History File: The Stories of Bob Reichard

Unusual Events of World War II (During & After)

Returning from another mission and nearing our base everyone relaxed.  That was until we noticed many, many explosions south of our base on the ground.  My first thought was,"How did the enemy manage to get behind us?"  We landed and learned that the 464th Bomb Group storage dump was exploding.  Some bomb handlers had gotten lazy and decided to roll the bombs from the body of the truck to the ground.  One was sensitive and when it exploded the others were exploded by sympathetic detonation.  It caused a large number of deaths and damage.

On 16 Feb 1945, we attacked the airport at Regensburg, Germany.  It was the base for the deadly ME-262 Jet fighters.  Our group carried 30# fragmentation bombs, in clusters.  Each bomber carried 180 of the bombs.  Once underway I thought about the target and it reminded me of a kid walking down a lane, pole in hand, discovering a hornets nest, striking it with his pole, knowing full well what the results would be.  Prior to the target the bombers formed a "frag front". This lined up the bombers wing tip to wing tip, 28+ across.  As the aiming point on the ground was reached, the bombs fell, by clusters of six in train, which allowed a great coverage of the area in front of each bomber, as a farmer sowing a field with grain.  As the clusters fell from the bomb bay, the bindings gave way and each bomb was freed.  The opposition was not heavy and was limited to flak.  Photographs showed damaged planes.  In 1957, I was a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division, in Augsburg, Germany.  I had a weight loss problem and went to the dispensary for a check-up.  Due to the shortage of military doctors, the Army had hired a German doctor.  We talked and I learned that he had been the Flight Surgeon for the ME-262 Group, during the attack, in 1945.  He wasn't talkative, but did say that the group was no longer operational following the bombing raid.

At night we would go out and "borrow" stone fences from the Italians.  One night we even received gun fire for our efforts.  We armed ourselves with "Tommy Guns", but the opposition was gone when we returned.  The stones were used to build a suitable club for our enlisted men.  The big day came for the grand opening, but the officers' were not invited since it was an EM club.  That evening some of the crew came by to invite me, but I declined since it was off-limits to officers and told them as much.  They said, "No Problem" and removed my insignia.  At that point my OD uniform was the same as theirs.  I entered the club and was enjoying myself when I spotted Col. Williams of Wing intelligence.  He knew me because I was the Assistant Squadron Intelligence Officer and had been in his company before.  His guest was Doris Duke Cromwell (I believe she was the richest woman in the world at that time).  He introduced me and asked me to join him.  I told him why I was there and he had a good laugh.  About that time Doris Duke received a proposal of marriage from one of the enlisted men, saying he wanted to marry her for love and not for money.  With that she was escorted to a safer area.

We were returning from a mission to SE Europe, in Feb 45, and our course took us close to Maribor, Yugoslavia.  I noticed a lot of rolling stock in the railway marshaling yards there.  During the after-mission interrogation I passed on my observations.  On 1 Mar 45, the target was the marshaling yard at Maribor. As we approached the target, there was a company of Ukrainians, fighting on the side of Germany, headed into the town, on its withdrawal north.  The captain leading that group, on horseback, realized that the town was about to come under attack, so he stopped outside of town.  How did I know this?  In Nov 56, I was in charge of the TAPS (traffic accident prevention section) in the American sector of Berlin, Germany.  That captain had joined the US Army, as a SP4 , and was the TAPS photographer.  In our discussions we confirmed the time, date, and place.

On 27 Feb 1945, our target was a large railroad bridge at Augsburg, Germany.  The flak was heavy, intense, and accurate.  They were using the very heavy 120mm flak and not the usual 88mm.  The white smoke was our indicator and we knew the killing radius was about twice that of the 88mm.  A bomber in the flight in front of us took a hit in the waist and the bomber broke in two.  The front spiraled to the ground and the tail seemed to maintain level flight.  In fact, the lead pilot had to swing our flight off course to avoid a collision with it.  In 1956 I headed the Provost Marshal Investigative Section of the 11th Airborne, in Augsburg.  The interpreter I used there was a US Army SP4.  He had been on the AA guns as a Hitler Youth the day of my mission.  My duties took me to the downtown police station and there I met many German Policemen.  When I was in uniform I wore my decorations, which included my bombardier wings.  On one occasion a German Policeman asked me about my wings and when I explained, he said, "I guess you bombed Augsburg?"  And when I gave a truthful reply, he told me that he could tell me the date of the raid, as that was the day his parents house disappeared.

I returned to Italy in 1965, but this time I was stationed in the north and not the south, as had been the case during WWII.  I made many Italian fiends there.  They had suffered greatly during the war and had lost loved ones.  My only missions to northern Italy had been to knock out a road bridge north of Verona and several in support of the 5th US Army lines, so I knew I wasn't responsible for their grief.  I didn't wear the bombardier wings there, because I didn't want to turn my new gained friends against me or open any old wounds.  While there, in 1968, I turned in my retirement papers.  My first overseas assignment had been Italy and it would also be the last.

RWR - 26 Dec 92

Speaking of Unusual

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This remarkable photo is almost unbelievable.  The tail markings identify the ship as likely  a 454th Bomb Group (White Tail).  Its difficult to say what could cause a B-24 to impact this way, and survive the crash by embedding the nose.  The strong likelihood is a landing accident that had the ship pitch forward after hitting the runway.