The World War II flight diary of Veryl H. Duwe
By Melissa Spielbauer Combs
Veryl Duwe was a resident of rural Osterdock. He and his twin brother, Vernon, were born in Guttenberg on March 13, 1918, to Chris and Elizabeth (Schoper) Duwe. They were baptized May 20, 1918, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Guttenberg, and attended Guttenberg High School.
Veryl served with Squadron 233 of the Army Air Corps during World War II. Veryl was a First Lieutenant and as a pilot flew missions over various places, including Germany. He flew a B-24 Liberator, an American heavy bomber.
Veryl was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Medal of Valor. He died at his home near Osterdock on July 13, 1994. At that time he was survived by his twin brother, Vernon and family of Weeping Water, Neb., and cousins. It is possible that Vernon is still alive. He would be age 95. Vernon also was in the service. Veryl is buried beside his parents in the Guttenberg City Cemetery.
This past summer Elmer Radabaugh of Osterdock, a friend of Veryl’s, was willing to give me copies of his flight diary. There seems to be just a few who have saved important pieces of this history to share with others, some of whom might take freedom for granted. I am glad that Elmer shared it with me and The Press readers.
As the nation marks the anniversary of Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor at this time of year, it is important that Veryl Duwe is remembered.
The following is Veryl’s story — his thoughts and events in his own words of what happened on his flight missions from England to enemy targets. These are the first four missions. More of his 32 missions will be published periodically in later issues of The Guttenberg Press.
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England - May 15, 1944
I flew my first combat mission. I flew as co. pilot for Lt. Metts. The rest of the crew sweated me out in bed. We hit a Construction worksite in the Pas de Calais area.
We didn’t see much burst of flak. I figure this combat is plenty easy.
Note: Pas de Calais is in northern France. Flak is anti-aircraft fire.
England - May 19, 1944
After today’s mission, I’d say combat isn’t so easy. We hit train marshalling yards at Brunswick, Germany. Enemy fighters hit a group on our right. At their first pass about 8 B-24 Liberators went down. I now have a lot of respect for our fighters. I flew with Lt. Mueller today. M.E. 109s and FW 190s came at us like a swarm of bees.
On the way back I could see one B-24 with its #2 engine on fire. The pilot must have thought he could get back safely, but he blew up when he got about half way back.
Note: M.E. 109s and FW 190s are German fighter planes.
From the notes of Lt. Frank E. Weiss-my navigator.
England - May 24, 1944
Mission #1 Villaroche-30 miles S.W. of Paris.
Well after waiting for a very long time we got our first mission in today.
We hit an enemy airfield near Paris, called Villaroche. We dropped bombs at 0912 and smeared target area. We saw quite a bit of flak, one burst just below the tail of our plane. We got one hole and a scratch on our fuselage. We saw Paris. No fighters encountered. Two of our ships were hit and left formation for home. All returned safely.
Note: Fuselage is the main part of the airplane. Military time 0912 is 9:12 a.m. Ship means plane.
England - May 25, 1944
Mission #2 Belfort - 10 miles from Switzerland.
Today we had a very long haul. We went to Belfort, France and hit train marshalling yards. Some bombs fell short, but walked last few into target. We saw them hit. Bombs were released at 0912. On our way home we lost one engine near Paris, oil pressure went down. We could not keep up with our formation. We used evasive action on engines to evade flak.
Our #2 engine cut out five minutes inside coast of France, that made two engines on the left side feathered. I flew 15 min. on original course, then altered course to Friston Airfield at Beachy Head, England. We had 97 miles to go. We got ready to set the airplane in the channel if another engine cut out.
We sent out our position and course in S.O.S. message. We finally got the #2 engine started. While trying to transfer gas out of the #1 engine to the #2 engine, atmospheric conditions caused gas to drain out of #2. We finally got some gas out of #3 and #4 tanks.
We shot emergency landing flares over the field. We had about 250 gals. of gas left. We landed on a dirt runway that was very short and which ended in a high cliff. It sure felt good to be on the ground again. We had lunch at this R.A.F. Field. We were flown to the 453rd Field, Major Jimmy Stewarts outfit. I met Sullivan just as we were going into the mess hall. I was at Casper with him and he’s a very nice guy.
Note: R.A.F. is British Royal Air Force.
I hope we never get into another spot like that one, ditching in the English channel is not a nice thing to look forward to. O’ yes we encountered flak on the way to the target. We had plenty of fighter cover on this trip. The Hun didn’t send up a plane. We lost one crew on this mission. Lt. Tomer lost one engine at the target and after dropping his bombs on the objective he headed for Switzerland, ten miles away, believe he and crew are safe.
We have recently learned that Lt. Tomer was killed. He didn’t reach Switzerland.
England - May 27, 1944
Mission #3 Saarbrucken, Germany. Another long haul, this time all the way across France, just into Germany. We hit a train marshalling yard. The target was hit fairly hard. Just as we were dropping our bombs, we were hit by flak. One piece came in on top, cut fifteen electrical wires and caused bombs to hang on. We salvaged them immediately, but only a few of ours hit the target.
One piece of flak missed my head by four inches and broke an indicator light on panel in front of me.
About ten minutes after the target, we lost our #2 engine due to the broken wires. We couldn’t keep up with our group. Lucky that we had plenty of fighter support. We brought the plane back all on our own. After landing we found five flak holes. Also learned we flew all the way home with our aileron chain almost shot in two.
Note: Aileron chain is the hinged part of the back edge of each wing on an airplane used to control its rolling and tilting movements.
England - May 28, 1944
Mission #4 Zeitz, Germany. We bombed an oil refinery (synthetic). Our group really hit the target. We saw flames and a lot of smoke, very black, like oil usually makes. We had excellent fighter cover, expected to meet enemy fighters, but our fighters must have been too strong. A crew we came with, the 44th, went down near Dummer Lake, Holland, due to a flak hit on an engine. The engine was on fire and reports were that three chutes were seen.
We had trouble with our bomb racks over the target. They were toggled, but none left ship. So, we salvaged them and still no bombs left. I called the co-pilot on inter-phone and he jettisoned them with the emergency lever. We hit a train loading yard and part of the refinery with our bombs. The trip back home was uneventful. We saw a B-17 going down with its right wing aflame. It seemed under control, believe crew got out o.k. On our arrival found out that we go again the morning, means only four hours sleep. We ran four missions in five days. Boy are we tired. Haven’t shaved for two days.