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|Monday, September 6, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 15:
The second mission of the day was called to order at 1415 hours by Operations Officer, Major Hankey who conducted the briefing. Third Bomb Wing F.O. 73 and 386th Bomb Group F.O. 19 directs this Group to attack the marshalling yard located at Serqueux, France which has target code Z439. We will lead the 387th Group on this one! Each Group will supply thirty-six aircraft plus for extra ships. All planes are loaded with six 500 pound general purpose demolition M-43 Type bombs. The nose fuse M103 will have a delay of one-tenth second, the M106 tail fuse will have a forty-five second delay. Our secondary target Z440 is located at Abbeville!
The 323rd Bomb Group will lead the 322nd Bomb Group to attack another marshalling yard located at Amiens, France. They will be bombing at approximately the same time as we do, about forty-two miles east of our target. The route out from base to Splasher Beacon Number 9 where rendezvous with the 387th will take place at Zero Hour minus twelve minutes. We will lead them to Crowborbough and on to Beachy Head where we rendezvous with our close escort at Zero Hour 1730, they will be flying Spitfires. Top cover and remainder of escort will be met twenty miles off the French Coast. Enemy landfall is to be made four miles south of Dieppe - more specifically, over Pointe E Ailly. You can expect light type flak there. Then fly to the I.P. at St. Saens, left turn to target. Axis of attack is generally southwest to northeast. There is no known heavy type flak in the target area. The route back is a left turn off target to five miles north of Dieppe to Beachy Head and back to base. Your altitudes are as follows: Rendezvous at 12,000 feet, enemy landfall 12,000 feet, and bomb at 11,000 feet. Exit enemy coast at 10,000 feet, probably we will get some light type flak there. Make English landfall at 6,000 feet. Our diversion airdromes are Frisdon and West Malling.
The weather at take off time 1600 hours will be three-tenths cumulus with a base of 2,600 feet, visibility eight miles. Route out will have cumulus in varying amounts, tops to 7,000 feet. Slight increase in amount over channel to six-tenths. The European mainland cloud cover will be decreased sharply, averaging two-tenths. The target will have the same, with visibility of ten miles plus. Wind from 240 degrees at 33 m.p.h. Temperature at altitude, a minus 09 degrees Centigrade. Surface temperature at the target 21degrees Centigrade, and pressure altitude of 29.46 inches. The route back will be pretty much as the route out. Except increase in clouds over English mainland with a base of 4,000 feet visibility six miles. Home field at landing time, eight-tenths stratocumulus with a base of 3,000 feet, visibility eight miles. The usual communications data was given to the flight crews along with the Splasher Beacons in use during the mission.
RAF 11 Group will supply escort for all four B-26 Groups. The 386th will have three squadrons of close escort, the 387th with have two squadrons escort cover. Both of the Groups will share the following Spitfire cover. Two squadrons of escort cover, two more squadrons of high cover, and three squadrons of top cover. After the customary time check, briefing ended at 1506 hours. The author flying with the Lieutenant Donald Vincent crew went out to the plane we were assigned to fly this day. We would be in number five position of the high flight in the first eighteen. The plane was named, "SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS" 134941 RG-D.
Colonel Maitland and Major Hankey would be flying the lead plane in the first box in the seventy-two ship formation. At 1559 hours, their aircraft went by the name of, "TEXAS TARANTULA"118284 RU-M was airborne. Captain Leland Perry headed the high flight in a plane by the name of, "WINNIE" 131617 RG-A. Captain Thomas White was the leader of the low flight flying, YE OLDE CROCKE" 131755 RU-F. The first eighteen were in the air circling the base as Lieutenant James Wilson began take off as lead of the second eighteen planes. His ship was called, "MAN-O-WAR" 131619 YA-U. His high flight leader was Captain Charles Thornton flying, "CRESCENDO" 131644 RG-C. The low flight leader was Major Beaty piloting, "LADY FROM HADES" 131685 YA-J. A few minutes before take off time Lieutenant R.S. Morr discovered a problem with his plane, "THE YANKEE GUERRILLA" 134946 YA-L, so he taxied back to the dispersal area. A plane named, "LORETTA YOUNG" 131624 YA-S developed a real case of stage fright, so Lieutenant M.O. Elling was unable to make a take off, he took her back to the hard stand. The last man cleared Boxted at 1621 hours. The Group completed formation assembly and struck out for rendezvous with the 387th Bomb Group over Splasher Beacon Number 9. This accomplished, the seventy-two plane formation with the 386th leading, headed for the next check point which was called Crowborbough. From there the bombers were south bound for a rendezvous with part of the Spitfire escort over Beachy Head at 12,000 feet. About mid channel test firing began, all proved satisfactory. Lieutenants R.B. Spencer and F.E. Mullen were flying extra ships not needed, so they returned to base.
The remainder of our RAF escort joined up approximately twenty miles off the enemy coast. No flak was in evidence as landfall was made over Pointe DAilly at 1746 hours. The I.P. at St. Saens lay about twenty-three miles inland, and to the southeast. Captain Perry, high flight leader noticed a piece of sheet metal floating down from high above, about 45 degrees off the right side nose of his ship. Maybe a cover skin came off a fighter planes wing gun bay? The size was approximately two feet by three feet. One other pilot, Lieutenant Paul Bartolain flying, "MISS MURIEL" 134948 YA-K also saw the fluttering metal panel and noted the time at 1747 hours.
Six smudge pots or smoke generators could be seen below putting out smoke, but their purpose was unknown for now. Some buildings, similar to barracks and what appeared to be a landing strip under construction was observed and plotted at position 50 Degrees 11 Minutes North, 01 Degrees 33 Minutes east. The formation rolled left at the I.P. onto bomb run heading of 45 degrees at 11,000 feet. Shortly the Group leader released bombs at 1755 hours. At that instant Lieutenant Anthony Popovici flying with the Lieutenant Vincent crew noticed his intervalometer failed to operate; he immediately put the selector handle into salvo, and his bombs fell earthward with all the others in our flight. Good hits were observed in the immediate target area. Flying in, "ELMER" 131577 AN-Y, the Lieutenant T.L. Adams crew saw three 500 pound bombs bump together as they fell from the belly of, "MR FIVE BY FIVE" 131612 YA-Z flown by Captain Sands, number four in the lead flight. His left side wing man was Lieutenant T.L. Adams saw a streak of black smoke passing over the top of his ship, It was emitting from the left engine exhaust of, "MISS MURIEL" flown by Lieutenant Bartolain who was directly ahead and slightly above Adams. The smoke got heavier; it belched flame a couple times, then the smoke began to fade away, presumably the engine returned to normal operation! In all two hundred-fourteen 500 pound bombs rained down on the marshalling yard with results ranging from fair to good.
A left turn was initiated off the target, briefing called for an enemy territory exit point five miles north of Dieppe - however the formation was now angling away toward the French Coast in a northeastern direction. Nothing can stir the interest of the crews flying in the back of the formation more than a very noticeable deviation from the briefed flight plan. This does not promote esprit de corps; especially if the deviator was the very same person who briefed the mission - which was the case in this instance!
A descending spiral of smoke from an aircraft was observed at position 49 Degrees 52 Minutes North, 01 Degrees 38 Minutes East at 1800 hours. At 1801 a high pillar of smoke was noted near Abbeville about ten miles northeast of our course. The formation made a left dog leg turn as Ault located on the French Coast came into view, along with a sudden flurry of light type flak! The anti-aircraft fire was considered to be inaccurate as the Group exited the enemy held territory 10,000 feet over Ault - which was situated some sixteen miles east of our prescribed course! After the seventy mile flight across the English Channel, the formation made English landfall 6,000 feet over Beachy Head. Our fighter escort peeled off and we flew back to Boxted where Colonel Maitland landed at 1900 hours.
Most of the complaints at interrogation were focused on the food situation and on the candy bar problem! Crews of Lieutenants, Wendt, Lambert, and Curran made identical statements, "Get the Baby Ruth Candy Company on the ball!" Captain Ostlind thought the base leg was too deep, and speed around landing pattern too great. His bombardier suggested opening bomb bay doors at a predetermined time. Lieutenant Tamlyns crew asked to be notified earlier than fifteen minutes before briefing time, also no candy bars, where are they? Most crews had kind words about the briefing today, such as, the best yet! Captain Lobojasky said the formation was good. A suggestion was made to get colored lenses and watches for all gunners.
Lieutenant Ralph Marble said he received a hole in his right side propeller blade from unknown cause! Lieutenant A.G. Burger said a 50 caliber slug hit one of his propellers. Captain Perry reported a faulty artificial horizon instrument. Another crew would like to see heavier bomb loads carried. The Lieutenant Burgess crew saw bomb bursts square across southern half of the rail yard. The Klimovich crew said, "Completely covered the target with bombs, very concentrated!" Some crews remarked about lousy chow; gunner sick, officers mess bad. Cold spam is for the birds! Need a good dinner when we return from a mission. Others wanted more food, also sandwiches at our briefings in the future on rapid turn around (two a day) mission assignments!
Enemy fighters had been out in force a few miles to our east. The 322nd Bomb Group reported up to ten Me-109s and two FW-190s attacked them from out of the sun in the vicinity of Abbeville. The B-26s were engaged fourteen times by enemy aircraft. In almost every instance attacks were made out of the sun from 11 to 12 oclock high positions. Then the Germans broke away low to port side of the bombers. In three instances, the enemy attacked by fours, also inline astern, each aircraft in turn following the same path and breakaway! The 323rd Bomb Group made this report: Approximately half way between Hastings and Cayeux enemy aircraft were observed following the B-26 formations. They continued to vicinity of Le Crotay, then changed their formation to single file and peed off in single attacks on the thirty-six bombers five miles west of Abbeville. The 323rd also reported the enemy planes fired cannon shells which exploded with a bright flash without making contact with the B-26s. The 386th and 387th Bomb Groups did not have any fighter opposition on todays operations.
Chester P. Klier