Steel Rain Rising

This poem was written by my friend, Bernie Murray.  His father served in the 8th Air Force as ground crew but never shared much of his experience with Bernie.  Bernie is a huge fan of the Mighty 8th Air Force and, upon learning that my dad had served as a member of the Mighty 8th, he visited my dad’s old website and read through all of his journal entries.  He was so inspired by what he read that he created this poem April 23-26, 2004.

I have to add a little disclaimer here:  The poem was written before I had done a lot of research on my dad’s experiences.  The crew’s names were from his memory and some of the names are close, but incorrect (I will be sure to post the crew’s names in the near future).  OK, here’s the poem:

Steel Rain Rising

Here’s a tale of nine compadres
From the U.S. Army Air Corps,
And the 8th Air Force in England is where it starts.

After several missions flying
B-17’s all over Europe,
These nine airmen chanced to draw the Queen of Hearts.

If you close your eyes, you’ll see them all
Assembled on the airstrip,
With Her Majesty the Queen there standing tall.

There was Oliver and Dodson,
And Rung ‘a holdin’ Queenie,
Lawrence, Driscoll, Bissell, Hennings, Moody
And then Lewis last of all.

They formed up to cross the channel
And the squadron headed eastward,
To take the war to Germany by air.

“Will their fighters come to meet us?”
“Will the flak be light or heavy?”
“Is the weather at the target foul or fair?”

All the gunners strafed the fighters,
As the pilot held her steady,
Then the bombardier was shouting, “They’re away!”

So they turned back toward the channel
And the homeward leg to England.
“Lord, please hold this plane together,” they would pray.

And the Fortresses kept flying through the
Steel rain rising
From the batteries below them in Cologne.

Some came back together,
Some flew parachutes to Uncertainty,
And some were bound for Heaven, but not alone.

Bernie’s note at the end of this poem: Inspired by the flight log of James E. Rung, Navigator, Queen of Hearts. Dedicated to the personnel of the 8th Air Forces and the B-17’s they flew.

A great photo of "Steel Rain Rising" with B-17's above. Photo by WWII veteran Gregory Good.


7 responses to “Steel Rain Rising

  1. Jim Murphy

    May 14, 2012 at 4:46 am

    My Great Uncle, Charles “Chuck” Pirtle, was the Crew Chief on the Queen of Hearts. I have several photos that he had taken. Please send me a note on how to contact you and I will share them with you.

    Jim Murphy –

    • b17navigator

      July 2, 2012 at 1:14 am

      Hi Jim! Sorry so long for me to respond! Somehow I was not notified of your post. 🙂 You can email me a I would love to see the photos! Any idea if the aircraft is Queen o’Hearts that was really Lil’ Satan? There was a Queen of Hearts in a different bomber group. Thanks!

  2. Manuel

    May 14, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Thank you for posting your dad’s log book. These things have the power to grab you and make you a part of the whole experience; with every detail and every little instance..!! Your dad, is a very proud man, anywhere he finds himself at the moment. What kind of son, puts something together like this for a father ? Only a very special son…You are commended for sharing all this information…! I’ve enjoyed reading everything in your site dedicated to your dad…great job..!! and Thanks for flying the unfriendly skies for us, so we could live free…If I would have been in this story….I’ would be crouched on the floor hiding underneath the radio operator’s table, with my knees rattling like “old maracas” and screaming and praying inside that plane the whole way..!!! Hoping to return safe, with all the flak and fighters, and mechanical malfunctions and God…so many things that could happen up there… “Those were men of steel;..your dad was a man of steel..!”


    • b17navigator

      June 1, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Hi Manuel!

      Thank you for your kind words! This is the 3rd iteration of this website since the early 2000’s and it has been a labor of love on my part. I’m glad you were able to obtain some enjoyment from the site! Cheers!…missy.

  3. Larry L smith

    March 20, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    I am Jim W Dodson caregiver he is now 93 years young and we just came across this sight , he is like wow never knew anything about that .if anyone has more photos of crew and pilots please forward to me , he would love them. Larry L Smith,

  4. Larry

    April 15, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing you Dad’s log. Todays youth could not have done what your dad and others his age did. They WERE truly the GREATEST GENERATION. Thanks to them we don’t speak German or Japanese today.

    • b17navigator

      November 3, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      Hi Larry! Thank you so much! I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner. I had a technical glitch I wasn’t even aware of until today. LOTS of comments I need to respond to!…missy.


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