TEMPLE - Lt. Col. William Henderson lived through 35 missions in World War II and had at least 10 brushes with death. But he got through them all, thanks to the B-24 Strategic Bomber.
Henderson got to tour one of those bombers one more time thanks to the Wings of Freedom Tour - a Collings Foundation project to preserve American history.
Henderson flew over Burma, Thailand, and India serving in the U.S. Air Force. He was a bombardier - the crewman responsible for aiming the bombs with a sight in the front of the plane. Sometimes the flight went smoothly. But there were several instances where equipment malfunctions almost killed the crew. On one mission, a column of bombs that had already been set to explode got caught in the plane because the bottom bomb did not detach. Henderson had to crawl out to a perilous walkway and get them out manually before the plane exploded.
"I had to pull my parachute off... crawl by the nose wheel. I turned a screw driver and tripped the bombs out," Henderson said. "Had the arming propeller come off and they had banged together, we would have blown up."
There where other instances when bombs got stuck higher up in the aircraft, and Henderson had to throw them out manually. He would also go on to survive several crashes in the B-24.
Henderson wrote a book about his life experiences: From China, Burma, India to the kwai. He's paid for several thousand copies, but they have all been sold or given away. He is looking for a publisher to print more.
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