Continental Express Flights

Discussion in '303rd BG - Molesworth' started by billrunnels, May 18, 2017.

  1. billrunnels

    billrunnels Active Member

    Continental Express Flights were operated following VE-Day. A skeleton crew, pilot, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer plus 15 to 20 ground personnel toured the continent to view battle damage. I flew as navigator on two of the series, May 9 (the day following VE-Day) and 12, 1945.

    May 12th...........Four of the pilots thought it would be great fun to play follow the leader and we ended up being tail end charlie. Needless to say the flight was made at a very low level. We headed for the Rhine River intercepting it north of Cologne then headed south by Bonn en-route to Frankfurt. The hills framing the Rhine in this region are quite high and we were very low. Thank goodness no aircraft were coming up the river at the same time. I remember leaving the Rhine over a high hill. The aircraft ahead of us just cleared the trees on top. On the way back we joined 25 to 30 British and American aircraft of all sizes circling the 984 foot Eiffel Tower. All were below the top. Flight time on this trip was 8 hours 55 minutes.

    We took a lot of foolish chances during the flight but gave the ground personnel on board a few thrills and a birds eye view of the bombing damage. It was a memorable way to end operations over enemy soil.
     
  2. DeborahS

    DeborahS New Member

    Many thanks for sharing this story. It was a very interesting read!
     
  3. Lucky Partners

    Lucky Partners Well-Known Member

    Bill,

    Cannot even imagine what that looked like to those standing on the ground! The sight, the sound, the vibration.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Hal
     
  4. billrunnels

    billrunnels Active Member

    I don't have words to express the joy experienced on hearing "the war is over". No more cold altitude missions. I am sure this state of mind contributed to the risks we took on the Continental Express Flights. Another factor, we were young and daring.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
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  5. Lucky Partners

    Lucky Partners Well-Known Member

    For some reason Bill's reply got tangled up in the quote box, so here it is:

    Since some interest was expressed in the May 12th trip post I will add information on the May 9th ( day following VE-Day ) flight.

    The 303rdbg commander was in the pilots seat of the lead aircraft. Prior to take off he said we would fly in formation ( 5 or 6 B-17 ) at 10 thousand feet the entire trip. We passed over the small islands of Heligoland in the North Sea where there was a German Sub base. On missions we always approached the continent to the north of this base because it was heavily fortified. They unloaded on us breaking up the formation. Apparently they didn't know the war ended the day before. No aircraft was damaged. We continued in single file to Brussels and made a very low pass down one of the main streets. People on the ground were waving and having a good time. Our group broke up and each aircraft headed in different directions. We headed down the Rhine River. A boat loaded with furniture was crossing from west to east. When we passed over it the three men on board jumped in the river. As we continued south down the Rhine , our next point of interest was the Ramagen Bridge. We were so low we had to gain a little altitude to clear the bridge wreckage. Our flight time on this trip was 9 hours and 50 minutes.
     
  6. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    I think the 8th AF called these flights Victory Tours -- 6+ hour flights over Europe.

    I have the schedule for several of the groups and I can just imagine after the first 2 hours these ground crews getting tired and just wanting to go back to the base .

    victory tour.JPG
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
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  7. billrunnels

    billrunnels Active Member

    The 303rdbg was part of the 8th AF and we officially called them Continental Express. They also were unofficially referred to as Cooks Tours. We didn't have Chow Hound Missions that I am aware of.

    Regarding the ground personnel on board, I didn't sense any desire on their part to break off and return to the base early. They appeared to be having a good time on the entire flight. It served as a diversion from their normal duties at wars end, a relaxing time of great joy. The flights could have been boring for we crew members but they were not, we had fun also.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
  8. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    Never said the 1Ad did Chow-Hound missions -- that was primary the 3rd AD's responsibility

    The 1st Ad did a lot of POW flights (Revival) instead.

    But, did you read the 9 May entry -- These were officially called Victory Tour(s).

    I can post numerous orders from many different groups and they are read the same.

    there was numerous different names for these tours, Cooks Tours, Trolley Runs etc..... but from the groups official orders, they were officially (by 8th AF HQ) called Victory Tour(s)
     
  9. billrunnels

    billrunnels Active Member

     
    Last edited: May 20, 2017
  10. DeborahS

    DeborahS New Member

    Many thanks again for sharing these stories! It's wonderful to hear them directly from someone who was there!

    I can imagine those guys jumping into the Rhine. That must have been quite the sight, seeing such a big plane flying towards you at such a low altitude....
     
  11. billrunnels

    billrunnels Active Member

    Regarding the three jumping in the water, it was fun at the time but at this stage of life hind sight suggests it was not a nice thing to do. After all, they were civilians and had just lost the war etc. However, we were young and elated the war was over and gave no thought to their feelings. Thanks for your response.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2017

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