Countdown to Kassel - September 11, 1944

September 11, 1944 was a busy day for the 445th, but especially for William Bruce's crew. Flying their plane from the US, the Bonnie Vee, named for Bruce's wife Vyrlin, they were badly hit over enemy territory on a mission to hit oil targets at Hanover. Copilot William Brown’s leg was nearly severed at the knee from a hit, and he pinched his arteries together with one hand while he continued to fly the damaged plane with Bruce with the other. A gunner came up and tied a tourniquet around it while they flew the plane.

The Bonnie Vee

The Bonnie Vee

The late Kassel Mission veteran and KMMA historian George Collar tells the story. "Well, you know what they did? The gunner got down, the top gunner come down and put a tourniquet on it, and it took two of them to get this plane [under control]. Everything was shot up and ready to go down, and fighting the stick was tough, see. And that guy stayed conscious and helped get that damn plane back down. And when they got him home, they took him out of there and they thought he was gonna die, he lost a lot of blood.

By god, he come out of it, and Mrs. Bruce told me over the phone, she said, he's still alive and lives in North Carolina and he makes his own prostheses, because he didn't like the ones they had. He plays golf and everything."

On September 30, 1944, Brown was honored by the 8th AF "Target Victory" as Man of the Division.

S/Sgt Paulus and S/Sgt Fleming look on while Lt. Bruce points to the damaged stabilizer on Bonnie Vee.

S/Sgt Paulus and S/Sgt Fleming look on while Lt. Bruce points to the damaged stabilizer on Bonnie Vee.

Although Bonnie Vee's tail was completely shot up, she was ready to go again for the September 27 mission. The crew must have been glad to have her back that day. However, she would suffer a fatal blow when Bruce's new copilot, John Willet, would be sheared in half at the torso by a rocket as he was getting up to help Bruce with unbuckling his seat belt--standard procedure when a ship was going down.