MISSION 24 - AVIANO AARs
316th BS (Lead)
FULL HOUSE, lead flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with two superficial hits to starboard wing and no casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Montgomery.
We were under constant attack soon after the group entered the Adriatic began to head northward and enemy kept the pressure up all the way to the target. About halfway into the mission, Sgt. Montgomery reported the Deputy Leader, Captain Chase in the Old Yard Dog, had come under heavy attack as well and was breaking formation heading back to base. During this time, we saw a lot of enemy fighters, all ME-109s, and our "Little Friends" did what they could but there was too many of them and about half of the attackers got through. The only damage we received during this entire time were two minor hits to the starboard wing just before the bomb run, while 2nd Lt. McClure damaged one fighter soon after crossing back into Italy and Sgt. Montgomery shot one down over the target area.
Flak was ineffective and Lt. McClure reported a good bomb run.
After the bomb run, the return home was almost uneventful except for one brave Italian 109 pilot. As we were almost home, the boys didn't spare the ammo and filled the sky with tracers. This show of lead persuaded the enemy pilot to break off his attack.
Our landing was smooth and uneventful.
- Maj. Daniel Tanner, Pilot, Full House II
LUCKY PENNY, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with damage to the starboard elevator, rudder, the port wing root, and with the radio room heating system inoperable. 1 case of frostbite. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Watkins.
All was quite until we hit the northern coast of Italy (zone 4) just before target, when we were hit by 3 fighters. Luckily they were driven off by friendly fighters.
Over the target we were jumped by a vertical diving 109. We missed and he got two hits on us. The first was in the tail area but he second was a walking hit. Most of the plane damage was done here knocking out the radio room heater, damage to tail rudder, wing root, and assorted dings. This guy kept coming, on the 2nd pass he hits our starboard elevator in the tail. Luckily the bomb bay hit was just a miss. Flak was light and as we managed to drop bombs on target.
As we swung around, 3 more 109s got us. We killed one, one missed us, but the third was another vertical dive. He damaged a wing root. This guy also made two more passes, peppering the waist compartment. The waist gunner miraculously missed getting killed during the on second pass when he left his position for a moment (used the Lucky charm and negated the effect). The last enemy run was a miss.
As we flew on towards home, we kept taking to the radio operator. He was cold but doing okay.
Midway over the Adriatic (zone 3) we were hit by 3 more 109s, two were driven off but a third vertical diver got us. On the first pass, not much but rattling in the bomb bay area; his second pass was a miss.
As we neared home (zone2), the radio man reported loss of feeling in both legs. When we landed the ambulances quickly took him away. We later received good news that Sgt. Dewes would recover (a 2nd lucky charm had to be burned to prevent loss of limb). Doc said he was a very lucky man that we were very close to home and for him to have escaped without losing his foot or toes. But he would keep Dewes overnight for observation. Crew was still all in one piece but shaken after this last one.
- Capt. Paul Griffin, Pilot, Lucky Penny
SATIN DOLL, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with superficial flak damage to port wing and waist and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Lt. Morris (later confirmed by S-2).
Somehow, we didn't draw any attention from E/A until we neared Aviano. A gaggle of three ME-109s came in at our nose, hell bent on knocking the Doll out of the fight. Two of them met with a warm reception by the escorts. The lone 109 that pressed his attack was blasted by PJ with the nose .50. Blankenship called in from the ball that he saw the pilot bail out as he passed beneath us. Another batch of three tried similar attacks as we neared the IP and were quickly flamed by the Jug Jockeys.
Flak over the target was light but it seemed that the flak gunners had us bracketed pretty good! Three times we were rocked by the ugly black flowers. The first one punched a few holes in the port wing. The next two went off right below the waist, punching a few drain holes in the floor, and grazing Terry Cummings' right calf. Despite the bouncing around, PJ got a good line on the airfield and dropped about 40% of the load into the area of the main runway.
Rallying off the target, another wave of three ME-109s came in from around the clock. Thankfully their aim was no better than ours and they flew past without scoring scratching us. Just after they peeled off, another 109 tried a pass from 3 low but was met by a hail of lead from a P-38.
We didn't have anymore E/A come our way until we were crossing the coast (zone 4). Again three ME-109s came in, and again the 'Little Friends' took two of them off us. The third made a fast pass, fired off a couple of rounds wide, and flew on by without so much as a glance back. The rest of the flight home was uneventful and we landed safely back at Sterparone Field.
Observations: E/A marked with white crosses on tail in place of Swastika. Some E/A marked with Italian fasces on wing in place of German crosses. Enemy Fighter attacks appeared uncoordinated, and ineffective.
- Capt. John P. McConnell, Pilot, Satin Doll
OLD YARD DOG, second flight, left aircraft
Aborted zone 3 outbound. Returned alone out-of-formation with radio, intercom, port waist gunner heating system inoperable, damage to the port wing root, superficial damage to the fuselage, and 2 casualties.
Well everything went to hell in a hand basket early. About 150 miles outbound we were savaged by a trio of 109s that obviously had expert pilots. On every pass they hit something vital. We dinged two of them and they broke off and left but not before they had done their duty on us on 3 full passes. Before we lost our plane intercom both waist gunners, Sgts. Harris and Riddell were severely wounded and out of action and our radio was shot away again. The port waist heating system was out as well. A large hole was in our port wing root. We took at least 4 other major hits that caused only superficial damage.
At this point my co-pilot and I elected to abort the mission and return home. We dropped down to 10,000 feet to keep our oxygen off and the wounded crewmen safer. We landed uneventfully and the ambulances were on the scene quickly. I am hoping Riddell and Harris make it back to us.
- Capt. Michael Chase, Pilot, Old Yard Dog
DARLA'S BITE II, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned without damage or casualties.
Why can't they all be this easy? After the last mission the crew deserved a Milk Run. We only saw a few enemy fighters with only one trying to put together an attack. This was thwarted by our little friends. Sgt Andrew's confirmed that the P-47 pilot nailed Jerry, as the ME-109's port wing exploded and there was no chute. Flak was light and very inaccurate.
On the return trip we saw few enemy fighters, yet one did get through our fighters but he was in a hurry, missing us and headed for the deck. Even though SSgt. Weber, Lt. Emerick, Sgts. Wakefield and Andrews took shots at him, he was going to fast to hit. We didn't see any other enemy aircraft after this one.
Only excitement from here on in was the number three engine turbo acted up for about 80 miles. This is probably a leftover from last mission. I informed MSgt. Fenn of this issue and he is checking into now.
We saw a total of 2 enemy aircraft, with no claims. After the mission ended, it hit the crew we only saw ME-109s flying around. The Focke-Wulfs were nowhere to be seen this trip.
- 2nd Lt. Don Beckett, Pilot, Darla's Bite II
SUCKER PUNCH, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties.
This was a milk run for Sucker Punch. We first encountered enemy fighters about 100 miles away from base. Two ME-109s came at us. One was driven of by our escort and the other one was severely damaged by SSgt. Little.
Any other fighters we encountered on our flight were either driven off by our escort or failed to hit us. There was no flak over the target, but Lt. Zucker was unable to hit the target.
- 2nd Lt. James L. O'Grady, Pilot, Sucker Punch
317th BS (HIGH)
SILVER SPOON, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 90%. Returned with superficial damaged and no casualties.
We pasted them good and proper! No fighters, a few flak bursts that put some holes in the wings and bright sunlight Ė and almost every one of our eggs hit right on the money! Fritz ainít gonna be using Aviano again in a hurry. Crew Chief canít believe we brought almost all our ammo back Ė apart from the test fire bursts, we didnít use our guns.
- Maj. Neil Amoore, Pilot, Silver Spoon
CARDINAL EXPRESS, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned without damage or casualties.
The general bad luck we experienced last mission seemed to reverse itself today. Good flying weather, superior protection from our little friends, and expert marksmanship all led to one of our most efficient missionís to date. We saw a few enemy planes both the way out and back in. Fortunately, all were either driven off by our fighter cover or decided to attack other B-17s in the group.
We got a good view of the Aviano airfield. We are estimating 40% of our bombs scored a direct hit.
The way back was just as easy as the way in. We landed without even being shot at, save a few light rounds of flak around the target area.
- Capt. Bob Peterson, Pilot, Cardinal Express
DIVINE WIND, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 50%. Returned with superficial damage to the fuselage and no casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Shimizu.
Took off from Sterparone Field, Foggia, Italy without any problems or malfunctions.
Seventy-Five (75) miles away from target bogies were spotted at 12 level but we did not see them attack the formation.
About Fifty (50) miles away from target one (1) ME-109 attacked at 12 high. It was driven off by fighters of the 325FG.
Also one (1) ME-109 came in from a VERTICAL DIVE. The fighter was severely damaged by Radioman TSgt. Kimura. The plane missed the plane and was driven off by machine gun fire from the formation.
Encountered light flak and did not hit the plane as we came up on target. 2nd Lt. Nakahiro was able to line up the plane on target and 50% of the bomb load hit the target.
On the turn-around, four (4) ME-109s attacked and two were driven off by fighters from the 1st FG. The other two coming in from 12 level and 1:30 high missed the plane and were driven off by a combination of machine gun fire from the formation and fighters from the 1st FG.
A second wave consisting of two (2) ME-109s coming in from 10:30 and 12 level tried to fire on the plane but they missed and were driven off by machine gun fire from the bomber formation.
A third wave of two (2) ME-109s came in from 12 and 1:30 level. The plane coming in from 12 o'clock was shot down by top turret manned by SSGT. Shimizu. The one coming in from 1:30 was able to hit the plane but only caused superficial damage to the fuselage. This fighter was then driven off by fighters of the 1st FG.
About 100 miles away from target bogies were again spotted at 12 o'clock level and did not attack the formation.
Reached Sterparone Field and landed without any problems.
- Capt. Mark Yoshikawa, Pilot, Divine Wind
DARKWATCH, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with bomb control inoperable and 1 casualty. Claims: 3 ME-109 by SSgt. Poulous (1 ME-109 later confirmed by S-2) and 1 ME-109 by TSgt. LaGrasta.
Some nice formation flying on the way in -- other ships drove off the first bandits we saw. Got jumped by three Messerschmidts, but our P-47 angels lived up to their nicknames and struck like lightning, driving them all off. We almost missed one more in a vertical dive, but LaGrasta got him from the radio room.
Poulous bagged his first bandit of the day over the target zone, but not before another Messerschmidt shot up our bombing controls and put a shell into Tiegerís belly . . . our tail gunner survived, but it was only by stuffing his lucky rabbitís foot into the hole just above his belt.
Poulous got even for Tiege when the bandit got greedy and came back for another pass -- Adam shredded him from the top turret as easy as kiss-your-hand.
Flak was no factor, but with our bomb controls FUBAR, Abernathy had to drop the bombs by hand (with the results youíd expect).
On the way home we had one scary moment . . . a Messerschmidt that came out of nowhere and might have dusted us from a vertical dive if not for the ever-alert Ssgt. Poulous. LaGrasta was back in the tail helping Tiege, so Poulous was the only gun with an angle on the bandit . . . and he didnít need more than a single burst to send that kraut to Valhalla. Poulous is a steady hand, let me tell you.
Landed without incident. Tiegerís got a million dollar wound and heís headed home. Whatís left of the original crew (just three of us, now, got run off from the base hospital by MPs when our farewell toast to Tiege got out of hand, but thatís another story . . .
- Capt. Paul O'Connor, Pilot, Darkwatch
399th BS (HIGH)
FRISCO KID II, second flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with port wing flap inoperable, superficial damage to the nose compartment and no casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Lt. Murray.
A milk run, overall. We saw no enemy until we were almost at the Italian coast inbound to target, but the Little Friends in the Checkertail Clan kept them away from us.
Over target we were attacked by two a/c in a head-on pass. Murray got one of them with the chin turret, but the other hit our port wing and knocked out the flap. He came back around, but we hit him and he broke off, smoking. Flak was light, and we hit the target with 20% accuracy.
We got attacked again in the target zone as we headed for home -- another 109 put some holes in the nose, but we hit him hard and he too flew away trailing smoke. After that, it was quiet -- we saw no enemy at all, and made it safely back to base.
- Capt. David Moody, Pilot, Frisco Kid II, Acting CO, 399th BS
WALLS OF FIRE, second flight, right aircraft
Runway abort. Did not take off and form up with group.
RATS REVENGE, third flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with #4 engine feathered and 1 casualty. Claims: 2 ME-109s by Lt. Clark & 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Strickland.
The outbound leg of the mission was quiet until we approached Aviano. As we approached, we were hit by 3 waves of 109s. The first wave came at us from our 12. My boys missed them, and for the most part they missed us. But, one of them managed to but a few rounds in our nose, hitting Lt. Clark in the leg. He came back around for another pass, but missed us and looked for an easier target. The second wave came in from our 12 as well. This time my boys were shooting a little straighter. Sgt Strickland smoked one, and Lt. Clark downed another. The third wave came at us from our 10 and 3. Sgt. Strickland put a few rounds through the port wing of the 109 coming in from our 3, the remaining 109s put a few rounds through our tail and port wing; but real damaged was done. When they came back around for a second pass, one of them hit our #4 engine, fortunately we got it to feather.
Flak was light as expected, and Lt. Clark managed to put 30% of our load on target.
Once we turned for home we were hit by two 109s, but they were quickly downed by Sgt. Strickland and Lt. Clark. The rest of the way home was quiet, our escorts did a great job keeping the inbounds off of us. Landing was uneventful.
- Capt. Todd Oswald, Pilot, Rats Revenge
PRINCE OF TUSCANY, third flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned without damage or casualties.
On behalf of the entire crew of the Prince of Tuscany, I would like to thank the pilots of the 325th and 1st Fighter Groups. Thanks to their efforts we never had more than a glimpse of enemy fighters the entire day. We had a few false alarms, but not one German or Italian fighter made an attack on us today. That coupled with the relatively light flak over the target meant that no battle damage was received by the Prince.
With good visibility the bomb run was on target and photo analysis assed accuracy at 40%.
- 1st Lt. Frank Marion, Pilot, Prince of Tuscany
SANTA'S HENCHMEN, third flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with the left aileron inoperable, other minor damage and 3 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Sgt. North.
Being late at assembly must have been a bad omen. We had no idea what lay ahead of us on our first mission. We were east of Rimini on the outbound leg when the first fighters appeared. A few managed to get away from the P-47s and attacked the high squadron. We were flying in the last flight in the high squadron, so I guess that we were an easy target. They didn't leave us for one second after that first wave. Most of them attacked over the target. I suppose that they were stationed there. The fighters killed two of my crew and wounded one. Fortunately the fighter cover was very good, or we all would have had it for sure.
We didn't hit the target, but I suppose that was because we're new and nervous. Pretty good shooting by the gunners. Five damaged and one claimed as shot down.
Flak hit us on the way back. It wasn't very accurate though.
- 1st Lt. Leo Hoffman, Pilot, Santa's Henchmen
318th BS (Low)
THOR, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with controls to the flaps inoperable and no casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 & 1 FW-190 by Sgt. LoMelle.
Take off, form up, and flight through the first zone was uneventful. Over the Adriatic on the way to the target (zone 3) we saw three 190s. One was knocked out of the sky by starboard waist gunner, Nick LoMelle, the second was badly damaged by Dave Tucker, and the third one made a pass without causing any hits.
Things were smooth until after the bombing run when we were jumped by four 109s. Nick got his second KIA and one of the 109s knocked out our flap controls and missed on the second pass. The other two made a single pass and left us alone.
- Capt. Joe Smith, Pilot, Thor
LONGHORN LADY, lead flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties.
Thanks to great fighter support and defensive fire from other B-17s, we did not get attacked by any enemy fighters during this mission.
Flak over the target was light and we did not have any flak damage. Even with the lack of flak, we were unable to get any of our payload on target.
The landing back at the base was uneventful.
- Capt. Landers, Pilot, Longhorn Lady
GREEN MAN'S GIRL, lead flight, left wingman
Runway abort. Did not take off and form up with gorup.
GOLDEN SPIKE, second flight, Lead Aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with damage to the control cables, rudder, wing root, pilot and tail gunner oxygen systems. No casualties.
We were expecting more of a milk run than it turned out. We made it all the way to the target without much action. A single ME-109 made a pass at us from the three waves that came our way, but everyone missed.
With little distraction from the light flak Lt. Thompson dropped 40% on the target and we turned for home.
As per usual we drew a lot of heat after the rally point. Three waves of fighters hammered us and we took 9 hits, 5 from a single ME-109 who surprised us in a vertical dive. Thankfully the crew escaped serious harm although for a second I was worried that Sgt. McArthy had been hit (used up a lucky charm to avoid a SW), but it turned out he was fine. It was with great relief that we left the target area.
On the way home Jerry threw three more waves at us, but only one fighter made it through the formation and escorts. He didn't cause any problems and before we knew we were having a beer in the O-Club.
- Capt. Todd Wilson, Pilot, Golden Spike
IRON LADY, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with minor damage and 1 casualty.
Took off and formed up with the rest of the group without any hitches. We didn't see a single enemy fighter until we had got right up the Adriatic and crossed the coast south of the target. We were jumped by six ME-109s in two waves. Fortunately we had the 325th escorting us today and they destroyed five out of six before they could draw a bead on us. The one that did get past them put a few holes in us, nothing serious, after SSgt. Foster had raked him on his approach (FBOA-2). As he came round for a second pass our little friends dispatched him.
The flak over the target was light as expected and didn't trouble us at all, and although we managed to hit the airfield, Sgt. Endleman in the ball turret reckoned that we only got a paltry 20% on target. As we cleared the target area and reformed for the flight home we were hit another five ME-109s in two waves. The first wave of two aircraft caused us little problems; a couple of minor holes before breaking off. The second wave's attack was pressed home with more energy and bite. SSgt. Foster hit the one from 12 level (FBOA-2). It rolled away pouring smoke from it's engine. The second followed the first away after missing us. The third came in from 12 o'clock low and the nose gun just couldn't seem to get to it. He hit us in the waist seriously injuring my starboard gunner Sgt. Toye. Jack Zimmer, the port gunner, was shouting that there was blood everywhere and that he couldn't get it stopped. Meanwhile, the ME-109 came round for a second pass and Hank Foster hammered it from the top turret knocking bits from off its port wing. This seemed to put the pilot off and it barrel-rolled away with more pieces coming loose.
We got reformed after that and were halfway down the Adriatic before seeing any more enemy fighters. Two ME-109s came in from 12 high and 3 level. Sgts. Endleman and Foster were on them straight away and got good solid hits on them (both FBOA-2) and they dropped away from us. That was the last enemy fighters we saw.
We radioed base that we had wounded and to get the meat wagon to meet us when we landed. It is with regret that I have to report that it was too late for Sgt. Toye and that he had bleed out from his wounds by the time we got him to the base hospital. Apparently it was the main artery in his right shoulder and with all the mess around the wound we couldn't tell. The letters are beginning to mount up.
-1st Lt. Joe Di Agostino, Pilot, Iron Lady
EAT AT JOE'S, second flight, left wingman (TAIL-END CHARLIE)
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with Navigator's equipment destroyed; superficial damage to bomb bay, port and starboard wings. 2 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 each by SSgt. Haversham & Sergeant Burleson; 1 ME-109 shared by SSgt. Haversham & Sgt. Featherstone.
Tail-end Charlie has the reputation it deserves. We started picking up large numbers of enemy fighters as we approached the Italian coast. We had good fighter cover that took care of a lot of bandits, but it seemed there were always more coming.
As we reached the target area, we ran into too many of the enemy for our little friends to take on. Another came in from 12 high and put a few nicks on the port wing. He came back for two more passes, not doing any real damage. On his last attempt, Featherstone and Haversham poured bullets into him and sent him down. Unfortunately, on one of his passes he damn near blew off the back of Lt. Straw's leg. Charlie Barstow was able to wrap the wound and keep him stable. He dropped the bombs when everyone else did, but Sgt. Burleson reported his bombs missing the mark. Not surprising, I guess.
On the return leg, we met fierce opposition around the target zone. Again, our fighters were able to engage some of the enemy, but we still had to do a great deal of shooting. We destroyed two more fighters and sent a couple of others running for home. Unfortunately, one of the few that got through our fire hit Sergeant Haversham in the chest. We also lost our navigation equipment. Charlie Barstow had his hands full up front, what with trying to keep track of our position, tending to Jack's injury, and trying to shoot down the enemy. He kept his cool and I think he should get some kind of credit for what he did on this flight.
We didn't see anything else until we were about 125 miles from the base, where we got jumped by three more 109s. I wonder if the Germans maybe have a base nearby in Yugoslavia.
Landing was without incident. We're praying for Jack and Monroe to recover from their wounds.
- 1st Lt. Joseph Delany, Pilot, Eat at Joe's
Return to Sterparone Field