Tomorrow is Veterans Day. Here's a story about a veteran very close to me....
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)January 28, 2003 Column: Military Notes In Germany 60 years ago, death above and death below Author: FRANK PERKINS
Planes from the U.S. Army's 8th Air Force made their first daylight raid on targets in Germany 60 years ago Monday.
Military records show that 8th Air Force B-17s and B-24s and their fighter escorts -- 338 planes in all -- dropped 594 tons of bombs and lost 17 aircraft to enemy fighters and anti-aircraft fire. By the time Bruce Lowrie, now 78 and a longtime Fort Worth auto dealer, arrived as a young navigator and lieutenant at Pontington airfield in England on Christmas Eve 1944, those numbers had swelled: 18,252 missions dropped 36,826 tons of bombs that month. One hundred nineteen planes were lost, all but 17 from enemy action. Lowrie, from Montague County, north of Fort Worth, said the most dangerous raids were over the Ruhr Valley against vital ball-bearing manufacturing plants in cities such as Schweinfurt.
"Our loss rate averaged one plane in three, and each plane carried a crew of 10," Lowrie said. "Most of our losses were from those 88 mm box barrages. Most of the enemy fighters I saw were trying to get away from our fighters. We never flew a 'milk run.' The missions lasted 14 to 15 hours, and all were tough." Lowrie had flown 31 combat missions in B-17s, including four raids over Berlin, when the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945. The 8th had suffered terribly. Its crews had flown its 9,057 bombers and fighters on 330,253 sorties into Germany, ...dropped 266,565 tons of bombs, destroyed 6,236 enemy aircraft and suffered 47,000 casualties, according to military records.
After the war, Lowrie switched to flying passengers such as Allied POWs and homeward-bound GIs from Germany and other European locales to Africa, where the Air Transport Command flew them on to the States. On one flight, the passengers were 32 chorus girls flying around Europe to entertain the troops. "They were lined up 18 to each side of the plane. I never saw as many pretty girls in one place in my life," Lowrie said.He also made one peacetime parachute jump, because of a careless pilot.
"We were in a B-17 at 17,000 feet flying over occupied Germany, and it was cold as hell," Lowrie said. "The inexperienced pilot leaned over to turn on the heat for an instrument and hit the bail-out alarm by mistake. When me and two others heard the alarm, we hit the silk.
"I broke through the clouds at 4,000 feet, and all I could see beneath me was a town and a web of 440-volt power lines for its trolley system. I somehow missed them and landed in somebody's back yard," he said.
Back in Texas, he went to work for Ernest Allen Chevrolet in 1946 and in 1957, Lowrie bought the dealership, now at Hemphill Street and Interstate 20 in south Fort Worth. Copyright 2003 Star-Telegram, Inc.
Record Number: 11140826