This journal is most interesting, and least interesting, because Dad never tells about the air battle itself. He describes the situation going into the battle, and data account of the mission says it was a "Hit," but his narrative ends with his feeling (and, he suggests, the feelings of the other men) about being assigned to bomb Hamburg. Nothing about the seven and a half hours in the air. I learned on the 100 Bomb Group Foundation website that the December mission over Hamburg was horrendous. I wrote to Dad's friend, Joe Urice, another tailgunner in the 100th (whose birthday is the same day as Dad's), and he replied: "I was also on that Jan 1945 Hamburg mission and it was nothing comparable to the losses of the Dec 31 mission. Flak but no fighters. "
|Dad, Joe Urice, & Will Kreamer|
at a 100 BG reunion
So maybe this mission was anticlimactic. Hard to imagine with flak that was not only heavy, but as Dad notes, "accurate." Or maybe they didn't do so hot, even though they hit their target. Dad being Dad, and a Kendig, he still took time to appreciate the good breakfast they had beforehand. He remained mindful of what was good about some Air Corps life: a bed and meals.
|The Ellis Crew|
Target – Hamburg – Oil Refinery
Visibility – visual Results – Hit
Flak – Heavy and Very Accurate
Takeoff – 0837 Land 1538
Bombs Away -1157 Altitude 25000´
Temp. - 36° Load – 12 -500 lb. G.P.'s
Oxygen – 3 ½ hrs. Mission – 7 ½ hrs.
Position High Element Lead
This morning, we were awakened at 0400 for chow and briefing. One consolation about these missions is that we always get fresh eggs and oranges. When we found out that the target was to be Hamburg, there were a lot of oohs because any time y ou go to Hamburg you know that a bad time is due you.
Dad's third journal, and once again, it's the ending that gets me, "Thank God once more we are home in bed." This after the somewhat jocular, "This wasn't bad enough" and "Woe is me," and I always remember Dad saying that the one good thing about being in the Air Corps (not the Air Force yet) was that IF you got home, you had a bed and food. He was always aware that his older brother and his hero, Uncle Les, was on the ground, in fact, in the very middle of the Battle of the Bulge, which was occurring as these journals were written. Uncle Les went days without dry socks, never mind a dry bed.
And now, this is off track, but here is a story about Uncle Les, who was in the war as were two of Dad's other brothers (Uncle Bumps --Robert-- and Uncle Curly--Leroy). At one of Uncle Les's war reunions, decades later, Malcom Forbes showed up looking for Les Kendig. He said, "I heard it said during those days, 'We have no idea who Les Kendig is, but he is working miracles with whatever he gets, so get as many weapons to him as you can.'" Uncle Les went on to help liberate Belgium, where the citizens decades later, gave him a national award. Uncle Les was not at the reunion to meet Malcolm Forbes, nor in Belgium for his award because although he was most alive still, he wouldn't get on an airplane.
I am struck too by the fact that that day they "never lost a ship" because the 100BG lost many ships. Another memory Dad shared with me later in life was the horrible experience of knowing a plane had gone down and in the evening, seeing workers come in to pack up the downed men's effects and carry them away. "They wheeled them away in a cart," Dad said, "and the sound made me sick." To be "home" in bed was no small thing.
TARGET – DERBEN – OIL STORAGE
VISIBILITY – VISUAL RESULTS- GOOD HIT
FLAK- MEDIUM - INACCURATE
TAKE OFF 0739 LAND 1535
BOBMS AWAY 13O4 ALTITUDE 26,700´
TEMP – 44 °
LOAD – 5- 10000 LB. G.P.’S
OXYGEN 4 HRS. MISSION 8 HRS
POSITION HIGHELEMENT LEAD
We were awakened at 3 o’clock for briefing and it was pretty cold this morning. At briefing we[re] were informed that our target was to be an underground storage for oil at Derben, near Hamburg. There was to be flak and a few fighters. Everything seemed O.K. on the ground, but once in the air we test fired and I found that my right gun was out of commission and I couldn’t get it working. It was pretty cold today and the contrails were heavy. Just before we got to the target, the viskers unit in my turret went bad and started to burn, and then my sight went out. This wasn’t bad enough, because just about then bandits appeared out of 3 o’clock level. I believe this to be one of the biggest air battles I will ever see because the sky was literally covered with burning planes and there were as many ours as theirs going down. About this time woe is me a FW 190 hit us from 11 o’clock low and he was close enough that I could have kicked him but my turret was in bad shape and I never got a decent shot, but I let him know I was there. The group in front of us took the brunt of the battle and we dropped out bombs and came home. We never lost a ship, but we had a fairly tough time of it. We hit the target and that is what counts. Thank God once more we are home in Bed.
Sgt. Russell Kendig
This second journal is an account of the crew's second mission, just a day after the first, to the marshalling yards of Darmstadt. It was not a success, in that they missed their target, but it was a success in that they had a safe landing, though a difficult one, and in the end Dad pays tribute to pilot Bob Ellis for a "beautiful job" of bringing them home though they were all "sweating" it.
|Dad and Bob at Thorpe Abbotts|
I'll also note that the aircraft named here in the journal is "Glory Bound," which I never heard before. Once all the men on the crew were promoted, they named their plane "The Brass Hat." I'll post a photo of the tail art for that later.
Ship – Glory Bound No. 523
Target – Darmstadt – Marshalling Yards
Visibility – 00-00 Resulta – Missed
Flak – Light & Inaccurate
Takeoff 0840 Land 1630
Bombs Away 1223 Altitude 24,600'
Temp – 36 degrees Load 10-500 # G.P.'s
2-500 # G.P.'s incendiaries
Oxygen 4 hrs. Mission 7 hrs, 50 min.
Position – Left Wing – Lead Ship – Low S [rd?]
We were awakened at 0415, had chow, and were briefed. Went to the ship, check[ed] guns, turret, and equipment and found everything o.k. We made an instrument takeoff and ascent because the weather wasn't so hot, but once we were above it why, it was o.k. We hit the I.P. At 1204 and to everybody’s surprise found that it was to be a visual bombing. We encountered light flak on the bomb run, but it wasn't bad. One burst rocked the ship and nearly turned it over, but that was the only close one. The prop wash was rough on the bomb run but they got our little presents away at 1223. It looked as though we really smashed the target but we were informed by the strike photos that we missed it. Damn, that made me mad. The trip home was uneventful. Fighters were reported but our own scared them away. Upon approaching England we found the weather had everything socked in. The formation peeled off and made an instrument landing. Bob did a beautiful job of bringing us home and everyone was sweating. The landing was rough and we were thankful to be on the ground. Thus end number 2.
Sgt. Russell Kendig
So this is Dad's first journal, first mission. I know we spell it "Klobenz" now, but it was "Coblenz" up till 1926, and clearly the earlier spelling persisted awhile, and with that and most spellings and abbreviations, I have let Dad's stand, especially since I don't know what the heck some of these abbreviations stand for, don't even know if I am reading them right, counting on some old-timers to correct them, like the "mb" he uses at "Mission."
Correction: the tail gunner mentioned at the end is NOT Dad. According to another 100BG tailgunner, the wonderful Joe Urice, Dad was ball turret gunner on the crew until their third mission.
Ship: Glory Bound No. 523
Target – Coblenz – Marshalling Yard
Visibility – P.F.F. Results – Unobserved
Flak – Light & Inaccurate
Takeoff – 0815 Land 1545
Position – Right Wing – Lead Ship – Lead S r.d. [?]
Bombs Away – 1248
Altitude – 26,500 Temp. - 38 degrees
Load – 12 -500 lb. G.P.'s
Oxygen – 4 hrs. Mission – TY2 [mb]
This was the big number one and yet it didn't seem any different from a practice mission. We were awakened at 04:45, had breakfast and were briefed. We went to the ship and everyone got just a little nervous. Checked my guns and turret and everything was in perfect order. Everything went off well and we made a good takeoff at 0815. The primary visual target was Geisen and the primary P.F.F. Target was Coblenz. We came over Geisen, opened the bomb bay doors, and were all ready, but clouds covered the target. There were a few bursts of flak here and there and some smoke rockets. We turned around and headed for Coblenz. This target was also covered, but we left them go on P.F.F. The bombs got away as planned and we took off for home, with still little flak. We landed at 7545 and everyone was glad and happy that everything went over on the first mission without a hitch. At interrogation the tail gunner got plastered on six double shots of Scotch. We were informed that we were Sgts. and ended a perfect day.
Sgt. Russell Kendig
It has taken me a long time to get around to posting these four journals, though there are only four, and the longest is two and half pages on 5x8 inch paper. I will be sharing one a day for the next four days.
I've been trying to get Dad's war materials off to places that might want to archive them-- the Love Library (love that!) at University of Nebraska, where his pilot training began and ended, the Veterans Museum at Dyersburg AFB in Halls, TN, where he got shuffled off to gunnery school and met up with Bob Ellis and others who would become his crewmates, and the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum in England, where he spent most of the war. That last museum, by the way, just won the "Queen's Award for Voluntary Service," and having visited it (as did Mom and Dad decades later), I can say that the staff certainly deserves the award for their welcoming attitudes and the impeccable condition the museum is in, as do all three of these institutions.
Actually, I have visited all of them and met the people who continue to preserve these places where Dad spent some very formative years. If you can't travel to them though and are interested in the 100th Bomb Group, I recommend you to their Facebook page, WWII 100th Bomb Group, and to their website, 100th Bomb Group Foundation.This week, I have scanned and typed up these eight pages and decided to put them up in my blog, along with photos of the bomb tags and cotter pins that Dad saved to go with them.
I am mindful that Dad was 19 years old and that he never kept a journal before or after these four missions or about anything other than these missions.
But I am just incapable of throwing any paper away, and as one short story character once said, "There is nothing so heavy as paper." So I am lightening the load by sharing them here, not to glorify not condemn but to say, this is how it was for one 19-year- old soldier in the Army Air Corps.
FAVORITE 2021 READS
I complained to my friend and poetry workshop colleague, Laura Weldon that her blog's favorite- books- of- the- year list did not include any poetry. She pointed out that she had just produced a list of poetry matched with suggestions of gifts to go with them, and then she suggested that I might post a list of my favorite books of poetry from the past year. However, I really don't like the ghetto-ization of poetry that's going on in every year's round-up I see. The New York Times, which rarely includes poetry in any genre-inclusive list, this week recognizes that Amanda Gorman's latest book of poems Call Us What We Carry is number one on the best-seller list BY POSTING IT AS FICTION!! And The Times "Best OF Poetry list" is always set off alone, away from the prose lists as if it might infect them.
So of the 90 or so books I read last year, here are my favorite 15 read in 2021, but all published before then. I am always behind.
Atkins, Russell - World'd Too Much: The Selected Poetry of Russell Atkins, ed. Prufer and McDonough. Honestly, this year I read this for the SECOND time, this time, reading one poem a day. I've known Russell since 1975 or so, and I have always loved him, but I never appreciated his poetry enough till I read this collection, slowly. The editors have done something weird and wonderful by arranging the poems in alphabetical order. There is no one like Russell and nothing like his poetry, and it is a damned shame it took till he was in his 90s for him to get a nationally-advertised, full-length book, but honey, it is a hum-dinger.
Beatty , Jan – American Bastard is one of the two best memoir's I've read this year, both by poets. Jan's is the story of her journey to find her birth mother. And it is brave, tough, and outside the usual sweet adoption story so less told and more truthful than the usual too.
Bialosky, Jill - Asylum seems to me the book of poetry that most got lost in the pandemic because it came out in August 2020. And it's not an easy, quick read. But this narrative series of poems that involve the poet's life, Dante, and images of trees, snow, pollen, domesticity held me the way a mandala does-- or that cross-section of tree rings on the cover.
Cather, Willa – Alexander’s Bridge was one of many Cather novels I have been wending my way through this year on a cross-country trip that included three days in her hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska. None of them has ever moved me as My Antonia did; all of them moved as much or more as contemporary fiction. This one astounded me when I realized it was her first, her first novel. My god.
Clark, Heather – The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath - In response to my first posting on this biography, George Bilgere wrote, "Do we really need another biography of Sylvia Plath?" And having read it, I would say, "Yes, George. We do." First, because it is better written than any other biography I read this year. Second because there is more information on Plath's final days that argue against the myth established by Ted Hughes (in his rearrangement of her book of poems) that her death was inevitable. I will say the bio doesn't make her any more likeable. But it does help to establish her genius, too.
Forché, Carolyn - In the Lateness of the World For while, I wasn't able to like Forche's poetry as I once had with her The Country Between Us, but I am back on her fan list with this one, which opens with a gorgeous list poem ("Museum of Stone" and all its rock words) and a lot of vibrating emotion surrounding important events--political, life-threatening, fatal-- laved with such a vocabulary, such great use of words.
Gissing George – The Odd Women has been on my list since Gail Godwin mentioned it in her novel, The Odd Woman, which I read in (yikes) 1974. And I listened to it in audio, which I loved doing with 19th century novels. This book is so ahead of its time in its theme of the lives of women who remain single and the force of women in a society that is trying to keep them from being a force. It so shocked me with its timeliness that I went on to read Gissing's The New Grub Street which is so descriptive of contemporary publishing as its 19th centuty millieu. This author was amazing.
Holladay, Hilary – The Power of Adrienne Rich was not as well-written as the Heather Clark bio of Plath, but similarly useful in new
facts about the poet and her times-- let's face it, we never knew much about Rich. And reading the two bios around the same time provided me with an interesting contrast in gender and class, especially the class differences. Plath always had to be the grateful scholarship girl. Rich did not. She always had to be the grateful female token, which came to enrage her.
Jackson, Lawrence P. – Chester B. Hines: A Biography I taught a course I called Ohio Literature for nearly two decades, Himes has always been on my list to read, and this biography may finally push me to read his fiction. How is this for a prophetic quote from him "The U.S. [will be capable] of electing a black president...when Americans under twenty assume control of all aspects of American life (1966)."
Lepore, Jill – The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin & These Truths: A History of the U.S. Okay, as with Gissing, I am assigning two to Jill Lepore. I was smitten by her life of Benjamin Franklin's sister, which she has pieced together at length and depth from fragments really. My note on These Truths is "This is the best book of American history I have ever read."
McHugh, Heather – Muddy Matterhorn My husband and I have been handing this book of McHugh's poetry back and forth for a year and a half. It is so alive with language (and humor and insight) that I had to quit reading it at night because it set my brain's synapses firing for hours. It is that exciting.
Price, Reynolds - Kate Vaiden This was in my sister Daun's top three favorite novels, but she liked Southern lit a lot more than me, so I put it off. Why now, nearly 20 years after her death, I finally read it, I don't know, but oh wow. It is just beautiful at every level: plot, character, dialogue, sentence, word. I loved it.
Quinn, Alice – Together in Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic I loved this anthology, even though it was put together by a famous poet with 107
mostly famous poets included, but damn, these covid poems were good, right from the first poem by Julia Alvarez, "How will this Pandemic Affect Poetry," which begins: "Will the lines be six feet apart?/ Will these hexameters be heroic like Homer’s?/(Will) (each) (word) (have) (to) (be) (masked) (?)"
Rekdal, Paisley – Appropriate: A Provocation'S exploration of appropriation in literature gave me a lot to think about. I don't always agree with Rekdal's assessments, but wow, she gave me a lot to think about.
Russo, Richard- Empire Falls is, okay, one you all read a long time ago. I found myself at wit's end not being able to find any fiction both funny and meaningful and well-written, but Russo always fills that bill for me. It was a hoot.
Tretheway, Natasha – Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir I have always loved everything Tretheway has written, but she's always written poetry. She is like Jan Beatty in that way, and also in the way that she had a great story to tell, a poet's ability to research, to keep notes, to layer them. And then, she READ it on audio. All done so very well.
Wheeler, Lesley – The State She’s In came out in 2020, and charts the horrid years of the Trump administration and what it meant to a Northerner living in the South, being a mother, a teacher, a daughter. It is strewn with pink cat ear hats, the pawpaw tree, sinister bags of white rice thrown on the poet's lawn, and Confederate statues. Reading Wheeler's poetry, as with McHugh's always leave me feeling like I am in the presence of poetic genius.
Young, Kevin - African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song, the second poetry anthology on my list, has kept me busy all year. I would read one poem, or one poet a day, first thing in the morning. The brief bios were often as instructive as the poetry was moving. Arranged chronologically, the book's earliest sections just galvanized me. More of Phyllis Wheatley, and her life, than I ever knew, and Dave the Potter, who placed tiny poems on the pots he threw hundreds of years ago.