to First Lieutenant
History of 260P "Lili Marlene"
May 25, 1944
After fourteen missions, we had become a seasoned
crew. Pilot Charles Peritti had already been advanced to First Lt. and today was the remaining three officers turn. On this
date, May 25th, 1944 Co-pilot Burr W. Palmer, 0748228, Bombardier John F. Warga, 0682746 and Navigator John W.
McClane, Jr., 0814368 were promoted in the Army of the United States to the rank of First Lieutenant by Command of General
I had been awarded the Air Medal on May 13th
after my 11th mission and the first of three oak leaf clusters on May 22nd. I was beginning to feel
like a real vet. Already we were being put in a lead position having worked our way up through the formation. Soon Pilot Peritti
would be the "A Flight" leader and I would be directing our course as a lead navigator. We no longer flew in low position.
We were becoming leaders, not followers.
The group had four squadrons of which three usually
flew on any one mission. Each squadron had a lead navigator with a deputy on his wing. At this stage of the game, we were
deputies but on D-day and thereafter, we were leaders.
We had been assigned a new all Natural
Aluminum B-24H #295260, code named P-260, for which Peritti selected the name of "Lili Marlene". How he came by this name
I have no idea. (Editor's Note - May 2002, Chuck Allan: In my conversation with John McClane, he indicated that Peritti never
revealed his specific inspiration for the name Lili Marlene. However, he did relate that there was a song, popular with German
and Allied soldiers alike, sung by the American (German born) singer and actress, Marlena Dietrich that was generally, the
motivation for the plane's name.) He also arranged to have
the picture of "Lili" painted on the right side of the nose of the plane.
'Lili Marlene' was a beautiful plane. Bright
unpainted silver with our squadron code letters of WQ painted in large letters on either side of the fuselage just aft on
the side gunner windows. The two vertical stabilizers were left silver except for a broad vertical black stripe and the letter
"P". The left side of the nose had our "Flying Eight Ball" logo as did all 44th Bomb Group planes. Our ground crew
chief was named Hill. We parked "Lili Marlene" at a hardstand on the far side of the perimeter track across from Group Operations
and the control tower. We would stand beside our plane on scheduled mission days waiting for the flare to leave the tower
indicating that the mission was on. This was a very tense moment as from the time of the flare until we returned many hours
later, it was a life and death struggle over which we really had very little control.
I don't know how many missions P-260 "Lili Marlene"
flew. We completed our tour of combat in October 1944. However, I had the good fortune to become acquainted with Mason W.
Johnson, Jr. of Virginia Beach, Virginia at the reunion in Dayton, Ohio 1984. He sent a picture of our plane taken after we
left that fall. It shows "Lili Marlene" and Lemon Drop, our yellow and black stripped assembly plane, parked together. With
the picture he sent these remarks, "Lili Marlene P-260 68th Bomb Squadron. In background Lt. Hill the pilot. Later
crashed killing Lt. Bledsoe and his entire crew on December 28, 1944."
I was extremely sad to get this report as we
loved "Lili Marlene." I was sure she would fly until old age sent her to the "Great Haven in the Sky" where old bombers go.
I know she is there now even if she did meet with a premature death.