by David Parmer
A Look Backward
Upon reaching the target area, the bombardier becomes the most important crew member on the aircraft. Obviously, the bombs must reach the intended target if the mission is to become a success. One peculiar aspect of the Norden bombsight is that it takes over the flying of the aircraft over the target area in order that the bombsight can effectively do its job. Lt. Barnett received highly classified and complex training on the use of the Norden bombsight and he was very good at his job. However, as with any weapon of war, the Norden bombsight was not totally accurate and it had another important drawback—while the bombsight was in operation, the aircraft was highly susceptible to groundfire or flak.
Lt. Barnett had already loosed the bomb payload on the Vienna rail yards and the B-24 had crossed into Hungarian airspace when the plane shuddered. It had been hit by a German shell and lost part of the left wing, a horizontal stabilizer and the function of the flight controls. The hit to the bomber was fatal. The pilot, Captain Nelson gave the “bail-out” order and the gunners began hitting the silks. Denver helped the injured and semi-conscious Lt. Clark to bail out of the dying plane. As bombardier, he could not do his job wearing his parachute and harness; consequently his life-saving parachute gear was stashed in the bombardier compartment of the plane.
Stalag 13 D
Stalag XIII D was Denver’s next prisoner of war camp. The camp had recently been vacated by Italian prisoners and was in a deplorable state. It was infested with vermin of all kinds. A shortage of fuel and food made life very difficult for the prisoners. In late March 1945, the Allied Forces were closing in on Nuremberg and the prisoners of war again were to be moved. By this stage of the war, even the Germans knew the end was near and vigilance over the prisoners of war had little priority.
Lt. Denver Barnett returned to the United States aboard the SS Marine Angel. Docking in Boston on May 31, Denver telephoned his wife Rose and told her he was boarding a train for Fort Meade, Maryland and then on to Clarksburg. On June 2nd, Denver arrived to a jubilant welcome at the Clarksburg train station from his wife, son Denver Jr., and his parents, Alva and Gay Barnett. He spent many days thereafter with friends in Orlando, Burnsville, Weston and Fairmont.