MISSION 99 - PLOESTI AARs
318th BS (LEAD)
SCREWBIRD'S GIFTS, First flight, Lead aircraft (Group Leader)
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with #1 engine, the top and tail turrets
inoperable, radio destroyed, the port outboard fuel tank leaking, fire damage on
#4 engine, structural damage to both wing roots (1 each), numerous
superficial damage holes and no casualties.
Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 1st Lt. Robins and MSgt. Chisman; 1 Fw-190 by Sgt.
Mission started of rough. We got jumped 5 times before we reached the target. Our little buddies were very helpful and we had some good shooting to boot. The hit by flak caused us to completely miss the target.
On our return we got jumped 3 times all of our shooting was wasted but they were sure lucky, knocked out #1 engine and when we landed there was a massive fuel leak in port outboard tank, we also was able to extinguish a fire on #4 engine (last jumped just before reach friendly air space).
Damage reports, lost our top turret guns and tail guns, radio was destroyed, two wing roots one port and one starboard, at least 15 additional holes discovered after we landed.
- Major Mick Mikula, CO, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
STORM RUNNER, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned and crashed landed with 8 casualties.
Claims: 1 Me-109 shared by SSgt. Sloane and Sgt. Wade
Wow . . . not really sure where to start. This mission started out as a breeze but disintegrated into disaster once we were over Romania. We had a quiet flight all the way into Romania and then we were jumped by multiple fighters (zone-8 Out). Both our guns and our escorts couldn’t hit squat but we lumbered through soaking up a lot of damage, but nothing critical. We were lined up on target when the flax opened up and our bombardier, Stone, was seriously wounded, he hit the button, but we were off target and don’t think we hit anything. We stabilized stone as best we could and headed for home.
The run home was even worse than when we were over the target. We were jumped multiple times on our way back (zone 8-In, zone-6 In & zone-5 In). We took extensive damage to our port wing, but didn’t lose an engine or fuel. The enemy peppered the entire plane with hits, though we were able to destroy one over Yugoslavia (zone-5).
The landing is were everything went from bad to disaster. Our rudder was inoperable, port and rear landing gear out and aileron damaged. But with Stone unable to bail out and both Wade and Kohl injured on the flight back, I decided to land anyway. We were lined up for a good crash landing when a crosswind or something slammed into the plane and smashed it to the ground.
I hate writing letters to the next of kin.
- 2nd Lt. Paul Stinson, Pilot, Storm Runner, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
RAIDEN MAIDEN, First flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with top turret and intercom inoperable,
starboard Aileron destroyed, damage to the rudder and navigator’s oxygen system,
and 4 casualties.
Claims: 2 Me-109s by Sgt. Haverty.
Take off in lead right wing of Screwbird who was leading the group today. Everything on plane was in operational order. Headed over the Adriatic headed for Ploesti to bomb the oil fields.
Great fighter cover over the Adriatic, and we didn’t even see any bandits until nearing Bulgaria. Just as we left Yugoslavia, three 109s attacked from dead ahead, stacked high, middle and low. Fighter cover broke the formation, and the high bandit broke off, the other 2 making unsuccessful gun runs. Sgt. Decker claimed to have damaged the low fighter as he made his pass.
Just after Sofia, Bulgaria, a lone 109 came at us out the cloud ahead, knocking out the top turret in the first pass, turned and made a pass from our 3 o’clock high. Sgt. Harlan called over the intercom saying he got a piece of him, but then started screaming that he was hit in the gut, and Sgt. Hooper said the tail had some holes in it. The fighter turned and made another pass from straight level at our 12. SSgt Mathis came into the intercom saying the turret guns were shot, and called out the fighter at dead ahead. The bandit came in with his guns flashing hitting both wings, knocking out the starboard aileron, but luckily missing the tanks.
As we crossed into Romania, we again were jumped by three 109s, from 12 and 9 o’clock. Friendly fighters drove off one at 9 and the Sgt. Haverty nailed the second with a outstanding burst that caused it to explode and cover the side of the maiden with smoke and pieces of the destroyed aircraft. The third at 12 level made a pass and succeeded in hitting the Navigator’s oxygen and sending a round through my left shoulder. The persistent Nazi made 2 more unsuccessful passes before ceasing the attacks on us.
As we approached the IP, two 109s made a pass from 12 and 1:30 level. the Hun at 12 missed, but the guy at 1:30 was a pro, hitting the nose and pilots’ compartment, leaving a big hole in Lt. Pyle’s thigh and hitting me again in the right hip. SSgt. Mathis tried to pull me from the seat, but it hurt too bad for me to be pulled out of the seat, so he bandaged me as best we could. Lt. Swartenbach called up from the nose saying Lt. Pyle was bleeding badly but he was stable. Lt. Carter did an outstanding job of keeping us in formation over the target, but there was no way Lt. Pyle could drop the bombs. Lt. Swartenbach manually toggled the bombs when the rest of the squadron dropped theirs. Luckily the flak was ineffectual as we turned for home.
Immediately after clearing the flak zone we were jumped again by three 109s stacked from dead ahead. Friendly fighters chased off the high one, the middle one didn’t hit us but the one at 12 low laid a solid stream of lead and explosive cannon shells into the nose and fuselage. Sgt. Cooper called out that he got some good hits on the bandit as he passed behind the plane, making us feel a bit better about his unlikely return. Both Lts. Pyle and Swartenbach were hit by the Hun shells, killing Cliff and seriously wounding Frank in the neck. SSgt. Harlan crawled into the bloody and holey nose section, again bandaging the bleeding Lt. Swartenbach and checking Lt. Pyle for any signs of life. Not finding any, he manned the nose guns and called up that he was staying in the nose.
We received a lot of attention again after flying near Sofia, but the fighter cover effectively kept all but 1 of the bandits at bay. The Nazi at 3 high started making his gun run when Sgt. Haverty moved over to Joe Harlan’s guns and again succeeded in hitting the 109, which Jim Decker in the ball turret confirmed as he watched the 109 pilot bail out of his flaming plane as it dived to the ground. Shortly after we started feeling like we would make it back, we were again attacked by two 109s from 12 and 1:30 high. One made an unsuccessful pass, but the bandit at 1:30 high made some hits in the radio room, knocking out the intercom.
We had very good friendly fighter cover the rest of the way through Yugoslavia, and over the Adriatic. SSgt. Mathis moved out of the nose and back to the cockpit, and managed to lift me out of the left seat, putting me on the floor of the engineers station. He then climbed into my seat, intent on trying to help Phil Carter land the crate.
As we approached the field, TSgt. Gilbert fired red star clusters, Mathis and Carter did a great job of bringing her in, with Lt. Carter, despite shrapnel wounds to his left side, calling commands and Mathis helping control the landing. As we slowed and pulled off the runway, I heard the ambulance sirens but couldn’t stay awake any longer, and passed out.
I write this from the infirmary and would like to recognize both SSgt Mathis and LT Carter for their outstanding effort, landing the plane, getting their injured crew back despite Lt. Carter’s wounds, and SSgt. Mathis’ incredible determination and commitment to the crew. I recommend Air Medals for both.
- 1st Lt. Mark Mathis, Pilot, Storm Runner, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
JOLLIE ROGER, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with the port landing gear, top turret, flap
controls, port waist heating system inoperable, the radio and the port waist MG
destroyed, cockpit windows shattered, damage to the tail compartment oxygen
system (1 hit), superficial damage to both wings (1 hit each), to
the fuselage (4 hits), to the nose (3 hits), bomb bay (3 hits),
radio (2 hits), waist (2 hits), tail (2 hits), and to the
pilots’ compartments (4 hits) and 3 casualties (265 damage points).
Claims: 1 Me-109 and 1 Me-110 by SSgt. Fitzgerald; 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Bauer
Take off was uneventful and travel to Romania quiet.
As the group lined up for the bomb run a group of five 190s emerged from the cloud cover. It was not a surprise that they easily evaded our fighter escort. Almost immediately we lost our radio, the port gun in the waist and Sgt. Havens in the tail was nicked. Putting up our defensive fire we were able to drive off 3 of the fighters damaging a couple of them. Another 190 came at us and stitched us up pretty good. We took some minor damage and lost our top turret guns. TSgt. Locke took some personal damage in the radio compartment but was only scratched a bit, nothing serious. This last 190 came around again, evading all of our fire. He hit Lt. Finch square in the chest and knocked him back against the cabin bulkhead. He was unresponsive and we thought we had lost him. Finally, he stirred and after a quick check determined that hitting the bulkhead had knocked him out. His flight suit and flak jacket are torn a bit but other than large bullet as a souvenir came away with nothing else. He was very Lucky.
The bomb run itself was pretty easy and no flak bothered us. Getting a glimpse of the target through the clouds was tough and we may have actually hit the target.
Turning for home we were charged by a single 190. His first pass smashed Sgt. Locke’s hand wounding him for the second time on this mission. He also did some minor damage to the tail and pilot compartment. We were amazed at the tight turn the 190 took as he came at us again. His turn was so fast that we did not react fast enough to put any accurate fire on him. This pass left holes all over the place and made landing quite challenging. The flap controls were damaged and made inoperable. We discovered more damage but will get to that later. Lt. Finch got hit for real this time but it was only a bullet through the calf. We stopped the bleeding and he should be okay. A passing shot by Sgt. Havens in the tail did enough damage to the 190 that he did not come back at us.
A schwarm of 109 made for us a few minutes after the 190 left. We knocked them around a bit and they did some minor damage to us. The most serious damage we took was to Sgt. Brier’s heat suit. We went ahead and moved the Sgt. into the nose compartment so that we could stay in formation. Sgt. Brier’s gun had been knocked out earlier and he wasn't doing anything in the waist anyway. It made it a little crowed in the nose but they got by.
We were left alone the rest of the mission home and were able to stay in formation.
It wasn’t until we were lining up for our landing approach that we figured out something was wrong with the port landing gear. It would not come down!! We gathered the crew in the nose and pilots’ compartments and went in. It was rough but the old bird stayed together and we got down with only a few bumps and bruises. Our crew chief was not happy at the condition of his plane. But as he was walking around the old girl, I heard him comment that he should be able to get her ready for the next mission. I am not sure how he is going to do it, he must have a lot of wishes to trade in.
- Capt. Dodge, Pilot, Jo;;ie Roger, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
LUCKY BUCK, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with the intercom inoperable, superficial
damage to fuselage and 3 light casualties.
We only had one major attack on the way to the target (zone-6). Two 190s missed on their attack. The third 190 wounded 2nd Lt. Overturf, Sgt. Peterman and Sgt. Wilson with light wounds, also received several superficial fuselage hits.
The bomb run was on target with 20% in the target area.
We did not receive any attacks on the way back to base. Landing back at the base was uneventful.
- 2nd Lt. Stanley Clemons, Pilot, Lucky Buck, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SILVER GHOST, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with the tail turret, radio, starboard aileron
inoperable, damage to the control cable linkage, superficial damage to fuselage
(2 hits) and no casualties. Claims: 2 Me-109 by SSgt. Dawson
No enemy resistance encountered until Lt. Wofford informed me we were in Romania. Then the Luftwaffe took an interest in our incursion. They harassed the squadron all the way to the target and back until we left Romanian airspace. Sgt. Boyd reported early on that the tail guns had been put out of action by an Me-110 sneaking up from 6 o’clock low. He reported he was okay, but that he had nothing more than cuss words to throw at the Jerry pilots. He continued to man his post being another pair of eyes for our remaining gunners. Prior to the Initial Point TSgt. Petrillo reported that the radio had been damaged by enemy fire.
As we turned for the target, flak began to appear. The concentration was light, no doubt it would be heavier for the trailing groups as the flak gunners could adjust their patterns by bracketing their barrages. One burst near the port wing caused some damage, SSgt. Dawson reported some holes and bits of sheet metal flapping. Lt. Smith reported bombs away and we turned with the squadron to the rally point. More German resistance until we cleared Romania. SSgt. Dawson is claiming two Me-109s shot down in the running battle. Other positions are reporting inflicting some damage to enemy aircraft but no claims of shooting down anything. Once the attacks stopped all positions checked in and we had no casualties.
The flight over Yugoslavia and the Adriatic went smoothly. We touched down safely, disembarked and reported to debriefing.
- 2nd Lt. Mark Romero, Pilot, Silver Ghost, AC# 43-10490, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
PALE RIDER, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with superficial damage to the bomb bay compartment and no casualties.
It was a fairly quiet mission for the boys. There was a wave of fighters
over Yugoslavia that were driven off by the rest of the
formation, and another driven off by the fighter cover as we approached Ploesti.
The flak was ineffective, but due to the weather our drop was off target.
On the way back out of Ploesti we were jumped by a 190. The top turret managed to score a hit, but he kept driving home his attack. Fortunately there was only some superficial damage to the empty bomb bay.
The rest of the flight was smooth sailing back to base. A nice, easy ride to get the boys back in the swing of things after their tragic last mission.
- 1st Lt. Mark Fowler, Pilot, Indiscreet, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
317th BS (MIDDLE)
INDISCREET, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with the port aileron inoperable, superficial damage to both wings (3 hits on starboard, 1 on port), and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Roberts.
Take off was routine. The aircraft seems a bit sluggish today. Is this a bad omen?
After joining up with the group and we head out over the Adriatic. We cross the Adriatic and over the coast into Yugoslavia. there aren’t any Germans waiting to greet us as we enter Yugoslavia. We continue on deeper into Yugoslavia. As we approach the heart of Yugoslavia, we still have not seen any German fighters. Michaels and I both agree this is a bad omen.
Approaching Romania we finally encounter the Krauts. Three 109s come in to attack us. Escort fighters drive one off before he gets close enough to fire any serious shots at us, but the other two get through, one from 10:30 high, the other from 1:30 high. The Mustangs must have thrown the German’s aim off as they don’t get any hits on us. Hardwick was a but busy during the attack, first working the port side guns, then the starboard. His shots were so wildly off target, though, he might have been better off just concentrating on one of the incoming fighters. However, the attack has broken the tension of waiting for action, so the crew seems a bit more relaxed. Smyth starts telling jokes. After a few minutes everyone is chiming in. I let it go on for a few minutes, until everyone has had a chance to blow off some steam, then I tell everyone to pipe down, get their minds back on their jobs and pay attention to the skies for enemy fighters.
We encounter no more fighters until we are nearly over the target. I guess the Germans are trying to conserve their resources. As we get ready for our bomb run we get bounced again. This time it is three 190s. Fighter cover isn’t much help but we get through it with only a superficial hit on the starboard wing. Our run is good: On target with 40% accuracy. Good show, Lewis.
Were the Germans waiting to see who got the most hits on the target? As we turn to head home we are suddenly swarmed by four 109s. Fighter cover drives off one, but one walks his shots along our wings. He knocks out our port aileron. The crew chief is going to have some choice words for us because we let the Germans put holes in “his” plane. But Roberts got a kill so I think it will be worth it, if we don’t get hit more than this.
The Krauts aren’t giving up yet. They are still coming. We make it through an attack by the Germans without any of them coming close to us, thanks to the gunners on other a/c in the formation. I guess we’re gonna owe them all a round at the club tonight.
We continue toward the Romanian/Yugoslav border. No more fighters. The crew starts to joke a bit. I remind them we are still in hostile territory. They quite down a bit but not completely. I think we are probably going to be okay so I’m don’t push it. Into Yugoslavia, through Yugoslavia to the coast. We cross the coast and leave Yugoslavia behind us. I can almost tat the cold beer and hot steak.
We land and climb out of the plane. Here comes the crew chief. I’m in for it now.
- 2nd Lt. Shaun Parker, Pilot, Indiscreet, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SQUAWKIN' CHICKEN 2, Third flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with a cockpit window shattered, superficial damage to the nose, waist and pilots’ compartments, and 1 light casualty. Claims: 1 Fw-190 & 1 Me-109 by 2nd Lt. Burcham and 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Gale.
The mission ran smooth as a baby’s bottom as we flew is a big backwards C across Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Rumania . . . clear through the bomb run. No ack-ack got near us, and we think put a good number of our bombs down on that damnable refinery. That black smoke rising through the heavy cloud cover had our spirits soaring until we got near Bucharest, where we found ourselves facing four 109s, comin’ down on us with a vengeance from on high, and us with no Lightning for muscle. Seems them devils took that mess on the ground in Ploesti personally. The fellas on our port side couldn’t get a good shot as a result of the poor weather and flat out missed everything. Sgt. Gale had a better view, though, and took down one of ’em 109s. We was really impressed with Lt. Burcham. He went straight from his bomb sights to his gun sights without a blink and poked so many holes in the Kraut comin’ at us from 12 level that all the rest of us noticed was a darker smudge agin’ the clouds. There were still a coupla devils left, though. We got off light with them airing out the pilots’ compartment just a bit and mussin’ up our fine nose job. That crafty fellow came around again, and nobody could seem to range him in. This time, he grazed my window and when Sgt. Gale swung around to check on the damage, he opened up his shoulder wound again. The Kraut tried to give us more trouble, but this time his aim was as bad as ours, and he broke off.
We thought the rough stuff was over, but the wind and rain kept us bucking, all the while a pack of five FW-190s come runnin’ at us. This time our little friends showed up to chase off the two coming in at 12 and 6 high. Our port gunners were still shooting like they were drinkin’ Coca-Colas and chatting up the dames, but Lt. Burcham came through again and took out a 109 by himself. The others musta realized that he was blazing mad and ready to do more damage. When their shots were off target, they broke off with their tails between their legs.
We crossed the border flying toward Sofia and were reassured that our boys felt bad about leaving us all alone near Ploesti--they took an aggressive stance and didn't let anyone else through, except for the few fighters that my buddies in the 316th scattered.
We landed safely back at base and sent Sgt. Gale off to the medic to get bandaged up again. He says a sore shoulder is a small price to pay for the chance to take down the krauts a few pegs.
- 2nd Lt. Tom Koehne, Co-Pilot, Squawkin' Chicken 2, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
316th BS (HIGH)
GINGER SNAP, First flight, Lead aircraft
Did not bomb target. Aborted mission (zone-3) and returned alone to base with the port Inboard fuel tank holed and leaking, radio destroyed and no casualties. Claims: 2 Me-109s by 1st Lt. McClain, 1 Me-109 shared by Sgts. Sikorsky and Hamilton.
We had just passed into Yugoslavian airspace when we were jumped by 3 ME-109s. The Mustangs chased off one of the Krauts, but the other two bore in on us. Lt. McClain nailed one coming from 12 o’clock with his chin turret, but his wingman dove on us from above before our other gunners could react. The 109 then pulled out of his dive and lined up for another pass on our port side. Both the top and bottom turrets claimed the destruction of this fighter before it could close to firing range.
Shortly after this action, Sgt. Clellan reported that the radio had been destroyed, and the port waist gunner (Sgt. Westcott) called in to say he could see fuel streaming from our port wing. At this point I made the decision to abort the mission, as I did not think we would have enough fuel to reach the target and return.
Unable to radio in my intentions, we entered a gentle diving turn to leave the formation and head back to base. Almost as soon as we had cleared our formation we were set upon by a flight of four 109s. The Mustangs drove off two of them before they could close on us and fire; the other two made a head on pass at our ship. Lt. McClain exploded one from his chin turret, causing his wingman to veer off his line of attack. The Mustangs then jumped him before he could line up on us again.
Lt. McClain jettisoned our bomb load into the Adriatic. As we over flew the landing strip, we wrapped a message around a medical kit stating that our radio was out and that we were leaking fuel. When I saw the fire trucks moving into position I held my breath and brought Ginger Snap down. Thankfully, our luck held and the fire trucks were not needed.
- Capt. George Snakenburg, Pilot, Ginger Snap, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
NO WORRIES, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with Norden bombsight destroyed, superficial damage to the nose and waist compartment and 1 casualty.
Ploesti a year ago was a hard target, but not so now. It has been ground down to such an extent that it is just another target, well as far as that goes. Even the milk runs can kill you if your luck is out. So we saddled up, queued up and flew up where we joined up and then went up against Ploesti and whatever it would throw at us. The post briefing nerves settling down as we went through the routine of doing our job.
The enemy were around all the time we were flying to the target, our little friends did a great job at keeping them away, well apart from the one that dove past us spitting cannon shells. Guess we can forgive our little friends that one as even we didn’t spot him until he had gone by. By the time we were getting to the target the resistance was stiffening. We damaged a couple of 109s but not before one of them had plugged the Norden. Our most secret weapon had become a pile of trash. On the final run in to the IP the enemy fighters were coming thick and fast we damaged some more 109s and a 110 then it all went quiet and the flak came up. Fortunately it turned out to be thin and inaccurate and served us well by keeping their fighters off us without doing any damage. We did our best dropping when lead dropped but there was no way we hit the target.
Then out the other side into the maelstrom. Steve, Sgt. Green the starboard waist gunner, got creased by a bullet but it was just a scratch. After that the only enemy fighters we say were the ones being chased by our P-38s.
Made it home with no further action and landed safely.
- 2nd Lt. George Parker, Pilot, No Worries, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SLEDGEHAMMER II, First flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with starboard wing fuel tanks holed (self-sealed), damage to the starboard flaps, the waist compartment and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Bf-109 by SSgt. Parsons.
Mission #99 started off with the crew in an angry mood . . . it just seemed unfair they should have to fly again so soon after the harrowing previous mission. But being the professionals that they are, they took to the skies again.
SLEDGEHAMMER II’s crew fought off four enemy waves prior to reaching the target, and five waves after. Despite such constant contact, thankfully almost all enemy were driven off by the excellent fighter escort. One scary moment came when the starboard wing’s fuel tanks were stitched by machinegun fire but the tanks sealed. The flap was also damaged. The enemy FW was damaged by Alan Parsons’ return fire and driven off. At the designated oil facility, "multiple direct hits" were observed by the ball gunner. The flak was ineffective, surprising for an oil facility.
En route home, we got the news about No Fear getting hit, which shook several members of the crew badly. The crew of No Fear was well liked back in the barracks and will be missed. Alan Parsons added another Bf-109 to his kill list but not before it seriously wounded the port waist gunner, Jackson Browne, who was hit in the thigh with a large caliber machinegun slug. The starboard waist gunner told him to, “Hold On,” as he bandaged the wound.
Landing was uneventful as the plane was about as lightly damaged as you can get on such a long mission with so many enemy in the area, and the crew was thankful for that.
- 1st Lt. Rick Springfield, Pilot, Sledgehammer II, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
ICE QUEEN, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 75%. Returned with tail compartment heating system inoperable, port flap shot away, inboard port fuel tank leaking, both wing roots slightly damaged, 67% damage to the rudder root (214 damage points) and 1 case of frostbite. Claims: 1 Fw-190 apiece by 1st Lt. Flynn and SSgt. Pumphrey, 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Stiffler, 1 Fw-190 shared by SSgt. Pumphrey and Sgt. Quigley.
Mission was quiet ’till we approached the target. Anything that approached was driven off by our little friends, or our gunners downed them. We did take some fire from our own boys when they tracked a Me-109 flying under us. I think it came from Hood’s crew. That is what took out Billy’s heat in back. He will be fine. Doc said the frostbite was minor.
Though there was heavy cloud cover over the target area, Flynn was able to find a crease to place the eggs. Sgts. Holst and Nissen both observed multiple strikes on the oil storage facility. We estimate at minimum 75% struck home.
At the rally point the group formed up beautiful and we tucked in to a nice tight formation (Random Event 6). This was not enough to keep those determined Jerries away. The rest of the trip was quiet. We still had to fight our way home. With good shooting and our little friends we made it home.
Just before we made it to the Adriatic Sea, a Fw-190 punctured our port inboard fuel cell. Though it was leaking we were close enough to base that it didn’t put us to any jeopardy of getting home.
- 1st Lt. L. Zurn, USAAF, Pilot, Ice Queen, B-17-50-BO 3-9007, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SATIN DOLL, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with superficial damage to the bomb bay, waist, and pilots’ compartments and no casualties. Claims: 2 Fw-190s by Sgt. Myers, 1 Fw-190 and 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Charles
A long but fairly quiet run to Ploesti for the Doll. First encounter with the Luftwaffe we had ended with SSgt Charles plastering a 190 in a vertical dive right after we crossed into Romania.
Things quieted down again until we were nearing the IP. A trio of FW-190s broke on us from a cloudbank. The first 190 swung in from 12 high, flying through the hail of lead from the nose and top turret guns unscathed. Fortunately, his shooting wasn’t any better and he kept right on going. Sgt. Myers knocked one at 3 level out of the fight with the ball turret guns. Even though while his wingman at 3 high was nicked by Sgt. Tibbs waist gun, he managed to score a couple of hits in the cockpit wall. He swung around and made another run from three high again. Both SSgt. Charles and Sgt. Tibbs shot wide and the Jerry sent shell fragments rattling around the bomb bay and waist. He made one more pass, from 1:30 level, and was met with a chased off by Lt. White on the starboard cheek gun.
Flak over the target was light and not very accurate, allowing Lt. Douglas to put 40% of the load into the tank farm of the refinery complex. Rallying off target, a trio of Me-109s lead by an FW-190 formed up for a frontal attack. The Fork-Tailed Angels of the 1st FG scratched two from the contest, while SSgt. Charles and Sgt. Myers both dispatched the remaining A/C at 12 high & low.
That was the last of the E/A that got close until shortly after crossing into Yugoslavia. The group of Huns that was forming in front of us, took one look at the tight formation and close fighter cover, and decided to take their business elsewhere.
Rest of the flight was uneventful and we landed back home safely.
- 1st Lt. Michael P. Davis, Pilot, Satin Doll, AC# 42-11806, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
WENTZVILLE WIZ, Second flight, Right aircraft
Did not bomb target. Shot down by enemy fighters over central Yugoslavia (zone-4); 3 KIA, 7 POWs.
Got off to a pretty rocky start when we got hit in east of Mostar (zone-3) just after we got formed up. Luckily they gave up on the 2nd pass as the fighters gave them chase.
North of Nis (zone-5) was a different program. We got hit by 4 FWs that ripped us apart. While we destroyed 1 FW (Dean working his magic), the pilot & co-pilot were killed and Jones took a slight wound. The Fighters, once again, came to our aid and drove the bastards off. Only Dean’s quick movement to see if the pilot was okay when he heard all the crashin & bangin up front saved our ass. He got Lt. Hood out of the seat at the same time yelling for Jones to come up and help him get Lt. Holder out of his seat. Damn intercom must have been taken-out by one of the FWs’ passes. Phillips came up from the bombardier position to fill-in on the top turret. Didn’t take Dean too long to decide to jettison bombs and head back to base.
Over central Yugoslavia (zone-4) was not a picnic . . . we got jumped almost as soon as we wandered into Yugo land . . . 5 of then . . . 4 FWs and 1 109! We took 3 of them out with their first pass, but got a inboard fuel tank leak on the port wing that caught fire that we couldn’t put out! That was it! We were lucky the wing didn’t fall off . . . since that was the 2nd hit in the same location . . . Dean called out for us to bail . . . so Phillips went thru-out the plane to let everyone know we were jumpin.
Everyone made it out except Jones . . . counted the ’chuts . . . and after we were all collected by the Germans, realized Jones was the missing fella. Sure hope the Germans treat us better than I have been lead to believe . . .
- TSgt. Claude Mayfield, Radio Operator, Wentzville Wiz, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H) describing his last mission to fellow POWS at Luft Stalag 17B
317th BS (HIGH)
THE BRAZEN HUSSY, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Group spare, replaced AC# 43-8987. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Murphy & Whitstock and SSgt. Tolbert.
EAGLE ONE, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with minor 3 superficial hits to both wings, to the radio compartment and no casualties. Claims: 2 Me-110s by Sgt. Rim and 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Hobbs.
With the exception of a couple of enemy fighters getting through as we approached the target zone this was another relatively quiet mission. Sgt. Rim knocked down two 110s and damaged another and SSgt. Hobbs took down a 109. Other than that . . . the formation really seemed to have it together as 3 or 4 times we heard on the radio that enemy waves were approaching but we never saw anything most of the time. Even the one fighter that got through only managed to put several holes in the Eagle . . . and those we didn’t even notice until we landed. However, it doesn’t appear that we did so well on the bomb run.
Landed safely with nobody hurt.
- 2nd Lt. Tom Decker, Pilot, Eagle One, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
FARMER'S DAUGHTER, Third flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with bomb controls
inoperable, radio out, fire damage to the #4 engine, structural damage to the
port wing root (1 hit), the outboard port fuel tank (self-sealed),
damage to the tail compartment oxygen system, numerous superficial hits (94
Peckham points) and 2 casualties. Claims:
1 Fw-190 apiece by SSgt. Herrick and Sgt. Fjerstad and 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Denholm
Take off at 7AM 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 before heading to our target of today, Ploesti.
We had flown most of the way across Yugoslavia before we encountered any enemy fighters. Most were driven off by our fighters, but on pesky Me-109 got thru and came at us from 3 o’clock high. Our defensive fire missed him and he stitched our wings, causing a fire in the #4 engine among other damage. The fire was quickly extinguished and the engine was running fine so we continued the mission, keeping a close eye on #4 in case of trouble later on.
We continued on toward Romania and our fighters did a good job of keeping the Jerries off us. A few did get thru unfortunately, and when they did they seemed to do some real damage. A Fw-190 came straight in on us and hit the pilots’ compartment slightly and put a hole in the port outboard fuel tank. Thankfully the tank sealed, and what could have been a disaster was averted. Another Fw-190 hit our bomb controls and the bombs had to be released manually over the target.
As we entered the target zone, a Me-110 came at us from below. Our ball gunner got a good bead on him and shot him down. Other fighters came at us, but missed us with their offensive fire. Tail gunner Sgt. Fjerstad shot down an Fw-190 as he approached from 6 o’clock. SSgt. Herrick also shot down an Fw-190 attacking from12 o’clock. Perhaps our luck was changing! Flak over the target was light and ineffective, but because of the need to manually release our bombs, we missed the target entirely.
As we turned for home more fighters attacked us and we suffered continued damage, the worst of which was the wounding of both our waist gunners and having our radio knocked out. Sgt. Uilk’s wound was not so serious and he continued to man his gun. Sgt. Yonke however did not answer the intercom and we feared the worst. Uilk said there was blood everywhere but he thought Yonke was still alive.
The remainder of the flight home was uneventful. What fighters did appear where driven off by friendly fighters. I ordered a flare to be fired as we approached the field to indicate we have wounded aboard. The ambulance met us as soon as we landed and removed Sgt. Yonke.
Addendum: As I entered the infirmary to check on Yonke’s condition, I was met by a doctor who informed me that he had in fact died shortly after being brought in. The wound to his thigh had been quite extensive and he had lost too much blood. There was nothing anyone could have done . . .
- 1st Lt. Eugene Larson, Pilot, Farmer’s Daughter, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
399th BS (LOW)
LAURALEE II, First flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with #1 engine and the port waist suit heater system inoperable; oxygen system damage (1 hit each) to radio room and nose compartments (bombardier); fuel leaking, inboard starboard fuel tank (we got home on the fumes); structural damage to the starboard wing root (4 wing root hits) and to the rudder (1 hit); numerous superficial hits to wings and fuselage and 4 casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 & 1 Me-109 apiece by Capt. Pipes and SSgt. Snowden; 1 Fw-190 shared by Capt. Pipes and MSgt. Ross and 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Phillips.
A rough mission. I led five bombers from the 399th as the Low Squadron of the 88th to Ploesti. We were attacked almost as soon as we crossed the coast, though for the most part the Mustangs of the 52nd kept the enemy busy. Some of them got through, however; we lost Lt. Whitehead and his crew in No Fear (the Tail-End Charlie) over Yugoslavia when an enemy a/c attacked it and set it afire. We saw eight chutes as the burning Fortress fell away. Lt. Baker’s Walls of Fire took over Tail-End Charlie duties, and the rest of us pressed on, not seeing much in the way of enemy activity until we reached the target area. The weather was as briefed, but that did not stop the enemy from rising en masse to meet us. We took heavy damage, and casualties, though we claimed half a dozen of them. Flak, though briefed as light, hit us anyway. We suffered severe damage to the starboard wing root, and missed the target (Capt. Pipes was wounded, and the bad weather did not help).
Fighter opposition eased up a bit on the way back, though we continued to be attacked. The Lightnings didn’t do as good a job protecting us. One of the enemy fighters holed a fuel tank, causing Capt. Hill and myself to nervously eye the fuel gauge on the way home; it was at this point that Dimestore Girl fell out-of-formation due to damage. I understand she made it back.
Fortunately, we had enough (barely enough) fuel to make it home. The 399th stands ready for further action.
- Major Hearn, CO, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
DIMESTORE GIRL, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Fell out-of-formation after bomb run due to loss of oxygen system. Returned to base alone and landed with port wing aileron, port elevator, bomb bay doors, Norden bombsight, starboard landing gear brakes, nose compartment heating system waist compartment oxygen system all inoperable, radio shot up and destroyed, structural damage to the port wing and starboard tail plane roots, damage to the nose oxygen system, to the rudder and control cables, and 5 casualties. Claims: 2 Fw-190s & 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Neidermeyer, 1 Fw-190 & 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Gardiner, 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Fischer, 1 Fw-190 shared by Sgt. Gardiner & Sgt. Pappagas.
Many enemy aircraft on this mission; seemed like many, many Fw-190s. Some help from little friends. No flak hits, OFF TARGET, 0% bombs on target. Poor weather over target a factor, but to be honest, in all four of his missions, Lt. Looney has yet to hit the target.
Flew most of way home below 10,000 feet due to heat out in nose section and oxygen out at the port waist position. We are fortunate Luftwaffe were missing many of their shots at us on this mission.
Crew Chief Waltrip believes DIMESTORE GIRL will be ready for her next mission. Several replacements needed: Temporary Co-pilot and a waist gunner and a new Navigator.
- 1st Lt. Palmer Stanford, Pilot, Dimestore Girl, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
HIT 'N RUN II, First flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with port flaps inoperable, the Norden bombsight destroyed, superficial damage to the port wing and nose compartment and no casualties. Claims: Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Spencer, 1 Fw-190 shared by SSgt. Planeta and Sgt. Shaute.
Didn’t encounter any enemy fighters ’till the Bulgarian/Romanian border (zone-six - where we drew a Luftwaffe Bad Communications card from the random events table, allowing us to remove one fighter from each wave the rest of the mission). The top turret and starboard waist gunner shared a kill of a 190. Ball turret downed a 109 about 75 miles southwest of the target (zone-7).
Approaching the target, the ball turret damaged (-2) an ME-110, causing it to break off. A 109 broke through knocking out the wing flap on the port wing, and causing superficial damage to the wing. The tail gunner promptly downed the 109 as it passed by the ship.
Flak wasn’t an issue, but poor weather over Ploesti caused the bomb run to be
off target. We did still manage to drop 5% of the load on the
refineries. Our tail gunner damaged (-2) an ME-110 leaving Ploesti.
We only encountered one enemy fighter on the trip back to base. A 109 knocked out our Norden Bombsight, and caused superficial damage to the nose. The tail gunner damaged the 109 (-2), causing it to break off. (We pulled a Rabbit’s Foot from the random events table, but did not have to use it).
- 2nd Lt. Al Papai, Pilot, Hit 'N Run II, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
WALLS OF FIRE, Second flight, Left aircraft (Tail-End Charlie #2)
Bombed target, 50%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 2 Me-109s by SSgt. Fisher, 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Shern, 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Holmes, TSgt. Winters, and Sgt. Farnworth.
NO FEAR, Second flight, Left aircraft (Tail-End Charlie #1)
Did not bombed target. Shot down by enemy fighters over Yugoslavia (zone-4). Claims: 1 Me-109.
“Aircraft SN# 43-9037, No Fear, had the tough position of being the low 'Tail-End Charlie'. This made it a convenient target for a wave of ME-109s who hit the nose compartment (bombardier was lightly wounded and the control cables were hit). A high ME-109 at 6 o’clock was exceptionally lucky shooting holes in the cockpit areas, the wings, and the waist compartment. (Windows damaged, landing gear hit, wing root damaged, seriously injuring the port waist and killing the starboard waist gunner.)”
“On a successive pass the Me-109 came in high from 9 o’clock getting walking hits across the wings which hit the fuel tanks resulting in a fire! The crew quickly bailed out over Yugoslavia, eight chutes were seen. The International Red Cross reports 1st Lt. Sam Whitehead, 2nd Lts. Robert Hunter and Eric Glasgoe, SSgt. Thomas Shannon and TSgt. Clifford Holmes are now POWS. Five of the crew, 2nd Lt. Randy Page, Sgts. Kevin Campbell, Greg Smith, John Shannon and James Weller, are reported as Missing-in-Action (3 evaded capture).”
- Missing Aircraft Report submitted by the 88th Bomb Group Intelligence Officer, Major James Jefferson
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