As today marks the 73rd Anniversary of Operation Varsity, I thought that I should share a story about a pilot that took part in the operation who was in the 48th Troop Carrier Squadron, 313th Troop Carrier Group. On the morning of the 24th March 1945 the 313th were given the task of carrying members of the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment to the drop zone in Wesel. 1st Lieutenant Bob Wilson was ready to take off from the runway at Acheit Le Grand with his crew, 2nd Lieutenant Warren Watson (co-pilot), Sergeant Bert Sutherland (radio operator) and Sergeant Joe Smith (crew chief). 1st Lieutenant Bob Wilson took off successfully with the rest of the 48th Troop Carrier Squadron and began heading to their drop zone. When Bob reached 1500ft the left engine began to cut out. Bob immediately reduced the power to the left engine, but Bob found that the left engine was still able to pull 12 to 15 inches of manifold pressure. On board his C-46 Commando was the 513th PIR Battalion Commander and his staff. The commander went forward to the cockpit and asked Bob what he planned to do. Bob said that he planned to continue on with the mission. The commander put his hand on Bob's shoulder and said "Good, those boys up there need me". They then proceeded on their way with reduced power on the left engine and increased power on the right engine.
By cutting corners as the formation made turns in the course towards the drop zone Bob managed to keep the formation in sight. As they approached the target and overtook the 47th Troop Carrier Squadron as they made their slow up prior to dropping their load of paratroopers. As the last paratrooper jumped from his C-46 the first 20mm round went through the fuselage. In an effort to dodge the flak coming up Bob dived down and right, whilst diving his C-46 was hit three more times by 20mm rounds and once by a 40mm round and was also hit by machine gun fire.
Whilst pulling out of the dive Bob discovered that the trim tabs and the hydraulic boosters were not working and that he had very little aileron control. (Story continues below)