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|Saturday, September 18, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 24:
Briefing got underway at 0630 hours, roll call of airplane commanders was completed and the target was announced. Our Group would lead the 387th Group on a raid to Beauvais Tille, France - as per Field Order 92 from Third Bomb Wing. The airdrome target was identified as Z154, with a secondary target airdrome located at Brombos, France. All aircraft are loaded with ten each 300 pound GP bombs fused for one-tenth second delay both nose and tail. We will supply thirty-six ships plus extras.
The route out from base to rendezvous with the 387th Group at 12,000 feet over East Church at Zero Hour minus thirty-one minutes, then fly to Penshurst. Continue on to Beachy Head and rendezvous with 11 Group RAF Spitfires at 0918 hours. They will escort you to enemy landfall at Ault, then fly southeast to the I.P. which is located at Crevecoure-Le-Grand, to target. Axis of attack is generally north to south. Make a right turn off target and head for Criel on the enemy coast. In the event you can not bomb the primary, take up a heading of 330 degrees which will put you on a fifteen mile bomb run to the secondary at Brombos. Make a left turn off the secondary and take up a heading to Criel, cross the channel to Beachy Head and back to base Diversion airdromes for today are Manston and Bradwell Bay. One other point of interest - The Germans have a decoy airdrome one-half mile northwest of Pierremont. On your map it is located at 49 Degrees 40 Minutes North, 01 Degree 39 Minutes East.
Now for the flak situation: There are four known heavy type gun positions in the primary target area. A six gun position two miles north north-east, a four gun emplacement three and one-half miles northeast. There are two other six gun positions, one of which is located one and one-half miles east, the other is rather close in at 1100 yards to the south-southwest. A B-26 mission flown to the primary target on September 3rd encountered moderate and heavy type flak believed to be 88mm. The secondary target at Brombos has no known gun positions, however experience has shown almost every airfield to be defended by at least one heavy type gun emplacement! Aerial reconnaissance shows a truck mounting a flak gun, often camouflaged with bales of straw - is attached to every train operating in the Abbeville-Le-Treport area.
The weather at take off time: Surface wind from 310 degrees at 12 m.p.h. Visibility is two miles. The route out has patchy medium clouds to three-tenths at 7,000 to 8000 feet. Low cloud becoming six-tenths over channel and enemy coast with bases 1,500 to 2,000 feet, and tops to 8,000 to 9,000 feet. You will find clouds decreasing inland three to five-tenths in target area. Three to five-tenths medium clouds over target between 8,000 and 11,000 feet. The freezing level is 6,500 feet and icing conditions exist within the clouds. There are some stratocumulus clouds with bases of 2,000 feet and tops are between 5,000 and 8,000 feet. The wind at 10,000 feet is from 210 degrees at 20 m.p.h. Temperature will be minus 07 degrees Centigrade. At 12,000 feet the wind is from 200 degrees at 28 m.p.h. and temperature is minus 09 degrees Centigrade. The target will have a surface temperature of plus 15 degrees Centigrade.
The return route will have three to five-tenths medium clouds decreasing to nil over the channel and England as well. You can expect three to five-tenths cumulus with a base of 2,000 feet and tops ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 feet. They will be increasing to six to eight-tenths over channel, becoming four to six-tenths over England with visibility of eight miles plus.
Communications are as follows: Bomber to fighter on VHF Channel B. Bomber call sign is CIVIC. Fighter call sign is BAUXITE. Ground Sector call sign is PETRO. Bomber to bomber on Command Channel, and MF/DF Section: N. Communications to 387th Group on VHF Channel B. Air to ground on 6440 K.C. All aircraft will monitor VHF Channel assigned throughout the entire mission. To call Air-Sea-Rescue, use VHF Channel D. Splasher Beacons in use during the mission ranging from 7D through 10G. from 0800 to 1200 hours. Group leader or deputy will report to Wing after clearing enemy coast.
Watches were synchronized and the briefing ended 0652 hours. Within five minutes the crews arrived at their aircraft. Engine starting time came about at 0727 and planes began to taxi out shortly after. Captain Weiss would be leading the formation with his aircraft named, "INCENDIARY MARY" 131768 YA-O, he was airborne at 0746 hours followed in order by all the other bombers. The last man cleared the runway number 29 at 0810 hours. Two of the scheduled pilots did not make take off, Lieutenant Blackburn with his plane, "HELLS BELLE" 131623 YA-T and Lieutenant Blackwelder in, "SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS" 134941 RG-D. Lieutenants Porter and Peters had been assigned as extras, so they filled in the vacant spots in the formation. Lieutenant Howe flying ship, 131823 AN-K had an inverter motor short out, as a result he lost the use of instruments that depend upon that unit. He returned the ship to base as the Group continued on. The rendezvous was made at 0901 with the 387th Bomb Group over East Church. Penshurst was the next navigational check point, and finally joining up with the RAF escort over Beachy Head at 0918 hours.
Lieutenant Wendt flying ship, "Danny Boy II" 134987 RG-K developed an in flight malfunction, the top turret went out of commission - so he took his plane into a diversion airdrome located at Bradwell Bay. A short time later, BUZZ-N-BITCH II" 131953 RG-T in which the author was flying with Lieutenant Vincents crew; experienced a failure, it was mechanical in nature. We were well out over the channel by this time so our bombardier Lieutenant Popovici was able to jettison his bombs immediately into the water. We made a 180 degree turn and headed back to England, at 1115 hours we landed at the 387th Bomb Group base situated at Chipping Ungar. Repairs were made on our ship which required a major portion of the day. Finally we took off at 1445 and landed back at our base at 1520 hours.
The formation was within sight of the enemy coast as test firing was completed. A ship flown by Lieutenant Petrey was, "MISS CARRIAGE" 134961 RG-M. He was informed that the top turret guns refused to fire - so he pulled his plane out of formation and returned to base. The Group made enemy landfall 12,000 feet over Ault at 1034 hours, then made a slight dog leg to the right which set them on a heading to the I.P. at Crevecoure-Le-Grand, some forty-five miles distant. Miles passed by rapidly at 190 m.p.h. Captain Weiss led the formation through a turn to the right putting them on a course of 180 degrees which was directly over the Initial Point (I. P.) at the beginning of their bomb run to the target.
All aircraft bomb bay doors were open as the lead bombardier labored to locate the target shrouded with cloud cover. Black bursts of flak came up to torment the bombers - a ship called, "HELLS FURY" 131625 YA-R flown by Captain Ray Sanford was number four ship serving as deputy lead, and carried a Norden Bomb Sight. His bombardier caught a shadowy glimpse of the target as he released his ten 300 pound bombs which were soon swallowed by the restless clouds. None of the other bombardiers in the lead box of eighteen planes followed his cue!
Major Lockhart second box leader flying, "WINNIE" 131617 RG-A had his eighteen ship formation aligned for a run at the target airdrome. Enemy anti-aircraft gunners were concentrating their heavy type flak fire on his box. Shrapnel slashed through the tail feathers of "WINNIE." Deputy lead, Captain Aultman flying, "THE DEACON" 131637 RG-B took many hits, an eight inch gash in right side fuselage about one foot behind the co-pilots window, another damaging a propeller control conduit and piercing one of the hydraulic lines. The right wing absorbed a great deal of flak fragments, the wing tip, leading edge, forward spar, an auxiliary fuel tank. Another piece made a hole midway between the fuselage and engine nacelle then passed through the hot air duct.
A plane named, "GAMBLERS LUCK" 131639 RG-G was catching it in both wings with a wing rib being damaged. One piece of flak hit the tail gunners Plexiglas entering right side forward part and passing out at rear left side of the glass without injuring the crewman. Pilot, Lieutenant George Howard said, "Flak was so accurate, it was seen, heard, and felt over the target!" He was number two in the lead flight. In the same flight, number five position was, "PERKATORY" 131627 YA-Q flown by Lieutenant Porter who received flak hits in his right wing, all of which were outboard from the fuel tanks.
Lieutenant Novitsky was the pilot of, "DOTTIE" 134954 RG-Q in number two spot in the same flight. His plane was jolted by a flak hit in the right engine nacelle which tore into the forty-one gallon oil tank mounted directly on the front of the firewall. Normal allowable oil consumption for each engine is twenty-one quarts per hour at maximum cruise, however the gash caused heavy loss of oil and subsequent engine power. The pilot lost altitude rapidly as his co-pilot went through the engine shut down procedure, finally leveling off at 4,000 feet, they found themselves in close proximity with several of those ever loving Spitfires. The B-26 was able to maintain altitude, barely; as the crew began a wretched slow and low flight home over enemy held territory!
A number of ships in the high flight were damaged by the flak barrage - a plane flown by Lieutenant Romney Spencer, 131850 RG-S took a hit in the left wing approximately three feet inboard from the landing light. The static line to air speed indicator was also cut, flak punched a hole in the top ring cowling as well. The low flight did not escape battle damage. Lieutenant Klimovich flying, "THE MAD RUSSIAN" 131600 AN-U was hit along with "BLAZING HEAT" 131585 AN-J flown in number four position by Captain Gianatsis. His right elevator fabric was torn up and the leading edge of his right inner wing. None of the second box of eighteen ships dropped their bombs because of the clouds covering the target, but the Germans managed to damage eleven of our planes!
Heavy cloud cover ruled out an attack on the secondary target located along the return route, so the Group set course for the enemy coast. A few B-26 crews noted enemy planes taking off from nearby airfields, no encounters with the bombers were recorded. The 11 Group RAF escort was very busy dealing with the German fliers, seeing between forty and fifty fighter planes. The RAF claimed one FW-190 destroyed, and one FW-190 damaged for the loss of one Spitfire, the pilot of which was rescued later.
Freight trains were observed operating between Serqueux and Dieppe, indicating that the marshalling yards had been repaired since the last raid there. The formation was down to the prescribed altitude of 10,000 feet as the enemy coast came into view. Flak was being fired at them from Dieppe. Captain Weiss figured his formation was three miles off course as they exited enemy territory. Captain Perry marked the position as five miles southwest of Dieppe, the flak was weak and inaccurate 88mm stuff, time was 1105 hours.
Lieutenant Novitsky could be seen trailing far below on single engine, with the Spitfires sticking to him like glue! Approximately five miles off shore all bombers jettisoned their bomb loads into the channel, and took up a heading for English landfall. The weather conditions soon became an obvious factor on the return flight, heavy cloud formations lay ahead of the bombers. They crossed over the coast of England at 6,000 feet, only a few hundred feet below the freezing level with icing conditions in the clouds. Captain Haber and crew saw Lieutenant Novitsky flying on single engine at 2,000 feet, making English landfall over Hastings. A short time later the disabled plane made a safe landing at the airdrome located at Bradwell Bay.
Formation leaders decided to land their flock at nearby RAF bases rather than fly into the risky weather situation in the vicinity of home base. Major Lockhart took his second box into Manston. Ships from the first box landed at a variety of RAF Stations, one being RAF Station 121 at Lydd, several others landed at Station 125. Many crews welcomed the change of menu, making statements like - good food at Manston, ate well at British field, rotten at Boxted! The flight crews looked over various RAF aircraft at the host airdromes while waiting for the weather front to pass through. Around 1500 hours conditions improved and crews flew their planes back to Boxted in rather loose formation made up of flights of twos and threes.
Mission interrogation was underway at 1630 hours with many comments about todays operation. Tell Wing to give us a fifty-fifty chance to bomb. Dont enjoy being a tow target for German gunners. Flak too accurate, fly at different altitude! Recommend missions not be sent when weather makes it improbable that bombs can be dropped. Suggest better alternate airdromes, too rough for ships in trouble to land - Manston no good for B-26s. Captain Caney suggests leaders show navigation lights and one of the color lights when forming through an overcast! Drop bombs on coastal guns if not able to locate assigned target. Weather and Wing should get together! Could see marshalling yards and could have bombed them. Headset adapters are unsatisfactory. The radio procedure for inter-ship communications should be improved. Cant hear alarm bell in tail, and only barely in top turret or waist position. Need proper toilet facilities in the briefing room building! And so another day in jolly ole England comes to a close.
Chester P. Klier