Did I Drop a Bomb on My Buddy?
An American bomber pilot and German foot soldier become friends years after the fall of Hitler—without realizing how dangerously close their paths had converged.
Illustrations by T Edward Bak
Temple opens his side window to keep track of the formation. A draft of thin, cold air meets him at thirty degrees below zero, causing his eyebrows to frost, his forehead and hands to freeze, and his eyes to water. At 23,000 feet, ice coats his flak suit as the crew struggles to keep control of the plane. They work the feathering to correct the runaway propellers and don’t turn back – the squadron is off to bomb an oil refinery in Bottrop-Welheim, Germany.
They carry twenty-four bombs, each 250 pounds. On the ground, the Germans pinpoint their altitude, unleashing a sea of bullets that envelops the air around them. A B-24 up ahead is hit badly, plummeting down in a tight spiral above the target. Anti-aircraft rounds burst in front of the airplane, and one enters the turret, cutting Joe Amrien across his nose. Another half-inch and no Joe Amrien, Temple thinks. Joe jokes that the flak had his name on it, but the wrong serial number. Other crews flying off th…