Gunner's Mission Today
There's a mission today and you're scheduled to fly. So you wait by the ship and you look at the sky. It's cloudy up there and the wind starts to blow, But the mission ain't scrubbed, so you get in and go.

Your nerves are on edge -- you cuss and you sweat. If this damned ship flies you loose your bet. But the ship takes off, you settle down, and cast a longing glance at that lovely ground.

Well, the ship will fly while the engines run, So you take your post at your trusty guns, And check to see if they're working right, If the round ain't short and the headspace tight.

You check your chute and try your phone. It doesn't work and you heave a groan. You struggle and test with the blasted thing, And it's finally fixed for you hear it sing.

You call the pilot and tell him you're set, And the radioman breaks in on the net. The rest of the crew all check in turn, Except in the nose, they'll never learn.

You"ve joined the squadron and joined your group, And the vapor trails are thick as soup. Your breath comes short so you check your hose, And you cuss like hell cause the damn thing's froze. (You clear the ice and breath again.)

Your face is cold and your mask too tight, So you pull it off and fix it right. You're climbing fast as you look behind to see if the squadron's all in line.

Formation looks good and is staying in tight, So you figure everything's going all right. The hours pass slowly till you're nearly there. Your eyes smart and burn from the ceaseless glare Of a sun that's cold as a chunk of ice. for the temperature is far from nice.

You've never seen it so damnably cold. It tightens you up with a square sort of hold. Your fingers freeze to the grips of your guns; You wonder who said this flying is fun.

But you stick it out and stay at your post. If you leave your guns the reports read "lost". If heaven's this cold you choose to dwell In the hottest furnace this side of hell.

The pilot calls that you're getting close. Recheck your guns and oxygen hose, And pull your helmet and flak suit tight, And pray to God that you make it all right.

Navigator calls that you are at the IP, But your eyes are froze and you cannot see. So you pull out the ice and the frozen lash and you see a fighter come in like a flash.

You grab your gun and fire a burst! The bastard's gone down but he raised a thirst That burns in your throat, and your mouth goes dry, As you spot another way off in the sky.

You line him up in the ring of your sight And get all set for a damned good fight. He's coming in and doesn't stop Till you hear the upper turret start to pop.

Then there's a puff and a burst of flame And you add that fighter to your engineer's claim. Now you're rid of two, but you call in more. You cuss and you pray that their aim is poor.

It makes you mad and you feel mean But you think of home and the places you"ve been. It's just a thought and it passes fast And you fire like hell as a Jerry dives past.

You never know if you've knocked him down, No time to watch him--keep looking around. They're swarming now, like angry bees A "twenty" comes through and you feel the breeze.

They make their attacks in a steady pass, And you're willing to bet that they'll get your ass. But you track them in and get their range. You're enjoying yourself, though that seems strange.

It's fifty below, and you're wringing wet, And your forehead's covered with frozen sweat. With a final pass the Jerrys drop back. Then you know damn well you're headed for flak.

It's coming up now and bursting fast, And coming so close you feel its blast. So you make yourself small and try to pray And hope that this is your lucky day.

Your bombardier calls, you're on the run. And you wait to hear that the job's well done. Then "bombs away" comes over the wire But you"re watching a ship go down on fire.

The stuff is still bursting big and black And you cuss the guy that invented flak. It pounds on the ship like an angry surf, You're scared as hell but you keep your nerve.

Your skipper is wise, he's dodging the stuff. Back in the tail the riding is rough. The ship is hit cause you feel the jolt. Your guns swing free as you loose your hold.

You feel her lurch and start to drop, And over the phone comes "feather that prop!" And smoke streams back from number two But your pilot's quick and he pulls her through.

Now she's under control and flying level. That skipper of yours is a cool headed devil. You're out of the flak and the ship still flies, and you look behind at the smoky skies.

The group behind is in the flak now, And catching hell from stem to bow. You watch two ships go falling down. They both blow up when they hit the ground

. But you're feeling good cuz you've got your hide. You've beat the flak, no fighters in sight.

There's still three engines running good. You're headed for home and thinking of food. The pilot calls at 12,000 feet, Pull off your masks and turn down the heat.

You strike a match and light a fag, Inhale deep that first sweet drag. Soon you're over the field and circling round, Then into the pattern and back on the ground.

Now taxi her up to the parking place. You've made it again with the Lord's good grace. Clear your guns and raise up the covers And scramble out to look her over.

The ground crew's there with a silly grin. They ask you "where in the hell've you been? You could drive a truck through that vertical fin."

But it's time to debrief so you grab a truck, And you realize you've had good luck. Talk the mission over on the way to group, Where S-2 briefs and gets your poop.

Your job is done so down to the tent, And head for chow like a man hell bent. The empty seats sort of spoil the meal. You've lost some pals but it doesn't seem real.

You wait awhile and watch the door, But they don't come back like they have before. So try to forget it and think of tomorrow. You've paid for the fight, but not for the sorrow.

It"s cloudy tonight and looks like rain, But the bulletin board reads "OP" again. The target tomorrow? It's hard to say. Sweat it out again in the usual way.

This story goes on, it has no end. You loose a ship -- you loose a friend. Maybe someday you won't come back, And they'll chalk you up to fighters and flak.

It's a hell of a life and you feel the strain, But you'd do the whole thing over again. Still you pray for the day when there'll be no war, So you can see what the hell you're fighting for.

You're doing your job, we're winning the fight, Doin' your best to make things right. Just hope you'll live through it and someday see Lasting Peace in a World that's Free.

(Written by an annonymous B-17 crew member, and copied into 2nd Lt. R.W. Cooke's Wartime Log, Stalag Luft I POW camp...1944)