Mar. 17, 1945
Dear Mom & Dad,
As per usual, can’t say much about where I am or why. We did get in yesterday afternoon though & wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t stick around very long.
I got out of the hospital about three days ago. Even got a chance to go into town back where I was. Would have a hard time doing that here. I’d need to fly to do it.
This place looks like Michigan did the year the Twining road was plugged. Only this is not unusual. I thought I’d get a chance to ice skate today but the son of a guns closed up the rink they’ve got built.
They seem to be rushing us right through now so it probably won’t be too long before I write a letter saying, well here I am somewhere in ______.
Had a nice trip up here. As usual nothing unusual happened. Did see a lot of country I’ve never seen before. Looked worse than upper Michigan. Drummond Is. was never like that. Business is booming so must sign off till my next one.
Worlds of love,
Excerpt from Richard Warren’s Autobiography
A day later we got our orders to keep going and took off for Goose Bay , Labrador, Canada. (March 16, 1945 to March 17, 1945) An uneventful trip–just snow–frozen lakes and ponds–snow–more snow–and evergreen forests. We saw an occasional cabin–but not many. After we landed and went to our parking place—even though you sit at least 10 feet off of the ground in the cockpit of the “17”–we couldn’t see over the snow banks around us! The 20 ft +/- evergreens seemed to be only 5 or 6 ft tall! Nothing to do at Goose Bay and as the next day, we were told there was another weather front coming in–be prepared to leave no later than 6 am the next morning.
We did as we were told, and were in the air by 6 am–the second plane off, and heading for Bluie West One in Greenland. (March 18, 1945 thru March 20, 1945) It had already started to snow lightly as we took off and stayed with us somewhat for the next hour. About the time we were breaking out of it and could see Davis Strait–Goose Bay starting calling all planes to return to Goose Bay! We could already see Greenland and knew we were ahead of the weather–so we ignored them!! I heard later, that every plane that tried to get back–when they got back to Goose Bay, it was “socked in” and they had to go back to Maine or New Hampshire to land! We were all tired, so as soon as we broke clear of the weather, we put the plane on auto-pilot. I think there was a short period, as we crossed Davis Strait between Labrador and Greenland, that all of us–at least for a few minutes–fell asleep!! Not necessarily the smartest thing to do! As we approached Greenland, we called Bluie West One (it is on the West coast) and asked for landing instructions. We were told that the airfield was several miles up a Fiord and that we were to let down below the tops of the mountains on each side of the Fiord and fly up the Fiord until we saw the runway. They also told us to land on the first pass and do not–do not try to go around!! As the weather was perfectly clear, we easily wound and twisted our way, up the Fiord–finally seeing the runway, which started right at the edge of the water! It was also easy to see why we were told to land on the first pass, for there were Mountains just to the right–just to the left–and just beyond the upper end of the runway!! There was no room to go around and try again, if you missed your first try—“you bought the farm”!!!!
After we had landed and checked in, we found the weather to the East, towards Iceland was pretty well socked in and we’d probably be there for a few days. While we were there, the weather was even better than one could expect–bright sunshine and in the 40’s every day. For that time of year (March) and where we were, it was fantastic! The guys stationed there, said they had never seen it that good! There wasn’t much to do except have a drink and shoot pool! I got talking to a British Pilot at the bar, who’s Lancaster(Britons heavy Bomber) had lost an engine and had to land there. They had flown in a new engine, and he was going up the next day to test it—he asked if I’d like to go along–“You Bet!” That was one of the “prettiest” flights I ever went on! We flew up and back along the West coast of Greenland–past many glaciers coming down to the sea–with icebergs calving off of them–pass many fiords and over icebergs, where it was easy to see the ice below, as it was a pale green in other wise dark blue water. It was a “Stark Beauty”–to be sure–but with the various colored rocks and mountains, that were continuous along the coast–a sight that sticks in your memory forever!!
After 3 or 4 days, the weather finally cleared (somewhat) over Iceland–our next stop! We took off a little late in the day–but of course, downhill towards the water in the Fiord—no problem.
We climbed as fast as we could, so we could turn to the north east, for we had to fly directly over the Greenland ice cap to get to Iceland by the shortest route. If I recall right, the ice cap is between 10,000 and 11,000 ft high, so we climbed to 13,000 ft and went on oxygen. I’m sure you’ve heard of “white-outs”–that was the way it was that day over Greenland–there was no horizon!! –there was no way you could tell what was ice or snow–or sky! You’re only protection, was to make sure you flew high enough. There were many planes, during the war, that thought they were high enough–and they’re still there somewhere, buried in the ice and snow!!
It was just about dark when we landed at Reykjavik, Iceland, (March 21, 1945 thru March 22, 1945) with a cold wind blowing–about 40 or 45 mph.
After checking into Operations, we were told that the weather over Scotland–our next destination would be clear the next day, so we were scheduled to take off before dawn! It’s “funny”–Greenland is mostly white and Iceland is mostly brown and green! There wasn’t anything to do but eat and turn in early. After I got back to my barracks–“nature called” and I found that the restrooms were about 50 yards away, out in the rocks and mud–and the same “kind” I grew up with!! I took a flash light, and by jumping from rock to rock (the mud was ankle deep or more) I finally reached one. The wind was easily a steady 45mph, with higher gusts–as I could easily tell as soon as I sat down! After I had finished, I found that the first piece of paper (being somewhat “weighted”) followed the rules of gravity (so far-so good)–I stood up as I let loose of the second one and had to duck for it quickly went to the ceiling and started floating around that somewhat confined space!!! At least it confirmed my estimate of the wind speed!!!
We took off before dawn the next morning–(March 23, 1945) still windy with a 1500 ft. high overcast. As we climbed for altitude we found that it was solid clouds to at least 10,000 ft or higher, so we finally leveled off at 8000 feet, flying on instruments and headed for Scotland. We were about a hour and a half out over the N. Atlantic–I was flying–when the wheel (the elevator and aileron stick on smaller planes) started to vibrate– rapidly, back and forth–causing the plane to climb sharply and bank to the left! It felt to me like the automatic pilot had somehow “cut” in ,with the ratio set too high, so I reached over to shut it off–it wasn’t on!! I can still feel the hair starting to stand up on the back of my head–I still had some then!! I couldn’t keep it from climbing, so I hollered at Wade to get on the controls with me. Between us, we overpowered whatever was going on and the vibrating quit!! Getting back to our regular altitude and heading, we “waddled” on towards Scotland! At that time of year–if you went down in the North Atlantic, I think your expected survival time was between 5 and 6 minutes—if you were “lucky”? you might last 10 minutes!!