Crew of Out Gal Sal
A picture of the crew of Our Gal Sal (Mr. Hammond is the sixth person from the left)

Donald Hammond
by Jonathan Buckley


A War Hero
Being in World War Two must have been tough, especially for Donald Hammond, the man I have interviewed. He stated that even though he was scared everyday for his life, being on the B-17 Bomber made him feel like he had a chance to fight for his life. His plane was called Our Gal Sal. This is his story.
 

The Draft
Mr. Hammond was drafted into the military and had no choice in the matter, but his job quickly changed from a foot soldier to a Radio Operator on a B-17 Bomber because he had a high IQ. He was then able to take a two week course on Radio Operator training instead of the mandatory six weeks. But the training was tough, he told me. Once, in a training exercise, he had to operate the radio on a very old plane that was dangerous to fly. He eventually landed without any problems and another crew went to train on the plane. That plane never landed because it blew up in mid-air, killing all the crew on it. He was lucky to even survive the training for the war.


His Job
A Radio Operator had a very important job in the plane. They had to learn morse code to do the job. A Radio Operator assisted the navigator, kept reports about their position, and kept a log of the entire mission. But during the missions, Radio Operators could not use the radio, in fear that the transmission could be intercepted by the Germans. The Radio Operator had other jobs including taking in-flight photography and sometimes acting as a gunner.
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Crew of B-17 Bomber

The other crew of the plane all had different jobs on the B-17 bomber. One important job was the pilot. He flew the plane and made sure that the crew was safe. He also served as the commander and leader of the plane. 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Shoens was the pilot for Our Gal Sal. Another important job was the navigator. The navigator directed the plane and had to know the position of the plane at all times. He also used a machine gun to fire at enemy planes. The navigator was 2nd Lieutenant Raymond E. Hanson. One of the most important jobs on the B-17 was the bombardier. He controlled when and where the bombs on a B-17 were dropped, so they went to their targets. The bombardier actually controlled the plane when it was about to bomb a certain place. The bombardier for Our Gal Sal was 2nd lieutenant Glenn Hudson. The gunners of a B-17 protected the plane from enemy fire. There were about four or five on a plane, but they protected the plane from various spots, like the waist of a plane, near the top of the plane, and at the tail. The gunners were Sgt. Angelo J. Genevese, Sgt. Virgil H. Warders, Sgt. William W. Wright, and Sgt. Don L. Blair.

crew positions


The B-17 Bomber
The B-17 bomber was known as the Flying Fortress. It was known as the Flying Fortress because of it's ability to withstand lots of damage from enemy fire and still fly perfectly. It was the world's first four-engine long range heavy bomber that could hold 10 crew members. It was first built by Boeing in 1935. It could hold three tons of bombs, 22,000 gallons of fuel, and could travel 200 miles per hour. There was usually 13 guns in a plane and they used .35 caliber bullets. The war planes were useful for taking out important economic sites like food storage or water supplies. The B-17 Bombers were very strong, but the British Mosquito, with two members in it's crew, was much better in bombing because of its speed in bombing missions and precision in bombing certain parts of enemy territory.

Our Gal Sal


Experiences in the War

Mr. Hammond and his crew were stationed in Thorppe Abbotts, England. Every day that they had a mission, they would be woken up at 4:00 AM to be ready for the planes that took off at 7:00 AM. He was in the 100th bomb group and in the missions, he would travel with two other bomb groups. Each bomb group consisted of four squadrons, each squadron had about 21 planes. It took about 90 minutes for the planes to get over the point the planes were supposed to bomb and they would be in the air about 20,000 feet, but along the way, the planes would be shot at by fighter planes which were planes armed with machine guns. Also they would be shot at from the ground with shells, an exploding kind of weapon. These shells would shoot up and explode at a certain height. Most times, the shells hit something before it reached its height limit. One memory Mr. Hammond has is when he was on the plane and he had to throw chaff grenades out of the plane when bullets came shooting right above him, where his seat was. If he was not bending down and throwing chaff grenades, then he would have died. Chaff grenades were grenades that explode and shoot small, aluminum pieces around. It was used to block the Germans radar so the Germans could not aim at the planes.
 

B-17 Bomber

Picture of a B-17 unloading it's bombs


Another memory that Mr. Hammond had was going into Berlin. No bombers had ever bombed there before and it was known to be heavily guarded. The planes that went were split into two groups: A group and B group. My interviewee does not remember what group he was in or what exactly happened during the mission, but one thing he knows is that both groups were "hit hard". "It was hard to see outside that day," Mr. Hammond said, but in his distinct memory, he remembers seeing two planes, both in his group, fly and crash into each other. Only five planes survived, including Mr. Hammond's. Some of the five ran out of fuel and one of them was ordered to bomb Berlin again. After Mr. Hammond completed the 28 missions he was assigned, he said he felt very relieved. He felt enriched and grown up because of the experiences he went through in the war.


Conclusion: Mr. Hammond won 11 awards including The Distinguished Flying Cross, 5 Air medals, and medals that he received from his home state of New York. His plane, the Our Gal Sal, survived 235 missions and then was taken apart. He fought for his country well and I was honored to interview him.

 

Bibliography:

Primary Sources:

Hammond, Donald. World War II interview. Buckley, Jonathan. 5 Dec 2004


Fletcher, Bill . "The Best Plane in the War." Banner Herald 25 August 1985, 18c.


Secondary Sources:

"100th Bomb Group Aircraft." Aircraft. 100th Bomb Group Organization. 13 Jan. 2005 <http://www.100thbg.com/mainmenus/airplanes/airplanes_main.htm>.

"2nd Lt. Robert J. Shoens." 2nd Lt. Robert J. Shoens. 100th Bomb Group Foundation. 18 Nov. 2004            <www.100thbg.com/mainpages/crews/crews4/shoens.htm>.

"Airplanes Page 2." Aircraft. 100th Bomb Group Organization. 13 Jan. 2005 <http://www.100thbg.com/mainmenus/airplanes/airplanes_2.htm>.

B-17G (Flying Fortress) 457th Bomb Group. 13 Jan. 2005 <http://www.cloudnet.com/~jfb/bigbomber.html>.

Manninen, Tony . 1998. B-17 Data Sheet. 18 Nov. 2004 <http://www.ratol.fi/~tmannine/b-17/b-17_data.htm>.

Manninen, Tony . B-17 Crew Task Descriptions. 18 Nov. 2004 <www.ratol.fi/~tmannine/b-17/b-17_crew.htm>.

"World War 2 Bombers." World War 2 Bombers. 18 Nov. 2004 <www.2worldwar2.com/bombers.htm>.