The Collins Foundation   25            April 2011

Here is another view of the bombardier floor area which isn't very large. My feet are spread to the max here which should give you an idea of how small it is. Let me put it this way, I'm 5' 11" and I could barely fit in the kneeling position to do anything which means it would have to be a really small guy up here.



As I was kneeling down and ready to leave the front of the plane, this is what I saw. The red tag says: 'Main fuel tanks selector valves'. The pilot or co-pilot couldn't reach these so it was up to either the navigator or bombardier to switch these on or off.



I'm on my way out now and have to go head first down over that ledge and then crawl out. I had no idea it was this cramped in one of these aircrafts. On the other hand, this was a great experience for me and I loved every minute of it. I've also gained even more respect for the men that flew in these aircrafts as they had to be tough as nails mentally and physically which is something I'm glad I didn't have to endure.




WWII War Hero


To go along with the World War 2 era, I have a special treat to share which is a true story that comes from a B-24 pilot named Mancel King, who flew in WW II.

A good friend of Jerry's, that lives close to him in Oregon flew a B-24 in the second World War. He was kind enough to share some of his real war experiences and pictures with him and also let me pass it on to you. Jerry went to his house, took some notes, then wrote the story, went back and read it to Mancel to make sure it was right. After a few edits from the pilot, here is what Mancel had to say while flying the B-24. Enjoy!


My name is Mancel W. King. I was born in Kansas in the year 1922 on a sharecropper’s farm where my family scraped out a living in the depression years. When World War II broke out, I enlisted in the Army for two reasons, first to get away from my poor existence on the farm but also to fight the Axis (the bad guys).

After basic training I was given some extra tests and it showed that I had the ability to be a pilot. At this time there was no Air Force, just the Army Air Corp. So, away I went to Hobbs Air Training Center in New Mexico. Well as it started out I was just a lowly PFC (Private First Class) in fatigues cleaning latrines. It didn’t take long to see that being an officer was a much better way to go. After more tests I was sent off to San Antonio, Texas to become an officer and pilot. 

Next I was shipped to Uvalde, Texas to begin basic flying. After graduation there I went to Mountain Home Idaho to learn four engine flying and then the B-24. What a great airplane the B-24 was. Slightly larger than the famous B-17, the B-24 was an easy plane to fly. 

I am now a brand new Second Lieutenant and with my crew of ten men, we were shipped to England to a place called Flixton, about 20 miles from Norwich, England. The Earl of Flixton owned most of Flixton and had a castle about the size of a city block. This is where we flew out of on bombing raids to Germany. 

On my first mission over Germany, we ran into a lot of flack and one of the bursts hit the front part of my plane causing us to loose all of our hydraulic fluid and filled the plane with black smoke. It got so thick that we had to open our windows to see. With the help of my co-pilot we could keep the plane flying straight and level and continued on our bombing run dropping all our bombs. This was the time I realized that I was in a war and they are really trying to kill me. A very scary time.

On our return home we were given instructions to land at an emergency base that had a very long and wide runway. With no hydraulic system we had to manually lower the main wheels, which took about half an hour. The nose wheel was destroyed in the blast so we were going to land on just two wheels. We had to come in “hot” and fast because of no flaps. As the plane slowed I had the men stand in the center of plane and one by one, a man would go to the back of plane to help balance it and keep the nose up as long as possible. After slowing to about 40 knots the nose finally dropped to the pavement and boy was there a lot of sparks. The plane didn’t catch on fire but did a big ground loop. We were all out of it before the engines stopped turning. An interesting note here, the field was RAF (Royal Air Force). Believe it or not, the plane was repaired and returned to service. They counted 37 large holes in the wings and fuselage. Often wonder what ever happed to her.

I had a great crew especially our navigator. It became known that we always found our mark and on some flights we were the lead plane, which was a lot of responsibility as each squadron had eighteen planes. 

I flew 23 missions and near the end I was the right wing man of our squadron leader, but when his plane was hit they all had to bail out. Can’t remember his name but he was taken prisoner and later returned by a prisoner swap. After his plane left the formation, our plane took the lead. We were bombing a very important fuel depot near Kaiserslavten and we needed to take it out. However the Germans had it so well camouflaged we missed it on our first pass. I turned the flight around and went at it again, this time was successful but very costly. Out of thirteen planes we returned with only six. Each plane has a crew of ten men. 

The second to the last mission I flew, my plane was again struck by ground fire. Flying at 22,000 feet, the flack was so thick it looked like you could get out and walk on the puffs of smoke. This time my right wing was struck by flack causing the plane to vibrate so badly it was all the co-pilot and I could do to fly in a straight line. Again we were able to complete our task of dropping our bombs. On the way home it became evident that we were not going to make it. We did get across the channel but that was as far as we could go. With the bomb bay doors open I instructed the crew to bail out. When it came my turn to jump, every time I left my seat the plane would try to roll over on it’s back which made it hard to jump up. Finally I was able to get out but it wasn't easy.

I grabbed my ripcord to pull the chute open but it wouldn’t work. I yanked and yanked and finally it opened but very close to the ground. It's a good thing it opened because the ripcord handle come off and was in my hand now. Thank goodness I landed in a freshly plowed wet field to which I sank up to my knees in and that saved me. I gathered up my chute, walked to a road, caught one of those double-decked busses and made my way back to the airfield. 

On my last mission on April 20, 1945 we flew at 20,000 feet over Muhldorf, Germany. You can see in the picture below my plane dropping its load of bombs. Notice that one of the bombs is trailing smoke. This was a marker bomb for the rest of the squadron to drop their bombs. Also in the picture you see that there are no flak or fighter planes. Germany was finished and could not put up any resistance. 




In this picture are a shot of my crew and plane. Notice the name, “Bangin Lulu”. I am in the bottom row third from the left. Last I heard, Ol Lulu was in a junk yard for airplanes somewhere in Arizona. 



The war finally ended and now I’m back in the states. Many years have passed. I went on to become a doctor of Optometric and retired at the age of 65.

My wife and I were able to travel over to England on vacation and went to one of the places where I was stationed. We even found the same pub that many of us would hang out between flights. 

As we were sitting at the bar, the bartender called out, “You a Yank eh? Yes I am. You know Colonel Schmidt eh? Yes, he was my squadron leader.” From that time on we never paid for our meals, drinks or lodging. Many a plane and its crew gave their lives to help save England from Nazi Germany. 

My friend Jerry Miller asked me to tell him this story. I hope you enjoyed reading some of my thoughts as I lived them during a very dangerous time in the world.

Mancel W. King retired. ><>

Mancel is another hero that fought for our freedom, our great country and was gracious enough to talk about it. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

I made a short video of the B-17 and B-24 while I was there. The quality isn't very good because I used my point-and-shoot camera but it's better than nothing. (about 30 mb)

Just remember when you see any type of military aircraft flying overhead, whether it's a biplane from WW I to a present day aircraft like the F-22 Raptor... you're listening to "The Sound Of Freedom".


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