The second day in the hospital [January 2] is over. Wrote letters to Mom and Bonnie. No sleep for the second night in a row. The nights have been endless since Stan went away. I wonder if there’ll ever be another night without a dozen awakenings, and a dozen nocturnal cigarettes. A night when without sorrow the tears don’t soak my pillow.
Horace Cathers brought a letter from Bonnie, with its usual cheer. I feel a need to be cheered these days. I still see those three planes smacking into that mountain and flashing into flame. I have the consolation that the boys didn’t even see the mountain. They can’t have because it happened so quickly. The colonel knew the mountains were 9,000 feet high. Why didn’t he climb his ships to the proper elevation like the other men did? It must have slipped his mind, but the fact remains that it shouldn’t have.
I can see death. Flying in the face of the enemy’s guns and having to combat both their forces and your own is almost heart wearying to consider. Will I ever fly again? It’s doubtful; but who knows what path the human mind will take?
Was released from the hospital this morning. Got settled in my own tent again. Kept expecting Stan to drop in all morning. Can’t get used to the idea that he won’t be a physical presence, standing here talking to me. He visits me often, otherwise. Perhaps because we’ve talked together so very many times in the past. Went over to his tent to see if I could pick up his mission book to send, after returning to the States to his father, and the addresses of Bunny and Margaret. Whenever I think of how hard they’ll take it, a chill runs up my spine.
In Belgium, Private Ernest McDowell Gibbons, Bonnie’s brother and Wayne’s brother-in-law, is wounded in action during the Battle of the Bulge. Pvt. Gibbons is serving in Company G, 41st Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division.
In England, Wayne’s brother, Verne, wrote in his diary:
Sidden1 took sick yesterday so no missions for us for the time being. Sure glad for the rest because I am very nervous and on edge. They had a milk run — no flak or fighters.
On January 3, 1945, the 23 aircraft of 390th Bombardment Group attacked the marshalling yard at Fulda. The mission was escorted by American fighters.2 Flak was nil and no enemy fighter aircraft were sighted. At Fulda the cloud cover was 10/10ths stratocumulus in several layers with tops at 12,000’. Above that, it was 6/10ths cirrostratus at 26,000’. Forward visibility was unrestricted. All ground details were obscured by the 10/10ths undercast and bombing was done by H2X.3
Notes & Commentary
1 2nd Lt. Charles W. Sidden was the Combat Crew #87 pilot.
2 Operations Narrative of Mission #237, 3 January 1945. Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), Office of the Operations Officer, 4 January 1945. microfilm B0426 Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 892- 894.
3 H2X was a ground-mapping radar used for bombing. It was sometimes called Mickey or Mickey set.
“H2X,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=H2X&oldid=603233429 : accessed 30 December 2014).
H2X allowed a trained operator to “see” the ground like a map and allowed blind bombing through clouds, smoke and haze. H2X was the USAAF version of the H2S bombing system pioneered by the RAF.
Edward Jablonski. Flying Fortress: The Illustrated Biography of the B-17s and the Men Who Flew Them. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965. p. 134. Also see Alfred Price. Instruments of Darkness: The History of Electronic Warfare. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967. p. 243.