'Coned' and shot down over Aachen
5th October 1942: Navigation errors by Bomber Command devastate a Dutch town as an American airman has another lucky escape on the same raid
Within the ranks of RAF Bomber Command there were many foreign volunteers. Some belonged to the Commonwealth airforces - Canadian, Australian and New Zealand but also many refugees from occupied Europe, with many Poles, Czechs and French. Sometimes they were in ‘national squadrons’ but often they were not. In amongst them were other nationalities.
American George Harsh was a convicted murderer who had served (survived might be a better term) 12 years on a Georgia chain gang before being pardoned. In an attempt to make a fresh start in life he travelled to Canada where he joined the RCAF. In time he was posted to RAF Bomber Command in Britain, as a tail gunner on a Halifax bomber.
Harsh1 had not been scheduled to fly and only joined the flight at the last minute when he volunteered on the evening of 5th October.
The target for the night was the German city of Aachen. There were problems with navigation for many crews that night but his aircraft got hopelessly lost. When they were trying to establish where they were Harsh looked out, recognised the Cathedral, and saw that they were flying over Cologne, around 80 km east from the target. He soon knew that were in trouble: