|A Mission to Remember
August 12th, 1944
By Richard Kik Jr. & Kenneth Kik
My grandfather always said that "a war story usually means that something went wrong"
August 12th, 1944 was one of those days.
As told by Richard Kik Jr. 395th Fighter Squadron.
We took off on a usual mission, armor cover flight at the Falaise track. Down at the Falaise track it
was hard fighting, a lot of anti-aircraft fire, a lot of infantry, armor, trucks, a lot of everything. I went
down on a strafing run and hit this truck Previous to that I heard a thump somewhere in the
airplane and I didn’t realize what it was, but when I came off the strafing run my wingman, Chuck
Rife said "have you got the water on?" I said "no, why?" Chuck said "you’re trailing smoke." He
came up and looked around and said "it’s coming off the bottom of the engine." It Turned out a 20
mm knocked two or three cylinders off my engine. That Pratt & Whitney never stopped. I’m telling
you, those people deserve a medal for that engine, I’ve never seen one like it.
Our element leader, Captain Mazur said "well Rife, escort him home." So we started back across
the line and as we got going along, Chuck caught a burst of anti-aircraft fire. Both of his wings
were struck by 40mm rounds. The flak rounds exploded and pieces of metal entered his cockpit.
The explosion damaged his instruments and shredded his parachute pack. So as we got across
the line I told Chuck, "you better get ready to bail out." He said "I can’t, my parachute’s all tore up."
I told Chuck you’ve got two live bombs on your wings, you’re not going to be able to belly land with
those, can you drop them? He said "no, I can’t" and held up his bomb release, "cause here’s my
bomb thing." It was a mess. He said "all my instruments are gone and I can’t put the gear down."
So anyway, as we were going home and I’m talking to him all the time, telling him try to do this, try to
do that. Chuck said he had to take both legs and hold the stick over cause it kept wanting to roll.
Finally he got the gear down manually. I said "okay, let’s just fly her in." Chuck said "I don’t have
any instruments, I don’t have any idea what the speed is." I told him okay, I’ll tell you what, you fly
on me, just stay right with me and we’ll get you down. So I kept the speed up pretty high and took
him down to the runway. He made it down safely.
Then when I turned around to land it dawned on me, I’m burning! I forgot about myself during this
whole thing. The smoke’s really rolling out now. So I whipped it around and landed, turned off the
runway and the engine quit.
We made it! I jumped out of my plane and ran over to Chuck and helped him out of his damaged
jug. Then I discovered that I also had two live bombs on I had forgot to drop. And one of them was
hanging by the rear shackle, nose down. What happened was when I strafed that damn truck I was
a little to low, Something had hit the nose fuse and I had a hanging armed bomb. They (the ground
crew) were a little unhappy that I didn’t drop the bomb. Hell, I was happy to just be on the ground.
There happened to be a whole bunch of AP reporters around that day, one of them wrote an article
for the AP news.
Cliff Gamble stated that after Kik pulled Rife out of his plane he (Cliff) gave Kik a big hug and told
him "Don't you ever do that again!"
Kik was later awarded the Silver Star.
Charlie Rife was wounded in the lower back and spent a few days in the hospital.
from around the U.S.
|Damage to Charlie Rife's right wing
|Damage to Charlie Rife's left wing
|Original AP wire story given to Richard Kik by the writer Henry Jameson after
story was transmitted