It is my intention to write a sort of memoir of my flying days in the European Theater of Operations as a tailgunner. This would be presented not as a tale of derring-do, but more as an historical diary from the technical perspective. To my knowledge, no one has yet presented passages which would outline the sequential duties of a tail gunner from briefing on through the whole of the flight, and end with debriefing.
Our aircrew was assembled at the 222nd Combat Crew training unit at Ardmore Army Air Base in Oklahoma. The meeting was essentially a kind of lottery. None of us had met previously. We were told that we were members of Crew #343. The pilot had lined up and there crews fell in behind them. We introduced ourselves and that was it! Most of our new crew was from the middle-west, with the exception of Roland Tanguay, Engineer, from Berlin, New Hampshire, Hank Brier, Montgomery, Alabama and myself (San Francisco). The Pilot Jerry Steil was from Omaha, Copilot Mort Feingold from Chicago, Navigator John Joseph from St. Louis, Bombardier Don Collins from Hamilton, Ohio, Don Abens, Radio Operator, Joliet, Ill., Al Boltz, Ball Gunner, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Ralph Vollmer, Armorer/waist gunner, Jasper, Indiana.
Well, here we were for better or worse. No psychological profile matching or scientific gobbledygook. This is how American units have been formed since our military beginnings, and it seems to have worked so far. So why change it? In retrospect, I thank the Lord that these were my crew mates. Each turned out to be very reliable, cool under stress, and very competent in his duties. I would not want to change a thing! And... we all got along well together.