Segment 3


Herbert Heilbrun flew twin engines in his second stage of flight training. He flew the Cessna Bobcat [Annotator’s Note: Cessna AT-17 Bobcat], a twin-engine 225 horse power engine. At this point Heilbrun had not yet gotten his wings. He had moved to advance training. His father came to Fort Sumner New Mexico to pin his wings on Heilbrun. Both parents visited when Heilbrun was in basic training. Heilbrun put his grandmother in a B-17. Heilburn moved to B-17 transition school to learn how to fly the plane. Heilbrun still has the book that includes everything to know about the B-17. It includes fuel system and electric systems and everything. As a pilot they had to know everything about the planes. Heilbrun rode in the ball [Annotator’s Note: the ball turret]. The one good thing is it was steel. There’s a hatch in the airplane through which you enter. Heilbrun heard a story about a young man got stuck in the ball and couldn’t parachute out with the rest of the crew. One of the waist gunners stayed and went down with the ball turret gunner even though he could have bailed out. When Heilbrun had gathered his crew to go across the ocean one of his gunners was late. His crew was broken up and his engineer was killed in England. Heilbrun was sent back to combat training to pick up another crew. It gave him time to get more experience. His first cross country flight had bad weather and he had to land in South Dakota, but he did it and the men were impressed. The crew members Heilbrun went overseas with included four officers. They were the bombardier, navigator, pilot and co-pilot. The engineer, ball turret gunner, two waist gunners and tail gunner were enlisted men. There were a total of ten people in the crew. Everybody had their job to do. Heilbrun became close to his engineer. He paid a surprise visit to his engineer many years later after having picked his kids up at summer camp. Now his crew is all gone. Emergency procedure did say that the pilot is the last one out, so he’s doing what he’s supposed to do.


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