MISSION 90 - GYOR AARs
399th BS (LEAD)
LAURALEE II, First flight, Lead aircraft (GROUP LEADER)
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with starboard waist heating system inoperable, damage to the tail compartment oxygen system, superficial damage to the fuselage, radio room, waist and tail compartments and no casualties.
As ordered, we took off and led the group to San Marcos, where we rendezvoused with the 301st and 463rd groups for the mission to Gyor. Lauralee II took up station as the leader of our task force.
Enemy a/c were spotted as we crossed the Yugoslav coast; a lone Me-109 broke through the fighter cover and made a head on pass at us. We observed hits on the a/c, and it broke away trailing smoke without doing any damage to us. The rest of the run to target was fairly quiet; as we were the center group I believe that the enemy was concentrating more on the fringes of our formation; that, and improved fighter cover was certainly a factor as well.
Over target, three 190s made a run at us from the front, but scored no hits. Flak was as briefed (moderate); we took no damage. Our bombs were observed hitting the target, which should bode well for the success of the task force on this mission.
As we turned for home, two more 190s came at us from 3 o’clock. They hit the mid and rear of our a/c, knocking out the starboard waist gunner’s suit heat, damaging the tail oxygen supply, and putting some holes in the plane. We held formation, however, and were not attacked again the rest of the way home (again, I credit improved fighter cover and the enemy’s attention to other elements of the formation).
Once we reached the Adriatic, and the safety of our own fighter cover [zone-2 Inbound--no attacks], I took the a/c down to 10,000 feet so as to prevent frostbite, handing the formation over to the Deputy Lead. We landed safely, with no casualties, and stand ready for further action.
- Major Bill Hearn, CO, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
DIMESTORE GIRL, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with nose compartment heating system inoperable, radio and rafts destroyed, damage to the rudder and tail compartment oxygen system, and 2 cases of minor frostbite. Claims: 1 Me-109 by 2nd Lt. DeWitt.
No serious crew casualties - two with minor frostbite injuries, will recovered
- Lt. Stanford Palmer, Pilot, Dimestore Girl, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group
PASSIONATE WITCH, First flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with the rafts destroyed, superficial damage to the port wing (2 hits) and to the waist compartment (1) and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. McLaughlin.
This was a good mission for us, take off and forming up with the group went with out a hitch. We had excellent cover from our escorts both to and from the target. Only two enemy fighters managed to make a run at the ship before our bomb run. Sgt. McLaughlin shot the wing off one of them. Sgt. Little managed to shoot the other fighter up pretty good after he made a second pass at us. Most of the damage caused was minor.
Over the target we encountered flak, but managed to get through it without any damage. We dropped 30 % of our bombs in the target area.
After that we turned for home without any more issues.
- 2nd Lt. Ralph Knight, Pilot, Passioante Witch, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group
BUFFALO GAL, Second flight, Lead aircraft (DEPUTY LEADER)
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with tail compartment heating system inoperable, damage to the control cables, superficial damage to the fuselage (1), to both wings (3 total), bomb bay (1), radio room (1) and tail (1) compartments and 1 case of severe frostbite.
CROSSTOWN BUS, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with starboard ailerons and port flaps inoperable, the starboard waist MG destroyed and no casualties.
Take off and assembly was completed on time. Fighter cover and group defensive fire kept enemy fighters away from us. Prior to closing in on the target, two Me-109s made runs at us. Only one, coming in from about 9 o’clock high, scored any hits, but when he did, the starboard wing aileron was destroyed. The port wing flap was destroyed in the pass as well.
Over the target, we experienced moderate flak with most of the damage resulting in light and superficial damage. The only notable damage was to our starboard waist gun which was destroyed. Sgt. Stalhworth fortunately wasn’t injured. He did request we supply him a Tommy Gun in case this happens again. Lt. Page hit the target with about 20% of the load.
No enemy fighters were able to get to us on the flight back and the landing was at the base was smooth.
- 2nd Lt. George Fishman, Pilot, Crosstown Bus, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
HARDBALL HEROES, Second flight, Right aircraft
The plane exploded over Hungarian airspace (zone-5) prior to bomb run, all crew lost. Claims: 1 FW-190 shot down and 1 Fw-190 damaged.
“The first fighters were seen over the Adriatic, three FW-190s. A 190 that approached from twelve high was shot down by the chin turret possibly manned by the bombardier, Lt. Hugh Mulcahy. The second 190 approached from 1:30 high and struck the pilots’ compartment (damaged the control cables), but was then shot down by the tail gunner (Sgt. Ellis Kinder) as he passed by the plane. The third 190 passed and broke off the attack after seeing his two buddies go down.”
“No other fighters were seen until they crossed the Hungarian border. There were three waves set to attack, but only one was needed. Two 190s were driven off by our fighters, but the third 190 hit the fuel tank of engine number four on the starboard wing, causing an explosion of Hardball Heroes. No parachutes were seen before the plane crashed into a forest.”
- From the summation of briefings reports from other crew members in the 399th Bomb Squadron and the 52nd Fighter Group
316th BS (Middle)
GINGER SNAP, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Left formation (zone-3) on return leg and returned alone with nose compartment heating system inoperable and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 1st Lt. McClain and Sgt. Hamilton, 1 Me-110 shared by SSgt. Sikorsky & Sgt. Hodge.
We encountered no enemy fighters until we began out bomb run over Gyor. Our fighter escorts chased these bogeys off before they could attack us. Some flak was encountered over the target, but we were not hit. Despite this, and the beautiful clear weather our bomb load appeared to be off target.
As we turned away from the target and headed home, small flights of bandits could be seen milling about just out of range of our gunners. Again our escorts broke up these formations quickly.
Near the Yugoslavian border, we were attacked by 2 fighters, including a twin-engined fighter, which knocked out heat in the nose compartment with its first pass. As it banked on to our tail for another pass at us, SSgt. Sikorsky and Sgt. Hodge destroyed it; one airman was observed bailing out of the stricken fighter. Sgt. Hamilton shot down the other fighter, an Me-109.
I nosed the ship down out of formation as we neared the Adriatic, as the bombardier and navigator began to chill. A flight of 3 German fighters saw us leave the formation and they quickly attacked us. But our gunners drove them off (Lt. McClain shot down one – it was seen spiraling out of control, trailing thick smoke.) Another of the bogeys appeared to be damaged and they broke off their attack, diving for the deck.
Landing was uneventful.
- Captain Harold Snakenburg, Pilot, Ginger Snap, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
MINNESOTA MINX, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with damage to the starboard main landing gear, structural damage to the starboard tailplane, superficial damage to the radio room and 1 light casualty.
We were tucked in behind Snakenberg’s and Mundall’s crew at the back end of the lead formation which were all 399th ships. The enemy appeared to be up there and waiting for us as attacks came rolling into the formation more or less as soon as we got across the Adriatic. We were lucky in that no one seemed to be interested in us right at the back of the formation. Halfway to the target we saw one of the 399th machines go down. We didn’t see what hit her but we said the result looked like the starboard wing took a hit and caught fire and then exploded. We kept an eye out for chutes but did not see any.
It was not until we got to the target area that the enemy found out where we had been hiding. Each time they tried to attack they got broken up by our little friends so we got to the IP without having to fire our guns. Flak was persistent and accurate rather then heavy we took a number of hits. One injuring Mel in the radio room. Where our bombs went we have no idea as all our attention was focused on Sledgehammer. She had got hit by the flak as well. She veered away from the target as her port wing dropped and then the chutes started appearing, the waist gunners reported three and six and Davy said ten and Stevie called eight. Coming away from the target we closed up the gap as another attack got broken up.
Just before we got to the Adriatic, Snakenberg’s crew pulled out of formation and headed for the deck. We closed up again and got home alone. Ginger Snap turned up a little while later and we reported in nine chutes from Mundel’s crew. Mel’s wound got stitched up. The flak hits we had taken had damaged the landing gear and the starboard tailplane root but nothing to sideline us from the next mission.
- 2nd Lt. Jeff Dunlop, Pilot, Minnesota Minx, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SLEDGEHAMMER, Third flight, Right aircraft
Did not bomb. Shot down by flak 2 miles SE of Gyor; 1 KIA and 9 POWs.
Mission #90 started off with no contact with enemy fighters at all . . . extremely quiet. At the target, however, the flak was fairly accurate, and before reaching the target, a burst was observed to hit the port wing of AC# 43-8970, Sledgehammer. This knocked out both engines on the port wing, with the #1 engine in a "runaway" mode which forced the crew to bail. Only 9 chutes were observed.
- From debriefing report by Sgt. Elmer Hodge, Tail Gunner, Ginger Snap, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
318th BS (HIGH)
ZEBRA'S REVENGE, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with flak damage to the tail (83 Peckham damage points) and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Fw-190 apiece by 1st Lt. Robins and MSgt. Chrisman.
This mission was routine until we hit the FLAK. Two bursts hit the tail. He (Sgt. Mitchell) had no chance.
We did get two Jerries on the return trip. Does not seem to even things up.
- Major Mick Mikula, CO, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
JOLLIE ROGER, Lead flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 & Me-110 by 2nd Lt. W. Havens, 1 Me-110 by Sgt. D. Havens, and 1 Me-109 apiece by MSgt. Holmes and Sgt. Bauer.
Mission was a milk run. Half a dozen Jerries made it through the fighter screen but our defensive fire was in top form and all but one will never fly again. We took no damage to our plane from either fighters or from flak. Bombs were deposited on target.
Hope we get more of these.
- Captain Jeff Dodge, Pilot, Jollie Roger, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
RAIDEN MAIDEN, Lead flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with ball turret inoperable, structural damage to the tail, superficial damage to the both wings, fuselage, radio and waist compartments (35 Peckham Damage) and 1 light casualty. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Jim Decker and 1 Me-109 by SSgt Mathis.
Ray Starkey replaced the wounded Fred Gilbert in the radio room. We took off through a clear sky and successfully formed on the high squadron behind Jollie Roger. Everything on plane was in operational order. Headed over the Adriatic headed for Hungary.
We were attacked by three (3) 190s from below the formation just as we went feet dry over Yugoslavia. Despite a large amount of friendly fighter escort, they pressed their attack, without hitting the 'Maiden'. The 190 that attacked from 3 o’clock low was plastered by Sgt. Jim Decker in the ball turret. The 190 went up through the formation and was seen out of control with flames trailing it falling to the ground. The 2 others made unsuccessful passes on our bomber. We saw another group of 190s get intercepted by the P-51 escort, so we were not attacked. All was quiet until we reached the I/P when we were attacked by a group of four (4) Me-109s from directly in front of our formation. Once again, SSgt. Mathis managed to hit one at 12 o’clock high, the pilot subsequently bailed out as the plane fell to the ground on fire. The other three (3) 109s made a single pass but failed to hit us. We were very lucky, as we entered the bomb run. 2nd Lt. Pyle again dropped over a clear target and we saw the bombs hit within 1000 ft of the aim point.
We hit moderate flak barrage over the target one particular volley hit our tail plane and significantly damaged out tail root.
We made the turn toward home and were attacked by three (3) 109s and a single 110 from below. The 110 hit the center of the plane and the starboard wing, managing to injure Sgt. Joe Harlan in the arm on the pass. SSgt. Mathis got some hits on one of the 109s as did 2nd Lt. Cliff Pyle and Sgt. Cal Hooper in the tail. P-38s showed up immediately after the first group of fighters made the pass and chased off a second group of 109s that were closing to attack.
Shortly after the P-38s chased the 109s off, another group of 109s looked over the formation, but the 318th’s tight formation convinced them to leave us alone.
As soon as we had the Adriatic in sight, we were attacked by a pair of 190s. They made a single pass, one managing to knock out the ball turret, trapping Sgt Decker. Frank Swartzenbach thought he got some hits on one of them with his cheek gun. The bandits disappeared as we went feet wet.
We made landfall and spotted our base easily due to good weather and landed in one piece. Mission #3!
- 1st Lt. Mark Mathis, Pilot, Raiden Maiden, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
AUSTIN NIGHTS, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with superficial flak damage to the tail section and no casualties.
We didn’t have any enemy fighters make it thru the fighter coverage on the way to the target.
Flak over the target was medium and took a superficial damage to the tail. The bomb run was on target with 30% in the target area.
On the way back from the target we did have a 109 attack, but he missed on his attack. The landing back at the base was uneventful.
- Captain Gary Hertel, Pilot, Austin Nights, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
LICKITY-SPLIT, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with flap instruments and the starboard waist MG inoperable, several superficial hits (9) and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Fowler.
Squadron took off on time at 0700 hours and rendezvoused with the rest of the group at 4000 feet. The 318th drew high squadron in the group for today's mission. Once in place the 399th lead the group to 23000 feet and out to San Marco for rendezvous with the 301st and 463rd.
Once the three groups formed up, the formation turned northeast out over the Adriatic Sea. While over the Adriatic the crew reported no boggies. The P-51 who were flying escort appeared high and at 12 o’clock.
As Lt. Banks informed me we had made Yugoslavia I was thinking that we had caught the Germans unaware of our incursion, but then all hell broke loose. The formation whereabouts hadn’t fooled anyone. The German fighters were waiting for us, using the morning sun to the east as cover. The interceptors pounced hard and fast and came from all directions. The intercom was busy with bandit calls as the crew fired their guns to defend us. The crew counted over 9 separate attacks made on Lickity-Split alone during this initial assault. Sgt. Fowler’s waist machine gun malfunctioned as he shot at an Me-109 but the rest of our aircraft appeared not to take any major damage. However, the crew wasn’t so lucky. TSgt. James didn’t answer the comm check-in and I sent Sgt. Fowler to check in on him. Sgt. Fowler found TSgt. James sitting on the floor of the aircraft bleeding from a chest wound. Sgt. Fowler reported that he was able to stop the flow, but James was hurt bad. I told Sgt. Fowler to secure him with heat and oxygen and return to his station and try and repair his machine gun.
As the formation continued through Yugoslavia, the German fighters just kept coming at us. “Where the hell is our escorts?!” I said to no one in particular. Mark, in the right seat, glanced my way at the remark and replied, “Tail is reporting that the bulk of the German attack is against the 301st, so that is where the P-51s are.” Three more German fighters zoomed past us firing away at me, or so it seemed.
Suddenly our bombardier, Lt. Smith, was on the comms and exclaiming, “I got a piece of that Jerry, can anyone confirm?”
“Engineer to Bombardier, looks like you only nicked him, Sir, he’s still flying.”
I jumped on the comm and jokingly said, “Jim, it will take more than your ugly face and a few cuss words to knock these boys down, but by all means, keep trying.”
Things quieted down a bit for Lickity-Split and everyone reported in. Sgt. Fowler reported that his machine gun was a mess and he hadn’t been able to repair it. I ordered him to move TSgt. James to the waist and get him plugged in to heat and oxygen and then return to the radio room and man that machine gun. Just then Sgt. Burns in the top turret reported another cluster of bandits coming our way. However, he also noted that the P-51s were moving to intercept them. Fortunately our Little Friends were Johnny-on-the-spot and drove the German fighters away from the formation. Sgt. Fowler reported that TSgt. James was secured in the waist compartment and that he was on station and manning the radio room machine gun.
Lt. Banks reported that we were approaching the run-in point. Suddenly Sgt. Fowler called out a bandit, and to use his words, “the son-of-a-bitch is coming straight down on us!” Sgt. Burns wheeled his top turret and pointed his guns upwards and tried to get a shot, but to no avail. However, Sgt. Fowler in his newfound position was laying down a solid but well timed series of short bursts at the diving bandit.
“I got him! I got him! Can anyone confirm?” Fowler was excitedly speaking over the comm.
“Ball to Radio, scratch one bandit, good shooting Fowler!”
As we began the run-in I turned on the autopilot and gave control to Lt. Smith for the bomb drop. Flak was popping all around us, but not came close enough to hurt us, just close enough to jangle our nerves a bit. Lt. Smith reported, “Bombs Away,” and I turned off the autopilot and banked us away with the squadron. Sgt. Gibson, in the ball turret later reported a good drop for the squadron.
As we turned for home, our return escorts, P-38s from the 82nd FG, appeared just in time to drive off the cluster of Me-109s that were showing a interest in the 318th. Only one German fighter got through the screen, and he only made one pass before diving for the deck. “Now that's how escort should work!” I thought to myself.
Lt. Smith was on the comm again. “I think I got another one can anyone confirm?”
“Engineer to Bombardier, sorry, Sir. He’s still flying, but at least, Sir, he’s flying away from us. You musta scared him somewhat crazy . . . Sir!”
I looked over at Mark and even under his mask I could see his big ole grin as he could probably see mine.
We continued on back to Italy and home. As we crossed back over Yugoslavia the Germans were still out there, still shooting at us and still just as deadly. However, our P-38 escorts combined with the squadron’s firepower either kept the Jerries at bay or gave them enough to think about as they attacked us. Their attacks seemed loose and unorganized and had no serious effects.
Lt. Smith made yet another appeal. “I’m sure I hit that last 109 that attacked us, can anyone confirm?” I heard nothing over the comms. Apparently none of the enlisted wanted to tell Jim the bad news. I squeezed my throat mike and announced, “Jim, I’m pretty sure I speak for the crew when I say that was sure some 'ugly' shooting you did there.” The comms remained silence but I’m sure every man on this plane was laughing or grinning behind their masks. Jim, probably the loudest.
Once the group crossed back over the Adriatic, the attacks stopped. The ride over the sea was quiet and we made it back to Italy without any more incidents.
I radioed lead for permission to land ASAP due to TSgt. James wounds, was granted permission and landed without incident. The medics removed TSgt. James and think he’s gonna survive. But his war is probably over, a Million-Dollar wound. The rest of the crew is gathering their kits and disembarking. I catch up with Lt. Smith, my bombardier and grab him around the shoulder and said, “Ya know ole Jimmy, I don’t care what the rest of the crew says, you’re not really that ugly!”
He growls some cuss words back in my direction, we laugh and head off to the debriefing huts. My second mission is over and I’ve lost another member of my crew to this accursed war. Fortunately TSgt. James will survive his wounds, go home and hopefully live to a ripe old age with grandchildren at his feet. I looked around at the rest of us, those whose fate have yet to be determined and wonder, “Will we be so lucky?”
- 2nd Lieutenant William Hernandez, Pilot, Lickity-Split, 318th Squadron, 88th Bomber Group (H)
STORM RUNNER, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with flak damage to the waist and tail compartments and 2 casualties.
“The first part of this mission was a cakewalk and we didn’t even see any enemy aircraft until we were over Hungary. Once we crossed over into Hungary, we were quickly mobbed but the escorts did an excellent job protecting us. Lt. Sloane was able to hit a Me-109 (FBOA, zone-5, IN) and a few more passed us, guns blazing but didn’t manage to hit us.”
“As we neared the target the flak opened up and we received a few hits to the tail and our waist section. Sgt. Powell received some minor injuries, but tragically Sgt. Sagan was killed instantly. Lt. Stone once again got us lined up and we were able to drop our bombs on target.”
“On our way out we saw a lot of fighters but the escorts were able to keep them off of us for the most part. As we were almost out of Hungary 2 Fw-190s jumped us and both Lt. Sloane & Lt. White were able to hit them both (FBOA x2, zone-5, OUT). We were almost over the Adriatic when a lone fighter dove past us; we didn’t have a chance to get a shot off and I don’t know if he did either, but we didn’t see that fighter again.”
“The rest of our flight and landing was routine. 3rd mission where someone didn’t come back alive; they told us about that in Flight School, but you aren’t really ever prepared for it.”
- 2nd Lt. Paul Stinson, Pilot, Storm Runner, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
316th BS (HIGH)
VENGEFUL HARLOT, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Piano.
We were airborne by 0720 hours with a load of 3500 gallons of gasoline, 8 x 500 pounds of M43, GP-HE bombs, full load of ammunition, and the usual weight of men and equipment. Everything on plane was in operational order. We joined the group formation at 0654 hours.
As we crossed the coast into Yugoslavia the enemy fighters were up in force. But our little friends were more than a match to the Nazi pilots. Of the nine German fighters that picked us out to attack eight fell to the P-51s and P-38s. Only one skirted our cover and he made the mistake of targeting the Harlot’s belly. SSgt. Piano shredded the Messerschmitt 110s port wing and engine. This fighter was last seen on fire diving out of control about 50 miles south of Gyor. It is believed that this was the aircraft that crashed just prior to the IP.
Bomb run was uneventful with about 30% of our eggs inside the target area. Flak was medium in concentration but quite ineffective. We took no hits either inbound or outbound from the drop point.
We made it back to home base without a scratch. After last mission this was a welcome trip. But we know that flukes like this are a once in a career opportunity. We expect the next mission will be a different story.
Our gunners shot down one (1) enemy aircraft.
- Captain Gary Tines, Pilot, Vengeful Harlot, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SATIN DOLL, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with the port flaps and elevator inoperable, the starboard aileron missing, superficial damage to both wings, to the tail horizontal stabilizer, to the nose and bomb bay compartments and 1 light casualty. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Walker and 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Roundtree.
The run to Gyor started relatively quietly for the Doll. Didn’t have any E/A get close until we were well into Hungary. Five FW-190s ganged up on us from all around the clock. A red-nosed P-51 (possible 4th FG?) scratched the one FW off our 1030 level slot, while Sgt. Walker flamed the 190 at 6 high. Both Lt. Douglas & SSgt. Rountree fired on the FW at 12 high, with SSgt. Rountree claiming he scored a few hits. The Hun still bored in at us, but shot wide and broke off after the pass. Sgts. Mason and Maust threw a wall of lead up in front of the 190 at 9 level. Although they both missed, the Kraut didn’t shoot any better and ducked under us, heading for the other A/C in the formation. The fifth FW dove in from directly overhead, fired a wide burst and streaked through the formation below us before the gunners had chance to get off a shot.
Nearing the IP, a pair of 190s formed up an attack from 12 level and 130 low. Fortunately a pair of Mustangs from the 52nd FG met these and cancelled their flight plans.
Flak over the target was medium thick and fairly accurate as briefed. In short order the port elevator was shredded, starboard aileron shot away, tailplane and both wings holed. Things got really scary when a big burst went off directly below us. Fragments holed the bomb bay doors and we could hear them zinging around in the bay. Thankfully, none of them hit anything critical in there! Lt. White had a chunk bounce off his flak vest and graze his left arm, earning him his second Purple Heart. He called in that he was all right and could remain at his post. Even with the Doll waddling around with shot up control surfaces, Lt. Douglas got 20% of the load into grounds of the factory complex.
Rallying off the target, a pair of Me-110s tried to set up a run on us, but got swatted from the sky by a pair of P-38s from the 82nd FG.
Nearing the Hungarian/Yugoslav border, a lone 109 broke through and clawed in from 12 high. SSgt. Rountree filled the sky with lead from his top turret .50s, blasting the nose off the ME. Thankfully, the rest of the trip home was quiet as Lt. Davis and I had our hands full keeping the Doll in formation. Struggling with the shot up control surfaces, we still managed to get the Doll back on the ground without further incident.
- Capt. William M. Patrick, Pilot, AC# 42-11806, Satin Doll, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
ST. LOUIS BELLE II, Third flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Fell out-out-formation after bomb run (zone-5). Returned alone with ball turret and cockpit heating system inoperable, tail wheel and starboard check MG destroyed, control cables damaged, superficial damage to the port wing, cockpit and waist section (190 Peckham damage points), and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Carol.
Had trouble sleeping and was up anyways, so got my gear together and dropped by the weather guys to see what we might be heading into. Super flying weather for the next week . . . but head winds for the mission today . . . more fuel usage, but a tail wind getting out of the target . . . at least THAT was good news!
I met Scotty (my co-pilot, his formal name is Scott Holder) while going into the briefing tent. I was ready for almost anything and eager to get back into the air. That ditching of our bird on the last mission was still on my mind . . . we were lucky to make it back into the line-up for this mission. Geez, looked like a pretty good plan for the mission today, I was thinking . . . all the feinting and diversions ought to make our part of the deal today, a pretty good one. But, on the way back, we ought to get hit with the whole hornet’s nest stirred-up. So, made a mental note to choke the boys up for the ride back out of the target. REALLY cringed when the CO mentioned us getting fished out of the water . . . he didn’t mention our bird . . . but everyone knew who he was talking about. I noted that the visiting 4th FG was going to be reinforcing our fighters for this one . . . now THAT was really good news. Scotty leaned over and said, “Great news about the 4th FG, eh?”
It was early near 0515 hours, but I told Scotty to make sure the boys were up and ready to go as I headed over for our new bird . . . that we christened with the customary beer toast . . . in the ole Beatie (referencing Gordon McKellick’s method of 'toasting our ride') tradition. Spinks was there . . . he was gleaming with pride . . . she was ship-shape and ready to go . . . he did give me one parting shot, “Try to bring this one back without any seaweed.” He didn’t really have to say that!
We got airborne without mishap . . . and she was performing beautifully. What a great bird . . . bright, spanking new. I kept the chatter down as we headed over the Adriatic . . . wanting to keep the fellas glued on their tasks . . . Scotty slapped me on the leg as Yugoslavia showed-up on the horizon . . . beautiful country . . . maybe I’d get to visit the place after the war. Fighters (P-51s) had joined up with us and we could see that they were hugging us pretty good. Just as I was getting relaxed, Carol Dean yells in the mic, “We got a bandit, comin in Vertical!” That FW came out of no where . . . sprayed the nose, cockpit fuselage and tail. I got hit pretty good and Scotty took the rains. . . Allen checked the control cables . . . they got hit but the bird was still manageable. Then the ball turret gunner, Oillie, signaled that he was inop . . . great, no sooner got into enemy territory and the starboard cheek gun was inop and we were blind on our bottom . . . not a very good start. Bletis and Al got me out of the pilot’s seat and laid me down near the Nav station so they could administer first aid . . . they kept me form bleeding out.
Scotty got us almost to the target zone when we got jumped again by a set of 3 FWs. Don’t know how they got past the fighters, but in all, we missed them and they missed us . . . whew.
Into the target, we got lucky. There bundles of fighters all around . . . but our friends were holding tight to us . . . Vengeful Harlot and Satin Doll really knew their stuff, Vets. I was lapsing in and out of a haze, but made a mental note to be sure and go by their billets to tell them, 'thanks'. The flak was supposed to be not too bad . . . but we got smacked in the tail . . . luckily ONLY our tail wheel was torn off. At least, they didn’t get the auto-pilot before we got the IP. Allen got us there real good . . . on target and ~20% into the factory! Damned good work! Then the trip out . . .
We got hit by 3 waves of fighters! As we got hit by the first group, I was thinking about THE plan . . . it WAS a good one . . . we should be devoid of fighters . . . how did they know we were here? Perhaps the enemy’s fighter strength is getting stronger than we thought . . . the scuttle-butt was that they were getting lean on pilots . . . well, they were sure showing us a different picture on this trip. The first wave was again driven off by the Harlot and the Doll. The 2nd wave gave us a real work-over . . . there were 5 of them: 2 of them were driven off by the fighters and another two missed us as we missed them as they made their passes, but the 5th made another one of those vertical dives and tore us a 'new one'. Jeff got hit, a good one. The tail got smacked again and the heat went out in my suit . . . I knew what happened . . . they got the heaters, DAMN! The 3rd wave had only 2 fighters, but that was 2 too many . . . the P-38s got rid of them. A lucky break.
I knew what was coming next and wasn’t real happy about it. Scotty went on the inter-com and let everyone know that we were falling out of formation for the trip home . . . man, I didn’t like that call, but I knew he wouldn’t have been able to get us back, all in one piece, without any heat in our two suits . . . and no-one else knew how to get the bird home. No fighters picked-up that we were dropping out of play . . . so we were really on our own for the trip home. Sure enuf, we got bounced right-off out of the target! 3 Me-109s dogged us till they set-up their attacked and then they came with a vengeance! On their 1st pass, Wally (real name Waldo Prine), jumped over to the port side to take a crack at the bird coming in on our 1:30 high. They missed us on this first one and we didn’t get a piece of any of them . . . then they circled a bit and came at us again. I thought we were done for it. This time they made their pass from the 12 o’clock position . . . I could feel the brass clanging all around me as Carol in the top turret was banging away at one of them . . . then BOoooommmm! “I got her, I got her,” yelled Dean! One of the enemy gave us some lovin in the port wing . . . and Scotty kept us on track. Then he decided to start gyrating the bomber around to give the two remaining attackers something to think about . . . we were getting jostled around pretty good as the bastards made their final run at us to finish us off . . . Al got a piece of one of them and the other missed us. And then they were gone . . . just as fast as they arrived. All was quiet, eerily quiet. I had passed-out.
I woke-up again just about the time that Holder was getting us ready to land. Al was right there with me, making sure I was okay. He told me that they got some flak while passing back over Yugoslavia . . . and I thought, maybe I wouldn’t go to that place after the war. The medics met the plane and they told me that Jeff was doing okay . . . and I needed to get to the infirmary as my wounds needed attention. I was thinking that I needed to get over the Harlot & Doll boys to tell them thanks as I drifted-off . . . again.
- 2nd Lt. Patrick Cleburne, Pilot, St. Louis Belle II, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
317th BS (LOW)
AC#43-8941, First flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with starboard elevator inoperable, structural damage to the port tailplane & rudder (1), superficial damage to the starboard ailerons (1), to both wings (2 starboard 2, 1 port), to the fuselage (4), to the pilots’ compartment (1), radio room (2), bomb bay (1), waist (1) compartments and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Nagagiri.
Boggies were spotted coming 9:00 level but didn’t attack the formation. Formation tightened up after spotting boggies to reduce chance of getting jumped by German Fighters.
Over target - Three (3) waves of fighters attacked the bomber. The first wave consisted of boggies being spotted at 12 o’clock level but were driven away by machine gun fire from the formation before they were able to attack. The second wave consisted of two (2) Me-109s attacking head-on and both were driven away by fighters from the 52nd Fighter Group. The third wave consisted of a lone Me-109 doing a vertical dive on the bomber. It was able to hit the plane twice, once in the starboard wing and once in the fuselage. The damage to the fuselage was superficial while the damage to the starboard wing was to the aileron, but was still operational. The fighter was able to come back at 10:30 level but it missed the plane and didn’t return.
Flak was medium and the bomber suffered three hits: one each to both wings and once to the tail. The hits to both wings were superficial in nature while the hit to the tail damaged the starboard elevator making it inoperable. Even with the hits to the plane we were able to land 40% of the bomb load on target.
Leaving target - Encountered two (2) waves of fighters. The first wave were boggies coming in from 12 o’clock high but they didn’t attack the formation. The second wave consisted of four (4) Me-109s attacking from head-on. One was was chased away by fighters from the 82nd Fighter Group. The one from 12 o’clock level missed the bomber while the ones coming in from 1:30 and 10:30 high were able to hit the plane: once in the bomb bay, tail, and pilots’ compartment. The hit to the tail damaged the rudder but was still operational. The hit to the bomb bay and pilots’ compartment were superficial in nature. The planes were able to re-attack. One fighter attacked from 3 o’clock level was damaged by gunfire from Sgt. Nagagiri causing it to miss the bomber and it not return. The other one attacked from 6 o’clock high hit the plane four times: twice in the radio room, once in the waist and fuselage and all of the hits were superficial in nature. The fighter tried to come back at 9 o’clock level but was driven off by fighters from the 82nd Fighter Group before it was able to attack.
Just before reaching the Adriatic (checkpoint-3) three (3) Me-109s attacked using their standard head-on attack formation. Two fighters were chased away by fighters from the 82nd Fighter Group. The last one attacked from 12 o’clock low hit the bomber twice (2), once in the tail and once in the waist. The hit to the tail was to the root area of the port tailplane. The hit to the waist seriously injured Sgt. Shintano. The fighter returned and attacked at 3 o’clock level. The fighter was able to hit the bomber three (3) times, twice in the fuselage, and once in the starboard wing. Again, the hit to the wing didn’t cause any major damage. The fighter was then able to attack again from 3 o’clock level again. This time the ball turret manned by Sgt. Nagagiri shot down the fighter down before it was able to attack.
Good weather when we returned enable us to land without incident in Foggia.
- 1st Lt. Harry Honda, Pilot, AC#43-8941, 317th Squadron, 88th Bomb Group
CHARLENE, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Fell out-of-formation after bomb run. Returned alone with the #4 engine, the rudder and port elevator inoperable, fire damage to the tail oxygen system, superficial damage to #1 engine, nose, pilots’, bomb bay, and waist compartments, to the starboard wing and tail (103 damage points) and 3 light casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 and 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Carmody and 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lts. Langdon & DeBerg.
Take off at 7 A.M. and form up at 4000 feet went as planned. We then flew to San Marcos to rendezvous with the 301 and the 463.
We encountered our first enemy fighters just as we crossed the Yugoslav coast. Four Me-109s coming at us from both 12 and 6 o’clock. They got thru our fighter cover and our gunners opened up on them. Unfortunately, our gunners all missed. Fortunately, so did the enemy fighters. We flew on without incident until we crossed the Hungarian border. A single Fw-190 in a vertical dive got thru and, despite our gunners’ efforts, inflicted walking hits on our plane from nose-to-tail. Most of the damage from this attack was minor. However, SSgt. Carmody and TSgt. Behrens both received minor wounds and our rudder took a hit. This aircraft then came at us from 12 o’clock level and was shot down by SSgt. Carmody. Revenge for the wounded foot!
As we flew into the target area, we were approached by three enemy aircraft. A Fw-190 and Me-109 were driven off by our fighter cover. A Me-109 coming at us from 3 o’clock level was shot down by SSgt. Carmody. His second kill of the day.
I would say the flak over the target was of medium intensity but accurate. A shell fragment cracked the pilot’s window. A second burst hit the tail section oxygen supply and caused a fire. As tail gunner Sgt. Pischke fought the blaze, another flak shell hit the #4 engine. The engine was shut down successfully and the prop feathered. Sgt. Pischke reported that the fire was out, but he had no oxygen supply. As we were about to make our bomb run, we stayed in formation. We bombed the target but were off target and estimate that no bombs hit the target area. We immediately dropped out of formation after the bomb run.
Being out-of-formation and having to drop to below 10,000 feet, the Germans assumed we were sitting ducks. Still over the Gyor, we were met by three waves of enemy fighters. Fortunately, our fighters stuck around and helped us get home. The first wave of Me-110s was driven off by the P-38s. A Me-109 attacked from 12 o’clock level and caused some superficial damage to the nose before he too was driven off. Two more Me-109s then came at us and were subsequently driven off by our fighters before inflicting damage. A third wave of three Me-109s then attacked. Two were driven off, but the third got thru and caused superficial damage to the starboard wing, hit our rudder, and wounded co-pilot 2nd Lt. Sunde in the arm. This fighter then came at us from 1:30 level and was hit by bombardier 2nd Lt. Langdon manning the chin turret. Between Langdon’s fire and the friendly fighters, this e/a left the area. Apparently he’d had enough. Flying low, we were subjected to sporadic anti-aircraft fire. A hit from one of these batteries knocked our our rudder and port elevator. Getting home was becoming more difficult.
As we flew on across Hungary, we encountered more enemy fighters. Three Me-109s attacked, one of which was driven off by our fighters. The other two both came at us from 12 o’clock level. The top turret and chin gunners both missed their targets. The enemy fighters both shot high, missing us completely. Subsequent attacks from these fighters ended with similar results and no damage was done to our craft or theirs. Anti-aircraft fire from the ground was also inaccurate and we suffered no further damage.
As we entered into Yugoslav airspace, we were attacked by four more Me-109s. Our fighter cover was very good, and three of the enemy aircraft were driven off before they could close in on us. A single plane got thru and was shot down by 2nd Lt. Langdon manning the chin turret.
We flew the remainder of the mission without incident and landed safely at Sterparone Field.
- 1st Lt. Raymond Keller, Pilot, Charlene, 317th Squadron, 88th Bomb Group
EAGLE ONE, First flight, Right aircraft
Did not bomb target. Aborted (zone-4) due to oxygen fire in tail compartment. Returned alone to base and landed with fire damage to the tail compartment oxygen system, the starboard aileron inoperable, damage to the rudder, superficial damage to the port wing, Pilots’ and waist compartments (64 damage points), and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by Sgts. Howson and Rim.
The Eagle formed up with no problems and the crew was ready for their second mission.
Heading outbound we quickly ran into a couple of 190s. One was chased off by the fighter boys and Sgt. Howson nicked the other one enough so he totally missed us. As we continued on we were jumped by 4 190s of which one was driven off by fighters and Sgt. Rettinger hollered that he got one and we saw the Jerry as he passed by the nose of the plane trailing thick black smoke. Don’t know if he went down or not though. However, then things happened quickly. Two of the enemy planes managed to get some hits on us . . . but it was enough. I felt the rudder go a little sluggish and then Sgt. Rettinger calmly announced there was a fire in the tail compartment. We saw some holes appear in the port wing and a shell passed right between me a Lt. Gibson . . . but it didn’t hit anything important. After the Jerries disappeared we realized we couldn’t raise Ricky on the intercom. One of our waist gunners checked on him and found him unconscious and bleeding and his oxygen supply was no longer working.
Seeing as how we had barely made landfall I found myself with my first real command decision. There was no question we had to drop altitude . . . but do we continue on with the mission?
I decided to abort the mission and try in get home and try again next time. It was a lonely feeling turning the Eagle around and leaving the formation but I felt it was the best thing to do. During the trip home we saw a couple of 109s approaching. One of them simply exploded when Sgt. Rim nailed him. However, the other one managed to knock out the starboard aileron on his first pass . . . the second one saw him going down in flames from a shot by our port waist gunner Sgt. Howson. There were a couple more but thanks to the fighters they never even got close to us. But for being such a big sky . . . when you are flying all alone . . . it seems really small and we thanked our lucky stars for the fighters being around.
We made it back to base and landed smoothly. While we are glad to have survived . . . and Ricky is going to make it . . . I’m not sure how the guys are feeling about my decision. I guess time will tell after everybody is able to sort out their own feelings.
- 2nd Lt. Tom Decker, Pilot, Eagle One, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
CARDINAL EXPRESS, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Group Spare. Took place of Hammer and Anvil, Low Squadron, 2nd Flight, Lead aircraft. Abort over Yugoslavia (zone-4) due to loss of pilots’ compartment oxygen fire. Returned alone to base and landed with fire damage to the pilots’ compartment oxygen system, superficial damage to both wings (2 port, 1 starboard), to the fuselage (1), nose (1) and pilots’ compartment (1) and no casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by 2nd Lt. Keenan.
DARKWATCH, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with #3 engine inoperable and with oil fire damage, tail wheel inoperable, superficial damage to the starboard wing (1), to the fuselage (4), to the radio room (1) and no casualties. Claims: 2 Fw-190s & 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Richardson.
318th BS (LOW)
AC# 43-8947, Second flight, Left aircraft (Tail-End Charlie)
Group Spare. Took place of Double Trouble, Low Squadron, 2nd Flight, Left aircraft (Tail-End Charlie). Bombed target, 30%. Returned with damage to the tail compartment oxygen system, damage to the rudder, structural damage to the starboard wing root, superficial damage to both wings (1 hit each), to the fuselage (2 hits), radio room (1 hit) and no casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 apiece by SSgt. Hale and Sgt. Harrison.
HAMMER AND ANVIL, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Runway abort. Did not take off and form up.
DOUBLE TROUBLE, Second flight, Left aircraft
Runway abort. Did not take off and form up.
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