Meerdo Easter Egg 2

An account of the death of William Meerdo



From The Diary of 2nd Lt. Melvin L. Askenase # 2061135
Bombardier 855th Bomb. Sqd. 491 st. Bomb. Gp.
Crew# R157
Nov. 26, 1944

To-day was# 2 for us and as long as I live, I don’t think
I’ll ever forget it. It was my first real contact with death
and it left an imprint on my mind, that will never be
erased. The mission started out in its usual manner. At
0300 they woke us up for briefing. After an “invigorating”
breakfast of powdered eggs we headed for the briefing room. This
time the target was to be the Oil Refineries at Misburg.
They had been knocked out before, but the Germans had
repaired the damage, so it was time for another trip. This
target is considered a deep penetration, as it is near the center
of Germany. None of us exactly liked the idea, as it meant
hours of constant strain, while in German territory. We
were carrying 12-500 pounders again. We are to be the only B-24
group going to that target, the rest of the planes were B-17’s.
S-2 informed us that the weather would be very bad,
with clouds up to 22,000 feet, so it meant bombing by Radar.
Flak at the target was to be heavy and accurate . The
Germans had a lot of planes near that area, but we were
told that they wouldn’t come up unless it was a clear
day. That made us all feel better, as clouds were expected.
The German Air Force is husbanding its strength & then
fighters only come up when the day is clear & they can
see us. At zero hour we took off and after forming with the
other planes, we departed for the enemy coast. Weather was as
predicted, cloudy & poor visibility. A short time later, the



navigator announced we were entering German territory. Right
after this we were greeted with a few burst of flak, which did
no damage. I think it must be an old German custom to
send up flak at their border. Its helpful in a way, because
if we weren’t sure of exactly we are, the flak always makes
it definite. After that we droned on for hours, deeper and
deeper into Germany. Occasional burst of flak appeared, but
all were inaccurate. Every one in the plane was tense and all
eyes were scanning the sky for fighters. It was a good sight to
see our own P-51’s flying above us. Suddenly everything got
bright and I realized that we had broken through the clouds
and all was clear. Germany stretched out in front us as
far as my eyes can see. It looked just like any part of the
U. S. most of the ground was used for farming & everything
seemed peaceful. It seemed hard to believe that they were as
ruth less and cruel as we all know they are. We were approaching
our I.P. and I could vaguely make out the target. Now that
they were no clouds, the tension had increased, because we
all knew what that meant. We have been expecting the Luftwaffe
to attack for the past few weeks and we knew they were only
waiting for a clear day and it looked like this was the day.
More then once I glanced at our P-51 ‘s and was reassured.
Now things were getting rough, flak was all around us &
it was accurate. The Jerries could see us from the ground &
there accuracy was amazing. I felt the plane shudder &
I heard our waist gunner say we had been hit, but as far
as he could see, it was nothing serious. As soon as he finished



talking, the plane shuddered again and I knew we were still being
hit. A check on the crew showed everyone was okay.Still no
enemy fighters were seen. We were now on the bomb run. It
didn’t seem possible we could get through the the flak. It was just a
dense black cloud all around us. I saw 2 B-17’s go down in
flames and I wondered if we would ever get out of it. Finally
it was bombs away and the formation wheeled around. Smoke
was coming up from our target & I knew we had hit it
well even though the Jerries put up an excellent smoke screen.
Suddenly there was no more flak at all & I realized what
that meant. German fighters were in the area ! ! Then I heard
tail-gunner screaming — ” Fuck – Wolfs at 6 O’clock and
coming close “. Every one of us tightened up. I figured our fighters
would get them. Then the tail gunner again —- ” They are coming
at our formation ! ” We had 3 squadrons in our formation . We
were the lead squad, there was another one at our left & another
at our right. The tail gunner continued, “They’re attacking the
squadron on our right.” I looked out and sure as hell, they were
about 30 FW-190’s attacking the 853rd sq- which consisted of 10 planes.
I couldn’t understand where our fighters were they weren’t to be
seen anywhere. Then in front of my own eyes, I saw all 1 0 planes
of that squad go down. It was a slaughter. One after one they
blew up & I didn’t see a” chute” open. I just stared there amazed,
with fear creeping up inside of me. The FW -190’s had 20 mm cannons
in their nose and they were just blasting the planes to bits, it
was over before I knew it. Then the tail – gunner again – ” They are
going after the squad, on our left now-” I looked out & it was if
I was seeing the same picture twice. Because the FW’s were doing



the same thing to that squad, as they had done to the other. It was
terrible & still none of our fighters were to be seen. Where the hell they
went, we didn’t know. I saw 3 more planes go down –when I
heard ” They’re coming after us now ! ! ! ” This was it ! I knew we
didn’t stand a chance. The next thing I knew, I saw puffs of
white smoke all around us–they were the shells from the 20 mm,
and they were getting the range. Then we got hit & hit bad, the
plane jumped. A shell hit the tail turret completely destroying it.
The tail gunner was out cold. Our control cable was shot up.
No one knew if the tail gunner was alive or dead — we were to
busy to find out. It’s tough to keep fighting, when one of your
crew is unconscious, but we all knew we couldn’t help him
until the fighters left. The nose guns jammed, the left waist gun
froze up– that left us with the Right waist gun & the Marten
Turret. It looked bad. We were getting hit all the time. I
could see F W ‘s all around us. I never thought I would ever
see them that close. They are absolutely deadly. Another shell hits
the side of our plane — ” Meerdo is hit ” — that is our Right Waist
gunner. I look out the side, I see a F W blow up —
We can’t take much more — Then all of a sudden it’s
peaceful again– the fighters have left us. Thank God. They
finally ran out of fuel and ammunition — Another few minutes
& they would have gotten us to. Every one on the plane is shouting
now we can take care of the injured fellows. An Officer is
always in charge of first aid — The Pilot & Co-Pilot are busy — so is
the Navigator, so that leaves it to me. The first thing I hear
is that our tail gunner is okay. His whole turret blew up, but



he didn’t even get a scratch. He was just knocked out—
If I never believed in God before, I sure do now. Meerdo our waist
gunner is hit and hit bad. A fragment of a 20mm went in his
neck. He is unconscious. The fellows in the back take care of him.
They don’t move him, cover him with clothes, increase
oxygen, put powder on the wound & then a bandage over him.
The Radio operator says he looks bad. We are all afraid. He’s just
a kid — 19 years old and one of my favorites. The gunner in the
back didn’t know what else to do — their is nothing else to do.
The pilot ask me to go and look at him. I take a walk — around
bottle and crawl to the waist section. l’am no doctor & I didn’t pretend
to be anything near one — but as soon as I looked at him, I know
he is dead. I didn’t know how I knew, but I felt it. His face
was a yellowish –white & his lips were a little blue. I take my
gloves off & feel his breast. I didn’t feel a thing. His oxygen indicator
shows he isn’t breathing –We put it on emergency & full oxygen into him,
but is does no good. I look up & Bicknell & Oliveira are crying —
1 haven’t cried in years, but I couldn’t stop the flow of tears then.
I’ll never forget Meerdo’s face, as it was then. I kept thinking how
unfair it was. He was only 19 years old — had been in the Army 8
months. I told the pilot I thought he was dead, but to make sure,
get home as fast as possible. I don’t know how he did it but
we soon left the formation behind & were streaking for the base.
The plane was shot up badly & I knew he was having a tough
time. We all had our chutes on, just in case. As we approached
the base, we kept shooting red flares, to let them know we had
wounded aboard & to give us priority in landing. Our elevator
controls were all shot out & I wondered how Hal was going to



land the plane– but land it he did & it was a beautiful landing.
He sure is a good pilot. As soon as we stopped rolling, the Ambulance
was next to us & a doctor in our plane. But it was no use, Meerdo
was dead.
We dressed in silence and went over to the briefing room to be
interrogated. Every one of us had tears in our eyes. The briefing room was
like a morgue. The group had lost 16 planes in all. An unusually large
loss for one group. Some – one asked what had happened to our fighters, why
weren’t they there to protect us– that’s their job. It didn’t make much
difference now that it was all over. But what happened was that the wind
had changed & it made us 12 minutes late to meet the fighters –they
used up a lot of gas in that time & so had to leave us at the target, in
order to make it to their own base. So we were left unprotected &
that’s why the Jerries hit us. We were the only group attacked — 16
planes lost & all the others badly hit. In one plane, the pilot & copilot
were killed & the engineer had to land the plane as there were
wounded aboard. They were 2 crash landings — no plane escaped
without some damage. We were lucky we got away.
lnterrogation lasted over an hour — I never thought it would ever
end. We finally got back to the barracks. The Chaplain had removed all
of Meerdo’s belongings already. Sometimes the efficiency of the Army
scares me. I didn’t bother eating– but went right to sleep. Hal
did the same. Just before I fell asleep I remember thinking, ” Meerdo’s
mother must be receiving the wire from the War Department
now “