Lincoln Blogs

‘Shot at and Missed’
June 29, 2006, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Books

I recently read a very interesting book by Jack R. Myers called Shot at and Missed. Myers, now a retired businessman in Arcadia, recounted his time as a bombardier in World War II.

In 1942, Myers signed up for a cadet testing program in Peoria, Illinois. After that and further testing in Texas, he was trained as a bombardier in San Angelo, where he became a 2nd Lieutenant. He was shipped to the 15th Air Force base in Italy, and became a member of the 20th squadron. As a bombardier he flew 52 missions (including the required 35 over target), which included bomb runs over Vienna, Debreczen, and Blechhammer. On February 24, 1943, he finished his missions and flew home. Once back in the States, he trained in Texas to become a pilot until the end of the war.

Myers remembers a mission he flew over Debreczen, Hungary. He called this mission the scariest he flew, and wrote a chapter about it called “Shot at and Hit.” His assignment was to bomb the marshalling yards in Debreczen. “[My crew and I] assumed this was a milk run,” Myers wrote in his book. “Oh what a mistake that was.” His 20th squadron flew with the 429th, the 96th and the 49th squadrons. They thought it would be a “milk run” (an easy mission) because there were only about 45 anti-aircraft guns in Debreczen, compared to more than 600 he had faced in Vienna. What they didn’t know was that more guns had been shipped in to the marshalling yards. Anti-aircraft guns could shoot exploding flak at altitudes higher than 30,000 feet – approximately ten times a minute. “It was unbelievable,” Myers told me in a recent interview. “They just filled the sky with explosions.” Amazingly, every plane returned to the base. One of the planes in the Debreczen mission was Sweet Pea. It was called the most damaged B-17 to make it back to base during the entire war.

Myers’ book, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, is now in its third printing. Myers decided to write his book when his granddaughter interviewed him for a National History Book Contest. She won the school contest and went on to the state competition, which she also won. He recalled, “[People] said, ‘Jack, why don’t you write your story?’” It took him seven years to write the book, which he constructed by reading his diaries from the war and detailed letters that he had written to his brother back home.

Shot at and Missed gives readers an amazing glimpse of the war from a bombardier’s point of view.