The 'Bottoms Up' Completes 100th Mission

A Proud Day For The 450th! The 'Bottoms Up' was the first B-24 in the 450th Bomb Group to reach 100 operational missions

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The following is a history of the day the 'Bottoms Up' completed its historic 100th mission.

Unlike the Bottoms Up, there are not many aircraft in World War II that can boast of the completion of 100 operational missions. This proud lady was the first aircraft in the 450th to achieve such a historic benchmark and there is no doubt in my mind that the 450th and the Fifteenth Air Force were proud of this old gal.

According to Don Gray (son-in-law to the late Lt. Harris Wood (later Capt.)), Pop Witherspoon was incredibly nervous as to who the pilot and crew were to be for the superstitious 100th mission. Pop’s love affair with the blonde haired, buxom beauty began when he checked her in after she arrived from Alamorgordo and always kept a careful eye on her and made sure she was running in tip top shape. His dedication to the ship would later earn him the Legion of Merit Award (See the Bottoms Up File Documentation Folder).

Apparently, the only pilot that Pop felt would bring the old gal back safely would be Lt. Harris Wood (known as Woodie to his buddies). Lt. Wood flew a large majority of his missions on board the Bottoms Up and he appears to have kept detailed logs about this ship in his wartime diary, evidencing the love he felt for the ship itself. His daughter Melinda Wood Gray mentioned to me that years after the war, her father still spoke fondly of the Bottoms Up much like how one remembers a first love. I wouldn't be surprised if Pop did not barge into the flight operations center and demand that Woodie and his crew be given the task of taking her on its 100th mission. Pop was very demanding that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In any case, Pop’s wish came true and Lt. Harris Wood and his crew would pilot the Bottoms Up on her 100th mission. The photo here is a picture of Lt. Wood’s crew taken just after the 95 mission of the Bottoms Up.

 

 

Bottom Row (Left to Right): Lt. Jack E. Thompson, Jack Arnold, Lt. Harris L. Wood, Lt. Seymour Perkins, Chet Owens and James Darnell Top Row: (Left to Right): Roland Young, Art Pearce, and Jim Hicks Not Pictured: Roy Babbs, Engineer.

Photos Courtesy of the Harris “Woodie” Wood family, via Don and Melinda Gray.

 

S2-Report

October 31 , 1944: Mission No. - 1104-1121 Hours

The target for the day was the town of Podgorica, Yugoslavia. At 11:00 AM ground crews began scurrying about, props began turning and twenty eight B-24’s took off from Manduria rising into the morning sun. The Bottoms Up was flying in the number four position off Major Alexander's aircraft. Soon the group was over the target however, no bombs were dropped since the visibility was extremely poor. All the aircraft on this "milk run", including the Bottoms Up, made a wide sweeping turn and headed for home. For the buxom blonde girl, mission 100…completed.

Heading for home in September '44. Lt. Wood and his crew and the Bottoms Up.

 

 

 

This photo is the Bottoms Up returning to base after completion of its 100th mission over Vienna. Melinda Wood Gray informed me that this is the exact photo her mother used in order to commission the painting she made for Lt. Wood. Read the story here.

 

The Bottoms Up as she lands on the runway at Manduria, Italy after completion of its 100th mission.

 

 

 

Side Bar: Recently I crossed paths with Don and Melinda Wood Gray. Melinda is the daughter of Capt. Harris Wood. Two years prior, I was searching for Mr. Wood with the hopes that I would be able to learn more about the Bottoms Up and his time with her. I was sad and disappointed to learn that he passed away, thus bringing that particular chapter of my research to a close (so I thought).

In October of '05, I received a call at the office one afternoon from a Ms. Gray. Since I knew this name was not a client but most likely a bill collector, I gambled and telephoned her back. I was astonished to have learned that she was the daughter of Mr. Wood and I think she was just as surprised to find someone else out there who still even remembered the Bottoms Up.

Since our initial conversation, I have corresponded with Melinda and her husband Don. Apparently, Mr. Wood kept detailed notes as to the time he spent with the Bottoms Up. To date, both Don and Melinda have spent countless hours reviewing Mr. Wood's diary, photos and letters with the desire to help me learn more about this lady and the men who surrounded her.

There are no words that can express my thanks to them for sharing their family history with me. The information that they have provided to me have answered many questions posed by myself over the past few years. I cannot thank them enough, I can only promise them that I will keep the memory of Harris Wood and other dedicated men like him in the hearts and minds of those who read my work. May these men give me the strength and dedication to fly high and maintain a straight course so that one day when we all meet again, they will be recognized by all whom they have touched so deeply.