Roy Exum: What Saved The B-17

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As I wonder out loud why every day following a holiday feels like a Monday – and my life’s weekly clock stays awry until next Monday -- I rejoiced yesterday morning when Gus Bryan who lives in Jasper shared a story with me that started my Fourth of July out just perfectly:

It seems Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War II bombing run over Kassel, Germany, and the unexpected result of a direct hit on their gas tanks. “Our B-17, named the Tondelayo, was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit.

“Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple.

“On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks … eleven unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought. Even after 35 years, (this story was first told many years ago) so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.

“He was told that the shells had been sent to our armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that our Intelligence Unit had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer.

“Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless. Empty? Not all of them!

“One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling. Translated, the note read: “This is all we can do for you now…using Jewish slave labor is never a good idea.”

Is that priceless or what!

* * *

MISSOURI STATE OFFICIALS COME DOWN HARD ON POOR FARMER

Another wonderful tale comes from my dear friend in Texas, Sandy Phofal. We share stories regularly and while the author of this one is unknown, it too is “a keeper.”

“A man owned a small farm in Missouri. The Missouri State Wage and Hour Department claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to interview him. The agent starts out demanding: "I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them,"

"Well," replied the farmer, "I have four farm hands that have been with me from three to five years. I pay them each $200 a week plus they get free room and board."

"Then there's the cook that has been here for 18 months. I pay her $150 per week plus she also gets free room and board."

"Then there's the half-wit who works about 10 hours every day and does about 50% of all the work around here. He makes about $100 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night. He also sleeps with my wife occasionally."

"That's the guy I want to talk to. The half-wit!" says the agent.

"That would be me," replied the farmer.

* * *

"God made the earth and the sky. He made man and bird and beast. But He didn't make the dog. He already had one." -- Native American saying

royexum@aol.com



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