Air Force vet recalls tension of bombing runs

From his position in the bomber, navigator Todd Kindree could see the drop-zone through the chaos. On most operations, his Short Stirling bomber aircraft was heavily tossed by shells exploding in the air around it.

“When you get 500 planes all converging on an area, it’s not like there was air traffic (control),” Kindree said. “You had to watch out… hope to God that one of them doesn’t come down on you.”

When the target was identified, the pilot got the co-ordinates and flew the Sterling in a straight line. The bombs were released. Avoiding other bombers in the stream, Kindree’s Stirling made its way to safety.

Todd Kindree, second from left back row, flew 30 combat operations over occupied Europe in an RAF Stirling bomber. (KINDREE_CREW_E)

Todd Kindree, 92, enlisted in the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1941 to fight in the Second World War.

“I joined the air force. I just signed up,” Kindree said. “I didn’t want to be walking around in the army and I didn’t want to be floating around in boats… I was trained as a navigator.”

Airmen from several countries were trained to operate Short Stirlings, the first four-engine British heavy bomber. These crews formed the RAF No. 214 Squadron, operating just outside of Oakington, England, against targets in German-occupied Europe.

Todd Kindree recalled the tension of bombing runs to targets in Germany. (SIMMS_PIC_E)

Kindree’s crew almost didn’t return from its last operation. Spotted in the English Channel after a bomb drop, they took a lot of fire. They put the plane into a nose dive.

“Everybody was scared. If you weren’t scared, you were crazy,” Kindree said.

The Stirling’s nose was so vertical, Kindree described, that it wouldn’t come out of the dive.

“Bill (the pilot) and I were hauling back on this stick as hard as we could,” Kindree said. “We finally got it to come up. But it was a hairy moment for a minute there.”

After eight months and 30 trips, by June 1943, Kindree said he finished his tour of active duty and then served an additional year as a flight instructor.