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David C Saalfeld

Military

Flew 36 missions, including Schweinfurt. Severely wounded on 7th mission - numerous shrapnel wounds, 8 teeth shot out, scalp torn off. On a mission to the Kiel Canal to bomb the Germans' largest battleship, we were hit badly. Jettisoned everything on board we could find, loose and otherwise, over the North Sea, making it back on one engine. Made a belly landing at a crash landing strip on the east coast. Lots of other near misses also. My original crew I flew with over to England I lost completely. I was put on another crew because they had lost a man and my original crew with the co-pilot flying it was flying #2 position off my wing. I happened to glance over and saw them take a direct hit in the bomb bay with all their bombs aboard. The plane was blown apart. On a positive note, once had to land at RAF fighter base at Beccles because of bad weather. I walked into a downtown candy store and there stood my future wife. Sadly, she passed away with breast cancer at 49, but not before she gave me two great sons. She was one beautiful lady. Experiences = Would like to mention couple things. One day on mission to Berlin I was just climbing into the aircraft when someone came running out and said I had to take the place of the lead navigator who got sick. We flew the mission and we got shot up but made it back. My regular crew was blasted over the target with their bombs still aboard and all were killed. The man upstairs was watching out for me that day and I have never forgotten it. I really should be dead now. Then one other mission was very memorable on a mission to the Kiel canal to bomb the Scharnhorst as I recall the battleship name. We lost two engines over the target from fighters and could not keep up with the formation. We headed for Heligoland on the north sea coast and we had to salvo the ball turret and all the guns and ammo and every thing else that was not fastened down in order to maintain some altitude. We finally got control at about 10,000 ft and just got over Heligoland when 7 ME 109s showed up at 6 o'clock. We were utterly defenseless when the German squadron leader broke off from his gaggle and pulled up alongside our aircraft. We saw him looking us over and then he waved us on and saluted us and peeled off. I wish I could meet whoever that man was. Possibly he may have thought we wouldn't make it across the north sea anyhow but I really think he meant his actions as a good gesture and honorable gentleman. We only had 500 feet altitude when we hit the coast of England and couldn't get the gear down so we bellied the old girl in on the belly on a crash landing runway on the coast. Then of course I was personally hit myself pretty bad on another mission. Got hit badly in the head, arm and leg. They bundled me off to the 231st hospital at Wyndom (spelling is off ) I woke up on a gurney with a Major standing over me. I asked him if he was the doctor and he said yes but he said he was the only doctor there that night and he informed me he was a pediatrician and not a surgeon but would have to do the best he could. I passed out again and he did do a wonderful job. Had a lot of shrapnel fragments in my left eye but he saved it. Thank you sir, whoever you were. I came back after a couple months and finished 36 missions. I'm still here, barely. It was really a wonderful experience and I can never forget. I finished 22 years with a lot of great memories.

ETO with 5 battle stars, Purple Heart, Air Medal w/ 4 OLC

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Born Chicago, Illinois 8 September 1923

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
03 June 2021 18:36:30 jmoore43 Changes to biography
Sources

Corrected a typo in the "Summary biography" - "ammo" was misspelled.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:07:00 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / self; Snetterton Falcons, pg 187

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