<< back >>
|Sunday, August 15, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 5:
Per instructions contained in Third Bomb Wing F.O. Number 36, Captain Hankey briefed the thirty-eight flight crews present. The target was ZH1011, an airdrome located near Woensdrecht, Holland. Zero Hour will be 1020 hours. The 387th Bomb Group will be hitting the airdrome at St. Omer.
The RAF will provide ten squadrons of Spitfires on this mission. Four squadrons of close escort, two squadrons each for escort cover, high cover, and two more squadrons will be doing forward target support assignments. The route out from base to Clacton-On-Sea where we rendezvous with escort at 12,000 feet at Zero Hour. Then out over the North Sea to 51 Degrees 40 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 33 Minutes East to target. Bombing altitude to be 11,000 feet on a heading of 105 degrees. The route back, right turn off target and fly to Goes, cross enemy coast at 10,000 feet. Then out to 51 Degrees 40 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 33 Minutes East and letting down to 6,000 feet on way to Clacton-On-Sea, and on back to base. Auxiliary airdromes are Martlesham and Wattisham.
We will put up thirty-six aircraft plus two extras. Colonel Maitland will lead the first box and Major Beaty will head up the second box. All planes are loaded with eight 300 pound general purpose M31 bombs with M103 nose fuses set for one-tenth second delay, while M106 tail fuses will have a forty-five second delay. Bombs not dropped will be returned or jettisoned at the discretion of the formation leader.
Enemy fighter opposition can be expected, sixty single engine ships are based in the immediate vicinity of the target. Any airplane in distress will fire a red flare. The only known flak defense is a six gun heavy position one and one-quarter miles from the target airdrome, and also another possible heavy gun position one and three-quarter miles south of the target. Most recent flak experience here was by our Group on July 30th.
Weather Station Officer, First Lieutenant Arthur W. Anderson had this to say: At take off you will have a two-tenths fair weather cumulus, base 3,000 feet, tops to 5,000 feet. Visibility is fifteen miles. The route out; two to three-tenths building to fair weather cumulus to the English Coast. No low clouds over channel, but two to three-tenths cirrus and visibility unlimited. The target area is expected to have seven to eight-tenths towering cumulus with bases estimated 3,000 feet and tops to 12,000 feet, visibility will be unlimited. On return, no low clouds over channel, but building cumulus from English Coast inland increasing from six to seven-tenths, visibility excellent. At base, seven to eight-tenths of building cumulus with a base of 3,000 and tops to 5,000 feet, visibility unlimited. The high tide will be at 0127 hours and low tide at 0754 hours, with a change of 13.3 feet
Communications procedure as follows: All box leaders, deputy lead, and flight leaders will carry a radio operator who will maintain constant listening watch on Wing Ops frequency during entire mission. Group leaders and deputy leaders radio operators will keep transmitter tuned to Wing Ops frequency, all others will tune transmitter to MF/DF Section assigned, their receivers will be set on MF/DF assigned. Tuning on and off IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) and switching to emergency position if necessary will be done by the pilot or navigator. Pilots will use Wing Ops W/T Channel for two-way communications and reports as directed in Third Wing Bombing Instructions 100-11. All planes equipped with VHF Channel will monitor VHF and Command at all times. VHF bomber to fighter Channel C. Bomber call sign, WINDBAG. Fighter call sign, Crokay and Ground Sector call sign, PETRO. Splasher Beacons in use today: 3A, 4B, 5C, 6D, 7E, 8F, 9G, and 10H to 2000 hours. Crews left the briefing room and piled into trucks which took them out to their aircraft.
The formation leader took off at 0910 hours as the remaining thirty-seven aircraft followed in close order; twice around the base area and then climbing on course to the first check point. The Group arrived at rendezvous one minute ahead of time, however the escort was close by - the formation moved out over the North Sea. During climb out about 7,000 feet, Lieutenant Haber flying, "ELMER" 131577 AN-Y had a spark plug blow out of his right side engine! With the engine acting up he flew out over the water where his bombardier jettisoned their bomb load. Lieutenant Mullen flying as an extra pilot in, "BOOMERANG" 131631 RU-G filled in the vacancy in number four position, high flight, first box. No other plane had to abort so Lieutenant Paul Bartolain also flying as an extra with, "MISS MURIEL" 134948 YA-K returned to base.
All ships had completed test firing, letting loose some 2330 rounds of ammo. A bit later Flight Officer Glenn Johnson co-pilot on the Lieutenant Romney Spencer crew flying a plane called, "MARGIE" 134970 RG-L had right side engine problem. The author flying right next to them with the Lieutenant Donald Vincent crew in 134987 RG-K saw black streaks of smoke puff out of the exhaust pipes from time to time. I called our co-pilot Flight Officer Robert Gragg on intercom to record the situation as greasy black smoke increased in volume, really billowing out in a long black plume! Then the plane fell back from its position in the formation. We were to learn later they were pulling fifty inches of mercury and running between 2400 to 2500 r.p.m., but could not maintain formation. The engine was using fuel at an enormous rate! It appeared to me that the engine was about to burst into flame at any second. A few minutes later they were able to pull back into formation in their number six spot in the low flight, second box of eighteen. The engine smoke had subsided for the most part, but still was leaving a couple of thin black streaks in the sky.
Lieutenant S.R. Lovells tail gunner Sergeant C.J. Adams flying in, "BOMB BOOGIE" 131587 AN-W noted the time as 1030 hours about ten miles off the Dutch Coast. Tech Sergeant Clayton Burdick flying with Major F.W. Harris in ship, "RAT POISON" 131606 AN-S also made note of the incident. A piece of cowling came floating down as the bombers flew on. The Spencer crew saw it along with Major Sherm Beatys crew, they believed it fell off one of the Spitfires escorting them. A negligible amount of inaccurate heavy type flak came up from Tolen Island thirteen miles northwest of the target. All ships in positions number one, two, three, and four of each flight carried the Norden Bomb Sight on this particular mission.
The formation leader was instructed to abandon the mission because of weather at 1047 hours, just before the bomb run was to begin. They made a left turn to pick up their return course. Three to four bursts of black flak was observed at 1050 hours, approximate altitude 10,500 feet, low and to the left. Colonel Maitlands crew took photos of some thirty-five ships around Walcheren Island. Lieutenant L.R. Meyers crew noted about thirty ships assembling east of the island. A small amount of heavy type flak came up from the northern tip of Walcheren Island. Approximately twenty small vessels were dispersed in the inlets around Noord Beveland Island, and did not go undetected by the vigilant air crews!
The returning planes began to jettison their bomb loads into the North Sea. One ship, "MARGIE" would not release her bombs in the normal fashion, so the Spencer crew pulled the emergency air bottle release to get rid of them as they neared the English Coast. Lieutenant J.A. Wendt flying in, "PANSY YOKUM" 131638 RG-N recorded seeing two convoys a few miles off the coast of England, one had twenty-five ships, the other had thirty-five in their flotilla at 1106 hours.
The first man landed at 1119 and the last man was down at 1153 hours. During interrogation Major Lockharts crew stated the lead box was too far ahead, at least ten miles, this spread the fighter cover too thin! The 386th had put up twenty-eight Martin B-26B aircraft and eight Martin B-26C Models, all abortive due to the weather!
Monday, August 16, 1943:
We had a very nerve wracking time at 0015 hours - we could hear the bombs whistling as they fell through the cool morning air! The Jerries were bombing us, one bomb hit outside Site Number Four demolishing the latrine and damaging half dozen more huts. Lieutenant Fisher from the 76th Service Squadron was killed! Several men were badly struck by bomb shrapnel, some were only slightly wounded. Another bomb fell close to the civilian huts, several persons being wounded, some seriously. Two of our bombers were slightly damaged by the bomb fragments.
After a bit the engine sounds of the German planes began to fade out. The author and a small gathering of men who were peering into the night sky, overheard the following: One man said, "Well I guess they are going away - the engines sound fainter." After a few seconds a slow drawling voice from the rear broke the silence with, " Ah reckon not, sounds ta me like theys goin up higher sos they kin drop em harder!"
Chester P. Klier