Granddaddy's War Stories

These letters, journal entries, stories, and pictures are from my grandfather, Henry Murray Huffman (1919-2011), who was a B-17 copilot in WWII. [The pictures are in no particular order. The stories are from a 2007 interview.]

Letter: Army Air Base, Salina, Kansas

[To his wife, Sue, and son, Murray]

Hello again Angel:

I’m fixing to go to bed now. It’s practically 12:00 o’clock and I will have to get up about 7. Honey you sounded like you were worried when I said I was leaving Salina soon. I didn’t intend to alarm you but even if I should go straight on over which I will be doing soon there’s nothing to worry about. God has always done such a wonderful job of leading & directing our steps that we should have no fear of this at all. I don’t have. I am really anxious to get under way so I can start looking forward to the time we can be back together & it will all be over. I know how you feel and I don’t blame you but when you look at it in the way it should be it’s not bad at all. There’s hundreds of things that could be worse. & God is fully as able to watch after me over there as he is here and if it wasn’t for his watch & care I know of several times I could have been killed easily and it was purely his care that kept me from it. Those times I mentioned were the obvious times he has intervened. Of course we all know he has the power to take or keep us according to his will.

Honey I must go now. Write soon. & very often. Kiss Murray & yourself for me and I sure enjoyed talking to you.

All my Love.


P.S. I’ll have to send this free as I’m out of stamps.

Journal Entry: Aug. 12

I don’t remember much about this because I didn’t write anything at the time and it’s now 3 weeks later. We hit our target which was the City of Bonn. It was quite cloudy that day and we had worlds of flak and fighters but we came through O.K. One tail gunner got hit by flak which by the way received a purple heart for yesterday. He came within an inch of his life when a plane above his dropped their bombs and tore the tail right off from in front of him. That raid was down in the Ruhr Valley. We picked a tough place to go for our first raid. A couple of days later we went to some air-dromes in France. I don’t remember the name. We really put our bombs on the target and ... [remainder missing].

Journal Entry: Tuesday Aug 11, 1943, Regensburg Raid

We got up early this morning about a quarter of 1 I believe. We ate and went to the briefing room and to our surprise found our route stretching from top to bottom of our big map and about 6 ft. more winding across a map on the side of the building. Before it was uncovered to where we could see our target everyone was guessing where and what it could be. Holloway was very happy because he was going to get to go as they had been using them for spares on some previous raids. Old Hinckly was quite restless because he was listed as a spare this morning and he was afraid he wouldn’t get to make it. There were 4 spares and two of them were late for briefing so the Col. told them they would be the last to fill in an abortion. So Hinkley felt a little better. When the briefing was over we went out to the plane & made sure everything was ready. It finally came time to start the engines. Just as we had the 4th started the tower shot a double red flare, telling us it was postponed for a while. Soon someone came around and gave us a new take-off time. The clouds were right down on the ground by now. Pretty soon tho we got word to start our engines again and get ready to take off. We had to climb through the overcast and assemble above it. We assembled with our group with no delay but the wind and air division weren’t where they were supposed to be & when. We circled the area where we were supposed to meet them and sure enough here they came after they were an hour or more late. As soon as we got in with them we set out on course immediately because we had already burnt up so much of our precious gas that we were in doubt where to try it or turn back. I believe most of the crew wanted to turn back but Bruce & I were practically sure we could still make it and we were sure we had as much as anyone else in the group so we went on. The fun started by the time we hit the Belgium Coast. You never saw so much flak & so many fighters in your life. That’s what we put up with for the next 3 hrs. The tail gunner would call out every very few minutes another B-17 going down. He finally quit calling them. Out of our Group we only had two that we couldn’t account for. And poor Hinkley was one of them. However 10 chutes were seen to have opened out of his plane so I guess he is a P.W. Holloway was forced down in Switzerland. Two ditched for lack of gas. Some made forced landings wheels down in N.A. [North Africa] Ten landed at another air field and believe it or not, we were the only ship of our group to go on and land where we were scheduled.

Journal Entry: August 24, 1943, Bordeaux

We have been in N.A. [North Africa] for a whole week now and the day has come at last when we can go back. We have been messing with our bomb loading now nearly ever since we have been here. No facilities for anything on the base, and about 120 B-17’s with two Bomb hoists between them. We only got one flak hole in our wing and someone temporarily patched it until we got back here. You never saw so much dust in your life as there was when we started taking off from down there. We practically left there on instruments on a perfectly clear day. There was no breeze at all to help blow the dust away and it just hung there. On one runway they were using it took 1 hr 40 minutes to get 40 planes off when ordinarily it would have taken roughly 20 minutes. The sand was terrible on the planes. I guess that’s why we had 11 abortions on the way back before we reached the Coast of France. Our Bombing wasn’t as good on the way back but I’m sure we did OK. We blew the other place to Kingdom come. I never saw anything so pretty. I got to go to Constantine while I was there. I also got a big kick out of the little Arabs.

Journal Entry: 9/16/43, Bordeaux & Lopoliece