MISSION 23 - VRATTSA AARs
318th BS (Lead)
GOLDEN SPIKE, Lead flight, Lead aircraft (Group Commander)
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with starboard wing flap inoperable and no casualties.
Leading the entire BG on such a long mission may have been daunting, but it certainly didn't seem to bother Lt. Lawton who was downright excited to lead the formation. In spite of terrible weather he was able to navigate to the target and back home without a hitch (unlike some other missions where we strayed into nearby AA positions). Jerry must have been grounded since we only saw a few fighters today. Four waves in total, but some were driven off by other B-17s and our gunners damaged a couple FW-190s that got too close. Our only damage was a couple wing hits from a single ME-109. No flak today but the lousy weather shrouded the target and we barely hit our mark.
- Capt. Todd Wilson, Pilot, Golden Spike
A/C # 42-11828, lead flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 each by 2nd Lt. Latham & Sgt. Littleton.
On the way to the target, the only enemy fighters we saw were driven off by other B-17s. There was no flak over the target. We got 40% of the bombs on target.
We then ran into two 190s, one was destroyed by 2nd Lt. Latham and Sgt. Littleton shot down the other. Then near the Yugoslavian border a 109 came in from the six o'clock position and it was damaged by the tail gunner, Sgt. Gumm. The 109 missed on his attack and left.
The landing was uneventful.
- Capt. Jeff Landers, Pilot, Longhorn Lady
IRON LADY, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with port waist gunner suit heater inoperable, minor superficial damage to the fuselage and 1 case of frostbite. Claims: 1 FW-190 by SSgt. Foster.
Almost a milk run. Didn't see an enemy aircraft at all heading towards the target. The weather over the target was worse than we were expecting and as a result Lt. Franchetti only managed to put estimated 20% of of our bombs on target.
As we cleared the target area we were bounced by a solitary FW-190. It missed us and we missed it and it vanished back into the clouds. As we were leaving Bulgarian airspace we were hit again, this time by 3 FW-190s. The first two missed and broke off but the third scored hits mostly superficial. It was only when we got home that I discovered that Jack Zimmer's suit heater was knocked out but he didn't want to say in case I dropped out of formation to prevent him getting frostbite.
Anyway, the FW-190 came back round for a second pass and Hank Foster drilled him in the cockpit, and the 190 exploded in a greasy ball of fire. We didn't see another enemy aircraft the whole way home and made it back to base with hardly a scratch.
Sgt. Zimmer will be fine, so the docs say, his frostbite is fairly mild but I'll have a word with him anyway about not saying anything about it in the first place.
-1st Lt. Joe Di Agostino, Pilot, Iron Lady
THOR, second flight, Lead Aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with minor damage and no casualties.
It was sure nice to be tucked into the middle for
a change. This made for a milk-run for
- Capt. Joe Smith, Pilot, Thor
GREEN MAN'S GIRL, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with the top turret and navigator's instruments out, damage to the port wing root, and 1 casualty.
Started mission off okay, formed up with the lead group.
Over the Adriatic (zone 3) we were attacked by three 109s. Saw them forming up to attack us on the right. Our little friends with the big noses helped us out as they chased off 1 of them. The other 2 came in and George, fight engineer, attacked the one at 12 and hit him doing only light damage (Looked like a few small holes in tail as he flew by). Carmello hit the other thought he was green because he came in nice and level and right at us. Green my ass as he knocked out the top turret.
When we got to the target zone only a single 190 came in and tried to attack us but he missed and was gone. Joey finally got his bombs on target.
On the way out we were attacked in west of Sofia (zone 6) by a 109 at 12 high. When that guy flew by he had 12-to-20 kills on his side. Also there was another green pilot (Germans must be running out of pilots thanks, Texas Thunder) and a 109 at 3 level. We missed them and 2 of them missed us but that ace . . . he hit us in the port wing root shedding some medal off my plane; I believe some of it might have hit the Divine Wind. He wasn't done there as he came back around at 12 and shot up the navigator's instruments. He flew past us and in came in at 9 high hitting the radio room with some holes and he hit the waist, hitting Turner in the knee (thankfully only grazing him).
Landing was uneventful except for the smell inside the plane. Our crew chief, Todd Parrot, will have a great time getting her.
- 1st Lt. Patrick O'Halern, Pilot, Green Man's Girl
EAT AT JOE'S second flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: Destroyed 1 FW-190 each by 2nd Lt. Barstow & Sgt. Burleson.
Well, we didn't see a thing until we hit the target zone, then we got bounced by a 190 from 12 Level. Jack sent him home with his tail between his legs and smoke pouring out of his engine. Despite the lack of flak or enemy air, Lt. Straw missed the target completely.
Things got a little busier for us on the way home, as we had a number of enemy fighters, all 190's, coming at us. They seemed to mostly concentrate on our front, but they weren't too good with their guns. Chuck blew one away with the cheek gun and Burleson took one out that foolishly tried to come in at 6 high. Monroe raked another pretty good, though no one could confirm a kill. The few that actually got through our guns and the defensive fire of the formation didn't shoot straight at all -- we came back without a scratch for the second mission in a row!
Pretty much as soon as we hit the Yugoslavian border, the enemy disappeared, and we didn't see any action the rest of the way home. Now we just need to figure out a way to get Jack's eye back and we'll be fine.
- 1st Lt. Joe Delany, Pilot, Eat at Joe's
317th BS (Lead)
DIVINE WIND, third flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with radio inoperable and superficial damage to the bomb bay area & starboard wing. No causualties.
Took off from Sterparone Field, Foggia, Italy without any problems or malfunctions.
About fifty (50) miles away from target we were attacked by three (3) ME-109s coming in from 12 high & from 12 and 1:30 level. The ones from 12 and 1:30 level missed the plane and were driven off by fighter cover and machine gun fire from the bombers. The one coming in from 12 high hit the plane and was able to hit the starboard wing causing superficial damage. It returned coming in from 1:30 level and 1st Lt. Muraki was able to hit the plane causing superficial damage to the fighter. This caused it to miss the plane and not return to the formation.
There was no flak over the target but with the heavy cloud cover we were not able to find the target and not get any of the bomb load close to the target.
On the turn back from the target we were attack by one (1) ME-109 doing a VERTICAL DIVE. 1st Lt. Muraki was able to lightly damage the fighter and caused it to miss the plane and not return. Another ME-109 came in at 3 low. This was was able to hit the plane three (3) times twice in the radio room and once in the bomb bay area. One hit to the radio room was superficial in nature but the other one damaged the radio to cause communications in the plane to be out. The hit to the bomb bay was superficial in nature.
Two hundred miles (200) miles away from base bogies were spotted at 1:30 level but were driven off by machine gun fire from the formation before they were able to fire on our planes.
Reached Sterparone Field and was able to land without incident.
- Capt. Mark Yoshikawa, Pilot, Divine Wind
MEMPHIS GAL, third flight, left wingman
Runway abort. Did not take off and participate in the mission.
316th BS (High)
FULL HOUSE, lead flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with chin turret inoperable, port aileron holed, superficial damage to the fuselage (4) and tail (1). 2 casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 by MSgt. Miller and 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Schultz.
LUCKY PENNY, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 apiece by Capt. Hamilton & Sgt. Jenkins and 1 ME-109 by 1st Lt. Collins.
Fighters appear in the very first zone but were driven off by other B-17s.
No more fighters until just before target area (zone 6). Again, fighters were chased away by other B-17s. Finally, over the very cloudy target area, we were attacked by 3 FW-190s. Our navigator managed to hit and kill one, and the other two fighters missed and flew off.
We totally missed the target. As we were coming around, we were also attacked again but this time with 2 ME-109s. Our bombardier made up for his poor bombing by blowing away one of the two fighters. The 2nd one missed and again flew off but now without the engineer getting some damage on it (-2 dmg).
No enemy encountered again until just before the end of mission (zone 3) where we got attacked by 3 FW190's. Friendly fighter cover was better here and one enemy fighter was sent away by our guys. Ball gunner managed to kill another one and the third lost his stomach for any fight and flew off.
We landed without further incident, even though the weather back a base was horrid.
- Capt. Paul Griffin, Pilot, Lucky Penny
DARLA'S BITE II, lead flight, left wingman
Aborted mission zone 4 outbound due to damage. Returned alone out-of-formation with the Norden bomb sight, #4 engine shot out, auto-pilot Mechanism, port wing flap, control cables, bombardier's heating system, nose, top and tail guns shot out, 20% damage to the starboard wing root, extensive fire damage to tail and port window shot out in pilot compartment; bomb bay & doors holed. 6 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Lt. Cannon.
After an easy run two days age and a day off from the grueling schedule, the crew was in high sprits. There was some groaning when I told the boys we were going to Bulgaria, but everyone was eager to give it to Jerry.
Take of was eventful as there were some close calls with the poor weather and all. I believe it was the Lucky Penny we missed, as I came up just short of her tail when Darla cleared the low cloud cover at the base. Formation was loose for a while, yet we tightened it up as we got closer to enemy territory.
Around 200 miles out of Sterparone field we saw our first sign of enemy resistance. We had four vary persistent Focke-Wulf 190As hounding us. Evan though Lt. Johnston damaged (FCA-1) the one from 12 level, it still managed to riddle the nose taking out our Norden bomb sight. As this was going on a second Focke-Wulf 190D placed a series of 20mm in the starboard wing root. With the Focke-Wulf 190A drop straight down on us missing, the one approaching from 6 high we weren't out of it yet. Luckily the 190 in the vertical dive ended up missing us completely. But his wing mate made up for his lack of marksmanship. This bugger walked us from tail to nose. He punched multiple holes in the tail, waist and radio room, leaving Tippit and Wakefield with their wounds. We later found out that the hits on the bomb bay had torn up its doors. One round penetrated my foot from the 190's run to the nose. Finally taking out Johnston's nose gun to finish out his walk down Darla's back.
On their return the Focke-Wulfs came at us from the front and starboard side. Breslof damaged (FCA-1) the one at 12 high making him miss. This must have deterred the one from 10:30 level as he missed too. Albers nailed the one at 3 level (FBOA-2), but he must have been an ace or something, because he still manages to hit us hard. Taking out our autopilot mechanism and damaging our control cables. This Focke-Wulf returned to continue his cunning destruction. Returning from 12 level he pretty much shattered the nose Plexiglas, rendering Johnston's heated suit useless.
With the bombsight destroyed and the possibility of having to drop out of formation for the next 450 miles, I made the decision to abort the mission. With the weather so bad and getting worst, I figured we wouldn't be any use to the bomb run if we had to do a visual drop. I believed it best to head home instead.
Though I almost regretted this decision as soon as we called it in and dropped out of formation, as the Lufftwaffe was waiting. It was as if they had a memo that we were alone. Two waves of Focke-Wulf 190Ds came in repeatedly. On the first wave Tippit sprayed the one coming from 3 level, damaging its left wing (FCA-1). Albers believes it was the ace from before, as it had the same markings. Though being hit he was able to take out our number 4 engine. Another Focke-Wulf disabled the top turret guns. A lone ME-109G came in fast from 12 level but was unable to get a bead on us and missed. As we were by ourselves these three came around again. The ME-109 came back from 12 o'clock and missed again. Wakefield sprayed his target getting a probable as the 190 broke of (FBOA-with out attacking). The last Focke-Wulf came up our tail trying his best to kill Andrews. This German took out our port wing flap and severed our control cables completely and destroying Andrew's guns. There was quite a scare as this Focke-Wulf 190A started a fire in the tail section, which took Andrews three fire extinguishers to smother it. On his last run on us the Focke-Wulf shattered the port side of my window. When the ME 109G came in from 1:30 level, Lt. Cannon poured about 150 rounds into his cockpit, taking him down. Albers reported seeing this fighter tumbling end over end for the ground.
The second wave was vary much like the last, two Focke-Wulf 190As and a lone ME-109G. I'm not sure of the details of the one Focke-Wulf as it seamed to be chased off by a P-47, though he never returned to continue helping us. The other 190 placed a few rounds into the bomb bay with no effect. The ME-109G hit the nose killing Johnston; I never did get to know him. On these two's return Tippit was able to heavily damage (FBOA-2) the ME-109G forcing him to miss and go home. The Focke-Wulf made one last half-hearted attack and he too went home.
The next 50 miles we didn't see any fighters, giving Andrews time to move forward to see if he could help Breslof. Andrews was able to bandage Breslof's shoulder, but it looked bad. As Andrews guns were out in the tail he took up station at the top turret for the rest of the trip. This was wise as we saw a pair of ME-109Fs around 150 miles out of base. Richard convinced one to go home after he plastered his engine (FBOA-2). The second Me 109F made three tentative attempts, causing no further damage to Darla.
We encountered 27 enemy fighters with one chased away be a lone P47 (?). We are claiming 1 kills with 3 probable and 2 damaged.
Sadly I must again report a death. 2nd Lt. Johnston was killed in action. On a brighter note, Master Sergeant Breslof will recover from his shoulder wound, but he is going home. Lt. Cannon, Sgts. Tippet & Wakefield and my self, 2nd Lt. Beckett, will all recover from our wounds, yet it is up to the base medical staff to when we will return.
Didn't make it to the target, but brought home our eggs for a later time.
- 2nd Lt. Don Beckett, Pilot, Darla's Bite II
SATIN DOLL, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with superficial damage to waist, cockpit, & tail plane from 13mm & 20mm shells. 1 casualty. Claims: 3 FW-190s by SSgt. Turner.
After the short ones, and a couple of milk runs I guess it was about time we were scheduled for a long mission.
Leading the second element of the high squadron, we made the run in to the target without drawing any attention from the Krauts. Just as we reached the IP, a lone FW swooped in from 1030 high. Popping out the clouds, he caught our gunners flat footed. Taking advantage of this, he quickly peppered the waist and tail. The hole in the tail plane was nothing to talk about but he hit our Port Waist gunner, Brad Wall, in the chest with a 20mm slug. Cummings called in that Brad was down and not moving. As he lined up his second pass from 9 high, George Turner nailed him with the top turret .50s. Cummings said that George blew the right wing off and the Kraut spun down through the formation.
In spite of the crummy weather, PJ got about 20% of the load into the main area of the marshalling yards. Blankenship said that it looked like we dropped right into a roundhouse.
Terry called up and said that Brad didn't look good, and that he had given him a shot of Morphine to ease the pain. As we neared the rally point, an ME-109 made a pass from 12 high peppering the waist. Poor Brad took another slug, this time in the shoulder. Terry was patching him up when this insult to injury came. The Kraut swung around for another pass from 1:30 level, missed and headed for the low squadron. No sooner had he broken off, then we get bounced by 3 FWs. Thankfully, a P-47 barreled in and hammered the one at 1:30 level. The one at 12 low must have been was scared off by Blankenship's ball turret guns, but the one from 12 high caused some excitement as shell fragments bounced around the cockpit. As he set up another pass from 12 level, Turner blasted him with the top turret, and he spun down through the formation trailing flames from the cowling.
We didn't see any more E/A until we crossed the Yugoslav border. A lone FW made a pass from 10:30 high, got nicked by Henderson's port cheek gun, but kept coming. That was his mistake. Turner opened up with his twin .50s and nailed the pilot into his seat.
Thankfully, the rest of the way home was uneventful. Nearing home, Terry called in and said that Brad was unconscious and he didn't think he was going to make it. Letting down through the scud, we fired 'red-red' flares to get a priority landing. Maybe if we got Brad to the Doc quick enough, he'd be all right. Hurrying the landing, the Doll bounced pretty hard, twice. Terry shouted over the interphone that Brad opened his eyes on the second bounce, and started bitching about the lousy landing. The Doc says that he should be okay after a few days and that his wounds was not as serious as they looked. He said that the shell that hit him in the chest had been turned by the religious medal he wore, probably saving his life.
- Capt. John P. McConnell, Pilot, Satin Doll
CLAREMONT EXPRESS, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 75%. Returned with #4 engine inoperable and superficial hits to the pilot, waist and tail compartments. 1 casualty. Claims: 1 FW-190 by Sgt. Jennings.
Flight out was uneventful until we reached the coast of Albania (zone 3), where we encountered 4 ME-109s. Fighter jocks drove off 2 leaving us to deal with 2. We took superficial hits in the port waist and tail, our return fire missed.
Entering Yugoslavia (zone 4) we encountered no enemy fighters.
Just before leaving Yugoslavia (zone 5) we had our hands full with 2 FW-190s (both aces from the markings). We took a superficial hit to the pilot's compartment, but as we took the hit Sgt. Jennings tagged the Nazi numerous times causing the wings of the 190 to disintegrate. Lt. O'Malley and I witnessed the destruction to this plane. While this was going on we took a hit in the radio room killing TSgt. St. Laurent. Unfortunately for his family there won't be much to bury, his remains were pretty much a mess. Our return fire missed but caused the German to pick on someone else. It was also during this part of the trip that several members complained of cramping and gas. Sgt. Lapaglia appears to have been most affected.
While traveling through Bulgaria (zone 6), we observed numerous German fighters being driven off by the other ships, kudos for a splendid job.
As we entered the target area Lt. Nelson got a clear peek through the clouds and dropped on target, estimating 75% success, clearly his best performance thus far. At this time Sgt. Lapaglia became incapacitated and was unable to perform his duties for the remainder of the mission.
The return trip home was uneventful until we entered the Adriatic (zone 3), then Engine #4 decided to quit. I'll speak to my crew chief MSgt. Bilko about this tonight. Despite this we were able to land safely and the meat wagon took the remains of St. Laurent and brought Sgt. Lapaglia to the infirmary where he will be laid up for a day or two according to the doctors on duty.
- 1st Lt. Ed Harrigan, Pilot, Claremont Express
SUCKER PUNCH, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with navigator's heating system inoperable, minor superficial damage and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by 2nd Lt. Zucker and 1 FW-190 by SSgt. Little.
We were jumped by four ME-109s about 50 miles after we took off. Our escorts drove two of them off, and the other two made a pass at us but missed. We weren't bothered by any other enemy fighters until we were within 25 miles of our secondary target, Vrattsa.
Despite the poor weather over Vrattsa, two waves of fighters located us. The first wave consisted of three FW-190s. SSgt. Little got one of the fighters as he was coming in. The other two missed, and Sgt. Cicalo observed smoke coming from the one that he fired at and hit as it passed overhead. Three more FW-190s were stacked up behind the first three. T wo of the three attackers missed, but the third put several shells into the nose of the plane. Fortunately 2nd Lts. Bittner and Zucker only suffered light wounds.
There was no flak over the target. In spite of his wound, Zucker was able to find a hole in the overcast and put 40% of our bombs on the target.
As we were leaving the target, Bittner noticed that his suit heater was no longer working. He agreed with me that since we were so far over enemy territory, we should stay with the formation. I think we made the right choice, because not long after our conversation we encountered three ME-109s. Zucker knocked one out of the air that was coming at us from straight on. The other two attackers missed.
One last wave of fighters located us about 100 miles away from base. Our escorts bounced two of them. The third guy was a real pro. He hung behind while the first two were driven off, which pulled the fighter escort away from us. Then he made his run. SSgt. Little picked him up, though, and put a few holes in him.
Landing was good, in spite of the lousy weather. Bittner and Zucker were sent to the base hospital to have their wounds treated. Hopefully, they will be back with us before our next run.
- 2nd Lt. James O'Grady, Pilot, Sucker Punch
OLD YARD DOG, third flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with radio & tail turret guns inoperable, rafts shredded, damage to the port wing root and superficial damage to the #1 engine. No casualties.
Takeoff was uneventful even though the weather was crappy with 7/10 overcast. How do they expect us to hit targets in this weather?
Anyway, everything went well until about 100 miles short of the target then a couple of 109s got too friendly with us. Our radio was shot out and we lost our rubber rafts. So no bailout for us over water!
Over the target area flak was not in evidence and somehow we dodged all the 109s flying about in the crappy weather. We saw them only by their twinkling cannon fire and then they were gone. No effect either way. Somehow Lt. Wiggins found a hole in the weather and we got some possible good hits. (Recon reports On/30%).
Turning for home the Luftwaffe tried hard to stop us. We took some hits in the port wing root and #1 engine was hit but kept turning. I thought they had us then.
Everything else was relatively quiet until about 150 miles from the base. A sneaky 110 came up from down low and shot the tail guns out of my tail gunners hands. Fortunately Beasley was unhurt but now without guns. Again fortunately that guy left and we didn't see him again. We found the base without too much difficulty due to superior navigation of our crew's navigator.
- Capt. Michael Chase, Pilot, Old Yard Dog
317th BS (HIGH)
CARDINAL EXPRESS, third flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with superficial damage to the port wing and bomb bay doors. 1 casualty. Claims: 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Booth (later confirmed by S-2).
We feel lucky to get back from this mission. We didn’t see a lot of planes. We didn’t see a lot of flak. However, one burst of flak rocked the plane. Our ball gunner, Spritz, immediately reported that the bomb doors to the Express were blackened from the burst. We crossed our fingers as the doors opened up. We let the bombs go and breathed a big sigh of relief. Apparently, we had strayed slightly off course and our payload was dropped nowhere near the target.
Fighter wise, we had seen a couple of enemy planes up to this point. One was quickly shot out of the sky by our top turret gunner. The other inflicted what appeared to be insignificant damage. We were attacked by a group of four about half-way home. Our port wing engine area took some lead but kept up the good fight. Our port wing gunner took a bullet in the arm but he stayed in the fight as well!
As we drew closer to home, the crew relaxed since, to my knowledge, we have not seen any enemy fighters close to home. Out of nowhere, we were attacked by a 190 coming at a straight vertical dive. Our top turret and radio man pointed their weapons straight up and poured out as much as they could. Fortunately, we did more damage to the 190 than he did to us. The crew reported the 190 lived another day. We made it back to base. I told the crew to rest up and prepare for difficult missions in the near future.
- Capt. Bob Peterson, Pilot, Cardinal Express
SILVER SPOON, third flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Fell out-of-formation after Vrattsa (zone 6 inbound) and returned with both elevators, both waist heater, port aileron inoperable, rudder damaged, moderate miscellaneous damage. 1 casualty. Claims: 1 FW-190 by Sgt. Fielding and 1 ME-109 each by 1st Lt. Yablowski and Sgt. McDonald (McDonald's FW-190 later confirmed by S-2).
Holy Crap! Where in tarnation did the Krauts get THAT many goddammned fighters! Thank God for our fighter boys! We got hit all the way out, and those bastards worked us over, let me tell you! There were 190s, 109s and even a coupla twin-engine crates out on the fringes. Don’t know what they were, they didn’t get close to us. Didn’t need to! Pancetti got a packety in the leg, and it looked all over for him. The little bastard carried a hip-flask with him everywhere he goes, and that little piece of tin crap saved him! Still, he’s shaken up and may be with the medics a while longer before getting back to us.
I also think a gunner on one of our ships took a nick out of Carpenter’s neck. There were so many bandits buzzing about you can’t blame them, but we need to look at how we fly in these formations. Anyhow, we missed the target. The fighters caught us on the way out, though, and next thing we knew we were dropping out-of-formation. Captain Forrest tells us the waist heaters were out, he’s got no choice. Jerry doesn’t believe in flying low it seems, ’cuz no-one bothered us on the way home. Except Pancetti; he moaned the whole way home.
Gotta go, fella. Gotta go find Forrest and tell him this is the last time we let him off debriefing duty.
- 2nd Lt. R. Klein, Bombardier – Silver Spoon
399th BS (LOW)
PRINCESS LILIKOI, lead flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 50%. Shot down by enemy fighters during return leg over Yugoslavia (zone 5). 9 chutes seen, 3 POWs & 6 MIAs.
Princess Lilikoi bombed the target, then 190s and 109s swarmed around her like flies around a cow flop. Two or three 190s attacked her at least twice and one 190 must have hit the oxygen in the pilot compartment. The cockpit was filled with smoke and as the Princess left the formation, the crew baled out. 9 chutes were seen. One man hit the horizontal stabilizer and fell to the ground without opening his chute.
- Reported by debriefed crew members in the 399th squadron
FRISCO KID II, second flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with Starboard aileron out, damage to the starboard wing root and holes all over wings and fuselage. 2 casualties. Claims: 2 FW-190s by MSgt. Wilson and 1 FW-190 and 1 ME-109 each by Sgt. McDonough (ME-109 was later confirmed by S-2).
A fairly hairy mission, and one we're lucky to have made it back from, though it didn't start out that way. We were attacked over the Adriatic--one 109 raked our wings, but fortunately didn't hit anything vital--just damaged the wing root.
After we crossed into Yugoslavia, the weather got really bad. Group had warned us about that, and told us that enemy fighter opposition would be lighter as a result, but someone forgot to tell Jerry that. We got hit hard--about 150 miles out of Sofia, we saw two of our squadron mates drop out of formation. We ourselves did not come under attack until we got to the Sofia area, which we found to be so obscured that we had to press on to a secondary target, Vrattsa, which we hit hard.
Once at the secondary target, heavy fighter attacks continued, and were more or less continuous until we got back over the Adriatic. Wilson and McDonough each nailed two, and we shot up a few others pretty bad. Luckily Jerry's aim was bad, as we took relatively light damage--lots of holes all over the plane, though. Over Albania one of the bastards hit the cockpit and wounded Lt. Harvey and myself. Neither injury is serious, but it hurts like hell. We did manage to make it back safely with all hands. Quite a ride.
- Capt. David Moody, Pilot, Frisco Kid II
PRINCE OF TUSCANY, lead flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with entire aircraft oxygen system inoperable, radio destroyed, tail & ball guns out, pilot compartment & ball turret heating systems out, rudder damaged, engineer & tail sections oxygen systems damaged, superficial damage through out (16!). 3 casualties. Claims: Claims: 1 FW-190 by Sgt. Tarleton & 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Richard.
Well, I am not sure I know where to start. Although we had flown two relatively quick and easy missions, we were in for a doozy on this one. It’s is going to be a long war.
We seemed to have good luck early on with fighters or other bombers keeping the Germans off our back. Occasionally one or two would break through, but they seemed to not want to press the attack scoring superficial damage at best. We were well over Bulgaria when we got into our first real scrap with a flight of FW-190s. Despite scoring hits on 3 of the planes, 2 of the 4 came around again for a second pass (we would eventually damage all 4). One plane in particular was persistent making 3 passes despite only doing superficial damage to the Prince. Despite the poor weather we were spotted by a lone FW-190, who coming in from 10:30 high, scored the first walking hit we received. At this time, Sgt. Nathan received a tear in his shoulder. Also notable was the destruction of the radio (which would receive 2 further busts in the mission – leaving it beyond hope) and the oxygen system for the entire crew. The Jerry came around 2 more times, but the only real damage was done to the heat system of the pilot compartment – a non factor on the mission as we would need to drop down to 10,000 ft after the bomb run.
The bomb run was made, scoring 40% on target (despite the weather) and we dropped down to 10,000 feet. We dodged hills and used cloud cover for the flight home, but were exposed to light AA from various ground units. Fortunately, the cloud cover made it hard for them to make any accurate shots.
I believe we were over Albania when we met up with 4 more FW-190s (who must have vectored in a lone wolf ME-109, as one got mixed up in the fracas). In the fight Sgt. Tarleton scored his first kill a Focke-Wulfe coming at us from 3 level. Our hapless radio took another hit but for the most part, German fire was less than effective.
Out over the Adriatic, we had our last encounter, 2 ME-109s. Amazingly both scored walking hits on us, 1 after being hit by a solid burst from SSgt. Richard. These two walking hits were responsible for most of the significant damage to the plane as well as the death of 2nd Lt. Nen (and 2nd. Stinson received his wound at this time). SSgt. Richard continued his good shooting, this time destroying our antagonist in a ball of fire.
That was the last of the enemy we saw on the flight. Despite being totally bullet ridden we were thankful to be flying home with no critical systems damaged (engines, gear, etc) . The landing was uneventful and the crew broke open the 21-year old McCallan that Marion had been saving.
-1st Lt. Frank Marion, Pilot, Prince of Tuscany
RATS REVENGE, second flight, lead aircraft
Aborted mission zone 4 due to battle damage. Returned alone out-of-formation to base with #2 Engine out due to fire, radio, nose heat, pilot compartment oxygen out, the Norden bomb sight destroyed and numerous holes throughout the aircraft. No casualties. Claims: 2 ME- 109s by SSgt. Strickland (1 ME-109 later confirmed by S-2), and 1 ME-109 each by Lt. Clark and Sgts. Crew, Pender & Parker.
Take off and form up were without incident. It seems like we were hit by Germans as soon as the formation headed out over the water. My boys were ready for the fight too. After the last few milk runs we had, they were ready were ready to tear up some Krauts. The first two 109s came at us from our 1:30 and 12. A Thunderbolt dove in and intercepted the ME coming in from 1:30 and Sgt. Strickland tore the wing off the other coming in from our 12. Suddenly a third 109 dove in from our six, but Sgt. Pender downed him easily.
As we entered Yugoslavia we were hit be a small group of 190s, these guys were good! They came in hard and fast from our 12, my boys barely had a chance to see them before all hell broke loose. A P-47 did the best he could to intercept them, they kept coming. My boys missed them, and they raked us with bullets. The first pass knocked out the radio, and destroyed our bomb sight. The second pass knocked out the suit heaters in the nose, the oxygen system in my compartment, and punched a hole in our starboard side outboard fuel tank (self-sealed). They came back around for a last pass at us, it was devastating. They shot up our waist, tail, and wings. Our #2 engine caught fire, and we had no choice but to drop out of formation. We were eventually able to put the engine fire out. I made the decision to jettison the bombs and abort the mission.
As we headed home we were hit by a group of four 109's. Sgt. Parker in the ball turret made short work of one, but the other three kept coming. 2 of them missed us, but the third punched more holes in our waist and tail. When he came back around for a second pass, Sgt. Strickland registered his second kill of the day.
As we crossed back over the Adriatic, we were hit by a pair of 109s. Lt. Clark downed the first with the chin guns, and Sgt. Crew got the other from his waist gun position.
Landing was uneventful.
- Capt. Todd Oswald, Pilot, Rats Revenge
MOONSHINE A-BREWIN', second flight, right aircraft
Runway abort. Did not take off and participate in the mission.
TEXAS THUNDER, second flight, left wingman (TAIL-END CHARLIE)
Bombed target, 96%. Fell out-of-formation west of Sofia (zone 6) and bombed target alone at 10,000 ft. Returned alone with #'s 1 & 4 engines and port landing gear inoperable and successfully belly-landed with 5 casualties. Aircraft later classified as category E, beyond economical repair. Claims: 2 FW-190s & 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Fargo, 2 ME-109s by Sgt. Goyer (1 Me-109 later confirmed by S-2), 1 FW-190 by Tsgt. Doeskin, and 1 ME-109 each by 2nd Lt. MacDonald and Sgt. Blanchard (MacDonald's ME-109 was later confirmed by S-2).
As the crew watched the Rats Revenge drop from formation after crossing the border of Yugoslavia, we realized it was now our turn. The weather was bad as promised, but the Jerry’s were there in force and we had no fighter cover. Four enemy 109s aircraft bore in on the Texas Thunder, repeatedly striking the plane. Another ME-109 struck the from 6 o’clock high & pressed home its attack even after being hit (FCA) by fire from the tail, scoring walking hit along the plane that killed Sgt. Spence, tail gunner, and seriously wounding Sgt. Bartoldus, one of the waist gunners. It also knocked out the radio, the intercom and the heat in the nose compartment. 2nd Lt. MacDonald, SSgt. Fargo and Sgt. Goyer each managed to destroy 1 ME-109 each during the attacks.
As the mission continued (zone 5) we were attacked again by five aircraft (four FW-190s and an ME-109), we finally saw some of the P-47s flying escort and they drove off one of the FW-190s, the remaining four enemy aircraft pressed their attacks. TSgt. Doeskin engaged a FW-190 diving in from above and destroyed the plane. SSgt. Fargo destroyed another attacking from 6 o’clock high The other fighters scored additional hits on both wings and the bomb bay. On their next pass SSgt. Fargo destroyed another FW-190 coming in from 12 o’clock high but Sgt. Bartoldus was struck an by enemy fire again and died from his wounds.
We continued on to Sofia along with our bad luck, cloud cover had the target totally obscured. As the squadron started towards the alternate target we come under attack by 3 ME-109s one attempting to attack from our undefended 6 o’clock position was driven off by our fighter escorts. The other two came in from 12 o’clock and 1:30 high and Lt. DeMarco damaged (FCA) one of the attackers throwing off his aim. The other Jerry hit the flight deck knocking out the pilot's oxygen. When it swung around for another attack and was destroyed by Sgt. Blanchard as he came in from 3 o’clock level. With the loss of oxygen we were forced to drop out-of-formation.
As we approached the target we were attacked by two ME-109s. Lt DeMarco drove one off (FBOA) and another attacked from our 6 o’clock without any effect. We encountered some light flak. Our dropping out-of-formation and to lower altitude as we reach the target zone came at least with a silver lining. We managed to find a break in cloud cover and Lt. DeMarco was able to place almost all of our bombs on target.
We started home and we attacked again by an FW-190 and ME-109, we managed to use the cloud cover to our advantage and suffered no damage from their attacks.
We managed to make it as far as the eastern border of Albania before we saw enemy fighters again. We came under attack from 3 ME-109s but a couple of little friends drove one off while the others two attacked from 1:30 and 9:00 high. Lt. MacDonald damaged one (FCA) and the other 109 repeatedly struck our port wing causing a fire in the #1 engine and damaging the port aileron. After he passed he swung around and came back from 3 o’clock and was driven off (FBOA) Sgt Blanchard.
As we approached the coast of Yugoslavia 3 Me109s came at us again. Our defensive fire was ineffective and they gave us a good pasting on the starboard wing hitting the #3 Engine with a superficial hit and damaging the #4 Engine which we were able to feather. Lt. MacDonald suffered a light wound when a round grazed head during the attack.
Over the Adriatic some little friends joined us and stayed with us until we made landfall in Italy.
As we approached Sterparone Field we realized that our gear would not come down. The surviving crew members parachuted from the aircraft before Lt. DeFilippo attempted to belly land the aircraft on the grass field adjacent to the Primary runway. Later as the Maintenance Officer inspected the aircraft he realized it was a complete write off.
- 1st Lt. Art DiFilippo, Pilot, Texas Thunder
Return to Sterparone Field