit target very well. Came home on three engines. Every time I have flown to France I have come home on three engines. 26 to go.
July 20, 1944
Flew behind lead ship of group. Pilot of ship on our left got hit in hip with flak. Lead ship got controls shot away and bombardiers leg broken by flak. Ship on right got hit in gas tanks by flak. Our bombardier hit in face and shoulder by flak. All ships hit at same time. One, two and three lead ships fell out of formation so we led the group out of flak. Came closest today to being shot down than any other time. This is second time ships ahead and on our wings have been knocked down leaving us up there alone. Bombardier not too badly hit but suffered a little shock. He gets an Oak Leaf Cluster to go with his purple heart. 18 to go.
July 28, 1944
Rough Mission but we went around the target cause we got in prop wash and lost two turbo’s. I was sure glad we didn’t go through all that flak. Saw one plane explode ahead of us so completely there was hardly anything left. Never was so scared in my entire life. Saw many ships cracked up on the ground all along the route home. 16 to go.
August 3, 1944
Bombed bridge. Lost one engine on bomb run and second lost almost all oil pressure coming off target. Had everything ready to throw out in case we lost too much altitude. Made Corsica ok and left our plane there. Needs two new engines. At camp someone said we were last seen heading for Spain so all the enlisted men’s pistols and jackets were taken. They got them all back from some embarrassed boys We got a new plane. This makes our fourth. The name of it is the “Flaming Mamie.” All of its crew finished 50 missions except its pilot who was shot down in another plane and is probably a POW. 14 to go.
August 11, 1944
Hit a very rough target. Flak heavy, accurate and intense. Flak hit flight deck, top turret and a piece about 4 inches long wrecked the tail turret. No one hurt. We dropped back after we dropped bombs and it’s a good thing or we would have been shot down cause flak started bursting where we should have been and there were about 20 birds there. 12 to go.
August 15, 1944
Supported invasion this morning by bombing beach. Saw hundreds of boats and troops landing. 5 minutes after we hit the beach the infantry hit it. Big show with lots of planes and boats. They also landed paratroops inland when we were bombing. 9 to go.
August 21, 1944
Roughest Raid since my first one. Hit by 30 or 40 fighters and lost one plane piloted by my old copilot on his last mission. Flak was extremely heavy but we dropped bombs and went around it the best we could. Fighter planes laid for us all the way home and flew around us until we sighted the coast of Italy. Hope I never have another mission like today. Too rough. My nerves are getting too shot. Can’t sleep much at night. Flew a couple of new gunners with my crew today to break them in. They’re broke in! 4 to go.
September 1, 1944
Returned bombs to base due to cloud coverage over target. Group separated in a cloud over fighter territory so I stayed with my box leader. We were the only two ships together so the fighters left us alone cause there were lots of single planes up there. Another new crew broke in on a very rough mission. Hit by flak. Mission 50 – FINITO-