As a crew chief in the 38th Bomb Group, I recognize that the air crews were more at risk than we grease monkeys on the ground, but I would like to point out that when we moved up to New Guinea in late 1942 because of the shortage of aircraft (in the 71st we were down to seven planes) we worked day and night to keep them in the air. In addition, we had to pull a 6-hour guard shift at least twice a week and anyone who was in New Guinea knows that at night the mosquitoes brought out their big bombers. We put gasoline in little cans, spread them around and stood in the middle figuring it was better to be a target for any enemy who had managed to reach Morseby down the famed Kokoda trail than to be picked up and carried away by the giant mosquitoes. Then came the red alert, a frantic rush to douse all of the cans and hit the slit trenches.
I vividly recall the day on Morotai, sitting under the wing-the only shade around-bringing up to date (engine hours, aircraft hours, landing on tires, and a record of all work performed on that particular aircraft) when the radio man assigned to that plane informed me of his responsibility to clean the guns in the waist windows. He climbed into the plane, the next thing I knew, , a burst of 50 caliber shell churned up the ground six inches away from me---and I set a world record for the most altitude reached from a sitting position. He came out of the plane with an apology-"Sorry, I didn't know the gun was loaded". As politely as I could, I informed him that the first thing to do when you want to handle a gun was to raise the cover. I then suggested if he wanted to fly the rest of his missions so he could go home, he had better leave right then- and I made a mental note that the next time he came to clean the guns, I definately would be some place else.
Then in the Phillippines, we were waitingfor the planes coming back from a mission. While walking along the taxi strip back to my plane and passing in front of another aircraft, the pilot cut loose a burst from the 8-gun nose and once again I heard the whistling of 50 caliber slugs and my medium hieght paid off-the shells passed by without my head intrrupting their progress. I looked up at the pilot who held his hands out and shrugged his shoulders as if to say "what can I say?" I gave him one of those arm waves that says "forget-I'm getting used to it." Needless to say, I survived malaria , the lousey chow, and most important the guys wearing the same uniform I was. Life on the line was not with out some risks,which was reduced by keeping clear of guns being cleaned and airplanes with members of the crew in them.