MISSION 44 - SOFIA AARs
316th BS (Lead)
OLD YARD DOG, lead flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with radio inoperable, damage to the ball turret oxygen system, superficial damage to the port wing, nose compartment, and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Riddell.
We must comment that the formation stayed good and tight the whole way. I feel we did pretty well as a group this mission. We didn't have any trouble until nearing the target we got jumped by four Me-109s and one Fw-190. We got through everything but that damn 12 high 109. He shot out our radio in the radio room and but some superficial hits to the port wing. That is why we were so quiet from there on. My port waist gunner nicked him when he came back around for another pass then he was gone.
Once over the target area other B-17s in the formation get the enemies from getting to us so we could line up the drop. Flak was non-existent as planned thankfully and we put a full 30% on target. Other bombers made good hits as well.
Turning for home our formation stayed very tight and other bombers kept enemies off us yet again. In the same place as on the inbound run, five 190s and a 109 jumped us. They were waiting right outside of the target area. P-38s drove off two before they got to us but that damnable high 109 bored in and got us with several more hits. Most was superficial in the nose but it did manage to sever the oxygen to the ball gunner. He stayed on bottle the rest of the way and was no worse for the wear. That 109 came back around and my engineer promptly shot him down at the 3 high position. The 12 high position was much safer!
We didn't see any more krauts the rest of the way home and we landed hard but safely in the muck they call weather around here.
- Capt. Michael Chase, Pilot, Old Yard Dog
SATIN DOLL, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30% Returned with superficial damage to tail and port waist compartment area by 13mm & 20mm shells, and 1 casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by MSgt. George F. Turner and 1 Me-109 by SSgt. William B. Blankenship.
The third trip to Sofia wasn't much different from the first one. Jerry didn't pay us any attention until we were halfway across Yugoslavia. A pair of 109s set up a crossing attack from 9 level and 1:30 high. Just as they got within in our guns' range, a pair of P-38's from the 14th FG tore into them quickly dispatching them both.
Just after crossing the border to Bulgaria, an FW-190 came screaming in from 10:30 high while an Me-110 tried to sneak up under us in a vertical climb. Turner hammered away at the Wulf with the twin .50's in the upper turret. His efforts were rewarded with a spectacular fireball where the FW had been. Blankenship called in that a P-38 had been climbing with the 110 below us and had blown the Kraut's right engine off.
Nearing the target area, we met up with five FWs from all points. Yet again, a P-38 took one off us, while his Kameraden swept in at us. The whole ship opened up and filled the sky. We didn't hit anything, but the neither did most of the Krauts. One got lucky and put a couple of holes in the tail and waist, a shell fragment grazing port waist gunner Brad Wall. The Heinie made another pass from 10:30 level, but Wally Henderson put a long burst into his direction, fouling his aim, and he broke off heading for the trailing formation.
Thankfully, there was no Flak over the target, and PJ put an estimated 30% of the load onto the target.
Rallying off the target, we were met by another pair of 109s. Blankenship blasted the one at 9 level out of the sky, while Turner and Henderson chased off the one at 1:30 high. Right on their heels came a gaggle of three FWs. Two of these were quickly dispatched by the Fork-Tailed Angels of the 14th FG and the remaining Wulf took a long shot, missed and broke off for the deck.
After we reentered back into Yugoslavian air space about halfway across, PeeWee called in from the tail that Full House II was going down trailing fire from her port wing. Blankenship, in the ball, reported seeing at least 6 good chutes and PeeWee said he saw 4 more.
We didn't draw any more attention from the Luftwaffe the rest of the way home.
The weather had closed in and the conditions were lousy. By some miracle, we were able to get back on the ground without running into any of the other A/C, even though the landing was a little bumpier than most.
- Capt. J.P. McConnell, Pilot, A/C 42-11806 Satin Doll, 316th BS, 88th BG (H)
LUCKY SEVEN, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 60%. Returned with 30% damage
to the starboard tail plane, the radio knocked out, and no casualties. (32
Damage points per Peckham's damage chart). Claims: 2 Me-109s & 1
Fw-190 by Sgt. Burroughs (1 Me-109 later confirmed by S-2) and 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Fidone
(Later confirmed by S-2).
A trip to Sofia today. Well, right out of the box we were approached. But the guys from the Lucky Nickel drove them off before an attack could be made.
Around 148 miles from base, two Focke-Wulfs made an attempt at us but the boys from the 325th fighter group shot one down and chased the other away.
At the 200 mile mark we were jumped by two Me-109s, a lone little friend chased down out of sight, but the other made it to us, causing only superficial damage. Sgt. Burroughs removed this bugger's tail feathers as he passed over the Lucky Seven's tail. That was all we would see 'till the IP.
As we approached the IP two Fw-190s came at us from the front and the starboard side. Their first passes caused ample damage. The Wulf from 3 o'clock high damaged the tail plane root about 30%. The Kraut from 12 o'clock level took out our radio. On the return attack, we noticed that one was an ace, his tail was littered with the little vertical ticks. Lt. Grams was able to hit him (FBOA-2) on his run at our nose causing him to miss his mark. Sgt. Burroughs finished this guy off, getting him back for plastering the tail plane. Sgt. Fidone took down the other enemy aircraft with his twin .50s.
Old Yard Dog's crew thwarted any other attempts at us. As briefed, we encountered no flak at the target. Lt. Grams was right on today as he placed at least 60% of our load on the target.
We ran into two more Me-109s coming off the target, one missed and the other hit the radio again, just to make sure. As the one from 12 o'clock passed the tail, Sgt. Burroughs gave him a going away present, and sawed off his port wing. Sgt. Fidone saw the Kraut jump and the plane tumbling towards the ground. On the other's successive attack, he missed and left for home. Other than the Old Yard Dog and Satin Doll teaming up to chase away three Me-109s making a run on us, we didn't see anymore enemy activity.
Landing was fine and the mission was a total success.
Crew Status: Healthy and fit for duty.
Aircraft Status: Lightly damaged and flyable; 30% damage to starboard tail plane and radio knocked out.
Claims: Eleven enemy aircraft encountered
3 driven off by our fighters
1st Lt. M. Grams: 1 Fw-190 as probable
Sgt. L. Fidone: 1 Fw-190 as destroyed
Sgt. S. Burroughs: 2 Me-109s & 1 Fw-190 as destroyed
- Capt. Jamie Jameson, Pilot, Lucky Seven
LUCKY NICKEL, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with superficial damage to the starboard wing and radio room and no casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 apiece by MSgt. Allison & SSgt. Edmond (SSgt. Edmond's claim later confirmed by S-2).
I think we must be getting to the enemy as there were fewer fighters this mission than the last "few" times we hit this target. Some enemy activity early on but these were driven off by either other bombers or some friendlies.
Only over target did we get any serious attention. Two 190 fighters attacked us from starboard and front. The guy at 3 o'clock walked right into top turret guns and was blown away. The front guy got a hit on the tail gunner's heater unit but our gunner managed to nail him on his 3rd pass. Very cold, but no sign of frostbite our brave gunner stayed at his post, keeping us in formation. As we headed for home, 4 more 109s jumped us. Our fighter boys chased two off, one missed but the 4th got hits in starboard wing and radio room. All were superficial damage. The fighter swung around coming at us direct on but all shots missed and he flew off. Tail gunner didn't get to shoot at him as he was trying to get the heater fixed but no luck. We did not see a single fighter the whole rest of the trip. We landed without incident and expect for a deep chill no frostbite issues for our brave gunner.
Guys are becoming uneasy as we have been having a pretty easy time the last few missions. As we reach towards that magic 50 (dare I even speak of it?), we are getting jumpy hoping we don't have to go to a long one. Perhaps, with the drop off of enemy fighters we really have spent them out . . . or perhaps not.
- Capt. Paul Griffin, Pilot, Lucky Penny
FULL HOUSE II, second flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Shot down by enemy fighters after crossing back into Yugoslavia (zone 5). 10 'chutes seen.
ďHalfway across Yugoslavia, Full House II came under enemy fighter attack. Two Fw-190s attacked from 9 o'clock and right after that attack, the outer fuel tank on the port wing bursted into flames. The pilots put the plane into an emergency dive attempting to put out the fire but they were unsuccessful. We counted 10 chutes, so at least everybody got out in time. We lost sight of the plane soon after that but we were flying pass Skopje so it must have gone down near there.Ē
- Capt. Paul Griffin, Pilot, Lucky Nickel, 316th Bomb Squadron, post mission debriefing report.
399th BS (Middle)
ADOLPH's NIGHTMARE, second flight, left wingman
Assigned as group spare and participated in mission after AC # 42-11840, Caballero, dropped out due to mechanical problems. After bombing target, 30%, aircraft fell out-of-formation after bomb run and returned alone with ball turret and tail compartment heating system inoperable, damage to the tail compartment oxygen system and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Chare.
The tail gunner, Sgt. Kramer, didn't notify the Aircraft Commander when his heater was destroyed by fighters over Albania (zone-3 outbound). He stayed at his post risking frostbite in order for Lt. Egan to stay in formation and drop with the group. Only after the bombs had been dropped did he tell his AC that his heater was damaged and Lt. Egan dropped out of formation and descended to 10000 ft and flew out of formation back to Foggia.
- Lt. H. Egan, Pilot, Adolph's Nightmare, Air Medal recommendation report for Sgt. Steven Kramer to Capt. DeFilippo, 399th Squadron CO
GOODBYE GIRL II, third flight, lead aircraft
Bomber shot down by enemy fighters outbound (zone-4). No survivors.
As the formation crossed outbound into Yugoslavia, Goodbye Girl was attacked by a group of 109's. The aircraft was completely destroyed by an explosion that could only have been a direct hit to the payload. No 'chutes were seen as the remains of the fort fell to earth.
- 399th Bomb Squadron, post mission debriefing report.
MISTER WRECKTED, third flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 50%. Returned with radio destroyed and 1 casualty.
The crew was anxious but excited on our first mission, having been deluged with stories from all of the veteran crews, but we formed up and flew all the way to Bulgaria without incident.
The fighters did a great job of keeping the bandits away, but as we approached Sofia a trio of 190s jumped us from up high, with a fanned frontal approach, all high from 10:30, 12 and 1:30. The fighter at 10:30 scored a direct hit on our radio room, chewing it up pretty good, and we heard Nick call out that he had been hit but thought he was okay. The 12 high fighter rattled a couple of rounds off of us, but didn't cause any significant damage. Sgt. Lent hit the bandit coming in from 1:30 high and distracted him enough to cause him to break off after he missed on his attack. On their second go at us, 2nd Lt. Moyer blew a nice chunk off of one of them, causing him to break off, and neither came close to us.
We were able to steady on, and 2nd Lt. Rojas did a nice job laying the bombs on target, with about half of the load hitting the mark.
As we turned about to head home, we got jumped by two 110s, and one of them chewed up the radio room again, knocking out our radio. As we headed back for Italy, I was concerned that we hadn't heard anything from Lasley, so I sent Moyer back to check on him. He reported that Lasley had a massive head wound, but we didn't have a radio to call in so we just tried to get back as fast as we could. The little friends kept the bandits off of us the rest of the way back, and even though we fired our flares to grab priority for landing, I heard shortly after we landed that Lasley had died of his wounds.
- 1st Lt. Walter Brandenburg, Pilot, Mister Wreckted
317th BS (HIGH)
DIVINE WIND, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with the starboard wing flap inoperable, damage to the port wing root hit, Norden bombsight, #3 engine fuel tank, superficial damage to the fuselage, and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 1st Lt. Muraki, SSgt. Shimizu, and Sgt. Sakaue.
Took off from Sterparone Field, Foggia, Italy without any problems or malfunctions.
About fifty (50) miles from target we were attacked by two waves of fighters. The first wave bogies spotted at 3 high were driven off by machine gun fire from the bomb group. The 2nd wave consisted of four (4) Me-109s coming in from 9 high, 12 low, level and high. Three missed the plane and didnít return but the one that came in from 12 high was hit by both the chin guns (manned by bombardier 2nd Lt. Nakahiro) and the top turret guns (SSgt. Shimizu) causing heavy damage to the fighter. This caused the fighter to miss the plan and not return.
Because we didnít encounter any flak over target Bombardier 2nd Lt. Nakahiro was able to put 30% of the bomb load over target.
On the turn around from target we were attacked by two (2) waves of fighters. The first wave consisted of four (4) Me-109s coming in from 9 high and from 12 low, level and high. Three missed the plane and were driven off by machine gun fire from the bomb group. The one that came in from 9 high was able to do walking hits to on the wings of the plane causing the wing flap on the starboard wing to be inoperable, a root hit on the port wing and damage to the #3 engineís fuel tank. The plane was able to return and re-attacked from 12 level but it missed the plane and didnít return. The second wave consisted of one (1) Fw-190 coming in from 10:30 level and three (3) Me-109s coming in from 12 high and 12 and 10:30 level. The Fw-190 was driven off by fighters of the 14th Fighter Group and didnít attack the plane. The Me-109 coming in from 10:30 was destroyed by navigator 1st Lt. Muraki manning the port cheek gun. The other two missed the plane and didnít return.
One hundred miles from the target on the turnaround we were again attacked by two (2) waves of fighters. The first wave consisted of three (3) Me-110s coming in from 10:30 level, and 12 and 6 low. The one coming in from 12 o'clock was destroyed by bombardier 2nd Lt. Nakahiro manning the chin turret. The one coming in from 6 low was driven off by fighters of the 1st Fighter Group before it was able to attack. The one coming in from 10:30 missed the plane and was driven off by a combination of machine gun fire from the bomb group and fighter escorts. The second wave consisted of three (3) Me-109s coming in from 12 and 10:30. The ones coming in from 12 high and 10:30 level missed the plane and didnít return. The third one coming in from 12 level was destroyed by SSgt. Shimizu manning the top turret.
About two hundred (200) miles from target on the turnaround bogies were spotted at 12 level but they were driven off before they were able to get close to the formation.
About two hundred (200) miles from base the #3 engine died because of lack of fuel. But we were able to keep up in formation because of the lighter weight of the plane.
About fifty (50) miles away from base we were attack by four (4) Me-109s. The one coming in from 12 level was driven off by fighters of the 325th Fighter group before it was able to attack the plane. The one coming in from 6 low was destroyed by tail gunner Sgt. Sakuae. The one that came in from 12 low was able to hit the plane twice, once in the nose and once in the fuselage. The hit to the fuselage was superficial in nature while the one to the nose damaged the Norden Bomb Sight. The one coming in from 12 high was also able to hit the plane twice, once in the fuselage and once in the nose. Both hits were superficial in nature. The planes attempted to make another run but both of these planes were chased away by the 325th Fighter Group before they were able to attack.
Reached Sterparone Field and was able to land without incident.
- Capt. Mark Yoshikawa, Pilot, Divine Wind
SILVER SPOON, lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with top turret inoperable and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by Capt. Blackmore & Sgt. Pancetti.
A simple enough trip, I must say. We had hardly any excitement until we turned away from the target. That idiot Blackmore managed to miss the bulls-eye, but got lucky with a few bombs. Amoore is far too lenient with the man. A 109 hit the hydraulics in the top turret and we spent most of the trip home without cover from there. Other than that, my piloting skills were impeccable as always.
- Capt. Milton B. Forrest III, Pilot, Silver Spoon
MORBID ANGEL, lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with damage to the waist and tail compartments and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. J. Morris.
Our luck was bound to run out sometime . . . but not every scrap of it at once! Jimmy got a kill. Tommy got a hit. But we lost Pearson. We actually have to replace most of the tail of the plane . . . how we got back is a miracle. But seeing a guy that torn up by bullets makes you mad. I wish we would have hit the target, and at least feel like his death wasn't in vain on this mission. We owe it to him and every guy who won't see home again to make sure we do our duty in the following missions. Failure isn't an option. We'll rest a bit, mourn a bit for Digby Pearson . . . and then we'll be chomping at the bit to fly again, and deal those Nazi bastards a dose of retribution.
- 1st Lt. David Vincent, Pilot, Morbid Angel
MEMPHIS GAL, second flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with tail compartment heating system inoperable and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Almeda.
Despite the aggressive German attacks we managed to complete the mission without any serious trouble or incident.
Our fighter cover proved to be quite excellent and kept the Germans from getting near the bombers. The new crew members are settling in splendidly and Knott our waist gunner managed to get back to base without being wounded. We are all having a little get together later to celebrate Knottís good fortune this mission.
I only discovered after landing that our tail gunnerís heat had been put out of action just after the bomb run. He elected not to mention this ďsmallĒ fact to me and risked frostbite for the entire return leg. He said he did not want to endanger the bomber or crew by reporting this fact. I have chosen not to reprimand him for his brave yet foolish actions.
- Capt. Ralph Flynn, Pilot, Memphis Gal
WAKKA WAKKA, second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with 2 holes in the pilot compartment, 1 hole in the radio room and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Fraser.
We had a clear run into the target with our little angels keeping the Krauts away from us all the way. We bombed well and got about 20% on target.
We were clear back home until we got about 100 miles from base. A 109 came at us from the 12 and another at 3. The radio room got a shell straight through that didnít explode but did add a pair of long johns to the war loss. The skipper got hit in shoulder but it didnít look bad and he said he could carry on. Fraser blew 109 at 3 before he got a shot off. The buzzard at 12 seemed to like us and came round again. This time he hit the skip in the face. Virgil hit the 109 hard but the damage was already done. I couldnít do a damn thing for the skip. Makes me wonder why I ever thought I could be a doctor. We got his body out of the chair and I took over the controls. Virgil came down to help in the COís seat. Ballot got onto the top turret.
We were all pretty damned quiet on the way home. The chair was slick and I really didnít look at my hands when I wiped my face. We landed our bird fine but didnít even bother red flaring it as the skip was gone already. The Docís whiskey didnít even touch sides as we went into the debrief to tell our sorry tale.
- 2nd Lt. Peter Taylor, Co-pilot, Wakka Wakka
MISS BEHAVIN, second flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 10%. Shot down by enemy fighters returning from mission over Albania (zone-3), 7 'chutes seen.
A/C lost during aerial combat due to a direct hit to the left wing fuel tank. Remaining crew forced to bail out under controlled conditions over land and interred as POW. This after action report is written from a compilation of interrogation reports from other crews in close proximity to ďMiss BehavinĒ during this mission.
- Squadron Adjutant, 317th Bomb Squadron Heavy, 88th Bomb Group Heavy
399th BS (HIGH)
RAID HOT MAMA, third flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Fell out of formation after leaving target area (zone-5). Returned alone with the #1 engine and the pilots' compartment oxygen system inoperable, rafts shot up, wing root damage to the starboard wing, superficial damage to the starboard wing aileron, and to the nose and radio room compartments, and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by SSgt. Fargo & Sgt. Goyer.
Our escorts did a fine job for most of our journey to the target. The only time enemy fighters made an appearance was just after reaching the coast of Albania. Two Me-109s managed to slip our escort and made a pass at us. Sgt. Goyer made quick work of one coming in from 3 o'clock level and claimed a kill. The other made one pass and managed to cause some superficial damage to the nose and fuselage.
After that we had no problems, we reached the IP and flak was light. Lt. DeMarco reported that 20% of our bombs were on target.
After leaving the Sofia we were jumped by a three waves of Jerry fighters. A pack of Fw-190s came at us from all directions. They shot up the #1 Engine that we managed to feather, the flight deck oxygen system, the life raft in the bomb bay and hit the starboard wing root. They were followed by a group of 109s, the boys put up a wall of lead to greet them. We didn't hit anything but neither did the enemy. The last group to greet us shot up the radio room and hit Sgt. Goyer (LW) in the left leg.
The loss of oxygen forced us to drop out of formation. We managed to clear the target area before encountering any more fighters. Later a group of Me-109s came across us and took a couple of runs at us. SSgt. Fargo destroyed one coming in from 12 o'clock level, he just barely missed the ship and Lt. Jacob heavily damaged (FBOA) another. In exchange for his good work, Lt. Jacob was wounded in the lower stomach (LW). The next group of two 109s came at us and SSgt. Fargo poured lead into one (FBOA), they both missed us and left after that.
We were luck and managed to avoid any more enemy
aircraft on the rest of our trip. The Flight Surgeon says that both Fargo
Jacob will be able to return to duty after a few days.
- Capt. Art DeFilippo, Pilot, Raid on Mama
MISSOULA EXPRESS third flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with propeller feathering controls shot away, damage to the control cables and to the starboard waist gunner's oxygen system, superficial damage to wings and fuselage, and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Phelan and 1 Fw-190 shared by Sgt. Hooker and TSgt. Bailey.
We had heard horror stories from the old hands about the Sofia missions. Really nasty--lots of flak and fighters. Well, they were right about the fighters. We saw Germans all the way from the Albanian coast into target, but fortunately the Checkertails kept them off us. Then the 38s took over, and a few enemy a/c broke through the Little Friends and made runs at us.
No flak at all over target--I guess the dogleg approach worked. Plenty of fighters, though. B ob in the belly kept up his good shooting by bagging another one; we also got one coming up the tail at us. We noticed a lot of Germans diving down on us from above, mostly to little effect. It did get a bit hairy in the cockpit, though; enemy shells shot away the prop feathering controls, and the new copilot got nicked. At any rate, with no flak, we laid our eggs right on the target and headed for home.
The trip back was uneventful--we ran into a few more Germans as we crossed the coast, but they didn't hit us. Actually, the hairiest part of the flight home was trying to land in the soup over the airfield. A bumpy landing, but we got down okay.
- 2nd Lt. Bill Hern, Pilot, Missoula Express
CAROLINA LADY II, third flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with superficial damage to the fuselage and starboard wing and no casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Lt. Stein, 2 Me-109s by SSgt. Barnes (1 of SSgt. Barnes' claims was later confirmed by S-2) and 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Semelbauer.
As we gathered under the wing of our new G-model for a final mission brief, Lt. Stein said, "Boy, I hope I get to use these babies today!" He was pointing to the new chin guns under the nose. A collective groan went up from the crew - now for sure we would get hit good and hard.
Take off went smooth and we formed up and began to head out over the Adriatic. Sure enough, we came under attack about 150 miles from base and were under more or less continuous attacks all the way to the target and part of the way home. Our escorts did a great job until we were over Yugoslavia - or maybe it was Bulgaria. Anyway, we got hit by a squadron each of Me-109s and Fw-190s. everybody was blasting away at them . . . Lt. Stein drew first blood, shooting down a 190 coming in from head-on. He was whooping it up until three 109s came in right behind the FW. SSgt. Barnes in the top turret shot down one, while back in the waist Gene Semelbauer, our starboard waist gunner, shot down a 109 coming in from 1:30 high. During this melee our starboard wing and fuselage got shot up some, but no major damage. Just before the bomb run SSgt. Barnes shot down another Me-109.
No flak - we dumped 40% into the marshalling yards. A few more half-hearted attempts by the Luftwaffe to close with our formation were beaten back by group defensive gunnery and the escorts. Despite the rain at base we landed okay.
- 1st Lt. Mark Choate, Pilot, Carolina Lady II
318th BS (Low)
ZEBRA's REVENGE, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with minor damage (61 damage points) and 3 casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 by Sgt. Mitchell.
We had an uneventful take-off and form-up. We had no contact with those pesky Krauts until after I had handed the aircraft over to Donnie for the final leg of the bombing run. Two 109s made a couple of passes and left us with a few holes but went away with more holes then they gave. Donnie missed the target AGAIN! As soon as Donnie called "Bombs Away" one 190 made a real nasty pass from 12 high. He put shells all the way from the nose-to-tail. Chisman, Parker and Miles were hit by flying pieces of debris. Lucky for us the wounds were light. The game ball for this mission goes to Phil Mitchell. He sent this 190 back to the Fatherland without his starboard wing.
We saw a few more Jerries on the trip back and traded holes but nothing major. One 110 was unlucky enough to try to come at us from below and aft but did not get close before he spun out smoking badly. One of our "little buddies" reported he did not attempt to pull out of the spin, that was two for Phil on this mission.
Landing was hard but the ground crew she should be repairable before the next mission.
- Major Mikula, Pilot, Zebra's Revenge
BAWLMER BETTY, lead flight, right aircraft
Aborted mission zone-5 due to battle damage. Returned to base alone with intercom system and flap controls inoperable, superficial damage to the nose and waist compartments, and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Schreiber.
We encountered enemy fighters almost from the minute we formed up over Italy. Our bombardier, Lt. Heim, drew first blood by damaging an Me-109 as we left the coast. The initial enemy attacks were poorly coordinated, but they became more fierce and effective as we entered Albanian airspace.
Nearing the Bulgarian border we were hit by multiple waves of Me-109s. One of these attackers damaged our flap controls, knocked out our intercom and killed Lt. Heim in one pass. This effectively destroyed our ability to strike the target, and I decided to abort the mission. As we turned for home, SSgt. Schreiber destroyed the fighter that had caused us so much trouble, but his wingman shot up our starboard waist position, lightly wounding Sgt. Baxter. Sgt. Schreiber later damaged another Me-109 as we flew back across the Adriatic Sea.
In spite of our damaged flap controls and the bad weather back at base, I was able to land the ship without any further damage or injury to the crew.
- 1st Lt. Mark Beyer, Pilot, Bawlmer Betty
EASY DOES IT, lead flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 50%. Returned with tail guns, port elevator and aileron controls inoperable; rubber rafts destroyed; damage to radio room oxygen supply; superficial damage to nose, bomb bay, radio room as well as assorted damage resulting from two sets of walking hits on the fuselage. 5 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by Sgts. Jaeger (Sgt. Jaeger's claim later confirmed by S-2) and Rincon.
We started seeing enemy fighters just after reaching the Adriatic, though none got through the formation until we crossed the coast. Our own fighters initially did a pretty good job keeping the enemy off of us, but some eventually got through. In our first heavy action, we got hit by 109's coming at us from both sides, 9 level and 3 high. Sgt. Jaeger shot down one at 9 o'clock and Sgt. Rincon put some heavy damage into the 3 o'clock fighter, but he managed to hit us, wounding Aaronson and knocking out the tail guns before he turned tail and ran. So we were already faced with a long mission without the benefit of our powerful tail guns. Sgt. Aaronson was not badly injured, he was grazed on the left arm and stayed with his gun.
It quieted down a little until we got to about the Bulgarian border. WE saw our first Me-110, and Sgt. Westlake sent it home with one of its engines trailing very thick smoke.
Over the target, a 190 that came down right on us in a dive; Jaeger hit it hard, but he still peppered us nose to tail with shell hits, wounding Lt. Stallings and knocking out our ailerons. He also put some shells into the bomb bay but, fortunately, just hit the rafts, not the bombs. Sgt. Westlake also got hit, badly. Despite all the shooting and rattling we had a good bomb run.
On the way out, we had a 109 surprise us just like the 190 did. That's where Lt. McCardell got hit. Sgt. Rincon was also hit on the foot, and the bastard finished Sgt. Aaronson off. Another 109 came in from the starboard side and Sgt. Rincon managed to take him down by hosing the area. We'd like to think it was the guy that took out Sgt. Aaronson, but there's no way of knowing.
The rest of the trip home was uneventful, we didn't do anymore shooting, but we'd done enough already, and we had wounded to attend to. Lt. McCardell brought the plane down well despite the weather and the and the damage to our instruments.
- 2nd Lt. Dale Hammond, Co-pilot, Easy Does It
GOLDEN SPIKE, second flight, Lead Aircraft
Bombed target. 0%. Returned with top turret guns, radio room heating system and navigator's equipment inoperable, 6 superficial damage holes in the aircraft, and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Archibald (later confirmed by S-2), 1 Me-109 apiece by Lt. Thompson, SSgt. Garbutt & SSgt. Turner.
An easy flight in, we exchanged rounds with a couple bandits that made it past our escorts but everyone was missing this morning. Nearing Sofia it was a different story. We drew three waves of Germans and in spite of the escorts best efforts we took our first hits. My St. Christopher kept me safe (used lucky charm) as German slugs slammed into the cockpit, and we shot-up three bandits before closing on the target.
It was a great idea of swinging in from the backside--no flak! The brass had it right this time, but unfortunately "old Ace on the Norden" missed the target again. If he wasn't such a good gunner we'd be angry, but since he has the most kills in our crew, we'll keep him around. Another wave of Germans made a pass before we left the area. One poor German was damaged by the nose guns (old Ace doing his thing) and was hit again by Sgt. Turner's tail guns as he passed by. A fireball marked where the plane had once been.
Just outside of Sofia two waves of Germans struck the formation hard. A single Fw-190 hammered the Golden Spike. He damaged the top turrets, knocked out the heat for the radio operator, and two crew members barely avoided injury (used up lucky charms). On his second pass he came in at 9 o'clock high. Without our top turret guns we were a sitting duck, but our new port gunner managed a hit and we all cheered as this Gerry left the fight.
With Sgt. Higgins' heat out we needed to drop to 10,000, but I wanted to stay in formation as long as possible. It was a good thing too. A group of Me-109s charged in and three of them made it through our escort cover. Lt. Thompson knocked one down but his friends wounded Sgt. Bolton, just missed Sgt. Gilbert (used his lucky charm), and damaged our navigational equipment. I couldn't risk the whole crew over enemy territory so we continued with the formation until we saw water. Thankfully Sgt. Higgins avoided frostbite then we dropped to 10,000 feet for the remainder of the flight. The landing was a bit rough, but safe. We all felt lucky to escape without serious injury.
- Capt. Todd Wilson, Pilot, Golden Spike
KELLY DOLL, second flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Aircraft shot down by enemy fighters on return leg over the Adriatic Sea. 10 men exited aircraft but only 3 survivors found.
We had a lot of superficial damage on the way to the target, but was still able to get 30% of the bombs on target. We ran into a few 190s on our leg home, but didn't have any major damage until we were jumped by a 190 after getting over water. The 190 hit our port wing inboard fuel tank. The tank caught fire and we were forced to bail out. SSgt. Harry Pease, Sgt, Billy Becner and myself were rescued. The rest of the crew did not make it.
- 2nd Lt. Fred Childers, Co-Pilot, Kelly Doll
QUIEN SABE, second flight, left wingman (TAIL-END CHARLIE)
Reached target zone but did not drop bombs due to inoperable bomb bay doors. Returned with bomb bay doors jammed and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by SSgt. Lovell, TSgt. Armstrong, & Sgt. Walters; 1 shared Me-110 by Sgts. Allen & De Lavier.
We did ourselves proud in the "Tail-end Charlie" slot all the way to Sofia and all the way back, registering four kills. We only took one hit on the entire mission, but that hit rendered the bomb bay doors inoperable!!!! The fighter cover was exceptional, as was the accuracy of the B17's up ahead - a credit to the brave men of the 88th.
No casualties this mission, and the team are in great spirits and are bonding well.
- 1st Lt. Gary Johnstone, Pilot, Quien Sabe
Return to Sterparone Field