Target Ploesti gave me trouble with the Air Force and Cronkite. A program on a raid on Schweinfurt gave me trouble with Ed Murrow, Truman Capote and Bill Paley.
Schweinfurt manufactured ball bearings for the German military. The military logic for bombing the plant seemed impeccable: without ball bearings, German rolling stock would be stopped.
The target was probably not worth it. At the time American intelligence thought Schweinfurt was the sole source of German ball bearings. What we learned later was that the Nazis had made a deal with the neutral Swedes for replacement ball bearings. Nonetheless, bomber crews attacked Schweinfurt on “Black Thursday,” October 14, 1943.
The bombing of Schweinfurt is the only air battle I knew of that had a monument dedicated to it—at Amherst there is a plinth with the single word, Schweinfurt, set in it. Later in 1998 a coalition of U.S. bomber crew veterans and German flak crew veterans installed a joint monument adjacent to the Spitalseebunker, one of 11 concrete bunkers which provided protection for the inhabitants against bombing attacks.
We did extensive research on the mission. For every ten planes that went out, three did not come back. For every ten men who flew the mission, three were shot down. I thought the program was one of the best I had ever done. Edward Murrow, the most famous correspondent of World War II did not. He turned white with anger. He said he had flown the mission, and I had the facts wrong. I pointed out there had been two missions. I was aware of the one he had flown, but I had documented the one Murrow had not flown. He was not appeased.
I wrote one line that reminded me of LT Mercer Yeager and my bloody combat jacket: “…Anxiety and guilt. Why was I safe on the ground while they were being killed in the sky?”
I was lucky to be alive. Luck fades. Remorse does not. I have never lost that sense of guilt.
Bill Paley took a print home to his estate in Long Island, and showed it to Truman Capote. Capote called it crude. Bill Paley called Sig Mickelson who called me to tell me that the playwright thought the film was crude.
Sig said hesitatingly, “I was told to make this call.”
Schweinfurt monument: https://www.quora.com/Are-the-German-War-memorials-offensive-to-Jews