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|Thursday, September 9, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 19:
Flight crews were awakened at approximately 0330 hoursafter going through the morning ablution routine, they ate breakfast before heading to briefing amid cool damp air. Major Hankey called the briefing to order at 0500 hours. He related that it was a continuation and update of the special briefing held last night, which at that time only was a concern for key personnel within the Group. However now we are all involved! With a smile upon his face, he looked around the roomfinally saying, "This could be D-Day, the invasion of the enemy held Continent!" The assembled glanced at one another and briefly made lots of noise, indicating approval!
Our target for today will be the heavy coastal guns at Boulogne, France. All four B-26 Groups will hit there with three formations of eighteen ships each. The gun positions have code names: "POMERANIAN," "RELIGION," "ANDANTE," the last is named "MILLSTONE." Our Group will only be concerned with the first three.
Colonel Maitland will lead the first box on a raid to "POMERANIAN," I will fly with him. Captain Thornton will lead the high flight, and Captain Dewhurst is the low flight lead. The second box leader will be Major Beaty, Major Harris is high flight lead, with Captain J.T. Wilson heading up the low flight. Their target is code name "RELIGION." The third box leader is Major Lockhart, his high flight leader is Major Ramsey, and Captain White will lead the low flight. Their code name for the target is, "ANDANTE." Each target is to be considered as a separate mission for the Group. We are flying three missions today, however this will be the only briefing you will attend.
Zero Hour for "POMERANIAN" is 0830 hours. The Zero Hour for "RELIGION" and "ANDANTE" will be 0845 hours. There will be no rendezvous with escort fighters on any of these missions, they will provide area cover in all target zones. The altitudes are: Cross the English Coast out at 12,000 feet, bomb at 12,000 feet, and cross English Coast in at an altitude of 8,000 feet.
The route out for box one (POMERANIAN) is from base as desired to the coast at Dover, to Audembert, to the I.P. at Marquise, to target. Box number two (RELIGION) and box number three (ANDANTE) will fly the same route to Dover, then to Marquise the I.P. to the target. The route back is typical for all three boxes: Sharp right turn off target to 51 Degrees 00 Minutes North, 01 Degree 22 Minutes East to Folkstone to base.
All of our targets are heavy coastal gun emplacements, such as twelve or fifteen inch bore size mounted three to a turret in a concrete casement. Other positions are three 210mm guns in turrets on open concrete platforms. They also have four 150mm guns in open concrete circular emplacements. Your individual target information will indicate which guns you will be bombing. Our aiming point in all cases will be the heavy guns, axis of attack is generally from northeast to southwest.
The enemy has strong anti-aircraft defenses in the general area, several 88mm positions, also some 128mm flak guns! A number of 88mm flak guns are mounted on the roofs of concrete shelters. You can expect to encounter light type tracer flak along the coast. Enemy aircraft could show up at anytime during the mission. A number of RAF and U.S. Heavy Bomber units will be hitting nearby enemy airdromes about the same time as we go in, which should be of help to us. This joint effort is known as, "OPERATION STARKEY!"
Our bomb loading will vary, some ships are loaded with 500 pound general purpose bombs and others will carry 600 pound GPs. All loads in either case will be six bombs per plane. The bottom two bombs in some ships carrying 600 pounders have a special M-124 delay tail fuse. All bombardiers should check their load for type carried. If for some reason you can not get your bombs away over the target, you must jettison them into the North Sea away from shipping. They must not be brought back to base! These bombs have a tail fuse only, all other bombs have both nose and tail fuse which are set for instantaneous detonation.
The weather at take off time will have a visibility of fifteen hundred yards, hazards to flying are a number of ground fog patches. From base out you can expect partly cloudy sky with haze, two to three-tenths cirrus above the 25,000 foot level. You should have two to four miles of visibility and no medium clouds over the English Coast. There will be some low sea fog patches over the channel with a visibility of only two hundred yards in those areas. There will be a haze layer extending up to 6,000 feet. In the target area you will have no clouds and a visibility of ten to twelve miles. The freezing level will be 10,500 feet, surface temperature at target is 14 Degrees Centigrade. Temperature at your altitude will be minus 03 Degrees Centigrade. The pressure altitude at the target is 29.94 Inches. Wind is from 270 Degrees at 12 m.p.h. The route back will be pretty much the same as route out. Landing time you will find an increase of cumulus clouds along with a dissipation of ground fog with visibility picking up to three miles. The tide condition: Low water at 1222 hours and high water at 1753 hours with a change of 16.5 feet.
Communications procedure is normal operation. Bomber code identity group: Spare Group 43. Bomber call sign is "WINDBAG," formation leaders will identify themselves by addition of code name for target. VHF Control and Command on Channel A. Air-Sea Rescue on channel D. Group Control Station call sign is "PETRO." Our Group has been assigned these frequencies for bomber to bomber communication during the mission: Formation number one, 5265 Kilocycles. Formation number two, 5125 Kilocycles, and formation number three, 5295 Kilocycles. Formation leaders will report to Wing after clearing enemy coast. Radio silence must be maintained until crossing the enemy coast in, except in an emergency. Splasher Beacons in use for entire mission are: 5C, 6D, 7E, 8F, 9G, 11H, 12I, and 13J.
We have not received any further information from Wing concerning this operation; so at this point we do not know if this is really "D-Day" or some grand rehearsal for a future operation. Now lets have a time check and then get this show on the road! Briefing ended at 0606 hours with crews heading for their assigned aircraft.
The engines of "TEXAS TARANTULA" 118284 RU-M came to life at 0641 hours, about seven minutes later Colonel Maitland began to taxi toward the active runway. Resembling huge beetles with wheels, the other seventeen B-26 Marauders trundled along the perimeter track behind their leader. The Group Commander was into the air at 0700 hours, he circled Boxted as the remaining first box bombers formed the usual three flights of six planes. A short time later flying in excellent formation, they took up their course for Dover.
Lieutenant Michael was scheduled to fly in number two position of the low flight in "BLAZING HEAT 131585 AN-J. Some sort of malfunction occurred and he returned to base. Lieutenant G.E. Hoffman moved up to fill the void with his ship "OUR BABY" 131608 AN-Q after vacating his number five spot. Lieutenant Adams was scheduled to fly as extra; he hastened to fill in the empty number five position in the low flight, which brought the formation back to full strength!
A haze layer extended nearly up to 6,000 feet, but it did not hide three separate convoys of thirty ships each as they plied southward in the direction of the enemy coast. Test firing of bomber guns was underway. Captain Perry flying "MERT" 131616 RG-H was in number four position of the lead flight directly behind and slightly below the formation leader. A blur of brass came at his ship, which struck the right wing and broke the landing light lens. One of the spent cartridge cases probably was scooped in by the right hand propeller, which in-turn hurled it into the right side fuselage. The errant brass case smashed through the side navigators window, broken pieces of the Plexiglas showered Tech Sergeant E.A. Zimay manning his radio on the opposite side of the compartment. Startling and painful as the incident appeared at the time, his cuts around his eyes and face were determined to be only slight.
Enemy landfall was fast approaching as heralded by heavy type flak bursts, even though the formation was still one mile off shore. Just to the left was Cape Gris Nez, Audembert lay below and slightly inland. An important check point reached; the formation took up a southeastern heading to the I.P. which was some four miles distant at Marquise. This would be no place to loiter, seven enemy airdromes were situated within a nine mile radius of the final check point prior to the bomb run!
The leader turned approximately 90 Degrees to the right at the I.P. which set the formation on a southwestern bomb run. Bomb bay doors were open as flak opposition intensified! Captain Don Weiss flying "INCENDIARY MARY" 131768 YA-O, number five in the lead flight noted flak being fired from a little town slightly north of Boulogne. To keep things interesting for himself, he also noticed that the left magneto on his left engine was acting up with a resultant loss of r.p.m. on that engine!
It was bombs away at 0829 hours, and the box of eighteen planes made a sharp right turn off the target to a predetermined navigation point out over the channel. Flak continued to harass them out over the water, it was coming from two flak boats moored at the end of a breakwater. A very large brown cloud of smoke could be seen roiling up from the target as the formation flew back to Folkstone on the English Coast, and then back to base. Colonel Maitland landed at 0906 hours, and was followed in rapid succession by his seventeen other runway scorching Marauders! The flight crews piled into the Groups Interrogation room to relate details of their mission. Captain La Framboise and crew said there was excellent concentration of bombs across the target starting a good size fire. A huge cloud of smoke was visible all the way back to the English Coast. Lieutenant Bud Lambert said there was white flak way low on the way in just off the coast. A large explosion was observed at the target, and brown smoke up to 12,000 feet.
Lieutenant Cox reported a bomb rack malfunction on "DOTTIE" 134954 RG-Q." The crew of Colonel Maitland reported unusually bright flashes in the target area while their bombs were bursting. Some crews said enlisted mens mess was rotten! No hot meals for last five missions, always Spam. Others said mess is detrimental to proper flying health!
Chester P. Klier