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|Wednesday, September 22, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 26:
Briefing was called to order at 1215 hours. After customary roll call of airplane commanders, details of the mission were explained to the flight crews. Field Order 99 issued by Third Bomb Wing, and F.O. 28 from the 386th Group - orders a bombing raid on the airdrome located at Evreux Fauville, France. It is identified on the target map as Z338. We have a secondary target know as Z759, an airdrome near the French coast at St. Valery. The 323rd Bomb Group will be leading us on this raid. The 322nd and 387th Bomb Groups will be hitting the airdrome at Beauvais-Tille, France.
All Groups will furnish thirty-six aircraft plus spares. We will carry ten 300 pound GP bombs in each ship, fusing is one-tenth second delay both nose and tail. All planes are fueled with 960 U.S. Gallons, and maximum combat ammunition is loaded on. Enemy air opposition is expected on this operation!
The route out is from base to Splasher Beacon Number 9 where we rendezvous at 1533 hours with the 323rd at 12,000 feet. They will lead the formation on to Beachy Head, from there we fly out over the channel to a point located at 50 Degrees 10 Minutes North, 00 Degrees 10 Minutes East at 1550 hours. That is the spot where we rendezvous with our Spitfire escort.
Enemy landfall will take place five miles east of Fe Camp at an altitude of 12,000 feet, after that we begin a gentle let down on way to Le Neubourg which is your I.P., sixteen miles northwest of the target. Bombing will be done from 10,500 feet, axis of attack is generally northwest to southeast. Our aiming point will be the dispersal areas on the northeast side of the airdrome. Make a left turn off target to Yvetot, then on to a point five miles west of St. Valery en Caux on the enemy coast where you exit at 10,000 feet. Cross the channel and make English landfall at 8,000 feet over Beachy Head, and then back to base. Diversion airdromes for today are Tangmere and Ford.
Weather at take off time will be two to three-tenths cumulus, base of 3,000 and tops to 5,000 feet. Visibility is six to eight miles. The route out will have two to three-tenths thin scattered cumulus, base of 3,000 and tops about 5,000 feet. Clouds will increase from three to five-tenths over French Coast, then decrease slightly inland. Target area looks like three to four-tenths thin cirrus and three-tenths thin cumulus, visibility of ten miles. Winds along route and target area is estimated to be from 10 degrees at 40 m.p.h. Return for the most part will be unchanged. At time of landing here at base you can expect two-tenths scattered fair weather cumulus, and a visibility of six miles.
This is the flak situation at the primary target - known heavy gun position positions: Three and one quarter miles north has six guns. One and one-half miles south-southeast there are four guns, and four more guns two and one-half miles west-southwest. All heavy type guns in the area are believed to be 88mm. The airfield appears to be lightly defended. On one raid August 24th weak, ineffective heavy type flak was encountered. For more flak information at entrance to and from enemy coast refer to coastal battery and flak maps, RYN R and 48. Weak 88mm flak has been reported at Le Trait, no known on route in, on route out avoid Rouen and Le Trait. Weak and inaccurate 88mm flak has been reported coming from Norville. There is a dummy airfield and one-quarter miles north of the target, and barrage balloons have been observed flying at Goderville. In regard to the secondary target, an increasing amount of heavy type flak has been experienced there lately!
All air to ground communications will be conducted on 6440 K.C. Bomber to fighter on VHF Channel C, along with bomber to bomber, and any communications with the 323rd Group. Bomber call sign is BOUBLETTE, Ground Sector Control call sign used will be GOODFIGHT. Air-Sea-Rescue on VHF Channel D Bomber code identity Group: SPARE GROUP 49. Group leader or deputy lead will report to Wing after clearing the enemy coast. The usual time check, synchronizing of watches took place, and the crews left the briefing room at 1324 hours.
After reaching their assigned aircraft the flight crews began preflight inspections. The author would be flying with his regular Lieutenant Donald Vincent crew. We would be flying Captain Ben Ostlinds plane, "MISS CARRIAGE" 134961 RG-M today. Our own aircraft, "BUZZ-N-BITCH II 131953 RG-T was badly mauled by enemy fighters on its last time out, and was now undergoing major repairs.
Our crew had some misgivings about the plane we were assigned to fly today! She gave us a real fright on a mission recall fifteen minutes before engine starting time. Pilot Vincent and myself had just completed our walk around inspection of the airplane, and had climbed up inside, he sat down in the co-pilot seat to check over the Form 1-A, so I sat down in the pilots seat. Our bombardier was Staff Sergeant Zephire Peterson, he had crawled into the nose compartment and was checking over his equipment. Staff Sergeant Leo Grus was back in the radio compartment getting things squared away at his crew position. Our co-pilot Flight Officer Robert Gragg and tail gunner Staff Sergeant James Wilkie were outside standing in front of the left engine.
The bombardier had closed the bomb bay doors, but for some reason he decided to open them again - they would not budge! He called back to us saying that this plane had an experimental bomb bay door opening device installed for the pilot to operate. Part of which was inside a small aluminum box mounted on the floor in front of the pilot seat. He said, "Pull out that long pin with the little chain attached." I leaned forward and began to pull it out. Unknown to me at the time, he was depressing the thumb button on top of the bomb bay door selector handle, and was trying to push the handle forward to the open position. When I pulled the lock pin free in the cockpit, his lever slammed full forward past the open position and into bomb salvo position.
The bomb bay doors flew open and crash - the plane emptied its entire load of 300 pound demolition bombs onto the hardstand. The sudden release of all that weight made the B-26 jiggle violently on its tires and oleo landing gear struts. Bombs began rolling all over the pavement. Within seconds every man was out of the plane and running like mad! We weren'tt the only ones making tracks. The crews parked near us saw the bombs fall out, and were sprinting also. In a few minutes our squadron operations officer one Captain Charles Thornton, who saw the entire fiasco, roared up in his jeep. He was pale like us, and very angry, and so shook all he could say was, "Youve got to more careful with those things or somebody will get hurt!" Ordnance people were rushed to the scene to defuse the bombs - some of the fuses were smashed which we were told made them even more dangerous to deal with!
Engine start up time was rapidly approaching, we thought we would sit this one out, but the operations officer told us otherwise. Captain Thornton Growled, "Bombs or no bombs youll fly this mission, we need your fire power in the formation!" So we flew merrily off to war with an empty bomb bay. As it turned out the mission was recalled while we were over the English Channel, we watched the other ships jettison their bombs into the water, knowing that all of our eggs were still very dry on the hardstand back at Boxted! The Germans bombed our airdrome twice, and our crew bombed it once, the hard way while we were parked on it! Nobody could argue that the plane had not lived up to her nickname, "MISS CARRIAGE!" Later our bombardier said, I dont know why everybody is so mad at me, I saved a whole load of bombs."
The identity of the ordnance crew learned later were, Tech Sergeant Ulysses Troxclair and Staff Sergeant George Reynolds, Jr. They were both awarded THE SOLDIERS MEDAL, the highest U.S. award for none combat heroism! This incident happened while the 386th Bomb Group was assigned to the U.S. 8th Air Force Command. We thought at the time that we were relatively safe because the arming wires were still inserted in the fuses when the bombs fell out of our airplane. However a few weeks later I read in the Stars & Stripes Newspaper where some bombs fell out of an 8th Air Force B-17 parked on its hardstand. The bombs exploded, killing several men and destroying three B-17s!
The roar of engines could be heard around the field as last minute engine run ups were being completed. First box leader Captain Dewhurst was into the air with, "DINAH MIGHT" 131576 AN-Z at 1418 hours. The last man cleared the runway at 1442 hours. Soon all thirty-nine ships had formed up and circling the airdrome. The combined one hundred fifty-six thousand horse power drone was wafted down upon Boxted and the surrounding countryside. The formation set out for rendezvous with the 323rd over Splasher Beacon Number 9. Then the seventy-two ship formation plus spares flew to Beachy Head.
Lieutenant Klimovich flying his plane, "THE MAD RUSSIAN" 131600 AN-U in number three position, high flight in the first box developed a problem with his right engine. He feathered the propeller and returned to base on single engine. Lieutenant Robert Harris moved up forward to fill the vacant spot with ship number 131823 AN-V. Lieutenant Lien was flying as a spare ship managed to commandeer the open number six position with, "THUMBS UP" 131621 RU-P. The same two openings were up for grabs in the second box. Lieutenant Blackwelder left number three position to return to base with an ill crewman. Lieutenant Petrey flying, "PANSY YOKUM" 131638 RG-N moved up, and Lieutenant Eldridge flying, "MISS MURIEL II" 131796 YA-H as extra pilot filled in number six position. Lieutenant Burger also an extra pilot, saw no opening so he returned to base with his plane, HELLS-A-POPPIN II" 131987 YA-G.
Lieutenant Charles Roe being the last of the scheduled extra pilots was determined to find an opening for his ship, "CLOUD HOPPER 2nd" 131763 RU-O and his crew. All slots were filled in our Group, then he saw a vacancy in number six position, high flight in the first box of the 323rd Bomb Group. At that point some diabolical reasoning must have taken over - as long as his crew had to get up on a chilly morning, eat a not-too-tasty breakfast, and use up a lot of aviation fuel; why not make the enemy pay for this most inconvenience? He maneuvered his plane into position with the other Group and then continued flying the mission with them!
The bombers had successfully completed test firing their guns - a short while later, the Spitfire escort planes joined up at 1550 hours at the appointed spot in the sky. All headed toward enemy held territory. They made landfall five miles east of Fe Camp at 1558 hours amid a mixture light type flak and some 88mm as well, it was considered to be slight in amount and inaccurate.
The formation flew a generally southeastern course heading for the I.P. located at Le Neubourg, which lay fifty miles inland. Splitting the distance between Lillebonne on the west and Caudebec on the east, the formation crossed over the River Seine as it snaked its way to the channel coast at Le Havre. We had twenty-six miles to go before reaching the I.P. The author and crew were flying in number five position in the low flight, it was very easy to see the aircraft in the lead flight of our second box. At 1610 hours a red flare was to be seen fired from number five ship in the lead flight, then followed almost immediately by the release of its bombs.
Lieutenant Tamlyns ship, "NEMO" 134944 YA-M was in trouble, but we did not know why, we were not catching any flak at the moment! His right side propeller was slowing down and then came to a stop in the feathered position - the engine was dead! He lost altitude in a slow right turn out of formation as Spitfires dropped down to cover him, at a position approximately eight miles southwest of Elbeuf.
We were not aware of it at the time of course, but an even more crucial situation had arisen within that ship. Apparently the bombardier had released his bombs in the armed condition - where the arming wires are retained by the bomb racks. As the bombs fall away from the racks, the arming wires pull out of the nose and tail fuses, which in turn allow the arming vanes on the fuses to rotate in the slipstream. After making the required number of revolutions the vane would shear off and the bomb would be armed. Then the bomb would explode on contact or be delayed for what ever time the fuse was set for.
The bombardier closed the bomb bay doors, his light panel indicated one bomb had hung! Before he could open the doors again the bomb dropped, hitting the closed door. One door was bent and the operating mechanism damaged. The nose of the bomb had forced the door part way open, thus pinching the bomb between the aircraft catwalk beam and the door edge. The slipstream had done its work as the arming vane spun off leaving the bomb fully armed! The next jolt would set off 300 pounds of high explosives inside the aircraft. The crew could not make radio contact with anybody because their VHF set had gone out of commission. A few minutes later the crew decided it would be best to bail out of their plane. Suddenly the combination of bomb weight and steady drag of the slipstream overcame the bomb door resistance, and the armed bomb slid free of the plane, then it began a two mile plunge to earth. A relieved crew headed for home!
A 10 degree dog leg to left was executed at the I.P. and the bombers began to open their bomb bay doors - the bomb run to the target had commenced. At that very moment enemy fighter planes appeared on the scene! A FW-190 swept under our number five ship in the low flight, and was climbing up to 4 oclock high position. The author fired some eighty rounds or so from my top turret, the German flew through a curtain of my tracers about 400 yards out. The plane swung back down and away toward 6 oclock low position, apparently none the worse for ware. Staff Sergeant Wilkie in the tail picked up the fighter and fired a hundred rounds or more. He stated later he did not observe any obvious damage to the FW-190.
Seconds later two Me-109s attacked our number five ship MISS CARRIAGE" and also "HOT PISTOL" 131633 GR-P flown by Captain Lubojasky in our low flight. They fired continuously coming in from 6 oclock medium high at 800 yards. The author fired off a long burst at them from my top turret, at that point the fin and rudder blocked my line of fire as both planes dropped down to 6 oclock low. J.D. Wilkie began firing at them from a range of 600 yards as they closed in to about 400 yards. He scored hits in the fuselage as one Messerschmitt broke away. Staff sergeant L.H. Everhart, tail gunner in "HOT PISTOL" got off some forty rounds. Our waist gunner Staff Sergeant R.W. OKane fired a quick burst at one enemy plane as it peeled down and away under our ship. At the same instant Staff Sergeant Harry Dickerson, tail gunner in Captain Perrys lead ship, "MERT" 131616 RG-H fired fifty rounds at the other enemy plane diving away in a different direction.
An Me-109 approached the high flight in the second box from 11 oclock low, passed under the formation, then banked sharply to the left, and climbed toward the number five ship. It appeared to be maneuvering to make an attack from the rear of, "SEDUCTIVE SUSIE" 131738 RG-O flown by Lieutenant Mc Nutt. His waist gunner Sergeant R.V. Weidman and Sergeant R.P. Self tail gunner, each fired upon the enemy ship at 400 yards. The German pilot quickly broke off the attack and was last seen being pursued by several Spitfires.
The bomb run continued, and the formation began catching both light flak and heavy 88mm flak which appeared to be somewhat weak and inaccurate. However they did manage to hit two ships in the first box. Captain Caneys plane, "PRIVY DONNA" 131658 RU-A in the low flight and, "THUMBS UP" in the high flight being flown by Lieutenant Lein. Back in the second box two ships in the high flight were damaged, "GAMBLERS LUCK" 131639 RG-G piloted by Lieutenant George Howard. The other plane was, "SEDUCTVE SUSIE" flown by Lieutenant Mc Nutt. Some flak holes also showed in three low flight planes. Captain Perrys "MERT", along with our plane "MISS CARRIAGE" flown by Lieutenant Donald Vincent. The plane next us was also hit, 131850 RG-S with Lieutenant Romney Spencer at the controls in the number six position low flight.
Our bombardier Lieutenant Popovici called out over intercom, "Bombs Away," time was 1614 hours. Lieutenant Hodges crew saw a big explosion on the target, and reasoned a fuel dump had beet hit! They also observed two Junkers 52 Transport planes parked on the target airdrome as they flew over in their ship called, "MISS MARY" 131650 AN-O. The formation was well into a left turn away from the target as the anti-aircraft fire subsided, a bit of tranquility - but not for long, the Jerry fighters were coming again!
Captain Perrys tail gunner Staff Sergeant Harry Dickerson spotted an enemy coming up in a steep climb, the twin engine Messerschmitt-110 was about 200 yards out. Dickerson fired some fifty to sixty rounds, tracers were observed all around it. The German did not return fire, but nosed down quickly and was chased by some Spitfires. An Me-109 crossed way low in front of "HOT PISTOL," number four ship - its alert bombardier Lieutenant Amar Andranigian grabbed his flexible nose gun and fired about twenty rounds without any apparent hits. The enemy pilot cut in sharply toward our low flight from 11 oclock low, opening fire at 150 yards. The author in the top turret on number five ship had a zone search from 3 oclock around to 6 oclock and overhead. My first indication of the enemy planes presents was a batch of tracers going over the top of my turret dome about rudder high. I jerked in my neck like a turtle. At that instant if somebody had looked into my turret, they might have seen a on the seat a pair of size twelve G.I. shoes covered over by a badly shaking helmet!
I popped my head up looking over my right shoulder in time to see a second burst of fire from the enemy plane hanging on its propeller at a very steep angle from 10 oclock low position. Both wing cannon were belching orange fire along with two machine guns. I had a compelling urge to be somewhere else! The German pilot pushed the nose of his plane down and fire-walled his throttle, his protesting engine responded with a black greasy streak of exhaust in the sky as the plane swished under us heading to 4 oclock low position, and then disappeared into the thin clouds below our formation.
The city of Rouen was approximately eight miles to right of the formation as an Me-109 made a pass at Lieutenant Ralph Marbles plane called, "GERONIMO" 131630 RG-J flying in number three position in the low flight. The enemy came in from 9 oclock low, then climbed above the flight. Top turret man Staff Sergeant Emmett Bilyeu, Jr. expended twenty-five to thirty rounds at 300 yards. He scored hits in the wings and fuselage, but without obvious effect. The enemy ship broke away in a dive to 4 oclock low without firing a shot!
At sometime during the air battle a spent 50 caliber cartridge case smashed a four inch diameter hole through the Plexiglas nose of "MISS CARRIAGE", luckily the debris did not strike our bombardier Lieutenant Anthony Popovici sitting in the nose compartment of our ship! The formation was right on course as it exited the enemy coast five miles west of St. Valery en Caux at an altitude of 10,000 feet, time was 1633 hours. They slowly lost altitude crossing the channel making landfall 8,000 feet over Beachy Head. From there flying directly to Boxted where the planes began landing at 1722 hours.
Lieutenant Romney Spencer was just touching down on the runway, two white puffs of smoke were seen as his main wheels contacted the runway, his ship rolled straight as an arrow toward the far end of the strip. Our plane was on short final approach just about to flare out - Spencers ship was still in full view on the runway far ahead. Suddenly there was a cloud of dust where he had been. Our ship was still on a fast roll on the runway when we saw the tail of Spencers plane go up and stay there at a high angle! As we approached the runway turn off we could see that the plane was well off the end of the runway. The fuselage was bent at a sharp angle right at the side cockpit window. The nose of the ship was flat on the ground with the tail pitched up about a 45 degree angle. It looked not unlike a hound dog sniffing at a rabbit hole! Both engines and props were mashed into the ground.
Flak had damaged the nose strut down lock, as a result when the pilot relaxed back pressure on the control yoke, the nose strut could not support the weight of the nose section and it collapsed smashing the entire nose of the airplane. The crew received a few bumps, however Staff Sergeant Harold Hadley, radioman reinjured his back when the tail pitched up. A medical check up revealed a number of fractured vertebra. He was put into a body cast and would be off flying status for the next sixteen weeks. He told the author that his back never did feel right since the day that his crew ditched their plane, "MARGIE" 134970 RG-L in the English Channel just two weeks before on September 8th, 1943. The strange thing about this was the fact that my crew was flying right along side them on that day as well!
Lieutenant Spencers plane was flown on its first combat mission by the authors crew on September 14th. I recall that Tech Sergeant Armando Madiera our squadron photographer walked over with his camera in hand a few minutes before engine start time. He Said, "I want to get a picture of this plane and crew, this a brand new airplane - well get a nice picture of it while its still in one piece!" Now just eight days later aircraft 131850 RG-S was the subject for the photographer once again. This plane was the replacement for Lieutenant Danforths ship, "HAZARD" 134958 RG-F, which was shot down on the Boulogne raid September 9, 1943.
The interrogation room was a loud and smoky place as returning crews filed in to make their combat reports. Lieutenant Michaels crew saw a Spitfire in a vertical dive at 1618 hours, as did the Lieutenant Hodge crew, adding that it was going down smoking! The same incident was reported by both the Captain Lubojasky and Lieutenant Gus Hoffman Crews. The position of the sun was generally at 8 oclock location, but crews agreed the enemy fighter attacks came mostly from out of the clouds beneath the formation, and from front and rear areas. The German pilots did not press their attacks closely because of the aggressiveness on the part of the Spitfire pilots! None of the bombers had been hit by enemy fighter plane fire. All crews stated that the RAF fighter cover was excellent for the entire mission. There were seven separate enemy plane encounters with ten to twelve planes participating. Strange as it may seem, none of the B-26 gunners made claims for damaged or destroyed enemy planes. However if any of those German pilots had been looking for a herausschuss ( shoot out ) they got one! Ordnance people tallied up 5769 rounds of ammo expended on the mission, of that the 552nd Squadron in the low flight in the second box shot up 3184 rounds!
There were many other comments about things in general, such as: Heavy gloves and socks for gunners, heated suits and boots as well. Flak suits need repair. Traffic pattern was messed up due to change of runway. Bomb run was too long. Need more Spitfires. There was good route planning, and leaders held air speed down well, but the 323rd Group should fly better formation! The target airdrome was not well camouflaged so it was easily recognized. Co-pilots should get more formation flying time. The Tamlyn crew made it back to base on single engine. They reported seeing six heavy guns in a semi circle pointing out toward the channel between Eletot and Fe Camp.
Major Lockharts crew saw a black FW-190 and an Me-109 with yellow bottom. The Lieutenant Spencers crew observed several Me-109s with yellow noses. Lieutenant Perkins crew spotted an Me-109 with an all red cowling. Bombing results were rated from fair to good. Our Group dropped three hundred fifty-nine 300 pound demolition bombs on the target. Ten of which were dropped by Lieutenant Roes crew while tagging along with the 323rd Bomb Group. He did not speak very highly for their type of flying technique!
Staff Sergeant Harold Hadley was at the waist gunner position on the Lieutenant Spencer crew for todays mission. They were flying directly at our left in the formation in the low flight. As we left the debriefing the author asked him where he was looking when that German fighter plane was hanging on its prop banging away - showering a batch of tracers over my turret dome? His answer was, "I ran out of ammunition on my port side waist gun before that joker showed up!"
The 322nd and the 387th Bomb Groups had their mission to Beauvais-Tille recalled while they were over Tocqueville, France by the RAF. The reason was poor weather conditions in the proposed target area. That fact alone probably led the German Fighter Control Unit to sic the extra fighters on hand, to go after our formation!
Chester P. Klier