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World War II Veteran: Ray Schleihs
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In April of 1944, 27-year old Second Lieutenant Ray Schleihs of Johnston, was starting his overseas tour of duty. Schleihs had joined the Army Air Corps in March of 1942 and was now piloting B-17 Flying Fortresses from a base in Framlingham, England. He had left his wife Vivian earlier that month to complete his 30 required missions, all in a span of just 90 days.On his first mission, April 18, 1944, Schleihs was sent to bomb a Heinkel aircraft plant 25 miles north of Berlin. As he approached the target, the air became thick with shrapnel from exploding anti-aircraft shells—what the bomber crews called flak.
(Ray Schleihs) The shells, we could see them breaking around outside. And hear the shrapnel hit the airplane, you know, sounds like popcorn in a popper.
Even though Schleihs' airplane was hit before getting to the target he was able to drop his bomb load. Unknown to the crew, a piece of flak had lodged in one of the engines. After the bombs were dropped, the damaged engine began to run out of control.
(Ray Schleihs) I decided somewhere as were moving along between Oranienburg and Hamburg that I’d leave the formation off to the side and use something that a guy had mentioned about getting rid of a prop. So I got my copilot on the stick, and we pushed the airplane down—nose down up to about 190, and then we pulled back. And we did that five times. And all of a sudden, I knew the prop was going because the last time it was laying over like that, still spinning out there. And it just went down and went under.
With the propeller gone, Schleihs was able to return to England and land safely.
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