When the lights came on again | TheUnion.com

When the lights came on again

I was an armor-gunner aboard a B-17. We dropped bombs all over Germany. The places we were sent to were protected by many accurate anti-aircraft guns. They would saturate the sky with explosive shells that would burst apart. We called these shells “flak.” It was our worst nightmare. We always came home with holes in our ship.

After 22 missions, our crew was sent to “flak-shack” for a week’s leave. The shack we were sent to was a manor that was owned by the royalty and had been converted for us flyers. We were pampered with breakfast in bed, served by English girls. We also were given a bike so we could investigate the town of Henley and the Thames River area.

On our way back to our base in Ispwich, we traveled through London. It was usually blacked out because of German bombing. Imagine our surprise when we heard that the war was over. All leaves were extended for 24 hours. We all headed to Picadilly Circus (a ring) at the center of town at dusk. Lights were everywhere, storefronts were open, and the statue in the circle had been uncovered.

People were laughing and crying. It was a mob scene. Everyone was hugging whoever they came in contact with. We “Yanks” were singled out for special treatment. Beer and wine flowed freely. As a 21-year-old G.I., I have a hard time remembering just how many girls I hugged and kissed that night. The celebration lasted till daylight. There was dancing and singing. It was a night I remember well, even though it was 57 years ago.

Robert D. Kopecky

Grass Valley

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