By Leo Kennedy
Transcribed from “BAD News – Journal of the BAD 2 Association” Vol. 11 No.4 November 1988
I hope somebody remembers at least part of this, or I’ll be forced to agree with my family that I’m ready for “Smile View”.
In the weeks before the invasion, as I recall Site 10 formed up near the Mess Hall about 3:30pm, for the 4 o’clock shift. (OK it was 1600 hours to us old soldiers). We fell into loose formations of about 100 men with some big old Tech. Sgt. In charge of each group. There might be four or five groups strung out as we marched to the hangar area.
If my memory is right on this, we had three shifts, for some time before D-Day. There were midnight to eight; eight to four; four to midnight. Our journey always took the same route. On this lovely May afternoon we passed the Base Hospital as usual. It was about a block to our left and always had an ambulance there with an MP on duty at the door of the building.
On this day as we passed, we heard a gunshot and the sound of a bullet whizzing over our heads. It seemed to me to be about fifteen or twenty feet above us, but there were braver souls who later swore that the bullet had passed within half an inch of their ears.
When we looked down towards the hospital we saw the MP looking blankly at the side-arm in his hand. The smoke from the shot was still around his head. There was a friend with him.
We were, shall I say, somewhat upset, and the MP got a few threats, some advice, comments on his IQ and reflections on his ancestry.
I can’t recall now, just how all these were worded, but I do recall some rough soldier talk like “You gol-darned jeep-off son of a gun”, and some ruder fellows like Ernie Throop, Russ Russman and Monte Davis may have said some things even a bit more vulgar.
There was some general movement in the MP’s direction, but the Techs gave that growl that meant “You men are in FORMATION!” So we formed up again and got to the hangars without further adventure. One farm boy volunteered to go back and “clean his plough” but I don’t think he did.
The story that came down to us was that the MP was explaining to his chum about the safety on the piece. “See, the safety is on; she can’t fire” BAM!!!
The next day there was a different MP at the hospital door. I guess the other one was being spoken to gently by his CO.
After the “Action at Base Hospital Ridge” I am sorry to have to say that not one of our guys got a dime of combat pay, and even the bravest among us swore that the bullet came within a sixteenth of an inch from their heads got no citation for the courage above and beyond etc.
Well… the next two times we came under fire were a lot more serious. SOMEBODY else has GOT to remember this, or I’m outta here!
One night, near D-Day we were working away on the graveyard shift. I was a sheet-metal man on Geisler’s crew in Hangar Three. There were 17s and 24s being worked on and the appropriate men were swarming all over them, when suddenly we heard what seemed to be an explosion in the end of the hangar nearest the airstrip. It sounded like a roaring “Zip” for about a second. We looked back but all we could see was a crowd beginning to converge on one of the big planes. There was smoke in front of it. Little by little we found out what happened.
One of the armourers who was checking a gun had used a short cut to test the triggering mechanism, thinking the gun was empty. But there were still some live rounds in the gun, and they all fired and went the length of the hangar and for all I know, five miles beyond, through Freckleton and into the English countryside!
Now, I don’t want any big fat armourer guys coming around here to punch me out.
That’s the story that trickled down to us. If there is a different angle, let’s hear it.
That was bad enough, but a few nights later the same thing happened again! After forty-three years I’m a little fuzzy. It may have been another hangar… but HAPPEN it did. Geisler, the Beast of Freckleton, wouldn’t let us off our crew-chief stands to make enquiries, so I’m not sure.
The general opinion around here is that anyone who is 74 must be running a quart low, and if he says he remembers anything, it must be the ravings of a fevered brain. But perhaps there exists to this day some hard evidence that what I remember really happened. Perhaps our English friends who work in the old hangars will look at the I-beams that extend from the floor to the roof. Perhaps one, more eagle-eyed than all the rest, will see the mark of the fifty calibre shell. It went through the edge of that three-quarter inch steel beam like butter. I’ll bet if the hangar is still there the mark is too. Maybe five or six feet from the floor?
I don’t see how I can remember all of this if no one else recalls any of it. But young men look forward, old men dream dreams, and if I’m dreaming, I’ll be ready for “Smile View”, but I won’t like the tapioca they’ll feed me there with a spoon.