MISSION 29 - MILAN AARs
317th BS (LEAD)
SILVER SPOON, Lead flight, Lead aircraft, Group Commander
Bombed target, 0%. Fell out of formation after leaving target area (zone 5). Returned alone with engine fire extinguishers & port cheek gun destroyed; radio room heat out; instrument panel damaged; multiple shell holes throughout aircraft and 5 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Fielding (later confirmed by S-2).
What a goddamn screw-up! We took a pounding. Things were okay until we got over the target, when a 190 got through the fighter boys and hit us from 9 o’clock. He looked like a greenhorn, but damn me if he didn’t do a number on us! Hit us from nose to tail in one pass, and then came back for more. Heard a scream from the nose, Blackmore and Yablowski had taken lead and then the cockpit flew apart. The instruments went, and Carpenter took a 20mm shell in the back . . . cut him in half. The flak got us too, and we lost the heat in the radio room. Our bombs went wide, and I radioed Montague in Cowboy 2 that I was dropping to 10,000 ft and that he’d have to bring the Group home.
Jerry chased us most of the way, and Fielding took a hit in the ball. He got one, though. MacDonald reported seeing another one of the 317th dropping out of formation but didn’t know who it was.
- Major Neil Amoore, Pilot, Silver Spoon
DARKWATCH, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with #1 engine out, tail turret inoperable, damage to the port wing aileron, rudder, and control cables. Superficial damage to nose, radio room, tail. No casualties.
The crew was somber before this mission. We’d gotten to think we were bulletproof with all our lucky charms and hooting and hollering over getting medals and stuff, then last mission it all came crashing in on us when three guys bought it. Some of the guys said they’d heard some of the old talk about the Darkwatch being a cursed ship. No one was looking forward to the long flight to Milan.
Didn’t take long for the Huns to find us – three FWs jumped us just after we’d gotten formed up and on our way to the target, but the P-38s chased ‘em off. A good sign to start the mission, but no one was relaxing just yet. Those little friends earned their pay again when they chased off more FWs just outside the target zone.
It was coming into the target zone when we attracted an unhealthy degree of enemy attention. We were jumped by five FWs with no fighter escort in sight. I didn’t know the Luftwaffe could still put that many birds in the air at once. Our guns didn’t hit a damn thing; fortunately, the Luftwaffe wasn’t much better today. I heard shells hitting the ship like hailstones but it turned out only the bandit hitting us from our six was on target. He put a hole in my port aileron and flashed out of view. I thought then that I was off the hook, but I was wrong.
He slashed down under us then came back at us from 1:30, and absolutely pasted us. Must have been hit in nine different places, easy. But for all that we were hit, we got off easy – superficial damage all over the place, but we did lose our bomb controls, and Ulm was shouting something about a fuel tank hit until a second look showed that we’d been hit in our #1 engine, instead (Ulm later told me he was fresh out of lucky charms after that one). Our oil tank must have been hit because it brewed up spectacularly, and we had a sweaty moment before the fire went out with our second extinguisher.
Meanwhile, that greedy bastard came back for a third pass, and hit us up the tail again, damaging my rudder and control cables. Then we were into the flak and our friend exercised the better part of valor.
I wish we could have joined him. We took a flak
burst in the tail, knocking out our tail turret (but our gunner didn’t get a
which was the best news we’d had all mission). With our bomb controls out we had to eyeball it – did the best we could but our eggs were well off target. Didn’t see a single bandit on the way home. Clear skies all the way.
The mission was a failure in that we didn’t hit
our target, but the crew climbed off the ship feeling a hell of a lot better
themselves that they did this morning. Does wonders, coming back from a mission with everyone alive. We’ll do better next time.
- Capt. Paul O'Connor, Pilot, Darkwatch
CARDINAL EXPRESS, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with the radio, rudder, port elevator, tail and ball turret guns inoperable, rafts shredded, cockpit windows shattered, damage to both wing roots, top turret oxygen system damaged, and 6 casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 apiece by SSgt. Booth & Sgt. Lopez.
So much for the Express being decorated with lucky charms. Most of them are now shot to smithereens. We just returned from our most intense battle yet. Unfortunately, we took 6 casualties, including the passing of our starboard waist gunner, Harold Clarke.
We were attacked by so many planes that I eventually lost count. Early on, our engineer took out a 190 headed straight at us at 12 o’clock. We also damaged another 190 along the way. We weren’t so lucky during the next waves. We were hammered by a vertical dive on more than one occasion. That’s when we lost Clarke, who suffered massive injuries. Our navigator took one in the shoulder. Our port waist gunner suffered both a shoulder injury as well as hurting his right foot. Our co-pilot got a piece of glass from our shot up window stuck in his foot. As you can imagine, the plane took some pretty significant damage. We lost two guns, the tail gun and the ball turret. Our radio went out. The bomb area took some hits. Our door was hit pretty good and I think our rafts were destroyed. If that wasn’t enough, the engineer started to report oxygen problems. We were able to keep the ship in formation while our injured navigator, Shelby, did a magnificent job of getting the plane to where it needed to be. We think we hit Milan with 30% of our payload.
The trip back was just as hard. We continued to encounter more than our fair share of enemy fighters. The engineer was shot in the foot and Landeau was shot pretty bad in the lower abdomen. He lost consciousness while Shelby did what he could for him. I am certain some quick thinking saved his life. We lost use of our rudder and port elevator on the way back. Both wings took damage but, thankfully, none of it was serious.
The plane landed safely at base. We were sure glad to be back. The crew has a lot of mending and soul searching to do after today’s mission. The mission was not without its heroic acts. Even though his guns were already out, Carlos Lopez took over for Clarke’s after his death. He was able to take down a 190 attacking from that side. Very impressive considering that wasn’t his gun. Maybe those charms in the plane weren’t such a bad idea after all. Who knows what may have happened without them and the hero’s that make up the Express.
- Capt. Bob Peterson, Pilot, Cardinal Express
BEWITCHED, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties.
Took off nice and easy. It was strange to be flying again but like riding a bicycle. Formed up and headed out.
A lone 109 came in at us near Rimini (zone 3) but we missed and he missed and flew off. It was pretty uneventful until we hit the target zone. We had two 109s come at us but our fighter boys blew them off us.
Flak didn't come close and we then managed to miss the target completely. Spratt was quick but not very nimble. His lay-off seems to have made him rusty as heck.
The turn was made and no fighters were seen as we egressed. Got a call from Silver Spoon that Major Amoore was going down to 10,000' and that we must take over lead. He looked like he'd been banged up a bit.
Had a wave of fighters come at us near Ferrara (zone 4) but the little guys blew them off again. Nothing else happened until we made base and landed feather smooth.
Hard to believe that there's a war on. Hope Spoon's okay. I'd hate for something to happen to Forrest.
- Capt. Shamus Montague, Pilot, Bewitched
MEMPHIS GAL, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned alone out of formation due to oxygen fires in waist and nose sections. Landed with tail & port waist guns destroyed, nose heater out, one fuel tank leaking, rudder damaged, both elevators damaged, and 3 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 apiece by Lt. Simms & Sgt. Baker (Baker's claim later confirmed by S-2).
The crew chief scanned the horizon for signs of his bomber, the Memphis Gal; most of the group's aircraft had already landed, only the stragglers were still out there.
A distant drone alerted the waiting men, eager eyes sought the incoming bomber to see if it was theirs. With red flares cutting the sky signaling only death or despair as if the sky itself was bleeding the Memphis Gal made its ungainly descent and came to rest amid a gaggle of fire tenders and ambulances.
The crew chief hung back and let the medics do their work . . . three stretchers were loaded into the waiting ambulance, then one after the other the remainder of the crew tumbled out of the wounded war-bird.
The crew chief gingerly made his way through the deserted aircraft, the cockpit was a mess, blood everywhere, the nose was equally bad only it also showed signs of a fire, moving aft the chief found the waist section riddled with bullet holes, here too a fire had erupted and the port waist gun was shattered as were the tail guns.
The chief could only imagine the hell these men had just gone through . . .
DIVINE WIND, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned without damage or casualties.
Took off from Sterparone Field, Foggia, Italy without any problems or malfunctions.
One Hundred (100) miles from base two (2) FW-190s attacked tried to attack but both were driven off by fighters of the 82nd Fighter Group and didn’t return.
About fifty (50) miles from target we were attacked by two waves. One wave were boogies that were spotted coming in from 9 high. They were driven off by both fighters from the 82nd Fighter Group and machine gun fire from bomber formation. The second wave consisted of boogies from 12 high and were driven off by machine gun fire from the bomb group.
We encountered medium flak and did not sustain any hits or damage. 2nd Lt. Nakahiro was able to find the target and put 30% of the bomb load on target.
About twenty-five (25) miles from the target boogies were spotted at 6 level and they were driven off by machine gun fire from the bomb group.
About fifty (50) miles away from base we were attacked by one (1) ME-109 coming in from 3 low. Fighters from the 14th Fighter Group were able to chase the fighter away before it was able to fire on the bomb group.
Reached Sterparone Field and landed without any problems.
- Capt. Mark Yoshikawa, Pilot, Divine Wind
ISLE OF R'LYEH, third flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with radio out, damage to starboard wing root (1 hit), 8 superficial hits and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 FW-190 & 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Densmore.
The weather was clear at the base and we took off and formed up with the squadron without a hitch.
On our way out we were jumped over water by a group of 4 FW-190s. Our little friends took care of one of them and the rest engaged us. Sgt. Edgar Brown on the port waist mg damaged one and forced it off. One coming in from 12 o'clock hit us and knocked out our radio. He was damaged by Sgt. Densmore in the tail and was forced to disengage. The other planes did not damage us and did not return.
The rest of the flight to the target was quiet until we approached Milan. There we were attacked by three more 190s. Edgar managed to hit one as it came in, but was hit be a shell that shattered his hip, putting him out of action. The 190 was too damaged to press the attack. Lt. Highsmith damaged another FW-190 and forced it to disengage. Sgt. Densmore shot down the third 190 as it passed over out plane to the rear. After these three were dealt with, a lone FW190 dove on us from about. Both the radioman and the engineer fired on it, but missed. Luckily the pilot of that FW-190 missed us also.
Flak over the target was pretty heavy, but luckily it did not affect us at all and we received no hits from flak. Lt. Highsmith had difficulty making out the target and released his bombs too late. We believe only a few may have been on target.
We had just brought the plane around to head for home when we attacked by a mixed group of 109s and a 190. Escorting fighters drove most of them off and Sgt. Densmore shot down an ME-109. We suffered several superficial hits and one nasty looking one near the starboard wing root. The rest of the flight home was uneventful and we came under no other enemy attacks. Sgt. Edgar Brown will recover from his wounds, but will be sent home.
- 1st Lt. T. Clay, Pilot, Isle of R'lyeh
399th BS (HIGH)
RAID HOT MAMA, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 93%. Fell-out-of-formation after bombing target (zone 6). Returned alone with fire damage to the tail section, turret guns inoperable, port waist & tail gunner heating systems inoperable, damage to the starboard wing root and flaps, and superficial damage to the waist section. No casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 apiece by SSgt. Fargo & Sgt. Blanchard.
The group formed up without any problems and the outbound trip was uneventful, due to the great work our P-38 escorts did. We encountered some enemy aircraft before the IP but good defensive fire from the squadron kept them at a distance.
Flak over the target was intense and accurate. We were struck repeatedly just prior to bomb release. We suffered damage to the starboard wing root and flaps, hits in the tail started a fire and knocked out the heat. Another hit in the waist knocked out the heat for the port waist gunner.
After leaving the target descended to 10,000 feet and we came under attack by a group of ME-109s. Sgt. Blanchard destroyed one and SSgt. Fargo damaged another. The Jerries knocked out our tail gun and caused minor damage to the waist. On the next pass SSgt. Fargo destroyed another ME-109. We encountered P-38s near Ferrara (zone 4) and they kept the Krauts at a distance, until our safe return to base.
- Capt. Arthur DiFilippo, Pilot, Raid Hot Mama
MISSY MOUSE, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with superficial damage to the port wing and bomb bay section; no casualties. Claims: 2 FW-190s & 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Virgil.
Another solid performance from the crew. Good bomb run and some good shooting by the gunners. We suffered only a few holes in the port wing and a superficial hit in the bomb bay (I'm glad this hit was after bombs away . . .).
I know our luck can't hold for much longer but lets give them hell while it does.
- 1st Lt. Elston, Pilot, Missy Mouse
SNAKE BIT, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with navigator oxygen system damaged (1), superficial damage and 3 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Gill.
Despite vigorous activity by 82nd and 14th FG, Snake Bit was involved heavily with enemy fighters. Fighters penetrated the fighter defense and bomber formation over Northern Italy. SSgt. Gill scored a clean kill during the attack of 2 sections of ME-109s. Snake Bit did receive damage, before driving the fighters off. Inbound to the target area, a section of Focke-Wulfe’s and a lone ME-109 broke through. It was at this time that Sgt. Julich received his fatal wounds.
Snake Bit started to receive flak and was hit by a burst just under the plane. Sgt. Gray was wounded when shrapnel destroyed a portion of his turret. Thompson kept us oriented and Masterson was able to deliver a full load on target (40% estimated).
As Snake Bit began the outward journey, a flight of 4 ME-109s made a run at us; 3 made perfunctory passes, but the fourth found the range and decided to come around for a second pass. Despite being hit by Sgt. Skinner and on fire the 109 scored several more hits (which turned out to be superficial), with the exception of Sgt. Skinner who was surprised to find that a bullet had grazed his ankle.
Snake Bit would fight off several more planes (engaging another 7, including a full flight of four 109s 40 miles out from Sterparone!) however, nothing significant arose.
The landing was without incident.
- 1st Lt. Jones, Pilot, Snake Bit
MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, second flight, lead aircraft
Took off but developed engine problems and returned to base.
LOUISIANA PIRATE, second flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by 2nd Lt. Witten.
An easy intro to the Group for us. We didn't see any German planes until we got to Milan. Then a bunch of them jumped us, and a couple made a pass at us, but didn't hit us. We didn't hit them either. Flak, though it looked pretty bad, didn't do anything to us, and Drew was able to hit the target good.
When we turned for home, even more Germans attacked us. This time four of them made a run at us. Drew shot one down, and Jim in the port waist scored hits on another. Again, we didn't hit anything and neither did they.
The attacks continued as we headed home, but the Germans were as inaccurate as we were. We made it safely back to base. Nice and easy, though it was a bit scary to be shot at. Luckily we have a couple of old veterans aboard.
-1st Lt. Rich Stevenson, Pilot, Louisiana Pirate
GOODBYE GIRL, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with starboard elevator out, numerous superficial holes in the nose, tail and waist compartments, and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Fishback (later confirmed by S-2).
It figures that our first mission would be a long one. As if my crew and I weren't nervous enough, seeing the loses that the 399th took on the last mission would be sobering for even a veteran crew. Let alone knowing that ˝ of our squad were as green as we were.
Take off and form up were uneventful, and the trip was the same until we once again crossed the Italian coast. We were suddenly hit by a group of 190s; they came at us from everywhere. My boys missed every single one of them. They however didn't miss us. They tore into the tail and waist of my plane. Fortunately none of my boys were hit. On the way back around my boys missed them again, fortunately only two of them managed to hit us. But they both hit the nose section, screams coming across the intercom told me that we weren't as lucky this time. Paxon and Duggins were hit, and the bastards were coming back around for a third pass. As they dove in for another pass, Sgt. Kollar managed to put some rounds on target, and drove one of them off, the other must have been rattled because he missed and left to find another target.
Things quieted down (at least for us) for a while and thankfully the wounds to Paxon and Duggins wouldn't keep them from continuing with their duties too much.
As we entered Milan we were hit by a group of 109s. Fighter cover drove all but one of them off, and Sgt. Fishback downed him from his ball turret. Flak over the target looked heavier than I'd hoped, but we took only a minor hit to the starboard wing. Our bomb run was off, and Lt. Paxon reports that we missed the target completely.
The inbound leg of the mission was quiet for us, and no Nazis made it through the fighter escort.
Our landing was uneventful.
- 1st Lt. Gordon, Pilot, Goodbye Girl
318th BS (High)
GOLDEN SPIKE, third flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with superficial damage in waist section and no casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by SSgt. Archibald (later confirmed by S-2).
A good, but unproductive flight but I know one German pilot who might disagree. Shortly after leaving the base we realized our formation was exceptionally tight (random events in zone 2). Two waves of enemy fighters were held at bay by friendly bombers and escorts, and we didn't fire a shot in anger until we neared Milan. A solitary ME-109 came in from 1:30 high and SSgt. Garbutt, returning from almost three weeks in hospital, damaged the bandit enough to distract him from his attack.
Over the target we were bracketed by flak but not hit. Unfortunately Lt. Thompson missed the target (again). That makes 9 misses for him in 17 attempts.
On the way home a wave of four ME-109s jumped us. Three Jerries were chased off by the escorts but one lone pilot, with a whole bunch of markings on his fuselage, dove towards us from 12 high. He must have been an ace, as cool as cucumber he bore down on us. He first shot spun Sgt. Stolberg around but he was miraculously unhurt (used up a lucky charm). On his next pass from 12 level he hit us twice more without serious damage. When he had the nerve to try a third time from 9 level he ran into a wall of lead. SSgt. Archibald got credit for knocking this ace from the sky.
We had clear sailing the rest of the way home.
- Capt. Todd Wilson, Pilot, Golden Spike
LONGHORN LADY, third flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with port cheek gun inoperable, several fuselage hits and no casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Bird.
We first were jumped by two 109s. One was damaged and the other was destroyed by Sgt. Bird. Then we were jumped by three 190s. Two of the 190s were driven off by some P-38s but the other put some superficial fuselage hits and knocked out the port cheek gun.
There was medium flak over the target, but didn't get any hits on our bird. We were able to 30% of the bombs on target.
Thanks to excellent fighter support, we did not run into any Kraut fighters on the way back to base.
- Capt. Jeff Landers, Pilot, Longhorn Lady
EAT AT JOE'S, third flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with starboard landing gear inoperable, superficial damage to starboard wing and waist; no casualties.
Praise the Lord, no one got hurt. We had some minor trouble right off the bat over the Adriatic. A 109 came out of the blue in a dive. He hit our starboard wing and came back twice more. Seemed pretty focused on the starboard wing, hitting it again. One of his passes, he shot up the landing gear, which made for a fun landing. He also got shot up a little by Sgt. Burleson, but the tough SOB hung in there.
We didn't see any other enemy (leastways, not that came after us) until we got over the target, but even there it wasn't too bad. Three 109s came at us, two of them made a second pass and got shot up for their troubles, but none of them were destroyed. Lieutenant Ardsley had a nice bomb run, 30% is what Sgt. Burleson estimates.
We didn't get touched at all the whole way home, the only thing we had to worry about was the landing. Lieutenant Delany did a nice job settin' her down. Pretty good run for the new guys, Ardsley hitting the target, and Seaton drawing some smoke from a Jerry. Maybe our bad luck of the last couple of missions is changing . . .
-2nd Lt. Verne Pike, Co-Pilot, Eat at Joe's
316th BS (Low)
FULL HOUSE, lead flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Fell out of formation in zone 4 inbound. Ran out of fuel and made emergency landing with only port main landing gear down at Triolo Field, a P-38 fighter base 25 miles NW of Sterparone. Damage assessment (In addition the damage made from the landing on only 1 wheel down): starboard wing landing gear inoperable, port wing inboard tank holed, port wing flap gone, #3 engine & top turret inoperable, radio room MG damaged, #4 engine oil tank holed, rudder damaged, and numerous superficial holes (16) found in the fuselage, nose, pilot's compartment, bomb bay, waist, tail sections, and both wings. 4 casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 apiece by Lt. Sears and Sgt. Ward and 1 ME-109 by Lt. Penny (later confirmed by S-2).
We saw no enemy fighter until the target zone where only light and ineffective opposition was encountered. Flak was thick but inaccurate and Lt. Sears reported a good run.
As we made for the rally point is where the enemy fighters hit us hard with 3 waves and no 'Little Friends' in sight. We survived the first two waves with minor damage but it was the last wave that caused the most damage. Two FWs came at us from both sides and both enemy fighters scored walking hits along both wings. The #3 engine was quickly feathered, the #4 engine was rapidly leaking oil and Sgt. Fuller was lightly wounded in his left leg (and later, the starboard main landing gear wouldn't lower as a result of this attack). While we were taking stock of our damage, another FW approached unopposed from our tail and raked us from tail to the pilots' compartment. This attack wounded Sgt. Fuller again (left calf), Sgt. Ferguson (left forearm), Lt. Cawley (in his right hand) and myself (left foot). On their second pass, the top turret was put out of action.
Light opposition was encountered north of Parma (zone 5) and we made it through without damage. After the #4 engine was feathered from the lost of oil pressure, we dropped out of formation.
West of Ferrara (zone 4) more FW-109s attacked. This attack holed the port inboard fuel tank but the leak was a slow one. The enemy continued to harass us until they broke off SE of Ancona (zone 3) as the 'Little Friends' kept the enemy busy. Since we had the 'Little Friends' to watch out over us, we started to lighten the ship with everything we could in order to keep her in the air as long as possible.
This dumping effort wouldn't be enough to reach Sterparone and an emergency landing was made at Triolo, the home field of the 14th FG. The landing was rough and all of the short fighter runway was used, and then some as we ran Full House II off the paved runway into nearby muddy field. The 'landing was a good one' as all of the crew exited the ship under their own power, with the exception of Sgt. Fuller, who needed some assistance from Sgts. Ward and Montgomery. The Doc here tells me Sgt. Fuller will be laid up for about 5-to-7 days but he'll be returning to duty. The wounds suffered by Lt. Cawley, Sgt. Ferguson and myself were light and we would be back in action in a few days.
Despite being 'shot to Hell' and only flying on two engines, Full House II brought us home. The ship might be repairable but it will be out out action for at least a week.
- Major Daniel Tanner, Pilot, Full House II
LUCKY PENNY, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with rafts & radio destroyed, port waist gun & port wing root damaged, superficial damage to the fuselage & tail. No casualties. Claims: 2 ME-109s & 1 FW-190 by MSgt. Allison, 2 FW-190s & 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Edmond (Edmond's ME-109 claim was later confirmed by S-2), 1 FW-190 apiece Capt. Hamilton & TSgt. Dewes.
For the first hour (first 3 zones) we saw no enemy activity.
As we made zone 4 we were hit by four FW-190s. The boys made fast work of 2 (tail gunner and navigator each bagged one), friendly fighters drove 1 away and the 4th loss his belly for a fight and moved on.
Zone 5, again 4 fighters: this time they were ME-109s. Our fighters again drove off 2, tail gunner got one and the radio operator damaged one that then missed us and flew off.
Reaching the target (zone 6) saw 3 waves of fighters that swarmed us. A lone 109 in a vertical dive - we missed, he missed, (we couldn't get the angle but he missed on his pass), and four ME-109s again. No fighter help this time, but we bagged two, one missed however the third one raked us over good with hits on the tail, radio room and cockpit areas. Damage to the tail was superficial and radio room hitting only the Radio. In the cockpit area, the Engineer got hit full in the face (or at least we thought that's what happened as there was SO much blood, but it was just a forehead gash (used Rabbit's foot) so, no damage. On the 2nd pass we all missed.
Flak was medium if you call large chunks of hot metal hitting your plane Medium but no vital damage but our rafts again . . . (this was the 3rd or 4th time they've taken the hit). Bombs over target were pretty good and we headed for home.
As we swung around we were hit by 3 more 109s and one in a V. Dive. We managed to kill 2 more (tail and radio man) and the other two flew off shooting wildly.
Zone 5 on the return saw 2 waves attack us; four 109s again came at us round the clock but 3 were chased off by little friends and the last one missed us. Wave 2 were 190s but again friendly fighters got 3 and tail gunner got the hat-trick with a third kill.
Zone 4 on the return was again filled with fighters but enemy planes came no nearer than a visual and these were driven off by our guys.
We thought we were home free but at zone 2 two more 190s jumped us. One was driven off by friendly fighters but the other one got through. Our gunners was able to damage him, but the 190 managed to destroy our waist gunner (gunner just shaken) and put some lead onto the wing root before flying off.
Landed back at base knowing that this flight could have been a lot worse. I am following the crew's recommendation and sending a case of scotch over to the 82nd and 14th fighter groups for saving our bacon.
- Capt. Paul Griffin, Pilot, Lucky Penny
SATIN DOLL, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with port outboard fuel tank, flap, wing skins, starboard wing skins, outboard fuel tank, tail gunner's compartment damaged by flak. Superficial damage to nose, port wing skins from 20mm & 30mm shells. 1 Casualty. Claims: 1 FW-190 & ME-109 by MSgt. Turner (Turner's ME-109 claim was later confirmed by S-2) and 1 FW-190 by SSgt. Blankenship (later confirmed by S-2).
A little bit of a rough 'welcome back to combat' after having a few days off. The flak gunners made up for the lack of attention the Jagdwaffe paid us. It sure was a lot heavier than briefed! WHAM! A big hole appeared in the port wing, WHAM! Another hole, this time in the starboard wing around the outboard fuel tank. BANG! Another burst kicks us in the tail. WHAM, WHAM, WHAM! Three successive bursts above and below the port wing, more holes, a battered flap, and a slight trail of fuel whisping out of the outboard tank. Just for good measure, another burst explodes over the starboard wing, peeling back a portion of the skin. Despite the bouncing around, P.J. made a good run and put an estimated 40% into the marshalling yards. He called back to PeeWee in the tail for a damage assessment and found that PeeWee's left foot had been grazed by a chunk of flak.
Rallying off the target we were met by three ME-109s lead by an FW-190. Blankenship nailed the Wulf at 12 low with the ball turret guns, and a P-38 bagged the 109 at 1030 level. The 109 at 12 high was spooked by Turner's guns and blew right past us without any effect. His wingman at 12 level scored a few minor hits in the nose and the poor, battered up port wing. He was setting up another pass from 9 level but met up with Turner's top turret guns.
About 75 miles from the target, a lone FW made a run from 10:30 high, again Turner opened up before the Kraut had a chance to, and nailed him right in the fuel tank. Henderson checked the remaining fuel, and figured we had enough to make it home. The port tank was not leaking that badly and the starboard had self-sealed. Hal Jackson went back to check on Peewee's foot and called in that he'd be fine, it was just a scratch.
We didn't encounter any more E/A the rest of the way home and landed without incident.
1) ME-109s with Italian markings lead by FW-190 with German markings.
2) Return To Sender last seen leaving
formation in Zone 4 (outbound) trailing light smoke from the starboard wing and
the #2 engine
3) Darla's Bite II last seen leaving formation in Zone 5 (returning) with #1 engine feathered and smoking.
4) Full House II last seen pulling out of
formation in Zone 4 (returning) with both starboard engines feathered.
- Capt. John P. McConnell, Pilot, Satin Doll
OLD YARD DOG, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 50%. Returned with minor superficial damage and no casualties.
Another mission finished that looked bad on paper but turned out to be a milk run. We took off and formed up with the squadron and with the group without incident. Being in the low group had us worried some and we had Darla’s Bite II in the tail-end Charlie slot right behind us. Hopefully Darla would keep us covered.
We saw some 109s attack the group about 150 miles from the base. P-38s buzzed everywhere and I saw a couple 109s go down to them in the furball.
About 50 miles from the target a large group of 190s came in from high. Our lovely P-38s tackled them and again we were untouched.
But as we neared the IP, some of the more determined 190s got into our formation. At least 3 made passes as us but nothing serious was hit and we didn’t hurt them either I am afraid. They left with P-38s on their tail.
The flak over the target was heavy caliber, intense, but inaccurate. It seems to be busting about 500 feet below us. We got off Scott-free and we unloaded our ordnance on target, we think. The trains will not run on time in Milan today! (Post mission reports 50% hits on target).
The P-38s and the 190s kept at each other for several hundred miles but nothing bothered us to any extent. The 190s left and 109s came up to take their place but again our P-38s kept them at bay. Those Lightning boys deserve credit. Nothing got to us without a P-38 chasing them.
Landing was uneventful.
- Capt. Michael Chase, Pilot, Old Yard Dog
RETURN TO SENDER, second flight, right aircraft
Aborted mission in zone 4 outbound. Returned alone out of formation with #2 engine, top turret, both ailerons inoperable, elevators instruments knocked out, starboard wing inboard fuel tank holed, superficial hits (3) and no casualties.
It was a very short mission for the crew of Return to Sender, and we are fortunate we made it back to base.
Just as we were about to leave the Adriatic and cross back over the coast, we were attacked by 4 FW-190s. Our escorts were not much help, only driving off the plane coming at us from 6 o'clock high. Neither of the 190s attacking from 12 high and 3 high were able to hit us. However, the pilot coming at us from 9 high just about knocked us out of the air. Due in part to walking hits across both wings, we lost both ailerons, and our top turret guns. Additionally, the inboard fuel tank on the starboard wing caught fire. Fortunately, I was able to put the fire out by putting the plane into a steep dive. Engine #2 also was hit, and I thought I was going to have a runaway engine on my hands. However, I was able to feather the prop and keep us in the air.
Our friend, however, wasn't done with us. He followed us down and took another run at us. This time he destroyed the elevator controls and caused some other superficial damage. Sgt. Martinelli, though, was finally able to drive him off.
At this point, we were out of formation and leaking fuel badly, so I jettisoned the bombs in the Adriatic and headed for home. No further enemy fighters were encountered, and I was able to land the plane smoothly despite the fact that we could not use the elevators.
- 2nd Lt. Bill Folse, Pilot, Return to Sender
DARLA'S BITE II, second flight, left wingman (TAIL-END CHARLIE)
Reached target but did not release bombs. Dropped out of formation zone 5 inbound. Shot down by enemy fighters near Terni (zone 2). 2 KIA, 8 POWs and 1 MIA.
“. . . and we last saw Beckett’s crew drop out of formation right after we dropped our eggs. Sergeant Beasley noticed that she didn’t drop her load over the target. Ted saw an FW-190 and a ME-109 working over Darla just before her number one started bellowing smoke. That’s when Lieutenant Beckett called in he was dropping out. It wasn’t long after that she stopped transmitting anything.”
“No, no Sir, we didn’t see her go down, just going slow. Don must have had his bombs on board, poor bastard. That would explains his rapid speed loss with only one engine gone.”
Reported by Captain M. Chase, Old Yard Dog, 316th BS/88th BG (H)
Return to Sterparone Field