5.29.2011

Memorial Day

My Grandfather, Carl "Goldie" Goldenberg

Taken from The Ringmasters - A History of the 491st by Allen Blue (1964)

D-Day dawned early for the 49lst — CQ’s woke the crews at 0030 for briefing. The frustrations of the ensuing hours are perhaps best described by quoting the diary of a participating EM:

"At the war room everything was in a state of confusion. For the first time MP’s were stationed at the doors checking everybody. Inside, the briefing officers had covered the target map with a sheet and a guard was there to dissuade peekers. After a while Col. Goldenberg came in and walked briskly up to the platform. The room grew really quiet, and he stood there for a minute looking at us. His eyes were tired, he was unshaven, and his clothes appeared to have been slept in. The men loved him, and when he spoke, the affection he had for ‘his boys’ was uncontrolled. ‘Gentlemen, a day you will be able to tell your children and grandchildren about: D-Day. Time is short so all I have to say is good luck and give ‘em hell.’ He walked from the room and out the door of the pilots’ briefing room, a tired man with the lines of responsibility plainly etched upon his face.

Sweating out a return, Parmele, Merrell, Goldenberg, Goff, and Shy watch landing operations from the upper deck of the Metfield tower. (Photo-USAF)

Both 1st Lt. James C. McKeown and his B-24 were seriously mauled by flak on the same mission. McKeown, badly hit in the ankles and groin and bleeding profusely, was laid out on the flight deck and given what aid the crew could accomplish, including several injections of morphine, while the co-pilot, Lt. Bob McIntyre, took over and brought the Liberator home on three engines. Arriving over the base, McIntyre found he would have to land the crippled aircraft in a strong cross wind -- something he had never done before. The first pass was unsuccessful -- at which point McKeown got up off the floor and, in spite of a serious loss of blood and the intense pain in his ankles brought about by the strong rudder pedal pressures required, landed the plane safely. McIntyre claimed later that his pilot couldn't wait to get down to collect his Purple Heart while McKeown (who was actually awarded the Silver Star) claimed he was afraid if they stayed airborne any longer the crew would give him more morphine -- and, according to Mac, a needle in the hands of a nervous gunner was as bad as the flak.

Without doubt the June loss that was felt most keenly by the crews occurred, not in the air, but in the chain of command; on the 26th Lt. Col. Goldenberg left the 491st for the 339th Fighter Group, It was a great blow to the air echelon who had learned their trade under "Goldy", and these men openly speculated among themselves as to the wisdom, sanity and other qualifications of those responsible for the decision. But the pace of the war was too fast to allow much time for reflection. Without a break in the mission schedule, the new CO, Col. Frederic H. Miller, took over the 491st.

By the end of June the Group could look back on an eventful month with no small amount of satisfaction. The assembly problem had been cured and in the air the Group looked good. The overtime spent on formation flying back at Pueblo was paying off and already the 491st was being credited with flying "the best B-24 formations in the ETO." They had completed 29 missions in 29 days for a total of 895 sorties, more than any other B-24 outfit in the Eighth and exceeded only by three veteran B-17 groups -- the 303rd, 379th and 384th. During the last two weeks of the month the 491st led the Second Bomb Division (all 8th AF B-24 groups) in tonnage of bombs dropped, hours of combat flown, number of sorties per assigned crews, number of sorties per assigned aircraft, lowest loss of aircraft and lowest loss of personnel.