MISSION 91 - BUCHAREST AARs

318th BS (LEAD)

ZEBRA'S REVENGE, First flight, Lead aircraft (Group Leader)

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 10%.  Ran out of fuel during return to base; crew bailed out over Adriatic (zone-2) and all 10, with 3 light casualties, picked up by air-sea rescued.  Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 1st Lt. Robbins and SSgt. Owens.

 

Mission Narrative:

This mission was pure Hell.  While over Yugoslavia we were jumped by two 110s.  One was a miss by all, the other one made two passes before he broke off.  All damage was superficial.

 

Over Romania just prior to the IP got jumped by one 190 and one 109 from 12 high.  The 109 was sent spinning out sight (1st Lt Robins).  The 190 made two passes and on the second pass SSgt. Miles got a real good hit and Jerry went home smoking like crazy.

 

After turning inbound at the IP got jumped by one 109 and one 110.  The 109 left some shrapnel in my left leg on its first pass, no hits the second pass.  The 110 made four passes.  It was rough the worst was a hit to the port wing fuel tank, with the loss rate there was no way to make it back.  We only hit the target for 10%.

 

We were jumped by three more waves of Jerries.  We left some holes in a few.  Just short of the field fuel ran out and we had to bailout. (zone-2).

 

- Major Mike Mikula, CO, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


AUSTIN NIGHTS, First flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 20%.  Returned with superficial flak damage to the fuselage and no casualties.

 

Mission Narrative:

We really had a milk run.  We ran into a 109 (zone-7) on the way to the target, but it was driven off by other B-17s.

 

Flak over the target was light and only had a couple of superficial fuselage hits.  The bomb run was on target with 20% of the bombs in the target area.

 

We then had a 109 driven of by fighter coverage (zone-6).  Then we were jumped by 3 109s.  One was damaged by SSgt. Wexler and broke off his attack, another driven off by fighter coverage and the third missed on his attack.

 

Landing at the base was uneventful.

 

- Captain Gary Hertel, Pilot, Austin Nights, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


LICKITY-SPLIT, First flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 20%.  Returned with engineer’s oxygen lines hit, superficial damage to cockpit, fuselage and tail area and 1 light casualty.  Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by Lt. Banks, SSgt. Burns, and Sgt. Gibson.
 

Mission Narrative:

Squadron took off on time at 0700 hours and rendezvoused with the rest of the group at 4000 feet.  The 318th drew lead squadron in the group for today’s mission.  Once in place the Major Mikula lead the group to 21000 feet and out to San Marco for rendezvous with the 301st and 463rd.  The 88th was assigned the low Group with the 301st in lead and the 463rd in the high slot.

 

Once the three groups formed up, the formation turned easterly out over the Adriatic Sea.  The 31st fighter group rendezvoused with the Wing and took their position high.

 

I settled into my routine, today I was flying on Major Mikula’s right wing so I was extra careful with my trim adjustment.  Lt. Banks signaled we have just crossed Yugoslavia.  We hadn’t seen nothing yet, but Sgt. Burns was keeping the gunners in line and keeping unnecessary chatter off the intercom.  Kid is a born leader but gave up OCS to get into the action.  He wanted to be posted to the Pacific to pay back for what the Japanese did to Pearl, but ended up here and I am glad.

 

“Bandit 10 o’clock.” Sgt. Burns is on the ball.  “You see him Danny?  He’s moving fast!”

 

“I got him, Sarge!” said Sgt. Myers, one of our waist gunners.  Both gunners were tracking and firing at this intrusion to our space.

 

“He’s coming right for us!”, the urgency could be heard in Sgt. Burns voice.  “GET HIM, GET HIM,” the spent cartridges were beginning to dance on the cockpit floor from the twin 50s.  Suddenly our calmness was pierced by the suddenness of a sharp jolt.  Dammit we’d be hit!

 

“He’s circling around and coming back in at 3 o’clock, pick him up Kenny!”  Sgt. Burns voice demanded attention and the gunners were responding.

 

“Sarge, he’s coming in lower, Justin, can you pick him up?  Three o’clock level.  Here he comes!”

 

“I got ’em him, Kenny!” Sgt. Gibson in the ball turret responded.  “Here he comes!”

 

Again more spent cartridges dance on the floor.  “He’s smoking!  We got a piece of him!  Looks like he’s clearing out.  Good shooting, Justin!  Alright anyone see anything else?”

 

A round of “All clear” came back from all positions.  No one was hurt and we’d survived a close one.

 

“Lieutenant, I thought for sure that Jerry was going to ram us on his first pass.  He flew right over us,” Sgt. Burns reported to me.

 

The rest of the outbound flight was uneventful for us, but Raiden Maiden piloted by Lt. Mathias reported that they were aborting the mission.  The crew reported in that two engines were out and they were beginning to fall back.  I said a silent prayer for that crew and plane.  If caught alone trying to get home they would be no match for a squadron bent on revenge and an easy kill.

 

The rest of the squadron flew east.  Lt. Banks informed me we were now flying over Bulgaria and shortly Romania.  The 31st fighter group was still with us but were planning on leaving to attack a troop convoy in the area.  Hopefully our escort home, the 325th fighter group would be on time.  Lt. Banks got on the intercom, “Bill, we’re at the IP and beginning our run in.”

 

“Roger that, okay Jimmy you got the plane.”  I set auto-pilot and gave control to our bombardier Lt. Smith.  “Bandit 6 o’clock high.” Sgt. Boyd’s voice rang out over the intercom.  “Well, looky there, he’s got a load of company following him and he wants no part of it!”  Apparently our departing escort picked him up and gave him the heave-ho before disengaging the wing.  I hope the 325th was out there somewhere waiting for us. 

 

The flak began to blossom around us.  The concentration was fairly light and largely ineffective.  A little turbulence but no one reported any damage.

 

“Bombs away!” The plane jumped slighted upwards as 3000 lbs dropped downward on its way to Romanian soil.  Major Mikula turned us away from the target and out to the RP when I heard Sgt. Burns over the intercom, “Oh my God! There must he a hundred of them out there.  Okay boys, time to earn your money!  Bandits 12 o’clock!”  Mark in the left seat and I just stared at the gathering swarm of fighters we were going to have to fly through. “Here they  come!”

 

“Bandit 9 o’clock low.”  Sgt. Gibson was tracking his own enemy fighter below us.

 

As the German fighters began to form up it looked like three distinct groupings were forming.  One to hurt us, the second to cripple us and the third to apply the coup de grace.  I felt a lump began to form in the back of my throat.  I couldn’t let the crew know I was terribly afraid with some pep talk so I simply keyed my throat mike and said, “Pilot to crew, give them hell.”

 

“You heard the Lieutenant.  Check your bolts one more time.”  Sgt. Burns, the consummate cool-headed confident noncom backed me up with his words.  And on we flew.

 

“LITTLE FRIENDS 9 o’clock high!” Sgt. Meyers excitedly reported.  “Oh my God, they're diving right into them and scattering the Jerries.  They’re disengaging and defending against the escort.”

 

It was true, the 325th with their distinctive yellow and black checkerboard tail fins were on station and on time.  We flew on and straight with nary a German fighter making a run on us.  Somewhere an angel was looking over us.  Those fighter boys engaged the German fighters and stayed over the RP long enough for all three groups to drop their bombs and then guarded our six as we began our egress.  I then realized my hands were clenched on the yoke and it took a few minutes to loosen my death grasp.  Now all we had to do was get home.  We flew over Romania and Bulgaria without incident, but the calmness was broken by, “Bandits 9 o’clock.”

 

The squadron was angry and had had enough and every gun on our five remaining ships that could target and fire let loose.  Seeing the sky filled with tracers the German pilots sought other targets.  But the calmness was again broken half way across Yugoslavia.  We were so close, once we could make the Adriatic we were safe, but unfortunately the Luftwaffe had other plans.  “Bandit 12 o’clock”, “Bandit 1 o’clock high”, “Bandit 10 o’clock high”, “Bandit 12 o’clock high”.  The calls were overwhelming my senses and that lump was forming again.

 

“Little friends are moving in to cover, just stay calm, be sure of your target and take short controlled burst!”  Again Sgt. Burns was keeping the men in line.  For what seemed an eternity before we got to the coast line, we were attacked, defended by our escorts and fought back in one of the worst aerial battles this crew has encountered.  No less than twelve runs were made on us.  There was nothing I could say or do that would assist my men in their defense of our plane.  I could only fly straight ahead, stay in formation and allow the guns of 4 other planes to mix with ours to defend ourselves and our comrades.  In the running battle Sgt. Burns claimed one ME-109, Sgt. Gibson claimed one ME-109, Lt. Smith claimed one ME-109 along with damaging a different ME-109.  There is no doubt to Jimmy's claim this time as that ME-109 literally blew apart high and above us in plain sight.

 

After what seem like forever, “Lieutenant, we’re made the Adriatic,” Lt. Smith from the nose was reporting.  A few minutes later Sgt. Burns reported, “Looks like they are breaking off, we made it guys!”

 

“Pilot to crew, damage report.”  All the crew checks in fine except for Sgt. Boyd in the tail gun.  “Lieutenant, they did it again, sir. Those dirty so and so no good pilots of the Reich have ruined a perfectly good flight suit and caused me some untimely agony by shooting me again, this time in the leg.  But it’s nothing more than a flesh wound that just hurts a lot.”

 

“Okay, Boyd you gonna be okay till we land?”  Sgt. Burns still has a tenseness about him, but he knows Sgt. Boyd well and it can’t be that bad if he is making cracks about it.  True to form Sgt. Boyd reports, “Oh, I’ll just sit here and mind my own business till the medicos show up.”

 

TSgt. Petrillo comes over the comm, “Sir, Lodestar One is reporting fuel problems.  The major doesn’t know if he’s gonna get back home.  He’s alerted air-sea for a possible pickup.”

 

I acknowledged the report and then banked slighted to starboard and gave the major a little extra cushion.  As we flew westerly back to Italy, TSgt. Petrillo again reported, “Sir, Lodestar One is now reporting that they can probably make landfall but there will not be enough fuel to land.  He’s gonna make a wide turn to port and then the crew is gonna jump clear.”   The squadron is to return to base under Captain Dodge's command sir.”

 

“Sergeant, acknowledge those orders, the rest of you keep your eyes on the major’s plane.  Give me a count of chutes if possible.”

 

After we made landfall Major Mikula began his bank to port as Captain Dodge maneuvered into the lead position.  The crew began reporting.

 

“There they go, looks like the tail and waist are clear, five chutes from the rear . . . there’s three more from the nose, . . . one more, that must be the co-pilot.”   A long quiet followed, “Come on, jump sir,”  I thought to myself.  But I’m sure the major was saying good-bye to the old girl, saying thank-you for bringing him and his crew safely home one more time.  Finally the report came through, “There’s the tenth one sir.  All crew jumped clear and chutes opened.”

 

The remaining four of us flew on.  Landing at Steparone was routine.  We found out at debriefing that Raiden Maiden had brought Lt. Mathias’s crew home albeit with casualties.  I sat back in my chair and thought of how I was sure we were going to buy it over Bucharest with all those German fighters just waiting for us at the RP and how those P-51s just jumped into the fight without hesitation.  Of how Sergeant Burns kept his nerve under severe conditions and kept his gunners alert.  And finally I thought of and gave my own silent thanks to that big ole hunk of metal out there, that non-living entity with a soul.  A spirit of a plane that would take us to the edge of the abyss and then bring us back safely.  At least that’s how I’m gonna look at it from now on.

 

- 2nd Lieutenant William Hernandez, Pilot, Lickity-Split, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


JOLLIE ROGER, Second flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with intercom inoperable, navigation control inoperable, damage to the bomb bay doors and top turret oxygen system, superficial damage to the waist and tail compartments (50 Peckham Damage points) and no casualties.  Claims: 1 Me-109 by 2nd Lt. W. Havens & 1 Fw-190 by MSgt. Holmes.

 

Mission Narrative:

Mission mostly uneventful.  We did not encounter our first enemy aircraft over Bulgaria as we approached the Romanian border (zone-6).  A schwarm made for us but they were quickly intercepted by the fighter cover and only one continued on.  That was his last mistake as Havens in the nose got his third kill in two missions.

 

Approaching the target (zone-8) some 190s came at us but again fighter cover was affective and only one Jerry got through.  He stitched us from nose-to-tail.  We were lucky in that nothing critical was damaged and no one was injured.  Still, it scared the heck out of us.  Okay, I guess we did have one piece of major damage, the bay doors were knocked loose and flopped open during our approach.  We did see some flak but nothing came near us.  We dropped our bombs on the group signal but Havens is pretty sure we dropped early and missed the target.

 

As we turned for home Holmes and Locke left their stations in the top turret and the radio room and worked on the bay doors.  They managed to get them closed allowing us to stay in formation.  Both Locke and Holmes had just gotten back to their stations when we were attacked by another trio of 190s.  Again the fighter cover chased all but one away.  Holmes got what seems like his 300th kill from his trusty turret.

 

The rest of the ride home we were ignored by Jerry and were able to relax a bit.

 

Landing was good.

 

We will be ready for the next mission.

 

- Captain Jeff Dodge, Pilot, Jollie Roger, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


RAIDEN MAIDEN, Second flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Forced to abort mission (zone-5) due to battle damage over Yugoslavia.  Left formation and returned alone with the #2 and #4 engines inoperable, the starboard inboard fuel tank holed, #2 engine oil tank holed, rubber rafts destroyed, and superficial damage to both wings, the fuselage, the bomb bay and radio compartments (70 Peckham Damage Points) and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Pyle & Sgt. Decker.

 

Mission Narrative:

Our fourth mission.  We took off at the front of the other squadrons today.  Formed up over clear skies and headed out toward Yugoslavia.

 

We saw lots of little friends flying P-51s as we headed toward the mainland.  Halfway to the target, we were attacked by a group of 3 190s. They got through our escort but made a single pass not hitting our bomber.

 

Shortly afterward, we were attacked by a single 109 and a twin-engined A/C that 2nd Lt. Pyle thought looked like a Junkers 88.  Both made a single pass and disappeared.  Immediately after these two fighters left, we had a major malfunction in the #2 engine, and oil began streaming out of the wing.  We quickly fell out-of-formation and I made the decision to abort and return to base, as I was not able to stay in formation.

 

After turning around, we kept an eye out for any enemy fighters, and were not surprised by an attack by 2 109s and another Junkers 88 that came in from our starboard beam.  SSgt. Mathis got some hits on the 88, Lt. Pyle some on one of the 109s and the other 109 hit us from directly below, wounding TSgt. Starkey in the right shoulder, nearly blowing his arm off.  The same 109 made another pass from 12 o’clock high and SSgt. Mathis again registered enough hits to chase him off before he closed to attack.

 

Our speed was significantly slowed by the prop on #2 that by now had started to slow our airspeed.

 

In the distance Sgt. Hooper in the tail saw a group of 3 109s attacking from astern.  I saw another 109 attacking from 12 o’clock and SSgt. Mathis spotted a Me-110 from 3 o’clock high making a pass.  2nd Lt. Pyle hit the one at 12 o’clock with a long burst, while Sgt. Hooper hit the 109 at 6 o’clock low causing the wing to disintegrate and the pilot to eject.  The 110 hit both wings, the fuselage and bomb bay, killing Sgt. Ray Ferebee, hitting the #4 engine and inboard fuel tank, knocking out our second engine and destroying the raft.  The remaining 109 and 110 both made another pass, and SSgt. Mathis got some hits on the 109 before they both broke off their attacks.

 

I ordered everything not tied down to be thrown overboard except for ammo, and even that and the guns went as soon as we were over the Adriatic.  Luckily we were not spotted as we lost altitude as we were trailing oil and smoke from 2 engines.  A great target in the clear sky. We had someone looking over us.

 

We made the home field with enough altitude to make a respectable landing, firing flares to indicate wounded aboard.  The meat wagon came to help get TSgt. Starkey to the hospital and Sgt. Ferebee to the morgue. The Maiden will take quite and overhaul to get her engines ready for the next mission.

 

Completed our fourth mission.  Lost our first crewmate and christened the radio room "the widow maker" as each mission has resulted in the crewman occupying it being wounded.  TSgt. Starkey will not be coming back, his wounds are too severe for him to continue flying. (70 Peckham Damage).

 

- 1st Lt. Mark Mathis, Pilot, Raiden Maiden, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


STORM RUNNER, Second flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Aborted mission (zone-7) due to a casualty over Romania.  Left formation and returned alone with the tail turret inoperable, superficial damage to the tail plane, port wing, to the nose, pilots’, bomb bay, radio, waist and tail compartments and 4 casualties.  Claims: 2 Me-110s and 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Gates and 1 Me-110 by 2nd Lt. White.

 

Mission Narrative:

“Wow, this mission was hard, thankfully we didn’t lose anyone this time.  We had seen a few fighters over Yugoslavia and hit at least one but overall things were uneventful until Romania.  A lone fighter (zone-7), we think a 190 dove on us and, well . . . Stone was immediately hit and he was out, Lt. Mullholland was also hit along with Sgt. Kohl.  With Lt. Stone out of commission I made the tough decision to abort the mission, I dropped the bombs (zone-7) and headed for home.”

 

“Along with no bombardier, we had taken several hits including losing our tail guns.  The flight home was even worse with continual attacks until we neared the coast.  Sgt. Sinclair was wounded on the flight back along with additional hits to the tail and wings. Both Lt. White and Sgt Gates were able to shoot Jerries down; Stan got three, he’s a large part of why we were able to make it back.”

 

“We landed successfully and were met by the ambulance.  We were told that Stone’s injuries looked much worse than they really were and he should make a quick recovery.”

 

- 2nd Lt. Paul Stinson, Pilot, Storm Runner, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


316th BS (HIGH)

SATIN DOLL, First flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 60%.  Returned without damage or casualties.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Roundtree; 1 Me-110 apiece by 1st Lt. Douglas, and Sgts. Walker and Maust.

 

Mission Narrative:

A long deceptively quiet run to the target for the Doll, leading the high squadron, with Vengeful Harlot and St Louis Belle II on our wings. Didn’t have any E/A get close until just before the bomb run.  The first wave consisted of three Me-110s.  A Mustang Jockey from the 31st FG cut out one at 1030 level, while Lt. Douglas and Sgt. Walker blasted the ones at 12 low and 6 low with the nose and tail guns. The second wave leader, an FW-190, met with a steady stream of lead from SSgt. Rountree’s top turret .50s.  A pair of ’51s swatted his wingmen, a pair of Me-109s, out of the sky.

 

Flak over the target was light and inaccurate.  Lt. Douglas put an estimated 60% of the load onto the trains in the marshalling yard below us.

 

Rallying off the target, the P-51s of the 325th FG cleared a pair of 190s and a 109 off us, while Sgt. Maust dispatched an Me-110 sneaking in from 6 low.  Things were pretty much quiet for us, and the combined firepower of the rest of the formation kept the Krauts off the Doll.

 

Near Craiova, the Krauts were really working over our left wingman, Vengeful Harlot.  She broke from formation trailing a long stream of flame from her starboard wing.  It appeared that there were 10 chutes from her before she went in.

 

Right after crossing back into Yugoslavia, a gaggle of Me-109s lead by an FW-190 tore at us.  The Mustangs of the 325th scored two of the 109s rather quickly.  Lt. Douglas and SSgt. Rountree fired wide of the 109 at 12 high, and Sgt. Maust missed the 190 at 12 low.  Fortunately, they didn’t have much stomach for the fight either, and broke off after firing a couple of quick ineffective bursts at us.

 

Nearing the Yugoslav coast, Lt. Hood on the St Louis Belle II radioed that he was having fuel problems and would have to ditch.  It looked like it went well, he set her down nice and easy, a real text book job.  Sgt. Walker called in from the tail that he could see the crew getting ashore, and heading for the brush.  Hopefully they'll be picked up soon.

 

The rest of the run home was quiet and we returned the Doll to Pops Hardison without a scratch.

 

- Capt. William M. Patrick, Pilot, AC# 42-11806, Satin Doll, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


VENGEFUL HARLOT, First flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 60%.  Shot down by fighters NW of the city of Craiova (zone-6), Romania; 10 POWs.

 

Mission Narrative:

Various reports from crews of the 316th BS and the 318th BS report seeing aircraft 43-8870, known as the Vengeful Harlot, going down with its starboard wing in flames just northwest of Craiova.  From the multiple reports we surmise that there were 10 chutes coming from the plane.  Early International Red Cross reports indicate a severely wounded bomber crewman was treated for a severed arm.  But it states he will recover.  No other word on the remaining crew.

 

- From debriefing reports of returned crew, 88th Bomb Group (H)


ST. LOUIS BELLE II, First flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bomb target, 40% Ditched in the Adriatic Sea (zone-2) on return leg of mission; 10 crewmen rescued, 1 casualty.  Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Dean.

 

Mission Narrative:

Got hit by fighters right from the Get-Go!  Fortunately the P-51s kept them at bay.  It wasn’t till we got to the target did we get slammed, HARD!  Fuel leak in the starboard outboard wing tank on the way into the target spelled disastrous and the port waist gunner (Waldo Prine) got a serious wound with the 2nd wave.

 

Got bombs on target, but the journey home was gloomy as we knew that we were not going to make it.  Got hit by fighters at every turn on the way home . . . not much damage as the enemy didn’t seem to be fielding their best shots . . . we got a few of them, but again, we knew the Hun had got us for our fuel was not going to last.

 

Looked for the Island of Vis when we got to the Adriatic, but couldn’t find it . . . so ditched as close to the Yugoslavian mainland as possible . . . near the town of Split!  Radio’d our position to base before putting the ole Belle II into the drink.  We all got out, even Waldo . . . who complained the whole time about getting him wet.  Now to hide-out till the rescue boys show up.

 

- 1st Lt. Thomas Hood, Pilot, St. Louis Belle II, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


GINGER SNAP, Second flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Forced to abort mission due to battle damage over Yugoslavia.  Left formation (zone-3) and returned alone with bomb bay doors inoperable, navigation equipment destroyed, damage to the control cables and no casualties.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 SSgt. Sikorsky.

 

Mission Narrative:

As soon as we entered Yugoslavia we were jumped by four Fw-190s, who executed a determined, coordinated attack from several directions.  SSgt. Sikorsky shot one of them down, however our nose compartment was riddled by cannon and machine gun fire before the fighters broke off.   It was very fortunate that nobody was hit.

 

When Lt. McClain called over the intercom and told me the bomb bay doors and navigational equipment were inoperable I made the decision to leave formation and return to base.  The clear skies made it easier to find Italy by dead reckoning and we encountered no fighters over the Adriatic.

 

I was nervous about landing with a full load of bombs and set Ginger Snap down as gingerly as I could on the runway.

 

- Captain Harold Snakenburg, Pilot, Ginger Snap, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


SLEDGEHAMMER II, Second flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 20%.  Returned with superficial damage to the nose, pilots’ and tail compartments, 2 light casualties and 1 light case of frostbite.

 

Mission Narrative:

Mission #91 started off with the crew in an angry mood after the heavy casualties of last mission.  Things were quiet enough for about 10 minutes.  While entering Yugoslavian airspace, a large group of FW-190s attacked the Sledge 2, resulting in light wounds to the co-pilot, tail gunner, and bombardier.  After damage assessment, Lt. Rick Springfield decided to press on, although he casually mentioned he regretted not having named the plane Jesse’s Girl as the name Sledgehammer seemed to be a bullet magnet.  Two of the attacking FWs were destroyed by defensive fire.

 

Despite being attacked by no less than 6 more waves of aircraft before reaching the target, most were driven off by friendly fighters and excellent defensive fire, and the Sledge 2 dropped with the bombardier reporting "good results".  Flak was very light.

 

On the return trip, Sledge 2 was engaged by five more waves of fighters, but again, most were driven off by defensive fire and friendly fighter support.  Two Bf-109s were destroyed in these engagements, again by the top and tail turrets, despite the frostbite suffered by the tail gunner.

 

The landing was uneventful, which was good as three crewmen were immediately taken to the infirmary.

 

- 2nd Lt. David Gilmore, Navigator, Sledgehammer II, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


MINNESOTA MINX, Second flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 20%.  Returned with superficial damage to the waist compartment and no casualties.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 SSgt. Wilkins.

 

Mission Narrative:

We took off laden with extra fuel for the long haul to Bucharest in the middle of the high formation with the 316th ahead and some of the 317th behind.  We could hear the enemy attacks coming in over the radio but nothing attacked us until we were almost at the target.  Two waves of fighters hit us, first some 190s and then some 109s.  They must have been taking advantage of a gap in our cover as our little friends seemed to be busy elsewhere.  Both attacks were ineffectual, I think that we gained a little extra ventilation in the waist but no real damage.  Davy managed to damage a couple as they flew by but that was about it.  By the time all of that was over we were lining up for the IP.  Another wave of fighters appeared but they broke up as they hit our formation and never got to us.

 

We found the IP and turned onto the target, the flak came up to greet us but there was not a lot of it and was inaccurate. We dropped a wide pattern, the bombs seeming to be reluctant in letting go of the racks, on target and turned for home into a whole load of fighters. Fortunately most of them were ours and the enemy fighters seemed to be more interested in staying alive then attacking us.

 

The return journey for us was uneventful.  A single 109 tried a head on attack without success and we had pretty much gone to sleep as our escorts started to peel off and head for their bases.  I don’t know if it was planned or just dumb luck but that was the point when the enemy had one last surprise for us.  Three 190s appeared out of nowhere.  We were lucky in that Paul was still in the top turret and managed to knock one of them down, the other two missed.  That kinda shook us up and just goes to show what can happen when you drop your guard.  Landed with no further adventures.

 

- 2nd Lt. Jeff Dunlop, Pilot, Minnesota Minx, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


317th BS (HIGH)

AC#43-8941, Third flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Shot down by flak 1 mile south of target.  10 KIA.

 

Mission Narrative:

“Aircraft #43-8941 was seen taking a hit by AA fire and then exploding.  It is assumed that the AA fire hit the bomb bay area and bombs detonated.  No chutes seen and all are presumed KIA.”

 

- From the summation of briefings reports from AC#43-8976 and AC#43-8987 of the 317th Bomb Squadron


CHARLENE, Third flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 20%.  Returned alone with structural damage to the starboard wing root, superficial damage to the port wing and waist compartment (28 damage points) and 1 light casualty.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 apiece by 2nd Lt. Langdon and Sgt. Pischke.

 

Mission Narrative:

The briefing at 5 AM reveled today’s target: Bucharest.  Another long flight over enemy territory.  Flak was expected to be light over the target, but enemy aircraft would be aggressive especially defending their capital city.  We mounted up at 6 AM and started up our engines at 6:30.  Take off at 7 AM and form up at 4000 feet went as planned.  We then flew at 21,000 feet to San Marcos to rendezvous with the 301st and the 463rd BG.

 

We did not encounter any enemy planes until we arrived in the target zone.  We then were attacked by three waves of fighters, but the first two waves were ineffective due to poor coordination of attack by the Luftwaffe.  The third wave consisted of five FW-190s, three of which made it thru our fighter escorts and fired on our craft.  The first came at us from 6 o’clock high & the tail and radio room gunners both missed.  This fighter hit our craft and caused damage to the starboard wing root and wounded starboard waist gunner Sgt. Green in the knee.  This fighter then came at us from 1:30 level and was shot at by the starboard cheek gun and chin turret.  The chin turret got in some pretty good hits and the enemy craft was seen trailing smoke but we did not see it go down.  The second enemy plane of this wave came at us from 12 o'clock high.  This plane was shot down by 2nd Lt. Langdon from the chin turret.  A third plane attacked from 10:30 level and was fired on by the port cheek gunner, who missed.  This plane returned fire and did superficial damage to the port wing.  He then came around behind us and was shot down by tail gunner Sgt. Pischke.

 

Anti-aircraft fire was ineffective as we neared the bomb run and we received no hits.  Our bombs were on target and bombardier 2nd Lt. Langdon estimates 20% hit the target.  As we turned for home, we were met by two waves of enemy fighters.  These waves were driven off by our fighter escorts from the 325th FG or from defensive fire from other B-17s.

 

As we continued the flight home, all enemy planes we encountered were driven off by defensive fire from other B-17s and none came within firing distance of our plane.

 

We landed safely and without incident at Sterparone Field.  Considering the time in the air and the distance traveled we encountered little resistance.  I guess it was our turn to be lucky and fly an uneventful mission.

 

- 1st Lt. Raymond Keller, Pilot, Charlene, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


EAGLE ONE, Third flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 40%.  Returned with rafts destroyed, flap controls and starboard waist MG inoperable, structural damage to the starboard wing root (2 hits) and to the port tail plane root (1 hit), starboard inboard fuel tank holed, damage to the starboard ailerons, control cables and tail compartment oxygen system, superficial damage to the starboard wing, bomb bay, radio and waist compartments (170 damage points) and 5 casualties.  Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by SSgt. Diaz and Sgt. Parker.

 

Mission Narrative:

The Eagle formed up with no problems and the crew was ready for their third mission and it was going to be a long one.

 

As it turned out this was the tale of two missions.  Outbound the Eagle did not so much as take a single hit . . . from fighters or flak. Most of the enemy planes were either driven off by friendly fighters or the formation.  The few that did get through to us were either damaged or shot down by our gunners.  Or they simply made a single pass and kept right on going.  In other words things were looking good so far . . . especially when it looked like our bombs landed real close to the target.

 

Things appeared to be going the same way as we turned inbound after the bomb run.  Another enemy fighter was shot down and one was sent fleeing trailing black smoke.  Finally an ME-110 did manage to get through everything a put some cannon fire into the Eagle.  It knocked out a waist gun and nicked our port gunner among other things.  But otherwise we were doing just fine.

 

However, west of Nis things took a turn for the worse.  Two 190s got through and did some damage with the second one holing our starboard inboard fuel tank . . . but fuel didn’t seem like it would be a problem getting home.  We were a little concerned about our starboard wing since it appeared to have taken some moderate damage in the root area.  Then southeast of Mostar our luck on this mission finally ran out.  A single 109 stitched us from nose-to-tail . . . wounding 3 of our guys and killing Jeff on the port gun.  This guy was determined and on his second pass did some heavy damage to the Eagle and also dinged up Lt. Gibson.  In addition to all the physical damage this guy caused . . . the price in crew was even steeper.  Especially since after we landed Diaz and Myers didn't make it.

 

- 2nd Lt. Tom Decker, Pilot, Eagle One, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


399th BS (LOW)

LAURALEE II, First flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 40%.  Returned with #2 engine feathered, the radio room heating system, port wing brakes, the port aileron and tail turret guns inoperable, the starboard outboard fuel tank (self-seal) holed, structural damage to the port wing (1 hit), superficial damage hits all over wings and fuselage with 4 casualties and 1 case of frostbite.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 by 1st Lt. Hickman; 1 Me-109 by MSgt. Ross.

 

Mission Narrative:

The Bucharest mission of 3 July 1944 rated as perhaps the most harrowing mission the 399th has flown for quite some time.  We took off, formed up as the low squadron in our group, with the 88th as the low group in the box with the 301st and 463rd groups.  This position, I believe, led to increased attention by enemy fighters.  We were attacked soon after crossing the Yugoslav coast; these attacks did not let up until after we recrossed into Bulgaria on the egress route.

 

Action was heavy; we claimed two kills and six probables, and other aircraft in our squadron posted similar claims.  Damage was not that severe; aside from a brief scare when we took a hit to the outboard fuel tank on our starboard wing (which fortunately self-sealed) damage was light until we reached target.  We began to wonder where our escorts were, however.

 

Flak was briefed as light, but we took hits, one of which knocked out our #2 engine.  We stayed in formation, leading the 339th over target, which we hit; our bombs were observed striking the rail yards.  Enemy attacks let up over Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, but when we were nearly to the coast the enemy returned.  One 109 was particularly accurate, raking our fuselage.  It was here that most of our casualties occurred. I regret the loss of Captain Williams; he was a good officer, and an excellent navigator who always did his duty.  He will be missed.

 

I must also report the loss of one of our new men, TSgt. Drobac. He lost compartment heat over target due to enemy damage, and rather than take our ship out of formation, I deemed it more necessary to remain with the squadron and lead it back.  Unfortunately, his frostbite is severe enough that he will not be returning to duty.

 

As always, the 399th stands ready for further action.

 

- Major Bill Hearn, CO, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


HIT 'N RUN, First flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 30%.  Returned with #4 engine feathered, rafts and radio destroyed, bombardier and pilots’ compartment heating system, bomb bays and top turret inoperable, port inboard fuel tank holed (self-sealed), superficial damage to both wings, pilots’, radio and tail compartments, and 6 casualties.  Claims: 3 Fw-190s and 1 Me-110 by 2nd Lt. Black; 1 Fw-190 and 1 Me-110 by 2nd Lt. Blong; 2 Fw-190 and 1 Me-110 by SSgt. Joe Evans; 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Cleo James; and 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. George Merritt.

 

Mission Narrative:

A bloody mess.  Encountered fighters over Yugoslavia on the way out, and they never stopped coming.  Tail gunner George Merritt
downed a 190 over Yugoslavia, but a fighter shell knocked out the radio.  Fighters were driven off by the other ships near Nis (zone-5), and fighters drove off more three 190s crossing the border (zone-six).

 

The action on the bomb run was hot and heavy, as expected.  The boys combined to down a pair of 190s and a 110.  I am pretty sure this is where Sgt. Gail Henley was hit and killed while manning his port waist machine gun.  The flak was light on the bomb run, but a shell hit seriously wounded tail gunner George Merritt.  We managed to drop 30% of the bombs on the marshalling yards.

 

At this point I shifted the bombardier to the tail gun, and he promptly downed a 109 and a 110.  Joe Blong and Joe Evans also downed 110s about this time.

 

After losing half my crew, I am getting a little to emotional to talk about the rest of the flight back, but all the details are in my notes.

 

- 2nd Lt. Mike Compton, Pilot, Hit 'N Run, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


PASSIONATE WITCH, First flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Fell out-of-formation after bomb run.  Returned alone with #3 engine, the port aileron and heating system to the nose and cockpit inoperable, damage to the rudder (2 hits), superficial damage to both wings and throughout the aircraft, and 1 casualty.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 shared by Sgts. McLaughlin and Little; 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Kellerman.

 

Mission Narrative:

We formed up without any issues and started our journey to the target.  We did not see any enemy fighters until we crossed the coast.  Our escorts did a good job of protecting us and those that sneaked past did not hit us.

 

As we approached the target a couple of Fw-190s had a run at us.  Our #3 engine was shot up and the prop started wind milling.  We did drop our bomb load, but we completely missed the target.

 

The wind milling prop forced us to drop out-of-formation; all alone the Jerry came at us wave after wave.  Sgts. McLaughlin and Little shot down a 190 on their first run.  Lt. Hill managed to damage a Me-109 and Sgt. Kellerman shot the wing off another.  They kept coming at us until we reached the coast and some of our fighters came to our rescue.  It’s amazing how much damage a Fort can take; we lost the # 3 engine, heat in the nose and flight deck, hits on both wings, the port aileron was knock out and the rudder was hit twice.  Lt. De La Cerda was wounded when the nose was hit; in addition there was lot of superficial damage to the ship.

 

We were sure glad to get the ship back to base.  Lt. De La Cerda will be returning home due to his wound.

 

- 2nd Lt. Ralph Knight, Pilot, Passionate Witch, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


DIMESTORE GIRL, Second flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with bomb controls, top, ball and tail turrets inoperable, structural damage to both tail planes and to the starboard wing root, numerous superficial damage throughout the aircraft (170 Peckham damage points), and two light casualties.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 apiece by 2nd Lt. O'Bannon & Sgt. Gardiner.

 

Mission Narrative:

With as many enemy fighters, Bf-109, Fw-190s and Bf-110s that came at us, we were LUCKY.

 

Escort fighters kept some of them away, for which we are thankful.  Need to buy those guys a drink sometime.

 

DIMESTORE GIRL should be ready to fly her next mission.  Wounded crewmen should probably sit out the next one.  Lt. Thomas (co-pilot), wounded in right gluteus muscle!, so he may need a pillow to sit on.

 

- 1st Lt. Palmer Stanford, Pilot, Dimestore Girl, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


CROSSTOWN BUS, Second flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Aborted mission over Yugoslavia (zone-3) after losing oxygen to the waist compartment oxygen and 1 engine.  Left formation and returned alone to base with engine #1 inoperable, fire damage to the waist compartment oxygen system, superficial damage to the starboard wing, to the pilots’, bomb bay, and radio compartments and 2 casualties.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Rockowitz.

 

Mission Narrative:

Take off was approximately 0715.  Once the groups were assembled we started across the Adriatic Sea.  P-51s fighters joined us about the time we passed back over land.  It was then two Fw-190s hit us.  SSgt. Rockowitz engaged and destroyed one coming in from 10:30 high.  Another came at us from 3 o’clock level scoring only some minor hits in the starboard wing.  It made another pass coming in from 9 o’clock level and Sgt. Brewster hit and damaged the fighter, but it still raked the plane from nose-to-tail.  The heat in the nose compartment was knocked out.  Engine One died almost immediately from damage.  Our tail gunner, Sgt. Lawrence, took a few fragments to right leg.  Unfortunately Sgt. Brewster took several rounds and was severely wounded.  The hits to the waist compartment also started an oxygen fire and Sgt. Stahlworth was able to put the fire out.

 

With a full load and one engine out and a severely wounded crewman, I chose to abort the mission.  We jettisoned the bomb load over the water and headed for home.

 

We returned to Sterparone with no additional incidents.

 

- 2nd Lt. George Fishman, Pilot, Crosstown Bus, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


AIRBORNE LADY, Second flight, Left aircraft (Tail-End Charlie)

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Aborted mission over Yugoslavia (zone-4) after losing oxygen to the nose compartment and the bombardier killed-in-action.  Left formation and returned alone to base.


ABORTED MISSION OVER BASE:

317th: Sand Hawk


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