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|Thursday, September 2, 1943 - 386th Bomb GROUP Mission Number 11:
A mission was scheduled for 0800 rendezvous; then changed to 0830 hours, and finally rescheduled to mid afternoon. Because of the weather situation only local formation training flights were being conducted during the interim.
Captain Hankey started briefing crews at 1500 hours as per Third Bomb Wing Field Order 66. Our primary target was identified as Z301 A and B, which is the Mazingarbe Power Plant and Chemical Plant located in France. We have a secondary target today known as Z256, the airdrome at St. Omer---lets hope we can hit the primary! The 322nd and 323rd Bomb Groups will be bombing the Hesdin Supply Dump south of us. The 387th Bomb Group will go after the airdrome at Lille-Nord, France which is located east of our target.
The route out is from base to Dungeness where we rendezvous at 12,000 feet with 11 Group RAF Spitfires at Zero Hour plus twenty-four minutes. Enemy landfall will be at Le Touquet, France and on to the I.P. at Dieval, about ten miles southwest of the target; at that point make a left turn onto the bomb run at 11,000 feet. Then a left turn off target to Gravelines, exit enemy coast at 9,000 feet, cross channel to North Foreland at 6,000 feet, and back to base. Diversion airdromes are located at Manston and West Malling.
Our aiming points will be the power plant and chemical plant. Axis of attack is generally southwest to northeast. Major Ramsey will lead the first box of eighteen, each ship is loaded with three 1,000 pound bombs with one-tenth second delay nose and tail fuses. Major Lockhart will lead the second box of eighteen, each plane is loaded with eighteen 100 pound M47A1 Type Incendiaries. There will be two extra planes from the 554th Bomb Squadron, and two others from the 553rd Squadron. If none of the scheduled ships abort after test firing, extra planes are to salvo loads into the channel and return to base.
The flak situation is as follows: You can expect weak and inaccurate light and heavy type at enemy landfall. There is a heavy type four gun position one and one-half miles north of target. A heavy type four gun position three miles southeast of Hardelot. Also a heavy type six gun position just one mile southeast of that town. You can expect to have enemy fighter reaction, a new group of fighter bombers have moved into the Lille area. There are thirty single engine fighters in the Brussels area. Recently the 322nd Bomb Group encountered a frenzied fighter attack in our target region. Up to twenty FW-190 and Me-109 interceptors pressed their attacks within fifty yards of the bombers on that occasion!
The weather at take off will be eight-tenths cirrus above 20,000 feet all the way from base to the English Coast. You will have four-tenths low cumulus, base of 2,000 with tops to 6,000 feet, visibility six to eight miles. There is five to six-tenths cumulus over the channel, six to eight-tenths over French Coast and breaking up ten miles inland with a visibility of four miles in haze. The target area has eight-tenths cirrus above 20,000 feet, one to two-tenths cumulus and a visibility of eight to ten miles. The temperature at your altitude is minus four degrees Centigrade, wind from 247 degrees at 35 m.p.h. The route back should remain the same. Briefing ended at 1620 hours.
The first box of aircraft started engines at 1655 and began to taxi out five minutes later. Formation leader Major Ramsey received a green light from the control tower at 1714 hours. Lieutenant Duane Petit scheduled as an extra in, "LITLJO" 131622 RU-D did not take off because of technical problem. The last ship took off at 1736 hours. The standard thirty-six ship formation plus three extras were circling over base at approximately 1800 hours flying at 11,000 feet. They took up a magnetic heading of 196 degrees which would take them to Dungeness. Climbing on course to 12,000 feet they arrived at the rendezvous point four minutes early. The leader swung the formation into a wide 360 degree turn to burn up the extra time. Our escort fighters were met at the prescribed time of 1824 hours.
Close escort was made up of three squadrons of Spitfire Mark Vs flying from Tangmere. They were to operate under Sector Control and pass information for the bombers via the ground station, call sign: SIMPSON. Tangmere would keep watch on 10 Group Guard 1 with all VHF communications with the bombers, call sign: CIVIC. Escort cover was made up of two squadrons of Spitfire Mark Vs operating from Kenley. Biggin Hill with two squadrons of Spitfire Mark IXs for their chore of high cover. Top cover assignment went to Northolt flying their two squadrons of Spitfire Mark IXs, some of these aircraft would also be Spitfire Mark VIIs.
The formation was well out over the channel on a heading of 152 degrees and began the customary test firing of guns, all proved satisfactory as the planes droned onward. Pilot Lieutenant Roy Voorhees took his ship, "LADY FROM HADES" 131685 YA-J out of formation because the ships fuel transfer system failed to operate. Faced with the problem of full auxiliary fuel tanks and no way to transfer it to the main tanks where it could be utilized by his engines; his crew salvoed the bomb load into the channel and returned to base, landing at 1853 hours.
Lieutenant Arthur Lien flying ship, "THUMBS UP" 131621 RU-P was an extra ship; he saw the vacated number six spot in the low flight of the first eighteen and hastened to fill it! Another extra ship 131775 AN-N piloted by Lieutenant B.B. Young saw no openings as the formation neared the enemy coast, so he made a 180 degree turn and returned to base. No flak greeted the formation as it made landfall over Le Touquet at 1833 hours, a dog leg left to 116 degrees was taken for the run to the I.P. Four minutes after landfall black puffs of flak festooned the sky near the bombers, but not menacing so!
The lead box reached the I.P. located ten miles southwest of the target at Dieval, time was 1842. The formation rolled to the left onto a course of 45 degrees while indicating an air speed of 190 m.p.h. at 11,000 feet. No evasive action was being taken as the bombers pressed on. Shortly, bomb bay doors came open as the seventy-two second bomb run commenced. Dirty black puffs of flak began to hang in the sky amid the Marauders, also present were a number of white bursts.
Major Ramseys lead box had released their loads of 1,000 pounders as Major Lockhart brought his second box up on the target, dropping more than 300 incendiary bombs. The bombardier in Lieutenant Vincents ship, "PANSY YOKUM" 131638 RG-N, Lieutenant Charles Cilfone released his bombs off the lead ship. Staff Sergeant Leo Gruss flying in the waist of that particular ship watched the wobbling incendiaries fall earthward; soon looking like hundreds of match strikes as they smashed upon the target two miles below! Tech Sergeant Armando Madeira was our squadron photographer flying with Captain Lubojasky in, "HOT PISTOL" 131633 RG-P, number four in the low flight, he shot ten photos with his K-20 Camera. There were a number of fires started in the workers tenements near the aiming point of the target at 1846 hours.
The formation made a left turn off the target to a heading of 343 degrees. Thirty-five aircraft had bombed the target with fair results, one aircraft failed to release over the target due to a malfunction. A left dog leg was made and the Group took up a heading of 314 degrees. Scattered flak came up in the vicinity of Cassel to right of course as the formation stayed well to the east; so as to avoid heavy opposition from St. Omer located about five miles west of course at 1854 hours.
The Group was letting down in altitude as it headed for Gravelines on the enemy coast. Major Beatys crew flying in a ship called, "INCENDIARY MARY" 131768 YA-O sighted two unidentified objects flying about 15,000 feet in a southeastern direction from Gravelines, they looked like balloons! A heavy four gun anti-aircraft battery was seen to be firing at the formation from a location southwest of Mardick just left of course near Gravelines. The Spitfire escort was off to our right and they drew the attention of yet another heavy type gun position southwest of Dunkerque. The firing was intense at 1858 hours as a Spitfire was hit by flak, the hapless fighter went spinning down out of control as witnessed by the author flying with the Vincent crew. The air crews of Lieutenants Burger and Hochrein also made note of the incident. The British Fighter crashed and exploded into a fiery mass of rubble upon the ground approximately nine miles inland. No parachute was seen to open!
The bombers were out over the channel as one ship jettisoned three 1,000 pound bombs, five other ships jettisoned a total of thirteen 100 pound incendiary bombs due to use of improper arming wires. The formation was letting down to 6,000 feet on a heading of 314 degrees which would bring them in over North Foreland at 1908 hours. A slight dog leg right to course of 334 degrees; a straight shot to base at Boxted. The residents of Colchester looked upward as the Martin Bombers began peeling off in flights of six for the landing sequence at 1920 hours.
Soon returning crews began filing mission interrogation reports, formation leader Major Ramsey had a few suggestions regarding future operations. Stay at 11,000 or 11,500 feet over enemy coast on the way back, this is the best way to keep formation intact. Need more time to study target with larger photos. Flak gunners were shooting at escort planes, quite intense from Dunkerque. Weather on approach and over target open, was closed elsewhere, a lucky break!
Captain Aultman thought the time from take off to rendezvous should be reduced. He said it was a good idea to bomb off the leader. Major Beaty said an ejected 50 caliber shell ripped a hole two inches wide and one foot long in the top of his right wing. The Lieutenant Sands crew requested more target pictures. They also reported tracer flak at the target. Captain Lubojasky thought there should be a longer interval when dropping 1,000 pound bombs, fifty feet is too short on a mile long target! All crews said the Spits gave excellent cover during the entire mission.
The 387th Bomb Group operating to our east had some bad luck when the number six aircraft in the lead flight of the first box of eighteen was hit by flak over Bergues, France. The plane was hit in the right engine, and then broke up in mid air, crashing about ten miles south of Dunkerque. Two chutes were seen to open!
Friday, September 3, 1943:
Flying began at 0800 and ended at 1900 hours. Formation and bombing practice carried out. Field Order 68 from Third Bomb Wing directed an attack on the airdrome located at Lille-Nord, France. Crews were briefed at 1400 hours, first man off at 1630 and Zero Hour scheduled for 1730. The formation ordered was thirty-six planes and four extras.
Seven-tenths clouds at 3,000 feet with visibility eight miles. Only thirty-three aircraft took off, flying from base to Splasher Beacon Number 6. The mission was called off at that point without rendezvous with escort. Thirty-three aircraft crews jettisoned a total of three hundred-thirty 300 pound general purpose type bombs into the channel. One ship dropped out of formation at 1658 hours two miles north of Felixstowe - it finally landed safe at base. All of this information was telephoned to Third Bomb Wing by Lieutenant Hogg at 1850 hours.
Chester P. Klier