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|Wednesday, September 8, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 18:
Major Hankey began the briefing at 1530 hours, this was the second mission of the day for our Group. Third Bomb Wing F.O. 79 directs this Group to attack the coastal gun positions at Boulogne, France. The target code name is, "POMERANIAN." All four B-26 Groups will be bombing there as follows: 387th at 1800 hours, 322nd at 1804, we go in at 1813 hours, and the 323rd is scheduled over the target at 1818 hours.
The target consists of three heavy guns mounted in a turret, gun bores are twelve to fifteen inches. The position is set in a concrete casement surrounded by barbed wire. There are personnel shelters and connecting trenches. The entire area is probably very well camouflaged to hide the target. These guns have been known to fire across the channel on occasion. The gun position is on top of a ridge some eighty feet high. It is located about four miles northwest of the north tip of the Boulogne Forest. Other check points would be one-half mile south of a railroad track, and two miles from river mouth on coast; as well as one mile from center of the river and road junction.
The route out from base to Dungeness where we rendezvous with our Spitfire escort. Make enemy landfall two miles south of Hardelot, it should be easy to spot because of its valentine shape. The point of the heart outline points out toward the sea. After landfall, swing to the left and wide to the southeast around the town of Desvares to avoid a the concentration of heavy type flak. Our axis of attack is generally from southeast to the northwest. The aiming point identified on your target map as 9 (A)7. Make a left turn off target and exit enemy coast five miles north of Boulogne. Fly a direct route across channel to Folkstone and back to base.
All ships are loaded with six 500 pound GP bombs with both nose and tail fuses set for instantaneous. Your altitudes are: Rendezvous at 12,000 feet at 1805 hours, bomb at 12,000 feet, cross enemy coast out at 12,000, and return to England at 8,000 feet. We have diversion airdromes at Manston and Bradwell Bay. All of the B-26 outfits will be provided with general fighter cover over the entire area, both medium and high cover. Our particular Group will have four squadrons of close Spitfire escort.
All planes are loaded with maximum combat ammunition, you can expect enemy fighter opposition. The Germans have ten single engine fighters in vicinity of Pas de Calais along with ten fighter-bombers. They also have ten or so single engine ships based at St. Pol, thirty-five miles southeast of target. There are a number of single engine recon ships at Monchy, some thirty-eight miles from the target. Intelligence indicates The German Air Force has about two hundred-fifty aircraft based within a one hundred mile radius of target, so all gunners be advised!
Any activity seen at sea along course is to be presumed friendly. This includes convoys, minesweepers, large vessels, smoke screens, etc. Extreme caution must be exercised in the event of jettisoning bombs so as not to drop on any shipping in the open waters!
This is the flak situation: There are thirty-one known active heavy type guns. There are also forty-four known unoccupied heavy guns. The heaviest concentration of heavy guns extends inland for five miles, a lighter concentration extending from five to seven miles inland. In the harbor area, they have three Tank Landing Craft Type III (TLC); not to be confused with , "Tender Loving Care!" Each of these units is equipped with two heavy type flak guns, probably they are 88mm. There is one Sperrbrecher (Blockade Breaker) with two heavy guns, it has been reported to have left the harbor, but still might be in the vicinity. Railroad flak may be expected in Boulogne area. Other shipping may or not be present in the port. Previous missions to Bolulogne have reported intense and accurate heavy type flak fire!
The weather is looking good, at take off time there will be two to three-tenths cumulus with a base of 3,500 feet and a trace of altocumulus, visibility of six miles. Route out will have two to four-tenths cumulus with a base at 3,000 to 6,000 feet. Freezing level is 8,000 feet and the visibility should be six miles plus. The target area will have one to two-tenths cumulus, a base of 3,000 with tops to 6,000 feet. Visibility will be better than six miles. Temperature at altitude is minus 05 degrees Centigrade. Wind at 12,000 feet will be from 280 degrees at 25 m.p.h. Return route will remain unchanged except cumulus tops will lower to 5,000 feet. Base at time of landing will have a slight increase of cumulus clouds.
Communications: Bomber to fighter on VHF Channel B. Bomber call sign, CIVIC. The fighter call sign, BAUXITE. Ground Sector Control call sign, SIMPSON. Air to ground on 6440 K.C. Air-Sea-Rescue on VHF Channel D. Every aircraft will be required to monitor VHF Channel assigned and equipped with crystals from time of take off to return to enemy coast. Group leader or deputy will report to Wing after leaving target. Wing collective call sign, W/T, J7X: R/T WEEDKILL.
Synchronizing of watches was accomplished and the briefing ended at 1600 hours. The crews reported to their aircraft for the usual preflight procedure. Engine starting time rolled around at 1635 hours and box leader, Colonel Maitland began to taxi out five minutes later. He and Major Hankey made a last minute magneto check on their engines while waiting for a green light from the tower. A steady green light shown and they began their take off roll in, "TEXAS TARANTULA" 118284 RU-M. Wheels up at 1654 and followed closely by the remainder of Marauders. The formation took shape rapidly with Captain Albert Caney leading the high flight, and Major Franklin Harris at the lead position of the low flight. Two extra ships bringing up the rear were Lieutenant George Hochrein flying ship, 134962 AN-K, and Lieutenant Mullins with ship, 131775 AN-N.
At 1750 hours a B-26 was observed flying near the mouth of the Thames at about 6,000 feet, being escorted by a single Spitfire. The twenty plane formation made its rendezvous 12,000 feet over the Lighthouse at Dungeness on the southeast tip of England. The bombers and escort headed out over the channel, about mid way test firing commenced, all was satisfactory. The two extra planes would not be required to fill in; so they made a 180 degree turn, jettisoned their bombs and retuned to base.
A B-26 aircraft was seen out of formation just off Boulogne at 1808 hours heading for England, it was well covered by Spitfires. A mixture of heavy and light type flak came up as the Group made enemy landfall on schedule, two miles south of Hardelot. The anti-aircraft fire was considered to be weak and inaccurate.
At approximately 1809 hours a single FW-190 swept by the high flight 900 feet above and approximately 1,000 yards off to the left and going around from 11 oclock to 7 oclock position. Top gunners in the first three ships fired at the enemy; one of whom was Staff Sergeant Dennis E. Coffman flying in, "PRIVY DONNA" 131658 RU-A. His pilot was Captain Caney. Coffman fired off about thirty rounds as the fighter flashed by. Then the FW-190 turned and came firing and slowly rolling over on its back and diving away in the inverted attitude. This was not a hot rock pilot putting on a show. It was a deliberately planned maneuver where the pilot held his aiming point, but maintained the advantage of spraying several bombers with cannon fire by virtue of the fact his guns were widely spaced in the wings. Another plus was the armor plate running from engine to the rear of the cockpit on the belly of the ship; it also extended well out from the wing roots. Many bomber gunners had reported seeing their tracers literally bounce off an enemy aircraft as it dove away upside down!
The plane had a white spinner, the belly and underside of wings were also white colored. The enemy flew approximately 2,000 yards out toward the rear of the bomber formation, made a 180 degree turn and began another attack from a 6 oclock level position. The tail gunner, Staff Sergeant Clifford Bates flying in Captain Caneys ship got off a few rounds at long range with no apparent effect. At that point the FW-190 was simultaneously engaged by three Spitfires. The ensuing aerial action quickly moved from sight of the gunners.
Large black bursts of flak could be seen off to the left as the formation skirted around to the southeast of Devares. Very heavy flak believed to be 128mm unfurled among the Group ships as they began the bomb run at 12,000 feet on a heading of 300 degrees. Flak was moderate at first, then became intense and most accurate! The bombers were rocked by near explosions; at 1813 hours it was bombs away! Flak continued to pound the eighteen ship formation, fifteen of which had been damaged by the high velocity scrap metal. One piece broke through the windshield of, "LETHAL LADY" 131646 RU-C piloted by Lieutenant Gordon Purdy and wounding him while flying in number four position in the high flight. Bombardier, Lieutenant Fred Gass flying in a ship named, "LA GOLONDRINA" 131583 AN-X was also wounded when a fragment of flak smashed through the glass nose of his plane that was piloted by Lieutenant M.I. Nagel. One hundred-eight 500 pound bombs exploded in the target area with results rated as fair.
The flak continued to harass the bombers, Lieutenant A.M. Liens crew flying in a plane named, "THUMBS UP" 131621 RU-P said, "Flak bursts were so intense we couldnt see through it, I dont see how a formation could fly through it all!" The formation headed for the exit point five miles north of Boulogne, a ten gun flak position was observed firing from the north edge of the city as they flew out over the channel. The formation sped to Folkstone, making English landfall at 1822 hours, then took up a heading for base where the first man landed at 1839 hours. After all mission data was related by returning crews - the interrogation room seemed to turn into one big complaint department! Dont route bomb run into the sun. Give bombardiers plenty of time to study target photo material. Low box gunners test fired through high flight formation! Want more fresh eggs, cant fly on powdered eggs. Enlisted mens food worse than ever. Only spam and baloney, too much! Have coffee near briefing room. Gum and candy okay, keep it up. Waist gunner needs extra length of cable for head set to allow movement. Heavier gloves for tail gunners. Inspect flak suits, too many without buckles. Two turret guns still had ammunition in them from the morning mission - one round in each chamber, dangerous! The 387th Bomb Group reported flak so intense it appeared to be fired in a barrage. They were fired upon two miles out over the water. Crews thought they identified some gun batteries at end of the harbor breakwater. Also on barges immediately north of harbors at Nocquet and Equihen. A few crews stated upon leaving the target, they observed that two of the gun positions were silent, whereas the other was still firing!
Wednesday, September 8, 1943 - Briefing very late in the evening:
386th Group Headquarters received a bombing mission directive from Third Bomb Wing at 1100 hours by order of Colonel Anderson. The order was signed by Millard Louis, Colonel A.C., Executive and Jack E. Caldwell, Colonel A.C., A-3
The distribution list follows:
1 copy, Commanding General VIII Air Support Command.
1 copy, U.S. Controller 11 Group R.A.F.
1 copy, AO C-in C 11 Group R.A.F.
1 copy each to C.O. of , 322nd, 323rd , 386th, and 387th Bomb Groups.
1 copy, Third Bomb Wing.
Time was approximately 2100 hours as Major Hankey began a closed briefing of Group Officers, Squadron Commanders, Lead Navigators and Bombardiers, along with a select number of pilots. Co-pilots and other crew members had not been summoned. The assembled were told, what they were about to hear was classified as secret. After leaving the briefing room they were told not to discuss the information among themselves or any of their crew members!
"D-Day is designated as 9 September 1943!" It is expected that the enemy will move considerable additional heavy type flak into target area by D-Day! Strong enemy fighter reaction is expected during the period of our attacks. VIII Bomber Command will be attacking airdromes surrounding our target area. 2 Group RAF will attack targets in our area during the time of our attacks. They will be flying at 13,000 feet. II Group RAF will provide cover for surface convoys near our target. They will also provide umbrella fighter cover with six squadrons over our target area from 0730 to 1000 hours.
This Wing will attack targets in France on D-Day! All Groups will furnish fifty-four aircraft each, plus extras. Each Group will provide three formations of eighteen aircraft. Routes and targets are as follows: Targets Religion and Andante, route out; from base as desired to Dover, to Marquise, to target. Route back; turn sharply to 50 Degrees 00 Minutes North, 01 Degrees 22 Minutes East to Folkstone, to base. Targets with the name Pomeranian and Millstone, route out; from base as desired to Dover, to Audembert on to Marquise, to target. Route back; target turn sharply to 51 Degrees 00 Minutes North , 01 Degrees 22 Minutes East to Folkstone, to base. Altitudes: Dover at 12,000 feet, bomb at 12,000, and Folkstone at 8,000 feet. Axis of attack, northeast to southwest. There will be no rendezvous on this operation.
The 322nd Group will attack the following targets with three formations of eighteen aircraft. Religion at 0745 hours, Andante at 0745 hours, and then Millstone at 0800 hours.
The 323rd Group will attack the following targets with three formations of eighteen aircraft. Pomeranian at 0800 hours, then Religion at 0815 hours, and Andante at 0815 hours.
The 386th Group will attack the following targets with three formations of eighteen aircraft. Pomeranian at 0830 hours, Religion at 0845, and Andante at 0845 hours.
The 387th Group will attack the following targets with three formations of eighteen aircraft, they will have a bit longer interval in time. Millstone at 0845 hours, Andante at 0915 hours, and Religion at 0915 hours.
All aircraft in the four Groups will carry six 600 pound general purpose bombs fused as follows: The four top bombs in the racks will be fused instantaneous nose and tail. The
bottom two bombs will be fused with the M-124 tail delay fuse only. In the event the mission is abortive and the bombs can not be dropped on target, those bombs fused with the M-124 delay fuse will be jettisoned into the North Sea, clear of all shipping. That type of fused bomb is far too dangerous to return them to base!
Group Commanders will insure the provisions of special instructions issued by Third Wing Headquarters will be carried out regarding the handling of the M-124 tail fuse. A sharp turn will be made after bombing in order to avoid any convoys to the immediate south of our area. All annexes to this Field Order 78 will be transmitted by teletype.
Communications for this mission: Each Bomber Group has been assigned a set of three radio frequencies; for example, the 322nd will operate with these, Formation #1, 5330 K.C. Formation #2, 5125 K.C., and Formation #3, 5295 K.C. All Groups VHF Control and Command Channel A (10 Group Guard 1). Bomber call sign, is WINDBAG. All formations will identify themselves by addition of code name for target, such as , (WINDBAG Religion Leader). All VHF communication relative to fighter cover, enemy aircraft, Ground Control will be handled by Ground Control Station call sign, PETRO.
Air-Sea-Rescue and emergency homing; VHF Channel D, (10 Group Guard 2). Homing QDMs to Lympne - Ground call sign, SUNSET. MF/DF, Section H. Bomber code identity group, SPARE GROUP 43. Splasher Beacon information to follow later.
Wing Collective call sign, W/T J7X: R/T WEEDKILL. Formation leader will report to Wing after clearing enemy coast. Radio silence must be maintained until crossing enemy coast in, except in an emergency. There are no changes in communications procedure.
That gentlemen is the end of Wings special instructions for the next mission. The weather is looking good for an early morning call; I would advise turning in early for good nights rest and remember, do not talk to anybody about this special mission briefing!
Chester P. Klier