Serial# 36228339: Loch, Harold P – Waist Gunner, Flight Engineer and Top Turret Gunner
Harold Loch was one of twelve children. He was born to his mother Mary in 1919 in Denmark, Wisconsin, where his father Joseph kept a tavern. With the coming of Prohibition, the family moved to Green Bay where his father found work with a Marine Construction Company.
As a teenager, Harold loaded pulp, cement and sugar boats at 75 cents an hour. In December 1941 the stevedore enlisted as a Private in the Air Corps at Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
First stop for the young Private was to Biloxi, Mississippi for Basic Training, then on to MacDill Field. Somewhere in there was also a radio training course in Kansas City and a course on mechanics for the job as Flight Engineer. He was cleared for combat duty as an Air Engineer and Air Gunner on May 16 1942. He was promoted to Corporal, then Sergeant on August 1st.
Loch almost became a war casualty before he got into a combat zone. ‘ I was up on the wing, checking the gas tanks when John Quinlan crawled into the Top Turret, just fooling around. It just so happened that there was a single live round left in one of my guns. Quinlan pulled the triggers and the bullet went whizzing right past my head. It just missed me and scared the life out of me!’
Quinlan caught hell for that one!
The crossing of the Atlantic involved a stop for fuel at Prestwick, Scotland. ‘…There was a cute little Scots girl helping out with gassing up the plane. She asked what my name was and when I told her, she was tickled pink to meet an American airman with a Scots name. It made her day’.
There was also the little children playing around the airfield. They looked a bit hungry and Loch remembered a box of sandwiches on board that the Memphis Belle crew had not finished eating.
‘I thought the stuff would get stale so I offered the sandwiches to the little kids. They got so excited and began hollering, White bread! White bread!’ It seemed they had never seen white bread’.
Loch would regret giving those sandwiches away when they landed in England and were put on British rations, mostly vegetables, Brussels sprouts, cabbage. Even for breakfast. It was then, forced by a bit of hunger of their own, that Loch and a couple of his buddies sneaked into the store room and snitched a case of C Rations being kept for emergencies.
‘We hid that box up over the door and when nobody was around, we would sneak it down and eat some of it. There was a big investigation. They even called in three or four officers to investigate and we were all questioned, but they never did get anything on us’.
Then there was the cold, with never enough coal to heat their quarters. ‘You got the “soldier’s curse,” if you slept in the British blankets they were supplied with. Quinlan reported being eaten up by the scabies itch he acquired from sleeping in those RAF blankets. They were like horse blankets. I decided to sleep in my sheepskin-lined flight suit, without those blankets. That’s what I did. Every night. At least, I never got the scabies itch’.
Then there was pay days, which would set off a flurry of poker games all around the airfield, with most of the pay ending up in the pockets of a few hot shot gamblers. Harold remembers them well. ‘I stayed out of those games. I sent most of my money home to help Mom and Dad pay for the tractor’.