Sitting on a porch in New York, co-pilot Bohn Fawkes turned to his navigator Elmer "Benny" Bendiner & said: “Remember we were hit with 20mm shells?”
Yes, but remember the shell that hit the gas tank? Bohn said.
I mean to them it was - because somehow the plane had not exploded.
Just unbelievable luck, they assumed, and carried on with their duties.
He said the morning after the raid he’d checked with the ground crew and was told there had been not one but 11 unexploded shells in the gas tank.
The shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused but had then been rushed away by an intelligence officer.
Bohn wanted to tell his old friend now.
He said that as the armourers had opened each shell they had found no explosive charge.
Inside that one was a carefully rolled piece of paper with a note written in Czech by the forced labourer made to make the shells for the Luftwaffe.
“This is all we can do for you now.”
The crews' lives had been saved by someone they would never know.
And the worker would never know that he/she had saved ten lives.
It appears in Elmer Bendiner’s marvellous memoir, ‘The Fall of the Fortresses’ (Souvenir Press, 1980).