A True Account of courage and bravery! How 10 men survived 50 Combat Missions over Europe during WWII
This wasn't the adventure 18 year old Eddie Kofke expected when he joined the Army in October 1942. He was soon swayed by the colorful posters with the smiling pilot with a white scarf and leather jacket having a great time. Eddie signed up for gunnery training and soon was assigned to the position of 'tail gunner'. A position that didn't have a long life span. After the first mission, Eddie realized this wasn't the adventure he signed up for, men were dying.
With an "I'm going to make it" attitude, Tomorrows Promise is a compilation of the diary Eddie wrote to 'his future family' from enlistment in 1942 through his discharge in 1945. While many men were talking about death and dying, Eddie focused on making it through, no matter what the circumstances. Writing to the kids he hoped to have one day, gave him a reason to focus on the future.
Join the flights as young Ed shares the details of his training, assignment with the 10th Anti-Sub Group based in Galveston, Texas, the birth of the invincible B-24 Liberator - Shoo-Shoo Baby, adventures in Italy, 50 deadly combat missions over Europe, the return ocean voyage on the SS Parker, Ed's post combat assignment and saying goodbye to 'phantoms in the night'. Laugh along with the crew as they experience numerous side adventures both stateside and overseas.
Of the 65 B-24's that left a freezing Pocatello, Idaho in February 1944 as part of the 464th Bomb Group (650 men), by the time the 'Baby' and crew completed all 50 missions, there was only one other 'Olive Drab' B-24 flying in the 779th. The other 63 original ships were gone along with most of the men who were killed, wounded, running frantically for their lives behind enemy lines or in POW camps. Many of the replacement ships were replaced with more replacements during this time. Life expectancy in the deadly skies over Europe wasn't long for thousands of men. The Shoo-Shoo Baby was the first in the 779th squadron to complete all 50 missions, miraculously, without ONE injury or death to any of the crew members. This was despite 5 missions to the oil refineries in Polesti, Romania. Ploesti provided nearly a third of the petrol that fueled Hitler's war machine and was heavily protected by the best anti-air craft gunners and airmen the Germans had. The Shoo-Shoo Baby and crew were placed on the #1 kill list for Hermann Goering's elite Luftwaffe. Being one of the few 'Olive Drab' ships still flying, they were a target easy to spot.
When the music ended, Axis Sal came on with her warm sweet voice. "The Shoo-Shoo Baby is #2 on the Hit Parade and #1 on the Luftwaffe's list. I hope the crew of that infamous death ship is listening." She then began to name us one by one...
The crew of the Shoo-Shoo Baby received numerous awards and medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross, America's highest award for aerial combat and the third highest combat award. The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded for their mission to Blechhammer, Germany on August 7, 1944. A mission that they almost didn't return from.
"The fighters continued their relentless attack, then it happened, we were hit. The ship shuddered violently...we lost power, falling through the formation as the ships moved out of the way. We cleared Fox Box and continued a vibration shuttering fall through space." Edward R Kofke, Tail Gunner B-24, Shoo-Shoo Baby
From Tomorrows Promise
May 3, 1944 Mid-Air Collision
When we were 20 miles from the target the flak started. Several puffs of black smoke were ahead and on both sides of us. The ships were staying together, not like the fiasco from the other day. Suddenly the ship seemed to slow down and moved abruptly to the right. Seconds later we moved towards the left. Our 2 wingmen, Wingfield and Sampson tried to turn with us but couldn't make the corrections. They smashed into each other! My God, they collided. I watched in horror, almost like a silent movie was taking place right in front of me. There was no noise, only a scene that depicted action with no sound. The vertical stabilizer was ripped from Sampson's ship, 'Southern Gal' and embedded itself on the nose of Wingfield's ship, 'The Big Fat Mamma'. The two ships separated and the tail turret from Sampson's ship went spinning like a top through space with the gunner inside. The 'Gal' went down in a sickening, erratic, wing over wing spin. Wingfield's ship was flying upside down. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I could see Wingfield's landing gear.
June 6, 1944 Expendable
Captain Abe got up before the briefing was over for a special announcement we all wish he would have skipped. He started out by apologizing and then said that the 55th Wing wanted us to know...this is the messed up part. He said that if we were to suffer a 100% loss of aircraft and crews, within a matter of weeks, replacement ships and men would be functioning from our base, doing everything we are doing now. I heard an officer in front of me question what he just heard.
July 15, 1944 Dante's Inferno
About 40 minutes later Max announced, "12 minutes to target." Mort said there was flak ahead, heavy, severe, intense and mighty fearsome looking. Shoe sid it looked like a real Dante's Inferno. I heard him say, "look at that damned stuff as he swung the group to the left and headed into the barrage. He came back on quickly and told us to secure ourselves, it was going to be a rough one. Target, dead ahead, Mort said, 6 minutes. The sky behind us was a thick maze of black explosions. I wondered how we ever made it through all of that, how are we going to get through what's in front of us. I'd trade the flak for 50 fighters.
I felt so helpless as we bounced around the sky and took the anti-aircraft fire. The ship jumped and bucked like a bronco bull. 4 minutes, Mort sounded like he was saying a prayer. I gripped the rip cord of my back chute. If we blow apart I hope I stay conscious long enough to pull the cord.
A burst of flak exploded directly under the open bombay doors as my teeth came together hard. The formation was being bounced all over the sky but kept going. "Bombs away! Rally right- rally right." was shouted. I then called Shoe in an excited voice. 4 guys jumped out of Baker 13. They're going down almost where we dropped our bombs. Shoe asked if their ship was going down. I told him, no sir, it was staying with the formation. Shoe said he was going to call MacDonald. A minute later he came back on and gave us the sad news. Shrapnel shorted out the alarm wires. Mac tried to call the crew, but 4 of them had already jumped. I looked down as the 4 chutes were heading towards the black smoke coming from around the refineries.
August 7, 1944
Starting bomb run. Mort was in control...Off to the side, safely away from the flak a long line of Messerschmitt's were waiting for us...I knew these guys instantly, Hermann's Elite! The same crack group that gave us so much hell last month. There must be a 100 109's Bill shouted. They came straight for us, never veering off until the last second. One to the left, the next to the right, then the left, then right and on and on. Wave after unending wave. Liberators were on fire, going down, parachutes all over the sky...A clap of thunder vibrated through the ship. Feather number 2, Shoe yelled. We dropped through the formation like we were dead men, I thought we were...Shoe put the ship in a partial dive. We went down straight through a flock of ME-109's. The Germans were surely surprised but gave us plenty of room...