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|Monday, September 6, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 14:
Third Bomb Wing Field Order Number 72, and 386th Bomb Group F.O. 18 were very responsible for the sleepy bunch of flight crews trudging into the briefing room at 0330 hours. Why must air wars be fought at such an early hour? Was it tradition, like "Dawn Patrol?" World War One aviation was conducted in a like manner; so weve been told!
Target identification Z435, the marshalling yard located at Rouen, France. We also have a secondary target code number Z363. Rouen is a hub of railroad activity, the object of our raid is to disrupt the repair shop facility and distribution of rail goods by the enemy. The axis of attack will be from northeast to southwest. The aiming point is the engine shed and shunting yard. We will supply thirty-six aircraft, plus four extra ships. Each will carry six 500 pound general purpose demolition bombs. All bombs are fused nose and tail with a one-tenth second delay. Maximum combat ammunition is loaded on all aircraft scheduled for this mission.
Route out as follows: Base to Splasher Beacon Number 8 where we rendezvous with the 387th Bomb Group at 12,000 feet. They will lead us to East Gainstead and on to Shoreham, the rendezvous point for our RAF Spitfire escort. We make enemy landfall at Veules-Les R to the I.P. at Blainville to target and bomb at 11,000 feet. Make right turn off target back to Veules-Les R where we exit at 9,000 feet. Across the channel making English landfall 6,000 feet over Shoreham and back to base. Alternate airdromes are located at Ford and Tangmere.
Heavy type flak gun position information is not available for the target area. This past September 2nd eleven Boston Bombers (Douglas A-20s) attacked this target at an altitude of about 1500 feet, and encountered light type flak only. However light type flak was also reported in the Neufchatel area!
Enemy fighter opposition is expected today! The Germans are known to have twenty twin engine fighters in the Brussels/Maelsbroeck area. They have the same number of twin engine fighter-bombers based in the vicinity of the Seine Estuary. As far as we know, all of the other fighters based at the following listed airdromes are single engine planes. St. Omer/Fort Rouge with five, Cambrai/Epinoy has thirty, Brussels area, twenty ships. Pais-de-Calais area from fifteen to twenty-five, and Gilze Rijen between ten to twenty fighters. We will have ten squadrons of Spitfires flying with our formation made up like this; Three squadrons of close escort, two squadrons flying escort cover, also two squadrons of high cover and three squadrons providing top cover.
The weather forecast was worked up by the Assistant Weather Officer Second Lieutenant Louis A. Gazzaniga. At take off time there will be one-tenth altostratus with a base of 10,000 feet. Visibility looks like two miles in haze. The route out will have altocumulus west of London to the channel, estimated at 8,000 feet. Visibility through that area, generally four miles in haze. Look for stratus clouds along the English Coast. There will be cumulus clouds over channel estimated to be eight-tenths with tops 9,000 to 10,000 feet; giving way to stratus clouds along the French Coast. From the French Coast to target, clear and visibility of twelve miles plus. Wind over the target at 11,000 feet will be from 220 degrees at 35 m.p.h. Temperature at altitude looks like "0" degrees Centigrade. The return route should be clear to near French Coast where a few cumulus are forming. Stratus breaking over channel and moving on to coast with eight-tenths cumulus over the channel with tops between 9,000 and 10,000 feet, visibility of six miles. Landing time at base will have one-tenth altostratus at 10,000 feet. A few cumulus will be forming with a base of some 1,500 feet, you will have visibility of six miles plus. High tide at 0737 hours and low tide at 0904 hours with a change of 17.0 feet.
Communications for our Group: Bomber to fighter on VHF Channel C. VHF Bomber call sign is CIVIC. VHF fighter call sign is, BAUXITE, and VHF Ground Sector call sign is LIMEDROP. MF/DF Section N. Bomber to bomber on 6440 K.C. for entire mission, air to ground on 6440 K.C. also. Splasher Beacons in use are: 6E, 7F, 8G, 11H, and 13I from 0600 to 1000 hours. Air-Sea-Rescue: Complete facilities on VHF Channel D. All aircraft will monitor VHF Channel assigned throughout entire mission. You must use extreme caution to insure no VHF Transmitter is left on accidentally. Third Wing collective call signs, W/T J7X, R/T WEED KILL.
Briefing ended at 0451 hours with a time check of flight crew watches. The crews were driven out to the planes; at 0526 hours B-26 engines came to life. Five minutes later the leader began to taxi out, other ships fell in behind in logical sequence as determined by operations personnel. Formation leader Major Lockhart was into the air with, "WINNIE" 131617 RG-A at 0551 hours. Lieutenant G.E. Hoffman, pilot of, "OUR BABY" 131608 AN-Q was forced to skip the mission when he discovered a broken fuel line in his ship. Lieutenant D. Klimovich did not take off when his plane, "THE MAD RUSSIAN" 131600 AN-U developed a faulty generator. The other thirty-six planes and four extras were gaining altitude while circling the base. The last man had taken off at 0609 hours.
Fifty minutes later the Group made rendezvous with the 387th Bomb Group at 12,000 feet over Splasher Beacon Number 8 at ZERO HOUR minus forty-one minutes. Then both Groups flew a short leg to East Gainstead, and then on to Shoreham located on the southern coast of England. The RAF was on time so the escort and bombers moved out over the channel. Lieutenant S.R. Lovell flying 134949 AN-H (this plane made a belly landing at Boxted last August 17th) number three in the high flight, first box of eighteen, had a mechanical problem and returned to base. "MISS MARY: 131650 AN-O flying in number six position in the same flight began acting up so Lieutenant M.C. Giles took her back home. Lieutenant R.E. Kingsley flying extra ship called, "MISS MURIEL" 134948 YA-K slid in to fill the number three spot. The number six position in the high flight remained vacant!
Two more extra pilots found positions in the first box formation. Lieutenant Walter Novitsky had a problem with, "MARGIE" 134970 RG-L; so the pilot of, "SEDUCTIVE SUSIE" 131738 RG-O, Lieutenant A.C. Brandstrom took over the number six spot in the lead flight. Meanwhile Lieutenant M.L. Nagels crew jettisoned the bomb load carried by "LA GOLONDRINA" 131583 AN-X in the low flight returned to base at 0717 hours with a smoking engine. Lieutenant J.B. Petrey an extra pilot flying, "BLACK MAGIC" 131620 RG-R moved into that flight.
Some shuffling was taking place back in the low flight of the second box of eighteen as well! Lieutenant E.E. Curran gave up his number four position due to a malfunction with "THUMBS UP" 131621 RU-P. Flight officer D. E. Casey moved, "THE BAD PENNY" 131628 RU-L into number four position from his former number five spot. The last of the extra planes, "PERKATORY" 131627 YA-Q flown by Lieutenant R.S. Porter took over the number five position which Casey had vacated. A satisfactory test firing of guns had been completed by the Group as the French Coastline came into view.
The formation made enemy landfall as prescribed, time was 0724 hours. They were a bit surprised, but pleasantly so; by the absence of flak in the area. The sky was clear and the visibility was very good. A little east of Sotteville-Les-Rouen an Me-109 managed to penetrate the RAF Fighter cover at 0736 hours. Diving out of the sun from 7 oclock high position; the enemy passed under, "THE DEACON" 131637RG-B piloted by Captain Ronald Altman, number four ship directly behind first box leader Major Charles Lockhart! Tech Sergeant W.L. Kizer waist gunner on , "THE DEACON" fired off a short burst at the Messerschmitt without visible effect as it broke away at 4 oclock low.
The formation neared the I.P. at Blainville as a few rounds of inaccurate 88mm flak came up just as the formation made a right turn to commence their bomb run at 10,500 feet. Black puffs of flak appeared as it was bombs away at 0748 hours. Bomb strikes were observed at the north end of the rail yard in the midst of tracks and buildings, with results from fair to good. The 386th second box led by Major Ramsey released their bombs from 9,300 feet with good results. His crew reported seeing a big flash of red flame when their bombs erupted on the target. "INCENDIARY MARY" 131768 YA-O, number four in the high flight was in trouble! She was flying with a propeller feathered because her right side engine had lost power. Losing altitude, Captain Weiss made his bomb run on single engine at 175 m.p.h. from 8,000 feet on a heading of 225 degrees. Tracer flak could be seen whizzing menacingly close to his plane as he departed the target area.
Lieutenant R.D. Wilsons crew in, "STAR DUST" 134937 YA-N flying number five in the high flight, noted a Spitfire going down spinning and smoking badly, no parachute was seen. The aircraft struck the ground and exploded at 0741 hours as viewed by Sergeant E.O. Poynter. Some gunners reported a few Focke-Wolf-190s flying on the outside fringe of the escort cover. A few gunners fired at them, but no hits were claimed, the FW-190s did not at anytime attack the bombers.
The formation headed for the French Coast as Captain Weiss continued to fall behind the formation. Very surprisingly no Spitfire escort came down to give him cover, luckily no enemy aircraft were operating in the immediate vicinity! Captain Ray Sanfords crew observed a Spitfire smoking and going down in a normal glide. Captain T.J. Whites crew spotted a Spitfire crash about five miles in from the French Coast at 0747 hours. The Group exited the enemy coast at Quiberville amid weak to moderate light and heavy type flak while flying at 9,000 feet. Major Ramsey made note of flak believed to be coming from the Cany-Barville area about 0750 hours. Several miles behind and down to a mere 4,000 feet, Captain Don Weiss was making his bid to get out of enemy territory in one piece! His course lay between St. Valery and Veulettes on the French Coast. Intense tracer flak was fired at his ship and he immediately began flying evasive action; with one dead engine! Exhibiting extraordinary piloting ability; for he emerged from the fusillade of enemy fire without a single hole in his aircraft!
Lieutenant Petrey flying, "BLACK MAGIC" was very low on fuel and thought it a wise move to put in at the first available airdrome on English soil. Landing his bomber at West Malling Airfield, he refueled his ship and flew back to base.
Crew comments during interrogation were strong and to the point: Tough flying behind the 387th Bomb Group, changed air speed, loss of altitude, erratic course, wrong heading over target; then split up into six flights over target. Two Groups flying together should fly the same type of formation. Bad formation over target, too congested!
Many complaints about food: Need separate combat mess, breakfast was cold, didnt get anything edible, food terrible and coffee was lousy! To make matters worse, no candy or gum in kit bags handed out after briefing. The crew of Lieutenant Gordon Purdy reported seeing an ammunition case which was left ten feet inside edge of the perimeter track. The ordnance people left bomb hoist in their ship for the last two missions. They also saw Captain Weiss go on single engine over the target - he had no Spitfires covering him on way out!
The complaints continued on: Tail gunners can see bomb hits on target, so show them target photos at briefing. Gunners hands get too cold, need heated gloves. Transmitter at control tower too noisy. Should not allow smoking in the briefing room; the place looks like eight-tenths Lucky Strike and Camels cloud cover in there! Cant see the route map from the back of the room!
Flight Offer Caseys crew reported seeing bomb hits on north end of engine sheds. The Lieutenant George Howard crew reported a possible seven gun emplacement in a triangle east of the shunting yard. Captain J.A. Gianatsis and Lieutenants R.D. Wilson, R.E. Kingsley, and R.G. Saltsman all reported on Captain Weisss predicament over the target. In the meantime Captain Weiss continued grinding on with only eighteen cylinders, although arriving much later than the others, he managed to make a dandy single engine landing at home base.
Chester P. Klier