My name is Carl DiMedio. I am a 27-year member of SAL Squadron 253 in the Bronx, N.Y. This is my entry for My Hero, Our Story.
My father Carl was a top turret gunner onboard a B-24 bomber in the Army Air Force flying out of England in 1943. He was in the 453rd Bomb Group. I'll start at the beginning. Everything I tell you is from stories he has shared with me over the years. The first thing I would like to share with you is the name of his B-24 bomber. She was called the "Boise Babe." My dad told me that the name for a plane was selected by the pilot. He explained that the captain was awarded the honor of naming the aircraft. The captain selected "Boise Babe" for the girl who was waiting for him back in Idaho. Dad flew 33 combat missions during the war.
This next part of his story I always found very interesting. When the B-24s left England on a bombing run, they were escorted by fighter planes across the English Channel. But halfway to their target, the fighters had to peel off and return to England, because the fighters did not have enough fuel to escort them all the way into Germany. Dad said, when those fighters peeled off and returned to the air base it left them unprotected from enemy fighters and from ack ack from the ground. And he told me, that the Germans knew the fighters had to return to base, and they would just wait and then attack the formation. He said he would never forget that empty feeling in his stomach as he watched those American fighters return to England from his perch in the top turret gunner position. And then, as he told me, the P-51 fighter escort planes were brought into service,and according to dad the P-51 fighters were equipped with enough fuel and ammo to escort them all the way into Germany and back. One can only imagine the sense of relief on board the "Boise Babe" knowing they were protected all the way into Germany. Unbelievable. He said the men in those P-51 fighters saved countless lives aboard those bomber formations. Ten crew members on each bomber. Dad told me the B-24 bomber was called a "flying coffin" during the war. According to Dad, the one position intentionally left open during landing was the belly gunner. He explained that many times the belly gunner turret locked in place, trapping anyone inside. So when coming in for a landing the belly gunner would climb out of his position so as not to become a casualty in case of a dangerous landing. And as a reminder, these brave men had to fly these missions 33 times. How many chances were the crew going to get? Dad said when they landed back in England after their first mission, the entire crew realized that they had to do 32 more bomb runs into Germany. Wow. In 1943 his B-24 was shot down over occupied France. All aboard survived, and according to my dad, the pilot saved all of their lives by getting that bomber on the ground in one piece. My father and the crew were actually rescued by the Free French Underground, and they brought them back to safety. Then the crew made their way back to their air base in England. Sounds like something out of a movie, but I assure this is exactly how it happened. My dad is gone 20 years now, but his time in the 8th Army Air Force were the proudest moments of his life.
To end on a lighter note, in 1946 my father received a letter from the Army Air Force stating that he owed them $25 for an airmen's flight package that was never returned. He told them they could to back to France, where his plane was shot down, and that they might find it there. Dad lived a long and happy life after the war. Dad never took a flight on a commercial airliner after the war. I'm sure his time on the "Boise Babe" was enough flying for him.