I’m pulled ever higher into the atmosphere by the straining of the Bf-110’s two Daimler-Benz 1,085 horsepower engines. To over 26,000 feet, my Destroyer climbs to meet the oncoming American B-17 bombers over Kassel.

Let me at‘em!

Snugly resting in my cozy belt inside a drum with 60 other rounds, I’m fourteenth in line to be fired from the nose-mounted left 20-millimeter cannon.

May it be a long burst!

My Destroyer zips toward the American bombers; the pilot’s firing finger is ready on the flight stick.

Destiny awaits!

Dissipating from the higher pitch of ascent, the engines settle into the lower-octave whirr of level flight.

We must be at altitude. Any time now!

Just a centimeter of distance sits between the pilot’s thumb and the firing button on the flight stick.

Less than a centimeter.

The finger touches the button.

Presses down.

Instantly, the cannon’s begin their fiery gurgitations. Firing pins strike upon explosive charges, propelling shells at astonishing speeds through the long barrel of the gun, and out the front of the plane with a muz-zle flash that would blind anyone staring directly at it.

13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, my turn is coming soon!

My belt moves swiftly through the drum, ever closer to the cannon’s chamber!

7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, MEEEE!!!!!!!!!

Dropped into the chamber, smacked from behind, an explosive charge that I carried with me on my bot-tom ignites, shooting me at over 600 meters per second out of the barrel.


Instantly frozen by the oxygen-lacking atmosphere of over 26,000 feet, I’m hurtling through the open sky on my way toward one of the American bombers.

I zip past the tail of the plane where a gunner sits on his knees facing out of the back. His guns blaze in a vain attempt to take my ride up here out of the sky. The determined grin on his face belies the inability of his 50-caliber machine gun to range out far enough to hit my Destroyer.

Within a fraction of a second, I penetrate the metal at the back of the B-17’s wing, striking through a bulkhead and then a rubber membrane before lodging myself within the American’s fuel tank.

“Hey Buddy,” number 13 says to me when I arrive.

“What are we doing here?” I demand.

“Nothing, that’s the problem,” 13 replies.

Damn it, I was supposed to explode!









After a raid on Kassel Germany, a B-17 bomber (Tondelayo) returned to its base with eleven unexploded 20-mm shells in its fuel tanks. These may have been from a ground based or aircraft based cannon. Any one of these shells should have blown the plane out of the sky. The shells were sent to the armorer to be diffused. When they were opened, each was found to be empty of any explosive charge.

Bendiner, Elmer: The Fall of Fortresses, Putnam, 1980, pp. 138-139.

The bomber’s name: Tondelayo was in honor of a character from the movie White Cargo, released in 1942. The beautiful female lead: Tondelayo, was played by Hedy Lemarr (a captivating actress, fervent anti-nazi, and the inventor of frequency hopping, which led to the creation of wi-fi and bluetooth, enabling the modern communication age.)