On July 7th, 1944 1st Lt. Bernerd Harding was leading 9 other B-24 Liberators of the 859th squadron, on a combat mission over Germany. The 25 year old flight leader crossed the target framed by flak, dropped his bombs and turned his flight to the egress heading. Their fighter escort was called away to aid a group being pounded by German fighters. Now un-escorted, the ten bombers ran for their lives. Luftwaffe ME 109s fell out of the sun, swarming on the Liberators. Guns blazing, they devastated the bomber flight.
With two engines shot out and on fire, 1st Lt. Harding fought for control, as he watched his entire squadron fall to the German countryside in flames. His own aircraft doomed, Harding ordered a bailout. He held on until the last of his crew escaped and then struggled to an escape hatch and plunged into the bright day. Hanging in his parachute, Harding gazed upon a trail of destruction that led back toward the target. Fires, that used to be B-24 Liberators, marked the trail. One hundred percent, 10 for 10, were shot down with over 100 men on board.
Harding landed in a wheat field where he was taken prisoner by local farmers. He was held in a cellar with a dirt floor. After digging a small hole, he unpinned his 3 inch wings and buried them. Now he is returning, after 65 years, to get his wings.
Imagine being back at the Airbase waiting for your Squadron mates to return; and none, not a single one does. Now imagine being an aircrew man and being assigned a mission the next day. These are the men I write about, in the conditions that they fought and died. Their stories are powerful.