14 October 1943. 1400 hours. 25,000 feet over Germany.
“Roll call,” said Raines. "Everyone okay?"
Six of us said our names over the intercom.
"Matthew? Carl? You all right?"
A minute later Olivetti spoke up. “They’re gone. Waist is shot to hell. Steinberg’s lucky to be alive.” The waist gunners were stationed in the fuselage above my head.
A hundred Messerschmitts attacked our formation, but we drove them off. Or maybe they just ran out of ammo. We took a lot of hits. Olivetti bought the farm along with the co-pilot and the navigator. Raines cursed for ten minutes straight. The cockpit must have been a terrible mess.
Our radioman was hit by a single stray .50 caliber round, probably friendly fire from another bomber. The tail gunner stopped responding on intercom, but the Germans weren’t letting up and no one was left to check his condition. I knew he was dead because there was no more firing from back there.
“Pilot to bombardier. Approaching target.” I could hear the tension in Raines’ voice.
“Corey? You all right?” A long pause and Raines’ drawl came back on the intercom. "Fucking Corey. Bled out without saying a word. I guess there’s not much more we can do."
The Blue Devil banked hard left, turning 180 degrees. Heading home. By my count there were two of us left alive on board, me and Raines.