I am George Mehling, a former member of the 440th Troop Carrier Group, 95th Squadron.
On December 24, We had a sortie to take some supplies up to the front lines at Liege, Belgium. We carried blankets and two nurses to the front lines so we could bring back the wounded
We loaded 300 blankets on the plane, as that was to be our limit. We became airborne on our way to Liege. We felt like a mud boat sailing with our nose high. Couldn't figure out why. We landed at Liege in a cow pasture safely and proceeded to unload. I might briefly say though before could land we had to wait so our Infantry could clear the ground so we could land. When unloading the blankets, we found out they had been left out in the rain and were soaking wet. With the weight of the blankets plus the weight of the water we had a double load. Surprisingly we made it.
After unloading, we were preparing to take off for a return to France when they told us we would have to stay overnight and take off the next day. So we slept on the ground under the plane and the nurses slept in the plane. It was the night of Christmas Eve and the shelling and firing of gun fire was going on right up to midnight of Christmas Eve. At 12 A.M. everything stopped and it got quiet. The Posts of the guards yelled out at 12 O'clock, " MERRY CHRISTMAS AND ALL IS WELL." This started out at the far end of the front lines and rose as it came to the middle of the line and on down to the end of the line till it faded away on the American side. Then it also repeated on the German side of the front line at the same time. Then a brief silence. Then shelling and gun fire began again.
Next morning we picked up the wounded and returned to Rhiem, France. We returned safely and spent the rest of Christmas Day at the Air Base.
On December 27th, I was sitting in the mess hall having my noon lunch with my buddy Joe Lastih, when a messenger came in and said, "George, you get down to the air field, your plane is taking off in a half hour, there's a truck waiting for you outside." I said," but I'm not supposed to fly today, Our plane is standby." His reply, "Capt Budd, who was supposed to fly today, had to go on a cross country trip. Capt Lewis will have to lead the squadron , so you guys are it."
I didn't have my jacket with me, so I hopped on the truck in my shirt sleeves. My buddy Joe ran back to the barracks, grabbed my 45 pistol and ran to catch the truck and handed me my gun. We had always flown all missions together and this would be the first we hadn't. We flew on two different plane, in the same group. I got the briefing and heard where we were going. On our way out, Capt Smith, leader of another squadron came out and said, "George, wire back your cargo door and put on your seat pack parachute because they are telling us this is a milk run, but I have a feeling this is a suicide mission."
We took off in single file formation, as it was foggy on the ground. We had to get off because the troops were in dire need of supplies. All aircraft had been grounded that morning. We took off, towing our gliders in single file formation, firing a flare every 30 seconds, starting with the lead plane.
We were at our destination and supposed to rendezvous with the fighter group at their check point. They weren't able to get off the ground so we were alone. As we approached our DZ, we started our turn to the left over the river and toward the direction of our DZ. We were flying at 1000 feet, when all hell broke loose. The flak and enemy fire was so intense and heavy and unexpected. We were the last Squadron in the group and, as we approached the DZ the enemy fire became even greater.
I was standing in the Astro Dome of my C47 and could see four to five planes ahead of me hit. No. 1 exploded and was gone. No. 2 exploded and was gone. No. 3 exploded and was gone. No. 4 exploded and was gone. We were next. We were hit and the whole plane shook all over. The navigator came back and asked where we were hit. I said underneath in the bottom of the plane. The dust was flying in the air and, he said," that's not dust, it's smoke and that's the smell of gasoline burning. I know because we ditched one plane in the Channel ". About that time, I looked at the right window and could see the right engine on fire. The flames came through the fuselage and melted it down like a blow torch and right over our heads.
The pilot gave the order for us to bail out. The navigator came back from the cock pit and said, if you aren't going, I am. He was out and gone. The crew chief was standing there with a fire extinguisher in his hands. He looked at the navigator going out, looked back at me, dropped the extinguisher, and out he went. I was next. I was scared to death and feared the thought of jumping. Then a flash went through my mind, the co-pilot had forgot his chest parachute and had no way of jumping out. I remembered we had an old seat pack parachute in the latrine that hadn't been checked out in months. I ran back and got it and took it up to him. I said I did not know if it would work, but it's better than nothing. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "Gee thanks."I had to detonate the ITT transmitter. I pushed the red button and up it went. This was necessary so the secret communication chip couldn't get in the hands of the enemy. By that time, the flames had got so intense I had to get out.
I made myself run out the cargo door and my feet were still going when I hit the empty air. I looked up to see the tail of the plane go over my head. I then pulled the rip cord. I turned head over heels several times and I thought the chute wasn't going to open, the ground was coming up fast. When suddenly there was a tremendous yank in my groin that like to killed me. I looked up and saw the white silk was flying above me. Thank God. I was floating down and I could see my plane flying above, side slipping and burning. I knew the pilot and co-pilot were on board yet and was praying that they would get out. I saw one chute open coming from the plane and it seemed like an eternity and another chute appeared, but it came from the left side of the plane. I found out later that the pilot had crawled through the cockpit window on the left side of the wing and jumped from there. I was satisfied. We had all got out.
Through all this going on I had forgotten about myself and I suddenly realized there were strange whizzing and whinnying noises going on in my ears. It dawned on me the Germans were shooting at me. They were awfully close. Then I saw the ground was close and I knew I had to relax before I hit the ground. It was coming up fast. I hit hard with my rear. Before I hit the ground, I saw about 20 Jerries running toward me with machine guns and they were firing at me.
The wind was blowing my chute and I had to collapse it. After so doing, the enemy fire got so intense, the dirt was kicking up around me and the bullets were whizzing by me. I don't know how they missed me. I had my "45" gun on and I thought if I unbuckled it and dropped it, they would stop shooting at me. They hit the ground and really cut loose firing at me and, bullets whizzed by my head and around my body and dirt kicked up around my feet. I don't know how they missed me. Someone must have put a shield around me to protect me. When they saw the gun drop, they came running to me and grabbed my "45" and yelled, "souvenir." The German Sergeant asked me why I wasn't scared. I said, "I am", and my heart was about to explode. He said. "but you are smiling." I said, "I didn't realize it." He asked what kind of secret weapon we had on our C47? I said. "we had none." He said, "you had to because no one would fly with no guns and no self-sealing gas tanks. What is you secret weapon, because it is hurting us Germans and causing us to loose the war." I said, "We had none." He asked me again. I stopped for a minute and thought. I then said, "I forgot, Yes we do". He stopped dead and said, "What is it?". I replied with a strong "GUTS"
I was then taken as a German prisoner and spent some very trying times which are almost unbelievable. that is another long story which I will tell later.