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Vet recalls days as World War II bomber pilot

November 12, 2012
By Sharon Bopp - The Marietta Times (sbopp@mariettatimes.com) , The Marietta Times

Returning from a bombing raid over World War II Berlin in the spring of 1945 and heading back to England over the unfriendly skies of Germany, three of the four engines in flight engineer Carroll E. Irvine's bomber plane had shut down due to frigid temperatures.

"One engine won't hold you up," Irvine said.

As the altitude plunged from 26,000 feet to 10,000 feet, the pilot gave orders to bail out. The team had already dumped all excess weight on board including the remaining bombs.

Article Photos

SHARON BOPP The Marietta Times
Carroll E. Irvine, 88, of Belpre holds a framed photo of his World War II flight crew Tuesday. Irvine and fellow crew members were based in Nuthampstead, England during World War II and completed 27 bombing missions over Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1945.

"I'm gonna stay with this airplane," Irvine firmly told his captain.

"I could have been shot on the way down by German children" who had been trained to take out parachuting U.S. troops, Irvine remembered.

Irvine's son, Tim, 57, of Little Hocking knows this story well.

Fact Box

Carroll E. Irvine

Age: 88.

Family: Married to Mary Lou Irvine since 1953; Three children: Tim Irvine, 57, of Little Hocking; Tammy Cain, 54, of Charlotte, N.C.; and Phillip Irvine, 46, of Little Hocking, and three grandchildren.

Resident of Belpre.

During World War II, Irvine served as a flight engineer on 27 bombing missions over Germany and Czechoslovakia.

"As the flight engineer he was in charge of the plane's engines," Tim Irvine said. "If the engines stopped, he had to get them restarted."

When the plane was a mere 7,000 feet from the ground, the air temperature warmed enough for Carroll Irvine to get one of the failed engines restarted. The bomber plane could operate with two engines, he said.

"By the time we crossed the English Channel, I had all four engines running," Irvine added.

"Dad assumed that they'd had some moisture in the fuel that froze up the carburetors," said Tim Irvine.

Before Irvine enlisted in the service he worked at a plant in Point Pleasant, W.Va. that made the explosive chemical compound TNT for the war effort.

He was offered the chance to stay out of military service by accepting a job at a TNT plant in Siberia, Russia.

"Siberia was too cold for me, and I turned it down," Irvine declared.

Irvine said he was not panicked at the thought of impending death-as his engines failed or at any time during his 27 months of service in the U.S. Air Force.

"I was not scared. ...I just never seemed to worry about it," he said.

"You just had a job to do," he added. "You don't worry about the possibilities."

Occasionally, Irvine admitted, "I would sometimes think 'This might be my last day.'"

Irvine's courageous attitude in the midst of wartime was also apparent when his flight team deployed from Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada en route to the Royal Air Force Nuthampstead airfield about 20 miles north of London.

As his B-17 waited for takeoff, the three B-24s in front of Irvine's plane all blew up shortly after takeoff. Each plane had an eight member crew.

"It was just like a ball of fire," Irvine said.

According to Irvine, there was no doubt that his flight would still head down the runway.

"We were the first B-17 off. ...There was no problem whatsoever," he added.

In all, Irvine flew in 27 missions from Feb. 21 to April 21, 1945.

One of his most memorable missions was to the town of Barth on the northern coast of Germany, to pick up six prisoners of war who had been imprisoned in Germany for 18 months.

"I have never seen such a happy bunch of guys," Irvine said.

Irvine's last mission was to Czechoslovakia to bomb an oil plant the Germans were building there.

Irvine has never forgotten how much smoke the bombing created-even far up in the sky.

"It was almost 26 to 27 feet high, it came almost up to the plane," he said. "That's a lot of black smoke!"

After being discharged from the military, Irvine returned to the Belpre area. In 1953, he married Mary Lou Bayne. Together, they have three children: Tim Irvine, 57, of Little Hocking; Tammy Cain, 54, of Charlotte, N.C.; and Phillip Irvine, 46, of Little Hocking, and three grandchildren.

The Irvines owned the Linger Longer restaurant and Irvine's Camper Sales at the intersection of Ohio 7 and 555 in Little Hocking. Today, sons Tim and Phillip run the camper sales business.

"He is a cornerstone of Little Hocking," said Lloyd Cowell, 73, of Vincent and associate broker at Cranston Real Estate in Marietta.

After the end of World War II, "Carroll came back home, picked up and got busy," said Cowell.

"He's a very giving person of his time and his efforts to do a lot of things (for Little Hocking)," he added.

Little Hocking's water system was established and expanded by Irvine and other residents.

"We have a safe drinking water supply covering hundreds of miles," Cowell said. "It was a wonderful thing for the community."

 
 
 

 

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