MISSION 56 - PLOESTI AARs
316th BS (LEAD)
STRAIGHT FLUSH, Lead flight, Lead Aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with superficial damage to the port wing, fuselage (2), radio room, bomb bay, waist & pilots' compartments and 3 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 apiece by SSgt. Sherwin and Sgt. Wesson and 1 ME-110 by Sgt. Smith.
CUTTING EDGE, Lead flight, left wingman
Reached target but did not bomb due to jammed bomb bay doors. Returned with structural damage to the starboard wing, bomb bay doors, radio and rudder controls inoperable, superficial damage to the fuselage (4), port, wing, #3 engine, tail plane, bomb bay and nose compartments and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 & 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Chalmers and 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Gritski.
Ploesti, was not the mission that we wanted the day after the beating we took at Wiener-Neustadt. Ambrose is getting shipped stateside and he may be gone by the time we get back. I have to admit we were in shock Ambrose had been with us from the start and it was like losing a member of the family. The good news was that Pete despite his horrific wound, which is going to keep him tied up chasing nurses for the next month, is going to be coming back. I have hardly had time to talk to the replacements, Jim Reese and Tim McCall before this mission. Jim is just out of flight school - Ploesti will be his first mission. Tim, well I know his name.
We were half way across Yugoslavia before enemy fighters showed an interest in us. It was strange that they showed up just as our escorts seemed to thin out. Three FW-190s attacked us from ahead and starboard. The two to starboard couldn’t seem to handle the deflection and missed. The one coming head on hit us amidships for no apparent damage. He came back again level on the port side. This time he got hit by both turrets and he broke off the attack. For the rest of Yugoslavia we were left very much alone. However just after the Mustangs moved in as escorts so did a gaggle of enemy fighters. As the enemy tried to get to us our little friends took down an ME-110 and chased away an ME-109. However in doing this they exposed us to a couple of FW-190s coming in head-on low and high. Although Art got hits on one of them they both still tried to attack us without success and disappeared.
Over the target the air was humming with enemy fighters. Our escorts were spread thin and were struggling. Within that melee two serious attacks were made on us. The first was an FW-190 in a vertical dive who must have been just off line as he knocked Will Robertson off his feet in the radio room and chewed the tail plane for no real damage. We tracked this FW as he pulled up out of his dive ahead of us and came head on, again we could not get a hit on him. His shot crashed into the wings and nose for no apparent damage. For his last pass he came in at 1:30 level but, thankfully, this time he missed. The second attack was from a pair of FW-190s attacking from both sides, the one level on the starboard side got hit by Charlie in the ball turret but continued his attack but missed. The one at 10:30 high missed but got picked off by Paul in the tail turret as he broke away.
Once we got close to the flak all the fighters disappeared. The flak was intense but inaccurate and we received no hits on our way in. We only realized that we had a problem when we tried to open the bomb bay doors. Art went back to see what the problem was and amidst much thumping and swearing, (Will swears that Art actually got down into the bomb bay and was jumping up and down on the doors to get them open) he reported that the doors were wedged solid. The no apparent damage we had suffered over Yugoslavia was not quite so. I cannot say that there was universal rejoicing amongst the crew with the news that we would be taking our eggs home but we had no choice.
On the other side of the target things were a bit quieter and only one attack developed against us which our escorts could not stop. Three ME-109s and a tag along FW-190 attacked from ahead. Art took down one of the ME-109s which seems to have upset their friends as they all fired and missed. The FW wasn’t put off and improved the ventilation on #3 engine. Coming back level on the port side he misjudged his attack and missed and disappeared. As we left the target area on ME-109 tried a rear end attack. This guy must have been green and he paid for it being pulled down by Paul’s twin fifties in the tail turret. A succession of attacks were then beaten off by our escorts until we were half way across Yugoslavia when the enemy final got coordinated and put together a big formation which overwhelmed our escorts. Of the three ME-109s that got through both Art and Charlie got hits but it didn’t stop them coming. One 109 level on the port side missed and broke away the other two hit. The shots from ahead nicked Dave Young’s oxygen supply and trashed the rudder controls in the cockpit. The other attack wounded Tom Wilson at the port waist gun as well as hitting the rudder and waist. Second time around they tried the same trick, dead ahead and beam on from the starboard side. Again Charlie managed to get hits which failed to stop the attack but afterwards one of the 109s broke away. We took further hits in the nose, radio room and bomb bay. As a result we lost the radio. The last attack came in at 1:30 level again we were hit but for no discernible damage. At this point more of our P-38s showed up and the ME-109 vanished.
That was the last attack. We stayed in the pattern until everyone else was down before coming into land. It was not the best landing I had ever done but we made it safe. I t took the ground crew two hours a large pry bar to get the bomb doors open so the armourers could unload the bombs. It also turns out that the starboard wing root had taken multi hits and was nearly halfway through.
- 1st Lt. John Caldwell, Pilot, Cutting Edge, 316th Bomb Squadron
VENGEFUL HARLOT, Lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with control cables severed, ball turret, nose compartments' heating systems inoperable, tail & port waist guns inoperable, 20% damage to the port wing root, 30% damage to the rudder, nine large holes of no critical effect (174 damage pts per Peckham's damage chart), 3 casualties and 3 cases of frostbite. Claims: 1 FW-190 & 1 ME-110 by Sgt. Piano, 1 FW-109 apiece by Lt. Cesae & SSgt. Ohm and 1 shared FW-190 by 1st Lt. Newill & SSgt. Ohm.
Took off was on time at 0610 hours with a load of 2300 gallons of gasoline, 4000 pounds of GP-HE bombs, full load of ammunition, and the usual weight of men and equipment. Everything on plane was in operational order. We joined the group formation at 0836 hours.
Around 0910 hours (zone-2) we were attacked by two Focke-Wulf 190s. These two stuck with us for quite a while. Making at least three attacks and knocking out our ball turret's heat as well as lightly wounding Lieutenant Zurn and myself. The Nazi Krauts' attacks were nearly non-stop till we left the target zone. About twenty minutes after the first attack we encountered four more 190s. Our friendly fighter cover drove one of these fighters off. Lt. Cesae damaged another Fock-Wulf with SSgt. Ohm shooting down one too. With all the fighting the Krauts missed.
As our running battle continued, we encountered a pair of German fighters, a Focke-Wulf and a Messerschmitt 110. Sgt. Piano destroyed the ME-110 and Sgt. Moad nicked the Focke-Wulf with a passing shot after their attack. We continued to be harassed by the JG of Focke-Wulf's with three more of the "Butcher Birds". Our little friends drove one off and Sgt. Piano destroyed his second Germany fighter with Lt. Cesae damaging yet another Folke-Wulf.
As we reached the IP, a lone Focke-Wulf tentatively approached from behind. Sgt. Moad called forward that he was setting just out of range and not attacking as aggressively as the previous wave had. Just then there was a panicked call from Sgt. Moad that this fighter had launched rockets at us. We could do nothing as I had handed over the controls to Lt. Cesae for the bomb run. Sgt. Moad informed us that the rockets trajectory was to our starboard side and our crew took action to protect themselves as best as they could. When the rockets exploded the "Vengeful Harlot" lurched to the port side. The reports came in from the rear that we had taken quit a bit of damage, but everyone was O.K. The rockets had taken out our tail guns, starboard waist gun and damaged our flight cables to the elevators. The Kraut then made a run at us, but TSgt. Cormack winged him causing his shot to be off.
This was the last fighter attack till after our bomb run. We took four hits from the flak batteries that wounded Sgt. Meier and holed our wings with no critical damage. Even with all the activity going on, Lt. Cesae still placed 30% of our eggs on target.
As we came off target, the Krauts were waiting for us. The Focke-Wulf JG resumed their effort to down our ship. Of the four 190s that attacked our cover drove two off with Lt. Cesae damaging one himself. This caused the last two 190s to shoot wide and move on to other targets. For the next forty minutes or so we were able to catch our breath and assess our damage. We found out at this point that Sgt. Piano had developed frostbite from his lack of heat. After our respite a JG of Messerschmitts made their present known. Making mostly frontal attacks one of the three fighters scored hits on our wings and tail doing some major structural damage to the wing root and tail root. Upon this krauts return attack he took out our nose heat. With the high level of enemy resistant Lts. Newill and Torbett decided to remain in formation for the combined protection of the squadron.
During the next fifteen to twenty minutes we noticed many waves forming up attacks yet none target us for the run. Eventually we were again in the thick of it with a wave of three Focke-Wulfs making a line abreast attack on us. With the help of our fighter cover, chasing one off, Lt. Newill and SSgt. Ohm combined their shoots to destroy another fighter. Sgt. Meier severely damaged the third FW causing him to miss his attempt.
Hoping for this intense display of resistance to cease, we were disappointed as the Krauts continued their attacks. Four more Focke-Wulf 190s came in from all around. Once again our boy's gunnery was exemplary as SSgt. Ohm destroyed one more enemy fighter. Lt. Newill damaged the fighter attacking from 12 o'clock yet he was still able to place one superficial hit. This fighter's return attack amounted to nothing and that was the last of the Luftwaffe we saw.
Our gunners shot down five (5) enemy aircraft and claimed to have damaged at least nine (9) more.
Twenty-one enemy aircraft encountered.
7 Driven off by our fighters
Lt. C. Newill - 0.5 FW-190 destroyed and 1 FW-190 probable, 4 FW-190s damaged & 1 Me-109 damaged
SSgt. R. Ohm - 2.5 FW-190 destroyed
TSgt. A. Cormack - 1 ME-109 damaged
Sgt. D. Piano - 1 FW-190 destroyed & 1 ME-110 destroyed
Sgt. K. Meier - 1 FW-190 probable
Sgt. P. Moad - 1 FW-190 damaged
- 2nd Lt. Gary Tines, Pilot, Vengeful Harlot, B17G-10-VE 43-8870, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
LUCKY NICKEL, Lead flight, lead aircraft
Aborted mission (zone-3) due to #2 engine oil leak. Aircraft ditched in Adriatic Sea returning to base; 9 crew members rescued with 1 casualty. Claims: 1 FW-190 by Sgt. Jenkins & 1 ME-109 by Sgt. Sawyer.
CASE IN POINT, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Aircraft lost over Adriatic Sea returning from Ploesti. 7 crewmembers bailed out and were later rescued by Allied Air-Sea rescue.
Everybody was concerned when the curtain was pulled back and we saw that the mission was to Ploesti. We had all heard of Ploesti, of course, and knew what a tough target it was. But we had no idea how tough this mission actually would be.
The outbound was a piece of cake. We encountered no flak, and didn’t even see an enemy fighter. I began to think this might even turn out to be a milk run.
All hell broke loose when we hit the outskirts of Ploesti. Our gunners managed to fight off the first wave of fighters. But the 2nd wave – 3 FW-190s – got to us. An FW-190 coming in from dead ahead put a cannon shell into the cockpit that hit struck Lt. Behrens in the neck, nearly decapitating him and killing him instantly, before lodging in Lt. Sullivan’s thigh. Fire from this same FW also wounded Sgt. Elliot manning the tail guns.
SSgt. Brewster was also wounded in this same attack and his turret was knocked out of commission. Climbing out of his turret, Sgt. Brewster immediately realized the situation in the cockpit. He took the control yoke from the mortally wounded Lt. Sullivan and called for assistance. The radio operator, TSgt. Hayden, pulled both Lts. out of the pilots’ chairs and tried in vain to stop Lt. Sullivan’s severe bleeding.
SSgt. Brewster tried to maintain formation, but our bombing run was off target.
We were hit by 4 more 109’s as soon as we turned away from the target. Sgt. Elliot was hit again, and killed in this attack, which also started an oil leak in #4 engine.
On the way home, we saw only 1 enemy fighter, which was chased of by our escort. Oil pressure in #4 engine hit zero over Yugoslavia, and Sgt. Brewster shut the engine down.
When we hit the Adriatic, we decided to bail out over the Italian coast, as nobody had ever landed a plane before. We decided to leave the bodies in the plane – they don’t tell you what to do in this situation during training. Sgt. Hayden contacted air-sea rescue, and we all bailed out successfully, SSgt. Brewster bailing out last. We were picked up out of the water pretty quick, thankfully.
I don’t know what will become of what’s left of the crew. I guess we will be split up and assigned to different planes.
- 2nd Lt. George Thompson, Navigator, Case in Point
SATIN DOLL, Second Flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 2 ME-110s by Sgt. Maust, and 1 ME-109 apiece by SSgt. Roundtree and SSgt. Wall.
A long mission to Ploesti, Romania. The veterans
on the crew had been there before, and returned with minimal damage to the A/C
casualties, Hopefully they still had some luck with them.
We didn't encounter any E/A until we neared the Bulgarian/Rumanian border. A group of three ME-109s lead by an FW-190 attacked from ahead. The escort took out the 190 at 12 low and the 109 at 1030 level. The remaining two 109s at 12 high and level were fired upon and missed. They too were not very good shooters, missed wide, and broke off toward the trailing squadrons.
The next E/A that got close was an ME-109 over the target area. As he swept in from 10:30 high, Wall blasted him with the port waist gun, Maust called in from the ball that the Kraut bailed out as he passed under us.
Flak was medium thick as briefed, but not too accurate. We sailed over the target without a scratch, and Capt. Morris put 20% of the load into the center of the target area.
Rallying off target, we met up with a pair of Me-109s and an Me-110. The escort quickly herded the 109s off, and Maust shot down the 110 at 10:30 low.
Shortly after that, another pair of 109s and a 110 tried the same tactic. Again, the escort proved invaluable, polishing off the 109 at 10:30 level, while Maust racked up his second 110 and Rountree blasted the engine out of the 109 at 12 level.
We had no further action the rest of the way home, and we landed without incident.
- 1st Lt. William Patrick, Pilot, A/C 42-11806 Satin Doll, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
NORTHERN DREAM, Third flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with structural damage to the starboard wing, superficial damage to the port aileron and fuselage and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Holden
Everything fine until zone 4. The guys were edgy and the whole formation closed in on itself, really flying the tightest formation I had been in; provided us with just a little more protection and the comfort of knowing that no one was going to get through to us today. (Players note: rolled Random Events Tight Formations).
Not far from Nis we were hit by first E/A, a FW-190 on a vertical dive. He got though our defense and shot up the starboard wing (1 root damage). Following this he came in again from 12 level but missed his shot and disappeared off into the distance.
The remainder of the inbound zones were really quiet, didn’t see a thing--nobody out there!
Over target we were again singled out by a vertical dive attack, this time it was an Me-109. He shot up the port wing scoring minor damage to the port wing aileron but it was still operational. He left following an unsuccessful secondary attack.
Flak over target was ineffective; I wish it had been, at least then I would have a reason for why we failed to lay any bombs on target!
Homeward we were intercepted by 2 ME-110s. Mike toasted one coming from 10:30 low from the ball turret. Smoked him real good! The second came in from 12 low and managed to score some superficial damage in and around the pilot compartment but nothing too serious. Again like the others he came back around for another go but failed to pull off a good attack and left the action.
Just across the border from Belgrade we encountered our most dangerous engagement when we were jumped by an assorted group consisting of 2 FW-190s, an ME-110 and an ME-109. Little friends scared the FW190s off, while George blasted the ME-110 on our six. He seriously damaged it but unfortunately didn’t actually down him. The ME-109 got a shot in but failed to do any significant damage and bugged out when chased by little friends, ensuring he didn't get a second chance at us.
Just over Mostar 3 FW-190s put in a brief appearance but again fighter cover was great and they were all scared off. We returned to base and landed without any cause for concern.
- 1st Lt. Jim Calder, Pilot, Northern Dream, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
399th BS (HIGH)
MAWIMAZO, Third Flight, left aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with port waist gun and radio out, single hits to various oxygen supplies, superficial damage to bomb bay, tail and pilots' compartments & the starboard wing, with 1 casualty. Claims: 1 FW-190 apiece by 2nd Lt. Wolfe, 2nd Lt. Alexander, SSgt. Herndon & Sgt. Kramer; 1 ME-109 apiece by Sgt. Vetter & Sgt. Glotfelty; Sgt. Vetter's claim was later confirmed by S-2.
I would have to classify this mission overall as a success for the Mawimazo, although I think we did more damage in the air than on the ground, as the boys shot down 6 enemy a/c and damaged numerous others. I guess all that practice on the gunnery range really has paid off, and we now an ace gunner in our ball turret as Sgt. Vetter knocked out his 5th fighter today.
We got jumped on early, with 2 batches of 190s hitting us over the water and then again over Yugoslavia as we started out, and although they told us the little friends would be around to help us they didn't show up for us until later. Our new waist gunners made themselves known, chasing off some 190s over the water but we had a scary moment as we crossed over Yugoslavia and got hit by a second wave of 190s. Lt. Alexander knocked one of them out, and Sgt. Kramer nailed another one on a passing shot, but not before he could walk some shells right down our fuselage. Our radio and port waist gun were knocked out, but the bomb bay was not breached so we all breathed a sigh of relief. We had some activity on our way to the IP, and Lt. Wolfe knocked out a 190 right before he dropped the load, which was a disappointing drop by the looks of it.
As we turned for home, we got hit by four 109s, one of which chewed up the nose and blew hell out of Wolfe's shoulder. Vetter dropped one of them, and Glotfelty earned his respect by downing another (and coming back alive, which is no mean feat from the Mawimazo's waist) but the other two got through, knocking Wolfe out of this war, blowing up our radio some more, and then having 2 more goes at us, although they only scored superficial damage to the tail and starboard wing on those passes. We had some sporadic action on the way back, with the boys trading lead with the Jerries and chewing them up a bit, but most of our attention was on trying to keep Wolfe alive and get him home.
Looks like he will be going home after he gets out of the infirmary, so we will be thinking about him tonight as we celebrate Vetter's new-found "Ace" status.
- 2nd Lt. Clarence McCarthy, Pilot, Mawimazo, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
MERMAID, Third flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with modest damage: Engine #1 and starboard wing aileron inoperable, port waist MG destroyed by enemy flak, hits to the rudder and starboard wing root and 1 casualty. Claims: 2 Me-109s by SSgt. Rhodes, 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Labretta, and 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Mason; Sgt. Mason's claim was later confirmed by S-2.
Our first mission with the 399/88 was to bomb the marshalling yards at Ploesti, Rumania. We took off and formed up with no problems and had no problems until reaching the eastern region of Yugoslavia. There, we were attacked by four Fw-190s and a single Me-109 that zipped through our fighter coverage. Top Turret gunner/Engineer Colin Rhodes flamed the Me-109 and starboard waist gunner Sgt. Vincent Labretta got one of the Fw-190s. We only were fired upon by one other enemy aircraft the rest of the way to Ploesti, that being a Fw-190 diving on us and missed his shot at our ship.
Over Ploesti, we took two hits from enemy flak, one hit destroying the port waist MG and the other damaging our rudder. Even getting rocked by flak, we came in on target and estimate 30% of our bombs hit the marshalling yards.
On the return flight home, we were attacked by hoards of enemy aircraft. We speculate that these enemy pilots were poorly trained Rumanian or Bulgarian pilots because they didn't inflict much damage to our ship, with the exception of an Me-109 that raked our port wing with machine gun fire, taking out engine #1. Gunfire from our crew brought down another Me-109 and damaged three other Me-109s. Credit for flaming the Me-109 goes to both Flight Engineer Colin Rhodes on the top turret guns and ball turret gunner Sgt. John Mason . . . they both fired and hit the Me-109 and it literally disintegrated into little pieces.
We are grateful for the help from our little buddies in the P-51s and P-38s for chasing away several attacking Axis aircraft.
We landed with no problem. Lt. Taylor was treated at the base infirmary and should recover very quickly and be ready for our next mission.
In all, we downed three enemy aircraft and inflicted damage to three others.
- 1st Lt. Mulholland, Pilot, Mermaid, 399th Bomb Squadron
317th BS (High)
TULE LAKE SAMURAI III, Lead flight, lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with damage to the starboard wing root, rudder, port aileron, tail plane, to the tail section oxygen system, bomb bay doors will not open, superficial damage to the nose, pilots’ compartment, radio area, fuselage, waist areas and 4 casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 apiece by Sgts. Ono & Kishi.
Took off from Sterparone Field, Foggia, Italy without any problems or malfunctions.
About ten (10) miles from zone 7 we encountered a wave of fighters consisting of one (1) Fw-190 & one (1) ME-110 doing a VERTICAL CLIMB. The Fw-190 was chased away by fighters by the 31st Fighter Group and the Me-110 hit by the turret gunner Sgt. Yoshimura causing light damage making the plane miss the bomber and not return.
Over target we encountered two waves, the first consisting of two (2) Fw-190s, one (1) ME-109, and one (1) ME-110. The Me-110 coming in from 6 low was chased away by fighters from the 31st Fighter Group. One FW coming in from 12 high was able to hit the plane three (3) times, one in the fuselage, waist and tail. The hit to the waist killed the port gunner Sgt. Greg Kano, the hit to the tail damaged the rudder and the hit to the fuselage was superficial in nature. The ME-109 came in from 1:30 level was able to hit the plane once in the fuselage causing minor damage. The Fw-190 and Me-109 returned and the Fw-190 from 3 level was hit and destroyed by Sgt. Kishi before it was able to attack. The Me-109 from 1:30 level, was able to hit the plane three (3) times, once each in the fuselage, tail and waist. The hit to the waist and fuselage was superficial in nature, the hit to the tail damaged the oxygen system. The plane returned again at 9 high and it missed the bomber and didn’t return. The second wave consisted of two (2) Me-109 coming in from head-on. One coming in from 1:30 high was chased off by fighters from the 31st Fighter Group and the one coming in from 12 level was able to hit the plane twice (2), once in the fuselage and pilots’ compartment. Both hits were superficial in nature. The plane returned at 3 level and it missed the bomber and didn’t return.
We encountered medium flak and didn’t sustain any damage over target. Even with medium flak we were not able line up the plane on target and missed railroad yard.
On the turn back we encountered two (2) waves, the first consisting of three (3) Fw-190s coming in from ahead and from port. The one coming in from 9 level was chased away by fighters from the 31st Fighter Group. The one coming in from 12 high was hit by Engineer SSgt. Harry Kitano causing damage to the fighter making it miss the bomber and not to return. The one coming in from 1:30 high hit the plane three (3) times, once in the port wing, fuselage, and radio room. The hit to the radio peppered the compartment but Sgt. Kashiwagi was able to escape injury. The hit to the port wing damage the aileron. The plane attempted to return from 3 level but it was chased away by fighters from the 31st Fighter group before it was able to attack the plane. The second wave consisted of two (2) Me-109s and one (1) Me-110. The Me-110 coming in from 10:30 low was chased away by fighters from the 31st Fighter Group. One Me-109 coming in from 10:30 level was hit by 2nd Lt. Ben Takai causing enough damage to make the Me-109 to miss the bomber and not return. The other Me-109 attacking from 12 level was able to hit the plane twice, once in the fuselage and nose. The hit to the nose caused minor injuries to both 2nd Lt. Honda and Hiromeni while the hit to the fuselage was minor. The plane returned at 6 level was destroyed by the tail gunner Sgt. John Ono before it was able to attack. The second wave consisted of five (5) Me-109s. Two were immediately chased off by fighters from the 31st Fighter Group. One coming in from 12 level hit the plane twice, once in the nose and once in the fuselage, both hits were superficial in nature. The other Me-109 and the one coming in on a Vertical Dive was able to hit the plane twice, once in the starboard wing and once to the fuselage. The hit to the fuselage was superficial in nature while the hit to the wing damaged the root area. They were able to return, both at level from 9 and 10:30. The top turret manned by SSgt. Kitano was able to hit the fighter coming in from 9 level causing it to miss the bomber. The one coming in from hit the plane once in the fuselage causing minor damage. Before it could attack for a third time from 3 level was chased away by fighters from the 31st Fighter Group before it was able to attack.
About five (5) miles after we reached checkpoint 6 we encountered two (2) wave of fighters, the first one consisting of five (5) Fw-190’s coming in high from every direction. Two were chased away by fighters from 31st Fighter Group. The one coming in from 12 high did a walking hit on the plane hitting the nose, pilots’ compartment, bomb bay, radio room, waist, and tail area. The hit to the pilots’ compartment hit the top turret giving SSgt. Kitano a light wound to his shoulder. The bomb bay hit damaged the doors. The hit to the tail slightly damaged the tail plane area. The hits to the nose, radio room, and waist was superficial in nature. Two fighters coming in from 1:30 and 3 high missed the plane and didn’t return. The one plane that hit returned, coming in from 9 high was chased away by fighters from the 31st before it was able to attack. The second wave consisted of lone Me-109 coming in from 12 high was chased away by fighter escorts before it was able to attack the bomber formation.
At Zone 4 we encountered bogies coming in from 10:30 level and was chased away by fighters from the 14th Fighter Group.
Reached Sterparone Field and landed without incident.
- Capt. Ken Shimizu, Pilot, Tule Lake Samurai III
WOLVERINE, Lead flight, left aircraft
Did not bomb target. Aircraft shot down by enemy fighters over Ploesti from fuel tank fire. 7 POWs and 3 KIA.
"Three waves of 109s over the target finished off the Wolverine--they didn’t stand a snowball's chance in Hell . . . One of their fuel tanks caught fire, I think it was the port wing, and I saw only 7 'cutes . . . Fiscus’ aircraft went down about 3 miles south of Ploesti."
- From debriefing reports for returned 317th Bomb Squadron crews
COLORADO GOLD, Lead flight, right wingman
Aborted mission (zone-2) from battle casualties and returned to base alone. Landed with radio shot up, the nose compartment holed and 2 casualties.
We just made into the Adriatic (zone 2) when we got jumped by three 190s. The 190 coming in from 12 high shot our Bombardier Masterson dead. Navigator Olsen took a light wound to the shoulder. Nothing for it but to turn around. No further enemy aircraft contacted.
- 1st Lt. Cody Evans, Pilot, Colorado Gold
TALLEST CROW, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with the port wing flaps and radio inoperable, damage to the starboard wing root, superficial damage to various areas of the aircraft and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-110 by 2nd Lt. Gorman.
This was a tricky mission, because we saw more fighters than I think we've ever seen. Most of the damage to the plane was superficial; unfortunately, so was most of the damage we did to them. Between all of the guys, we hit 10 planes . . . but only destroyed 1. The starboard wing root was hit once, the port wing flap was shot out and the radio was taken out early . . . but the rest was superficial stuff. We'll have a lot of hammering and painting to do, I figure.
As for the enemies, tail gunner Rich Robinson damaged a 190, two 110s and three 109s. Engineer Johnny Colt damaged two 109s. Ball gunner Marc Ford damaged a 109 and a 190. Bombardier Steve Gorman shot down the 110. Co-pilot Chris Robinson took a pretty good hit, but they say he's going to make it just fine. Navigator Jeff Cease took a minor wound, and he was pretty much patched up before we landed.
- 1st Lt. Trey Azagthoth, Pilot, Tallest Crow
BACALL'S BOXER, Second flight, right aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with the
starboard flaps, ailerons, brakes inoperable, nose and starboard waist guns
inoperable, bomb sight and bomb controls inoperable, fire damage to the tail
compartment’s oxygen system, damage to the rudder, superficial damage to the
nose & pilots' compartments, and 3 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109 apiece by
2nd Lt. Banks and Sgts. Kellerman & Cumberland.
After the milk run to Austria we were a bit cocky when we got the word that Ploesti was the target. After all we had ‘Slim’ on our side. As we headed over the Adriatic it looked like another milk run –- our little friends all over and not a Heiny in sight. As we hit the coast of Yugoslavia our perspective was about to change, for the worse.
Without warning 2 FW-190s that had gotten past our fighters came hurtling toward us cannons blazing away. Our defensive fire was slow to pick up the nose attack and had no effect on slowing them down. In the wink of an eye they were gone but the intercom told the story. Nate up in the nose was hollering about some shrapnel in his shoulder. Behind him, Colin Campell, the Navigator was yelling incoherently before falling silent. Paul Johnston in the top turret called out that he was hit in the hip and it looked bad. I ordered Sparks to check on Johnston and the report came back that he was shot up something fierce. I put Sparks on the twin .50’s and had Johnston lain out in the radio room. Nate called back that he was okay but Campell had taken an ugly hit to the gut and was out of it.
We proceed to the target a bit shaken up and the gunners were all on their toes. As we approached the Romanian border Cumberland in the tail called a single 109 climbing up at us from 6 o’clock low. He had plenty of time to get a good look at the plane, which had some odd shapes protruding from under the wings. H e realized it was one of the new Kraut gunboats! It was an ME-109 G6/R6 coming up at us. Cumberland wasted no time in letting the lead fly. Chunks started flying off the fuselage before the engine flamed and the 109 went into a spiraling dive.
It was beginning to look like we would make it to the target when two 109s attacked from the starboard side. Kellerman filled the sky with .50 caliber slugs and one of the 109s burst into flames. The other one managed a quick burst and knocked out our nose gun. A second wave of fighters appeared and they came at us from all directions. We took hits all over the plane and she shuddered under the force of it. Fortunately nobody was hit.
At last we made it to the target. Another wave of fighters got through to us and made a ragged assault. Once again the “Boxer” was knocked about and I a saw some metal flying off the starboard wing but we kept flying. Then Cumberland was on the intercom reporting an oxygen fire in the tail. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I was ready to give the order to bail out when he reported that the fire was out. I was checking on the crew via intercom when Nate came back saying that Campell took another bad hit to the stomach and was dead. I had Cumberland move up to Campell’s position so that we could remain in formation. It was about time for ‘Slim’ to work her magic and she did not let us down. The dirty black flak bursts seemed so close that I could touch them but not a single one hit us. We dropped our eggs and turned for home.
We made it about half way across Yugoslavia before any more fighters came at us. A single FW-190 and 2 ME-109s made it passed the fighters and came roaring at us. Kellerman began hosing the sky on the starboard side but his gun jammed. The fighters opened up and let us have it. The “Boxer” rocked under the impact of machine gun bullets and cannon shells. Once again I saw hunks of the starboard wing fly into the slipstream. Nate called back that the Norden just took a beatin’ that would have made his pappy proud. It sure was a good thing we were on our way back from the target. As I checked on the crew Kellerman reported that the starboard .50 was out. As I was digesting the crew reports the Hun came round again for some more fun. This time it was the “Boxer” that got the licks in. Nate had taken over the navigator’s position and let fly from the port cheek gun. Scratch 1 ME-109.
The rest of the back to base our little friends kept the German fighters away. We took up our position in the landing pattern and waited for the seriously damaged planes to land. Since we had badly wounded men on board they moved us up pretty quick. We touched down smooth enough but when I went for the brakes she veered hard to the left. The starboard brake was out –- I let off the brakes and kicked the rudder hard. The rudder moved so easy I was not even sure it was still attached to the plane. I think it was ‘Slim’ that prevented us from ground looping. She sure was watching out for the “Boxer” on that one. As soon as we came to stop I was moving back to see how Johnston was. Sparks was shaking his head as a crawled into the radio room. This was one tough mission but at least we got through and had a respectable bomb drop.
- 1st Lt. John Stryker, Pilot, Bacall's Boxer, 317th Bomb Squadron
DELTA BLUES, Second flight, left aircraft
- 1st Lt. Steve Hartline, Pilot, Delta Blues, 317th Bomb Squadron
399th BS (HIGH)
THUNDERMUG, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 60%. Returned with #3 (starboard inboard) fuel tank holed and empty (#3 engine shut down), damage to the port wing root (1 hit), control cables, superficial damage to both wings, the bomb bay doors and the fuselage, and 1 casualty.
Another long day to Ploesti--We were attacked by FW-190s over Yugoslavia--a total of 5 EA over about a 100 mile stretch hit us--most were driven off by the escorts, and the rest by our gunners. About 130 miles from the target--where Rumania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia meet, we got jumped by a lone FW that hit our control cables and put holes all over the cockpit. We hit him and he didn't come back around.
Over the target we got bracketed by a box barrage that tore up the tail and both wings, wounding the tail gunner and putting a large hole in the starboard inner fuel tank--most of it poured out and we had to shut down #3 about 75 miles past the target. The replacement bombardier, Dave Bristol, put most of our bombs on target--the tail gunner reported several large secondary explosions.
Lots of E/A after the turn for home, but none of them caused more than superficial damage to the fuselage--our BB doors got peppered--glad the BB was empty!
Landed (was) okay.
- Capt. Jerry Logan, Pilot, Thundermug
LUCY QUIPMENT, Third flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with superficial damage to the nose compartment and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by 1st Lt. Edwards, 1 Me-190 & 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Thompson and 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Fargo.
The 399th took off and formed up without any problems with Thundermug in the lead of the third flight. While we had good fighter coverage most of the trip, we encountered stiff resistance as we neared the target area. Once again, the crew dished out a lethal amount of lead. Lt. Edwards, SSgt. Fargo and Sgt. Thompson each accounted for a enemy fighter as we neared the target area.
While flak was light the nose was struck twice on the approach to the target killing Lt. Edwards. By the time Lt. Jacobs was able to toggle the bombs we were well passed the target area.
After leaving the target area we came under attack again and the crew put up a heavy amount of defensive fire damaging several other fighters.
After we crossed back into Yugoslavia a Me-110 attempted to attack us from 6 o'clock low only to be destroyed by Sgt. Thompson.
The remainder of our return trip was uneventful.
- 1st Lt. Steve Gibson, Pilot, Lucy Quipment, 399th Bomb Squadron
LAURALEE, Third flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with tail compartment heating system, port waist gun and the radio inoperable; lots of holes in wings and fuselage, and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 ME-109; a joint claim by SSgt. Ross and Sgt. McFarlane; 1 Me-110 Sgt. Ward.
We saw enemy a/c shortly after starting out over the Adriatic, but fortunately none of them came after us. The Jugs and Mustangs kept them off us pretty well--a few made runs at us, including one that came up from behind, but we took only minor damage on the way to Ploesti.
Over target, we saw plenty of Germans, and Rumanians too, with their yellow crosses. Terry got one coming up from below, and Andy and Bob got one before they knocked out Bob's gun. We began to take casualties; Mike and Ralphie got hit. Flak was heavier than the last time--the Germans must have been waiting for us and added more 88s. At any rate, we hit the target okay and turned for home.
Bob, since his gun was out, got Ralph out of the tail and into the radio room, because the heat was out there. Doc says that may have saved him. Anyway, the 51s kept the Krauts off us most of the way home, and we landed safely. Ralph and Mike are going to be okay--they're going home.
- 1st Lt. Bill Hearn, Pilot, Lauralee, 399th Bomb Squadron
318th BS (LOW)
ZEBRA'S REVENGE, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with aileron controls inoperable, superficial damage in the waist and tail compartments and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by TSgt. Parker, Sgts. Owens and Durst; 1 Me-110 apiece by Sgts. Stallard and Mitchell; Sgt. Mitchell's claim was later confirmed by S-2.
There was a lot of stress concerning this deep penetration mission. We had started to calm down when a lone two 109s came at us and were sent down hard. Next we had a lone 109 on a vertical dive rake us and take out the aileron instruments and left Owens and Mitchell bleeding but under control.
As we entered the target zone we had another lone attack by a 109 which Parker sent spinner out of sight with no canopy. The bombing run was a bit shaky with flak bursting all around us but we got the bombs away (20%) and turned for home.
Heading for Home two 110s jumped us but Mitchell and Stallard were right-on and those Jerries will not trouble us anymore. Three 109s were encountered about half way home but we sent them home smoking like a chimney.
The landing was a bit tricky, but we got home safely. Now we are waiting to hear about Stallard and Mitchell from the Doc. (Post mission note from base Infirmary: Sgts. Mitchell and Stallard will be ready for duty for the next mission after, sometime when the weather clears).
- Major Mick Mikula, Pilot, Zebra's Revenge, CO 318th Bomb Squadron
LUCKY 13, Lead flight, left wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with nose compartment heating system, bomb sight, aileron controls inoperable, structural damage to the starboard wing (2), superficial damage to the fuselage (2), nose (2), bomb bay (1), radio (1) and tail (1) compartments, to the starboard & port wings (2 each), #3 engine, #4 engine oil tank (estimate 251 points of damage) and 6 casualties. Claims: 1 FW-190 by Sgt. West & 1 ME-110 by Sgt. Eastman.
What a grueling mission. Started off okay but over Romania (zone-6) it got rough. Took damage to virtually every portion of the ship and had the heat knocked out in the nose. Lts. Wait and O'Conner elected to stay at their stations and continued the mission. Our tail gunner, Sgt. Lindy, took two serious hits and was killed.
Over the target we made it through the flak and Lt. Wait laid 30% of the bomb load on the target despite being frost bitten.
As we were outbound from Romania Lt. Wait was killed while defending the nose. Continued to get beaten up as we left Romania, crossed Bulgaria and entered Yugoslavia. Both waist gunners, the ball gunner and Lt. O'Conner (who was in the tail) were wounded.
We finally cleared the enemy air attacks and completed the rest of the run home. Lt. Swatkowski headed to the waist and did his best to patch up Sgt. Ketchum. It is amazing what you can learn in a few years of Medical School.
We landed without incident. Don't know how long it is going to take to patch the ship up.
- 1st Lt. Kent Newsom, Pilot, Lucky 13, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
ONCE A KNIGHT, Lead flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 40%. Returned starboard elevators inoperable, radio destroyed by flak, navigation equipment destroyed (leaving target) with 3 casualties and 1 case of frostbite. Claims: 2 ME-109s, 2 FW-190s & 2 ME-110s by Sgt. Williams. 1 ME-109 apiece by TSgt. Hamm & Sgt. Mays.
We were still outbound over water when we were jumped by three ME-109s. Neve Lost in the nose was killed instantly and Victor Garber was wounded in the initial pass and the starboard elevator was shot out. An Me-109 and FW-190 then jumped us, but Karl Williams, the tail gunner shot both down!
A little bit later over Yugoslavia the tail got another Me-109 and Frank Hamm, the radioman, managed to kill an Me-109 in a vertical dive – pretty impressive.
Coming in towards the target, Mays on the port gun shot down a charging Me-109. We took a bad flak hit just after dropping the bombs (40% on target) which took out our radio. Losing both the radio and the navigator (and soon the navigation equipment itself) pretty much made our decision for us in terms of staying with the formation.
Right after that, Karl got another Jerry – this time an Me-110.
Unfortunately, on the way back, Vic in the nose was hit yet again and Buck Buds, our pilot was seriously wounded. We provided first aide and flew on. Leaving Yugoslavia, Buck was hit again and killed. The walking hits also took out port’s heater. Karl managed to pay the Kraut back by shooting down the FW-190. He wasn’t done yet though as he bagged one more Me-110 over the water.
Final tally was not in our favor though. We lost Buck and Neve – KIA. Vic is going to recover from his two light wounds, but Mays is going home with frostbite. We do welcome back SSgt. Cooter and Sgt. Frick for our next mission and will begin training our two new crewdogs right away.
- 2nd Lt. Sam Crawford, Co-pilot, Once A Knight
SAND HAWK, Second flight, Lead aircraft
- 2nd Lt. Edwards, Pilot, Sand Hawk
MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, Second flight, right wingman
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with port landing gear inoperable and several superficial fuselage hits. No casualties. Claims: 2 FW-190s by Sgt. True (one of Sgt. True's claims was later confirmed by S-2), 1 FW-190 apiece by SSgt. Dyke and TSgt. Scales.
We ran into too many enemy fighters to count. Two 190s were destroyed by the ball turret gunner, one by the engineer and one by the radio operator. We managed to damage 8 other enemy aircraft.
Flak over the target was medium, in spite of that our bombing run was off target with only 5% of the bombs in the target area.
On the way back to base a 190 knocked out the port wing landing gear. I was able to land the plane safely and was told the plane should be fixed by the next mission.
- 1st Lt. David Belden, Pilot, Midnight Express, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
UNCLE SAM's $$, Second flight, Left wingman
Aborted mission (zone-5) due to inoperable bomb bay doors and returned to base alone. Landed with the bomb bay doors inoperable, damage to the rudder, superficial damage to radio and pilots' compartments, and with 3 casualties. Claims: 2 Me-109s by Sgt. O'Rourke and 1 Me-109 by 2nd Lt. Beecher.
"The mission was a breeze until we were about 20 miles short of the Bulgarian border. A lone 109 came from right overhead and raked us nose-to-tail. The plane started shaking, and Ralph kind of grunted and slumped over. I looked at him, he kind of passed out and slumped over, holding his arm, and there's all this shouting over the interphones about guys down. O'Rourke blew up a 109 that came at us from 9 Level. Good thing, too, 'cause Rottmund was down. Sgt. Treadwell pulled Lt. Henderson out of the seat and took care of him, then took over co-pilot duties. At that point, Beecher told us that Lt. Gale was unconscious, and that the bomb bay doors were damaged and wouldn't open. I determined that the best course of action was to turn around and we notified Major Mikula."
"We immediately got jumped by two waves of
fighters, but got pretty good support from our little friends. We still
had to do a lot of shooting, and Beecher dropped a 109. It got quiet after
that, and I had Sgt. O'Rourke move out of the ball and up into the top turret.
He actually bagged a Jerry from up there, too. Once we cleared the area
near the Bulgarian border, things got pretty quiet, until we neared the Italian
coast. We saw a pair of 109s; one got picked off by our fighters the other
took some shots at us but didn't do any real damage."
- 2nd Lt. Rick Raymond, co-pilot, Uncle Sam's $$
PALE RIDER, Third flight, lead aircraft (TAIL-END CHARLIE)
Aborted mission (zone-4) due to fuel tank leak. Returned alone with a port wing fuel tank holed, superficial damage to the starboard wing and waist compartment, and 2 casualties. Claims: 3 ME-109s apiece by 2nd Lt. McCarthy & SSgt. Kainer, 2 ME-109s by Sgt. Allen.
The boys were a bit jittery. We know everyone has to take their turn, but our beginner's luck was over and we had to form up as tail-end Charlie.
As we started out across the Adriatic the flight was peaceful enough, but as we approached the coast of Yugoslavia we got jumped by 4 ME-109s. One was coming in from 12 high and Kainer laid into him with the top turret guns, knocking him out of the sky. Another was coming at us head-on, and McCarthy was able to bring him down with the nose gun. The other 2 must have been wary after seeing their buddies go down in flames, and they missed hitting us. We were beginning to wonder where our fighter cover was as that seemed like a lot of planes.
We continued to cross Yugoslavia and some more 109s appeared out of nowhere. This time we had 5 moving on us. Allen downed one that was approaching us from 12 low, and McCarthy was able to ding one that was coming at us head-on, but it kept up its attack. A 109 dropping down on us from 6 high peppered our starboard wing, but everything still seemed to be operating fine. The plane McCarthy hit, managed to pop the starboard wing as well, but everything still seemed to be operating okay. Another 109 coming at us from 10:30 level, hit the port wing and we noticed right away that we were losing fuel. Luckily it was only a leak and we were fairly close to base. They were coming around for another pass, and this time they paid dearly for it. Kainer, and Allen both knocked a 109 out of the sky. So we broke out of formation and began our journey home.
Heading back for the coast we were bounced by a 109 coming at us head-on, but McCarthy lit him up and scored another KIA. Two more 109s joined in, but no scored any hits on each other.
We hadn't seen much of our fighter cover yet, and we were praying that we could get this beast back to Foggia. As we were approaching the water another wave of 109s descended on us. McCarthy took out 1 that was coming at us head-on. Owen damaged one, but it continued its attack. Kainer damaged one as well, but the pilot kept coming at us. The plane Owen hit closed in and let loose with his guns shredding the waist of the plane. We heard screams from back there. Owen was KIA, and Marushak was seriously wounded.
Luckily after that last brush we were able to avoid any further incidents and got the plane down on the ground at Foggia. Marushak was rushed off in an ambulance. They say he'll recover, but his days of going up in B-17s are over.
Most of the guys are in shock right now, after seeing what happened to Owen and Marushak. They had never seen someone close to them injured like that before. Hopefully we be able to get the crew together in time for the next mission. We are awaiting the arrival of the rest of the group that continued on to Ploesti. We are really hoping it was a good run so it will be worth what it cost us.
- 1st Lt. Fowler Pilot, Pale Rider
Return to Sterparone Field