MISSION 96 - PLOESTI AARs

316th BS (LEAD)

FOUR-OF-A-KIND, First flight, Lead aircraft (GROUP LEAD)

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with structural damage to the starboard wing root, superficial damage to the port wing, fuselage, nose, waist and tail compartment and 1 light casualty.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Sauer and 1 Me-109 shared by SSgt. Sauer and Sgt. Smith.


GINGER SNAP, First flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 20%.  Returned without damage or casualties.

 

Mission Narrative:

I hesitate to ever call a mission to Ploesti a milk run, but this was about as easy a mission as we have had.

 

Small formations of single-engine fighters attacked the 316th over Yugoslavia and Rumania, but were driven off by other bombers in the squadron.  The old man was really on us to keep things closed up, and it sure worked.

 

There was considerable flak over Ploesti, as usual, but it was not accurate – probably due to the overcast.  Lt. McClain’s bomb drop seemed to be directly on target, despite the limited visibility.  I would estimate that 20% off our bomb load landed within 1000 feet of the refinery.

 

As we finished our bomb run and banked off the target, an FW-190 made a diving pass from directly above.  Out top turret and radio compartment gunners were so surprised that they hardly got any rounds off.  But the 190 missed us and continued its dive through the formation.

 

As we neared the Adriatic a flight of 3 Me-109s made a coordinated, head-on pass at our formation.  We were not hit in this attack, and the Germans did not come back for another go at us.

 

The remainder of the flight back to Sterparone was uneventful, and landing was routine. Some of the crew are starting to grumble about being overdue for leave, however.

 

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


SLEDGEHAMMER II, First flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 50%.  Returned with damage to the bomb bay doors, minor superficial damage and no casualties.  Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Parsons.

 

Mission Narrative:

Mission #96 started off with the crew in a apprehensive mood . . . it just seemed that their good luck wouldn’t hold.  But, it did hold, as the crew put together their best mission to date.

 

SLEDGEHAMMER’s crew fought off three enemy waves prior to reaching the target, shooting down one plane and damaging two other Germans, while receiving only 3 superficial bullet holes in return.

 

The flak at the target was very erratic, and although we saw a lot of bursts, none came near our plane.  The bomb drop appeared to plaster the refinery, and large flames and smoke was observed by the tail gunner as we left the area.

 

Despite the bad weather, we had excellent fighter support coming home, with 3 planes driven away by our "little friends" and one by our chin turret, although the Bf-109’s return fire did jam our empty bomb bay doors.

 

The crew was amazed at the near-pristine condition of the plane after such a long trip, and celebrated upon making a perfect landing.  Lt. Springfield could only shake his head and say, "Great job, boys!"

 

- 2nd Lt. Dave Matthews, Co-Pilot, Sledgehammer II, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


SATIN DOLL, Second flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 20%.  Returned with superficial flak damage to the starboard aileron and port flaps and no casualties.  Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Walker.

 

Mission Narrative:

A long run to Ploesti, half the crew on R&R, and I’ve got the left seat, helluva draw.  The first Hun that got close, we were halfway through Yugoslavia.  A lone 109 set up a pass from 10:30 high, only to become a new cross painted under the canopy of a 52nd FG P-51.

 

Just before we crossed into Bulgaria, a trio of 109s swept in from our 12 and 9 areas.  A pair of the Mustang jockeys from the 52nd get credit for these being taken out of the fight before they could get a good line on us.

 

Halfway across Romania, a pair of Krauts broke through the formation and headed for us.  Lt. Eggars popped a few rounds off from the nose gun while Sgt. Charles sprayed a burst from the top turret .50s at that 109 directly ahead of us.  They didn’t hit anything, but must have scared the pants off the guy cause he fired a quick burst, missing completely and broke off to find an easier target.  Lt. White missed the 109 at 130 high with the starboard cheek gun, but Sgt. Tibbs got some good hits on him with his starboard waist gun.  The Kraut broke off his attack and peeled off smoking heavily.  Nearing the target, Sgt. Walker hammered a 109 at 6 high, blasting it in half with the tail .50s.

 

Flak over the target was medium thick as briefed, but not too accurate, thanks to the lousy weather.  A couple of chunks found the port flap and starboard aileron, but with no effect.  Despite crummy visibility, and a little bumpiness, Lt. Eggars put 20% of the load into the refinery complex.

 

Rallying off the target, a P-38 form the 1st FG swatted an Me-110 the was climbing up from our 1:30 low position.  Sgt. Myers got a few hits on a 109 at 3 low with the ball turret guns, and sent the jerry packing with his tail tucked between his legs, and smoke trailing behind him.

 

Didn’t have any more E/A get close the rest of the way home we got the Doll back on the ground without incident.  The replacements handled things pretty well for their first mission and should work out alright.

 

- 1st Lt. Michael P. Davis, Pilot, A/C 42-11806 Satin Doll, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


NO WORRIES, Second flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with structural damage to the starboard wing root and rudder, superficial damage to the starboard wing, port aileron, bomb bay section and no casualties.  Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Knight.

 

Mission Narrative:

First mission was to some place called Ploesti in the Balkans, we had heard all about it so were not looking forward to it.  At least we
had a relatively safe slot in the middle of the formation.  It was no guarantee of safety but it was better then being tail-end Charlie.

 

We took off and formed up in good conditions but on the horizon we could see a weather front building up although we were assured that it
would be clear over the target.  As we got closer and closer to the target so the weather got worse and worse.  By the time we got to the
target we were well into the soup.  Visibility was very poor.  What enemy fighters were seen seemed more interested in avoiding our little
friends then attacking us.  At some point we were over the target as the flak thickened up and we took some hits.  We never found a break
in the clouds and dropped our bombs on a best guess.  We did get buzzed by a 109 shortly after we dropped our bombs we sustained no
damage and managed to nail him with our tail guns.  It was the only fighter that came near us and we came home safe with some holes to
patch but nothing significant for our next mission.

 

This was our first mission to what we had been led to believe was the hottest target we would ever go to.  It was an exercise in fear and
frustration and if they are going to be all like this I’m not sure what will get us first the enemy or stress.

 

- 2nd Lt. George Parker, Pilot, No Worries, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


ICE QUEEN, Second flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Fell out-of-formation and returned alone with the oxygen system inoperable, structural damage to the wing roots, superficial damage to the nose and pilots compartment (117 damage points) and 2 casualties.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Nissen and 1 Fw-190 shared by SSgt. Pumphrey and Sgt. Siffler.

 

Mission Narrative:

Fight in was relatively quiet till crossing into Romania.  Then the Butcherbirds came up to fight.  We encountered two JGs prior to the drop point with Billy killing one and damaging two others.  What we did not hit our little friends took care of.

 

The closer we came to the target, the worst the weather became.  So much so I swear the commander should have aborted.  But I guess that all of Romania was socked in so we would not have found a better target to bomb.  Consequently we have no idea where our bombs landed so we believe none of them hit the target.

 

The trip home was a different story from the trip in.  We were attacked all the way home.  It was a continuous fight with the Butcherbirds. They managed to kill the boys up front and continue to damage the oxygen system till they finally knocked it out about 300 miles from home, causing us to drop out-of-formation and below 10,000 ft.  Luckily the Luftwaffe boys must have been low on fuel as they thinned out the closer we came to Italy, this as well our P-38 boys, kept the Germans at bay.  Pumphrey and Stiffler teamed up to destroy our second Kraut of the day.

 

Landing was good but the loss of 2nd Lt. Carlos Helms and 2nd Lt. Ronald Dunham took a toll on the crew.

 

- Lt. L. Zurn, USAAF, Pilot, B-17-50-BO 43-9007 (Ice Queen), 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


WENTZVILLE WIZ, Third flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned without damage or casualties.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 by 2nd Lt. Phillips.

 

Mission Narrative:

As we left the briefing, I was wondering why we were going up 'there' again!  Geez, and bad weather to boot!  What the hell are they thinking!!???  At least, we have the 52nd helping us on the way in . . . maybe a few of us will live to tell our story.  The missions up there have just been too costly for my thinking.
 

We were pretty tense as we climbed over the mountains going into the interior when we got jumped by 2 Me-109s . . . the 52nd got rid of one of them, but the other came screaming at us from 1:30 high . . . he missed us, but I was concerned about our shooting again.  Man, we need more practice . . . can’t hit the broadside of a barn!

 

The clouds were as thick as pea soup when we got to the target . . . not sure what the 'higher ups' are thinking sending us all the way up here . . . just to ride over the target without a chance of seeing the damn target . . . fighters pounced on us, but our fellas in the other bombers kept them from getting to us.  Man, sure am glad we are flying with these vets; The Doll saved our bacon again.

 

Flak was all around us, but we didn’t get a scratch going in . . . then the bombardier came on the intercom and said he could see a thing! Told Al to do the best he could . . . but he still companied that there was nothing he could do! Damn cloud cover . . .

 

We got pounced-on by 2 waves of fighters on the way out . . . again, The Doll kept them away from us, but the 2nd wave of 4 FWs got into our area.  One of them was driven off by the P-38s, and for once our gunnery was better . . . Big Al got one smack in the engine and she "blew" real good.  Frank Templeton (the new guy) got a piece of another that came in on our 10:30 high . . . and he missed us.  The 3rd one roared-in from 3 o’clock high and clean missed us, too . . . as Dean (top turret) was spraying bullets everywhere.  Shucks, I don’t care what he does as long as those damn Jerries don’t get a piece of us.

 

The rest of the trip was uneventful . . . not a scratch on the bird this trip.  But why did they send us on this one . . . I’ll never understand.

 

- 1st Lt. Thomas Hood, Pilot, Wentzville Wiz, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


399th BS (MIDDLE)

LAURALEE II, Third flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with the port waist heating system and port flaps inoperable, damage to the tail wheel damaged, numerous superficial hits to wings and fuselage, 1 casualty and 1 case of frostbite.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Capt. Pipes.

 

Mission Narrative:

We took off from base and formed on Wentzville Wiz from the 316th acting as the third element of that squadron.  The early part of the mission was uneventful; we were not attacked until we were nearly out of Yugoslavia, when a lone 190 dove down on us from above.  He was driven off by our fighters, and seen to be trailing smoke.

 

As predicted, the weather got progressively worse over Rumania, which perhaps contributed to the comparatively light resistance from the Luftwaffe.  We took only minor damage from enemy fighters, and Captain Pipes got one with the chin turret.  The weather did nothing to weaken the Ploesti flak; we took a hit to the waist section that knocked Sgt. Davies’ heat out.  Rather than endanger the rest of the crew, I decided to remain in formation.  We dropped our bombs through the thick overcast when we saw the signal from the pathfinders, but I don’t think we hit much of anything.

 

German fighters harried us most of the way home, but our fighter cover was good.  Though we saw many enemy a/c attacking other bombers in the formation, we ourselves were not hit.  Then over Yugoslavia three 190s came at us.  It was at this point that Lt. Renner was wounded.  I am told he will recover, and will be sent back to the States.  We also took damage to our tail wheel, which caused me to land the ship as gently as possible at base.

 

Not sure if it was worth it--the Pathfinders weren’t much help.

 

- Capt. Shaun Hill, Pilot, Lauralee II, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


THUNDER CHIEF, Third flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Runway abort.  Did not form up and take part in mission - engine failure prior to take off.


317th BS (HIGH)

AC#43-8987, First flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with starboard flaps, heating system for the bombardier, oxygen system for all crew inoperable, damage to the rudder, superficial damage to both wings, to the fuselage, nose, bomb bay, tail and pilots compartments and 1 light casualty.

 

Mission Narrative:

Halfway through Yugoslavia, west of Nis (zone-4) - One wave of three (3) Me-109s approached from head-on and all were chased away by fighters from the 52nd Fighter Group.

 

Over southern Romania (zone-6) - One (1) Me-109 tried to attack from 12 high but this fighter was chased away again by fighters from the 52nd Fighter Group.

 

Approaching target (zone-8) - Two (2) waves of fighters attacked the bomber.  The first wave consisted of two (2) Me-109s coming in from head-on and one (1) Me-110 from 6 low.  Two of the fighters were chased away by fighters from the 52nd Fighter Group.  The remaining fighter from 12 high was able to hit the bomber twice: once in the fuselage and once in the nose.  The hit to the nose caused a slight wound to 2nd Lt. Ishida.  The plane tired to make another pass from the port side but fighters from the 52nd Fighter Group were able to chase it away before it was able to attack.  The second wave came in from behind, but the bogies were chased away by machine gun fire from the bomber group before they were able to attack.

 

Over target (zone-8) - Encountered some flak over the target but didn’t get hit.  Because of heavy cloud cover we were not able to hit the target.

 

Leaving target (zone-8) - Encountered one (1) wave of fighters consisting of three (3) Fw-190s coming in high from 12, 1:30 and 3. The one coming in from 1:30 missed the bomber and didn’t come back.  The one coming in from 12 o’clock was able to hit the plane once in the bomb bay area causing superficial damage to the bomb bay area.  The one coming in from 3 o’clock did a walking hit on both wings.  The hit to the starboard wing caused damage to the wing flap making it inoperable.  The second caused superficial damage to the starboard wing.  The hits to the port wing were superficial in nature.

 

The fighters attacked; one came in at 1:30 level missed the bomber and didn’t return.  The other one came in from 12 high hit the bomber once in the tail causing damage to the rudder.  But the fighter was damaged by the tail gunner manned by Sgt. Ito and didn’t return.

 

Over southern Romania (zone-6) - One (1) wave of ME-109s attacked the bomber.  One fighter from 1:30 high was chased away by fighters from the 1st Fighter Group.  The one coming in from 12 level hit the bomber once in the tail causing superficial damage.  The Me-109 returned at 10:30 level and it missed the bomber and didn't return.

 

Over Yugoslavia, west of Nis (zone-4) - Bogies were spotted coming in from 10:30 level but didn’t attack the bomber formation.

 

Leaving Yugoslavia (zone-3) - One (1) Me-109 did a vertical dive attack on the bomber and it hit the bomber once in the tail causing superficial damage.  This fighter returned attacking from 10:30 level it was able to hit the plane twice, once in the nose, and once in the pilots' compartment.  The hit to the nose knocked out the heating unit for the bombardier.  The hit to the pilots’ compartment knocked out the whole oxygen system for the plane.  The Me-109 again was able to attack the bomber coming in from 12 level and this time it missed the bomber and didn’t return.

 

Over the Adriatic (zone-2), left formation to 10,000 feet.  Landed at our airfield without any problem.

 

- Capt. Mickey Akiyama, Pilot, AC#43-8987, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


EAGLE ONE, First flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 50%.  Returned with port main landing gear brakes, port elevator, port waist, prop feathering controls, the nose compartment heating system inoperable, superficial damage to the #2 engine, to the port wing, to the nose, pilots compartment, bomb bay, radio, waist and tail compartments (80 damage points), and no casualties.  Claims: 2 Fw-190 by SSgt. Hobbs.

 

Mission Narrative:

A very strange mission.  Outbound we ran into several waves of Jerries . . . but all were driven off by friendly cover or the formation.  We made it to the target zone untouched but then things started to happen quickly.  We were jumped by 3 waves of fighters.  My boys managed to damage a 190 and shoot down another . . . while all the other enemy fighters did was put a bunch of holes in The Eagle . . . but nothing serious.

 

Then we started taking flak hits . . . which was weird because you can usually see it coming up . . . but with the weather we didn’t see it . . . only felt it.  It managed to knock out our port landing gear brake and port elevator.

 

Once past the flak . . . Lt. McCoy got us lined up and despite the weather and getting knocked around by flak . . . he estimates we hit the target with around half our bomb load.  That guy is in a different world.

 

Anyway . . . we turn for home and a couple of fighters show up.  One of them didn’t make it home as our tail gunner knocked down a 110 and the port gunner damaged a 190 for good measure.  From that point on we didn’t see another fighter until about the time we reached the coast.  A single 190 made a pass at us and stitched us from front to back.  It knocked out the prop feathering controls, port waist gun, and the nose compartment heating system.  As the guy turned around for another pass . . . well it was his last one as our engineer sent him spiraling down trailing thick black smoke.

 

Although the guys up front were getting cold . . . we were close enough to home that they were going to be okay with us staying with the formation . . . and we touched down without incident.  Bombs on Target.  No casualties.  Some Jerries who are out of the war.  We’ll take this kind of mission anytime.

 

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


INDISCREET, First flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Aborted mission (zone-4) and returned alone to base.  Landed safely with #4 engine feathered, superficial damage to the port flaps and fuselage, and no casualties.

 

Mission Narrative:

The mission began quietly.  As we entered Yugoslavia spotted enemy fighters attacking the formation but managed to avoid contact.  As we continued deeper into Yugoslavia we were attacked by a pair of 109s.  The enemy a/c attacked us high from our 12:00 and 1:30 positions so we had limited defensive fire available and scored no hits.  The 12:00 a/c scored no hits.  The 1:30 /ac scored only one hit on our a/c but it was directly on our #4 engine.  The engine ran away.  We were unable to get it under control and had to shut it down and feather the prop. We immediately began to loose our position in the formation.

 

I discussed the situation with Michaels.  We were roughly half way to the target, would be alone the rest of the way to the target and back. Even with the weather helping us we calculated our chances of making a successful bomb run on the target, much less survival, were virtually non-existent.  Michaels and I agreed that the best course of action would be to abort the mission, save our a/c and have another go at it another day.  We advised Iceberg Leader of our situation, reversed course and headed back to base.

 

As we were headed away from the formation a 109 attacked us, scoring a minor hit on our port flap.  As we approached the coast of Yugoslavia when we were set upon by more 109s.  Fortunately, a group of friendly fighters nearby came to our aid and drove off two of the a/c.  They attacked us low from the 12:00 and 10:30 positions with the a/c at the 10:30 low scoring only a superficial hit.

 

Once we were over the Adriatic we jettisoned our load and continued back to base.  The landing was uneventful.

 

- 2nd Lt. Shaun Parker, Pilot, Indiscreet, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


FARMER'S DAUGHTER, Second flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned structural damage to both wings, damage to the co-pilot’s oxygen supply, superficial damage to the port wing (31 Peckham points) and no casualties.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 and 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Edward Uilk; 1 Fw-190 by 2nd Lt. DeBlonk

 

Mission Narrative:

The briefing reveled today's target: Ploesti.  Here we are, a new crew, just in from the States, and our first mission is over one of the most contested targets in this theater of operations.  No milk runs to get acclimated to real combat conditions for us!  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 20,000 feet to San Marcos to rendezvous with the 301st and the 463rd BG.

 

We encountered only sporadic resistance from the Germans and all enemy aircraft were quickly driven off by formation fire from other ships or by "little friends".  This all changed as we entered the target zone.  An Me-109 came at us in a vertical dive.  Both our top turret and radio gunners missed.  The e/a also missed and gave up his attack.  We were then attacked by three Fw-190s.  One came at us from 12 o’clock high and was shot down by 2nd Lt. Bob DeBlonk from the chin turret.  The second came at us from 3 o’clock high and was shot down by Sgt. Ed Uilk from the starboard waist gun position.  The third came at us from the 1:30 high position but our top turret and starboard cheek guns missed.  The enemy fighter also missed, and seeing what happened to his buddies, hightailed it out of there.

 

Flak over the target was not too heavy, but unfortunately was accurate.  We took one hit to the port wing root which was enough of a jolt to throw our aim off and our bombs did not hit the target.

 

After turning for home, we were attacked by two Me-109s and one Me-110.  The 110 came at us from 10:30 low and was fired upon by the ball turret which missed.  The fighter also missed.  One of the 109s came at us from 10:30 level was fired upon by the port cheek gun which missed.  The German returned fire and damaged the starboard wing root and the co-pilot’s oxygen supply.  He then came at us from 12 o'clock high where he was fired on by the top turret guns which missed.  The fighter also missed.  The second 109 approached from 12 o'clock level and was fired on by the top and chin turrets which both missed.  Return fire from the Kraut did some superficial damage to the port wing.  He then came at us from 12 o’clock level where the chin guns again fired at him but missed.  The German also missed.  Our tail gunner fired at the enemy aircraft as a passing shot and did some damage to the fleeing enemy, but we did not see him go down.

 

As we were about to cross into Yugoslavia, we were attacked by two Me-109s.  One was driven off by friendly fighters.  The other got thru our fighter cover and came at us from 1:30 high.  Our starboard waist gunner got a good bead on him and shot him down with a couple sustained bursts.

 

We encountered no further enemy aircraft and landed safely at Sterparone Field.

 

- 1st Lt. Eugene Larsen, Pilot, Farmer's Daughter, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


SQUAWKIN CHICKEN 2, Second flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with navigational equipment and port check MG out, heating systems to the ball turret and tail compartment heating system inoperable, damage to the flight engineers oxygen system, structural damage to port wing root, superficial damage to the port wing, starboard aileron, to the port tail plane, to the nose, pilots compartment, bomb bay, radio, waist and tail compartments, 2  casualties and 2 cases of frostbite.  Claims: 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Zelazoski; 1 Fw-190 by 2nd Lt. Burcham; and 1 Me-109 by TSgt. Perrone.
 

Mission Narrative:

As this was our first opportunity as a crew to make it into this ruckus and test our newly-acquired skills in a B-17G, we were chompin’ at the bit to get off after the mission briefing.  1st Lieutenant Bennett led us in a prayer before we took off.  Asking God to bring us all back alive. That prayer musta’ used full throttle to get to God, because it is, I believe the reason there are no numbers ticked in the KIA column for our crew.  Trouble started as we crossed the Adriatic into Yugoslavia, where we encountered three Me-109s, closing in on us like they carried a torch for us.  The Mustangs of the 52nd FG took out the Krauts coming at us from 9 and 3 high, but that left us with one at 12 high.  We were rattled, this being the first we run into somebody who wanted us dead so bad.  That last guy was surely a Devil in baggy pants.  He let loose a burst that nearly took Lt. Bennett to his maker.  Seein’ the Lt. slumped over like that and us so far to fly, I had a choice to make--go back home and try again tomorrow or believe that prayer meant something.  I crossed myself and stayed in formation, keeping Brod off our port wing.  Before I knew it that Devil was back, this time coming at us in a vertical dive.  Applesauce!  I had counted on the fighters to chase him off.  Both gunners missed him, but the Kraut wasn't any better this time.  He broke off after firing a quick burst wide.

 

Everything was quiet until we were well over the border in Romania when two Me-110s sneaked up behind us.  Poor weather and poor fighter cover combined to leave us to deal with the Jerries.  The break in the action had been good for us--calmed some nerves.  Tail gunner Sgt. James Trumbo’s twin .50s damaged of the planes and shook that devil up enough that his burst went wide.  The other took out our starboard aileron and send a few rounds through the canvas of the wing.  He came around again, right into SSgt. Holland’s top gun.  It wasn’t enough to rattle that Kraut, though, and we were all saying prayers when the walking hits traced along our port side.  We ended up with only superficial damage, though a shell port went through waist gunner Sgt. Aufmuth’s shoulder.  He just gritted his teeth and encouraged us to keep on.  We were so close to the target, we could taste it.  We didn’t encounter any fighters over the target but we took three shell hits from ack-ack.  Only one mattered, taking out our port cheek gun.  We hadn’t had the opportunity to use it yet anyway, so if we were going to lose a gun, that was the right one.  The rest just poked holes in our port wing without doing much damage.

 

Unfortunately, the flak was enough to put us off target.  Perhaps if visibility had been better or Lt. Bennett had been in his seat we would have managed to get within 1,000 feet of our aiming point, but horse feathers, that was not to be.  We scored 0% accuracy.  I don’t know what we hit instead, but it had those devils all gung-ho to bring us down.  Before we’d gotten out of the area, two FW-190s attacked us. Our flyboys drove off one and bombardier 2nd Lt. Burcham, now with nothing to do but aim that chin gun sent the other packing and trailing heavy white smoke.  We weren’t done.  In another wave, two more FW-190s, an Me-109 and a 110.  Our buddies chased off one of the Focke-Wulfs, but the other one made it through.  Walking hits meant that our navigation equipment was inoperable--perhaps God was reminding us to stay in formation, the engineer’s oxygen supply was damaged, we got a few holes through the bomb bay and radio room, but most seriously, both ball gunner Sgt. Bernard Zelazoski and tail gunner Sgt. James Trumbo lost their suit heat.  Before he could get too cold, and to show he still had fight left in him, Sgt. Zelazoski pointed his twin guns at the 110 was rewarded with seeing a ball of flame. Finally, we had a kill to call our own!  The 109 shot wide and broke off, but the 190 came around again.  This time Lt. Burcham was ready for him and sent him streaking toward the ground.  We saw the Jerry pilot’s silks.

 

I couldn’t risk taking us out of formation with no navigation equipment.  It would kill us as likely as the frostbite that endangered Sgts. Zelazoski and Trumbo.  Both remained at their posts, determined to get us home.  As we got over Bulgaria, Tech Sgt. Mike Perrone took out a 109 that came at us in a vertical dive.  By this time it seems Sgt. Zelazoski could no longer feel his toes.  He didn’t let us know how much pain he was in.  I really admire him for his grit.  We were almost home, past Nis, when Sgt. Trumbo lost feeling in the tips of his fingers.  He gritted his teeth, and when the two 109s came at us over Mostar, he managed to damage of of them and send him racing away licking his wounds.  The other just plain missed us.  We landed the Chicken without incident, and when the doctors examined Lt. Bennett, they cleaned up the sucking chest wound and declared that he would be flying again before long.  We also expect to welcome back Sgts. Trumbo and Aufmuth before long.  We were saddened that Sgt. Zelazoski’s toes will need to be amputated in order to save his feet, but we’ve all said numerous prayers of thanks that we will all live another day to talk to our sweethearts and mothers and throw back some whiskey knowing that we've been into the fray, faced our fears and pain, and come through.  We finally deserve the wings they pinned on us.

 

- 2nd Lt. Tom Koehne, Co-Pilot, A/C 43-10501, Squawkin' Chicken 2, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


THE BRAZEN HUSSY, Second flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with top turret inoperable, superficial damage to both wings, the nose, waist and pilots compartment and 2 casualties.  Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Murphy and Sgt. Dauer.


399th BS (HIGH)

DIMESTORE GIRL, Third flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with the rafts destroyed, structural damage to port wing root and 3 casualties.  Claims: 1 Me-109 & Me-110 by 2nd Lt. Neidermeyer and 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Fischer.

 

Mission Narrative:

We didn’t hit the damn target, but we did defend ourselves a bit better than in the past!  But then again, there were lots of enemy fighters up in our neighborhood; an estimated 30 of them!

 

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


HIT 'N RUN II, Third flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with engine fire extinguishers, starboard elevator, port wing aileron, and bomb bay controls (after bomb run) inoperable, damage to port waist gunner oxygen system, structural damage to the starboard wing root and rudder, superficial damage to both wings, to the nose, bomb bay, radio, waist, tail and pilots compartments and 2 light casualties.  Claims: 2 Me-109s & 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Spencer.

 

Mission Narrative:

Smooth sailing all the way to Ploesti.  Didn’t see any enemy fighters till we entered Romanian air space.

 

We took a flak hit on the rudder before dropping our payload on the outskirts of Ploesti.  Bad weather obscured our vision, but I know none of the bombs dropped on the oil refinery.

 

Tail gunner Sean Spencer claimed his first kill, an ME-110 just after completing the bomb run.  Almost all damage sustained by the ship came
from a "walking hit" from a 109 that came at us from 12 high.  Very little of the plane was left unscathed by this attack.  A second 109 damaged the bomb bay controls.  Spencer promptly knocked both of those two birds from the sky.  Spencer and starboard waist gunner Joe Shaute, each damaged a 109 causing them to brake off their attacks after leaving Romania.

 

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


PASSIONATE WITCH, Third flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Runway abort.  Did not form up and take part in mission - tire blowout prior to take off.


318th BS (LOW)

SCREWBIRD'S GIFTS, First flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with numerous superficial damage (102 damage points) and 1 light casualty.  Claims: 1 Fw-190 apiece by 1st Lt. Brame & SSgt. Owens, 1 Me-109 apiece by MSgt. Chrisman and SSgt. Miles, and 1 Me-109 shared by SSgts. Stallard and Owens.

 

Mission Narrative:

Take off and form up was normal.  Saw a lot of activity by out little buddies but nothing came close until after we passed the IP point.  Four 190s came at us from around the clock.  The navigator and starboard waist gunner splashed two the other put a few holes in the old girl and headed elsewhere.  Next we saw a lone 109; the ball and starboard waist gunners got to split the kill on this one.

 

The FLAK was rough; wounded the tail gunner and left a few holes in the starboard wing.  Missed the target completely.

 

As we turned for home a lone 190 came as us from straight down from the clouds.  Noticed no damage.  Then a lone 109 came at us from1:30 level and again no damage was noted.

 

Didn’t seen anything else until we got almost home.  Jumped by two 109s; both tail and ball gunners damaged these guys which didn’t come back around for another pass.

 

Landing was normal.  Noted a lot of holes but no serious damage; in that regards the old gal did us proud.

 

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


RAIDEN MAIDEN, First flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 0%.  Returned with starboard flap destroyed, #3 engine feathered, nose compartment heating system inoperable, control cables damaged, structural damage to port tail root (120 Peckham points), superficial damage to the starboard wing, to the nose, pilots and tail compartment, 1 casualty and 2 cases of frostbite.  Claims: 2 Me-109s by Sgt. Decker); 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lts. Pyle and Swartzenbach.

 

Mission Narrative:

Left Italy flying through a threatening sky and successfully formed on the Low squadron behind Major Mikula in Screwbird's Gifts. Everything on plane was in operational order.  Headed over the Adriatic headed for Yugoslavia and Romania.

 

Several enemy fighters made a pass at our low squadron from dead ahead, but were driven off by the P-51s.  Just after crossing Bulgaria, we were attacked by 4 109s from 12 o’clock; 2 were driven off by fighters, and the other 2 made a pass hitting the starboard wing, knocking out the flap.  One of them broke off and the other came back in a vertical dive but made no hits on the Maiden.  Just before the IP, a flight of 109s tried to make a run, but were driven off by the formation fire.

 

Just before the target, another group of 109s tried to engage but also were driven off by the formation fire.  Over the target, we experienced both terrible weather with thick clouds and also moderate but inaccurate flak, but no hits.  Lt. Pyle had a hard time finding the target, and probably missed the target.  We turned for the return leg and experienced a warm reception from enemy fighters.  Four 109s found us in the cloud cover and attacked from 12 o’clock.  Sgt. Decker hit the one coming in low and it broke off trailing smoke; the other 3 managed to all hit the Maiden, one getting hits on the #3 engine, but Lt. Beadle managed to get the prop feathered before the oil pressure failed.  All 3 of the attackers made another pass, 2 from 12 and one from 6 o’clock.  2nd Lt. Swartenbach managed to hit one at 10:30 level and knocked it out of the sky.  The 109 from 12, managed to hit the nose and knocked out the nose compartment heater, but not before SSgt. Mathis got some hits on him.  I was unaware of this at the time and both Swartzenbach and Pyle continued to fight their guns.  We had one more attack by this group of bandits, but were not hit again.  We saw another group of 109s try to make a pass, but again the 318th tight formation and combined fire drove them off.

 

As we left Romania, more 109s tried unsuccessfully to penetrate our formation.

 

Just inside of Yugoslavia airspace, we were attacked by another 4 109s, again from dead ahead; 3 of them made gun runs and hit us, one hitting 2nd Lt. Beadle in the leg, and they also hit us again in the starboard wing, but didn’t appear to hit anything serious.  Three of them returned, 2 from 12 and 1 from 6 o’clock.  2nd Lt. Pyle managed to get his gun turret going and knocked one pretty good, causing him to catch fire and drop to the earth, the pilot bailing out.  The other bandit at 12 came in low and Sgt. Decker again flamed it before he made a pass, also going down in flames.  The 109 at 6 got a good hit on the rudder area, hitting the control cables and the tail root.  He made another unsuccessful pass before pealing off and heading back toward the southeast.

 

As we approached the Adriatic, we saw a group of bandits look u over, but were successfully run off by the formation fire.

 

As we flew over Vis, I asked Lt. Beadle how he was.  His face was flushed and SSgt. Mathis came down and gave him a shot of morphine, and bandaged up his shot up foot and lower leg.  It was only then that I found out that 2nd Lts. Pyle and Swartenbach were both hard to understand on the intercom.  I had Mathis go down and check on them, and he told me their heater was knocked out over the target and they had braved the long flight back with the sub-zero wind blowing through their compartment.  Mathis helped them both back to his compartment to warm them up, but they both were blue in the face, shivering uncontrollably and looked literally like death.

 

I started my descent knowing that I was going to have to bring the damaged Maiden in on my own.  The weather had cleared and luckily was very clear.  The tail seemed very sloppy as I brought her in.  I had TSgt. Graham fire off red flares to get the ambulances rolling, and made the landing, managing to muscle her to a stop on the hard stand. (120 Peckham points)

 

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


SILVER GHOST, First flight, Left aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Aborted mission (zone-4) due to oxygen system fire.  Returned alone with fire damage to the cockpit oxygen system, nose compartment heating system and port aileron inoperable, structural damage to the starboard wing root, superficial damage to the nose, pilots and waist compartments, and three casualties.
 

Mission Narrative:

Took off at 0700, formed up with squadron and then rendezvous with the group. Our target was once again oil refineries near Ploesti.

 

Encountered no enemy fighters until we were half way across Yugoslavia (zone-4).  Suddenly we were jumped from all directions by ME-109s. Fortunately our fighter cover was on top of things and bounced three of the four boogies.  However, the one that got through hit us hard. Sgts. Hayes and Fowler in the waist both were hit by gunfire.  Hayes was killed and Fowler was severely injured in his leg.  Fowler got the bleeding stopped but could no longer man his station.  And to add insult to injury a different group of enemy fighters (FW-190s) also attacked us.  Once again out top cover was good but not complete.  A lone 190 out-of-the-sun dove on us.  This time there was no casualties, but the gun fire severed the oxygen line to the cockpit and caused a fire.  Lt. Wilhite was able to quickly stop the fire from spreading but now the oxygen in the pilot compartment is out.  We both secured our bottled oxygen.  We had no choice but to now dive out-of-formation to below 10,000 feet.  At this time I made the decision to abort and turned for home.

 

The Krauts must of saw us drop out because they came at us with a fury and the fight would most likely have been over quickly if not for the alertness of out escorts. A pair of P-51s followed us and the enemy fighters down and engaged them.  Again one enemy fighter flew through the escort's fire and ours as well to make a pass at us before retiring. Lt. Wofford was hit by some flying debris at his station when the ME-109's gun fire damaged Lt. Smith’s heat connection.

 

Our pair of escorts stayed with us until we made the Adriatic at which point they rolled over and headed back to Yugoslavia to look for any more stragglers or targets of opportunity.  We finished the flight back to Italy and landed without incident.  Sgt. Fowler was taken to the base infirmary for his injury. Sgt. Hayes' body was removed and taken to the base morgue.

 

- 1st Lt. Mark Romero, Pilot, Silver Ghost, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


JOLLIE ROGER, Second flight, Lead aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Bombed target, 5%.  Returned with #4 engine feathered, superficial damage to the fuselage (2), to the starboard wing (1), to the waist compartment (1 - 45 damage points), and no casualties.  Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Holmes
 

Mission Narrative:

Encountered our first Jerry over Yugoslavia.  A small group made towards us, our little friends chasing one away.  The other two exchanged fire with us but neither side hit the other.

 

We saw no more enemy aircraft on our way to the target nor did any flak come near us.  Of course the enemy probably not find us in the storm front we flew into.  Not sure why group did not divert us to the secondary target.  We think we dropped our bombs somewhere in the area of Ploesti, but cannot be sure.  There was only the briefest break in the clouds to show us being over the city.

 

After we turned for home a hardy group of German pilots found us in the murk.  For the most part we just threw lead at each other with neither hitting the other.  One 109 did knock out our Engine #4, the rest of the hits were all superficial and not even discovered until we were on the ground.

 

We were successful in our attempts to feather Engine #4 and were able to stay with the formation.

 

We did see a few more fighters as we left Romanian airspace.  They did nothing to us but Sgt. Holmes got another kill.

 

With the exception of a single German pilot who made a run at us over the middle of Yugoslavia we did not see anymore enemy aircraft the rest of the trip home.

 

Landing was routine and we will be ready for the next mission.

 

- 1st Lt. Raul Smith, Pilot, Jollie Roger, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


STORM RUNNER, Second flight, Right aircraft

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Aborted mission (zone-3) due to fuel tank leak.  Returned alone and landed at base with the starboard wing outer fuel tank holed, #1 engine feathered, superficial damage to the starboard wing, to the port aileron, to the tail compartment and no casualties.

 

Mission Narrative:

Not even sure where to start . . . take off and formation was routine along with the first part of the flight until we crossed into Yugoslavia. Out of nowhere two Jerries jumped us and before we could react we got hit multiple times before they disappeared.  We had gotten hit several times in our wings and with one engine out and a fuel tank leak, I dropped out-of-formation and headed for home, knowing that we were never going to make it to Romania in our condition.

 

As we turned towards home another Jerry made a few passes at us before heading towards the other bombers.  That fighter hit us in the tail, but no major damage.

 

After we crossed over water we dropped our bombs and made a quiet landing . . . maybe next time we’ll be able to do some damage.

 

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


MAE DAY, Second flight, Left aircraft (Tail-End Charlie)

 

Mission Synopsis:

Did not bomb target.  Shot down by an Me-109 approaching target (zone-8) from runaway  #1 engine (prop was not feathered).
 

Mission Narrative:

Mae Day was last seen going down in a uncontrolled spin.  No Chutes were seen.

 

- From debriefing reports from returned crews, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)


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