Biography of Roger Bernhardt
Cpl., 15th A.F., U.S.A.A.F.
My grandpa doesn't say much about his expriences but one night he told me his story. Corporal Roger Bernhardt was the radio operator on the B-17 bomber, "Slippery Tit" in the 15th Air Force. He flew out of Benghazi in Africa and later out of Foggia in Italy. He told me about the butterflies before takeoff. How a normal mission. The oxygen masks, the messages and the attacks. He told a story about when he was good friends with a tail-gunner of a another plane, and the plane that his friend was in was cut in half and exploded in mid air. From there on, he said, it was hard to be close friends with anyone. After each misson the ground crews would have to take fire hoses into the planes and hose them down. Not from the smoke or the shrap metal, but the blood and pieces of men that were on the walls and the floor. At this time he was visually shaken. He left for a glass of water.
When he came back he told about the time he saw one of the waist gunners being ripped apart from the guns of an attacking fighter. He said it made him sick to his stomach, but he fought on. Later on that mission, he said, he was sitting and a piece of flack hit near his compartment. A little piece ripped through the floor, went up the side of his leg and barely miss his head. This rattled him, both then and now. He went on to tell me about one of the two times he was shot down.
Somewhere over Yugoslavia, a squardran of Me-109s attacked the bomber group. His plane was hit. With three engines out, two on fire, the to jump was given. On the ground they re-grouped. They were missing two, he didn't remember which two. They followed a path and were grabbed by some natives. They were later told that they were about to walk into a German patrol. The native took them to a coastal town and put in a fishing boat. There they were disguised as bundles of fish and were given back to the allies.
After just joining the Army reserve, and watching SPR, and listening to my grandpa speak of his experiences, and going to boy's state and talking to the legionaires share their pride and stories, makes me realize how costly freedom is and how hard it is to keep it secure it for others. I hope you, the youger generations, look at the veterans and respect, and accually listen, yes, listen, to what they have to say.
----- Jon Bernhardt
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