Levenduski looks back at life as a B-17 gunner

Photo submitted - Airman Tom Levenduski is shown aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress where he served as a tail gunner during World War II.
Amy Cherry
Staff Writer

At age 92 Tom Levenduski of Hollywood vividly recalls his days as a World War II B-17 tail gunner as if it were yesterday.
While still in high school Levenduski, then age 18, decided to enlist in the military.
“The war was going on and if you didn’t enlist you got drafted so I was a dummy and enlisted cause I wanted to get into the Air Force though I didn't know why," he explained.
As a member of the U.S. Army's 8th Air Force 447th bombardment group, 708 squadron, Levenduski was deployed to the Royal Air Force's Rattlesden Airfield in England where he flew a total of 17 missions, typically taking place every other day.
"I was 19 years old and getting shot at," Levenduski said of being the youngest member of his plane's crew.
Flight crews were assigned to their positions by the pilot with each plane consisting of crew of nine men.
“I rode backwards in the plane and I’m still going backwards today," Levenduski joked.
Rattlesden was located in eastern England in Suffolk about 80 miles northeast of London. The B-17 base launched 258 missions, comprising 8,229 sorties and lost 153 aircraft, only 15 percent of its aircrafts, during WWII. 
It was home to the 708th, 709th, 710th, and 711th bomb squadrons. Each squadron consisted of nine B-17s.
The flat, heavily agricultural field was the ideal location for launching mass formations of propeller-driven, high-altitude heavy bombers deep into German terrority. 
During a mission three squadrons, totaling 27 planes, would take to the skies flying in a tight wing tip-to-tip formation.
"Now they don't dare get that close," Levenduski noted.
A fourth squadron would remain at the airfield.