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About the Episode
This episode is brought to you by the Museum’s Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy.
At our 2022 International Conference, we were “lucky” to hear from veteran John “Lucky” Luckadoo, who was interviewed by Dr. Donald Miller, the author of Masters of the Air.
Lucky served as a pilot and copilot with the 100th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, also known as the “Bloody Hundredth.” He flew a total of 25 missions over targets in France and Germany.
Lucky shared some of his experiences with the Mighty Eighth and memories of flying these daring missions.
If you would like to view the original conversation, you can see it here:
Catch up on all episodes of World War II On Topic and be sure to leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform.
Topics Covered in this Episode
- European Theater of Operations
- 100th Bomb Group
- "The Bloody Hundredth"
- Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
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Featured Historians & Guests
John “Lucky” Luckadoo
Lucky served as a pilot and copilot with the 100th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force. Lucky flew a total of 25 missions over targets in France and Germany.
Donald Miller, PhD
Miller is known for works such as Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, D-Days in the Pacific, The Story of World War II, and his latest book Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign that Broke the Confederacy, the pivotal Civil War battle.
Over the Cauldron of Ploesti: The American Air War in Romania
The stories of the American airmen in Romania should never be forgotten.
Medal of Honor: Kenneth Newton Walker, Brigadier General, US Army Air Corps
Kenneth Newton Walker, Brigadier General, US Army Air Corps received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a fatal bombing mission over Rabaul, New Britain, on January 5, 1943.
The Freeman Field Mutiny
Training in twin engine B-25 “Mitchell” bombers, the 477th never actually saw combat overseas, but fought another battle here in the United States. Formed as an all-Black unit, it became famous not for its combat record, but for its fight against the military version of “separate but equal.”
The Casablanca Conference
January 14-24, 1943
World War II saw an unprecedented level of inter-Allied cooperation that led to the formation of new staff organizations like the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the US-British Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS).
"World War II On Topic" is made possible by The Herzstein Foundation.
Hello. I'm Jeremy Collins, the director of conferences and symposia at the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans. Welcome to a special season of World War Two on topic Veteran Voices where we listen to firsthand accounts from those who lived through the war. This episode is brought to you by the museum's Jenny Craig Institute for the Study of War and Democracy at our 2022 International Conference.
We were lucky to hear from veteran John. Lucky. Luckadoo, who was interviewed by Dr. Donald Miller, the author of Masters of the Air. Lucky served as a pilot and copilot with the 100th bomb group of the eighth Air Force, also known as the Bloody Hundredth. He flew a total of 25 missions over targets in France and Germany.
Lucky shared some of his experiences with the mighty eighth and memories of flying these daring missions.
Dr. Mike Bell
We're going to cap off the day with an amazing panel for you today, a conversation with veteran John Lucky Luckadoo and museum presidential counselor Dr. Don Miller. Now we've heard amazing stories today. Form World War II veterans and I'm delighted to have with us here Lucky, who served as a pilot and copilot with the famous 100th bomb group of the eighth Air Force or as some of you might know them, the Bloody Hundredth because of some of the toughest missions of the mighty eighth.
Lucky flew 25 missions over targets in France and Germany when he was somewhat younger, I think, in his early twenties. But. To run this conversation today, I can't think of anyone better qualified to interview him today than the Don, an award winning scholar, the John Henry MacCracken professor of history emeritus at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, a prolific historian of many books ranging from the Battle of Vicksburg to the History of Chicago.
But what he is probably most known for here at the museum is his work on air power in the Second World War, especially Masters of the Air: America's bomber boys who fought the air war against Nazi Germany. Masters was named Outstanding Book of the Year by the World War Two magazine and and is the primary source for the upcoming Apple TV miniseries of the same name.
And so with that, Don, I'll hand the mission over to you.
Dr. Donald Miller
Okay. Well, this is a great honor to be here at the museum again, to see the kind of intrepid, enthusiastic crowds we have here. And it's an honor to obviously be sitting here beside my buddy, Lucky Luckadoo. I've interviewed Lucky before, but I think we both forgot about everything that happened in that interview. So I'm just hoping I live long enough to be able to interview him again.
So just a couple of general remarks and we didn't prepare anything specifically for this. We're going to just make it a pretty loose conversation and Lucky is going to be doing most of the talking. It was his war and he's going to bring it to you. And I do want to just contextualize this a little bit with a few words about the eighth Air Force, not when it was founded and things like this, but some of the kinds of things that he confronted in the war that all other airmen confronted as well.
And by the way, we do have another eighth Air Force airmen and B-17 guy Ken Beckmann. Ken could you stand up? 48 missions.
For our fifth Bombardier navigator.
Dr. Donald Miller
He was on a trip that I lead and Masters of the Air, and I was up rambling about something about how they took off and dissembled and everything. And somebody from the back of the bus said, Well, that's not quite right. I said, Who the hell is it? What?
Oh, boy. Ken's never let me forget it. And, yeah, well, we're talking about a war. That is what I would call sui generis. It's one of a kind. There was only one bomber war. There were no bomber wars before this. And they'll never be another bomber war. It's all about missiles now. And so this is a scene of something brand new.
And as Lucky points out many times in the book, it's, in his words, an untested battlefield. Everything here is experimental. And a lot more attention I think you'll find in this conversation was page of the machines rather than the men. It's a different kind of warfare in a lot of ways. It's kind of analogous in wonderland warfare, where everything's upside down.
What kills? The air kills over 11,000 feet. You can't breathe it. Okay? What kills? The sun. They can spot you. The Germans move in for the kill. It's bad news. Okay, so you got to go to war. Tethered to a machine, a thin cylinder. Then a strong man with a screwdriver can punch a hole through. And obviously, flak, you know, when you hit flak holes in a plane, they're usually right through the plane into the interior.
And they're hurting some equipment or some men. And it's a totally different type of warfare. And what people didn't really know is how they would that the people who planned this war, the so-called bomber mafia back in the middle of 1930s at Maxwell Field in Alabama.
These guys went to war not just as guinea pigs, but they were lied to and they were lied to very badly. They were told that they could get to the targets without escorts. They were told not to worry about the flak that the plane had a ceiling high enough to get above the flak. They were told not to worry too much about casualties.
There wouldn't be many of them inside the plane or on the ground because the bombing would be, you know, in the hands of Bombardier, who is who has, you know, a brand new instrument of warfare called Norden Bombsight. And you could so-called drop bombs into a pickle barrel, so-called pinpoint bombing, which, as we all know, is an oxymoron.
So they didn't find out about all this, the truth, the war, until they flew. And then they had to adjust. They had to adjust to stress. And they broke down. Many of them did. And when they broke down, no one quite knew in the beginning how to handle it because combat fatigue occurred differently. The symptoms were different for airmen than they were for those on the ground.
The treatment was different, so that made it a different kind of war. Also, there are not only no foxholes in the sky, but you're up there in a tube that's filled with gasoline. And there's a great myth about air war that it's push button war. See the target, press the buttons while these guys are down. Ernie Pyle's boys in the mud and sleet.
But if you have seen photographs of air battles, you'll notice the closeness of the combat. As Lucky points out in the book, you could see the eyes of the German pilots. Very few combat soldiers in combat, in actual combat before taking prisoners are seeing the dead, actually saw the enemy, especially in the Pacific. These guys did see the enemy up close and the enemy was flak, too.
And you're flying right into it. It's inches in front of you and you can't take evasive action. And what kind of pressures does that bring to bear on the plane? Its survivability on the human beings inside the plane. And it's a variegated group of human beings psychologically, mentally, physically. What does it do to the body? What's the proper diet?
Everything is brand new here and so what we're going to do today is let Lucky tell us what it was like to fly a B-17 over the contested skies of Europe at the worst point in the air war. He arrived there with the 100th bomb group in the spring of 1943, and it got really bad in August with a big mission called Regensburg-Schweinfurt, but it got absolutely shatteringly
horrifyingly bad in October, often called Black October. And there's a week in there that the Air Force called Black Week when the casualties were unbelievable. When in the first three missions, the Air Force lost over 86 bombers. The chances of survival at that point in the war were, well, if you were a B-17 crew, crew member, your chances of making it to 25 were zero.
Just doing the arithmetic. You were dead, man. And 11 missions. Your chances of surviving were about one in three. That's that's pretty bad odds. 73% of men who flew with the eighth Air Force were casualties. That's for the entire war. In the period he was in, it was over 80% were casualties. And it's those casualties that really flew out of me and got me interested in this.
And my book really came down to one question. I kept looking for the answers in in Lucky's book, and we like to explore those today. How do you get in that plane with all those stresses, with all those challenges and hold up? And when you hold, don't hold up. And when men around you or in men around you don't know what happens to them because most of them continue to fly and how are they treated and how do they survive mentally?
Because the war doesn't end in 1945. This is a never ending war for these guys. You know, it's a war that will never end. So with that, we'll begin Lucky with Pearl Harbor. You're in Tennessee, Chattanooga, your freshman, and you wanted to get in that thing ? Get in that fight as a pilot.
Well, let me say I'll say to begin with that from my life, the viewpoint of 100 years now, I view... I view what I and my comrades did in 1943 and going to Europe as part of the eighth Air Force far differently than I did then at that time. We were looking at. We were hairy headed college kids. We were so incredibly young, innocent, vulnerable, gullible.
And we believe what we were being told that our values were in jeopardy. We had been attacked at Pearl Harbor. We witnessed as many and some of you did, but very few that it galvanized this country into action and unity that we have never seen since. It also brought people in to the effort to wage war that was total from grandchildren to grandparents and all in between.
Everybody immediately took up the call to do their part to wage war and to defend our freedoms. Like many of my contemporaries, I did not talk about my war experiences for nearly 50 years, mainly because they were too painful. I still had nightmares. I still had the effects that war left on me for the simple reason that nobody goes to war and comes back the same person.
I don't care who you are or what your experiences are, but war in itself is futile. We learned nothing from war. We never have and perhaps never will. And all it does is satisfy somebody's outsized ego. That's what causes war. But we don't prove anything by war. We see a perfect example of that in Ukraine today. But there are many other examples that are just as pointed.
I would like to give you a little idea why this book that Dr. Miller refers to, I call it my story, but it's Kevin's book, and he's done an excellent job of reflecting what I thought should be documented, because historians had completely ignored several of the very specific factors that happened to me and to my contemporaries. But it never been documented.
For example, when I graduated from flying school in February of 1943, 40 of my classmates and I were immediately assigned right out of flying school to join the 100th Bomb Group. Then, based in Kearney, Nebraska, who was about to go overseas, they had already been through pre combat training. We for my classmates and I had never been in a B-17.
We graduated from a twin engine advanced flying school, just got our wings and just got our commissions. And we were immediately replacing all of the copilots and 100 bomb group that never happened in any other group in the war. Why? Well, the reason that was given to us was that it was because we were so badly needed... America was so badly needed in England to help thwart the impending invasion of England that we should be shipped over immediately.
But this group was not combat ready. The copilot is the second in command of the squadron of the crew, and yet we were totally unfamiliar with the equipment and certainly with the crews. There we were. That’s what we ordered to do. But I wanted to tell you that this was just one of the things that happened to what became known as the bloody 100th bomb group.
There were several reasons, but of those 40 of us that went to the group. Four of us finished a tour. That's why the name of this book is damn lucky, because that's precisely the bottom line. It didn't matter how good or how poor we were. If you survived, you were just incredibly lucky. As I was, and I wanted that to be documented.
Dr. Donald Miller
So Lucky. Did your motivation change over the course of the war, from the time you enlisted to the time you're in the middle of this thing?
My motivation did not because as you have already pointed out, we were led to believe that we were serving the cause, that our values and our freedom was being jeopardized, and it was our patriotic duty to answer the call. And we did. I spent most of my time these days addressing schoolchildren and reminding them of the debt they owe to my generation for the sacrifices that were made, or they wouldn't be here, and neither would you.
Dr. Donald Miller
How do you pull yourself together after, say, 12 missions? And you've seen a lot of blood and you seen a lot of comrades go down and you know what the chances are, how grim they are, how do you pull yourself together mentally? You get on that plane?
I don't honestly know. I just know that we were confronted with such an unusual set of circumstances. We were thrown into a position of tremendous responsibility. Suddenly, as I mentioned earlier, we were just citizen soldiers, Harry headed college kids that were thrust into this miraculous position of defending our country and our principles and we personally, the only way I could pull it together was to stay focused on the job and the realization that we had a job to do.
We were not told our way. We're not privy to the information that at that particular point in time, there was a tremendous debate being waged behind the scenes between Sir Arthur Harris, excuse me, the head of the eighth RAF and General Ira Eaker the head of the eighth Air Force. After the best way to employ our bomber force, the British had attempted daylight bombing and been shredded.
And we're convinced that because Germany was so well-equipped, so experienced, they had been fighting a war for four years and we were going up against this extremely formidable enemy, but that we could not withstand the heart rending losses that the Germans could wreak upon us. And therefore we should abandon daylight bombing, never attempt it and join them in nighttime bombing.
We were not aware of that as crewmen. We were just told to go day after day after day at high altitude and mass formation and the bitter cold. This is my memory. Most explicitly of my experience in World War Two. Was the c-o-l-d -50 or -60 degrees below zero at altitude. And how serious surely that impacted our ability to function, but we had to contend with it.
We were unpressurized. We were going out in broad daylight against a very formidable enemy, and we had not one enemy, but we had four. All began with “f.” The first was fear. We were literally scared to death, mainly because we did not have any clue as to what we were being confronted with. The second was the fighters. The Germans were equipped with their best equipment.
The Me 109, the Fw 190, and the Me 110, which was a rocket ship. The third was their flak. Their anti aircraft was highly developed, it was radar controlled. It could automatically plot our course, our altitude, all the wind directions and everything else and electronically fired. So all it took was German Hitler youth to load the guns.
And the last, but certainly not least was freezing. We literally froze to death on one mission. The nose of my plane was penetrated by a piece of shrapnel and a direct hit. A cold jet of that freezing air directly on to my feet, which froze to the rudder pedals. And I don't know why I didn't lose my toes when I got out good, got good care when we landed.
And they had to chip me out of the airplane and sent back to the hospital where they packed my feet on ice and gradually followed them to normal temperature. And fortunately, I didn't lose them normally at high altitude in those alien conditions, if you remove your gloves, you could have all of your fingers self amputate to the knuckles, not a drop of blood, not a pain.
What jerks their fingers flying on the floor. So those factors matured us instantly.
Dr. Donald Miller
And you were put in impossible situations. Tell them about the tail gunner.
Dr. Donald Miller
Tell me about your experiences in the tail of the plane as a copilot.
Well, this was another of the strange instances that has not been recorded or recognized, and that was that a standing operating procedure was developed, that if your crew was designated as the lead crew of the formation, the copilot was replaced by a command pilot who was in charge of the entire formation, and the copilot then was sent to fly the tail gun position.
They put me on the tail first time my crew was once designated and it flew several lead positions. I'd never fired a 50 caliber in my life, but here I was, isolated out on the extreme end of the airplane could only communicate with the pilot over the intercom, but I was ostensibly the fire control officer for the entire rear of the formation in that direction.
But whoever dreamed that went up didn't realize that I couldn't communicate with anybody but the pilot, and for them to warn, I have to change channels and then warn the rest of the formation of whatever danger I was reporting. It was dawn. It was over. So I did that once. And when I landed I said, I'm not getting in the tail again.
You didn't train me to be a gunner. You trained me to fly this airplane. And here you're wasting all of that investment in my training, putting me in the tail where I'm totally unequipped because what I had done innocently was as soon as we were under attack, I bore down on the triggers and promptly burned out both barrels.
So I was just not on the log for the whole mission. Having refused to fly in the tail again, I was first grounded when my crew led a formation thereafter, and as a consequence I did not finish. When they did, they ended up flying the fastest tour in the European theater of 25 missions in 89 days. But it left me with four missions still to fly.
So they returned to the states as instructors or crews coming over. And I sat on the ground.
Dr. Donald Miller
You know, Lucky, one of the things that lends uniqueness to your book and I just experience... or experiences just like that. And I think the standard explanation about one of the reasons the guys held together as well as they did is there was a lot of group unity inside the plane that the crews were well knit together. But you had a you had a crew that you didn't get along with.
You were a kind of a melvillian, isolated, all alone and how did that happen?
As you can well imagine, when the copilots were all replaced by these new shaved tails, that had just graduated from flying school, some of them, and certainly the crew that I was assigned to took violent exception, they really loved their former copilot. They bonded with him, drank with him, played, played cards with him, and he was a member of the team and they adored him.
And to have this usurper come into the picture, they highly resented and proceeded to make my life sheer hell. Other crews took a rather philosophical approach to the action and said, Well, look, these are the cards weren't dealt. We'll just make the most of it and try to help him and he'll learn as quickly as possible. But we had to learn about the airplane and how to fly the airplane from our pilots on the job.
And we were sent subsequently immediately with new airplanes that had been roughed up, remodeled and retrofitted to include extra fuel tanks to enable us to fly those planes all the way from Newfoundland to Scotland, which extended the range of the B-17 by 50%. We had an extra fuel tank and the bomb bays in addition to in the wings. And but the sad fact was that some of the crews did not except their neutral pilots.
And I was one of those until we got to Newfoundland. That's another story you'll have to read about.
Dr. Donald Miller
One thing they're going to read about it is, I think another book, The Unexpected, you know, runs right through your book. And another unique experience. Tell them about the LeMay mission, the Curtis LeMay mission to Berlin.
On October the eighth of... I'm sorry, in November of 1943, General Göring head of the Luftwaffe for the German Air Force, boasted that the Eighth Air Force would never bomb Berlin in the daytime. He thereupon put it upon the Luftwaffe to either stop the B-17 raids or be sent to the infantry. November the 23rd of 1943. I happened to be in the officer’s club.
I had to step back. I had been appointed since I was still on the base and had 22. I had 21 missions and on my 22nd mission in October on out at the beginning of Black Week on a raid to Berlin, the previous operations officer of my squadron had been rammed by a Fw 190 right in front of me and exploded and all but three of the gunners were killed.
So upon landing the squadron commander came up to me and... Upon landing that day he said, Well, you've got more experience than others, so I'm going to make you the operations officer. And then I was just a shape tail. Still a second lieutenant. I didn't get promoted to First Lieutenant to look 1st of November. Then on November 23rd, I was in the Officer's Club and I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around and it was a squadron commander and he said, Lucky, you'd better get to bed, you're flying tomorrow.
And I said, Well, why am I flying? You're supposed to fly. We're leading this mission, and I have you down because the operations officer determined the formation for the squadron who was to fly and what position and when you led... Your squadron led the formation for the group, then the squadron commander or the operations officer became a command pilot, replacing the regular copilot who would then go to the tail.
On this particular night. He warned me that I should get some sleep because I was flying and I said, Well, I'm not supposed to fly, you're supposed to fly. And he said, No, I want you to take this mission. So those were orders. And I went to bed, was awakened at 330, went down to the briefing room and who should walk in?
But General Curtis LeMay. And I thought this is unusual, highly unusual. He never attended our briefings. But here he was and the metrological officer got up and said, Gentlemen, we have a very unusual condition over all of Europe today. It is covered by 10 tenths cloud cover all over Europe. And he sat down. General LeMay got up and informed us that this mission was the most important mission of his entire military career, and he had always pointed toward leading it.
But General Arnold had threatened him. If he got in an airplane, he would court martial him. So he said, You're the only group going and this is so important that if we only get one airplane out of 18 in the formation over the target, it will be a success. So I looked across the room at my squadron commander and mouthed to him what I thought he knew what the mission was and the mission when they pulled the curtain back, showed the ribbon going directly from Fort [?],
our base, no deviation straight to Berlin. The strategy was that because of the cloud cover, we would fly not at our usual bombing altitude of 25 to 29000 feet, but at 12,000 feet just over the cloud cover. When we turned on the bomb run, we would dive through the clouds, picking up about 15 miles an hour. Airspeed breakout at 6000 feet over Berlin at high noon and bomb the Reichstag.
And if only one plane made it, it would have been a success. The only reason I'm here to speak to you tonight is because that mission got scrubbed. We took off and climbed up and formed and just hit the enemy coast. And they recalled it. Why? Because the cloud cover dispersed over the target and the element of surprise was destroyed.
That would have been a suicide mission.
Dr. Donald Miller
And it was symbolic because the all the official business of the Reichstag had been moved to the Kroll Opera House after it was burned, but it was going to be symbolic, and it was the former Senate of the German government. It would be like the European equivalent of the Doolittle raid. Yeah.
Well, I took the squadron commander aside and I told him he came up to my chest, looked down at him and I said, You yellow S.O.B., you knew what this mission was, and you put me in that spot and I was swore that I was coming back. And when I did, if I saw him, I would kill him.
And boy, did I mean it. Well, that was rank insubordination, if you've ever heard it.
Dr. Donald Miller
He's a lieutenant, by the way. At the time.
But if he court martialed me, he had to fly the mission. So he never said a word. And and I never got court martial. But when I landed after the mission was scrubbed, I immediately demanded that I be transferred, that I refuse to serve for under him. Another minute. And when I presented my case to the group operations officer, he said, Lucky I can't blame you at all.
He had been at the briefing and he was fully cognizant of the circumstances and he said, I do need a squadron commander, and this other squadron would you take that position. And I said, in a New York minute.
Dr. Donald Miller
Lucky, some of the guys broke down and some temporarily or permanently, some of the guys just couldn't get in the planes. What did you do with those guys? How did you handle that?
Dr. Donald Miller
So when the guys broke down, they're still on base. They can't fly. They won't fly. And maybe compare that to what the British how the British handled it.
What Dr. Miller is referring to is, the occasions when some of our contemporaries cracked the sheer terror, horror and chaos of combat got to them, and psychologically they could not bear it any longer and would consequently say, I can't get in that airplane again. The squadron operations officer was responsible for evaluating the capability of each member of the squadron as to whether or not they were showing combat fatigue, as we termed it, sometimes referred to as flak happy, contrasted with the British.
The British considered it lack of flight of.
Dr. Donald Miller
Dr. Donald Miller
That's what they call them.
They punished they literally punished, severely punished. Anybody that refused to fly, like fined them. Some cases, they imprisoned them or they sent them to the infantry, or they did all sorts of things to denigrate them and really end their military career. The eighth Air Force took a little bit more of a philosophical way, but this was the beginning of the recognition or the need to recognize the severe mental strain, that combat, kill or be killed places on an individual.
And that's why I say without qualification, that nobody goes to war or to combat and comes back the same person.
Dr. Donald Miller
You say at one point that the chaos of combat actually had a calming influence on you. Going about your work.
There is no doubt that when you're being shot at. And this is something your... it's difficult convey in a book that and the bitter cold or the two things that I told Kevin or were were not able able to actually convey in their true context. But when you're in a position of high altitude, so-called strategic bombing and you see the flak coming up in such dimensions that you can almost put your wheels down a taxi on it, you see the fighters coming in, you see them impacting members of your squadron, but they’re going down in flames.
You begin to think how in the world that I ever let myself get in a spot seriously? And curiously enough, ironically enough, even though it is so, so bitterly cold and you're so badly impaired and functioning, you suddenly find yourself perspiring profusely, even under those alien conditions, and that perspiration freezes instantly. And blocks your oxygen flow. And the only way you can subsist and high altitude is on oxygen.
So you find yourself sitting there breaking up the ice crystals with one hand and flying the airplane in with the other.
Dr. Donald Miller
I'd like to open this up to questions, but before I do, I want you to just tell us briefly about your toughest mission. Bremen. Kind of how you handle that. That was a tough one. Bremen.
Bremen was my toughest. That was the first mission that I flew after the crew, that my original crew went back home and I was flying with a brand new crew, was on their second or third mission, and they had a couple under their belts, but they were new. And I was in the leading the low element of the low squadron and the low, low group of the entire wing formation, which was usually looked at as the Purple Heart corner. As we turned to leave.
We sent out 18 airplanes on October the eighth, the first day. This is for 1943, the first day of Black Week, as it became known and as we turned on the initial point, started our bomb run and many of you probably not aware, but at that point the airplane is turned over to the bombardier. The bombardier is guiding the airplane, flying the airplane through the inner connection between the bombsight and the automatic pilot.
So on the bomb run, the pilot and the copilot are sitting there with their hands poised, ready to grab the controls. If you start veering into other members of a formation, or if something breaks down or you get hit or what, anything that can happen and on this occasion, the flak was the thickest that we had ever witnessed. And normally it's the luftwaffe.
Under those conditions, the bomb run would lay back and let the aircraft fire, protect the targets, and they would wait until we dropped our bombs and we were coming off to the rally point and then they would attack us, hoping that the anti aircraft fire had damaged us enough to force us out of the formation. And if you're alone, seperated from your formation, you're a sitting duck, because then the Germans can simply pick you off at will.
But on this date, just as we turned on the IP, turned it over to the bombardiers, we witnessed something we had never encountered before, and that was the Luftwaffe flying through their own flak. They’ve never done that before. They were pressing the attack so aggressively and so consistently and all hell was breaking loose. But they actually rammed the ship in front of me either intentionally or unintentionally.
Who knows what they blew up. And the squadron operations officer and one of our lead pilots was on his 24th mission, went down with it, and as a witness to that incident. I reported on the debriefing that they blew up and obviously there were no survivors. I learned three months later that several of the crewmen and in the tail of the plane, had cut it in two, several of the crewmen--
of the tail of the plane were prisoners of war. So they obviously did survive. But sometimes you report what you see or what you think you see or conclude what you think is a logical conclusion. And it isn't true. But as I hit the target and dropped my bombs, I discovered that there were only five other planes still airborne in my squadron.
My group and I fired a flare and they rallied on me. And the 95th bomb group in our wing was coming behind us and the next wave, and they had lost the entire squadron. So I radioed them and said, I'm rallying the remains of 100 bomb group and can we join your group to get home? And they said, Of course.
And so we tacked on to them, but I was only on three engines and I said, I'm getting some power out of the fourth engine, but I'm slowed up a bit. And they said, Well, we’ll will slow the formation down and try to let you keep up. And I managed to do so, and that's how I got back and survived, but I didn't really believe it.
From the bomb run on that I was going to come home from that.
Dr. Donald Miller
Lucky When I finished reading your book, I happened to have my bed stand book. I was reading it a little earlier by Joseph Conrad called Lord Jim. And I don't know if you've ever read Lord Jim, but there's a passage here that I think it it tells your story in short form. The passage reads: In time. When you had very young, he became a chief mate of a fine ship without ever having been tested by those events that show the light of day and the inner worth of a man, not only to others, but to himself.
John Luckadoo I think that’s you and thank you for being here.
Thanks for listening. We encourage you to visit National WW two Museum dot org backslash podcasts for more episodes that is national WW the number two museum dot org backslash podcast. Don't forget to check out the events tab on our homepage at National WW two Museum dot org as well to catch some of these conversations and programs in real time, the museum is marking a special year here in New Orleans coming at the end of 2023, we will be unveiling our capstone addition to our campus liberation pavilion.
The pavilion will cover the closing months of the war and the postwar years, exploring the links between World War Two and today. Equally important, the museum has the privilege and honor of hosting the 2023 Congressional Medal of Honor Society's annual convention, taking place in New Orleans from October 31st to November 4th. The convention is one of our country's most prestigious and patriotic events, providing unique opportunities for the public--
to Engage with Medal of Honor Recipients. Learn more at CMOHS dot org. This series is made possible by the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, which supports content like this from the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans. Please remember to rate and subscribe. It goes a long way to helping others find this series. I'm Jeremy Collins signing off.