487th Bomb Group (H)
Station 137 - Lavenham, Suffolk, UK
22-Sep-43 to 7-Nov-45
Notes of Jim Bello, gunner in 836th squadron
as related by his son, Jim Bello
Personally I rank all of these stories in the “Tall Tale” category but they are stories that my father loved to tell. My father was always a smart ass/bad ass type. At the end of the war he was right waist gunner on a B-17. He said that after VE day, the squadron took ground crew up in a flight over the continent to let them see what it was like and to give them an idea of what they helped accomplish. He said that there was a bucket that the crew would use if they had to relieve themselves during missions in flight. He told the ground crew to make sure they used the bucket if they needed to before they got back to base. On the way back, he asked the navigator to let him know when they were almost over Picadilly Square in London. The navigator gave him the word and my father took the bucket and went to the small door that was used to place the camera for the strike photos and dropped the bucket out of the ship over Picadilly. He loved to say he was the only American to bomb Picadilly.
Another story he liked to tell was about the new guy who was assigned to his hut. The guy had a guitar that he played constantly and was getting on my fathers nerves. He asked the guy to give it a rest but the guy refused. So my father went out and got a hand full of .45 caliber pistol ammo and dropped them down the chimney to the pot belly stove in the hut that was in operation at the time. The ammo cooked off and scared the hell out of the guy with the guitar. The guy cut down on his playing after that.
The last story that I can remember was about the time he beat up a bar tender from a pub in town. My father usually sported one of the pencil thin moustaches that were popular during the 40’s. He went into town to visit the local pub and at the time was the only American in the place. He sat at the bar and asked for a beer and the bartender said “No beer Yank” and went about paying attention to his regular customers. My father asked again for a beer and again the bartender said “No beer Yank” and again started ignoring him to take care of his regular customers. My father got rather annoyed while he sat there and watched the bartender dispense beer to his regular customers so my father left the pub. He waited outside for the pub to close and when the bartender came out proceeded to beat him up. The next day the bartender came to the base to find the guy who assaulted him and press charges. When my father heard the guy was on the base, he quickly shaved off his moustache to change his appearance. Supposedly they made the base personnel fall in for inspection so the bartender could try to identify his attacker but he was unsuccessful.
There was also one combat related story where they took a flak hit and the round was a dud and lodged itself in the fuselage close to his gun position. They were afraid to try and move it so it stayed in the side of the ship all the way back to base. He said somewhere there was a photo of him thumbing his nose at the round after they landed and he got out of the ship.
That was the only combat related story that he would tell me. My mother recently told me that after the war he had nightmares where she would hear him yelling out to the other gunners (Joe or John in particular, I don’t remember which) about German fighters as they passed his line of sight and to get on them.