Northern Michigan in Focus: B-24 Liberator Pilot Warren Schwab
Warren Schwab of Pickford has stories for days.
He was born in 1921 and lived through the Great Depression.
When our country was asking young men to fight, Warren enlisted and became a B-24 Liberator pilot.
Corey Adkins picks up Warrens story, over Germany, on probably one of the most important days of World War II and for humanity.
“It would have been the end, would have been the end of what we know as a country and life. There was no choice, we had to win,” said Schwab.
On June 6, 1944, at 5 a.m. even before the allied forces landed at Normandy, Warren Schwab and his crew were about to drop bombs on the enemy.
But even in the face of death, Warren and his crew had a job to do. Take out the German Industrial Complex in Munich.
“They had 115 guns surrounding the city and each one of them was pumping them shells. And what they do, the Germans, know better than to send their fighters into a formation of bombers,” said Schwab.
German pilots would never take a B-24 head on.
“Each formation of bombers has ten 50 caliber machine guns and if you had a flight of 18 to 30 people that’s a lot of guns. It’s a suicide mission to try to attack a bomber,” said Schwab.
So the German pilots would fly up to the altitude of the B-24s, but out of gun range, then wire back the bombers position.
“And give them our altitude distance and whatever it was they would send that back down and that’s how they had us right on. It was just puffs all over,” said Schwab.
Flak exploding all around them. Some of which damaged the aircraft. As they went to open the bomb doors… Nothing. The hydraulic system was shot. So they had to drop their bombs right through the bomb bay doors, and it worked!
“We were dropping 1000 pounders and 1,000 pounds were very destructive. They penetrated deep and they were big, they were huge,” said Schwab.
They accomplished their mission and dropped all their bombs, but their plane was a wreck filled with holes.
“And my co-pilot was shot up through the back hip with flack through his whole side and abdomen and his hip. The rest of the shell went out through and over my head and out the top of the aircraft,” said Schwab.
Though they were headed home they weren’t out of trouble yet. They still had to land and the hydraulics were out.
“We couldn’t put the flaps down and no brakes to land. We had to pump to get the gear down then we had to have to do a chandelle to the left and a chandelle to the right, which means if you tip the airplane up you let gravity drop the landing gear into the place and then go up and do the other one. Then you kick out the nose gear before you can even try to come in for a landing,” said Schwab.
And because they had to drop their bombs through the bomb bay doors, they were stuck open. Somehow they tied the doors up, lowered the landing gear by hand and were ready to land, well kind of. Remember, they didn’t have brakes. Warren came up with a plan.
“I had to have the two gunners tie their parachutes to their guns because we couldn’t stop. They popped their chutes and we slowed down and we just cruised off the end of the runway and into the field. It was a very bad day,” said Schwab.
A bad day but Warren and his crew made it. And you won’t believe how many holes were in that B-24.
“I came back and that airplane had 92 holes in it,” said Schwab.
That’s just one of Warren’s stories from WWII. He flew more than 20 missions. He also served in Korea and Vietnam.
He’s lived enough life to fill 10 documentaries, maybe more.
Now at 99 he lives in Pickford, still drives and loves to play piano.
“The secret is to wake up every day with a positive attitude and have something to do every day. Something to look forward to,” said Schwab.
He turns 100 in February… I don’t think we’ve heard the last from Warren Schwab.
“I’ve had a very fine life I’m very blessed,” said Schwab.