Don Pierce

Don was raised in upstate
New York.

He was exploring the possibility of a new life in California when the military called.

So he volunteered with the Army Air Corps and went to aerial gunnery school in Kingman, Arizona.

He learned aircraft recognition... to tell the good guys from the enemy.
automatic weapon care, maintenance, and operation
Sophisticated trajectory training taught him the principles of hitting a moving target from a moving target
He learned about operating turret guns and how to sight and harmonize pairs of guns.

And he practiced.

Don was assigned to the 389th Bomb Group, 564th Bomb Squadron
and soon found himself at the
waist gun
position in Ole Irish.

Don Pierce's A2 jacket
The bomb on its side represents the famous Ploesti mission

18 - November - 1943

On the raid to Norway we took off on a very cloudy day. When we got above the clouds we were all alone and started for Norway. Somewhere along the way we met up with 2 other B-24s. We joined them and had to fly on the left wing of the lead ship. Later another plane appeared so McLaughlin moved off the left wing and crossed over to the right side of the formation and the new plane took over our spot. This move saved our lives.

As we neared Norway we came out of the cloud cover and could see the ocean and Norway up ahead. We were then attacked head on by 2 FW-190s. They flew past our formation and immediately turned and came in on our tails. They concentrated on the plane on the left wing of the leader. We were all firing at them and one started smoking as they veered off to the left and down.

The plane they had hit was in bad shape - no signs of life in the back. The bomb bay doors came open, the plane then rolled over on it's back and dove straight down into the ocean. One parachute opened as it went down.

McLaughlin moved back to the left wing position and we proceeded to our target and dropped the bombs. As we were leaving the area the rest of the groups appeared but we continued to head for home. After that the JU-88 came after us. He fired his rockets and made three passes at our 3 plane formation. Everyone was firing at him. McLaughlin was yelling at Chester in the top turret to "get him! " but he turned away parallel to us, waggled his wings and left. We flew on back to Hethel.

The time our hydraulic system was shot out was also an exciting day. We had bombed somewhere and were returning over France. We had strayed off course so that we were over what evidently was a heavily defended area. The flak became quite heavy and Old Irish took some hits. When we got to Hethel our hydraulic system was out - no landing gear, no flaps. The emergency pump for the flaps alongside Lt. Slessor did not work Kelly, Simmons, Moore and I cranked down the main gear (26 turns on the crank as the directions specified), and the wheels were down. Kelly and I went into the nose where he used a screwdriver to raise the locking latch while I pushed the nose wheel out. There was no brake pressure other than what was in the accumulator, so McLaughlin had to apply the brakes and hold the pedal down. He put on the brakes, held them, and we stopped at the very end of the runway.

McLaughlin and Kelly were 1 mission ahead of the rest of the crew so we asked Lt. Slessor to fly us on our 25th and he was willing. However Major (Fearless Fosdick) Caldwell decided he would do it. We went to France carrying delayed action bombs, but couldn't drop because of cloud cover. We couldn't bomb in occupied territory unless you could see the target. We started back to England and because we couldn't bring back the bombs Major Caldwell said he'd drop the bombs in the ocean and circle around so we could shoot at the explosions. Of course there were none that we could see. The next day Ole Irish had a mechanical problem which saved our lives again. Major Caldwell took another crew and got them all killed over around Paris.

Lt. Slessor then flew us on the next mission (Braunschweig, Germany) and we all had our 25 missions in (except for Lt. Sullivan who had missed 1 or 2 due to illness).

For more on Don Pierce, read about Ole Irish.

in this site
Ralph Lipper B-24 Liberator Don Pierce
Flying 8-balls Mighty 8th AF Sky Scorpions
random photos-a the air crews 389th BG aircraft
random photos-b Ploesti, Romania Ole Irish
lifestyle hazards Aviator's diary waist gunner
sources / books / links U.S. before the war 389th BG stories
this site home page contact 389th BG web site