MISSION 17 - FLORENCE AARs
317th BS (LEAD)
DARKWATCH, Lead flight, Lead aircraft, Mission Commander
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with superficial damage to radio room. No casualties.
This was my first time flying the lead ship, and I don't mind telling you I was nervous about it. All sorts of bad thoughts went through my head while we were lined up for take off. But, the damnedest thing . . . every time I thought we were going to get into trouble, the other ships in the formation took care of us. Three times we saw bandits climbing to the attack, and three times other bombers in the formation drove them away. Aside from test firing our guns on the way in, we didn't fire a single shot.
Would have been a perfect run but for dropping the bombs who-knows-where when we got to Florence. It was pretty soupy over the target and the flak wasn't so bad, but this was Highsmith's first time under fire and I think it spoiled his aim. I hope we didn't flatten Michelangelo's David or anything . . . then again, there's that other statue, the Venus something, the one without arms, someone damaged that one and it's still famous.
A quiet ride home. Touched down gently.
Sir, I believe in luck and I believe the Darkwatch got all of their bad luck out of the way early. We just sailed through our mission without a scratch, and we were the lead bomber. I think we're starting on a hot streak and we're all upset that we missed the target. The crew and I would like to volunteer to fly lead on our next mission. After the way the other ships helped us out on this run we think we owe it the group.
- Capt. Paul O'Connor, Pilot, Darkwatch
DIVINE WIND, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Plexiglas area of the nose area is severely damaged along with superficial damage to the port wing, bomb bay, fuselage, and pilot compartment. 1 casualty. Claims: Two (2) FW-190s by Ball Gunner Sgt. Tachibana.
Took off from Sterparone Field, Foggia, Italy without any problems or malfunctions.
Fifty (50) miles before target we were attacked by four (4) FW-190s coming in from 12, 3 & 9 high, and 9 level. The ball gunner, Sgt. Tachibana, was able to KIA one from 9 level. Of the three, one missed the plane and was driven off by machine gun fire. The two coming in from 12 and 3 high both hit the plane. A total of seven (7) hits were scored. The FW 12 high was able to hit the nose area and mortally wound 2nd Lt. Nakano. The other hits were to the fuselage and were superficial in nature. The one coming in from 3 high hits were all superficial in nature.
Both returned at 3 &1:30 level. The one from 3 level was shot down by the ball gunner Sgt. Tachibana. The other one missed the plane and did not return.
Another wave hit us just before we reached the target consisting of one (1) ME-109 coming in from 3 low. It was severely damaged by the starboard waist gunner Sgt. Hanano which caused the fighter to miss and it didn’t return.
Over target the flak that was shot at us did not hit the plane so we were able to line up to target. But because 2nd Lt. Nakano was KIA we were not able to get any of our bombs on the target.
On the turn back bogies were spotted at 6 level but they were driven off by fighters from the 1st Fighter group before they reached the bomb group.
About one-hundred-fifty (150) miles from the target bogies were again spotted from 9 level. Before they were able to reach our group, they were driven off by machine gun fire from the squadron.
Able to land at Sterparone Field without any problems.
- Capt. Mark Yoshikawa, Pilot, Divine Wind
MEMPHIS GAL, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Almeda.
We followed Darkwatch out and formed up right on schedule. It was an uneventful trip to the target, with little enemy opposition.
Thankfully the flak over target wasn't as intense as on our last mission, and we managed good hits on the yards. Once again good shooting by our engineer Roberto fended off the only attack of the mission, by flaming a 109.
You should have seen the smile on the crew chiefs face when we brought back "his" bomber undamaged.
Perhaps its just wishful thinking but just a few more missions like this and we may well just survive this war, despite Donald's constant predictions of doom.
- Capt. Ralph Flynn, Pilot, Memphis Gal
BEWITCHED, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 by SSgt. Simons.
What a milk run! In and out with a little showing by the Luftwaffe. Flak didn't come close which was a pleasant and welcome change. Went, bombed, returned. Wish they were all this quiet.
- Capt. Samus Montague, Pilot, Bewitched
SILVER SPOON, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with minor damage and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 FW-190 apiece by Sgts. Compton and Fielding (Sgt. Compton's FW-190 claim was confirmed by S-2); 1 ME-109 by Sgt. MacDonald.
Not an easy mission, but also not the toughest. I’m pretty sure the ground crew are slacking off between missions, because our number three engine is running very rough.
We got to the target with little incident, did the job and we were on the way home when the fighters hit us. They came from everywhere, but thank God my gunners knew what end of their guns to fire from. Makes a change. My drilling them lately has paid off. No damage to speak of, although our rudder looked a bit the worse for wear, as did a few holes in the wings.
- 1st Lt. Milton Forrest, Pilot, Silver Spoon
CARDINAL EXPRESS, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned without damage or casualties.
All in all, a very quiet and routine mission. We ran into a 190 on the way out who we were able to moderately damage as he attacked us.
We avoided enemy flak and put what we are estimating at 30% of our payload within 1,000 feet of the target.
Ran into another lone 190 on the way back in, but he was quickly dispatched by our little friends.
We landed safely without any damage to report to the Express.
-1st Lt. Bob Peterson, Pilot, Cardinal Express
318th BS (Middle)
A/C #42-11828, third flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned without damage or casualties.
We did not run into any enemy fighters until over the target, when we were attacked by two 190s. SSgt. Gladson was able to damage one of the 190s and both missed on their attacks.
We did not receive any flak hits in spite of medium flak over the target. We were able to get 30% of the bombs on target.
Once we were back over the water, we were jumped by two more 190s. Sgt. Littleton was able to damage one of the 190s and both missed on their attack also. The landing was uneventful.
- 1st Lt. Landers, Pilot, A/C# 42-11828
A/C #42-11830, third flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with minor tail plane damage and no casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 by SSgt. Foster.
Pretty straight forward first mission for the three new crewmembers. Took off and formed up with the rest of the group.
Cleared the coast and jumped by fighters which were driven off by the other B-17s in the formation. Over the sea (zone 3 we were bounced by 4 FW-190s. SSgt. Foster killed one and the new navigator and bombardier, Lts. Franchetti and Gilmore, both claimed one each as probables (FBOA-2). That appeared to be enough for the remaining 190 and he bugged off with only a half-hearted attempt at long range.
As we approached the start off the bomb run, an FW-190 streaked down in a vertical dive and put a hole in the tail plane. This didn't affect it's operation though. The flak on the way in was pretty moderate and the new bombardier seemed to take it in his stride. Allowing for the almost complete cloud cover at the drop point, he seemed confident that put about 30% of our load on target.
We cleared the target area and were reforming to come home when we were hit by a single FW-190 from 10:30 high. For once SSgt. Foster missed this one although the new S/board Waist gunner, Sgt. Toye, appears to have taken a piece of it (FCA-1). This seemed to be enough to put it off and it missed us and dived for home. The second wave was driven off again by good defensive fire from the squadron.
Those were the last enemy aircraft we saw for the rest of the mission and we landed safely back at base.
-1st Lt. Joe Di Agostino, Pilot, A/C# 42-11830
PEARLY's PRIDE, third flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with starboard elevator inoperable, one hit to starboard tail plane root, and superficial damage to nose, starboard wing, waist and #4 engine. No casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 by SSgt. Taft.
We were once again a little disappointed in the coverage we received from our fighters, as we had a fairly busy flight. Our first encounter with the enemy was about 125 miles out of Foggia; a single Wulfe came at us from 10:30 high and, as on our other missions, the men had their sites zeroed in early. Staff Sergeant Taft knocked that man right down into the sea, his third in as many missions.
As we crossed into Italy, the cloud cover thickened; perhaps that helped the Germans evade our fighters. We had five fighters in two waves come at us as we approached the target, all Messeschmitt's 109s. Our gunners were very effective, claiming hits on three of them. Though none of those fighters went down, they failed to hit us and went elsewhere for targets.
Flak was of medium intensity and accurate enough to buffet us a little bit. Between the flak and the cloud cover, Lieutenant Watson apparently missed the target completely. Coming out of the target we saw our fighters finally take down an incoming German, but we did have to contend with two others. One of them made three passes at us and caught us pretty well along the fuselage, but ultimately did nothing more than put a few nicks and dings in unimportant places. The rest of the flight home was pretty quiet. The plane handled well despite the loss of the starboard elevator, and the Chief seemed relieved that he wouldn't have to have his crew laboring all night over repairs.
Dan Daly did a fine job as substitute radioman, even getting to fire at a diving 109 -- that radio room is turning out to be a hotter seat than most would expect. We are looking forward to Sergeant Marcus return to us, however.
- 1st August West, Pilot, Pearly's Pride
399th BS (HIGH)
PRINCESS LILIKOI, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with the left wing flap, left waist heater, tail guns out, damage to the left wing root & rudder, holed port wing outboard tank and several superficial damage throughout the plane.
Fifty miles south of Terni the first fighters attacked from head on. The 325th had a hard time in fending off these jokers. Two fighters managed to get through the fighter cover. Judging from their flying, they must have been very experienced. Thanks to MSgt Marlow one of them exploded and disintegrated before he could fire at us.
The 325th kept doing a good job and drove off most of the fighters all the way to the target, but when the Checker Tails were leaving us near Florence, a wave of 190s attacked. The gunners of the crews of Lts. Mershon and Raines covered us but still we were hit by one of them who damaged the left waist gunner's heater.
The flak was moderate and inaccurate. We got through safely and Lt. Segovia hit the target with at least 20% accuracy.
After the bomb run I
decided to leave the formation due to the destroyed heater. I didn't want
to risk Sgt Morris a frostbite and an
amputation. The fighter cover was good and my plane was not damaged so I could fly evasive action.
I don't know if it
was that I was flying poorly or if the fighter pilots that attacked North of
Terni were good. Six 109s attacked. Two
were driven off by the P-38s, but of those that fired at us three hit, although I was using evasive maneuvers. ME-109s from this unit stayed with us for about 25 minutes, but were finally driven off by the 14th FG.
Good shooting by Sgt Franklin again this mission, another 190.
- Capt. Frank Kingsley, Pilot, Princess Lilikoi
PALOOKAVILLE, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 75%. Returned with shattered pilots' compartment windows, superficial damage throughout the aircraft, to the port wing, its aileron and & 1 casualty.
We formed up for the mission with no problem and in fact did not see enemy fighters until we were making final preparations for the bomb run. Even then, it seemed the escort and other bombers of the 399th were keeping the enemy at bay. Well, except for a flight of 4 Focke-Wulfe’s. The escort did drive off one, and two of the others missed. The remaining one must have sensed he could do something to us as he came around again (considering the amount of superficial damage we had to the plane it would not have surprised me if he placed a few rounds on target). He came at as from the 9 o’clock position and gave us an extended burst. Again, back on the ground, we found bullet holes all over, but the only real damage was to the pilots' compartment windows which was riddled with holes and made flying difficult. When he came back for a third pass head on again, Wolfe hit him pretty good with both barrels from up front. He did not get a shot off and that was the last we saw of him.
We had no sooner finished with the fighters when we entered the flak zone. We took a burst close in at the 5 o’clock position. Sgt. Watts received a good piece of flak in the arm, but it hardly bled at all, did not affect his performance (other than getting him riled up and angry) and will only need a few stitches. Other than that, though the port wing and aileron were torn up with flak, nothing vital was hit and performance was unaffected.
2nd Lt. Wolfe was focused on the bomb run and determined to make up for his poor showing the first time out. He did an excellent job and dropped the load in for 75% on target.
Outbound, the enemy fighters were again kept at bay except for a pair of ME-109s. A P-38 from the 14th FG drove off one and the other, after a quick pass from 1:30 took off after has wingman. We so no further enemy fighters on the return trip and landed at Sterparone without incident.
- 1st Lt. Henry Mershon, Pilot, Palookaville
WALLS OF FIRE, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with tail guns and starboard flaps inoperable, starboard waist gun jammed, port wing root (2 hits) and rudder (1 hit) damaged and various superficial hits. No casualties.
Minor enemy contact on the outward trip, 2 or 3 ME-109s of which 1, if not 2, were driven off by by fighter cover.
Despite taking flak over the target, damaging the rudder, port wing and knocking out the starboard flap, coupled with poor weather conditions bombardier Edwards dropped the load in good time with excellent results reported later on.
The inward bound journey saw no enemy activity, landing was a little rocky due to the aforementioned flap being inoperable. Our most successful sortie to date.
- 1st Lt. Michael Raines, Pilot, Walls of Fire
FRISCO KID II, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned without damaged or casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 apiece by SSgt. Wilson & Sgt. McDonough & 1 FW-190 shared by Sgts. Libby & Stotsky.
We had a much easier time of it on our second trip to Florence than our first. We saw no enemy a/c until we got to target, then three FW-190s broke through the Checkertails and attacked us. The replacement bombardier, Lt. Winslow, damaged one, and Sgt. McDonough shot up another as it passed over the tail. No hits were scored on us.
We took no flak hits, and despite the cloud cover were able to hit the target with 30% accuracy. Another enemy a/c -- this time a 109 - attacked us as we left the target area, but also did no damage.
We were attacked once more out over the Adriatic on the return flight, by four more 190s. Wilson flamed one, McDonough got the one coming in from behind (he made no evasive moves -- possibly a rookie pilot), and Stotsky and Libby flamed one coming in from the port beam. The remaining one dove out of the sun on top of us, but scored no hits before breaking off.
The rest of the trip was quiet, and we touched down safely, undamaged and ready for action.
- Capt. David Moody, Pilot, Frisco Kid II
TEXAS THUNDER, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 50%. Returned with port wing aileron inoperative, superficial damage port wing and #2 engine. No casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 by Sgt. Bartoldus & 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Powers.
Our fighter escort did an excellent job on the outbound leg of out mission. No fighters penetrated their screen until we reached the IP. Then we were attacked by a two ME-109s. He came at us from 12 o'clock and was damaged by Lt. Phelps and his attack was ineffective. The other was destroyed by SSgt. Powers before he could attack.
Flak over the target was another story, we were struck three times in the port wing. One hit incapacitated our port aileron, the remaining to hits only superficially damaged number two engine and port wing. Even with the bumpy ride the flak gave use Lt. Phelps managed to put 50% of our bomb load on the target.
About 75 miles south of Rimini two FW-190s use the cloud cover to work past our fighter screen. SSgt. Powers hammered the first 190 causing the engine to catch fire and he turned away. Sgt. Bartoldus put several long burst into the other causing the tail assembly to separate from the 190.
The remainder of the homeward flight was uneventful thanks to the little friends.
-1st Lt. Arthur DiFilippo, Pilot, Texas Thunder
RATS REVENGE, third flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 50%. Returned with chin turret inoperable, superficial damage to the tail and starboard wing. No casualties.
We never saw an inbound bandit until just before we entered Florence. Two 109s made half-hearted passes at us and left.
Over the target we took superficial flak hits to the starboard wing and tail. A third flak hit knocked out our chin gun. My Bombardier reports 50% of our load was on target.
Our boys took good care of us on the way home. Only one 190 made it past our escorts, he came at us on a vertical dive but missed us completely.
Landing was uneventful.
- Capt. Oswald, Pilot, Rats Revenge
318th BS (High)
GOLDEN SPIKE, third flight, Lead Aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with #2 engine feathered and 2 casualties. Claims: 2 ME-109s by SSgt. Townsend & 1 ME-109 apiece by Lt. Thompson & Sgt. Archibald (Lt. Thompson and Sgt. Archibald's claims were later confirmed by S-2).
Attached to the 399th we were covering the rear slot of the high squadron with the newest member of the 318th -- O'Halern's Green Man's Girl. Right off the bat we were jumped by four ME-109s coming straight at us. Friendlies chased one away and two more were shredded by the twin guns in the ball turret and nose (I love those chin guns). Seeing his buddies get hit the remaining bandit made a desultory pass on his way to easier prey. With uncharacteristic vengeance Joe Thompson swore at the German he hit. Returning from the infirmary I think Joe was out to prove something. He was embarrassed by the replacement bombardier that had easily bettered his dismal bombing record. A few miles more and another wave of four ME-109s attacked. This time our escorts let us down, but our temporary engineer took care of one boogie and Sgt. Turner in the tail gun damaged a second. Thankfully the rest of the Germans missed us and we entered the target zone.
Three FW-190s greeted us. We damaged one and were otherwise unharmed. Then it was the flak's turn and we weren't so lucky -- losing our #2 engine, and wounding our port waist gunner. Amazingly Joe was really on the ball and he managed to drop a good portion of the payload on target, in spite of heavy cloud cover and flak hits.
At the rally point two waves of fighters jumped us but this time our escorts came out in force. Even so a single FW-190 snaked through the excellent protection and killed Sgt. Jackson in the waist. It's been several missions since we lost a crew member and we were all stunned . . . and angry.
Another set of ME-109s challenged us just 50 miles later, and a German ace made three passes before leaving us to return home.
- Capt. Todd Wilson, Pilot, Golden Spike
GREEN MAN'S GIRL, third flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with tail guns inoperable, pilots' compartment windows, control cables and rudder damaged, and superficial damage to the port wing and bomb bay area. 1 casualty. Claims: 1 FW-190 by Sgt. O'Reily.
All went well with the takeoff. As crossed the coast (zone 2), we saw some German fighters well away from us, but that didn't stop our port waist gunner, Sgt. Wellner, from letting off a burst. I guess he had some opening day jitters.
We met up with our first Germans over the Adriatic (zone 3). Two 190s came in and our ball gunner, Mickey, hit the plane; we saw some white smoke but that German wasn't happy and kept coming. He hit us in the port wing, he then came around and hit us a second time, right in the bomb bay but we got lucky and his rounds never hit anything important. After that, I guess he had enough as we saw his smoke disappear into the clouds.
Right before the target, 2 waves of 190s came in. Our Engineer damaged 1 of them but he hit us and hit our control cables, and our bomb bay area (a little scary with bullets flying around in there). On the second wave our ball gunner again hit his target and the German flew by so close we could see his 4 kill markings.
Over the target flak wasn't a problem but the weather was as our bombardier, Joey, only put 5 % of his bombs on target
On the way out there was a little flak and the other bombers chased off the Germans. Here's were it gets good. I guess the Germans were really mad, because they came at us and hard. Four 190s came in, one of them in a vertical dive, (that crazy man almost ran into us). Our ball gunner got a kill as we saw the 190's engine on fire, black smoke and it was rolling over. The one that got us, got us good. He came in from our tail. He hit William (radio operator), spun him around; he's okay but a little shaken. The other hits were to our rudder and one that scared the hell out of our pilot, when a 20mm ripped through the glass. His German buddy was lucky when he knocked out our tail guns. I hoped the Germans didn't notice this. The second wave came in and our port waist got a hit; we saw a flash from the 190 but couldn't tell if he was firing at us or if we hit him. When he did fire he was way off.
I'll say coming in with the controls and rudder hit was a bit exciting. They weren't kidding at home when they said the Germans are hard hitting. Well for our first time out, I'm glad just to bring the bird home.
- 1st Lt. Patrick O'Halern, Pilot, Green Man's Girl
316th BS (Low)
FULL HOUSE, lead flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with auto-pilot and radio compartment heating system inoperable; superficial damage to nose and bomb bay compartments. No casualties.
After forming up, we encountered no enemy activity until the group reached the target area. A single ME-109 dove down from above but luckily Sgt. Moore in the radio room spotted him and heavily damaged him spoiling his aim. The ME-109 was last seen on fire diving downward out of sight, so it was listed as a probable.
Cloud cover was poor but still a flak bust exploded behind us and damaged the auto-pilot. Without the auto-pilot and the cloud cover, Lt. McClure, the bombardier, doesn't think the bombs hit the target.
After the rally point, the P-38s intercepted a pair of FW-190s, leaving one for the gunners. I told the crew don't spare the ammo and they filled the sky with .50 cal lead and the German attacking from 3 level decided 'discretion was the better part of valor' and broke off the attack. As the group left Florence behind us, Sgt. Martinelli reported the rookie crew, Lt. Metzger's crew in Blockbuster, had broken off form the squadron and was descending to lower altitudes with two engines feathered.
Over the Adriatic, a trio of ME-109s attacked from head-on and knocked out the heat to the radio room and put some holes in the nose and bomb bay sections. Two of them came back for more and on their second pass, Sgt. Ward, our ball turret gunner, heavily damaged one them, another probable.
After that attack, no further enemy opposition was seen and landing back at base was routine.
- Capt. Daniel Tanner, Pilot, Full House II
SATIN DOLL, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with radio destroyed, port aileron shot away & starboard aileron holed and minor damage to tail gunner's compartment, all by flak. No casualties.
Another trip to "Flak Hell" for the Satin Doll. We first ran into E/A fighters nearing the coast. Four ME-109s from 12 high, level, low and 10:30 high. A P-47 flamed the one at 10:30, but his buddies pressed their attack on our nose. They must have been green 'cause when they saw the tracers from the top & ball turrets and nose gun, they fired off a few rounds and broke off their attack.
Nearing the target, three FW-190s came at us from 10:30, 12 and 1:30, all high. None of them hit us and Turner put a few rounds into the one at 12 high with the top turret guns.
Even with the lousy weather, the 'Florence Flak Follies' were ready for the show. They had us bracketed pretty good, destroying the port aileron with two hits and ripping up the starboard one a little. PeeWee called in that he had 2 new windows in the tail courtesy of the flak gunners. Then Swede came on the interphone saying that we'd better stay on Full House's wing because his radio gear had just been reduced to junk by more flak. This is the second trip Swede's made to Florence and had his radio room holed by flak. He swears that the gunners in Florence have it in for him personally. Despite the bouncing around and the heavy under cast Douglas fond a hole and managed to drop 30% of the load onto the target.
The flight home was uneventful with the exception of having to fly with the throttles to compensate for the missing port aileron.
- Capt. John P. McConnell, Pilot, Satin Doll
OLD YARD DOG, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with tail compartment heating system inoperable, damaged to the port tail plane and superficial damaged to the #2 engine. 1 casualty and 1 case of frostbite.
Not that bad a mission. We didn't hit anything I am sure, but we didn't die either. Everything went well and our fighters kept everything off us almost the whole way. We took an obviously superficial hit in the #2 engine outbound to the target that red-lined the rest of the mission but it never lost pressure or oil.
At the IP a gaggle of FWs swept in just as the Jugs left the area. We dinged one and he left smoking and his partners found other targets to mess with.
Flak over the target was heavy and accurate with medium to large caliber. My navigator, Lt. Bonner, took a shrapnel wound in the left forearm but it was minor even though it was bloody. We lost heat to the tail gunner and he got frostbitten on the way home but the medics said he would be okay to fly with us next mission or so. We had a large hole in the port tail root near the tail gunner that probably helped him get frostbitten. According to my bombardier the target was completely covered with 9/10 clouds and he salvo'ed when the lead plane did as he couldn't see a thing.
P38s picked us up right after the target and kept us covered all the way back. The plane is in good shape and the crew is fine overall.
- 1st Lt. Michael Chase, Pilot, Old Yard Dog
LUCKY PENNY, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with rafts destroyed, port waist gun inoperable, superficial damage the port wing fuel tank, #1 engine, radio room & bomb bay areas. 1 casualty. Claims: 3 FW-190 by SSgt. Allison and 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Jenkins (Sgt. Jenkins & 1 of SSgt. Allison's claims were later confirmed by S-2).
The early part of the mission (zone 2) was quiet with enemy being driven away by the escorts.
Over the Adriatic (zone 3) we saw 3 ME-109s that hit the #1 engine and the fuel tank on port wing as well as the bomb bay and radio room, all superficially.
Approaching the target we saw no action coming in and although flak was moderate there were no hits. Bombed target with about 40% accuracy.
Heading home we were jumped by four 190s from 12 level, 3 high, 6 high and one diving down from above. The radio man managed to kill one of them but the head-on 12 o'clock guy shot up the nose compartment that wounded Lt. Collins. With all the lead flying around Lt. Hamilton was stunned from a hit to the head but was miraculous saved from major injury by his flak helmet and he came through without a scratch (use of his personal "charm" to avoid a very dangerous round that hit). However for a few minutes (a turn), we were without any gunnery in the front of the plane but luckily the enemy missed or was driven off by fighters.
Back over the Adriatic (zone 3) we saw two waves of fighters. One was a repeat of the exact same enemy attack formation as in the last attack (zone 4) plus another wave of 3 ME-109s, just like the exact same formation we saw earlier during the inbound journey (like in zone 3) . . . weird. Anyway, Allison managed to kill 2 more 190s and and the tail gunner got a piece of another one. One 190 got through and managed to put 7 hits on target, again, luckily the majority of those shots were superficial stuff, however the life rafts and a few other minor things were holed. Ball gunner also got one of the 109s and a few were driven off by fighters. German gunnery (other than the 7 shot wunderkind) was poor and most planes missed.
We saw no further action and we arrived back at base with only 1 lightly wounded man and one very lucky Lt. Hamilton.
- Capt. Paul Griffin, Pilot, Lucky Penny
CLAREMONT EXPRESS, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with top turret inoperable, windows in the pilots' compartment shattered, superficial damage to the fuselage and bomb bay compartment. 2 casualties.
Flight for us was uneventful until we entered the Adriatic (zone 2). There we ran into a couple of ME-109s. Fighter boys tried to knock them out; I observed the kill markings of one as he flew past. As luck would have it, the ace scored a superficial hit on us after SSgt. Lavalette took a crack at him. The Kraut ace came back for seconds and scored two hits, one shattering the glass up front, mortally wounding 2nd Lt. Hawkins (I was told by 2nd Lt. Giovanni that Hawkins didn't suffer). 2nd Lt. Giovanni pulled Hawkins away from the front to a more secure area inside our ship. I ordered my co-pilot, 2nd Lt. O'Malley, to assume the bombardier post.
Halfway to the target (zone 3), we again encountered heavy enemy contact. Four FW-190s jumped us, one was driven off, and we were left to deal with the threesome. A jerry approached from about 1:30 high, 2nd Lt. O'Malley engaged but missed. Sgt. Meier also engaged and missed. This enemy missed us and left to find someone else to pick on. While this was happening we also dealt with a German who took us at 3 level, Sgt. Jacobs, our able ball gunner, engaged and missed, as did Sgt. Meier. He got in a lucky shot which hit us in the bomb bay, hitting one of our "packages for Florence". Luckily for us this hit caused no real damage. The Jerry made a turn to come back for more, fortunately for us he missed and was chased off by our fighter support. It was during this melee that the German 190 who attacked us at 9 o'clock, knocked out our top turret and seriously wounding our Flight Engineer, SSgt. Lavalette.
As we entered the target area, we held our breaths as our brothers around us drove off the German vultures ready to finish us off.
We encountered light flak, dropped our bombs (off target I'm sure), and headed back home. A good job done by 2nd Lt. O'Malley who filled in admirably in the face of a shattered nose, and the death of his best friend.
Back out to sea (zone 3) we ran into four FW-190s; fighter cover drove off one and the other three missed thanks in part to the fire laid out by 2nd Lt. O'Malley and Sgt. Roy.
The rest of the way home was uneventful, upon landing SSgt. Lavalette was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The crew, led by 2nd Lt. O'Malley, delivered a short eulogy and moment of silence before allowing 2nd Lt. Hawkins to be removed from our ship.
I would like to recommend 2nd Lt. O'Malley for the Distinguished Flying Cross. 2nd Lt. O'Malley carried out his duties, those of the bombardier, returned fire against several German fighters, dropped our ordinance, and encouraged the rest of the crew, all while working in a shattered compartment, in a new position, and his best friend (and best man at his wedding I'm told) lay mortally wounded. I would encourage you to consider and confirm this request.
It was a tough mission, but the men of this ship are up to the task, and stand ready for the next assignment.
- 1st Lt. Ed Harrigan, Pilot, Claremont Express
BLOCKBUSTER, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Fell out-of-formation after lost of second engine leaving target area. Returned alone with #1 & #3 Engines inoperable, navigator's oxygen system damaged, and superficial hits to the port wing, waist, radio room and tail compartments. 2 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Taliaferro.
Blockbuster enjoyed excellent fighter protection to and from the target. We did not see our first enemy fighters until we were about 100 miles out from base. Two ME-109s attacked, but both were driven off by our escorts.
Just before we began our bombing run, two more ME-109s attacked. Poor weather over the target prevented our escorts from stopping both fighters. One got through to us and knocked out the #1 engine. Fortunately, I was able to feather the prop. Since we were so close to the target by this time, I was able to finish the bomb run and still stay in formation.
Despite the poor weather, German anti-aircraft fire was excellent. We were bracketed in and suffered 5 hits over the target. Our waist area was hit twice, killing our port gunner and seriously wounding our starboard gunner. The combination of poor weather and hits from antiaircraft fire caused our Bombardier to miss the target.
As we turned for home, we were savagely attacked by four FW-190s. Our escorts had compensated for the poor weather by flying closer to the formation than on the way in. This adjustment helped greatly, as they were able to drive three of the four fighters off. However, one of the FW-190s that attacked came straight down on us. He hit our #3 engine, putting it out of commission. After losing the second engine, there was no way for me to maintain my position in the squadron.
As we dropped down to 10,000 feet, a second wave of fighters attacked. Again, excellent fighter coverage drove off 3 of the 4 attackers. The fourth plane missed us, and our tail gunner, Sgt. Taliaferro was able to claim his first destroyed fighter. We experienced some light flak while still over Italy, but we were never hit.
We continued to be hounded by FW-190s after getting out over the water, but our escorts continued to shield us completely from any attacks. The entire crew appreciates the job they did for us.
We experienced no difficulties landing. The flight surgeon said Sgt. Gartner will recover fully from his wounds, but he was unable to tell us yet when he will be able to fly again.
- 2nd Lt. Metzger, Pilot, Blockbuster
DARLA'S BITE II, third flight, left aircraft (TAIL-END CHARLIE)
Bombed target, 50%. Returned with rafts & nose gun destroyed, flaps & starboard aileron inoperable, port flaps, control cables and tail root damaged. 2 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109, shared by SSgt. Breslof & Sgt. Andrew (Shared claim was later confirmed by S-2).
Take-off and rendezvous went as with out a hitch. From the base to the Italian coast we didn't see any E/A's. They must have been concentrating on the front formations. Around a hundred and eighty miles from base is when the Kraut's noticed us, and boy did they notice. The first wave consisted of five ME-109s. The first pass was unorganized with only one doing any real damaged. Our little friends took care of one, as a P-47 chased a Jerry off. Darla's own gunners started off hot by downing one of the Messerschmitt, swooping in from 6 o'clock high, right off the bat. SSgt. Breslof and Sgt. Andrews teamed up and cut down this ME-109, almost putting a section of its left wing into our rudder, as witnessed by an excited Sgt. Richard. Sgt. Albers was also able to rattle another ME-109 (FCA-1) as he missed and just went on to the squadron. One of the ME-109s came back for one more pot-shot, yet to no effect, and he went on to other Forts.
As our little friends went off to help the upper squadrons, we were jumped by five ME-109s. These Krauts were tenacious coming back multiple times. Crisscrossing 109s took us from 6 o'clock high and 12 o'clock high. Thankfully, the one from the tail distracted the 109 from the front. Unfortunately, the tail kraut walked his shells from tail to nose, causing many problems for the crew. He hit the tail root, wounding both Sgts. Goldie (SW) and Richards (LW) as well as damaging our control cables. As he came forward the ME-109 took out our starboard cheek gun and shattering our instruments which rendered Darla's flaps inoperable. Our new guy, Sgt Lis, got his due respect on his first shot, smoking an ME-109 on its pass from 3 o'clock high. The lucky Bast@*d did place a 20mm shell into the nose, taking out Lt. Thorne's 50 cal. Smoking heavily this Kraut booked for home as witnessed by Sgt. Albers. A third ME-109 from 9 o'clock level also hit us, taking out our starboard aileron and knocking of the ineffective starboard flap. Pappy, our Crew Chief, wasn't amused with this irony though. The last ME-109 from 9 o'clock high, was crowded out by the other one at this same position, and missed us completely.
Flak was moderately effective, but they were targeting the squadrons above and in front of us as we didn't take any hits, making for a great bomb run. Flying level and true, gave Lieut. Thorne the time to look for a opening in the clouds to place our eggs. Being the last over the target worked in our favor as the overcast started to blow over giving Lt. Thorne a clear view of the yards long enough to place 50% within 1000 feet of the target. Sgt. Andrew was able to confirm this as the clouds cleared again for him to view the impact.
While we were reforming for the trip back, our persistent Kraut buddies came in for a repeat performance. To our relief the P-38s joined the fight, chasing off one of the four ME-109s attacking us. Though our crews aim was off, while most of the crew was unable to hit any of the Jerries, Sgt. Albers individually popped his Jerry, putting the ME-109 off target with his shot (FCA-1), causing him to missed by a mile. To my amazement these Germans couldn't shoot either, seeing that they didn't hit anything but our already inoperable port flap. Again, Pappy didn't see the humor in this? On the 109s' return they must have been interested in other Forts given that all three were off target and moved on to the upper squadrons.
Around 150 miles out we saw many fighters working their way down from the high and mid flights though none came down as they were chased away by the other Fortresses.
From this point on and the duration of the trip was uneventful as we made our way home. Landing Darla was a bit more difficult to land minus her flaps and a damaged aileron, but thanks to Lt. Beckett's help, we put her down without crashing.
Sgt. Dennis Goldie Should recover in due time, though I doubt he will be returned to duty. His left knee was shot up pretty bad. Sgt. Fred Richard shoulder was shot through clean. It will be up to the Doc to when he will return, but the Doc did say he will be back.
-1st Lt. Wil Wilcox, Pilot, Darla's Bite II
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