38BG Stories From The Front
According to Dale Howieson, Ravenna, OH, in 1944 the 823rd squadron used a small rock island jutting from the sea a few miles from the mouth of the Markham Valley, NG, for occasional target practice.
Nothing grew or lived on the 100 foot stone and we had used it on numerous occasions without incident. Flying a low approach to the rock, we'd fire the 50 cal. guns at it, pull up, fly a rectangular pattern back, and repeat the procedure--strictly routine!! On this occasion, however, after firing and pulling up, we all distinctly heard what sounded like a handful of gravel hitting the side of the plane. Puzzled, we checked everything we could but found nothing wrong with the plane nor did we see anyone in the area, so we began our second run.
Altitude and angle of attack were identical to our first run, and again we fired and pulled up. Again the same "gravelly" sound was clearly heard. We were still uncertain about the noise when a crew member came forward to announce someone was shooting at us! We began to prepare for action and scanned the area, but seeing nothing we decided to end practice and return to Nadzab, our home field.
After landing, the ground crew called us to the rear of our plane to see dozens of holes in the aft of the fuselage and in the stabilizer. The holes were irregular in size and shape, and after a great deal of speculation, we concluded they were the results of the "gravelly" sound we had heard, and, more importantly, were caused by our own ammo! We had unintentionally been trying to shoot ourselves down!
We continued to use the island for target practice, but never again did we use that combination of speed and angle. The area was hostile enough without giving the Japs any help.