Agony Wagon

At three in the morning one day in May, 1944, a light shown in 2nd
Lieutenant Del Skjod’s face.  “Get up Lieutenant”, the runner said,
“you’ve got a mission.”  Del pulled on his clothes and stumbled out of his
nissen hut as a truck pulled up in the dark to take him and other flyers
to breakfast.  After breakfast they went to the mission briefing.  They
were to bomb a town in the southern German Alps.
The pilots and crews were trucked out to their B-17’s that were all
bombed and fueled up.  As they were getting ready to take off they had
mail call and Del was handed a letter which in his hast he stuffed in
his jacket.  Soon the bombers were rolling down the runway just as the
sun was coming up.
Del was at the controls and copilot of “Agony Wagon”, a B-17G of 600
Squadron, 398th Bomb Group.  Agony Wagon was a faded olive drab,
battle weary bomber with a red vertical tail, black triangle marked
with a white “W” and a black letter “J” on the rear fuselage.  No one
bothered to paint the name “Agony Wagon” on the nose, but the crew
knew her name and that sufficed.
Agony_WagonDel flew the B-17 on the up side of the clock to the hour (each shift
was a half-hour).  The pilot took over on the down side of the clock
after the hour.  When the pilot, Earl Ford, took over, Del remembered
the letter in his jacket.  Del took it out and it was from his mother
in Mandan, ND.  In the letter, Del’s mother told of his friend,
Richard Baron.
Dick Baron had been home on leave and had just left for England to fly
P-47 fighters
Del and Dick were childhood friends who grew up together.  They went
through school and into collage at Fargo, ND.  They also joined the
civil air patrol and learned to fly.  When their service to the
country came up they both joined the Army Air Corp.  Soon however,
they were separated by different military assignments and lost touch
with each other.  Del went to multi-engine school and trained in a
AT-9, a temperamental twin engine trainer, then on to training in the
B-17 at Rapid City, SD.  From there he ended up flying a B-17 all the
way to England with stops at Bangor, Maine and Greenland.
On this day in May he had flown around 7 missions.  Del did not know
what Dick was doing, if he was flying or what he was flying.  Del
didn’t know what theater of the war Dick was in.  The Pacific?  The
Mediterranean?  England?  Now with this letter he knew where Dick was
and that he was flying P-47s.
Del looked up above the formation of bombers he was in and saw groups
of P-47s flying air cover.
On a whim, and against all the rules of breaking radio silence, Del
opened the channel and said, “Calling Dick Baron, Dick Baron over.”  A
very surprised Lieutenant Baron answered, “Who’s this?”  Using real
names in the open with the Germans listening was a no-no.  Dick’s call
sign was Shampoo Blue Leader, He flew with the 84th Squadron of the
78th Fighter Group, So when he heard his real name over the air it was
quite a shock.  In response to Dick’s question, Del didn’t want to get
into trouble for unconventional radio use, so he gave his nickname
from back home that only Dick would know.  “Skejy!” Del answered.
“Where are you?”  Dick asked.  “Can’t say for sure,” Del said.  All he
knew was he was in the middle of a stream of several hundred bombers.
Del told Dick to waggle his P-47’s wings and to  Del’s surprise Dicks
plane was passing right over Del’s bomber!  Out of the thousands of
fighters and bombers in the air over France and Germany that day, Del
and Dick happened to be at the same place at the same time!!  Del’s
navigator, Randy Anderson said, “Hey, I know those planes!”  They were
checker nosed P-47s based at the Duxford Air Base and not far from
Del’s bomber base at Nuthamstead.
Del and Dick were able to keep in contact the remainder of the war.
After the war they went into the clothing business together, The Men’s
Mart in Mandan, ND.
Del passed away Christmas morning, 2003.
Dick passed away on Oct. 7th 2007
SOURCES:  Personal interview with Del Skjod and Dick Baron.

Print measures 23″ by 14″, Limited Edition,  sighned by the Pilots and artist,  350 S/N $50  50 artist proofs, $70 – All prints signed by the artist, Del Skjod and Dick Baron.
50 Artist Proofs $60 + shipping           Contact the artist