By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - J. B. Webb was 18 years old when World War II broke out.
"I was going to be a volunteer draftee. If you volunteered, you'd get the branch of service you want, and I wanted to fly," said Webb.
Despite his pilot training, he wound up a tail gunner.
"At the time, I threw a fit, but there was nothing you could do about it... I trained as a pilot and it happened on three occasions I had to help the pilot bring the plane back," said Webb.
"Back in those days, everything was manual. You don't even really need a pilot today, really its just push button. All he could do was the manual part of keeping the ship. I had handled the motors... I'd have to regulate the motors to keep us level, and the trim tab... I was with the 446th bomb group, 706th squadron. There was four squadrons in each group. Each mission... if they had the planes, they flew 36 planes, nine planes per squadron. And every squadron had their own formation."
They were based out of England flying B24s.
"The B17s got all the glory. But the B24s took the load. The people who made the B24, made it for a cargo plane and they hauled cargo for a while and they finally realized something: the B24 used less fuel, it could carry a ton more bombs than the 17s and it could take a whole lot more damage than the 17s because of the infrastructure, and it could go faster than the 17s," said Webb.
"When we first started, we were bombing right on the edge of France. The Germans were still in France at that time."
Eventually, all their targets would be in Germany.
"Germans were experts at withdrawal. I mean when they retreated, they took everything with em. We'd bomb a place and three days later we'd have to come back and bomb it again because they had it rebuilt," said Webb.
Webb flew 35 combat missions, each time fighting the odds and returning unharmed.
"You had one in 10 chance that a crew made it without getting at least one dead," said Webb.
There were several close calls.
"I know one time, right after we dropped the bombs, we got three direct hits from flak... The left engine was knocked completely out. The right wing, we lost about four foot of it. The inboard was still running on the other side. It had just two motors. The B24 was hard to handle when it just had two motors," said Webb.
He also flew six missions during the battle of the bulge.
"They had the entire U.S. Army bottled up and I talked to those boys, said the only ammunition they had was if they dug up a German soldier and took his ammunition. They had no ammunition or food or anything else. And the weather cleared up just in time so we could send the C47s in there, parachute everything from toothpicks to k-rations and ammunition," said Webb.
After the war ended in Europe, he was slated to go to Japan.
"Well I spent one month in India, then the atomic bomb took care of it. Then I came back," said Webb.
He left the service in November 1945.
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