Wednesday, December 7, 2022


Thinking about fleas and a bomber crew



By Chuck Woodbury
I don’t know why, out of the blue, I started thinking about fleas.

It’s odd the way some things just pop into your head totally at random. Sometimes I think about places, mostly when I’m in bed, half asleep: I will recall a scene from somewhere. It might be a street corner, or a building, maybe a bridge or a room in a house.

My father is standing at the far left in the photo (he’s the shortest guy).

It’s maddening sometimes trying to remember where I saw such a sight. The other night I saw a country road, lined with trees. It dead ended just ahead. For the next 15 minutes I ran through all the places I had visited where I might have seen that road, a process of elimination. Finally, it came to me. It was in the tiny town of Lille, Belgium. I was there searching for information about my father’s World War II B-24 bomber. He and his crew were returning to England from a mission in Germany, when two of the four engines caught fire and quit. He could barely stay aloft, and was a sitting duck for a German fighter.

His navigator spotted a small airfield in Lille and my father decided that would have to do for a landing. So he set down there. When the plane finally stopped, it was only a few feet from the end of the runway and a big wall. But the crew survived with no harm. The local underground rescued them and hid them for awhile in a church basement. Eventually, the crew escaped back to England to fly again. Sadly for me, nobody I talked to in Lille could recall the landing or what happened to the plane.

ANYWAY, ABOUT FLEAS: here are some things you may not know.
•Their average weight is a millionth of a pound.
•They can pull 160,000 times their own weight. An average sized person with such relative strength, could pull 14 million pounds!
•Fleas can jump 12 inches. The human equivalent would be nearly 1,000 feet. Wow! Would that ever change NBA rules!
•The leap of a flea requires acceleration 50 times that of a Space Shuttle at liftoff!
•A flea can jump 30,000 times before stopping!
•They reverse direction with every jump.
•They get excited by carbon dioxide and are sensitive to darkness.

Pretty interesting, huh?

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Bob Edgarton
5 years ago

My uncle flew a B17 as co-pilot, but was KIA on his 4th mission. I have been able to connect with many people via groups on line, and his memory will live on also through a program called Understanding Sacrifice being taught in some high schools across the country. Students and their teachers are in Normandy as I write, learning more through visiting museums, cemeteries, and monuments.
Search for your Dad;s name online, with an Air Corp title/connection, and see if a Vet group shows up.

Chuck Woodbury
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob Edgarton

Bob, so many of those guys were shot out of the sky, especially the ones who flew the early missions, where the Luftwaffe was still in full force and the guys in the B-17s and B-24s had no fighter support. My Dad flew a little later, when the Luftwaffe was vastly diminished, and by then he and his fellow airman had fighter escorts. Still, they were all sitting ducks. Very brave men, and so young! My father, at age 23, was an old man!

Earl Rummel
5 years ago

Interesting, I was just in Tonopah Nevada on Sunday and Monday this past week. I drove out to the Tonopah Army Airfield where my father learned to fly B-24’s also. Most of the buildings have been gone since the 1950’s but the three hangers still remain in a state of slow decay, just like many parts of the city and old mines. It was a surreal feeling standing where my father may have stood a little over 70 years ago. Sent a chill right up my spine.

My dad kept a (journal) of his missions which I still have. Some day it will become my brothers and I believe his youngest daughters later. This will by how a small piece of family history will live on.

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