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|Monday, August 9, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 4:
Low ceilings prevailed so local flying did not begin until 0800 hours, activity was held to flying donuts and local formation flying. Warning orders for a mission was received by telephone from Third Wing requiring thirty-six aircraft of the 386th to rendezvous with the 322nd Bomb Group over North Foreland at 1800 hours. Briefing got underway at 1430 hours. Field Order 30 from Third Wing designated Z256 St. Omer-Fort Rouge Airdrome in France as the target. Each aircraft was loaded with eight 300 pound general purpose demolition bombs. M103 nose fuses would have a one-tenth second delay, while the M106 tail fuses were set for a forty-five second delay.
The following target description was prepared by First Lieutenant Arthur Jacobs. The target, an active airdrome located three and one quarter miles east-southeast of St. Omer. It is situated between a rather large woods and a railroad touching northeast corner of the field, with a canal running along the south boundary. Vital target points: north side and north dispersal area, thirty-four shelters looking like little hillocks, a refueling loop, and two water tanks. Also a repair hangar, work shops, small ammunition store, there is a headquarters and office buildings. South dispersal area: twenty-five shelters, water tank, living quarters, repair and storage sheds. South side of woods: bulk fuel store, hangar, main ammunition store, and barracks.
This airdrome like others near the coast is a vital link in the enemy chain of defense bases. It is the closest active base to English soil. It is important that it be neutralized! This field is reported to be well camouflaged. There are five single engine fighters based here, and enemy reaction is expected. A dummy airfield is located one and one-quarter mile south-southwest and may have some dummy aircraft on it. Another airdrome is some four miles to the west, and still another landing field two and one-half miles to the north.
Flak information was prepared by Lieutenant Gordon Hogg from S-2. Enemy land fall one mile east of Gravelines, seven miles west of heavy type flak defenses around the port of Dunkerque and Fort Mardick. The flak at Dunkerque is intense and accurate. At landfall be careful to stay clear of their range of fire. The route provides a nine mile clearance east of the heavy flak defenses around Calais. Light type flak can be expected at Gravelines, and along route to target. There are three known heavy gun sites in the target area. A six gun location 2900 yards east-northeast, another six gun location 2700 yards southwest, and a four gun emplacement two and one-half miles east. Heavy type flak at the target is expected to be moderate to considerable, and fairly accurate. Be aware of moderate to intense flak from a forest area just northeast of the airdrome. There are fourteen light gun positions surrounding the target so you can expect tracer flak of some intensity. No barrage balloons have been reported along the route or over the target.
Spitfires will be provided by 11 Group RAF for our Group and the 322nd. Fighters will be distributed as follows: close escort three squadrons, escort cover two squadrons, high cover two squadrons, and two squadrons of forward target support. Each of the Groups will have nine squadrons of Spitfires. Enemy strength within a sixty-five miles radius of the target is approximately 115 single engine fighter planes!
Route out from base to North Foreland where you will rendezvous with the 322nd Bomb Group, and your fighter escort, altitude will be 12,000 feet at 1800 hours. Enemy landfall one mile east of Gravelines, continue that heading to a point six miles west of Bergues and make a dog-leg right to a south heading, and on to the target with a bombing altitude of 11,000 feet. Axis of attack, north to south at 180 degrees. Route back make a 180 degree turn to the right off the target, and retrace your course back to Gravelines. Cross enemy coast out at 10,000 feet. Proceed to North Foreland letting down to 6,000 feet and on to base.
Diversion airdromes: Manston, radio call sign LOVEJOY. Bradwell Bay, call sign is MILER. Landing at another airdrome in England teletype or telephone airplane designation in code, and designation of base used in landing by using radio code letters from flimsy. Any aircraft in distress outside of England for any reason will fire a red flare. If rendezvous not made or contact with fighter escort not maintained, abandon the mission!
Communication information as follows: bomber to fighter on VHF Channel C. Bomber call sign WINDBAG, fighter call sign CROKAY. Ground Sector call sign PETRO. The Splasher Beacons operating are: 7D, 8E, 9F, and 10G from 091600B to 092000B. All bombardiers with cameras will turn them on just before releasing bombs, cameras will shut off automatically. Turn on or off IFF ( Identification Friend Or Foe ) and switching to emergency position if necessary will be done by pilot or navigator. VHF R/T must be kept to a minimum, and used only in an emergency. Just a reminder, if you are forced to land in enemy territory destroy entire plane if possible; if not, destroy secret documents and equipment. If taken prisoner, give only name rank and serial number, and nothing else! If landing in a neutral country destroy secret equipment as you will not be allowed to return to your plane.
Briefing ended at 1600 hours and flight crews were transported to their aircraft. Flak suits were delivered for pilots, bombardiers, and waist gunners. Any extras were issued to co-pilots of the last elements in the second box of aircraft. At 1630 hours Colonel Maitland started the engines of "TEXAS TARANTULA" 118284 RU-M, five minutes later he began to taxi to runway 16, turned right to the head of runway 4, and continued around the perimeter track to the active end of runway 34. Major Charles Lockhart and Captain Charles Thornton of the 552nd Squadron, leaders of the low flight and high flight respectively taxied their entourage to runway 16, turned right and went to the head of runway 4 where they caught up with the last ship in the lead flight.
Colonel Lester Maitland was into the air at 1649 hours, followed by the remainder of his lead box at the rate of one ship every thirty seconds. In the meantime second box leader Captain James Wilson in "MAN-O-WAR" 131619 YA-U was taxing down runway 10, and holding with the rest of his flock in trail at the intersection of runway 4. They watched as the last of the first box of ships cleared the runway. Then he started his take off run, all of his second box repeated the process. The last man was off at 1714 hours. Local weather at take off time was seven-tenths cumulus clouds with tops to 6,500 feet. Ceiling was between 3,000 to 3,500 feet with a visibility of four to six miles. All of the Groups thirty-eight planes formed up under the ceiling and gained mission altitude by the time they reached North Foreland, where they made rendezvous with the 322nd Group and the Spitfire escort.
The formation proceed out over the channel on schedule. A few miles out Lieutenant Danforths crew flying "HOT PISTOL" 131633 RG-P noted two ships, one of which was possibly a submarine. About mid-point across the channel cloud cover had reduced to three-tenths as crews began to test fire their fifty caliber machine guns. The ammo belts were made up of two armor-piercing ( black tip ), two incendiary ( blue tip ), and one tracer ( red tip ). A total of 1734 rounds of ammunition was expended during the test firing.
Light flak was encountered as the formation made enemy landfall. Flak increased in the vicinity of Bourbourgville about two miles west, it was accurate for altitude, and paralleling course but off to the right side. Clusters of four to six bursts were seen to come from Bergues near Guines, some four to five miles east as the formation turned on a dog-leg to the south. Cloud cover was increasing; as moderate accurate flak began bursting in clusters of twenty to thirty in the vicinity of Andruico. The formation was receiving heavy type flak from a woods just north of the airdrome at the rate of four to ten bursts at a time.
At 1811 hours Lieutenant Tucker slid his plane, "HELLS HURRICANE" 131634 YA-P out of its number seven position in the lead flight of the second box. Tail gunner Staff Sergeant Gordon Sampson was flying with Lieutenant Elling and crew in, "LORETTA YOUNG" 131634 YA-S, which was in number six position of the lead flight. He said that he heard flak explode and felt it hit his plane at the same time Lieutenant Tucker dropped out of formation. Flak was bursting in the center of the flight and struck four out of the seven planes. Lieutenant L.R. Crisman was the co-pilot on Lieutenant Klimovich Crew flying, "THE MAD RUSSIAN" 131600 YA-U, number three position of the low flight in the second box. He observed the Tucker aircraft just after seven to ten bursts came up. His plane fell off immediately, but seemed under control as a red flare was fired, then the bomb bay doors came open. The plane lost altitude gradually as four Spitfires followed it down. The pilot feathered his right engine seconds before the ship disappeared into the clouds below! Another witness stated one man had bailed out of the stricken bomber. It was believed the flak came from the vicinity of Andruico, France.
The first box was on a 180 degree bomb run heading of twenty-five seconds in duration on top of an overcast with tops to 8,500 feet. The target really was never in the sights. A right hand turn was executed and evasive action renewed, which was a factor in the inaccuracy of the heavy flak fire at 1815 hours. The second box followed the lead box over the target area but likewise did not release bombs due to heavy cloud cover-- the flak diminished south of the target airdrome.
The Group was on a homeward course six miles west of St. Omer when it encountered moderate heavy type flak which was accurate for altitude. If appeared to be fired in a barrage of six to eight bursts at a time out in front of the formation. Approximately fifteen miles off the French Coast all thirty-seven bombers jettisoned their loads because the target could not be pin pointed due to the weather conditions.
The Tucker Crew: First Lieutenants D.A. Tucker and P.E. Scharding, Second Lieutenant P.J. Kelly, Tech Sergeant J.P. Ryan, Staff Sergeants A.J. Cromwell, and B.T. Zukosky. The entire crew was listed as killed in action. Staff Sergeant Allen J. Crosswells body washed ashore on September 22, 1943 on the Dutch Coast near the village of Castrium, fifteen miles northwest of Amsterdam. After identification he was buried in the locale cemetery. After the war on August 15, 1946 he was reburied in the Margraten Cemetery. Information concerning the fate of Staff Sergeant Cromwell was furnished by Hans Nauta who lives in Holland.
The first aircraft returning touch down at 1851, last man landed 1924 hours. During interrogation several crews reported seeing Lieutenant Tuckers plane go down. Tech Sergeant Edward Pitts flying with Lieutenant Blackburns Crew in, "HELLS BELLE" 131623 YA-T saw the plane slide out under Captain Weiss who was flying a ship named, "INCENDIARY MARY" 131768 YA-O, in the number five position, second box said the downed aircraft appeared to be hit by the first three bursts of flak prior to the bomb run. Lieutenant La Framboise flying aircraft number 131607 AN-R in lead position of the low flight in second box, stated he saw the Tucker plane drop out of formation over England while climbing for altitude with a smoking engine. A bit later the plane regained its position and continued on. Over France he saw the plane peel off and drop rapidly at first as two red flares were observed. The plane turned right as if it had suddenly lost power. While apparently under control, it disappeared from Lieutenant La Framboises view in a sweeping turn to the right as four Spitfires followed him down.
Lieutenant Bud Lambert flying, "BLACK MAGIC" 131620 RG-R reported thirty to forty black bursts of flak in the target area which he determined as inaccurate. A variety of battle damage was reported: Captain Sands Flying,"MR. FIVE BY FIVE" 131612 YA-Z received two flak hits in the right auxiliary fuel tank, as a result could not transfer fuel. Aircraft, "LORETTA YOUNG" 131624 YA-S took a flak hit in the left auxiliary wing tank penetrating the bottom; a hole in left oil cooler shutter, a dent in upper right package gun, and a hole through right side bomb bay door. Also a hole through inboard side of right engine nacelle, a small cut in bottom of outboard main fuel tank, and a hole through air scoop, and right side ring cowling. "INCENDIARY MARY" 131768 YA-O received a flak hit in bottom of leading edge of left wing, which did not come out on top. One piece went through the trailing edge of wing, aft of the main fuel cell, and another through the right side air scoop and cowling. "THE DEACON" 131637 RG-B flown by Lieutenant Aultman received a hole in the leading edge of his left wing midway between the landing light and the pitot tube, caused by a spent cartridge case. Lieutenant Howard flying, "GAMBLERS LUCK" 131639 RG-G also had a cartridge case make a hole in his ship on the right top side of fuselage, just forward of where the wing and fuselage join. "HARD LUCK" 131610 AN-P flown by Lieutenant Howe had a flak hole in a propeller cuff and left engine. Colonel Maitlands crew reported five barges in Gravelines Canal, and took photos with a K-20 Camera from the waist gun position.
Most crews asked for alternate targets in the advent of cloud cover, such as today; why not bomb beach docks, canals etc., on way out?
Tuesday, August 10, 1943:
No flying this morning because of low ceilings. Colonel Caldwell from Third Bomb Wing called notifying this Group that we would definitely not be required today. The switchboard at Third Wing was out of commission from 1045 to 1500 hours. Local flying from 1300 to 1900 only due to poor weather. Colonel Anderson and another officer were at this base at 1500 hours investigating loss of aircraft 131634 YA-P, also known as "HELLS HURICANE". The plane was flown by Lieutenant D.A. Tucker on 386th Group Mission number 4, August 9, 1943.
Wednesday, August 11, 1943:
Flying delayed until 1145 hours because of low ceilings. All flying ended at 2100 hours. No other activity to report.
Thursday, August 12, 1943:
Flying began at 0730, weather was CAVU ( ceiling and visibility unlimited ). Flying ended at 1900 hours due to warning orders received for a 36 aircraft mission. Telephone code received at 2200 hours giving Zero Hour and rendezvous point over North Foreland. Mission was scrubbed at 1500 by telephone conversation with Colonel Caldwell. It was learned that Lieutenant Callahan from the 554th Squadron landed at another base where the crew remained over night. They got lost on return, and did not fly Q.D.M given from this station.
Friday, August 13, 1943:
Local flying began at 0730 hours, low ceilings prevailed throughout the entire day thus limiting flying and training to local flights only. All flying ended at 2000 hours.
Saturday, August 14, 1943:
Filed Order number 36 was received from Third Bomb Wing at 1218, and then was canceled by telephone at 1719 hours. Local flying only, beginning at 1300 to 1900 hours due to very low ceilings. No other activity to report.
Chester P. Klier