by Paul Roberts
For the year 1944 Dick Haney, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator pilot, while slipping the ‘surly bonds of earth,’ spent his spare time in the air, dealing lethal messages to enemy factories, marshalling yards, oil refineries, storage areas, harbors and airdromes in France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans and even as far away as Poland. He led a charmed life, considering flying 50 missions, but was not able to claim a wound medal, a Purple Heart, in spite of his plane taking on several 50 mm hits. However, there were three harrowing close calls when damage was done by attacking German Messerschmitt fighters, and one time had to crash land at his base at San Giovanni, Italy. The flaps couldn’t move, which was to slow down a landing, and lost hydraulic power which controlled the landing gears. The plane got to the end of the runway, out of control, going over an embankment and crashed into a standing gasoline truck, causing an explosion. Fortunately, all hands were able to bail out, including two wounded crewmen.
He flew for the Fifteenth Air Force’s first One Thousand Ton raid on marshalling yards in northern Italy. Shortly after that, he flew bombing runs to support the assault troops at the Anzio Beachhead and then at Monte Cassino. His group was awarded two DUCs (Distinguished Unit Citation) for their successful attack on a ball bearing plant at Steyr, Austria; then two months later proceeded to attack the oil refineries at Moosbierbaum, putting it out of production for over a month. The vital mission occurred in August when they pounded the coastal installations on the French Cote D’Azur a few days before the Dragoon invasion, which the famous cartoonist Bill Mauldin described as “the easiest war, ever.” The Germans were in full retreat until they reached the gates of Germany in the Rhone Valley.
Dick pointed out that they always flew at about 29,000 feet, without any fighter escort. For better or worse, they were on their own. During combined raids, like the Ploesti action, the B-17 flew considerably lower (for greater target accuracy), thus considerably more vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire, accounting for a much higher loss.
At war’s end, Dick flew until his unit was deactivated, and opted to stay in the Service. He was re-trained at an Intelligence School and wound up as a provost marshal, until he retired 21 years later, moving to the relaxing environs of Leisure World®.
All photos courtesy of Paul Roberts – Resident of Leisure World® Maryland