|Ernie Pyle; Oran, Africa 1942|
This was a veteran Flying Fortress crew. Its members had been heroes on many missions over Europe. They were leading a flight of three on their bombing run over a Tunisian port. The two wing planes were flying close on either side, the pilots following the lead plane, and suddenly it disappeared right before their very eyes.
What happened was a matter of conjecture. But it seemed very likely that an antiaircraft shell made a direct hit on the plane's bomb load, and that the whole plane blew to tiny bits instantly and just vanished. Nothing was every seen except a little cloud of black smoke where the plane had been. Then the two other ships were flying alone. One airman happened to be taking a picture at the very moment of the disappearance. The film showed two planes and a puff of smoke between.
A direct hit setting off a plane's bomb load had never happened before in the American or British forces. I think it must have happened to the Germans, however, for I remember a British artillery officer telling me two years ago of a high-flying German bomber disappearing in a flash while he was looking at it through field glasses.
Fellow fliers of the ill-fated American crew were naturally pretty blue over the accident. But, as they said, when anything as freakish as that got you your number was just up regardless. And they went on with the war as usual."
-Ernie Pyle, "Here is Your War", p. 99
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