An American Hero
“If you are looking for a fine, competent, Doctor and a friendly atmosphere for your eye needs, I highly recommend Dr. James Davies and his staff.”
A wartime hero has come through the doors of Davies Eye Center!
Charles Pedrotta as a Bomber Pilot during WWII
Charles started out as an Insurance Estimator for Lockheed Aircraft while most of his close friends had already been drafted for the war in Europe. Charles entered the classification center at Santa Ana, CA where he passed the physical examinations and then was transferred to Thunderbird Field, in Phoenix, AZ to train as an Aviation Cadet with the Air Force. Next post was a small, one stoplight town called Pecos in Texas which had the most advanced school for Multi-Engine Training.
Charles graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant and then was transferred to Las Vegas towing targets from a B17 that Fighter Pilots shot at for target practice. Next transfers were to Boise Idaho, Hutchison, Kansas, and finally New York picking up his crew and Navigator along the way and then set sail on a steamer bound for England. Charles and his crew arrived at the 392nd Bomb Group Air Field and met his new Crew Chief, Ground Crew, and his Aircraft, Trips Daily. Usually, Pilots fly a couple of missions with an experienced crew so they know what to expect, but not Charles and his new crew. No, they were put to work right away to fly a mission the very next morning!
They went on to fly 17 missions where they returned to base battle scarred, but safe, to fly another day. It’s that 18th mission where they were attacked by ME109 fighters that mortally wounded their aircraft, Trips Daily. Three of his crew were killed in the attack. Charles became a P.O.W. at Stalag Luft 1 in Germany until the end of the war.
Story Continued From Newsletter Below
Charles’ group was notified of a mission the next day. They had breakfast before dawn and then went directly to the briefing room to get instructions for the coming mission. It was described as a ‘Milk Run’. These are missions that are a quick in and out into German territory with no flak and no fighters. This type of mission is something they all looked forward to since it counted just as much as a long hard mission where was flack and fighters. 25 missions was the magic number needed before going back home to the United States.
The Air Force could launch as many as 5,000 aircraft on a maximum effort mission. This coming mission wasn’t one of those. There would be maybe 135-150 aircraft to launch for this Milk Run. That meant each group of 6 would have to assemble about 27 to 30 aircraft each. This was done by circling an electronic device at each field, called a Buncher. These Bunchers were a type of radio beacon used to gather aircraft formations and assist navigation after takeoff. Once we were in the air, all 6 groups would get into formation and proceed to the target. During this procedure, one of the engines on Trips Daily developed a ‘hiccup’, which meant trouble. However, a B-24 will fly just fine on three engines, so it was decided that since this was a quick Milk Run, they wanted to keep going so it would count towards there 25 mission goal.
Unbeknownst to them, there was a storm front they were flying into that went undetected by their weather apparatus. This makes it impossible to remain flying in formation and the group scattered. After reaching clear air again, the group was immediately hit by ME109 German fighters who literally sprayed them with bullet shells. Trips Daily was mortally wounded by now. All the crew members were ordered to bail out. Three of my men were killed. As Trips Daily started rolling into an earthward spiral, Charles rolled out of the bomb bay, the B-24’s only escape hatch.
As he landed on the ground, he was surrounded by people. Some were in uniform that could have been police or firemen – they didn’t look military. There were also farmers in overalls and maybe a dress or two, but what he noticed the most, was the pistols, rifles, and pitch forks pointed directly at him. But one tall man in a suit and tie immediately took charge of the situation. He hauled me up and took me to the school house where Charles learned the man was Head Master. If Charles could meet that man today, he would thank him for saving his life.
Soon after, the regular military arrived on bicycles. Charles’ first thought was, ‘Oh, how nice of them to give us transportation’. Not so, the bikes were for transporting the parachutes that lay in the field. We later learned that they saved everything. I also learned that my Engineer was badly wounded and wound up in a German hospital ward next to an English speaking German fighter pilot. That fighter pilot described the nose painting on the aircraft he had shot down. Yep, it was Trips Daily that he shot down. The pilot told my Engineer that the gunners on Trips Daily were responsible for shooting him down too!
The next part of this story is where Charles and his remaining men were taken to Dulag Luft where the interrogations began. Charles has plans to write and share more. If you’d like to receive updates from Davies Eye Center, such as when we have more from Charles, please indicate by filling out the form.
At my first appointment, I was impressed with Dr. Davies office and exam room that had the most complicated looking equipment I had ever seen. The Staff seemed well trained and very courteous. The first thing I noticed was Dr. Davies’ impressive height when he came in to the exam room. He proceeded to sit on a small, adjustable stool where it looked like his knees almost reached his shoulders! My first impression was of a ‘frog ready to leap’. I knew at that moment, Dr. Davies was my kind of Doctor.