Voices of Valor Vincent Crowley

Vincent Crowley was a B-17 tailgunner and flew on 35 missions over Germany during World War II. The memory of one mission remains vivid in his mind after 50 years. Date: Dec. 31, 1944. Target Hamburg, Germany. A total of 36 B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 100th Bomb Group left England to bomb an oil refinery. Just 24 planes returned. “That was the worst mission I took part in, “ said Crowley,“Almost 120 boys from out Group did not make it home that night.” December 31, 1944 started at 4:00 a.m. for Crowley and the members of the 100th Bomb Group who were stationed at Thorpe Abbotts in England, 90 miles north of London. A total of 36 bombers took off in the dark at 7:15 a.m. and assembled in formation in the clouds at 12,000 feet. His B-17 nicknamed “HurriKane. “We flew in tight formation", Crowley said, “because that was the best way to protect each other from German fighter attacks. “We flew that day at an altitude of 27,000 feet and thought we’d be out of range of the German flak guns.” “When we started our bomb run the flak from German anti-aircraft guns around Hamburg was terrible and it’s unbelievable how accurate it was.” Immediately we had planes on fire and falling out of formation. I remember seeing one of our planes receive a hit and it started going down. It collided with another plane and both exploded in mid-air.” Crowley said fighter attacks from German Focke Wolf's and Messerschmitts created havoc in the skies for five minutes or more as the tight formation of B-17’s became scattered. “It looked pretty hopeless for a while,” he said. “After seeing all the planes on fire and the mid- air collision I didn’t think I would be coming home.” Crowley said he felt a tremendous sense of relief when the bombs were released over the Hamburg oil refinery. Length 16:00.