A speck of history from long ago and far away

BLillieCFLillieCFv1.pdf

Title

A speck of history from long ago and far away

Description

Account of the operation to locate a German submarine and shooting down of a United States Navy PB4Y-1 Liberator by a Ju 88 in February 1944. Author is the nose gunner/bomb aimer and describes the operation, attack by fighters, ditching, escape to dinghies, loss of crew members, survival and rescue by RAF Air Sea Rescue launch. Air-to-air view of a Liberator over the sea on the cover. On page 10 a three quarter length portrait of a man in United States Navy uniform. On the last page top right a air to ground view of a high speed launch. Left top 10 aircrew in two rows captioned 'crew 8 of U.S, Navy Bombing Squadron VB-103 Fleet Air Wing Seven, Dunkeswell, England'. Middle left - two aircrew squatting down captioned 'Ryan and Erdman'. Right middle - an aircrew standing behind a gun turret, captioned 'Faubian'. Bottom left - three aircrew in front of an aircraft, captioned 'Clemente, Necesany, Rueger' Caption at bottom of page 'Above - L to R Thomas Ryan, Robert Erdman, Bennie Faubian, Left - L to R Lother Clements, Kurt Necesany, Werner Rueger'.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2001-06-08

Contributor

Peter Bradbury

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

Twelve page photocopied document with photographs

Language

Identifier

BLillieCFLillieCFv1

Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

A SPECK OF HISTORY
FROM LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY

[photograph of Liberator]

FOR MY BRITISH SAILOR FRIEND RON HUNTLEY
WHO SAVE MY LIFE ON FEB 15, 1944
Thanks Ron – Carleton F Lillie

[page break]

BAY OF BISCAY INCIDENT

On Valentine's Day, February 14, 1944, crew 8 of U:S. Navy bombing Squadron VB-103, Fleet Air Wing 7, became engaged in aerial combat with two German fighter planes. Members of crew 8 were:

Kenneth L Wright, Lt. - pilot
Lawrence M Petersen; Lt. (jg) - pilot
Robert W. Lacey, Ens. - navigator
Carleton F. Lillie, AOM2c (AB) - bombardier - bow turret gunner
William E. Middleton; AMM1c- plane captain -top turret gunner
Robert A. Zabic, ACOM (AA) - gunner (all positions)
Richard C. McDaniel, AMM2c – waist gunner
Robert (Bob) Erdman, ARM2c – first radioman – radar operator
Thomas Ryan, ARM2c – radar operator – second radioman
Bennie Faubian, AOM2c – tail gunner
Robert M. Green, AOM3c – waist gunner

The crew members of the lead German fighter Ober Leutenant Kurt Necesany, pilot and squadron commander, Lother Clements radio operator, and Werner Rueger navigator. The Germans were flying Junkers 88s, which were long range twin engine fighters which have been converted from their original purpose as attack bombers. The JU88 carries a crew of three. We are flying a Navy PB4Y-1 “Liberator” (B24) bomber with a crew of eleven.

If this were being reported as a 10-second news bite, only these historical facts would be mentioned: “Today a U.S. Navy bomber was attacked by two German fighters. The Navy plane and one of the attackers were shot down with the loss of three crewman in each plane.” The main point would have been lost. This is not about planes; it is about human lives that are placed on the line in defense [sic] of their respective countries.

This saga, written in 1998, and revised in 2001, is based on a 57-year-old memory. Most of the events will be told in the present tense as if they were happening here and now, but you will notice that my memory and this chronicle flit back and forth between the “then” and the “now” without warning.

Before the aerial encounter, we have been searching for a German submarine down the French coast as far south as Spain. When contact with the fighters is made, we are over the Bay of Biscay, about 50 miles off the coast between Brest, France and the English Channel. We are heading north towards our base at Dunkeswell, England.

For my part, I am bombardier and bow front gunner. Never had to prove it, but I have been exposed to training that will enable me to navigate in the event our navigator becomes

1

[watermark of Liberator]

[page break]

disabled. Regardless, there are times when I can best describe myself as a-scared little boy. Knowing only this much background, you will see this conflict through my eyes as I recall it.

The narrative begins the night before the mission when I have a dream that I consider symbolically relevant. Most flyers I have known tend to be superstitious. As such, a bad dream is considered to be a bad omen. On the night before our mission, I have such a nightmare. I dream that I am walking down an abandoned street of an abandoned neighborhood [sic] in an unknown city. There is total absence of color [sic] except that everything appears pallid gray [sic] . As I walk, I am attracted to an abandoned apartment building. I enter the building and proceed from the entry up two fights of stairs to the second floor. Before me is an open door. Beyond the door is a very large room that is devoid of all furniture except one chest-of drawers. The top drawer has been pulled open and has been filled to overflowing with muddy water. A woman is in the process of drowning a naked newborn baby in the water.

Instead of interfering with her endeavor [sic] , I run to report the incident to authorities. When I reach the entrance lobby, I become confused, and instead of going out the front door, I turn at the landing and continue down the stairs to the basement. Before I can stop, I am in the center [sic] of the basement area. I am dismayed to find I am armpit deep in water and am engulfed by snakes of all sizes.

Thankfully this nightmare is interrupted by the alarm clock that is signaling [sic] us to prepare for today's mission. So, we get out of our "sacks", get dressed, and head for the chow hall. It will soon be daylight. During breakfast, someone takes a picture of our crew, then we head for the briefing room.

The pre-flight briefing covers all topics relative to our mission such as weather and an update of all current activities in the Bay including the probable path of an inbound submarine which was recently detected. While here, each of the crew is issued a small survival kit to be used in case we should somehow end up on French soil without having been captured. The kit contains a map, a couple of chocolate bars, a compass, much French paper money, and a few items for first aid. Now, off to the plane.

I can't shake the nightmare. My intuition is saying, "don't go" but the plane is too nearly ready for take-off to be grounded easily (an act I have never before even considered). Am reluctant to mention the dream to Bennie Faubian, our tail gunner, because, in my opinion, his nervous system crashed several weeks ago, and he is now flying on pure grit alone. I perceive the majority of the crew is too military minded to pay much heed to my concerns. The radiomen, Bob Erdman and Tommy Ryan, are the only two with whom I feel comfortable in sharing my dilemma. While the three of us discuss the situation. I become aware that Faubian has drifted in close enough to overhear us; so he has to be included in the conversation. Faubian immediately reminds us that we are flying 'Worry Bird `today.

2

[page break]

Because of its affinity for adversities, 'Worry Bird' is a nickname he uses to identify this particular plane.

The engines are ready to start before the four of us have developed a grounding plan. We have not been able to determine what equipment on the plane we could easily render sufficiently inoperable to force the flight to be cancelled. So, reluctantly, we climb aboard, and the plane is taxied to the runway.

To the best of my memory, this will be my 23rd mission.

Today's flight starts very much like all the missions before. As soon as we clear the English coast, all guns are test fired. Everything is go except the anxiety in my stomach. This feeling is new to me, for I have never been apprehensive about previous missions. I don't feel paranoid about this flight. but I'm not comfortable with it either.

We fly the route the briefing officer prescribed, and check out all the radar signals. Except for the turbulence in the weather front we recently encountered, our flight has been rather casual, and by this time it's late in the afternoon. We're heading north, back to the base at Dunkeswell. Now, radar is reporting a strong surface signal reflecting off an object in the distance along with two closer blips in the direction of one o'clock level. All hands look to the starboard and conclude that the two specks in the sky are German fighters.

As I watch, I am having several thoughts, three of which I will remember. The first is that the wing spans of these fighters seem too wide to be Ju88s, which I have seen before; so maybe they are Ju188s. My second thought concerns the possibility that my eyes might be blinded or (equally abhorrent) that I might lose my manhood. The third thought is temporarily interrupted.

Within a heartbeat the fighters have maneuvered into position for a gunnery run and are now within twelve hundred yards. The run is underway. There is no hesitation on their part. The planes move with precision and accuracy. These pilots are professional. Now at six hundred yards and within range of my 50-calibers, we exchange fire. I see flashes from their guns and am impressed by how slowly their tracers seem to float toward us. (Previous to this flight, I instructed the ground crew not to include any tracers in the ammunition belts scheduled for the bow turret, for they distract my attention from my gun sight.) For a few seconds, guns from our bow turret, top turret and starboard waist are all bearing on the Germans. Their lead plane displays a momentary erratic wing movement, and I'm reasonably sure he just received damaging hits.

The air is full of tracers, and it occurs to me that for every tracer I can see there are five bullets that can't be seen. I hear loud impacts as their gunfire perforates our plane. One comes much too close as it goes through the sleeve of my electric flying suit, cuts through a wool jacket, a shirt. and my long sleeved underwear. Thank God it only burns a reddish-blue

3

[page break]

crease on the inside of my wrist without cutting the skin. Sparks are flying because the electric solenoid that fires my starboard gun has just been shot loose. The solenoid was located within a foot of my ear. "Thank God" again. (I do not yet realize that my heating cord has been severed next to my leg).

Within these few seconds I have been able to fire several bursts. (A burst is usually composed of from five to twenty rounds). The Germans are now at 3:30 o'clock. Relative to me, they have slid toward the tail of our plane and beyond the turning capability of my bow turret. At this point I become a spectator. I can feel our plane vibrate as our gunners fire away and see the flashes from the German guns: I am watching tracers heading toward us and toward them from our starboard waist gun and top turret. Bill Middleton is in the top turret, but I'm not sure who is firing the starboard waist. For the next few seconds those two positions will have a clear shot with a good angle. If the Germans complete their gunnery run without breaking off, Faubian, in the tail turret, will have a chance to fire a burst or two.

Now all of our guns are quiet. The fighters' one and only run is over. My mouth is dry; I look at my hands and they are steady. I put one hand on top of my head and am surprised that I am able to feel my pulse there. I decide to align my turret with the plane because I have just had a disturbing thought. I will be able to exit this Erco ball turret [underlined] only [/underlined] if I can closely align it with both the horizontal and vertical axes of the plane. As I start the maneuver [sic] , I discover that the vertical control has apparently been shot out, but the turret has horizontal movement. So, I complete the horizontal alignment, and am excited to realize that fate arranged for the turret to be in vertical alignment before it was disabled. I will be able to get out of this trap.

During this brief encounter, my eyes have been on the fighters, but for a fleeting second, my mind drifts from reality back into my third thought that had been previously interrupted. I imagine those fellows are about my age -20 years. I’II bet we all would have been friends if we had been raised in the same neighborhood [sic] . Except for a radioman at each of our airfields no one in the world knows this DUEL is taking place. I wonder what in the ever-loving, blue-eyed hell this crazy war is REALLY about.

Some of the mechanical equipment on our plane has been devastated. At least one of their planes has met the same fate (a fact I will know for sure 54 years later). Our number one engine isn't running, and the propeller is windmilling. Something that looks like a slender stream of white smoke is trailing the number four outboard engine. Pilot Kenneth Wright instructs me to jettison our depth bombs. I comply and then abandon the bow of the plane and join those who are already in the waist section. They are Robert Lacey, Richard McDaniel, Robert Zabic, Bennie Faubian, Robert Green, and Tommy Ryan. Number four outboard engine has just stopped. All hands are ordered to get into our predetermined ditching locations. Someone instructs Ryan to go forward to his assigned position. This is the last time I will ever see my best friend and shipmate.

4

My position is to sit on the deck, facing aft, with my back tight against a thin aluminum [sic] bulkhead that separates the waist from the bomb bay. My hands clasp my knees which are drawn up tight in front of my face. I have never been one to make a public display of my religious beliefs, but I do believe in an all-powerful Creator who has the ability to control my fate and the outcome of all events. At this critical moment in my life, I am earnestly engaged in prayer. I truly expect to cross the `Great Divide' within the next few seconds. For the first time I can ever remember, I feel completely helpless.

To say that I am concerned for my safety is the understatement of a lifetime.

Has my subconscious found a sly and subtle way to console my mind, or is this a genuine manifestation? I tend to believe the latter, for I feel the presence of a being standing beside me with its hand on my shoulder. Immediately, I know I will survive this crash. – [underlined] what a relief [/underlined] !

I feel the plane bump as it ticks the top of a couple of ground swells, then the big finale as the plane and ocean collide.

What happened? I can't remember experiencing the impact, yet l am surrounded by water, I am blind, and I hear fire crackling all about me. Has some flying object hit my eyes so hard that I am in a state of shock and am unable to feel pain? If I have been hit, there must be blood in my eyes. I know what blood tastes like; so I'll touch my eyes and taste my fingers. Then I'll know for sure. As my hand reaches for my eyes. I feel a wool-lined leather helmet that is tight on my head and pushed down snugly over my eyes. I remove it, and immediately can see again - OH, HAPPY DAY - the most joyous moment of my life.

I survey my plight and quickly discern that the crackling sound of the imaginary fire is being made by metal snapping in two as the writhing sea wrenches a helpless fuselage. I am on my knees in a rear bomb bay and will soon be totally engulfed in water. The command deck is bucked up, and the bulkhead I was leaning against is missing. As I face aft, I see daylight and head that way. I comply with the training film and do not pull the toggle on my lifejacket while I am still in the plane.

Everyone who was in the waist has abandoned ship without my having seen them go. Water is halfway up the opening on the side of the waist hatch. The big life raft that we carry aboard all flights is still neatly snapped shut. It looks like a giant wiener as it randomly floats about me. I try to get it through the side hatch, but it is too slicky slick to grasp. I'll get out the starboard hatch while I still can, and then I'll try to coax the raft through from my position outside the plane.

So, I maneuver [sic] myself from the plane. Now that I'm out, it's time to inflate my lifejacket. I pull the toggle. Down I go toward the bottom of the ocean; up come air bubbles headed for the surface. My lifejacket must have gotten shredded as I climbed through that metal rubble on my way out of the bomb bay.

5

[page break]

Retrieving the raft is promptly forgotten as I see Faubian facing a gaping break in the fuselage and wildly flaying his arms about. His boot is trapped in the break, and he can't prevent going down with the plane. I approach him from his back, put my arms around his chest, and prop both my feet against the plane. With all my strength, I try to free his foot. Just then, the turbulent water causes the break to open a little., and his foot is freed.

He spins in the water and grabs me in a bear hug. I didn't realize he was so strong, and I didn't know he couldn't swim. He is frantic and Is In the process of drowning both of us. As I try to free myself from his grip, I become strangled. I can hardly breathe, much less think logically. Finally I get free of his grasp except for his iron grip on my little finger. It gets broken, but now we are separated.

The gyrations of the water move me about 50 or 60 feet to where Richard McDaniel is drifting. His lifejacket is inflated, and he is holding a small oxygen tank. When he sees that my life jacket is useless, he gives me the oxygen tank. Because I'm nearly drowned, I try to climb on top of the tank. It spins me over head down. When I surface, McDaniel slaps me with more than enough force to get my attention. He instructs me to hold the tank under my chin and stay still - I obey.

A miracle wave carries the two of us back to the plane just forward of the wing. The remainder of the survivors are with two small rubber rafts that Middleton has released from the top of the plane. Old dependable Lawrence Petersen and Bill Middleton are busy righting one of the upside-down rafts. With their help and that of Robert Lacey we all manage to get into the rafts before dark.

The sea is extremely rough with ground swells that appear to be 20 feet high; so we decide not to inflate the seats. The rafts are attached to each other with a 10-foot line. Some order is beginning to emerge from this chaos. We count heads. Erdman and Ryan are missing (never got out of the plane). To my surprise, Faubian is in a raft. How? He appears to be unconscious.

We are resigned to facing the night. The temperature is really cold. We are sitting in the bottom of rafts that are half filled with cold water. There is a canvas anchor trailing one of the rafts. When the leading raft clears the crest of a ground swell, the connecting line stretches taut as the rafts separate, and when the trailing raft clears the crest, the rafts bump together. This maneuver [sic] continues throughout the night.

Our big fur collars are turned up around our ears to protect against the wind. The trouble with this is, the collars also make good water funnels. Occasionally a curl will form on top of a ground swell, and if we are under It when it breaks, a ton of water comes down on our heads. Then the relatively warm water in our leather flying suits is flushed out and replaced with cold seawater.

6

[page break]

It is a long night. We can hear the drone of a plane above the noise of the sea. It is heading toward us, and the pilot turns his landing lights on. He continues to come our way. (I vaguely remember someone in the other raft shooting up an identification flare.) My mind is weary, and I'm not sure if the flare is fact or fancy. Anyway, he turns his lights off and veers out to sea. This incident causes me to engage in random thinking. Wonder if the sub we were trying to locate is still in this area? Wouldn't it be great if he would surface and take us prisoners! I seem to hear Grandpa saying, “If wishes were horses, beggars could ride".

Before morning, someone in our raft casually remarks that the pocket containing fishing tackle is not snapped to the raft as designed. It is upside down, the flap is open, and the fish hooks are loose among us. My imagination is off and running again. After all, we are in air inflated rafts.

Think I’ll check for hooks. Now I discover that I can't move my legs. They don't feel frozen; in fact, they have no feeling at all. I want to move my legs, but they refuse to react to instructions. So I take the hands of my companions seated on each side and place them on my chest. I still have feeling in my chest. Together, we three slide our hands down my body and place them under a knee. On signal, we all try and are able to slightly move one of my legs. We repeat the process with my other leg and then we move their legs. Now my thoughts drift to other areas.

Just remembered that I enlisted in the Navy exactly two years ago today (February 14, 1942). I left a carefree life at El Paso, Texas, High School, and within two short years I have become eligible to be a member of the'GOLDFI5H CLUB' which is first cousin to the `CATERPILLAR CLUB'. Now this is an accomplishment to strive for! (Members of the `Goldfish Club' ride their crippled plane down and ditch it in the sea; whereas members of the 'Caterpillar Club' bail out in silk parachutes and abandon their disabled plane in the air.) I'm sure all will agree that I celebrated my enlistment anniversary with a BIG SPLA5H.

It occurs to me that I have $300 worth of English ten-pound notes in my pocket. If I freeze to death the money will be worthless to me. I promise it all to the Good Lord if He will get me to dry land. (I will regret this promise a few days later, but I will be afraid to renege.)

Now the first signs of dawn appear. Someone discovers that Faubian died during the night. We meditate on this fact in silence. My mind flashes back to that dream I had just before our mission began; did it really portend things to come? I contemplate the deaths of my three good and loyal friends. (This train of thought will be renewed a few days later when the film of our last breakfast is developed. Erdman, Ryan, and Faubian are out of focus, but my image on the picture is sharp and clear. What, if any, importance should I give to this fact?) Did my subconscious mind have reason to make me apprehensive about going on this flight? It has been a long, cold night and the volume and diversity of my thoughts defy description. Before long we hear a plane, and I recover from my daze.

7

As it comes nearer, we recognize the plane to be a Sunderland - a British flying boat. The time Is probably 7 or 8 a.m. We signal to him, but he never sees us. Within an hour another Sunderland flies near us on his patrol south, We signal with stainless steel mirrors; but he just keeps going: Soon we see a third one heading directly toward us. This Sunderland circles and comes over us within 30 feet of the water. His crew waves and throws us a big round life raft with canned water in its survival kit. Our spirits skyrocket.

The Sunderland continues to circle within a mile radius until it is relieved by a U.S. Navy PBY 'Catalina' and three fighter planes. The Sunderland that first found us makes one more pass, dips alternate wing tips, and continues on his mission south. After one low run, the fighters move up in altitude to about 3 or 4 thousand feet and fly a big circle around us. We conclude that they have been sent here to prevent our being picked up by the Germans or the French. The PBY comes in over us low and slow with its engines making a popping and cracking sound as if each revolution will be its last: My friends Murrel Tittle and Mono Edwards are waving from the port blister.

"Pete" - Lt. Lawrence Peterson (the leader of our cheering squad) exclaims, "God bless him, that it ‘Whiskey' (Lt, Charles Willis). He has an old familiar flying boat; let’s pray he doesn't commit suicide by trying to land out here in these mountain sized waves". We are all aware that Lt. Willis has a reputation to uphold; so none of us would be foolish enough to bet against his trying to do anything, anywhere, at any time.

More planes are arriving on the scene - two of our Liberators and another fighter or two. With us now are two Liberators, one PBY and three or four fighters. I note that the insignias on the fighters indicate that they represent different countries. One of the Liberators is coming in only a few feet above the crest of the ground swells and heading almost directly toward us.

As it passes over us; l recognize George Moore leaning out from the port waist hatch and waving with both hands. We can hear him yell, "McDaniel", above the roar of the plane's engines and the noise of the sea; We know that George is `Slim's" (Richard McDaniel’s) best friend. "HoId onto something George." The fact that he hasn’t already fallen out of the plane is a big surprise. Someone in the other raft volunteers a personal observation, "That outfit belongs to Lt. Chet Rief and Lt. Bruce Higginbotham: The entire crew from Chet and Bruce on down is just like George - long on nerve and short on caution " I know that observation fits George Moore and Dave Offrell, and there is no reason for me to doubt that it applies to the rest of the crew.

Here comes the other Navy Liberator (PB4Y-1): It is just a little too high for me to recognize the three fellows in the waist hatch, but Lt Ken Wright is positive that Lt. Gus Binnebose is waving from the cockpit window. Regardless, we are gratified to know that our comrades are concerned about us and are doing all they can to ensure our rescue.

8

The planes seem to circle for hours. Who knows how long; our watches have not worked since they were filled with salt water. Finally the planes all streak away over the horizon. Within a few moments, they come back. They are flying low and come directly over us. They circle back and repeat their performance. They have spotted the rescue boat and are directing it to our location.

When we are on top of a wave, we can see what appears to be an overgrown PT boat heading our way. It is soon alongside us. A big British sailor reaches down, lifts me out of the raft, and carries me to the deck below. He supplies all the effort it takes to change from my cold, wet flying gear to warm, dry pajamas [sic] . I can't stand alone, and am not much help to him.

Bunks attached to a bulkhead are stacked several high. I try to get into the lower one alone. Even though it is only 4 inches above the deck, I can't get in without assistance. When we are all secure in our bunks, the ship's crew gives us some hot rum. I was told that the rum was spiked with a sleeping potion, so we wouldn't feel the pain of thawing out. That rum is the last I remember before I awake to find we are about to be unloaded at a British port.

We are taken from the boat to (what appears to be) a British military hospital. I report that a vertebra in my neck feels as if it is fractured. The doctors Ignore my concerns without ever taking an x-ray. (I will find out 50 years later, when arthritis occurs, that a vertebra really was fractured.) We are all treated for severe frostbite, exposure and abrasions, and within a couple of days we are released from the hospital.

Those British sailors risked their lives by going deep into no-man's-territory to rescue us. I will always appreciate them and admire their valor [sic] . I am especially appreciative of the big fellow who carried me from the raft. (I weighed 120 pounds soaking wet.) My thoughts at the time were only of getting dry and warm, but he was sensitive enough to perceive that in the future I might want a token remembrance of the event. So, after I was in dry pajamas [sic] , he picked up my wet leather flying suit and cut the section out of the sleeve that surrounded the bullet hole. He told me that some day I might want to show my children how close they came to not being here.

A tiny segment of my life has just been related. The time span was less than 36 hours, and only three minutes were assigned to actual battle. But, as a result of events that happened during that short encounter, three Americans and three Germans died: Robert Erdman, Tommy Ryan, and Bennie Faubian, -- Werner Rueger, Kurt Necessany, and Lother Clements.

~ ~

Members of crew 8 never flew as a unit again. Some of us flew two or three more missions with other established VB-103 crews before we were sent back to the States.

9

After a few weeks of stateside duty at Elizabeth City, North Carolina word began to circulate that Commander Brewer and Lt. Commander Rand had been selected to organize (or reorganize) VB-107. I, along with Murrel Tittle and Russell Millard (all three from VB-103), arranged an appointment with Lt. Cdr. Rand. He immediately accepted us as the first three members of his crew. After a few weeks at the Naval Air Station, Boca Chico, Florida. the squadron was sent to Upottery, England. We continued to fly in the Bay of Biscay and to blockade France until the last day of the war in Europe. According to my account, I flew a total of 53 missions from England with VB-103 and VB-107. And, the only souvenirs I have from these four years I flew with the Naval Air Force are the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, an Air Medal with a Gold Star, and the Navy Unit Citation.

As a point of reference, I flew in the same Wing with Joseph `Joe" Kennedy, Jr. At that time in history, his brother Jack had not yet become the President of the United States. So, to us, Joe was just another fellow flier who took his chances in defense [sic] of our country, and was unlucky enough to get killed. But then, exactly half of the original members of VB103 were also killed in action.

Until recently. the account of this story was just a fragmented array of memory flashes. Mr. Edward B. “Buck” Cummings encouraged me to record the event just as I personally saw and felt the trauma as it was happening. Mr. Cummings also provided me pictures of the Germans that had been given to him by Mr. Chris Goss, the author of the book “BLOODY BISCAY”. This brief portion of history is in exact accord with the memory of one who has been fortunate enough to reach the carefree age of seventy-seven.

It would be remiss for me not to remember the stoic British people at St. Eval, Dunkeswell, and Upottery. I mention only these three locations, but in my mind, they are representative of all the neighboring [sic] towns and villages that befriended a bunch of young and spirited American flying sailors.

~ ~

I am appreciative of the constructive criticism provided by my son Scott and the research done by my daughter Ann Lillie Chess.

[signature]

Carleton F. Lillie June 8, 2001
1303 Caldwell Mountain Rd.
Hot Springs. NC 28743 s

TEL. (828) 622-7616

e-mail cliilie@madison.maln.nc.us

[photograph]

10

[page break]

A British air-sea rescue craft has ventured deep into no-man's-territory to rescue the survivors of crew 8 who are in the three rubber rafts. We will always appreciate those sailors and admire their valor [sic] [photograph]

[photograph]

Crew 8 of U.S. Navy Bombing Squadron VB-103
Fleet Air Wing Seven ~ Dunkeswell, England

Crew 8 - Upper L. to R
Carleton Lillie
Robert Zabic
Kenneth Wright
Lawrence Petersen
Robert Lacey
Lower - L. to R.
Richard McDaniel
William(Bill) Middleton
Bennie Faubian
Thomas Ryan
Robert Erdman
[arrow]

Ryan Erdman

[photograph]

As a result of events that happened during a three minute aerial duel, three Americans and three Germans died in defense [sic] of their respective countries.

[photograph]

Faubian

[photograph]
Clements Necesany Rueger

Above - L, to R
Thomas Ryan
Robert Erdman
Bennie Faubian
Left -- L. to R.
Lothar Clements
Kurt Necesany
Warner Rueger

Collection

Citation

C F Lillie, “A speck of history from long ago and far away,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed January 16, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/17971.

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