Over the English Channel Again

That morning, we took off from Aldermaston Airport at 11:35 to circle England for what seemed like hours while the rest of the planes got into the air. We were about to become a part of the second major Allied push into Europe. So, it was over the English Channel again, but, this time, we had trouble. The fog was so thick, we not only couldn't see the rest of the planes, we couldn't even see the plane towing our glider. Suddenly the tow rope went limp as though our lead plane had cut us loose. Our glider pilot told us to get ready to inflate our "Mae West" life jackets because it looked like we would be ditching into the water. After following our rope down, we dropped below the level of the fog to about 25 feet above water level, and there was our plane - still hooked to us! Evidently, the pilot had experienced engine trouble, lost altitude, and we, of course, followed him down; or he had gotten off course and started forward again with us in tow. Finally, we found ourselves over the coast of Holland, but we were all alone. We had become separated from the rest of the 101st Airborne!

We circled for quite some time until another flight of planes and gliders came out of the fog. We joined in behind them - which proved to be a mistake. We were soon flying over enemy territory and were being fired upon! To our distress, we could see planes and gliders ahead of us getting shot down. Since we were at the tail end of our flight group, the Germans had plenty of time to get our altitude zeroed in with their anti-aircraft fire by the time we approached the emplacements and they gave us all they had. Our tow plane was hit and the left engine caught fire. There was an eerie silence in the midst of the firing as the surviving gliders pulled ahead on their way further into Holland. Our lead-plane pilot continued to tow us though he was losing speed and altitude rapidly. Finally, even the glider was hit, shrapnel tearing a hole in the fragile wing. Immediately, our control wires were severed by a hit in the tail section. Our pilot shouted that we were out of control and cut us loose from our tow plane. We had just taken a lot of small-arms fire from a wooded area below, so he tried to stabilize the plunging craft long enough to get over a nearby open field and into another wooded area so we would have some protection once on the ground. Our descent was so rapid and out of control though, we dropped and crashed in the open space with very little cover available. In the glider with me when we went down were: William Cox, Milton Moore, Ross Davis, Francis Watson, Robert Bunyard, and the pilot, Elmo Tibbetts. I later learned that we were shot down near Tilburg, Holland, a town where a friend, Mrs. Dean (Jenny) Kendall attended college. Dean met and married Jenny much later here in the U.S. But, on that September day in 1944, where we had just been shot down by German troops, the States seemed very far away!