MISSION 86 - PLOESTI AARs
399th BS (LEAD)
LAURALEE II, Lead flight, Lead aircraft (Group Lead)
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with port waist heating system & tail turret inoperable, rubber rafts destroyed, numerous hits to wings and fuselage and 1 case of frostbite. Claims: 2 Me-109s by MSgt. Ross and 1 Me-109 by Capt. Pipes.
Takeoff and form up okay. Quiet (for our squadron at least) until we hit the Romanian border, then we came under heavy attack. Fortunately, they didn’t do much damage to us, other than knocking out the tail turret; Capt. Pipes and MSgt. Ross each claimed they got one.
The Mustangs of the 31st FG did a fine job protecting us, as we were not attacked again until we reached the target area. Lots of enemy a/c around--our fighters, their fighters. We took some minor damage; later we found out the life rafts had been shredded. Flak was heavy, but did not hit us, fortunately. Despite the heavy smoke (as S-2 reported, the Germans were using smoke pots to obscure the target) Capt. Pipes was able to hit the target accurately, which I am sure bodes well for the group’s effort.
More attacks by enemy fighters (and more flak) as we turned for home, with some twin engine 110s chasing us over Romania. Otherwise, thanks to the 38s in the 14th FG, the flight home was uneventful, and we returned safely to base. Sgt. Newlin lost the heat in his flight suit, and suffered from the cold; medical staff reports that he will return to duty after treatment for frostbite.
- Major Bill Hearn, Pilot, Lauralee II, CO 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
HARDBALL HEROES, Lead flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 5%. Returned with engine #1 and starboard elevator inoperable, structural damage to the both tail planes roots, superficial damage to the starboard wing, waist and tail compartments and 2 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Greenberg & Sgt. Rizzuto.
Started off just like our first mission, thought we were on our way to another "milk run." Didn’t see any enemy fighters till we entered Romanian air space. A pair of 190s approached us once in Romania, but were drive off by our P-51 escorts.
The flak approaching the bomb run got us pretty good towards the back of the ship. The first flak burst seriously wounded our tail gunner, Ken Keltner, knocking him out of action for the rest of the mission. The doctor told me he’d make it, but after a few days in the infirmary, he will be sent home to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We’ll miss him, he was a good guy. The same burst also hit the port and star tail plane roots, one each. The next flak burst took out the starboard elevator, and caused a light wound to port waist gunner, Elden Aucker. He’ll be ready for the next mission. The third flak burst took out engine #1 on the port wing. After that fiasco, it’s a wonder Bombardier Hugh Mulcahy was able to drop 5% of the bombs on target.
A 109 dove on us just as we cleared the second round of flak, causing superficial damage to the tail and starboard wing. We were approached by one wave of bogies while crossing through Romania (zone-7), but they were driven off by the defensive fire of the surrounding B-17s. The Bulgarian/Romanian border (zone-6) was clear of enemy fighters but we were attacked again over Yugoslavia (zone-5). Hank Greenberg damaged an ME-110 (FBO-2), and Phil Rizzuto damaged an ME-109 (FB-2).
Landing was uneventful. Hope the rest of the missions are more like our first, than this one. Ellis Kinder of Atkins, AR, will be replacing Ken Keltner on the tail gun.
- 1st Lt. Ted Williams, Pilot, Hardball Heroes, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
PASSIONATE WITCH, Lead flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%.
Returned with radio destroyed, damage
to the rudder, port wing outboard fuel tanks holed (self-sealed), superficial to
the starboard wing (2 hits), port flaps and ailerons (1 each), to
#1 engine and #2 engine cowling damaged, to the flight deck (2), radio room, and
tail compartments, and 2 casualties.
Our takeoff went without any issues and we formed up with the group. A short time later we met our escorts and they did an excellent job. No enemy fighters managed to get close until we were a 100 miles past the enemy coast.
Later a group of Me-109s made a run against us we managed to damage one coming in from 6 o’clock and damage another coming in from the side.
As we approached the target we encountered very heavy flak; the ship was stuck repeatedly in the wing and radio room killing TSgt. LaBombard. In addition the tail section was struck and Sgt. O’Shea was injured. All the flak caused our bombs to miss the target.
After leaving the target the enemy made a couple of ineffective runs and we were not able to damage them. Our little friends once again did a great job and we saw no more enemy attacks.
According to the flight surgeon Sgt. O’Shea should be able to return to duty in a short time.
- 2nd Lt. Ralph W. Knight, Pilot, Passionate Witch, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
LADY LIGHT, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%.
Returned with engine #4, the port aileron and
inoperable, structural damage to the port
wing root, superficial damage to the waist compartment and 1 casualty.
Claims: 1 Fw-190s apiece by SSgt. Boudin, SSgt. Washington & Sgt. Webley.
We hit Ploesti, but not designated target. Most damage inflicted by heavy enemy flak. Lt. Alexander (bombardier) suggests more time between bomber waves at same target to let some of the smoke clear for better bombing accuracy.
Sgt. Waltrip (Crew Chief) believes Lady Light will be ready to go for her next mission; engine four will be replaced.
- 1st Lt. Maurice Duncan, Pilot, Lady Light, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
AC#43-8964, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Made belly-landing with 3 casualties. Aircraft later declared classified as Category E, Beyond Economical Repair. Claims: 1 Fw-190 & 1 Me-110 by 2nd Lt. Cooper, 1 Fw-109 by SSgt. Grant and 1 Me-109 by Sgt. Flynn.
CROSSTOWN BUS, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%. Returned with engine #2 and radio inoperable, control cables damaged, structural damage to the starboard wing root, superficial damage throughout entire aircraft and 1 light casualty.
Take off and assembly of the group went as planned.
Near Romania we encountered our first enemy fighters, four FW-190s. Two were driven off by our P-51 escorts, but two did make it in close enough to fire at us. One closed in from about 10:30 level, but scored no hits. The other dove at us from 6 o’clock high raking the ship from tail-to-nose. It was during this run that the radio was destroyed. None of our gunners managed any hits on him. A P-51 pursued him driving him away from the formation.
Approaching the target, flak seemed to zero in on us. We received no critical hits until jut before we released our bombs. Engine #2 took severe damage and we had to feather it. Lt. Page, much to his credit still managed to hit the target with 30% of the load.
Leaving the target area, again flak zeroed in on us, and except for damage to the starboard wing root, the rest was non critical. With the release of the bomb load, we were able to keep up with the formation despite the loss of one engine.
About the same distance from the target we first engaged the enemy fighters going in, we had 3 Me-110s take runs at us. One was driven off by a Lightning in escort and two fired at us. Our tail gunner, Sgt. Lawrence scored some hits on the one at 6 o’clock. It was last seen heading east with an engine smoking. The second Me-110 came at us from 3 o’clock. We received some cannon shells in the waist area. The control cables were damaged slightly, but no casualties were noted. The rest of the return home was smooth.
Weather was clear at the base and no problems noted on landing. TSgt. Ingram reported to the infirmary. The wounds to his left hand were bandaged and he reported back for duty.
- 2nd Lt. George Fisher, Pilot, Crosstown Bus, 399th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
316th BS (MIDDLE)
VENGEFUL HARLOT, Third fight, Lead aircraft
Did not bomb target. Fell-out-formation after leaving target area and returned alone with the bomb bay door actuator, the rudder and the starboard cheek gun destroyed, the pilots’ window damaged, 8 holes of superficial nature (102 Peckham Damage Points) and no casualties. Claims: 2 Me-109s and 1 Me-110 by SSgt. Piano, 1 Me-109 shared by SSgt. Piano and Sgt. Syed, 1 Me-109 apiece by 1st Lt. Flynn & Sgt. Burmeister.
We were airborne by 0601 hours with a load of 3500 gallons of gasoline, 8 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 0635 hours.
There were light and uncoordinated attacks from the Luftwaffe this day. On rout to the target we encountered three waves of loose formations of Me-109s. Our little friends, the P-51s, drove over half the bandits from the area before they could attack. And our gunners did a great job at keeping the others from making unabated attacks. SSgt. Piano downed a Me-110 on the in bound leg.
Flak was heavy and extremely inaccurate. We took two major hits just before the IP that took out one gun and evidently jammed up our bomb bay doors. This made it impossible to release our load on the target.
Coming off the target the Harlot was greeted with more flak, but luckily it was light and low. With everyone else light due to leaving their bombs in Romania we had problems keeping up with the formation. As we left the target city the group also left us behind. We made the trip back out-of-formation. Luckily we had a few P-38s cross our path and escorted us till they had to chase off some bandits.
The trip home saw no less than 6 waves attack our plane with the Harlot taking significant damage. But our gunners were spot on destroying a further three planes and severely damaging seven more. With the P-38s chasing off three Me-109s benefited our return to base, we struggled home a bit late. Most of the attacks were to the tail section destroying the rudder and giving SSgt. Burmeister a scare. A 20mm exploding shell came straight through the rear window and bounced of the inner framework. In doing so it hit Burmeister four times. Thank God it never exploded and never penetrated Burmeister’s body. How he survived (1-Lucky Charm) we will never know.
Total of 15 fighters made attack runs. The P-51s & P-38s drove off six enemy aircraft. Our gunners shot down five enemy aircraft and damaged seven more enemy fighters.
- Captain Gary Tines, Pilot, B17G-10-VE 43-8870, Vengeful Harlot, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SATIN DOLL, Third fight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 40%. Returned with flak damage
to the port wing both fuel tanks holed (both self-sealed), port flaps and
ailerons holed, the #2 engine cowling damaged, the port elevator shredded, the
rudder holed, superficial damage both wings, to the waist compartment and to the
horizontal stabilizer and 2 light casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 by SSgt. R.
Rountree and 1 Me-110 by Sgt. T. Maust.
Another long run to Ploesti. Thanks to the tight formation and aggressive Little Friends we didn’t have any E/A get close until we neared the Yugoslav/Bulgarian border. A trio of Me-110s were forming up on us when two were dispatched by one of the Mustang Jockeys of the 31st FG. The third tried to slip in from 6 low, only to meet up with Sgt. Maust’s ball turret .50s. The hail of lead blew the port engine off and sent the Kraut spinning down out of control.
Nearing the Romanian border, 3 Me-109s came calling. Again, the 31st boys blasted 2 out of the sky. SSgt. Rountree plastered his 109 at 12 high with the top turret guns.
We didn’t have any more e/a come close until just before the target. Again a trio of 109s swept in, and again the 31st scratched 2 from the fray. SSgt. Rountree and Lt. Douglas fired the nose and top turret guns in the general area of the Kraut, with no effect. Fortunately the Jerry was just as bad, missed us, and got tangled up with one of the Mustangs for his troubles.
The Jerrys must have brought every flak gun they had and set them up ringing the target area. Heavy, accurate flak tore into the Doll. The port wing and tail took the worst of the damage. Holes appeared in both wing skins, the port aileron and flap were shot up. Number 2 engine cowling was partially removed and the inboard and outboard fuel tanks were holed. Thank Goodyear for those self-sealing tanks! Sgt. Mason called in that he had a minor wound in the right upper arm from a chunk of flak. The elevator controls felt a little heavier than normal and Sgt. Walker confirmed that the port elevator was completely shredded by the flak. Despite the bucking and bouncing, in the flak storm, Lt. Douglas managed to pick out the target through the smoke screen and put 40% of the load into the refinery. Sgt. Maust reported multiple secondary explosions. Hopefully we can scratch this one off the target list once and for all! The flak gunners threw a lighter barrage up at us rallying off the target. While light, they still found their marks, scoring multiple hits to the already battered port wing and tail area. More holes appeared in the port wing and flap, along with some new ones in the rudder. Sgt. Walker called in that a fragment had grazed his left shoulder. That makes the second time that flak gunners had gotten him.
As we cleared the flak cloud, 3 FW-190s made a break toward us. Thankfully, the Fork-Tailed Angels of the 14th FG swatted them from the sky before they could get too close.
The rest of the trip, although tiring, was uneventful for us and we got the Doll back on the ground without any more damage. Pops says that it’ll take a lot of overtime, but his boys would have the Satin Doll ready for the next mission. The Doc says that Sgts. Walker's and Mason's wounds were not serious and released them to return to duty.
- 1st Lt. William M. Patrick, Pilot, A/C 42-11806 Satin Doll, 316th BS 88th BG (H)
OLD YARD DOG, Third flight, Right aircraft
Group Spare, replaced St. Louis Belle. Bombed target, 0%. Returned with the rudder, port elevator, and starboard flaps inoperable, damage to the tail compartment oxygen system and to the starboard waist .50-cal MG, superficial damage (13 hits) throughout the aircraft and 4 casualties. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Forrest and TSgt. Hayden.
318th BS (HIGH)
ZEBRA'S REVENGE, Lead flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with the starboard waist MG destroyed, damage to the starboard engines, flaps & ailerons, superficial damage to the waist compartment (112 Peckham Damage Points), and 2 light casualty. Claims: 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nt Lt. Robins and TSgt. Clemons.
This mission was rough. 109s hit us on the inbound leg; got two but not before we took some hits on the starboard wing (flaps, ailerons, and engines).
Got hit by some major flak inbound that wounded both waist gunners and took out the starboard guns. Missed the target completely.
Jumped by some 190s on the return, got two.
- Major Mick Mikula, CO, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
AUSTIN NIGHTS, Lead flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with the port wing flaps & brakes inoperable, a damaged tail wheel, several superficial hits to the fuselage and 1 light casualty.
Fighter coverage was good and the few fighter that were able to make it thru on the way to the target missed on their attacks.
Flak was another story. It was heavy and we took damage to the tail wheel and port wing brakes. Lt. Knudsen also received and light wound to his left thigh. The bomb run was off target with 0% in target area. There was light flak on the way out, but we didn’t receive any damage.
On the way back to base we were attacked by three 109s. Two missed on
their attacks while the other knocked out the port wing flap and other
superficial fuselage hits.
The landing was a little rough, but safe.
- 1st Lt. Gary Hertel, Pilot, Austin Nights, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
JOLLIE ROGER, Lead flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 30%.
port main landing gear and the starboard wing flaps inoperable, a destroyed
radio, the port wing outboard fuel tank holed (self-sealed), damage to the tail
superficial hits to both wings, the port ailerons, the starboard flaps, the fuselage,
the waist compartment (92 Peckham Damage Points) and 1 light casualty.
Claims: 1 Fw-190 & 1 Me-109 by Lt. Olsen; 1 Fw-190 & 1 Me-110 by Sgt.
Fitzgerald; and 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Havens.
Take off was routine.
Started seeing enemy aircraft almost as soon as we left allied airspace. Fighter cover kept most of the attackers away and the ones that made runs on us caused no damage. We made it to the target zone untouched.
Over the target it seemed as if the entire Luftwaffe was in the sky. Five 190s made runs on us. Sgt. Havens in the tail got his 5th kill. One of the 190s put a good size hole in the port wing fuel tank. I swear I saw the wing start to burn, but all of the sudden the fire just what out. What a relief. Sgt. Havens was hit but the wound turned out to be pretty minor and did not keep him from his duties.
Flak on the way to the target was thick enough to walk on. Both wings were damaged with the port landing gear being put out of action and the starboard wing flaps knocked out. Flak also got the radio. Despite all the flak Lt. Olsen brought us in on target and we nailed that refinery. After our turn for home we saw some flak a ways off but none came close to us.
On the rest of the trip we had a lot of Jerrys make runs on us but all that resulted in was Lt. Olsen getting two more kills and Sgt. Fitzgerald getting his 4th and 5th.
Landing was rough with the landing gear out but other than some major dings on the wing we came down safely.
Crew chief says plane will be ready for the next mission, even though they may have to put a new wing on the plane.
- 1st Lt. Jeff Dodge, Pilot, Jollie Roger, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
GOLDEN GRIZZLY, Second flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%.
Crashed in Romania (zone-7) due to runaway
engine from Me-109 attack, crew bailed out over Romania;
“Mayday, Mayday . . . Runaway Engine . . . Bailing Out . . .”
- Last Message Received from 2nd Lieutenant Sorensen, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
HOWLING MAD, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 20%.
the intercom inoperable, the starboard waist gun damaged, damage to the control
cables, tail compartment oxygen system, starboard wing flap, starboard elevator,
rudder (1 hit), port wing (2 hits), 7 patchable holes in the fuselage and 2
casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 shared by Lt. Reid and Sgt. Stephens.
The 318th lifted off from Sterparone Field at 6:00 am and rendezvoused with the other squadrons. The 318th drew high squadron in the Group. The 88th climbed to 20,000 feet and met up with the 2nd and 97th Bomber groups over San Severo. The group took their assigned location in the Wing as the low Group. The 2nd Bomber Group was the lead group for today and led us north by northeast over the Adriatic toward Ploesti.
As the group crossed into Yugoslavia we began to encounter enemy fighters. At this time the other bombers in the group appeared to be taking the brunt of the attacks but were able to drive the enemy fighters off. Our aircraft had no direct enemy aircraft attacks against it until we were almost clear of Yugoslavia. But this is when the Germans really started to rally against the group and it seemed our aircraft was selectively targeted repeatedly. I’m not sure when it exactly happened as things were kinda crazy during this attack but Lieutenant Fisher was severely wounded in the chest. There was no visible damage to the rest of the cockpit so the shells must of come from the side or behind us. I tried to raise our navigator, Lieutenant Reid on the intercom for assistance but discovered the system was no longer functioning. From then on until we got to the target I was on my own in the cockpit. I found out later that Sergeant Stephens in the top turret was also slightly wounded in his arm in this attack but remained at his station.
The rest of the journey into Romania was a living hell. Even from my
enclosed location in the cockpit and with the intercom out, I could still
see that the sky was full of small fighter aircraft. Some friendly and some not. It felt like the entire German air force was attacking the Group today. Being out of contact with the rest of the crew made me feel isolated and alone. At least from my crew and fellow airman in the other 400+ bombers out there. I was sure every German fighter knew right where I was and was coming for me. After being initially wounded Keith would momentarily regain consciousness but the pain and blood loss eventually caused him to remain unconscious for the rest of the mission. All I could do was fight back my fear and do my job and trust the rest of the crew could do the same.
As we neared the target zone, our bombardier, Lieutenant Sanchez, who couldn’t raise the cockpit on the intercom asked Lieutenant Reid to ferry communications between him and the cockpit. Only at this time did someone else realize the situation in the cockpit. Lieutenant Reid moved to examine Keith in the left chair. He communicated to me that Keith was hit pretty bad, there was lots of blood, but he was still breathing but there was nothing we could do than dress the wound and stem the bleeding. At this time the flak bursts from the AA guns below started to appear all around us. I told Lieutenant Reid to tell Lieutenant Sanchez that I was giving him the plane for the bomb run. Later, as soon as I felt the plane lift slightly I knew the bomb load was gone and I retook control of the plane. The group banked away from the target but ran into some more flak coming out but it was sporadic and above us.
Our P-51 escorts had left us as we entered the flak cloud but as the wing
regrouped for the flight out, our secondary escorts in P-38s appeared. All
the way home they dove and attacked everything the Germans were bringing up.
As the intercom was still out I sent Lieutenant Reid to check on the rest of the
crew. He reported back that everyone was okay and manning their stations
but that Sergeant Stephens in the top turret had a slight arm wound. He
also reported that the starboard waist gun had jammed and hadn’t
been cleared yet
but that Sergeant Stone was working on it. He didn’t talk directly to Sergeant Arnold in the tail position but through the tail supports saw his head moving around as he scanned the sky behind us. I had Lieutenant Reid go and get our radio man, Sergeant Phillips and together they moved as gently as possible through the empty bomb bay Lieutenant Fisher to the radio compartment. At least there Sergeant Phillips could keep an eye on him. I moved to the left seat and told Lieutenant Reid to return to his station to man his guns for now, but once we cleared enemy air space to come back and assist me with the landing. We weren’t out of the woods yet. The rest of the flight home was full of tension as I continued to fly the plane alone. Lieutenant Reid would pop his head up now and then through the hatchway and when I saw him I would give him a thumbs up.
Once we were back over the Adriatic, the group began their descent below 10,000 feet. Lieutenant Reid reappeared and I told him to again check on the crew and let them know they could come off oxygen. He made the rounds and reported back that there were no more casualties and that Lieutenant Fisher was still hanging on. As we continued to descent I had Lieutenant Stone get Sergeant Stephens out of the top turret so he could also assist in the landing calling out my altitude. Sergeant Phillips came up from the radio room to inform me that since our ship to ship radio was still functional, he had contacted Lodestar One and requested priority landing due to Lieutenant Fisher’s condition and it was granted. As I peeled away for my approach I had Lieutenant Reid fire off out the cockpit window a red flare signaling we needed medical attention at the hard stand and began my approach. With Lieutenant Reid and Sergeant Stephens assistance our landing went off without a hitch. Lieutenant Fisher was removed from the plane by medics and taken to the base hospital. I gathered the crew around and told them what happened, told them they had performed admirably in view of our circumstances and then told them finish securing their guns and gear and then report to debriefing where I would catch up with them. I immediately hopped upon the jeep sent to pick me up and told the driver to high-tail it to the hospital.
At the hospital I was told that Lieutenant Fisher’s condition was grave due to loss of blood and that it was a miracle that he was still alive. I was informed that it would be touch and go but divine providence willing, he would be going home after some extended hospital time. Thankful for the news, I returned to the jeep and driver and had him take me to the debriefing hut where I informed the crew of Lieutenant Fisher’s condition and prognosis and then gave my story to the Major sitting across from me.
I learned after the debriefing that our escorts both coming and going really kept the Germans off us. My crew had nothing but good words for the fighter jocks. I also learned afterwards that Sergeant Stephens and Lieutenant Reid are claiming kills on a 190 during the return flight home just before we got to Bulgaria. I hope they get credit for it.
After inspection of the aircraft, our ground crew chief, Sergeant Brown reports in addition to the starboard gun and intercom, damage to the control cables in tail section, oxygen system the tail section, starboard wing flap, starboard elevator, rudder, port wing as well as seven more patchable holes in the fuselage. When I inquired when she’ll be ready for flight status again, he replied, “After a long night's work with little sleep, Lieutenant.” I grinned and said, “Sergeant, do me a favor, make it after TWO long nights work.”
- 2nd Lt. John Davis, Co-Pilot, Howling Mad, 318th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
316th BS (HIGH)
GINGER SNAP, Third flight, Lead aircraft
Did not bomb target. Aborted zone-4. Returned with the Norden bombsight destroyed, the intercom system inoperable and superficial damage to both wings, to the nose, cockpit, bomb bay, waist and tail compartment and no casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by SSgt. Sikorsky and 1 Me-109 by TSgt. Clellan.
German single engine fighters attacked us as soon as we entered Yugoslavian airspace. Fighter escort was nowhere to be seen.
Our gunners were able to drive off the first wave of attacking FW-190s but the four Me-109s which followed knocked out the intercom system and destroyed the Norden bombsight.
When informed by the bombardier of the destruction of the bombsight I elected to abort the mission. As we left the formation two more Me-109s made ineffective firing passes at us. The return flight to base was uneventful from this point on.
Staff Sergeant Sikorsky and Tech. Sergeant Clellan each claimed an enemy fighter during the air to air combat.
- Captain Snakenburg, Pilot, Ginger Snap, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SLEDGEHAMMER, Third flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Lost #4 engine (zone-6 inbound) and fell out-of-formation and continued alone. Returned alone with the #4 engine feathered, the radio destroyed, structural damage to the starboard wing, superficial damage to both wings, the radio room, tail plane, and no casualties. Claims: 1 Fw-190 & 1 Bf-110 by SSgt. Mills, 1 Fw-190 & 1 Bf-109 by 2nd Lt. Tanner, and 1 Bf-110 by Sgt. Ledford, 1 Fw-190 shared by SSgt. Mills and Sgt. Ledford.
Mission #86 started off smoothly, as we were happy to see quite a few "little friends" assisting us. There was heavy opposition starting in around the Bulgarian/Romanian border (zone-6), when some FW-190s punched through the escorts and hit the starboard wing with cannon fire, knocking out the radio and the #4 engine (again. . . same engine which was lost in Mission 84). Sadly, this time the engine was hit before the target, but Lt. Mundell decided to press on to the target, despite the misgivings of the crew. With the prop feathered, we were able to travel slowly and out-of-formation to the target, and we could see smoke rising already at the target.
The heavy flak, alerted by the main group of aircraft, bracketed Sledgehammer as we approached, causing more damage to the starboard wing. Bomb results were poor, by our estimate.
The flak missed our exit, but swarms of enemy fighters appeared and continued to pepper our aircraft with cannon and MG fire. Despite a multitude of hits on both wings, the radio room, the tail plane, and the pilot compartment, no casualties were taken by the crew. Some amazing return gunnery (probably motivated by the knowledge we were out-of-formation and vulnerable) resulted in no less than 6 enemy aircraft destroyed and 4 damaged.
Despite the damage and poor weather, the landing was perfect.
- 2nd Lt. Mike Mundell, Pilot, Sledgehammer, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
MINNESOTA MINX, Third flight, Right aircraft
Did not bomb target. Aborted over Yugoslavia (zone-5 inbound) and returned home alone. Landed with damage to the tail compartment oxygen system, superficial damage from the nose-to-the-tail, and 3 casualties. Claims: 2 Fw-190s Sgt. Jones and 1 Fw-190 by 2nd Lt. Mulwhinny.
I’m not used to writing this report so it’s a bit rough. Take off, forming up and heading out to the target were carried out with no difficulty.
Once we had crossed the Adriatic we started to pick up chatter about enemy fighters. It was not until we were well within Yugoslavia that we first attracted enemy fighters. Fortunately for us they picked a bad time to attack and two of them got picked off by our escorts before they could get in range. The bad news was that the third one just kept coming. None of our fire seemed to make any difference and the FW stitched a line of cannon shells along the length of the fuselage, killing Will the bombardier and skipper in the one pass. We nailed him with the tail guns as he went by but by then it was too late. The front end of the Minx was a mess and we decided to abort at that stage and turned for home dumping our bomb load.
Some 110s took some interest in us but were chased away by our little friends. We then got picked up by a couple of Fw-190s and an Me-109. In the subsequent fight we managed to damage one of the FWs with the ball turret guns but apart from that our fire was ineffective. In reply Art, our navigator, was creased and damage was taken to the oxygen supply in the tail. Just as we thought we were safe we ran into three more FWs and another 109, most probably the same jerk we had tangled with earlier. There was a prolonged battle as the fighters made repeated passes. Art shot one FW down but was subsequently wounded again and incapacitated and the tail guns got another FW.
After that we did not see any more fighters and landed. We lost three of the crew as Art is going back to the states. The whole crew is pretty shaken up this being only our second mission and losing the skipper and 75% of the officers.
- 2nd Lt. Jeff Dunlop, Co-Pilot, Minnesota Minx, 316th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
317th BS (LOW)
AC#43-8941, First flight, Lead aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with the tail wheel damaged, the starboard wing inboard fuel tank holed (self-sealed), structural damage to the starboard wing root (2 hits), superficial damage to fuselage (4 hits), the starboard wing (1 hit), the pilots’ compartment (1 hit), bomb bay (1 hit), waist (3 hits), nose (1 hit) compartments and 2 casualties. Claims: 2 Me-109s & 2 Me-110s by Sgt. Tanaka, 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Yamamoto and Sgt. Nakayama.
Thirty (30) miles north of Nis (zone-5) one (1) ME-109 fighter attacked the bomber from 6 o’clock high. The tail gun manned by Sgt. Tanaka shoot down the fighter before it was able to attack.
Crossing the Yugoslav/Romanian border (zone-6) two (2) waves of fighters attacked the bomber. The first wave consisted of three (3) FW-190s that all came in high from head-on. Fighter cover by the 31st Fighter Group was able to chase away the fighter from 10:30 high. A second fighter came in from 12 o’clock high was heavily damaged by the top gunner manned by SSgt. Furutani which caused it to miss the bomber and not return. The last one came in from 1:30 high missed the bomber and didn’t return. The second wave was a lone FW-190 that came in from 12 o’clock high but it was chased away by fighters of the 31st Fighter Group before it was able to attack the bomber.
About 50 miles southwest of the target (zone-7) two (2) waves of fighters attacked the bomber. The first wave consisted of one (1) FW-190 and two (2) ME-109s. One ME-109 came in from 3 o’clock level was shot down by Sgt. Nakayama before it was able to attack the bomber. The others came in from 1:30 level and 12 o’clock high missed the bomber and didn’t return. The second wave consisted of two (2) FW-190s, one ME-109 and one ME-110. One of the FW-190 came in from 12 o’clock high was heavily damaged by the top turret manned by SSgt. Furutani which missed the bomber and it didn’t return. The ME-110 came in from 6 o’clock low was shot down by the tail gunner Sgt. Tanaka before it attacked. The remaining fighters came in from 12 o’clock low and 1:30 level missed the bomber and didn’t return. The second wave consisted of three (3) FW-190s. Two FWs came in from 3 o’clock high and level; one was damaged by the top turret manned by SSgt. Furutani causing it to miss the bomber and not to return and the other missed altogether. The third one came in from 12 o’clock high hit the bomber three (3) times: once in the nose, waist and fuselage. The hit to the fuselage was superficial but in the waist compartment Sgt. Nakayama seriously wounded and in the nose compartment navigator 2nd Lt. Yoneda was killed. The fighter was able to turn around and attack the bomber from 3 o’clock high but it was damaged by the top gunner SSgt. Furutani causing it to miss and not return.
Over the target (zone-8) one (1) wave of fighters was spotted at 12 o’clock level but were chased off before they were able to attack. Flak was heavy and we took six (6) hits to the (2) starboard Wing, (2) waist, and (2) tail. One hit to the wing was superficial while the other hit the inboard tank. It was able to self-seal before we lost measurable amount of fuel. Both hits to the waist were superficial. The tail wheel was damaged by both hits. Because of the hits to the plane and the smoke over target we were not able to get any of our bomb load on target.
Leaving Ploesti (zone-8) one (1) wave of ME-110s came in low from 10:30 and 12 o’clock to attack the bomber. One was chased away by fighters from the 14th Fighter Group. The other one from 12 o’clock hit the plane three (3) times in the bomb bay, fuselage, and pilots’ compartment. The hits to both the pilots’ compartment and bomb bay caused superficial damage. The fighter was able to return and attacked at 10:30 level but fighters from the 14th Fighter group was able to chase the fighter away before it was able to attack again.
Midway through Romania (zone-7) two (2) waves of fighters attacked the bomber, the first wave coming in were three (3) ME-110s. One coming in from 6 o’clock low was shot down by the tail gunner Sgt. Tanaka. Another one coming in from 12 o’clock low as heavily damaged by 2nd Lt. Yamamoto which caused it to miss the plane and not to return. The last one coming in from 10:30 level missed the plane and didn’t return. The second wave consisted of three (3) FW-190s all came in high from 10:30, 12 high and 1:30 high: all missed the plane and didn’t return.
Just before the Romanian/Yugoslav border (zone-6) a lone ME-109 came in to attack the bomber coming in from 6 o’clock high and it was destroyed by Sgt. Tanaka before it was able to attack.
North of Nis (zone-5) one (1) wave of fighters attacked the bomber: four (4) FW-190s. The fighters came in from 3 o’clock low and 9 o’clock high were chased away by fighters from the 14th Fighter Group. One attacked from 12 o’clock level was heavily damaged by 2nd Lt. Yamamoto causing it to miss the plane and not return. The last one came in from 1:30 level missed the bomber and didn’t return.
Midway through Yugoslavia (zone-4) two (2) waves of fighters attacked the bomber. The first consisting of bogies came in from 6 o’clock level and was chased away by a combination of fighters from the 14th Fighter Group and fire from the bomber formation. The second wave consisted of three (3) ME-109s. One came in from 1:30 level missed the bomber and didn’t return. The second one came in from 12 o’clock high and hit the plane once in the fuselage causing minor damage. The final one came in from 3 o’clock level hit the plane three (3) times: twice (2) in the starboard wing, and once in fuselage. The damage to the fuselage was minor, but the wing root was hit twice. The planes were able to return. One came in from 3 o’clock level was hit by the ball gunner, Sgt. Nagagiri, causing minor damage to the fighter causing it to miss. The other one came in from 12 o’clock high and was shot down by 2nd Lt. Yamamoto before it was able to attack the bomber.
Southeast of Mostar (zone-3) bogies were spotted coming in from 12 o’clock ahead but didn't attack the bomber.
- 1st Lt. Harry Honda, Pilot, AC# 43-8941, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
THE BRAZEN HUSSEY, First flight, Left aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Returned with bomb controls and the starboard elevator inoperable, the starboard wing inboard fuel tank holes (self-sealed), structural damage to the port wing root, superficial damage to both wings, the fuselage, nose, bomb bay and waist compartments, 2 casualties and 1 case of frostbite. Claims: 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Lynn.
BROWN SUGAR, First flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Shot down by flak 3 miles SW of Ploesti after taking direct flak hit to the starboard wing; 6 KIA and 4 POW. Claims: 6 Me-109s, 5 Me-110s & 1 FW-190.
We took off and got into formation; our plane was behind the Brown Sugar. Over Yugoslavia, (zones-4 and 5) "little friends" drove off the attacks of enemy fighters. Until the target area (zone-8) we had suffered many, many attacks from enemy fighters. The crew of Brown Sugar killed a good numbers of fighters.
On target the flak was very heavy and impressive. A burst hit the Brown Sugar on starboard wing and the plane lost the control going down. We all cried desperately on the radio: “Bail out! Bail out!” . . . one guy came out the plane, two . . . three . . . four parachutes opened . . . then the end. I lost sight of the Brown Sugar and four crewmen survived . . . I hope they had a good safe landing in enemy territory.
- Debriefing report of 2nd Lt. Jeff Downey, Co-Pilot, The Zoo Gang, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
SALLY WRAITH, Second flight, Lead aircraft
Did not bomb target. Shot down by fighters 20 miles NE of Craiova (zone-7) after the port wing inboard fuel tank caught fire; 2 KIA and 8 POWs.
From interceptions of radio traffic and upon witness statements taken of those that returned from the above mission what follows seems to be a true and accurate report of what happened to a fine plane and crew during the above mission.
Two previous waves of fighters had been seen to make attacks upon Sally and her crew and combined with the attack over Romania (zone-7) had caused what appeared to be the following: 3 superficial damage hits in no one general area; the port wing root was seen to take damage; of concern was the missing starboard wing flap but at the time it wasn’t causing any problems to Mrs. Sally staying in formation. Within the plane only the ball gunner was hurt at this time. Then an FW-190 got on the tail of Mrs. Sally and in a blink of an eye the tail gun was inoperable; (the tail gunner was wounded and then the port wing catches fire and as everyone exits the airplane the two best friends attempt to save each other but can’t and in the end go down with the plane) and eight (8 of 10) are seen under their parachutes preparing to land in Romania and with nothing to look forward to the POW camp.
- Missing Aircraft Report submitted by the 88th Bomb Group Intelligence Officer, Major James Jefferson
THE ZOO GANG, Second flight, Right aircraft
Bombed target, 0%. Dropped out-of-formation during bomb run. Returned alone with #1 & #2 engines, tail compartment oxygen system, top turret, bomb controls, starboard flaps inoperable, the starboard waist MG destroyed, damage to the ball turret oxygen system, to the starboard ailerons, structural damage to the starboard wing root, tail plane, rudder, numerous superficial damage throughout the aircraft (322 Peckham Damage Points) and 6 casualties. Aircraft declared as Category ‘E’ beyond economical repair. Claims: 1 Fw-190 & 1 Me-109 apiece by 2nd Lt. Anderson & Sgt. Jackson; 1 Fw-190 by Sgt. Bedford and 1 Me-109 by TSgt. Rhoades.
Well . . . after our first mission where nothing happened . . . this mission has been a total shock to my crew and me. I mean . . . I can’t believe any of us made it back. We had so many holes in the ’Gang . . . parts hanging off . . . stuff missing. But some of us did make it . . . but four of us didn’t.
Anyway . . . it started out pretty easy. Didn’t see any Jerrys until we were about halfway out. We shot the heck out of a couple of them . . . although they did return some fire. One of them hit the #1 engine which sputtered for a bit but then smoothed out. About the time we were nearing the target a 190 stitched us pretty good. Knocked the top turret out of action and seriously wounded Schultzie. It also hit Rocky in the radio booth . . . and it knocked out our starboard waist gun. Just shot it right out of the hands of Neil . . . but didn't so much as scratch him. Then a 190 showed up . . . knocked out the bomb controls . . . but Dave Jackson knocked another 190 right out of the air . . . followed up by Ricky blowing up another 190.
As we entered the target zone our Bombardier downed a 109 while Salty damaged another plane. Meanwhile we are taking some hits from those Krauts but Dave Jackson downed his second fighter . . . a 109 this time. About then the flak started knocking hell out of the formation . . . but I think we only got hit twice. Unfortunately, the tail oxygen system got knocked out and we had no choice but to drop out of formation and take the ’Gang downstairs. Actually we thought this might help our bomb run since we had to drop the iron manually . . . but it didn’t and I think we missed everything. During all this Dave Jackson was hit bad and Neil swapped places with him so he had a gun to shoot.
We turned around all by ourselves and then things really started going to hell. Although we shot down and damaged some more Jerrys . . . probably because they were all over us seeing as how we were alone . . . the damage and casualties just kept piling up. I really wondered if the ’Gang was even going to make it . . . much less worrying about my guys who were fighting their butts off. But even though we were still flying . . . it was about now that we started losing guys. Some of them just bought it . . . others were wounded . . . wounded again . . . and finally we lost them.
I don’t know. I guess you guys can look at the ’Gang herself and the damage report. About 85-90% of that damage was on the way home.
I do want to ask a question though. How do I go about putting in requests for medals? I just need to know because I think our Radio Operator Rocky Rhoades deserves one that we can give to his wife. I mean he was shot up early on. He said it was nothing . . . but when the crap hit the fan and he volunteered to take over on the cheek guns when our nav got killed. Well . . . he wasn’t just hit a little bit . . . but he basically had put a tourniquet on his own left arm because half his hand was missing. Not only that . . . before he took over up in the nose . . . he had shot down a 109 from the radio shack. With one hand! Then once he was up there he got hit again . . . didn’t say a whole lot about it . . . and proceeded to shot the crap out of a 190. Finally the nose got shot up again and Rocky finally bought it. I don’t know . . . maybe a lot of guys do stuff like that. I just think he deserve a medal or something.
- 2nd Lt. Kenny Cavall , Pilot, The Zoo Gang, 317th Bomb Squadron, 88th Bomb Group (H)
DAKOTA QUEEN, Second flight, Left aircraft (Tail-End Charlie)
Bombed target, 5%. Aircraft shot down by enemy aircraft after bombing target; 3 KIA and 7 POWs. Claims: 3 Me-109s & 2 Me-110s.
Aircraft #43-8590, known as Dakota Queen, dropped out-of-formation shortly after crossing the Romanian border due to #1 engine failure suffered from combat with enemy aircraft. Due to the importance of the mission, and the fact that the engine failure was the only damage the craft had suffered, Lt. Murphy decided to continue the mission alone. Few details are available about what transpired between the Dakota Queen’s drop out-of-formation and her demise. However, fighter pilots of the 31st Fighter Group report Dakota Queen reaching the target area and releasing her bombs. Near Damanesti, Romania she took a hit to the outboard starboard fuel tank and was seen in flames. Seven parachutes were seen and the Red Cross has confirmed that 2nd Lt. Steve Murphy, 2nd Lt. John Rafferty, 2nd Lt. Fred Hagman, SSgt James Crisp, TSgt. R.J. Bullis, Sgt. Jack Stivetts, and Sgt. George Cotton are prisoners of war in Germany.
- Missing Aircraft Report submitted by the 88th Bomb Group Intelligence Officer, Major James Jefferson
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