Fortress

 

 

Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II.

There were many times both in Iraq & Afghanistan that we had near misses. The first near miss you really had no idea what was going on until things settled down afterwards and you were so scared that you didn’t even realize how scary it really was until things calmed down, you looked around, see all the bullet holes around your position, see the shrapnel impact and wonder how you are still standing.

 

 Then near misses became more evident. They usually are bullets that scream right over your head that get your attention, you duck and take cover but it wasn’t as scary as those first couple times. Crazy right? Bullets being shot around ya and you kinda accept it as they break the sound barrier above your head and make a distinct “crack”. Then near misses came in bigger bangs. Like indirect fire and IEDs. Now, those will get your attention right now. No matter the first explosion or the hundredth one,  mortar,rpgs and IEDs suck, they suck worse if they are pointed at you. They are loud as hell, I’m talking like “my ears are ringing and my ear drums are numb after that explosion” type of loud. They throw steal everywhere. Ever blinked and thought you saw something that wasn’t there or thought you saw something fly by? That’s what shrapnel looks like when it fly’s past you at mach speed and when you see it on the ground after it stops you are amazed how something the size of a shoe box with jagged razor edges could have moving that fast. Now you know how it tears people apart. Nasty stuff.

Near misses tend to define a guy. Yes, like the movies I’ve seen “that guy” walking around standing straight up as bullets fly past him while many others are ducking and taking cover as  he moves from place to place directing fire. You think, “how is he not dead?” I’ve seen those thrown from an IED, and stand up with nothing but scratches and cuts and yes, walk away. Then again, Ives seen those simply slump over and die in their sleep. Regardless when it’s your time, it’s your time. Time for a C-Gar!


 


Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War II bombing run over Kassel, Germany , and the unexpected result of a direct hit on their gas tanks. "Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit.

Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple. "On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck.

The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks. 11 unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought.

Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.

"He was told that the shells had been sent to our armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that our Intelligence Unit had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. "Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless.

Empty? Not all of them! One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling.

 

Translated, the note read:


"This is all we can do for you now…

Using Jewish slave labor is never a good idea.

 

 

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