MISSION 74 - PLOESTI AARs
399th BS (LEAD)
LUCY QUIPMENT, First flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 60%. Returned with multiple damage to the tail, port waist MG inoperable, damage to the starboard wing root, superficial damage to cockpit, nose and radio compartments, and 3 casualties (1 KIA). Claims: 2 Fw-190s & 1 Me-109 by Lt. Phelps and 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Powers.
This was the first mission since most of my original crew rotated home. Our takeoff and form up went without any issues and the job done by our little friends was outstanding on the way to the target.
The flak however caused most of the damage to the ship. We were hit repeatedly in the tail section and lost Sgt. Bridges (KIA) when the waist was stuck. Lt. Phelps did an outstanding job despite the flak hits and placed 60% of our bomb load on the target area.
After leaving the target area a group of enemy fighters made it past our escort, there were just to many of them for our little friends to handle. A group of Fw-190s came in from 12 o'clock and shot up the nose and flight deck; most of the damage was superficial but both Lts. Cox and Phelps were wounded. Despite his wounds Lt Phelps destroyed one Fw-190 following the first wave and Sgt. Powers knocked another one down.
Later we came under attack again and Lt. Phelps shot down an Me-109 and Sgt. Goyer damaged another.
The remainder of the trip home was uneventful. The flight surgeon said that Lt. Phelps will return to duty after a short stay in the hospital. Lt. Cox will recover from his wounds; but will be returning home.
- Major Art DeFilippo, Pilot, Lucy Quipment, 399th Bomb Squadron
LAURALEE II, Lead flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with minor structural damage to the starboard wing root, damage the the rudder, numerous holes in a/c from four superficial hits and no casualties. Claims: 2 Me-109s by SSgt. Ross and 1 Fw-190 shared by 1st Lt. Williams and SSgt. Ross.
The Mustangs kept the Krauts off us most of the way in--we saw enemy a/c, but we were nearly to target before one even attacked us. A 109 dove on us from above, but Andy put some holes in him and sent him down in flames.
More planes came at us over target--they hit us pretty good, but no major damage. The flak was heavy--as heavy as any of us have seen it. Fortunately, it only nicked us, but that, and what looked like a Kraut smokescreen, caused us to miss the target. Andy got another 109 after we turned for home; we also saw a twin-engine 110 breaking off trailing smoke. Andy and Chuck teamed up on a 190 that attacked us about halfway home.
So we made it back okay. No casualties, not as hairy as we feared it would be. Wish we could have damaged the target though.
- 2nd Lt. Shaun Hill, Pilot, Lauralee II, 399th Bomb Squadron
EL TORO, Lead flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with radio damaged, starboard main wheel brakes inoperable, minor structural damage to the port wing root, and no casualties.
EL TORO flew to the target with little hindrance from the enemy. We encountered a flight of three Me-110s; our fighter escort drove one away, our ball and tail gunners blasted one and the remaining German fired at us but missed. As we approached Ploesti, a single 190 dived at us, fired, but missed.
We were hit by flak on approach to target, but no major damage or injuries occurred. We were off target and regretfully report O% damage to target by our bombs.
On the flight home, we encountered a few enemy fighter aircraft, none of which did any real damage or injuries to us. Our radio operator, TSgt. John O'Rilley, nailed a diving Fw-190 that came at us near Bucharest. Over Yugoslavia, some Me-109s came at us, but did no real damage.
We landed at Foggia with no problems. Crew Chief reports the holes will be easily patched and a new radio, starboard wing brakes will be easily installed. Damage to port wing root also to be repaired and EL TORO ready to fly next mission.
- 1st Lt. Fernando Del Madridl, Pilot, El Toro, 399th Bomb Squadron
GRIN 'N BARE IT, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Dropped out for formation (zone-7) after bomb run due to loss of oxygen. Returned alone with right cheek gun destroyed, radio out, port aileron, starboard flaps and elevators destroyed, auto-pilot and control cables damaged, port main landing gear brakes inoperable, structural damage to the port wing root and rudder hit, cockpit windows shattered, numerous superficial damage holes throughout the aircraft, and 5 casualties. Claims: 3 Me-109s & 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. West (one of SSgt. West's Me-109 claims was later confirmed by S-2), 1 Me-109 & 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Landberg, 1 Fw-109 by Sgt. Brooks.
We were 30 miles from Bulgaria when the first fighters attacked. Four 109s came in from the front; one was driven off by the P-51s. The bombardier hit one and the other two 109s fired, but missed.
P-51s drove off a 109 attacking from 12 high, but four 190s attacked soon thereafter. Our little friends took care of three of two of them, but one hit and attacked again; the tail gunner damaged it with a passing shot.
Flak wounded the left waist gunner and killed my right waist gunner. It knocked out the oxygen system and seriously wounded the bombardier and navigator. Flak hit again when we left Ploesti.
I had to descend to 10000 feet. Two waves attacked; a 110 was driven off in the first wave, but a 109 attacked from 12 level. The engineer shot it down. Two more 109s got through the fighter cover and they attacked from 12 level. The engineer claimed one of them as a KIA and the tail gunner got the other with a passing shot.
We were attacked by two 190s
75 miles later. Tail gunner claims one FBOA. The other attacked
again from 12 high; it scored 4 hits. He killed the bombardier and
navigator. He was chased by Mustangs, but attacked from 9 level. He
was driven off by our defensive fire.
With our navigator killed I had to slow down over Rumania to navigate. We were then attacked by three 109s and a 190. One 109 was driven off, but the fighter cover could not drive off anyone else in this wave. They wouldn't leave us alone. Five attacked again, but two were driven off this time by the P-51s. The three left, hit us several times.
150 miles later three 109s and a 190 found us. The three 109s were shot down by Mustangs and the 190 is claimed KIA by the engineer.
Over Yugoslavia five 109s attacked led by an ace. The first fired from 10:30 level scoring two hits to the waist and pilots' compartments. The (enemy) pilots missed. The last to fire was the ace scored 1 hit in the nose. They attacked from all directions, all level on their second pass. My engineer shot down the ace at 12 level. That was his fourth KIA on this mission! The ball gunner got a second and the tail gunner severely damaged a third 109.
We neared the Yugoslavian coastline when two waves attacked. First four 190s and a 109. Top turret fired the last burst at a 190 and claims it as a FBOA. The tail gunner claims a 190 at 6 high as KIA.
The 109 at 12 level scored two hits and the 190 from a vertical dive one hit. On their second attack the RO, now in the nose, damaged a 190 and the ball gunner the 109. The tail gunner damaged the other 190 with a passing shot.
A second wave attacked. Three 190s and a 109 again. There were no little friends in sight. Ball gunner damaged a 190 but we got hit by the 109. The 190 at 12 also hit. The damaged 190 also hit. On the second attack they came in from 12 and 10:30 level. We were hit by the 109 for 2 hits and hit by a 190 at 12 o'clock for 3 hits.
Slowed again because I had to navigate, another waver wave found us right over the coastline. They used exactly the same attack pattern as the previous wave. All of them missed us on the first pass. A 190 at 12 hit on its second attack. Hit again on his third pass, this time from 3 level. He killed the left gunner. The RO fired the last burst at a 190 but missed. Got hit again by a 190 at 1:30 level. They left and we didn't see anymore fighters on this mission. We were now over the Adriatic and were soon home.
- 1st Lt. Ignatious Ellsworth, Pilot, Grin 'N Bare It, 399th Bomb Squadron
SNAFU II, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Fell out of formation after bombing target (zone-7). Returned to base alone with 2 engines (#2 & #4) feathered, extensive superficial damage to engine #4, chin turret, port cheek, top turret, port waist, ball turret, and tail guns all out, heating system for the nose, pilot compartment, radio, and waist sections inoperable, oxygen system for nose, radio compartment, waist, and tail compartments inoperable, fire damage to nose and waist compartments, bomb bay doors jammed, radio out and auto-pilot inoperable, numerous flak and bullet holes in every portion of the plane than can be counted and 9 casualties. Claims: 4 Me-109s and 1 Fw-190 by Lt. Peterson (Lt. Peterson's Fw-190 claim was later confirmed by S-2), 2 Fw-190s & 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Gillroy, 1 Me-109 & 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Seaver, 1 Me-109 apiece by Lt. Piller, TSgt. Fullbright and Sgts. Tolby and Fitzsommins.
Takeoff and form up went without incident.
We were hit by 3 Me-109s as we crossed into Yugoslavia. Sgt. Tolby in the ball turret downed on of them and the others missed us. The rest of the formation had fighter inbound on them but none got close enough for us to shoot at until we entered Rumania.
Four Me-109s made a run at us, Sgt. Seaver got one with the top turret, Lt. Peterson damaged one with the chin turret and Sgt. Fitzsimmons downed one with his waist gun. The rest managed to shoot the nose full of holes before they moved on. Several 190s made a pass at us just before we reached the Flak field, but they broke off pretty quick once the Flak started flying.
The Flak was thicker than I've ever seen, we took
hits to everything but the wings as we approached the bomb run, it knocked out
heaters in the plane. Lt. Peterson did a good job keeping us on our run and he reports 30% on target.
As we turned for home the Flak got even worse.
I don't think there was a single part of the plane that wasn't hit.
Engine#2 took a hit
and died, fires started in the nose and waist, oxygen was knocked out for most of us, our radio was knocked out, and Lts. Peterson and Piller both were wounded by Flak.
As we left the Flak field, we had smoke coming from the nose and waist and were immediately jumped by a group of 190s trying to finish us off as we dropped from formation. They peppered our engines and wings before we finally got enough rounds on them to drive them to down 3 of them and drive the others off.
Through Yugoslavia we were peppered by the
occasional flak hit, and constantly harassed by small groups of 109s. It
was just into Yugo
when I caught a round in the leg.
Just before we hit the Yugoslav coast we were hit
very hard by three 109s; these guys were aces for sure. My boys couldn't
get a bead on
them. They raked us up one side and down the other. On their first pass
they killed Sgts. Brown and Gillroy, and as they came back around
they got TSgt. Fullbright and knocked out our #4 engine. On their last pass they peppered the waist hitting everybody but Sgt. Fitzsimmons.
After that, the enemy fighters broke off as we neared the Adriatic coastline and Lt. Damron and I managed to keep the plane in the air to reach Italy.
- 1st Lt. Benjamin Bailer, Pilot, SNAFU II, 399th Bomb Squadron
MAWIMAZO, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with the starboard elevator inoperable, superficial damage to the fuselage, tail plane, to the pilots' compartment, nose, bomb bay, waist and tail compartments and 3 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Herndon and 1 Fw-190 shared by SSgt. Herndon and Sgt. Vetter.
Everyone was pretty nervous about this mission, but we certainly benefited from our position in the formation as many of the enemy fighters that thought about coming after us were chased away by the Little Friends or by formation fire. Our first encounter with Jerry took place deep in Yugoslavia, when we were jumped by 3 FW-190s -- one was immediately chased off by our fighters, but the other two came in high from the front and right. The fighter coming straight on was hit several times by fire from SSgt. Herndon's guns, and tailed off smoking without effect. The other fighter managed to hit us, rattling some shrapnel around the waist compartment and cabin, but to no serious effect. The 190 banked around to have another go at us from the side, but Sgt. Vetter lit him up from the ball turret and he limped away smoking as well.
We got hit again right around the Bulgaria/Rumania border, this time by 4 ME-109s. Two of them were chased off by the formation covering fire, but the other 2 got through and hit us from the sides. Sgt. Reisman got into the action, hitting the 109 as it approached and sending it off trailing oil. The other 109 got through, though, stitching our ship with shells and giving as a scary couple of minutes as shells ricocheted around the bomb bay and through the tail plane. The 109 banked around for another attack, but he missed and we were on toward Ploesti.
Not long after we entered Rumania, we got hit again by 2 ME-110s, again hitting us from the sides. One of them was again driven off by the formation fire, but the other snaked behind and scored some hits on the tail. We thought Kramer had bought the farm, but luckily the crazy bastard had tucked his Bible into his flight suit and it took the shell that was meant for him. The 110 came around for another go, but he took some shells from Vetter's guns, poked a few holes in our ship and then we all went on our way.
Most of the damage we took came from the damn flak over the oil fields. We caught one burst on the way in -- both of the waist gunners got peppered with shrapnel, and so did Kramer back in the tail. The starboard elevator also got knocked out, and we got a few more holes in our bird. We also had to fight off several waves of fighters as we approached the target zone, first getting hit by 2 more 109s. SSgt. Herndon caught the first one perfectly, tearing off its wing and sending it plunging back to terra firma, and the other one was spooked enough by the spectacle to miss completely. We were set on by another pair of 109s, accompanied by a 110 this time, but we all swapped lead and kept on toward the target zone. Lt. Westell kept a level head, notwithstanding the rocky ride we were giving him between the flak hits and the fighter attacks, and he put approximately 20% of the load right on target. We took a couple of more hits from the flak on the way out, adding some more holes to the tail and the nose, but no serious damage occurred.
As we were turning for home, we got hit by 2 more 190s, but one of them flew into a perfect crossfire created by SSgt. Herndon and Sgt. Vetter and disintegrated in mid-air. We were not bothered again by fighters on the return journey, as we enjoyed the protection of the formation and the P-51 escort the rest of the way home.
- 2nd Lt. Joe McCarty, Pilot, Mawimazo, 399th Bomb Squadron
316th BS (MIDDLE)
BALTIMORE QUEEN, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Did not reach target zone. Aborted outbound over Adriatic Sea (zone-3); shot down by enemy fighters, fuel tank explosion, 10 KIA.
SHREVEPORT RANGERS, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with the auto-pilot damaged, the starboard flap shredded, superficial damage to #4 engine, to the nose and radio compartments and 2 casualties.
Was still smarting from the memory of John being killed in the last mission as I slid into the ‘chair’. Felt good to get it off my mind by getting back into the air. The replacement from St. Louis (Adam Jones) was turning-out to be a real team player . . . fitting in with the rest of guys. Always full of laughter and poking fun at the rest of the guys with whom he just met. He’ll be a good one if we can just get thru this one. Ploesti was NOT going to be an easy target . . .
Gordy back on task as we spun-up the engines and the guys reported in that all was okay at their stations. Little John had a crackle in his voice, but I knew he would do his best . . . he always did.
The new BS that we were transferred (the 316th) was a good bunch of guys. We tucked-in pretty tight in the middle of the pack and in the middle of the formation. THAT felt VERY safe, but then I had heard from others I the ‘O-club’ that we should not feel too cocky about the position . . . especially on this one. We had P-51s escorting for this mission . . . and they were a welcome sight. Looked pretty cool, those arrogant jockeys of the air . . . I only hoped they would do what they had to do to keep the Jerries off of us.
Over Yugoslavia (zone-3 and zone-5) we saw some fighters diving into our formation but the 51s keep them off of us. They did REAL good. We were breathing a little relief as we settled in for the target. Everyone was quiet, but I knew they were tense at their stations and ready for anything the Hun could throw at us.
In-bound to the target we got our wake-up call! We got hit by 3 FWs . . . one was a long-nosed model that I had not been told about . . . must have missed that briefing. We sprayed the air with our ammo but they kept pressing their attack . . . the long-nose job hit the bombardier area, causing dust and shrapnel fill the compartment like confetti at Mardi-Gras. The ‘Roman’ reported that he was hit, but he could still take us into the target. The ‘Horan’ checked on him and came back and confirmed that he was okay. I liked that about Mark, always making sure that the other guys were okay. The Jerries didn’t come back for a 2nd run . . .
I let John have the ‘helm’ as we got closer to the target then all hell broke loose as a wall of flak came up to greet us. Jesus! It was so thick you could walk on it! I don’t know how, but we got thru without a scratch and hit the target! I leaned over and saw the rest our squadron’s bombs descending – The Roman got 20% on target. Better than some of the rest of the fellas.
Coming back out, we got pasted again with flak . . . these guys were not fooling around. This time we didn’t fair as lucky . . . the starboard flap was shredded and Gordy need to help me keep the ole bird on the straight and narrow. He helped-out the rest of the flight . . . as I knew he would. You could always count on him in the clutch.
Top (Rick Mayberry) shouted shortly afterwards that we had fighters penetrating the formation . . . we gripped for our life! There were 3 waves of the bastards! The P-51s got one of them, but the other two barreled-in for the kill. The first wave came in at 10:30 high, one firing a bunch of rockets! None of them hit us . . . but sure was scary as those whizzed-by the cockpit! The other Me-410 didn’t seem to hit us anywhere . . . checking with the guys, everyone was okay. The next batch came from all directions. Little Johnny was trying to hit the Me-410 coming up from our belly . . . Geez, these guys were good! Thought the Top got a hit on the 190 from our 10:30 high, but no confirmation. Then the ole Ranger shuddered as the Me-410 hit us all over the plane! Gordy slapped me on the shoulder as we heard a clunk at engine #4 . . . both of us checking the instruments . . . looked at each other with relief when we saw nothing changing. A fire started behind me . . . holy shit! Gordy looked at me with the same disbelief . . . eyes bigger than saucers! Before I could tell him to unstrap his harness, Horan was spraying the area to put out the fire . . . you got to be kidding me! The Rel man was looking on in shock. Just then, Adam gets on the inter-com to report the starboard gun has been dismounted from its post, but the Wiley man & he were okay! After I recovered my composure, I see the warning lite that the auto-pilot was no longer in operation . . . shucks, that was okay, we are done with bombing part of the flight. I checked again with the crew . . . Ricci doesn’t report. The purple Moose (Big Jim Dombrowski) wants to know what all the hullabaloo is about . . . he hasn’t seen anything! Mayberry reports that John “the Roman” Ricci took a bullet and won’t be going with us on the next one. DAMN! That is two out of the original crew already!
The Jerries left us alone for the rest of the trip . . . now we had to get the bird down without that flap. I was already thinking what I would tell Roman’s folks . . . the letter was being typed as Gordy gave me that look that everything would be okay . . . just concentrate. We got ‘er down with a little sweat . . . but it wasn’t easy. But then, our flight instructor told us it would be that way. In our cockiness . . . we didn’t think it would be like this!
I waited for the rest of the guys to slide out of the Ranger . . . watched as the medical crew removed Roman from the nose. I had a hard face ‘on’ as Rick came over and put his arm on my shoulder. It will be another long nite.
- 2nd Lt. Richard Wright, Pilot, B-17G Shreveport Rangers, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SATIN DOLL, Third flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Fell-out-of-formation (zone-8) after releasing bombs over target. Returned alone with flak & fire damage to nose compartment O2 System, port waist MG & radio destroyed, Norden bombsight damaged, starboard & port wings outboard fuel tanks holed, superficial flak damage to port wing leading edge between #1 & #2 engines, superficial damage to the cockpit roof, to the waist compartment, to the rudder and tail, and 1 casualty. Claims: 2 Me-109s by 2nd Lt. Douglas and 1 Me-109 by 2nd Lt. White.
Ploesti proved to be a little bit of a rough go for the Satin Doll & her crew. Our first brush with the Luftwaffe was as we neared the Bulgarian border. Swarms of Jerries swooped in, meeting a hail of fire from the massed guns of the formation. None got close enough to be of any concern.
About 20 miles from the target area, a lone Me-109 started a run from 12 high, only to be flamed by one of the Mustangs from the escort. Nearing the IP, 2 more 109s met with the Mustang Jockeys of the 52nd, and were summarily dispatched. The following wave was held at bay by tight formation firepower.
Flak over the target was
heavy. `Heavy enough to walk on' is a more fitting description. The sky
was completely filled with black bursts
and the gunners below were right on the money. A shell exploded right below the nose, tearing two oxygen tanks from their mounts, and starting a fire. Quick action on the part of Navigator 2nd Lt. Peter White saved the Doll. Lt. White called away the fire, doused the flames, and shutoff the system valves to avoid further loss of O2. With no O2 in the nose, we had no choice but to drop out of formation. As TSgt. Davidson was radioing our situation, bombardier Lt. Steven Douglas reported in that another burst had taken out the Norden, rendering any chance of hitting the target moot. I toggled the bombs just as another shell blew a hole in the Port wing leading edge between #1 & #2 engines.
Out of formation over a heavily defended target, is not the best of places to be. I was certain that any second the Kraut gunners would have us zeroed in and blast the Doll out of the sky. I guess they were more interested in the inbound loaded aircraft as they didn't waste too much energy on shooting at us. The escort took out a Me-110 in a vertical climb and an FW-190 swinging around from 10:30 high. An Me-109 at 12 level was missed by both the Bombardier and Engineer and managed to knock out the cockpit heat system. A P-51 scratched him from the fray as he swung around for another pass from 6 level.
Halfway across Romania, a gaggle of 5 Fw-190s clawed at us from around the clock, lead by a White Nosed Me-109 at 12 level. Lt. Douglas made short work of the 109 filling the cockpit with a steady stream of fire from the nose .50 cal. Meanwhile, Lt. White dispatched the FW at 130 high with the Starboard cheek gun. SSgt. Rountree in the top turret and his 190 at 12 high missed each other, as did port waist gunner SSgt. Mason and his 190 at 9 high. Sgt. Walker missed the 190 at 6 high, and picked up a light wound to his left upper arm for his trouble. The Kraut walked shells the length of the Doll even after TSgt. Davidson put a few rounds into him with the radio room gun. This pass knocked the port waist gun out of action, tore through the primary radio set, turned the bomb bay doors into Swiss cheese, ventilated the cockpit roof, and tore out the O2 regulators in the nose. He swung around for another pass at 1:30 level but broke off without firing a shot. The remaining 190 at 3 high was missed by starboard waist gunner, SSgt. Tibbs. Thankfully, the Goodyear self-sealing outboard fuel tank in the starboard wing did its job. Swinging back in from 12 level, the Kraut was spooked off by the combined fire of the top turret & nose guns.
We dodged light flak crossing through Romania, Bulgaria, and midway through Yugoslavia without having to deal with any E/A. About halfway across Yugoslavia, the Luftwaffe turned its attention back to us. Four (4) Me-109s broke through the formation and bore in on us. A P-51 shredded the leading 109 at 12 level leaving his wingman to Lt. Douglas who subsequently blasted him out of the sky also. SSgt. Rountree tore big chunks out of his 109 at 12 high with the top turret guns. The Hun broke off his attack and made for the deck streaming heavy black smoke and flames. Lt. White scored a few hits on the Jerry at 130 level, wrecking his aim and sending him off limping.
Right on their heels came another pair of 109s. Ball gunner Sgt. Maust & starboard waist gunner Sgt. Tibbs both fired upon but missed the 109 at 3 low. The Kraut scored minor hits on the vertical tail, the rudder, and starboard waist. Both SSgt. Rountree and Lt. Douglas missed the 109 at 12 level, allowing him to hole the port wing and outboard fuel tank. Both A/C made a combined successive from 6 high. While they were missed by the Radio, tail and upper turret guns, their aim was no better, and they broke off without causing further damage.
With fuel streaming from the holed port wing tank, we made our way to the Yugoslav coast. Three (3) more 109s swooped down, bent on keeping us from getting home. A pair of P-51s broke from the formation above and blasted the 109 at 9 level from the sky. Lt. White missed his at 1:30 high and we took some minor hits to the starboard wing, starboard Waist and horizontal Stab. The Mustangs cut him out as he was turning for another pass. This must have spooked the Jerry at 12 level, who made a fast poorly aimed pass and fire walled the throttle back over Yugoslavia.
Running low on fuel, and with holes from nose to tail, we mushed in on the landing and bounced a little harder than usual. Hated to bring Pops Hardison's boys all that work, especially without doing the job, but at least we all got home and the Satin Doll will be ready for the next mission.
- 1st Lt. William M. Patrick, Pilot, B-17F 42-11806 Satin Doll, 316th Bomb Squadron/88th Bomb Group (H)
318th BS (HIGH)
IRON LADY, First flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%.
Returned with Engine# 1 feathered, radio destroyed, both ailerons and starboard
elevator inoperable, structural damage to both wing roots (2 each), 2/3 of the
rudder shot away (2 hits), superficial damage hits to both flaps and numerous
other holes to be patched up (171 Peckham Damage Pts.) and 2 casualties.
Claims: 1 Fw-190 and 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Flathery, 1 Me-109 each by Sgts. Endelman
Took off and the rest of the squadron formed up on us along with the flight from 316th Squadron. It was the first time we'd been lead plane in the squadron formation and I was quite nervous. Our initial fighter cover was good and we crossed the Adriatic without any trouble. We crossed the Yugoslavian coast about 100 miles south of Mostar. About five minutes later we were bounced by 3 Me-109s. Our escorting Mustangs got the first, and our defensive fire drove one away without hitting it but the third hit us from 9 high and put a couple of holes in the pilots' compartment and port wing but most worryingly also knocked out our radio. Frank Spirrell was not happy at having to scrabble around for his signal lamp. The Me-109 was then driven off by our escort.
We were heading for the gap between Belgrade and Nis and were grateful for our fighter cover who saw off another 3 Me-109s. We were just about to cross the border into Romania when we got hit by a gaggle of Fw-190s. The P-51s got one, Hank Foster missed the one from 9 high but fortunately Jack Zimmer got a piece of it (FCA-1) and it missed us and fled trailing thin smoke. Sean Flaherty got good solid hits (FBOA-2) on the one from 3 low after Steve Endelman missed it from the ball turret. That was enough to cause it to miss us and it fell away with big chunks missing from its tail and wing. Lt. Franchetti hit the last one from 12 level hard (FBOA-2) and it immediately starting pouring smoke from the engine. It still got it's attack pressed home and put another few holes in us but nothing serious.
Just after crossing into Romania we were attacked by another wave but this time the squadron's defensive fire forced them to break off. As we pushed on further there seemed to be a lull in the fighter attacks until just prior to starting our approach for our bombing run when we were attacked by 3 Me-110s. The 52nd FG killed one, Paul McNichol in the tail knocked an engine out on another (FBOA-2) and the third one missed and headed off pursued by a couple of fighters.
We approached the target from the northeast to minimize our exposure to flak. It was very heavy but we were fortunate that we only took one hit on the starboard wing, near the wing root but apart from that we got lucky. Paul Franchetti managed to get a good line on the target and he estimates that he got about 30% of our bombs on the button.
We started to head for home and things all went to hell! We got badly hit by flak on the way out and lost the starboard aileron, the starboard flap took a hit and Engine No. 1 got knocked out although Herb Johnson reacted quickly enough and managed to feather the prop. Between us, we were managing to hold the Lady in formation when we got hit by another wave of Fw-190s. The P-51s of the 31st FG had taken over as our homeward escort and they quickly dealt with two of them. Steve Endelman hit a third (FBOA-2) and Sean Flaherty finished it off (second FBOA-2).
The last Fw-190, however, got through our defensive fire and hosed us good. Both waist gunners were lightly wounded and we took hits to the rudder, port flap, both wings and the starboard elevator was rendered inoperable. In fact it wasn't there anymore according to Frank Spirrell. As it came round for a second attack, it was intercepted by a P-51 and destroyed. Herb Johnson and I were now really struggling to keep us flying in a straight line.
We continued to head home and were hit again, this time by 5 Me-109s. The tail guns got one and blew it apart, Sean Flaherty destroyed another, and the escorts got another. The one from 12 level hit us and came round for another attack and Flaherty hit it (FBOA-2) and Steve Endelman in the ball turret destroyed it (second FBOA-2). The last one hit us in a vertical dive, put a few holes in us and came round for a second time. He missed and dived away pursued by more escort fighters.
As we crossed into Bulgaria we were attacked again, this time by 5 Fw-190s. Our escorts got one, Hank Foster sent one pouring thick black smoke from it's engine (FBOA-2) and Paul Franchetti took a chunk out of another's tail and rudder (FBOA-2). That caused both of them to miss and the other two were driven off without making a real effort on us. That was the last we saw of any enemy. The 31st Fg kept everything else way beyond arm's length the rest of the trip.
As we approached the field we fired off red flares and apart from it being a bit hairy as we touched down, the gear seemed to be working alright. By the time the engines were off ambulances were taking the two waist gunners over to the docs to be patched up. Their wounds didn't look too bad but then again I'm no medic.
- 1st Lt. Joe Di Agostino, Pilot, Iron Lady, 318th Bomb Squadron
ZEBRA'S REVENGE, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 75%. Returned with the #1 engine leaking oil, starboard wing fuel tank damaged, both flaps, port aileron, bomb bay controls, top and ball turrets, both waist MGs inoperable, structural damage to both wing roots, and several superficial hits and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 and 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Demuth (Sgt. Demuth's Me-109 claim was later confirmed by S-2).
Smooth start till we hit the Flak; took most of our damage with three FLAK hits: lost port and starboard flaps, belly turret INOP, wing root hits one each, port aileron inop. Three Bomb Bay hits (these were on the way out, Thank God), port and starboard guns INOP, and numerous superficial hits. Both waist gunners (were) wounded when a 190 came at us from 12 high.
Just before we entered the safe area jumped by 3 Fw-190s. Top turret INOP, bomb bay controls jammed, left outboard Eng loosing oil, starboard wing fuel tank hit.
We did get 75% of our load on target.
- 1st Lt. Carter Ficklen, Pilot, Zebra's Revenge, 318th Bomb Squadron
AUSTIN NIGHTS, First flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with the auto pilot, bomb release mechanism, starboard landing gear inoperable and several superficial fuselage hits, and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Lt. Knudsen and 1 Me-109 by each 2nd Lt. Seal (Lt. Seal's claim was later confirmed by S-2) & SSgt. Wexler.
Four 109s (zone-6) wounded SSgt. Wexler and knocked out the bomb release mech. Lt. Knudsen shot down a 190 (zone-7) with no damage to us. Lt. Seal shot down a 109 (zone-8).
There was so much flak that you could walk to the next plane in the formation. We took several flak hits with the worst knocking out the autopilot. The bomb run was off target with 0% in target area. We didn’t take any flak hits on the way out, but there was still plenty (of flak).
SSgt. Wexler shot down a 109 (zone-8).
The rest of the trip home was much better as only three fighters got thru and missed on their attacks.
The Doc seems to think both Lt. Seal and Sgt. Wexler should be fine for the next mission.
- 1st Lt. Gary Hertel, Pilot, Austin Nights, 318th Bomb Squadron
JOLLIE ROGER, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with tail guns and navigation equipment knocked out, damage to the tail wheel, structural damage to both port and starboard tail plane roots, 4 superficial fuselage holes (Estimate 142 damage points), and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Me-109 each by 1st Lt. Finch (Lt. Finch's claim was later confirmed by S-2) and Sgt. Bauer.
What a long mission and for the record, I hate going to Romania!!!
Take off and formation assembly went off with out
a hitch and we were well into Yugoslavia [zone-4] before anything got
through to us.
A flight of 190s decided we looked interesting and came in. Lt. Olsen said that he saw a Mustang get one of them, but the rest came on. Sgt. Ketchum in the waist was hit during one of the passes by a 190, we thought he was really badly hurt as he was unresponsive when we got a chance to look at him. He finally came around and appears to only have a minor flesh wound, man did he scare the piss out of Bauer. Once he was able to get his marbles organized he was able to continue the rest of the mission at his station.
As we were crossing into Bulgaria [zone-5] a squadron of 110s appeared. One got through the fighter screen and latched onto our tail. He chewed things up pretty good back there and probably saved himself by knocking out the tail guns. It seemed to me that after the last two fighter attacks, the formation tightened up a bit. I know that fewer Jerries got through to us after that.
When we finally got to the target, things were a mess. Flak was everywhere and it seemed that the Jerries had put up a lot of aircraft to form a welcoming committee. A flight of 109s decided to play with us but we nailed two of them. Both Lt. Finch and Sgt. Bauer each got his first kill. The third 109 was boring in on us when a Mustang suddenly appeared and blew him away. The fourth made a pass at and then disappeared. As far as I can tell he only scratched the paint.
Despite the welcome we got from the fighters and flak we made it through with only a few dings and were able to see and drop our load on the target. Lt. Finch estimates that we got about 30% of our load on target.
Now, I don't know who laid out our flight path but they brought us right over the top of a big group of flak guns as we were exiting the target area. Tell the planners to do a little more homework next time. We got through it alright but I saw Iron Lady take quite a beating. After that we were left alone for some reason. I received reports from the squadron that fighters were out there but none took interest in us. That left us with nothing to do but fly home, and that was a long flight.
Landed with no issues and the crew chief says that he should be able to have the aircraft ready to go for the next mission. I have to head over to the hospital after this to check on Sgt. Ketchum, don't know if he is going to get some time off or if he will be with us on the next mission. I kind of hope he gets a break.
- 1st Lt. Jeff Dodge, Pilot, B-17G Jollie Roger, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
TOUGH TIME, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with damage to the starboard wing, minor damage to nose and radio room, and 1 casualty. Claims: 1 Fw-190 each by 2nd Lt. Bishop and Sgt. Howard.
Set off and joined formation as ordered. Attacked just before entering Bulgarian airspace where top turret took out a chunk of a 109, then followed a 110 but fighter cover chased it off.
Over target no fighters got through to us.
No Flak damage and bombs on target.
Attacked on way out of target only one of the three 190s got through chin gun dealt with this leaving it smoking on way home. Then came in a 190 and three 109s; no fighter support this time, took minor damage this time in nose and radio room--radio operator lightly wounded. Two of the 109s came back for us and both took hits from chin gun and top turret.
After a short respite in came more enemy fighters but the P-51s sorted them out again.
Shortly after three 190s came in--two got through and one hit us in nose, radio room, and starboard wing; radio op took another wound as he flew by tail gunner took a piece of him.
Attacked again before we left Yugoslavia by a lone 190 and surprisingly starboard cheek gunner hit and destroyed him.
Landed safe after a busy raid.
- 2nd Lt. Hank Roberts, Pilot, B-17G Tough Time, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
LOADED DICE, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 10%. Shot down by enemy fighters approximately 60 miles SW of Ploesti (zone-7), 3 KIA and 7 POWs.
“Sergeant, tell me what you saw in regards to Lieutenant Martinson’s plane and crew.”
“Well, Sir, Lieutenant Martinson’s plane was getting hit hard back there in the formation as we formed up for the run in. Looked like they lost number 1 engine on the run in but they had it feathered. I saw them make their drop with the rest of the squadron. Once we formed up at the rally point the Jerries were waiting for us. They seemed to hit Lieutenant Martinson’s plane hard again. Looked like number four was shut down too at that point. From then on they could never catch up and couldn’t keep the altitude. Once they left formation the Jerries were all over them. Fighter cover tried to help, but it was too late. Saw the port wing catch on fire and then minutes later the crew started bailing out. I only counted seven chutes, Sir, before the wing broke apart and the plane spiraled down.”
“Thank you, Sergeant. Does anyone else have anything to add?”
The officer’s question is met only with downcast eyes, short shakes of the head and a muted, “No, Sir,” as each man of this crew deals with the loss of their comrades this day.
- Overheard at the S-2 debriefing, 318th Bomber Squadron, Sterparone Field, May 31, 1944
316th BS (HIGH)
GINGER SNAP, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with structural damage to the starboard wing root hit, rafts destroyed, 15 other battle damage holes scattered about aircraft and 1 casualty. Claims: 2 Me-109s by 1st Lt. McClain (one of Lt. McClain's claims was later confirmed by S-2) & 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Hodge.
We flew as the lead ship in the third element behind six planes of the 318th. Our flight was the high formation of the group. Weather was close to ideal.
We were harassed by enemy fighters – mostly 109s - continually as soon as we hit the Yugoslavian coast. Most were driven off by the P-51s and our gunners shot down three. Those that got through made ineffective passes before diving away. Lt. McClain claimed his fifth and sixth kills, and Elmer Hodge - filling in for Sgt. Arledge in the tail – claimed another.
Flak was intense and accurate over the target, and we took some hits. But it appeared that Lt. McClain dropped our payload directly on the refinery.
We flew over another flak concentration as we turned away from the target. Again, flak was heavy and accurate and we were fortunate to not sustain any serious damage.
Over Yugoslavia we were hit by a few pairs of enemy fighters. They did not press home their attacks with much conviction, and we landed without incident or difficulty.
- Capt. Harold Snakenburg, Pilot, Ginger Snap, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
VENGEFUL HARLOT, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Fell-out-of-formation (zone-7) after bombing target. Returned alone with #4 engine wind milling, port flaps and ailerons inoperable, structural damage to both wing roots (1 hit each), the rudder (1 hit), fourteen superficial holes (188 Peckham damage points) and 1 casualty. Claims: 3 Me-109s by 2nd Lt. Flynn (one of Lt. Flynn's claims was later confirmed by S-2), 2 Me-109s by SSgt. Ohm, 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Piano, 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Brumeister, 1 Me-109 shared by Sgt. Brumeister & TSgt. Witczak, 1 Me-110 shared by Sgt. Brumeister & Sgt. Piano, 1 Me-109 shared by SSgt. Ohm & Sgt. Lyle.
We were airborne by 0721 hours with a load of 3500 gallons of gasoline, 4000 pounds of M44, 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 0750 hours.
We crossed into Yugoslavia north of Split. It was shortly after that the first of about eighteen waves of enemy fighters we would see today. The P-51's jockeys drove this first flight away, as they would do many times today. South of Belgrade a flight of Fw-190s made a run on us. Between the P-51s and our gunners we forced all but one enemy fighter to miss or break off their attack. A lone Focke-Wulf made two passes inflicting damage to the port wing. On his second pass Brumeister shot him down.
Again there was a lull in the action for around 200 miles. Then in Romania three Me-110s made a run on our ship. Two were driven off by our fighter cover and the third from 6 o'clock low was disintegrated by the crossfire from Brumeister and Piano's twin fifties. We were then targeted by a group of Me-109s. Five fighters targeted our ship with one driven off by our P-51s. Our gunners destroyed a further two enemy fighters and severely damaged a third, leaving only one to make any real attack from a vertical dive. Our fighter cover tried to get a bead on this fighter but they were unable to line up due to the speed of his dive. This also factored in his shot as he missed us and continued through the group.
Flak over the target was quit heavy. It seemed that we could have walked to the next ship on this stuff. We took it hard by the flak, more so than from the enemy fighters. With both wings taking hits disabling the port flap and aileron and hitting the starboard root. Even with all the commotion of fighters and multiple flak hits Lt. Flynn was able to place 30% on target.
Coming off the drop point we took further flak once again taking a hit in the port and starboard wings. Our port wing saw the aileron totally ripped of and the starboard wings number four engine take a hit. This engine stopped working and we could not feather the prop. This forced us to loose speed eventually having to fall out of formation. It was a long trip home.
German fighters continued their relentless attacks we saw no less than 35 enemy fighters attack. Our P-51s drove off nearly twenty of these beasts. If it wasn't for the red tail beauties we would be dead. Our boys also shot down eleven other fighters and damaged further enemy fighters. All in all we took six further hits with only the tail root being damaged. It was frightening ride home, but due to our little friends we are here to report in.
Out only wound was Lt. Zurn was wounded, a scrape on his right knee. A 20mm exploding shell hitting us in the lower right side of the cockpit caused his wound. Other than that we are all home in one piece.
A total of 58 fighters made attack runs; 23 were driven of by our P51s and our gunners shot down 11 enemy aircraft and damaged a further 18 aircraft.
- 1st Lt. Lieutenant Gary Tines, Pilot, Vengeful Harlot, 316th BS/88th Bomb Group (H)
ASH CAN, Third flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 60%. Fell out-of-formation (zone-4 homebound) and returned with radio, chin and ball turrets destroyed, 2/3 damage to the rudder, to the tail compartment oxygen system, structural damage to the starboard wing root, superficial damage to the fuselage, nose, radio, waist and tail compartments, starboard wing fuel tank holed (sealed), port wing, and 3 casualties. Aircraft later declared category E: irreparable.
Took off w/o incident . . . Bad morale, 316th getting nicknamed ‘Bloody’, LW’s (Luftwaffe) favorite targets; no one knows why.
Ambushed by fighters in Map Grid 4 (zone-4), all driven off by escort.
(In) Grid 5 (zone-5), (we) saw six 190s and two 109s hit us; fighter cover whittled them down quick; rudder took hit (and) top gunner killed an Fw-190.
Got real quiet after that till we reached Ploesti. The 190s (were) stacked up like cabs at Grand Central, intel said none (were) in Romania. They knew we were coming it would appear. Eleven 190s and a Ju-88 swarmed us; 30mm shattered the chin gun leaving hanging out of its socket, that would come back to haunt us. Lots of bullet holes, oxy bottle exploded in tail but no fire. We damaged at least 3 and our radio was destroyed.
They split off while flak hammered us with 9 hits: starboard wing fuel tank hit (no leak), ball turret took direct hit killing the gunner and leaving metal and plastic hanging underneath; port waist gunner slashed by shrapnel, moved radio man there; bombardier slashed in knee by shrapnel; rudder damaged (some) more; starboard wing root cracked; superficial damage nose to waist and port wing.
Whacked Ploesti hard -- 60% OT (on target). Flak missed us on way out. Rudder sluggish in turn around, Logsdon reported a "Krunk" sound. Two 190’s picked us up after leaving flak belt . . . they missed us.
Aircraft drifting right and unable to hit top speed (A/S) 280, Group A/S 285.
One 190 vertical (dived on) us at Map grid 6 (zone-6), radio room hit, and the 190 broke off on its 2nd pass.
Two 190’s hit us in Grid 5 (zone-5), escorts got one and other missed. Really lagging behind formation.
By grid 4 (zone-4) we were alone, no escorts visible either. Five 109’s jumped us defensive fire drove off 2 with damage, others got some 7.92mm hits on nose and tail. Used evasive tactics to avoid any further damage from them despite 3 passes.
By time (we) hit (the) Adriatic, one 109 bird-dogged us; dove from 30,000 to 100 feet (and) he disengaged.
Landed safely, signaled D&W (dead and wounded) aboard, met ambulances.
Armorers’ Report: 1329 rounds of .50 BMG (6380 loaded) expended despite four guns destroyed and one unmanned 50% of flight.
- 1st Lt. Steve Cable, Pilot, ASH CAN, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
317th BS (LOW)
CONQUEST, Lead flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Group Spare. Took place of Low Squadron Lead position. Ran out of fuel over Yugoslavia (zone-5), 10 chutes seen, 6 POWs and 4 MIA.
“Lieutenant Flashman, your crew were in the best position to Lieutenant Nobel’s plane and crew. Tell me what you remember.”
“Well, Sir, after Captain Azagthoth failed to form up, as the senior Lieutenant, Lieutenant Nobel assumed the squadron lead. Enemy fighters first began to appear as soon as we crossed the coastline into Yugoslavia . . . resistance was light. They didn’t concentrate on us but in two separate attacks, single Me-109s attacked Nobel’s ship each time . . . I saw some strikes but there didn’t appear to be any serious damage.”
“Enemy activity increased after crossing into Romania . . . their tactics seemed to be mostly head-on attacks, concentrating on the lead aircrafts, especially Nobel’s ship but they came through unscathed.”
“Aproaching the IP, three waves of fighters were waiting. I was busy with my own crew but Nobel’s ship took only minor damage from what I could see . . . it was then the flak hit us, hard, very intense and accurate . . . as we made our final run on the target, I saw gas streaming out from their port fuel tank, behind the number two engine . . . It wasn’t a light stream but more like a steady flow. It looked bad for Nobel as I didn’t think they would have enough to make it home . . . After the bomb drop, more flak hit us as we withdrew . . . it wasn’t intense as before but it was accurate . . . A few bursts exploded near Nobel’s ship but I couldn’t tell if they took any damage . . . enemy fighters then re-appeared and the squadron fought them off.”
“After that, we lost oxygen to our nose compartment and I dropped from the formation. After that, I can’t add in anything else on what happed to Lieutenant Nobel and his crew.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. You have been most helpful. You may go . . . Next please!”
“Second Lieutenant Earl Schultz, aircraft 43-8915.”
“Sit down, Lieutenant Schultz. I want you to tell me what you know about what happened to Lieutenant Nobel’s plane right after leaving the target area. Your plane was off his starboard wing. What can you tell me?”
“Well, our little friends kept the enemy away for most of the time we traveled homeward . . . then about seventy miles north of Nis, suddenly Nobel left the formation . . . I don’t think his radio was working as his movement was sudden and without any warning . . . then his crew began to exit their aircraft . . . my crew reported they saw ten chutes . . . we’re pretty certain that all ten men bailed out . . . that’s all I have, Sir.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. You may go . . . Next man, please!”
- From debriefing reports taken from returned crews of the 317th Bomb Squadron
TAILS A'DRAGGIN', Lead flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Fell out-of-formation after bombing target (zone-7). Returned with starboard landing gear out, #3 engine wind milling, starboard aileron out, bombardier heating and pilot’s oxygen systems inoperable, control cables damaged (1 hit), minor structural damage to both wing roots, major damage to the rudder (67% damaged) and 4 casualties. Claims: 3 Me-109s & 2 Fw-190s by SSgt. Falkenhayn and 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Summersville.
We took off and took our place in the formation with out incident.
Excellent fighter protection and the skill of our gunners kept the Germans at bay until we reached the target. Then multiple waves of enemy fights came at us in well-organized attacks. It seemed as soon as one attack was over more fighters were on top of us. The ship was taking hits all over when several rounds tore through the cockpit. I took a hit to the arm, which seemed to look worse then it really was.
The flak came up thick and it really tossed us around. I was pretty sure I saw the wings take some hits to the roots and I was starting to worry. We dropped our load and made the turn for home. We flew into more flak and then the German fighters returned.
We where taking so many hits and letting loose with so much lead it were heard to follow the action. I saw multiple German aircraft falling in flames. Then the #3 engine got hit and the feathering controls would not respond. The flight back just got a lot longer. Being out of formation and below 10,000 we were harassed all the way back to base. When Falkenhayn began yelling that he was out of ammo I knew it was a long day at the office.
Despite the concentrated attacks we made it back to base. The damaged landing gear made the landing a bit dicey but we made it down safely.
- 1st Lt. Harry Flashman, Pilot, Tails A'draggin', 317th Bomb Squadron
SECRET VICTORY, Lead flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with starboard main wheel brakes and both elevators inoperable, navigator’s equipment destroyed, minor structural damage to both wing roots, several superficial hits (8) throughout the ship and no casualties. Claims 2 Me-109s by SSgt. J. Lipps.
Secret Victory took to the air again for the second time to Ploesti, Romania to disrupt production at the oil refineries. Okay, I know we almost missed the last flight due to my navigator and me having to scramble and get maps of the Mediterranean area to replace the European ones we shipped over with. Not to mention the whole time we where in the air I kept telling the Engineer that the nose was heavy but he said everything checked out okay. So this morning with the sun up and starting to get used to everything I find out I am flying a B-17G not F; oh well, who ever said being the “Fricking New Guy” was going to be easy. (Speaking of new guys, my tail gunner has heard talk about some sort of skill where he can help us out by taking a shot at targets that are coming at us from the front? Anyone care to pass on some tips that they don’t teach at flight/gunnery school).
First I want to pass along a job well done to the members of the 52nd and 31st Fighter Groups. We lost track of the number of fighters over 20 waves that we saw forming up to come at us. Only to see our little friends either knock them out of the sky or drive most of them off.
Next up we almost lost our navigator when one of the enemy fighters got through and pretty much shot up his equipment not to mention the sight of him trying to keep his maps from flying out of the hole that opened up from a 20mm cannon shot. No harm, no foul, we stayed in formation and his extra set of eyes and hands came in handy during the rest of the mission.
Last mission we where introduced in the enemy’s tactic of using “vertical diving and climbing” but as scary as that was the guy that came in from 3 o’clock and pretty much walked his guns over both wings really caused the hair in the back of my neck stand on end. No fuel loss but took some wing root damage on both sides and lost hydraulic fluid for my starboard break.
Heavy flak over the target pretty much took out my elevators on both sides and which made it hard for me to control the plane so I can understand how our bombardier could not get the plane to line up during the bomb run after we had taken 4 heavy bursts.
Just as I took back over control we flow over what everyone is calling 'medium' but seemed just as heavy to us with 3 more hits.
Flight back seemed like the ride in once and a while the enemy would get past our fighter cover and everyone tried their best. I think the tail gunner was just glad to be alive as when we walked around the rear of the plane when we touched down his area seemed to be the only place back there not hit.
No one else seems to have been effected but I am glad it happened at the end of the flight around the Yugoslavian coast (zone-3) we hit some sort of sudden downdraft (cold front) that pretty much caused the port & starboard cheek and radioroom MGs to break loose from their mountings. By the time we got down around 10,000 and preparing to land the gunners got them secured before they could cause more damage but the important thing was that we didn’t need them of the Italian coast (zone-2).
Over all I think the team is shaping up to be a pretty good crew and depending on your recommendations I would like to recommend my navigator and tail gunner for staying at their stations and contributing to the successful completion of our mission through all the enemy could throw at them.
- 2nd Lt. Earl Schultz, Pilot, Secret Victory, 317th Bomb Squadron
TULE LAKE SAMURAI III, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Reached target but not bomb. Shot down by enemy fighter 3 miles west of Ploesti; 10 casualties.
Over the Adriatic (zone-3), Tule Lake Samurai III encountered two (2) waves of fighters: Both waves consisted on one (1) Me-109 each and both chased away by fighters from the 52nd Fighter Group.
After entering Yugoslavia (zone-4) north of the coastal town of Split, Tule Lake Samurai III encountered one (1) wave of fighters consisting of three (3) Me-109s coming in from head-on. Fighter cover chased away one fighter coming and the top turret (SSgt. Kitano) was able to hit the fighter coming in from 12 o’clock high causing slight damage which caused the fighter to veer off and not return. Another fighter from 12 o’clock level missed the bomber and didn't return.
Half-way over Yugoslavia (zone-5) a wave of fighters were seen coming into the bomb formation but they were driven off before they were able to fire by a combination of fire from the bomb group and fighters from the 52nd Fighter Group.
Approaching the Bulgarian/Romanian border (zone-6), a lone Fw-190 doing a vertical dive attacked the bomber. The radio room gun was able to hit the fighter causing it to explode before it was able to fire at the bomber. The kill is believed credited to Tech Sgt. Masaoka.
Now over Romania (zone-7), two (2) wave of fighters attacked. The first wave consisted of one (1) Fw-190 doing a vertical dive, which missed and didn't return. The second wave consisted of three (3) more Fw-190s. One fighter from 3 o'clock high was hit by both the starboard waist (Sgt. Soma) and the top turret (SSgt. Kitano) which slightly damaged the Fw-190 causing it to miss the bomber and not return. Fire from the nose was able to damage an Fw-190 coming in from 1:30 high but it keep coming and was still able to hit the plane in the nose compartment twice (2) and the fuselage once causing minor damage. The first hit appeared to be only cause minor damage to the Plexiglas (the other caused a slight wound to the navigator Lt. Fujimoto). This fighter then re-attacked from 12 o'clock high and this time fire from the top turret (SSgt Kitano) was able to heavily damage the fighter causing it to miss and not return.
During the approach on the target (zone-8), one (1) wave consisting of four (4) Fw-190s came in from all over the place. One fighter from 3 o'clock high was hit by the top turret (SSgt Kitano) and was seen going down in flames before it reached the bomber. Another came in from 12 o'clock high hit the bomber with a series of walking hits that struck the nose compartment (superficial damage), the cockpit (seriously wounding both the Pilot and Co-Pilot) and then the entire bomber exploded. No chutes were seen.
- From debriefing reports taken from returned crews of the 317th Bomb Squadron
SPECIAL K, Second flight, Right Wingman
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with navigation equipment and rafts destroyed, port elevator, port ailerons, flaps and feathering controls inoperable, damaged to the tail compartment oxygen system, starboard wing tank holed (self-sealed), rudder damaged (2 hits), numerous superficial damage to the fuselage, nose, radio and waist compartments, and 5 casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 and 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Greenawalt, 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Fowler, and 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Richter (Sgt. Richter's claim was later confirmed by S-2).
Bombs away! 30% on target, lots of flak over the target - took some damage, but we made it through. Heavy fighter cover in both directions. The escorts really did their jobs! Took a LOT of hits - mostly superficial, thank god. Our plane looks like Swiss cheese. We were sweating a self-sealed fuel tank hit! I was also sweating the landing without the flaps and ailerons, but we managed to get it down in one piece!
- 1st Lt. Alison Seth, Pilot, Special K, 317th Bomb Squadron
FOUR OF A KIND, Second flight, Left Wingman (Tail-End Charlie)
Bombed target, 20%. Group Spare. Took place of Low Squadron Tail-End Charlie position. Returned with tail compartment heating system inoperable, cockpit windows shattered, damage to the control cables, rudder, numerous superficial damage to the #4 engine, fuselage, both wings, nose, pilot's compartment, radio, waist and tail compartments, 2 casualties and 1 case of frostbite. Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. Sherwin and 1 Me-110 by Sgt. Glock (Sgt. Glock's claim was later confirmed by S-2).
Return to Sterparone Field