52 Holes & Nobody Got Hit

A World War II Story


Frank Zelenitz

As told to

Bill Orkoskey


I was a Staff Sargeant flying with a crew of 8.  The lead plane had a crew of 9 which included a Bombadier.  At this stage of the war, all the other planes had to watch the lead plane drop his load of bombs and then we followed suit over the same coordinates that the lead plane had used.

We just got one of our men back into our crew that we went through training with.  His twin brother was killed in a training accident and he was able to go home for the funeral.  We were worried that we would have to go with a new member of our crew on our flights.  It was better to know your other crew-mates intimately because  you counted on each other for survival.  If you trained with them in the States, there was more of a closeness.

This particular mission had us flying on another bombing run over some munitions plant in Germany. When we got close to our target, the flack was so heavy that we couldn’t complete the mission.  We were flying at 31,000 feet and the AA batteries on the ground looked like they had us zeroed in.  We were getting pounded and getting hit from all sides.

Suddenly we found us in a very steep dive with one engine hit and on fire. As a waist gunner, we had no seat belts to keep us in one place and were just standing there with our guns. I found myself hugging the roof of the plane as we dove. At 10,000 feet we were able to level out and regain control somewhat. We headed for home and some safe place to drop our bombs.

Somewhere over France, we dropped our un-fused bombs where nobody would get hurt.  We couldn’t land since France was still occupied. If we couldn’t make it back  to England, we undoubtedly would end up as POWs and would sit out the rest of the War which didn’t seem like a very appetizing option. We discussed bailing out, but our good old B24 was built to take some massive abuse.We finally reached the English Channel and spotted the White Cliffs of Dover. We knew there was an air base on top of the cliffs. We were too shot up and were down to just two engines by now so we had to go straight in without allowing for landing against the wind currents. We barely cleared the cliffs.


Our landing went as smooth as it could under the circumstances.  Imagine my surprise when the first person I saw was Ken Forsythe from my old neighborhood who would one day be related by marriage to my brother. He was a mechanic at the base where we landed.

Ken told me later, “Boy, talk about luck. I counted 52 holes in your plane and nobody got hit. I can’t believe that! There was a basketball size hole right where you normally stand.  Lucky that you were hugging the ceiling when that hit.”

Since the 2 engines were shot and we had so much damage to the plane, that B24 never flew again. We flew back to our base on a transport plane and found our barracks almost cleaned out because the Brass didn’t think we made it back. We were one of only four of nine planes to make it back.

They found another plane for us to fly another mission the very next day. In all, I flew 36 missions but only got credit for 16 since a mission was only counted if you dropped your bombs on your assigned target. I was one of the lucky ones who survived. 




Typical waist gunners on a B24 Liberator.



Consolidated B-24 Liberator

The B-24 Liberator was produced in larger numbers than any other American aircraft during World War 2.
By Staff Writer


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Retired but still working at odd jobs such as a US Census worker, freelance writing, public relations, poll worker for elections. Also interested in WEB site processing (my site is www.BillOrkoskeyEnterprises.com), photography, writing, video and audio processing.

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