A Command Pilot's Last Mission
The mission continued as if nothing had happened. When the bomb run started at the IP (Initial Point), it was Del’s duty to open the bomb bay doors. He later reported that he noticed the handkerchief on one of the bombs, and also observed that the bombs were splattered with odd looking markings that were not there when he had removed the pins to arm the bombs. (This has to be the only time that a command pilot in the 8th Air Force had personally marked the bombs in the bomb bay with his own DNA to send greetings to Hitler!). The primary target was nine-tenths cloud covered and, after two trips around and over the target, the bombardier couldn’t get a visual sighting, so Chuck ordered them to the secondary target---Bielefeld Railroad Viaduct. The bombs were dropped, the doors were closed, and the return to home base was uneventful after the 7 hour 19 minute flight.
At Horsham St. Faith, it was customary for Col. Isbell to greet the command pilots after each had successfully completed their last tour of duty mission. He would congratulate the command pilot with a hardy handshake, and have a photographer take a photo of him with the crew. However, when command pilot Chuck Booth crawled out of the plane, he was in no condition to have his photo taken, or even to get close to Col. Isbell. He wanted to command a jeep, get to the barracks, clean up, and return to the critique before meeting the Colonel. As he started for the jeep, Col. Isbell pulled up in his staff car and intercepted him. Chuck saluted. Col. Isbell saluted back and stuck out his hand, but he immediately pulled it back and ordered Chuck to put his gloves on before shaking hands. Chuck and the Col. both had a good laugh. Pilot Beno also shook hands. Col. Isbell said “Go get cleaned up, I’ll hold up the mission critique meeting.” After he got himself cleaned up, he was seen at the mission critique downing a “few” shots of whiskey to relieve the tension and stress of the mission. Beno again shook his hand congratulating him on completing his “Last Mission.” Chuck said to Pilot Beno, “You know, if we had to bail out today, the Germans would have said, “We’re not shooting too many down lately, but we sure are scaring the s--- out of them”.
Written by Chuck Booth and Del Shaffer
March 3, 1945
Photos: Chuck Booth