Segment 8


[Annotators note. Heilbrun is showing a photograph of Lyle Pearson and himself to the interviewer]. Herbert Heilbrun heard about men who jumped from airplanes without a parachute and lived. His friends who went down in Italy were given parts of the plane. [Annotators note. Heilbrun leafs through his diary looking for his story of the Christmas Day mission in 1944]. Heilbrun’s thirteenth mission was to Innsbruck, Czechoslovakia [Annotators Note: Innsbruck, Austria] on Christmas Day in 1944. The Americans delivered ten 500 pound RDXs [Annotators Note: 500 pound bombs packed with RDX which is an explosive compound that is more powerful than TNT] which took 9 hours to deliver while the Germans shot from the ground. He had a new navigator who was on his first mission. The plane was shot 89 times and all of the men were close to being shot. They all had a turkey dinner waiting for them when they returned. Heilbrun’s most memorable mission was when he lost two engines on his plane. He flew over Munich near Berlin on one mission and noticed the Berchtesgaden below and did not attack because he was not a suicide bomber. The worst target for pilots was Berlin because of fuel capacity and a thousand guns over Berlin. Almost all mission locations the planes were hit. All of the bombing planes had a bomb bay. The bomb bay was held with wires and silver pins which were controlled electronically. Over Linz in the cold weather one of the bombs hung up. Heilbrun had to fall out of formation and his bombardier and radio operator kicked the bomb until it got out of the door then they moved back into formation. Some of the things that happened were not in the books. The pilots had heated suits for the cold weather but only practiced at 20000 feet. Heilbrun was flying higher than 30000 feet and his perspiration froze on the window. He had to stick his head out of the plane and saw the pilot next to him scraping off the ice with a knife. He kept the suit on incase the windows were blown out or he had to bail out of the plane but did not plug the suit in again.


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