Control Tower Reception Mission 23
Just Into Yugoslavia, Inbound to Sofia:
Just into Yugoslavia on the outbound leg of the mission . . . Rats Revenge is seen to be savaged by a pair of 190s. With no radio transmission to the group, and the #2 engine on fire, Rats Revenge drops from the formation . . .
Over the western border of Yugoslavia
. . . the crew of the Texas Thunder knew it was their turn after Buckeye 4 fell out of formation. Multiple enemy aircraft swarmed the plane, ignoring the bomber’s defensive fire. An ME-109 walked hits along the aircraft as he came in from 6 o’clock high. The crew fought desperately to fend off the enemy fighters.
“Pilot to crew, what’s your status, Pilot to crew, report.” No reply came. “Damn the intercom must be out.” Lieutenant DeFilippo looked over to the co-pilot. “Steve, go see what’s going on.”
As Lieutenant Gibson made his way through the aircraft he looked around, noting the damage. The aircraft shuttered as more rounds struck it. As he entered the waist he saw Sergeant Blanchard leaning over Sergeant Bartoldus. “Rod, how is he doing?”
“It’s bad, Sir. He’s hit in the lower stomach,” Blanchard said.
“Hear anything from Spence?” the Lieutenant asked.
“No,” Blanchard replied.
He continued on to the tail to check on Spence and found the tail section a wreck. The tail was a wrecked from multiple hits, he found Spence dead at his guns. When he got back to the flight deck he heard DeFilippo ask, “What’s our status?”
He thought for a moment and then said, “Spence is dead and Bartoldus has a serious stomach wound. Ron was able to stop the bleeding. As for the plane, the rudder has been damage; the tail guns, radio and intercom are out.” Gibson started to think about their situation; it was almost as if Art was reading his mind when Lieutenant DeFilippo said, “We’re to far along to abort now, we’ll press on. Pass the word to the rest of the crew.”
Meanwhile, in the nose . . . “You think he noticed?” MacDonald asked.
“No, Mac, we agreed, we’re not dropping out of formation because the heat is out.” replied Lieutenant DeMacro. They both went back to their guns as another wave of fighters came around for another run.
Midway Into Yugoslavia, Inbound to Sofia:
“Joker Three to Joker One . . . Norden sight out, we have heat out and auto-pilot is questionable . . . We are ABORTING, I repeat Joker Three is ABORTING . . . See you at home boys . . . Joker Three to Joker One out.”
Within moments of transmitting the message, Darla’s Bite II leaves the high squadron and attempts to make her way back to Italy alone.
Radio transmission from 325th fighters over Yugoslavia:
“Wizard One to base, Wizard One to base . . . Just passed a lone B17 running for home. Impeded one of many enemy fighters harassing these poor souls. Can’t stay any longer turbo's are acting up . . . Send help, tail identification is 42-11781 . . . Wizard One out.”
Somewhere Over Bulgaria, 150 miles from Vrattsa:
The rest of the 399th watched as Buckeye 4 dropped out of formation and then the Jerry fighters turned their attention to Buckeye 6. Flying the Tail End Charlie position Buckeye 6 repeatedly attacked by multiple waves of enemy fighters during the next two hours. The plane could clearly be seen being repeatedly struck by these attacks. No contact was heard from the aircraft. Approximately 150 miles from the target Buckeye 6 was last seen slowly dropping from formation while under attack from multiple enemy fighters.
Inbound (zone 6) just after bomb run on Vrattsa, the target of opportunity:
“Fireball leader, this is Cowboy Three . . . Going for a stroll, see you back home . . .”
The Silver Spoon gently drops out of the tight box of bombers, and drifts down to 10 000 ft . . . A long way from home, and no-one to keep her company . . .
Over the Adriatic
Lt. Jameson of the 14th Fighter Group scanned the sky as he an his flight lead headed home to their base in Italy. Off in the distance he saw a lone aircraft. “Nomad One this is Two. We have an aircraft up ahead at low altitude.”
“I see him Nomad Two,” came the reply, “Follow me!”
Staff Sergeant Jacob kept watch as they flew over the Adriatic, then he saw them, two fighters coming in from 6 o’clock high. He called down to the flight deck, “Lieutenant we have two fighters coming in from six o’clock high, I think their ours, Sir.”
As the two fighters pulled up to the B-17 they could see the enormous damage the aircraft had sustained. There was heavy damage to the both wings, #4 engine was feathered, the tail section had taken a beating and part of the rudder was shot away.
OVER STERPARONE FIELD
A lone B-17 plods its way in, on engine smoking heavily. Front glass almost gone on the nose and one Bomb Bay door hanging limp and holed. As the bomber settles in its approach flair arc into the sky.
The ground crews all held their breath till she came down...
The personnel in the tower see a lone B-17 In the distance, approaching the field escorted by two P-47s. As the Texas Thunder lumbers into view, she beings to circle the field. The ground personnel see that the wings and tail have sustained enormous damage, the #4 engine is feathered and part of the rudder has been shot away. Flares arc off into the sky for the aircraft and seven chute drop from the Texas Thunder. After the chutes hit the ground the plane begins her approach toward the grass field adjacent to the runway. She hits the ground hard on her belly and slides down the length of the field before stopping.
RETURN TO STERPARONE FIELD