MISSION 2 - SOFIA AARs
317th BS (Lead)
GOOD TIME GAL, Lead flight, lead aircraft, Group Leader
Bombed target, 30% bomb run. Returned with the #3 engine feathered,
bombsight wrecked, rafts shredded, starboard aileron inoperable, starboard
wing root & port aileron damaged, and 2 casualties. Claims: Two
Me-109s by Sgt. Masterson, one Fw-109 by Sgt. Lopez and one Me-110 by Sgt.
McDonald. Four Me-109s and one Fw-190 claimed as damaged.
All appeared normal as I got the Group into shape, and I took them out over the Adriatic. The formation was a little sloppy at times, something that the Colonel should address. Not my fault at all. Nonetheless, we had a relatively easy time of until the enemy coast hove into view. The sky suddenly filled with fighters, three Me 109s attacking from various altitudes of head-on. We took several hits, including a superficial hit on our number 2 engine. Reports from the radio room suggested that our rubber rafts were rendered useless by the enemy fire, and that our starboard wing-root had taken a hit.
My engineer, Sgt. Masterson, shot down two enemy aircraft and damaged another. They then broke off the attack, and we continued onward towards the target. With the target in sight a FW 190 hit us from the port flank, wounding my waist gunner in the forehead and knocking the aileron out on the port wing. Sgt. Lopez destroyed this 190.
Flak over the target was light, but we were hit in the starboard wing. Number 3 engine was feathered, and we turned for home. Crossing the coast were hit again, a multitude of fighter waves attacking from all clock positions. Sgt. MacDonald destroyed a 110 from the tail and several gunners reported hitting enemy aircraft. An Me 110 hit my navigator in his left forearm and destroyed the Norden sight. Furthermore, we lost the starboard aileron.
Having seen off these attacks, we continued to base where waited for those ships with wounded on board to land first. Landing was as good as can be under the circumstances.
-1st Lt. Milton Forrest, Pilot, Good Time Gal
BEWITCHED, first flight, Left wingman
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with damage to the radio, tail wheel, port flaps, port inboard tank holed, rudder and starboard wing root. One casualty. One Me-109 claimed by SSgt. Simons (later confirmed by S-2).
An absolute breeze compared to the last one a couple of days ago. Took off and saw no enemy until just before the target when a lone 109 came in from 6 high. Gimp spooked him and Simons put him away. The target zone was alive with the sound of planes and flak. Five 190’s decided to have a little soiree on our butts but it didn’t quite go that way. Simons hurt one and Gimp nicked one. They got our radio, our tail wheel, out Port flaps and our Port Inboard tank. Fuel sprayed like a fountain but Simons says it’ll get us home. Damn I hope so. I can’t swim that well. Are there sharks in the Med?
The flak then had a breakfast bite on us and nailed out Starboard root and the rudder. Spratt got around 20% on and we turned for home. Pretty quiet until 3 190’s came to play but we hit nothing and they hit nothing vital so we called the game for lack of interest and they went home.
Landed fine. Good bird this one. Let’s hope she lasts.
Spratt gets a cluster for his PH and that’s the ballgame.
-1st Lt. Shamus Montague, Pilot, Bewitched
FRISCO KID, first flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with minor damage to the port wing and fuselage and no casualties. One Me-110 claimed by Sgt. McDonough.
A fairly uneventful flight. We formed up in the lead three-plane element of the 317th BS, leading the group over Sofia. Our Little Friends in the 325th protected us most of the way to target, until the Lightings took over. Near the Bulgarian border we got attacked by two Focke-Wulfs, but neither we nor they scored any hits.
Over target we observed a large formation of 110s climbing to attack the group. Our escorts dove to attack them, but many got through. Two came after us, one from the nose, and one from the tail. SGT McDonough flamed the tail end Jerry, and the other appeared to take heavy damage and broke off. Flak was light over target, and we hit it with 30% accuracy.
Another 110 hit us when we turned around, climbing up from below. It put some holes in the port wing and fuselage, but broke off before it could do further damage. Two more 110s attacked as we left the target area, but did no damage; one was hit and seen to dive away, smoking.
No other Jerries bothered us until we were nearly home, when the formation was attacked again. We ourselves were not attacked, and we landed safely with no casualties and little damage.
-1st Lt. David Moody, Pilot, Frisco Kid
LITTLE MISSY, second flight, lead aircraft, Deputy Group Leader
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with light damage to the #1 engine & ball turret. One Fw-190 claimed by SSgt. Lister and 1 Me-109 claimed by 2nd Lt. Gamble.
We followed the lead ship out, initially Forrest's ship seemed to be having a problem with her trim as the Good time Gal was wallowing about, I thought perhaps there was a engine problem but could see no smoke or any other indicators, due to radio silence I couldn't ask Forrest if he wanted me to take the lead. After about an hour of throttle jockeying the lead ship seemed to trim out and our formation tightened as a result.
We crossed the coast and made landfall passing over Montenegro then Albania. The Germans made a determined effort to stop us in our tracks over Albania. My boys were as sharp as ever and managed to hold their own. David my engineer got his second kill, a Fw-190, I will make sure to congratulate him properly later this evening.
With an ETA of 10 mins to the target we were hit by another wave of fighters, this lot seemed a lot more determined than the last and flew like true professionals, a seasoned squadron no doubt. An ME 110 got through our defensive fire and scored a few hits, Number 1 engine coughed and spluttered sending out a plume of white smoke, then miraculously started ticking over again. My tail gunner got in a good burst as the 110 swept past us, smoke could be seen pouring from his port engine though no one saw him go down or any parachutes.
The flak over target was not accurate, seemed the gunners below were a little surprised by our sudden appearance. There was a tremendous bang close by and our ship was rocked by the concussion. "Skipper I'm hit," came a frantic voice over the intercom, it was Biff our ball gunner. I sent Neil, one of my waist gunners, to tend to Biff. The ball turret was a mess though Biff got off fairly lightly with some cuts and scratches and a nasty laceration on his cheek.
The bomb run was quite satisfactory another good effort by our bombardier. With our load gone the formation made a wide turn and headed for home. We were more or less unmolested for the rest of the flight. I let David have a go at the controls once we were in "friendly airspace". I like every crew member to know at least one other job on the aircraft in case anything happened.
We touched down and shut the old bird down. Peter and I grinning at each other like some demented Cheshire cats! We had survived another mission.
-1st Lt. Spencer Kennedy, Pilot, Little Missy
GO FOR BROKE, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Landed with 3 hits on the starboard wing root, superficial damage to starboard wing (3), bomb bay (2), port wing (1) & fuselage (2). One casualty. One Fw-190 apiece claimed by Sgt. Shintani & SSgt. Mukai; one Me-110 claimed by Sgt. Hayashi.
Took off from Sterparone Field, Foggia, Italy without any problems or malfunctions. About fifty (50) miles from target fighters attempted to attack our formation but between the fighter escort and machine gun fire from our formation, we were able to drive them off before they were able to shoot.
About twenty (20) miles from target, we were met with three (3) FW-190's coming in from (12H, 3L, 3H). The one that came in from 12H was damaged from 2nd Lt. Osa and was driven off. The other two came in and were able to hit the plane at least 5 times. Two of them hit the starboard wing and was able to damage the root of the wing. The other hit was superficial. One hit was to the radio compartment where Sgt. Matsura (Modesto,CA) was seriously injured and wasn't able to be at his post. The other two hits were superficial in nature and didn't damage the plane.
The two (2) FW-190's came in for a second attack (3L, 1:30H). One was killed by Sgt. Shintani, before it was able to get a shot off. The second one missed the plane and was driven off.
Once over target we were again jumped by enemy aircraft. This time two (2) waves came against our plane. The first wave consisted of four (4) FW-190's (12H, 10:30L, 9L, 6H). Two of the FW-190's were damaged by Sgt. Shintani and Sgt. Hayashi. But both were still able to hit the plane. One (from 9L) was able to hit the starboard root wing and do superficial damage to the starboard wing, while the other (from 6H) hit the bomb bay area and starboard wing, both hits were superficial. The plane coming in from 10:30L also were able to hit the bomb bay area, but again we only sustained superficial damage. The plane coming in from 12H missed and was driven off. One (1) of the FW-190's returned at 3:00L and was shot down by Mst. Sgt. Mukai before it was able to shoot back at us.
A second wave hit which consisted of four (4) ME-109's (12H, 10:30H, 1:30H, 12Level). The ones that came in from 10:30H and 1:30H were driven away by our port waist and port cheek guns and missed the plane. The one coming in from 12H missed the plane did not come back. The one that came in from 12L was able to hit the plane and cause superficial damage to the port wing. One (1) ME-109 came back to attack from 1:30L, but missed and didn't return.
We encountered light flak over the target and did not receive any hits on the plane. We were able to hit the target with 30% accuracy. On leaving the target we again encountered fighters. This time three (3) ME-110 (12L, 10:30Level, 6L). One (1) coming in at 10:30L was driven off by fighter escort. Another at 6L was shot down by Sgt. Hayashi before it was able to shoot at the plane. The one coming in at 12L missed the plane and didn't return.
About fifty (50) miles away from Sterparone Field, the formation closed ranks so that it would be harder for enemy fighters to get through. Reached Sterparone Field and was able to land without incident.
-1st Lt. Mark Yoshikawa, Pilot, Go for Broke
DARKWATCH, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with starboard wing flap, port & starboard ailerons, radio, bombing controls, port cheek gun - all inoperable; starboard and port tail plane root hits; rafts shredded & Landing gear out. Superficial damage to #1 engine as well as wings, nose, and waist. Technical term: shot to hell. Five casualties. Fw-190 claimed by Sg.t Tieger and one Me-110 by Sgt. Disbrow.
Two days ago we all had a good laugh when Sgt. Sadat got shot in the ass. This time around it wasnąt so funny.
It was a clean run to the target, with only a desultory pass by an Me-109 as we entered Bulgarian airspace to indicate the Germans were still in this war. It was when we began our bomb run that things got hot. Three Me-110s hit us at least ten times, not seeming the least disturbed by the mad counter fire we threw their way (and if there were angels in the area, I sure didnąt see them). My co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Ulm, had a bullet crease his thigh, but he stayed at his controls. The crew reported a lot of holes all over the place, but the only lasting damage were to my starboard wing flap and my port wing aileron, both of which were inoperable.
We caught a break and didnąt see any flak, and 2nd Lt. Keefer dropped our bombs on target. As we turned from the target, an ME-110 tried to sneak up on us from 6:00 low, but Sgt. Disbrow shredded him from the ball turret. (Brent says the pilot flew right into his tracers he might have been green, I heard the Krauts are training pilots on-the-job these days).
And I wish I could report that was the end of it. It would make for a nice story. But what happened next wasnąt so nice. We got jumped by a couple Fw-190s, a Me-110, a Me-109, and a rocket ship from Ming the Merciless (or thatąs how it felt), and our fighters were again conspicuous by their absence. The damn Me-110 alone made three passes at us (and didnąt 2nd Lt. Cuevas have a thing or two to say about that). That 110 seemed to use our navigator as a glide path for two of his approaches, and Chuck didnąt hit him once, despite fire that left him up to his ankles in shell casings up in the nose. It would have been worse if Tiege hadnąt shot down a FW-190 from the tail, and also damaged a different Me-110, but it would be a cruel soul that called us lucky.
The first sign I had that we were in real trouble was a noise like someone threw about a thousand marbles against the side of the plane. Later the ground crew would tell me we took something called a "walking hit" where the bullets stitched at trail from our tail all the way forward. Our nose section took it the worst. At first I thought it was Chuck cursing that ME-110 again, but then I felt a breeze and Chuck calmed down enough to report that half the nose was gone along with 2nd Lt. Keefer, who was dead well before he and his bomb controls were blown out of the plane someplace west of Sofia. Sgt. Levatinoąs intercom gave me nothing but static, and when Tech Sgt. Johnson went topside to check on him, he found Levi slumped over his guns with the larger part of his face gone missing. Cuevas and Sadat reported light wounds, and there was all sorts of damage to the ship radios, guns, rafts, and an engine that was decidedly off song, but I was too numb to register much of it.
Besides, my controls demanded all of my attention. Iąd been fighting prop wash from the lead ship since we formed up, and losing a flap after that first pass didnąt help at all. Now things were worse my ailerons were out entirely, and down in the ball, Sgt. Disbrow reported that our landing gear had partially descended.
We caught our only break in that we didnąt see any fighters on the way home, but that gear was well and truly stuck, and with my controls damaged, it felt like I was flying a brick. With the radio out we couldnąt alert the field, so I made a low pass, fired all our flares, got Disbrow up out of the ball turret, and told everyone to hang on while we slid in on our belly. No points for style, but we walked away from it. The ground crew tells me a B-17 can take a lot worse, but from where I sat it looked like there were more holes than rivets in the Darkwatch.
Chris Ulm, Meelad Sadat, and Chuck Cuevas are all due Purple Hearts (twice in two missions for Meelad). My co-pilot says I should get the Air Medal for landing that bird with bum controls and no landing gear, but I lost two crew on that mission and Iąm not sure I want a ribbon to remind me of it.
-1st Lt. Paul OąConnor, Pilot, Darkwatch
318th BS (High)
GENERAL COMEDIAN, first flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 50%. Fell-out-of-formation after target and returned alone, with 4 casualties and with the tail guns inoperative, rudder badly damaged, rafts destroyed, starboard elevator damaged, port wing root damage and Pilot Compartment oxygen system out. Three Fw-190s claimed by SSgt. Carlin.
The Enemy was hot today in the air. All models of German planes were in the air AND AFTER US. We started catching planes as soon as the water was at our six. First Fock-Wulfs, then MEs and finally 110s. The ME-110s ended up just being an easy target and a slow ticket home for its inhabitants. The Messerschmidts were little bast…, I mean buzzards that caused panic but not much damage. The FW-190s were another case. They cause plenty of damage to the ship. They knocked out oxygen for the “Frank sisters” (Hey, they ain’t brothers, they get a long so they must be sisters). Early on the nose cone got bagged by one of those 190s nicking the Nav and Bomb. They were able to patch each other up in the short lull prior to bomb drop. This is when things got tough.
When F. Franks had called for a straight and narrow glide to bomb drop some ME-110s popped the pilot canopy killing Fred. He wasn’t such a bad guy. A bit high-strung but the only pilot I’ve seen in the 88th with a fake leg. His sister, Tommy had to finish the bomb run. When the fellas started yelling I nearly jumped ship. I thought we were gonners. They was yelling cause Tommy popped the pumpkin right on target. When the Group turned around, them damn 110s were waiting for another go around . That is when the nose got hit again killing Bomb and Nav. I don’t know when the guy in the tail got it. Good riddance. He owed me plenty from the nightly poker game. When we get back I’m gonna snag those Italian boots off his feet for payment.
When the Capt got hit they lost oxy in the driver cabin so we had to drop out and fly by the seat. It was enjoyable being warm instead of freezing our butts of but who wants the attention? By the time we got home this old gal was screaming like a horror movie with all the holes she had. It doesn’t look like it will take too long to fix her up though.
- TSgt R. Williams, Radio Operator, General Comedian
OLD CROW EXPRESS, first flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 75%. Returned with 1 casualty & damaged to navigator heater & 5 superficial holes (20 damage points)
It was 0709 hours as we waited for our turn to take off. I looked over at Sap, who had just been released form the infirmary, as he checked the instruments. I smiled; it was good to have him back. It just would not have been the same with out him. Then the intercom came alive. "You are cleared for takeoff."
"Roger, that tower," I answered. "OK boys, here we go." The engines roared and as she went down the runway, gaining speed all along. She lifted off the ground and off we were into the wild blue yonder. All was quiet except for the sound of the engines as we headed out towards Sofia, Bulgaria. Over the Adriatic I told the gunners to test there guns before we reached enemy territory. I could hear the .50 cals going off.
A short time later, while we were still over the Adriatic, we encountered our first enemy aircraft for the day. It was a 109 and it came in at 6 high. The tails guns, radio gun, and T.T. guns fired on him. But only the T.T. guns managed to hit him. And from what I could hear it was only enough to cause him to break off.
We encounter no Krauts over the shores of Albania and none at the Albanian-Yugoslavian boarder. But over the Albanian-Yugoslavian boarder we did notice that the formation tightened up a bit.
We did not meet any resistance, after the first 109, until we were over the target. There we had a 190 at 12 high, and two at 3 o'clock, one high and the other level. O'Reilly took care of the 12 high, from what I could hear it sounded that he had destroyed it. And Madison took care of both 3 high and level 190s. He sprayed fired and managed to scare the 3 high and to damage the 3 level. From what I remember the flak was light and inaccurate, and the bomb run was good. (After we passed over the target, Carter told us that he could see a lot of smoke coming from the target).
Then when we were rallying we got jumped by 5 190s; 12 high, 10:30 level, 9 level, 6 high, and the Vertical diver we did not see until he was right on us, luckily he missed us and broke off. The 6 high Carter took care of. He said it was a beautiful display of yellow and red as it exploded in mid-air. The 9 level was damaged by Hamlet's guns, which as he said, "Ran away like a dog, with his tail between his legs." The 190 12 high came in at full speed, at least that what it seemed as I saw him coming, and he managed to score some hits in the nose. He came around again at 6 high but he seemed uninterested in us and broke off. The 10:30 level also managed to score some hits in the nose and port wing. Then he came around again at 1:30 Level and scored more hits in the stbd wing. (Later we found out from the crew chief that he hit the inboard tank but luckily it self-sealed). He was determined to cause more damage, it would have seemed because he came around at 1:30 level again. But he fired a few shots and missed us and broke off. I believe he ran out of ammo or he would have come at us again. While this was going on, I heard Peterson scream over the radio, "Blackbird is hit! Blackbird is hit!"
"Calm down," I said to him. After a very short pause I asked, "How bad is it?"
"There's blood everywhere! He's hit in the neck. But he's still alive. He's still alive," he said as he was trying to stop the blood.
"OK, see what you can do," I said as I looked over at Sap, and found that he was looking over at me. I could tell he was worried (he never did have a poker face) and I tried to hide mine.
After a minute or so Peterson voice could be heard over the intercom again. "I think I stopped the bleeding but it looks really bad, and he loss a lot of blood."
"OK," is all that came out of my mouth, even thou I wanted to say more. OK is all that came out.
We got attacked again while we were still rallying. It was a pair of 109s, one at 1:30 high and the other at 9 level. The 1:30 did not score any hits and neither did we on him. But the 9 level went out in a ball of fire as it met the bullets of Hamlet's guns.
Over the Albanian-Yugoslavian boarder we saw a lone 190 being chased by our little friends. And as I was watching the dog fight between the Kraut and our little friend which was being played out in front of us, Peterson voice came on the intercom again. This time with more worry in his voice then before. "Hey Anderson! Blackbird's suit heater is out! He's shivering really badly. We need to drop out of formation!" He went silent. I waited to for him to finish. I could hear Peterson arguing with Blackbird, at least I think he was arguing with him, but I could not tell what about. And as I had just decided to fall out-of-formation to try to keep Blackbird from suffering any more pain, Peterson came on again. "Never mind," he said and you could tell it hurt him to say it, "Blackbird says to stay in formation. That if we fall out there's no way we would be able to get back to base. He has not marked our position since we were over the target and its way to dangerous, he says. We have to stay in formation, he says."
I thought about what Peterson had just told me and it seemed Blackbird had a point. We were still deep in enemy territory and if we dropped out now we would have almost no chance of making it back. "OK, tell Blackbird I'll stay in formation."
Then Blackbirds weak voice was heard over the intercom. "Don't worry! I'm going to be OK. I can handle it."
"You hang in there," Norton told Blackbird over the intercom.
It was quiet again. It seemed to stay like that for a long time. Up until we got to the shore of Albania where we met four 190s, one at 12 level, 3 high, 6 high, and an Vertical diver. The 190 at 12 level got driven off, and the Vertical diver missed his shots at us and dove away. The 190 at 6 high was destroyed by Carter. And the last 190 at 3 high was damaged by O'Reilly and Madison. These were the last Krauts we would see for the day.
Once over the base we signaled that there was a critically injured man on board
and that he needed a doctor fast. All I remember of what happened next was
that we had just got a signal that it was OK to land and then we were at the
hardstand and the guys were walking towards the debriefing huts. I guess I
musta blanked out. As I watched them go I decided to stayed behind and go
out to watch the rest of the 17s land. And once they were all down I
headed towards my tent where I would fine a nice bottle of wine and a bed.
I didn't care about the debriefing or what would happen to me if I didn't go.
All I wanted was that bottle of wine and to get some sleep.
When I woke up later I found out that Blackbird had died from his injuries. He was a good man and he had done a great job on the nose art. He will be missed.
-1st Lt. Fred Anderson, Pilot, Old Crow Express
LUCKY LAUREL, first flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with 2 casualties with #1 engine out, no brakes, navigation equipment destroyed, bombardier heater out, and numerous other hits to the fuselage, tail, both wings, pilot's compartment, nose, looking like 'Swiss Cheese' with 26 holes. Two Me-109s claimed by Sgt. Legge and one Fw-190 claimed by SSgt. Garbutt.
We took off into the early half-light and assumed our place in formation. I looked over at Flying Bewildered in the #4 slot off our port side. That plane was piloted by a buddy of mine, Lt. Mark Nicks, who had taken the better part of my pay last night in a card game. I was looking forward to winning it back tonight while swapping tales of our trip to Sofia. My crew was coming together quite nicely and I had every confidence we could handle this mission as well as our first.
About 210 miles from base we were suddenly bounced by a pair of Me 109s coming out of the morning sun. They made it through the escorts and the bogie at 12 level sent one unlucky shell into our navigator’s torso. On his second pass he hit the fuselage without effect and thankfully he missed on his third run. Steven came over the intercom, "Pat’s gone." In less than 5 minutes a single plane had made three passes, hit us twice, and worst of all killed my navigator. Suddenly it was all too real. I had lost the first man under my command, a friend. If I hadn’t hated Germans before, I did at that moment. "Keep your F$%#*@g eyes open! Let’s nail these bastards!" I ordered Desnoyers from his position in the waist to take over Pat’s cheek guns.
Crossing the Yugoslavia-Albanian border a pair of FW 190s were chased off by our escorts, but once in Albania thinks got really hot. In the first wave five Me 109s came from every direction. This time the escorts were too few and it was left to us to fend for ourselves. Don and Stan with the twin guns in the top turret and tail damaged two planes, but two Germans managed hits - the first from 1:30 destroyed the navigation equipment (no good to us anyway) and the second from 6 o’clock high hit us 7 times knocking out brakes, hammering our wings, and wounding Stan who was nicked by some shrapnel in the chin and jaw. On the second run Stan got even by downing an 109 while the other missed his mark.
Suddenly a flash to port caught the crew’s attention. Flying Bewildered was covered in flames and seemed to be broken in half. We waited desperately to see chutes but there weren’t any. Two friends gone in as many hours. My blood raged. There wasn’t time to mourn their loss as another 109 missed his vertical dive at us but was quickly followed by three Fw-190s. Don on the top guns blew the hell out a bogie attacking from 9 o’clock and the other two fighters made half-hearted attacks as the flak guns started to bark.
Light flak and good weather helped Steve drop 30% of our payload on the target. With the business end of the trip complete it was time to get back. At the rally point five more FW 190s jumped us. Stan damaged one but two 190s shot up the pilot compartment, tail, and wings. Our #1 engine started leaking oil but we figured it would keep going for another 100 miles. Most of the six hits failed to do much damage. As they broke off, two ME 109s made it into the formation. Archie in the ball turret damaged one, and Stan claimed his second kill of the day.
Things were quiet for the next 70 miles or so until two waves of fighters appeared. Friendly cover was good as the first wave was sent scurrying by the formation and two 109s from the second wave ran away with P-38s chasing. The remaining two 109s made their run but ran into a stream of lead from the cheek gun and both missed our plane.
A few fighters appeared in the area, but all were chased off by other B-17s in the formation. "Almost home," I told the crew as we got within 100 miles of the base confident that the worst was behind us. They were tired and deserved a rest, not to mention a few minutes of peace to properly mourn Pat. I guess someone should have told the Germans. Out of nowhere three FW 190s charged from the front. Our guns chattered and Stolberg on the starboard waist gun hammered the bastard at 1:30 high, but this guy must have been an ace since he and a friend still managed to hit us. These two bogies hit us six times in their first run, knocking out my bombardier’s heat and peppering us with several new holes. On the second pass the undamaged plane hit us three more times from 9 o’clock high but we kept going.
Soon the base came into sight and we landed. Battered and a lot worse for wear, Lucky Laurel brought us home again safely . . . well most of us. I better write Pat’s family before I get rip-roaring drunk and pick a fight with that #$%hole (what’s his name . . . Forrest or something?) from 317th. It’s been a long day.
-1st Lt. Todd Wilson, Pilot, Lucky Laurel
FLYING BEWILDERED, second flight, lead aircraft
Reached target but exploded soon after. No chutes seen.
Flying Bewildered was assigned the #4 slot in the high squadron for this mission. After leaving the Italian coast on the way to the target, Flying Bewildered saw seen to be attack by several enemy a/c but fighter cover and the gunners aboard Flying Bewildered drove them off. One fighter, an Me-109, was seen breaking away with smoke coming from its engine but otherwise under control after being hit by defensive fire. No more enemy a/c were encountered until the IP was reached, where a lone Me-109 was observed to make an attack from approximately 6 high. Flying Bewildered was seen to explode during this attack and no chutes were reported as being seen. Cause of this explosion was probably the bomb load being hit by enemy fire.
- Submitted by returning 318th Bomb Squadron crews after their mission to Sofia, Bulgaria.
GOLD DRAGON, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with no casualties and minor damage to the bomb bay and pilot's compartment. One Fw-190 claimed by 2nd Lt. Anthony.
This was what I had heard of as a milk run. We saw nothing until we exited the bombing run then we were jumped by three 190's. 2nd Lt. Tom Anthony got his first KIA when the 190 coming at us from right in front lost a wing and went spiraling out of sight. "Good shooting Tom".
About half way home to base we were again jumped by three 190's. Tom thought he might have nicked one because we saw smoke coming from his engine but he seemed to be limping home. Steve and I had a real scare when one shell came thru the front wind screen and passed between us. We also noticed one shell passed right thru the bomb bay. Good thing we had already dropped those puppies.
We did hit the target with 40% and only had 40 total damage points.
-1st Lt. Joe Smith, Pilot, Gold Dragon
399th BS (High) - On temporary duty flying with the 318th BS
PRINCESS LILIKOI, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with 7 casualties. Despite extensive damage & the C-P incapacitated, pilot Lt. Kingsley made a belly successful landing. Damage to the plane: Tail, ball turret and starboard check guns damaged; port elevator was severely damaged and knocked out; starboard wing inboard tank slightly damaged, but self sealed; port wing outboard tank damaged, leakage; radio set shot to pieces; wing root hits to both wings and port tail plane; rafts, navigator’s equipment and tail gunner’s and engineer’s oxygen systems were damaged. Lots of holes everywhere. One Fw-190 & Me-109 each claimed by SSgt. Marlow, one Me-109 each by Sgts. Peters & Beaubien.
It happened very
suddenly over the Albanian coast. A wave of bandits came out of nowhere
and right at our squadron. At least, that’s what it seemed like.
They appeared over the coast and stayed with us all the way to Sofia and back to
the coast again. They just didn’t seem to be affected by our defensive
fire, and our fighter escort was a just a small hors d'oeuvres to them. Us? We were their main course. And it seemed that our ship was what they
wanted for dessert. And they really enjoyed it! Sergeant Marlow shot
pees at them. Sergeant Peters threw stones at them and Sergeant Beaubien
went after them with sticks. Nothing seemed to work. The bandits kept on
coming through the fighter cover. But they did a good job, though.
They took care of some of them, and if it wasn’t for those guys in the fighters,
several bandits would’ve come around for successive attacks.
The worst part was after the flak on the way to the Rally Point and all the way to the border of Albania. That’s when they seemed to throw everything they had at us, and especially at OUR ship. During one wave four or five 190s came at us and suddenly shells were exploding every where and Vic and Sergeant Smith got hit. That’s when Vic got hit the first time. One of those bandits must have known that both the cheek gun and the tail guns were inoperable, because that son of a bitch attacked us from 1:30 level and then 6 level. Or was he plain just lucky? He really wanted to kill us.
An Me 110 attacked us a little later. He was a really good pilot, perhaps an ace. He hit us, of course and hit Vic which killed him instantly, shot thru the head. This bandit was either shot down or driven off by the fighters in the 82nd FG. Over Albania the last wave attacked, five 190s. The P-38s drove off one but the other 4 singled out Princess Lilikoi. Sergeant Marlow hit one and probably killed him. He disappeared. Thought that our time had come now, because the remaining three, they all hit us! All of them! Were they all aces or is there a special German unit stationed nearby? They came around for another attack but two fired a short burst and left. The third must have known that our tail guns didn’t work. Do they have a new kind of weapon? Some kind of binoculars that lets them see if our guns work or not? This was another bandit that probably could see that our guns were inoperable.
Two hellish missions in a row can break any man, no matter how tough he is. How can anyone make it through 25 missions, let alone 50? We’ve made it through two, and have already seen two good friends die. And for what? Hopefully their deaths will not be in vain. It is so empty now. They’re here one moment and gone the next. Left are memories. I hope that we will never forget
-2nd Lt. Nathaniel R. Duncan, Bombardier, Princess Lilikoi
316th BS (Low)
FULL HOUSE, Lead flight, lead plane
Bombed target, 40%. Returned alone, left formation, zone 3 inbound over Adriatic. Lost pilot compartment heat, starboard waist gun damaged & 7 superficial holes. 1 casualty. One Fw-190 claimed by Sgt. Montgomery, 1 Me-109 claimed by 1st Lt. Sears, and 1 Me-109 by MSgt. Kelly.
We encountered no enemy aircraft crossing the Adriatic thanks to our fighter escorts. Over Albania, I saw my left wingman, Lucky Penny, getting hammered and I radioed the squadron to "tighter up it back there." They must have heard me as my tail gunner reported the squadron formation began to move in closer.
After crossing the Yugoslavian-Bulgarian border, enemy opposition increased. Four Fw-190s attacked but they all missed, but so did we. Approaching Sofia, one Fw-190 made a half-hearted attack and was it damaged by 1st Lt. Roebuck for his trouble. Flak was light but inaccurate and this time 1st Lt. Sears reported good strike results.
We were harassed after the rally point until we reached the Yugoslavian-Bulgarian border. During this running battle, we shot down three enemy aircraft and damaged another, but in return we took numerous hits on the fuselage and TSgt. Moore was hit on his left hand by a ricochet. The worst hit knocked out the pilot's compartment heating system.
On reaching the coastline, we broke formation and radioed the deputy squadron leader to bring the squadron home. We encountered no enemy fighters as we made our way home alone. Weather over the base was good and we landed without further incident.
- Captain Daniel Tanner, Pilot, Full House
LUCKY PENNY, Lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with top turret guns inoperable, #3 engine shut down, various holes in all areas of plane, especially pilot compartment & radio room. No casualties. Claims: One Me-109 by 2nd Lt. Hamilton, 2 Fw-190s by Sgt. Edmond, 1 each, Me-109 and Fw-190 by SSgt. Gant. Damaged: 5 Me-109s and 2 Fw-190s. Me-109 claimed by 2nd Lt. Hamilton later confirmed as destroyed by S-2.
" . . . They knew
we were coming . . .", that's the only explanation I can give for the continual
wave after wave of fighters that seemed to rise up to greet us right from the
start of the mission. Flying at our standard port side station we queued
up headed off.
Just over the Adriatic we were bounced by four 109's all coming right at our front (12 low, level, high and 10:30 low). Fighter cover seemed elsewhere so we poured as much fire into our front as possible. Skip on the Ball turret saw smoke on one of the guys he shot at but they all kept coming. Lucky for us, the Germans were as poor a shot as we were only hitting the nose, port wing and pilot compartments with superficial damage. Two of the planes tried to make a 2nd pass coming in again at 1:30 and 12 level. This time the new guy Ryan on the nose gun got a piece of one of them adding to the damage that Skip put on him before making him miss. I guess they finally figured we were going to fight and all flew off for easier targets. Meanwhile, a lone 109 dove on us
at 10:30 but was again chased away by flying lead from those twin guns. As we flew on, radio checks indicated all crew was well if not a little shaken since this was just the "start" of our trip. We no sooner moved over land then we were again attacked by two 109's again from the front at 10:30 & 12 level. Fighters again were not to be seen so Eddie let him have it with the cheek gun and the 109 exploded showering the front of the plane with flame. Other guns opened up on the plane directly in front, even getting our tail gunner into the act via radio allowing him to smoke the plane enough it was seen to fly away. Another wave of two 190's appeared but only seemed to weakly try for us and they were driven off.
For a while all was quite as we flew on watching the land go by under us. There were other enemy fighters around but they seemed to ignore us completely until we got over target then all hell broke loose. As we started to line up over target we were attacked by 4 - 190's all around the clock; 12, 3, 6 & 9 all at high position. Right off the bat our tail gunner blasted a 190 to bits but all other guns, although slinging a lot of lead around missed. I think we must have dumped too much into the are for the rest of the enemy fighters, or maybe it was to see one of their own burst into flames but all others missed and flew off, however a second wave of fighters, again 190's at 12, 3, 6 and vertical dive attacked. Again one of our own, this time Chuck in the top turret nailed one, again unnerving the other enemy fighter's aim as they all missed. We lined up our target, flak not being any problem and managed to plant some bombs on target.
As we turned around for
home, we were hit with wave after wave of fighters. First a lone 109 at 6
high comes in hitting our tail and Radio room both with superficial damage.
On his second pass, he lines up on the port side and hits the port wing for
minor damage but he takes damage himself and flies off. Then, two 110's
come in low in our front hitting the pilot and Radio room again for more
superficial damage and on a second pass putting hits again in the wing and
pilots area before flying off. Finally a third wave of two 190's takes
shots following the path of the 110's. This time our ball gunner gets a
piece of one of them as smoke is seen pouring from the lead 190's engine driving
All of us are shaken by that over target reception; ". . . They knew we were coming . . .," was heard from more than one of the crew including yours truly. Taking two or three shots into your compartment, having steel and bits of plastic wiz by your head makes one wonder what else is in store. . . Anyway, we flew on a bit more. The crew was remembering bits and pieces of time over target. Harper even said he saw a one of our guys explode off his starboard side . . . I killed that kind of talk, getting the guys back to scanning for enemy instead of fighting the imaginary ones in their heads.
We no sooner get back to business than we are again hit with four 190's at 12, 1:30, 3 & 9. This time thought we are ready for them as the Port waist gun damages, and then top turret finished the job by blowing the 9 o'clock guy to kingdom come . . . The radio again was a key in the tail gunner getting another 190 as our guys in the front missed but as he blew passed Bobby scores another kill. Damage again was remarkably light with hits only to our #3 engine and again to the pilot compartment. Dan & I look at each other with an "AGAIN?" wordlessly spoken between us.
We thought we were now getting close to home but were not out of the woods quite yet as a lone 190 comes screaming at us from the 10:30 slot. Port waist manages to pump shells into him enough to see smoke, but the fighter directs his attacks again to the pilot compartment and radio room. Chuck let out a "Sheeeet, HOT DAMM!" as his guns are hit and inoperable, meanwhile, more crap is flying around us as we try to keep the plane in formation. This guy must really have it in for us as he comes around again aiming this time for the rear of the plane at the 6 position. We pump round after round, even trying spray fire to drive him off but he lines up and shoots again on engine #3 which begins to pour smoke. We shut down the prop to prevent more damage but now this guy has got us really MAD! Once again, this lone 190 lines up, this time at the front at 1:30 low and the ball gunner lines up to pump tracer rounds into his engine. We see smoke and flame but he still presses his attack but misses and flies slowly off.
Then, just like that the sky is clear. Upon landing Dan and I both shook hands and then pledged drinks for all as we both did not receive a scratch. (However my underwear is another matter and needs to be laundered very soon). We circled the Penny and counted over 50 holes, nicks and other assorted damage but not even a sliver of damage on our crew. For mission 2, with 48 to go . . . it's going to be a LONG war . . .
-1st Lt. Paul Griffin, Pilot, Lucky Penny
SATIN DOLL, Lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with superficial damage to tail gunner's compartment and 1 casualty. One Me-110 apiece claimed by Sgts. Blankenship and Wheeler.
The Satin Doll
had a pretty easy run of it, thanks largely to tight formation and aggressive
fighter cover. A lone Me-109 made a pass from 6 high in Z-2, but it was
dispatched by a P-47 before he could even get into range. Z-3 brought out
the dogs, a wave of FW-190's attacking from all around the clock and one loon in
a vertical dive. Fortunately the P-47's cleared the skies again and shook
the 'diver' so much, that he missed us and peeled off for the deck.
Another wave, this time 2 Me-109's from 1030 level & 12 level, was just so much
meat for the big Jugs and their .50's. The Skipper called for us to
tighten up and I shoved the Port wing darn near into his starboard waist window.
This kept the Krauts off of us for awhile.
Yugoslavia/Bulgaria border we were hit by an Me-109 from 12 high. Through
the hollering & cursing I determined that Sgt.
Wheeler, our tail gunner, had been nicked in the left forearm by a shell fragment. The only damage we sustained during the attack was 1 round into the tail gunner's compartment and that was the one that nicked poor Pee-Wee. As we neared Sofia, the Germans pressed their attacks, but between lousy aim (ours & theirs) and those 'Forked Tailed Angels' we made the run in with no damage.
Flak was light and sporadic, and Lt. P.J. Morris dropped 40% of the load into the heart of the marshalling yards, I guess he likes blowing up trains. Rallying off target, we encountered a gaggle of Me-110's. One made a run at right at Sgt. Blankenship in the ball, climbing straight at him. Billy Boy pasted him in the nose, blew out the cockpit, and peppered both wings as he fell off trailing flame & smoke. Pee-Wee got some pay-back for his scratch when he blasted an Me-110 all over the sky as it tried to slip up from 6 low. After that, things were fairly quiet for us.
We made it back with 2
kills, a good showing on the bomb run, a couple of patches in the tail, and a
small scratch on our tail gunner's left arm. That's two down, and 48 more
to go. I hope they're all like this.
-1st Lt. John P. McConnell, Pilot, Satin Doll
SKY WOLF, second flight, lead aircraft
Shot down by enemy fighters over Albania. Aircraft exploded in mid-air; no chutes were seen.
B-17 42-11805 "Sky Wolf" was lost in action over Albania. The aircraft was under attack from +4 Me-109s and exploded in mid-air when it was last seen. No chutes were seen. (Player note: 4 Me-109s attacked and caused 6 hits in the first pass. Bomb bay was first hit and the bombs exploded on board. All crew KIA).
PROUD MARY, second flight, right wingman, second Tail-end Charlie
Shot down by enemy fighters over Sofia. Eight chutes seen. Subsequent International Red Cross report confirm 8 men were taken prisoner by the Bulgarian government and 2 bodies recovered.
Subjected to intense fighter attacks while in the tail-end Charlie formation slot. A 109 from six high ignited the starboard outside fuel tank as the B17 approached the IP. The plane swung out of formation with the wing afire and the crew was seen to bail out.
ROCK 'EM & SOCK 'EM, second flight, left wingman, Tail-End Charlie
Aborted zone-3 after losing bombardier and navigator. Returned alone with 7 casualties and excessive damage: Nose Plexiglas completely missing, tail guns destroyed, nose guns destroyed, navigation equipment destroyed, bomb sight destroyed, damaged port elevator and pilot compartment heat out. Two Me-109s each claimed by Sgts. Kernan and Campbell; one Me-109 by Tech. Sgt. O'Shaunessy.
Ahh, are you kidding . . . just look at the ship. The nose is missing and so is half of Lt. Smith's body. It must have fallen or been blown out.
Yeah, well it was going
okay until we hit the coast and then this one, just one mind you, this ONE
Me-109 came up on us and strafed us from tail to nose hit and wounded most of
us. And well, he just kept coming, destroyed all the nav equipment and
then on his third pass before he left, killed the navigator and bombardier.
So, we aborted and we got lost over the sea out there . . . Then we had 3 waves of fighter attack us. Some little friends helped us once or twice but after the nose and tail guns got knocked out, we just kept going. Joss, the pilot, got frost bitten when we lost the heat . . . I was too busy bleeding to help him.
But we shot down quite a few of those devils, I tell you, we were alone so there ain't no doubt, but we got home anyhow.
I'M GOING TO THE INFIRMARY NOW, OKAY LIEUTENANT!! . . .
-2nd Lt. Frank Coleridge, Co-pilot, Rock 'em and Sock 'em
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