MISSION 81 - MESTRE AARs
317th BS (LEAD)
THE BRAZEN HUSSEY, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 50%. Lead Aircraft. Returned with structural damage to the starboard wing root (1 hit), superficial damage to engine #1, to the starboard wing, superficial damage to the fuselage, nose, pilots, bomb bay, radio room, waist and tail compartments, to the fuselage (10 total), and 1 casualty.
Colonel Lamb was along in the right hand seat to lead this mission to Mestre. The entire crew felt that this was a good omen as the 'Old Man' was considered lucky by the crew. The two previous missions with the Colonel, hed brought the crew home. Of course, we dont let the Colonel know anything about this--we dont want to jinx him. Group formation went well and we headed out for San Marco to meet with the 301st. We would be fly together until when we reached the northern coast off Venice where the 301st would split up for their target at Porto Marghera. The four other groups were still in Russia.
There was no enemy fighter attacks while we headed northward as we crossed the Adriatic but once we neared Venice, a formation of Me-109s appeared. Two fighters made it pass our escorts and made a head-on attack on us and our wings, the nose and the cockpit were hit; luckily, everything appeared superficial. This one 109 pilot was good. He must have been one of the veteran Luftwaffe pilots still around as he made two more attacks on us without being hit by our guns. Those other passes caused a huge hole on the starboard wing, right near where the wing meets the fuselage. I should know as I could see the hole through my side window. The #1 engine also took a hit but the engine keep right on going. That was close . . . I wonder if we had lost the engine, would we have jettison the bombs and aborted the mission? Knowing the Colonel, hed jettison the bombs and keep in formation and lead the group to Mestre.
We ran into an Hornets nest approaching the target. The enemy fighters really concentrated on us, the lead ship. Their tactic seem to be get the lead ship in order to throw the group into disarray. Our escorts did their best but there was too many of them. Two Fw-190s made a beeline right at us. The one from 12 oclock missed us, and the other making a starboard attack broke off early after seeing the sky fill up with tracers. Just at we though we were "out of the woods", SSgt. Tolbert in the top turret cried out, "Bogey diving down on us!" The warning was too late as he raked us from nose-to-tail with a walking hit. Tolbert was wounded; luckily, nothing too serious. From reports from the crew, there was no serious damage. A second wave was spotted arriving but this time the P-38s drove them away.
S-2 was right for a change as there was no flak at all and that allowed Lt. Whitstock to made a good run, reporting about half his bombs were within 1000 foot radius of the impact point.
After the bomb run, we encountered no further enemy attacks. But I did hear about the low and high squadrons coming under attack.
We landed back at base without incident.
- TSgt. Ray Morehart, Radio Operator, The Brazen Hussey, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
AC#43-8941, Lead flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with superficial damage to the nose and waist compartments and 1 casualty.
Over the Adriatic (zone-2)Encountered three (3) Me-109s coming in from head-on. Two fighters that were coming in from 12 oclock level and low were chased away by fighters from the 14th Fighter Group. The other one coming in from 12 oclock high missed the plane and didn't return.
Approaching the target (zone-4) three (3) Me-109s tried to attack the bomber coming in from ahead, port and starboard. All were chased away before they were able to attack the bomber by fighters from the 14th Fighter Group.
Without any Flak, we were able to get 30% of our bomb load on target.
Leaving the target (zone-4) three (3) Me-109s again tried to attack the bomber from head-on. Fighters from the 14th Fighter Group were able to chase away the one. One came in from 12 oclock high missed the plane and didn't return. The other one came in from 12 oclock low was able to hit the bomber once in the waist area of the plane causing superficial damage to the area. The plane returned and attacked us from 10:30 level. It was able to hit the plane twice, once in the fuselage causing minor damage and once in the nose section of the plane, hitting 2nd Lt. Yamashita seriously wounding him. The plane was again able to attack the bomber, this time coming in from 12 oclock high. This time fighter cover from the 14th Fighter group was able to drive the plane away before it was able to attack.
Was able to land the plane safely with any problem at Foggia.
2nd Lt. Yamashita
will recover from his wounds but after a few weeks in the hospital.
- 2nd Lt. Honda, Pilot, AC#43-8941, 317th Bomb Squadron
PROWLING PANTHER, Lead flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Long.
By far the easiest mission weve flown. The fighter boys took care of most of the enemy planes. Only one got through and Bobby Long sent it into a death spiral trailing smoke and fire. It was on my side of the plane and I was able to see it going down. Now Im not sure what to think about this . . . but when I saw the pilot eject and his chute open . . . I was silently glad that he got out. I didnt tell any of the guys.
Anyway . . . over the target . . . no flak at all . . . but for some reason we appeared to miss the target. Really disappointed in that. But we turned around and flew home like it was a training mission. It was a beautiful day . . . nobody in the crew got hurt . . . plus our ground crew will be really pleased to see that we brought back their baby with no holes in it.
- 2nd Lt. Jim White, Pilot, Prowling Panther, 317th Bomb Squadron
DARKWATCH, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Group Spare. Took place of Special K, middle squadron, second flight, lead aircraft. Returned with superficial damage to the fuselage and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Browning
BROWN SUGAR, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with port elevator inoperable and some superficial damage and no casualties.
First mission for our bomber; very excited for this mission. Take-off was okay; on approaching the target (zone-4), we encountered the first wave of enemy fighters. We took some superficial damage to the airplane but all was okay.
Others attacks from Me-109, but our gunners and P-38 friends repulsed them. We were on target, opened bay bombs, started bomb run and we achieved a 5% result.
Now on return trip. Some attacks from fighter with serious damage at port elevator.
We arrived at base with an okay landing. Our first mission is over! We are ready for the next.
- 2nd Lt. Larry L. Bogarde, Pilot, Brown Sugar, 317th Bomb Squadron
DAKOTA QUEEN, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned without damage or casualties.
And so it begins. All the hard work and training now pays off. Uncle Sam has spent a lot of money to get us to this point, and now it is time to earn our keep.
The briefing was straightforward and the mission seemed easy enough. But this is our first and you never know. The men were a little nervous. I tip my hat to the Gods of Irony. Having fired for the Great Northern before the war, my first target was to be the rail yards at Mestre.
We took off at 9:03 and formed up at 4000 feet before climbing to 21,000 feet and headed to San Marcos to rendezvous with the 301st. The flight over the Adriatic was uneventful, as no enemy aircraft appeared. Once over the target area, a single ME-109 came at us from 6 o'clock high, but he was driven off by the P-38s of the 14th Fighter Group. There was no flak over the target. Lt Dagel estimates 20% of the bombs landed on target.
The return trip was as uneventful as the trip in. Any enemy fighters that appeared while we were still over Italy were driven off by defensive fire from other B-17s. We encountered no enemy fighters on the return trip and landed without incident. The nervousness that the crew felt before the mission was gone the moment we landed; 1 down, 49 to go.
- 2nd Lt Lt. Steve Murphy, Pilot, Dakota Queen, 317th Bomb Squadron
SPECIAL K, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Runway abort. Did not participate on mission.
399th BS (MIDDLE)
AIRBORNE LADY, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with minor damage and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Thompson & Sgt. Fine.
[May 28, 1944] Having just completed training and bring transferred to the 15th AF, I was assigned a banged up B-17G. I cant help but feel a little disappointed at not being in 8th AF, but from what I hear - it is much safer here. Met the new crew and will begin "dry runs" and aircraft inspection in the morning. Hope I can sleep.
[May 29, 1944] Received the "welcome aboard" speech from Major DeFilippo and then was rushed to the field to meet my new crew and begin aircraft inspection. The crew seems to be as new as I am. Hope my "green stripe" doesnt show . . .
[June 1, 1944] Dry runs, simulated bombing runs and pre-flight testing started today. The crew and I all put names for the ship into a hat and after some debate it was decided that she would be called "Airborne Lady" and then we christened her with some beer - may she protect us and keep us from harm. 14 hour-days and the nights go by so fast . . .
[June 9, 1944] Scuttlebutt has it that tomorrow "we" fly our first mission. Hope I dont screw up and costs us all our lives. There is a meeting scheduled for 0400, dont think Ill be able to sleep very much . . .
[June 10, 1944] Well, we made it back from our first mission. As luck would have it, we were barely scratched and Lt. Thompson (Chuck) and Sgt. Fine (Larry) even got a kill apiece! We got knocked around a little over the target and I dont know how much of our ordinance actually hit the target, but we made it there and back safely. The ground crew will need to do some repairs to the old girl but "Airborne Lady" will do just fine. It took forever to get out of debriefing, grab a bite of chow and head for quarters. However, I think I will be able to get some sleep tonight!
- 2nd Lt. Robert Sweeney, Pilot, Airborne Lady, 399th Bomb Squadron
399th BS (HIGH)
LUCY QUIPMENT, First flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with starboard flaps inoperable, structural damage to the starboard wing root (2 hits), superficial damage to the starboard wing (2 hits), cockpit (1 hit) and waist compartment (2 hits) and no casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Lt. Thompson.
Our escorts did a great job and we only saw enemy aircraft around the target area. A group came at us before we started our bomb rum and Lt. Thompson managed to knock down an Fw-190. We took most of our damage then to the wing and waist areas. Lt. Phelps dropped about 30% of our bombs in the target area.
As we started home another group of fighters came at us and Lt. Phelps managed to shoot up a Me-109 that was lining up on the ship. Thanks to our escorts we did not see any more enemy aircraft and the rest of the flight home was uneventful.
- Major DeFilippo, Pilot, Lucy Quipment, 399th Bomb Squadron
LADY LIGHT, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned without damage or casualties.
Lady Light encountered numerous enemy aircraft on this mission, mostly Me-109s. None did damage to us, and we damaged one Me-109. We came in OFF TARGET, but did hit with about 5% of our bombs. We landed back at Foggia without incident.
- 2nd Lt. Maurice Duncan, Pilot, Lady Light, 399th Bomb Squadron
SQUEEZE PLAY, First flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties.
Relatively quiet trip. Too quiet! Didnt see any enemy fighters till approaching the target. All fighters were driven off by other B-17s.
Didnt drop a single bomb on the marshalling yards, despite good weather and no flak.
After a harmless bomb run, we were immediately approached by two enemy fighter waves. The first wave, a single 109, was driven off by the P-38s. A single FW-190 from the second wave avoided our fighter cover and dove on us. The 190 didnt scratch us on the initial pass, and immediately broke for home.
No other fighters were seen on the trip back to base.
- 2nd Lt. Dwight M. Evans, Pilot, Squeeze Play, 399th Bomb Squadron
LAURALEE II, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 75%. Returned with minor superficial damage to the radio room and no casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Capt. Pipes and 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Snowden (Sgt. Snowden's claim was later confirmed by S-2).
Quiet until we got to target. Lots of a/c--ours and theirs--in the sky. The Lightnings did a good job keeping the Krauts off us, as only a few got through. A lone 109 made a run at us from 12 oclock high, but Pipes pasted him; we observed him falling away in flames. Two more enemy a/c, both 190s, came at us next--one diving from above, one behind him at 12 oclock high. We observed hits on that a/c, but he broke off, smoking, along with his companion. No hits scored.
One last 190 came at us from 12 oclock high, and hit the radio room, nicking Vega. He had just gotten up to look out the window, and the shell passed where hed been sitting. Otherwise he would have been killed. He turned white and stayed that way until after we landed.
No flak, and because of that we hit the target right on the nose. The 38s protected us all the way home, and we made it back safely.
- Captain Bill Hearn, Pilot, Lauralee II, 399th Bomb Squadron
HEART OF TEXAS, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties.
318th BS (HIGH)
AC#43-8947, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with starboard wing brakes, tail compartment heating system, tail turret guns inoperable, structural damage to the port wing root (1 hit), superficial damage (1 hit each) to the bomb bay, radio and tail compartments (70 Damage points per Peckham's damage chart) and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Bird (claim was later confirmed by S-2).
We spotted quite a few enemy aircraft on the way to and from the target but most were driven away by the fighter cover. Good job by the 14th FG.
The experience of Sgt. Bird showed through as he killed a Jerry on the very first attack that came at us. It takes a lot to maneuver that little ball turret. SSgt. Hale did well for a rookie, he tore into a 190 and it left the area trailing smoke and debris. Hopefully it did not make it home.
Lt. Havens was able to put us right over the target and we estimate 40% on target. Great job.
While over the target our tail got chewed on a bit and the heat in the tail was knocked out. We were able to make it back over water before we dropped out of formation to 10,000 feet.
Once we went feet wet there were no more tries at our plane, I have to give the credit to our excellent fighter cover.
Crew did good. Wouldnt mind being permanently assigned together.
- 1st Lt. Walt Beall, Pilot, AC#43-8947, 318th Bomb Squadron
ZEBRA'S REVENGE, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with intercom and radio inoperable, several superficial damage to the fuselage (225 Damage points per Peckham's damage chart) and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Herman, SSgt. Clemons & SSgt. Stallard
Glad there was not flak on this mission, got enough damage just from the 109s. The worst of it was just before we dropped the bombs. Got one with a walking hit that did some damage. Intercom and radio were out. Had another fun time after the run and every zone on the way home. At least we got three of the little buggers.
Glad this one is over. We will wait and see how soon the old girl can be ready to do it again. One Heck of a run.
- Major Mick Mikula, Pilot, Zebra's Revenge, 318th Bomb Squadron
AUSTIN NIGHTS, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 20%. Returned with several superficial damage to the fuselage and no casualties.
This was a milk run for the crew of Austin Nights. Thanks to good fighter coverage, we didnt run into any enemy fighters on the way to the target. There was no flak over the target and we were able to 20% of the bombs on target. We did have a 109 attack (zone-2) which did get some superficial fuselage hits and missed on return attack. The landing at the base were uneventful.
- 1st Lt. Gary Hertel, Pilot, Austin Nights, 318th Bomb Squadron
LUCKY LADY, Third flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned without damage or casualties.
Take off and form up with the 399th squadron went smoothly. We were part of a section of the 318th led by Major Mikula attached to the 399th for this mission.
The maiden voyage of the LUCKY LADY was true to her name. No enemy aircraft made runs against us until we approached the target zone. The crew was alert and numerous bandit contacts were relayed but in all cases the bandits broke off due the combined fire of the rest of the formation.
A bit of luck. We saw no flak today, either we caught them by surprise or there were no anti-aircraft guns in place. Another bit of luck. Big Al (Lieutenant Williams) make a successful drop on the target of approximately 30%.
We turned away from the target zone and flew to the rally point. Our escort joined us again and just in time as a squadron of FW-190s appeared at 10 oclock high. Fortunately the P-38s were able to intercept the bandits before they could tally us. One more bit of luck. As we headed back out over the Adriatic the Jerrys made one more attempt to attack, but again the combined firepower from the squadron drove them off.
The rest of the flight was tense but uneventful. I bounced the wheels once or twice on the landing but got her down in one piece. The fellows in back got on the comm and joked about how if the Jerrys don't get us, then my landings might.
As we disembarked the enlisted men continued their tradition of touching the smaller image of our name sake on the fuselage near the ball turret as thanks for bringing us home, a tradition started during training maneuvers. Lieutenant Evans walked around back and did the same. Back in our tent he told us he thinks all the officers should start doing the same. Of course, Dave is also the one who carries a rabbits foot with him for luck.
- 2nd Lt. Charles Gibson, Pilot, Lucky Lady, 318th Bomb Squadron
316th BS (LOW)
FOUR OF A KIND, First flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with structural damage to the starboard wing root (1 hit), damage to the rudder (1 hit), superficial damage to the bomb bay compartment (2 hits).
We encountered no enemy fighters at all flying to the target area. We had an unimpeded run on the target. Leaving the target, we saw our only enemy fighters in this mission. Three Me-109s attacked from head-on. Our defensive fire was abysmal. Luckily, only one Me-109 was accurate and he did some damage to the ship. On his second pass, he completely missed us and was seen to diving away to low altitude. The remainder of the trip back to our home base was uneventful.
- 2nd Lt. Jesse Fletcher, Co-pilot, Four of a Kind, 316th Bomb Squadron
THE FLUFF, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Henriques (claim was later confirmed by S-2).
Took off and flew to target with no opposition or flak. Attacked by (an Italian) MC.205 that was destroyed by P38s then an Fw-190 after bombs dropped but missed target in clouds. The VDing FW was destroyed by Engineer Scotty Henriques.
Returned with no further attacks and no damage.
- 1st Lt. Steve Cable, Pilot, The Fluff, 316th Bomb Squadron
SHREVEPORT RANGERS, First flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned without damage or casualties.
We saw fighters about mid-point to the target, but our little friends chased them off . . . then (we were) hit by 3 flocks of the Jerrys . . . all but one flock were shielded from hitting us. The last one pierces thru the fighter screen in a VD (vertical dive) . . . missed us with his shots and rocketed right past us! Man, that guy was flying!
On the way out we saw fighters again and at the mid-point, but they were all chased-off by the P-38s . . . sure glad to see those boys up near us!
Sadly, we were off
target on this run . . . Greg was everything apologetic and was assuring me all
the way home that he would not do this again . . . it was all his fault, yadda,
yadda, yadda . . . The Brown Man (as we called him) was the best bombardier I
had seen in a while . . . it was just a matter of time when we would have one of
these bloopers . . . it might take a few beers back at base to help him get thru
- 2nd Lt. Richard Wright, Pilot, Shreveport Rangers, 316th Bomb Squadron
GINGER SNAP, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Runway abort; did not participate on mission.
LADY B, Second flight, Right aircraft
Did not bomb target. Shot down by enemy fighters before bomb run; 3 KIA and 7 POWs.
We went after four
190s that we could see lining up on one of the last B17s in the formation.
We chased off two of them but by the time we had turned to engage the other two
they were already firing at the heavy. One of them flew right in on the
port side and just kept on firing and nothing was missing, it was brutal.
First the port outer engine blew and then port wing caught fire you could see
the shells going off against the fuselage and then the starboard wing.
When the chutes started popping out I could not believe that anybody had
survived that. In all I counted seven, that there were so many was not
short of a miracle.
- Captain Chester Jones, Flight Leader, 48th Fighter Squadron, 14th Fighter Group, flying escort on the Mestre Mission
The B17 is believed to have been B-17G, AC#43-8923, belonging to the 316th squadron, also known as the Lady B. As far as we are aware all the survivors have been captured and are now POWs.
- Major Joseph Carson, Group Intelligence Officer, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SATIN DOLL, Second flight, Left aircraft (TAIL-END CHARLIE #2)
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with structural damage to the rudder (1 hit), damage to the control cables (1 hit), superficial damage to the nose, pilot, bomb bay, radio room, waist, and tail compartments and 1 casualty. Claims: 3 Me-109s by Sgt. Walker (one of Sgt. Walker's claim was later confirmed by S-2), 1 Me-109 apiece by SSgt. Rountree and Sgt. Maust.
We didnt run into any E/A until about halfway to the target. A pair of Me-109s broke toward us from dead ahead, and were swatted from the sky by a pair of the 14th FGs P-38s. A lone FW-190 was setting up a pass form 10:30 high and found himself on the receiving end of a Lightnings guns. Sgt. Walker called in from the tail that Vengeful Harlot had been hit hard by the last batch of Messerschmitts, and was falling back, streaming fuel from her starboard wing. With the Harlot out of formation, we dropped into the Tail-End Charlie slot.
No sooner had we settled into our new spot in 'coffin corner' than we were welcomed by a gaggle of 5 Me-109s. The Fork-Tailed Angels of the 14th FG scratched two at 3 high and 9 high. The one at 9 level had his nose shot off by Sgt. Maust with his ball turret guns, while Sgt. Walker flamed the Kraut at 6 high. SSgt. Rountree missed his at 12 high and the Hun punched a hole in the rudder. While swinging around for another pass, he too was met by the boys from the 14th, and was last seen spinning in trailing smoke and flames. Right on their heels, another pair of 109s jumped on our tail. Sgt. walker scored his second kill by blasting the wings off of one of them, the other met a similar fate from the guns of a Lightning.
Flak over the target was non-existent, and Lt. Douglas put 40% of the load into the switching ladder of the marshalling yard. Sgts. Maust & Walker, in the ball and tail positions, reported a number of secondary explosions.
Rallying off the target, an Fw-190 tried to draw our fire forward as an Me-109 swung around onto our tail. The Lightnings scored again, taking the 190 out of the game. While the 109 at 6 high was heavily damaged by Sgt. Walker's tail guns, he still managed to stitch the Doll from nose-to-tail with 20mm & 12.75mm shells. Most caused superficial damage to the various compartments, the worst being a fragment that grazed SSgt. Rountrees left biceps. TSgt. Davidson reported in that a shell had nicked the control cables in the radio room, but nothing appeared too serious. Another pair of 109s tried a similar attack, coming in from 12 high and 6 high, only to be thwarted by the excellent and aggressive actions of our escorts.
Halfway home, a trio of Me-109s tore through the formation at us. The leader at 12 level was summarily dispatched by the escort, while Sgt. Walker scored his third kill on his fighter at 6 high. Sgt. Tibbs got a few hits in on the 109 at 130 high with his starboard waist gun, and SSgt. Rountree finished him off with the top turret twin. 50s.
The rest of the trip home was quiet, and we landed the Doll without incident.
- 1st Lt. William Patrick, Pilot, Satin Doll, 316th Bomb Squadron
VENGEFUL HARLOT, Third flight, Lead aircraft (TAIL-END CHARLIE)
Did not bomb target. Aborted mission due to fuel leak caused by enemy fighters. Returned alone with a large hole in starboard wing outboard fuel tank, two holes of superficial nature (20 Damage points per Peckham's damage chart) and no casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Flynn, TSgt. Witczak and Sgt. Burmeister.
We were airborne by 0603 hours with a load of 3500 gallons of gasoline, 10 x 500 pounds of M-43, 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 0621 hours.
From around the halfway point to the target Messerschmitts harassed us continually. Our little friends were keeping up chasing away at least a quarter of the enemy aircrafts. Those who managed to penetrate our fighter cover were greeted with a hail of .05 cal. Our boys downed three and severally damaged the fourth. Even with the outstanding performance by both our fighter friends and personal marksmanship one Messerschmitt managed to open a huge hole in the outer starboard fuel cell. This concerned us greatly and Lieutenant Zurn and I decided to break formation and return home. The stalking of the Me-109s continued till we were nearly back to base.
Landing was textbook. After taxiing the Harlot to its hardstand, MSgt. Fenn informed us we would have most likely been forced to ditch the old girl if we had proceeded to the target. He claims there was only 50 mile of fuel left in our tanks.
Total of 7 fighters made attack runs. The P-38s drove
off 3 Enemy Aircraft. Our gunners shot down 3 enemy aircraft.
- 1st Lieutenant Gary Tines, 316th BS/88th BG (V), "Vengeful Harlot", B17G-10-VE 43-8870
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