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Identity Portfolio

By Travis Owens


Family Tree


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Author’s Note On a cold winter night, in Northern England, on 17th Dec 1942, my grandfather was at an Air Force base. His duty assignment was to fly over Germany to bomb a Nazi base. On this night, they did not have proper recon reports to show where enemy would be. My grandfather was turning his chances of living to fate. I remember the look on my grandfather’s face as he was telling me what it was like when the enemy was shooting at his plane. He told me that he had never been so scared in his life before. He was so worried. He wasn’t sure whether he would make it back to my grandmother in a body bag or alive. That event affected my grandfather to the point where he thought about it everyday. He told me whenever he heard about someone dying on a aircraft that he would wonder what if it had been him. I had never known how much a single event in a war could affect, not only the military, but the families who have a relative serving in the war.


Bombs Away   The plane ride bobbled my head and twisted my stomach. The turbulence made the plane jump up and down. The air had a musty smell. My hair stood on end due to the electricity from the lightning on this stormy night. As per normal routine, we were all on alert for this nighttime mission over Germany, and it made me as nervous as if I had met a cobra in the bush. My body was dripping with heavy sweat to a level that my flight jacket was soaking, and I felt goose bumps over my entire body. The strong winds were blowing loose objects through the air, like a twister back home in West Texas. The brewing storms and constant lighting caused us to have a change of flight plans.           Unfortunately, due to the change of plans, I did not have adequate recon reports, which meant that the mission was more dangerous and complicated. I knew the enemy (the Nazis) could attack when I did not expect. Suddenly, bullets penetrated through the walls of our planes. Pieces of metal flew all around my plane so fast that my mind could not focus on the direction to fly the plane. “Hey, we’re two hours into the mission, we should drop the payload (the bombs)!Man, this really makes me quiver like there might not be a tomorrow,” I yelled into the radio. The bombs on our plane were waiting to explode at any moment. The rapid gunfire from the ground hit two of the five planes. Pieces of shiny metal passed by my plane from all sides of the plane and from the bullet holes there was cold air streaming around the plane. Probably more than twenty rounds ripped through our plane. “I only have one engine left humming!” I screamed. “We need to abort our mission and return to our home base,” I ordered.    Everyone was petrified that maybe we could not make it back. My hands were frozen on the steering column as I pulled every ounce of energy out of my body to bring us home.           As we approached the airbase, the ground crews frantically run around to prepare to take the injured off the planes. The crew, that had been hit, moaned. After landing, I could see out of the corner of my eyes, two other men were being rushed by ambulance to the hospital for gunshot wounds.

The red and blue lights

beamed off into the distance. Warm, sticky blood ran down my forehead. I was treated for several cuts, which required stitches. It was painful the breath with pain piercing my chest. How lucky that I did not take a direct hit.  Many of my fellow pilots were not as lucky as me. There were reports that many planes were shot down and my close friends did not return from their missions to home base and to their families.


QUESTIONS  &  ANsWERS 1. How  would  you  describe  your  experience  ?         >>    The  cold  chill  of  the  stormy  night  on  the  17th    December  1942  is  a  memory  I  will   never  forget.    My  bones  were  aching  from  the  cold,  and  this  was  a  message  that   there  would  be  a  life  changing  experience  on  that  night.   2. What  were  you  doing  ? >>  As  per  our  routine,  we  were  preparing  for  a  nighttime  mission  over  Germany  and   my  palms  were  full  of  sweat  because  I  am  always  nervous  before  a  mission. 3. Please  provide  details  of  what  happened  ? >>    With  the  severe  weather  conditions  due  to  the  storms,  the  Slight  plans  were   changed  by  the  command.    This  makes  us  extremely  nervous  because  we  knew  the   recon  reports  were  not  accurate.    This  makes    the  mission  more  dangerous  and   complicated. 4. Explain  why  it  is  more  dangerous  ? >>    At  nighttime  the  pilots  cannot  see  the  locations  as  well  and    the  enemy  (Nazis)   can  be  in  a  different  location  than  you  expected. 5. On  this  stormy  night  did  the  change  of  plans  cause  any  problems  ? >>  Our  planes  were  shot  at  by  surprise  and  there  were  bullet  holes  all  over  the   planes. 6. Can  you  give  more  details  of    this  mission  ? >>    After  almost  two  hours  just  before  we  were  scheduled  to  drop  the  payload   (bombs),  the  bullets  from  the  anti-­‐aircraft  guns  were  ripping  holes  through  our   planes.    The  smell  of  smoke  and  the  awful  sounds  of  metal  Slying  through  the  cockpit   was  terrifying.       7. How  did  this  happen  ? >>    The  enemy  Siring  on  our  planes  made  all  of  us  jump  out  of  our  skin  as  we  did  not   expect  this  to  happen.    This  was  due  to  the  change  of  Slight  plans.    Two  out  of  Sive   planes  were  hit.    The  loud  noises  of  the  bullets  hitting  our  plane  were  drowned  out   by  the  screams  of  one  of  our  crew  being  shot.    Our  plane  was  hit  was  the  most. 8. How  much  damage  was  there  to  the  plane  ? >>    More  than  twenty  gaping  holes  were  found  around  the  plane.   We  knew  that  we  could  not  continue.    We  had  to  suddenly  abort  our  mission  and  return  to  our  home  base  or  we  might  all  die  that  night.          


9. Did  you  suffer  any  injuries  ? >>    Lady  Luck  helped  us  on  that  terrible  night.    None  of  our  crews  were  seriously   injured,  though  two  men  were  in  the  hospital  for  several  weeks  from  gunshot   wounds.    I  had  to  be  treated  for  several  cuts  which  required  stitches  and  had  heavy   bruises  from  being  thrown  around  and  bumped  my  head  in  the  cockpit  so  many   times. 10. What  do  you  remember  the  most  about  this  experience  ?                            >>    Even  before  we  left  as  I  was  extremely  nervous  and    I  was  heavily                                            Sweating.    My  Slight  jacket  was  dripping  wet.                                                Everyday  I  realize  how  lucky  all  of  us  were  that  night.                                                Not  all  of  my  fellow  pilots  were  so  lucky.  Many  of  the  planes  were                                              shot  down  and  they  didn’t  return  from  their  missions  to  home  base.


Research Notes

I found out • the importance of air reconnaissance for military. • I learned that recon reports were the locations of the enemy. • I learned that Hitler believed that the Nazi movement would go on for a thousand years. • At first the Nazi movement was political. • Recon reports were for air force pilots to know if where they were flying had enemies or if it was clear of enemies, because if the recon reported they were unsure of a certain location, there was a high uncertainty if you were gonna be shot down or live. • Because of the nazi party anti jewish programs were erupted throughout Germany.


Reflection

1. In this project I learned and felt a new connection with my grandfather and better understood how he contributed to the war. I now have a better understanding of who my family is. 2. I think a project like this is important because it makes us talk to our family to learn about them and also some history behind it. 3. In this project my favorite part was learning from my grandfather what he did in the war and having a face to face conversation with him. I was able to spend time together talking about what he did in the war and where he was stationed. 4. In my narrative, in some of the describing moments, I probably did a little telling and not showing, but to overcome it, I tried a new way of describing different moments.


Bibliography "Britannica Online

Encyclopedia." Encyclopedia

Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <http:// www.britannica.com/>. “ World Book Online.” World Book Online, n.d. Web. 16 July 2011. <http://www.online.com/>.

Walter J. Boyne, “Reconnaissance on the Wing,” Air Force 82:10 (1999), available at http:// www.afa.org/_private/Magazine/Oct1999/1099recon.asp

John Thomas Farquhar, A Need to Know: The Role of Air Force Reconnaissance in War Planning, 1945–1953 (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press, February 2004), 8.

Dr. Alfred Price, Targeting the Reich: Allied Photographic Reconnaissance Over Europe, 1939-45, (London, Greenhill Books, 2003), 9.

J. Rickard, “Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires,” historyofwar.org, n.d. Web 15 May 2012 http:// www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_spitfire_PR.html"Britannica Online Encyclopedia." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2012. <http:// www.britannica.com/>. “ World Book Online.” World Book Online, n.d. Web. 16 July 2011. <http://www.online.com/>.

Walter J. Boyne, “Reconnaissance on the Wing,” Air Force 82:10 (1999), available at http:// www.afa.org/_private/Magazine/Oct1999/1099recon.asp


John Thomas Farquhar, A Need to Know: The Role of Air Force Reconnaissance in War Planning, 1945–1953 (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press, February 2004), 8.

Dr. Alfred Price, Targeting the Reich: Allied Photographic Reconnaissance Over Europe, 1939-45, (London, Greenhill Books, 2003), 9.

J.Rickard, “Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires,” historyofwar.org, n.d. Web 15 May 2012 http:// www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_spitfire_PR.html


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