Our good friend Joe Duran who has been organizing 93rd BG reunions for years has a great recount of a story told to him by Ken McFarland.  Ken was on "Liberty Lad" during the Ploesti Raid - August 1st, 1943.

Ken said that the ground fire was murder as they came into the target. They saw the ships ahead getting hit so they began to fly on the deck.  He said the prop wash was so bad that he had major problems controlling the aircraft. Ken look over at Pudgurski and saw that he had his co-pilot window opened and was shooting his hand gun at passing targets, McFarland yelled at Pud and told him to get ready to take control of Liberty Lad if he got shot. Ken was so low to the ground that he saw an approaching tree and his right wing was not going to clear it. He could not seem to put the wing up when it accured to him that Pudgurski was fighting him on the controls. With a closed fist, he swung and hit Pudgurski in the mouth with a back hand. The wing lifted just in time and cleared the tree. Ground fire hit Liberty Lad on both sides of the ship, severely damaging the a/c.

 

Ken McFarland said that the picture out of the front windshield of Liberty Lad was indescribable, explosion of gas storage tanks, sister ships on fire (Nick Stampolis on fire, then crashing into the women's prison) and the noise level with everyone firing their guns, from Liberty Lad and ground fire. Ken told us in Salt Lake City that the bomb run on Ploesti was like running down the center of main street and having someone in every door way shooting at you as you ran by.

 

After getting out of of the target area, Pudgurski asked Ken why did he hit him, McFarland said that he thought he was fighting him over the target, and Pudgurski told him he was wrong but if they made it back to base ,Pudgurski was going to repay Ken for the insult. As they took account of the damage done over the bomb run the crew reported that they could not pump fuel to #1 and #2 engines. They were about 300 miles out from the base when #1 and #2 engine failed. McFarland and Pudgurski would fly back to North Africa on two engines!  Both pilots had to stand on the Rutter's to keep the ship flying, with only two engines. Over water they threw out everything on the ship that was not nailed down, guns, ammo, parachutes just to stay airworthy.

 

After landing back in North Africa, many could not believe the amount of damage done to Liberty Lad and the feat that the two pilots had pulled of with just two engines.

 

Ken asked Pudgurski after he was released from the hospital if he still wanted to square up their unresolved business, Pud said after seeing the shape of Liberty Lad and the flying Ken McFarland had done  bring back the crew home, he wanted to kiss him!

 

Great Story

Joe

Ken McFarland