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|Sunday, October 3, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 30:
Briefing for the second mission of the day began at 0700 hours. We are going to Holland on this one! Third Bomb Wing directs us to hit the airdrome which is located at Woensdrecht, identified as Z1011. We have a secondary target also, the Haamstede Airdrome, it is situated on the western tip of Schouwen Island in Dutch territory. Our Group will be following the 387th Bomb Group, each of our Groups will put up thirty-six aircraft plus four extras. Each plane is loaded with ten 300 pound demolition bombs, they are fused nose and tail for one-tenth second delay. All planes will carry maximum combat ammunition, enemy fighter reaction is expected!
The aiming point at the primary target is the northwest dispersal area, axis of attack is from north to south. The secondary target aiming point is also a dispersal area, with an axis of attack from east to west. Altitudes are: Rendezvous at 12,000 feet, bomb from 10,500, leave enemy coast at 9,000, and return at 7,000 feet. The RAF will furnish ten squadrons of Spitfire escort to cover us and the 387th Group.
The route out from base to Splasher Beacon 6 where we rendezvous with the 387th, then on to Orfordness, and out over the North Sea to position 51 Degrees 40 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 00 Minutes East to the I.P. which is located at Steenbergen to target. Return route: Right turn off target to Goes, to 51 Degrees 40 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 30 Minutes East, to 51 Degrees 40 Minutes North, 01 Degree 30 Minutes East to North Foreland, and back to base. We have three diversion airdromes, Manson, Bradwell Bay, and Gravesend.
The primary target has a heavy type six-gun flak position one and one quarter miles northwest of the airdrome. There is a possible heavy six-gun emplacement located one and three quarter miles south of the airdrome. The secondary target has a four-gun heavy type position, probably 88mm. Former raids to this target describe the heavy type flak as moderate to intense, and fairly accurate! The north and west part of the landing area have been recamouflaged with painted hedges and roads, obstructions have been removed. Barrage balloons were reported by heavy bombers on September 9th, further confirmation is not available.
Second Lieutenant Ralph Burson, Jr. had worked up the weather forecast at the station weather office. At take off time, two-tenths cumulus at 2,000 feet with tops to 3,500 feet, visibility is two miles in fog and haze. The route out will have two to three-tenths cumulus, and stratocumulus increasing four to six-tenths over Eastern England, then it will be decreasing to nil twenty miles out over the North Sea. Cloud cover will pick up over Holland with six to eight-tenths having a base of 2,000 feet, and tops to 6,000 feet, visibility is two miles in haze. At target, six to seven-tenths cumulus from 2,000 to 6,000 feet, and visibility will be six miles plus. Return route will be similar to route out except cloud cover will be mostly eight-tenths and visibility four miles. Landing time at base will have seven to eight-tenths cumulus from 2,000 on up to 6,000 feet, and visibility two to three miles. Low tide at 1047 hours, high tide at 1631 hours, with change of 13.3 feet.
Communications: Bombers to fighters on VHF Channel C. Bomber call sign is "DYPEG." Fighter call sign is "GARLIC," and Ground Sector call sign is "Bellfield" radio contact to 387th Group on VHF Channel C, and Air-Sea-Rescue, VHF radio on Channel D. Splasher Beacons in use for entire mission are: 4E, 5F, 6G, and 7H. Group Leader or Deputy Leader will report to Wing on clearing enemy coast. The briefing ended at 0831 hours, and crews reported to their aircraft.
Major Franklin Harris was the formation leader today, he taxied his ship "RAT POISON" 131606 AN-S along the perimeter track at 0911 hours as thirty-seven other ships began to queue up behind him. The leader was airborne at 0925, and the last man was into the air at 0949 hours. Lieutenant Robert Harris scheduled to fly "DINAH MIGHT" tail number 131576 AN-Z in the high flight, number six position of the first box did not take off due to a mechanical problem. His place was taken over by an extra pilot, Lieutenant Walter Novitsky, who was flying "SEDUCTIVE SUSIE" 131738 RG-O. Lieutenant Francis E. Mullen did not a take off, he returned to the dispersal area with, "BOOMERANG", tail number 131631 RU-G. An extra pilot, Lieutenant G.S. Jones flying, "4 F", tail number 131771 RU-R would fill in for him, second box, high flight position two.
The bombers circled Great Dunmow a few times while managing to avoid cumulus cloud build up which began around 2,000 feet, and extended to well over 3,500 feet amid slight fog and smoke. The formation reached 10,000 feet at 1025 hours, and then departed on true course of 44 degrees for Splasher Beacon number 6 while continuing to gain altitude. Ten minutes later they rendezvoused with the 387th Group at 12,000 feet. Now they had developed into a seventy-two plane formation with some extra planes tagging along. They took up a heading for Orfordness with the 387th leading the way.
Stratocumulus clouds were closing in to about six-tenths coverage far beneath the planes, however that proved no problem for the lead navigator in locating Orfordness on the eastern coast of England. The formation took up a course of 115 degrees leading them out over the North Sea toward fighter rendezvous some sixty-eight miles ahead. Some twenty miles off shore, the low cloud cover became nil as bomber gunners commenced test firing their guns.
A rash of aircraft malfunctions began occurringLieutenant L.H. Burgess took his ship "PANSEY YOKUM" 131638 RG-N out of formation and returned to base. His position five in low flight in the first box was filled in by Lieutenant R.S. Porter, an extra pilot who was flying, "HELLS BELLE" 131623 YA-T. Another ship in the first box, lead flight, position six, "THE MAD RUSSIAN" 131600 AN-U returned home by Lieutenant D. Klimovich, his spot would remain vacant! Captain R.D. Williamson was forced to give up his number three spot in the high flight of the first box due to technical problem. It was filled in when Lieutenant R.A. McNutt flying, "SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS" 134941 RG-D quickly pulled into that position. Things were also going awry back in the second box in the high flight. The leader, Lieutenant G.A. Purdy headed, "LETHAL LADY" 131646RU-C back to base as Lieutenant A.M Lien moved, "THUMBS UP" with number 131621 RU-P from number four position to number one. One Lieutenant R.H. Mayfield developed a bad engine on, "BARBARA" 131743 RU-S returned to base, as did Lieutenant R.B. Spencer flying a ship called, "LADY LUCK" 134947 RU-K. The only remaining extra pilot was Lieutenant G.R. Eldridge, Jr. flying ship number 131685 YA-J, he moved into position three, now the high flight only had three planes left!
Sixty-eight B-26 Bombers arrived at navigation point 51 Degrees 40 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 00 Minutes East, approximately twenty miles off Walcheren Island at 1055 hours. This was the rendezvous point for the bombers and their RAF escort, no Spitfires were to be seen; the bombers were five minutes early! The proper solution would have been to put the bomber formation in orbit about that point and wait five minutes for the RAF escort to show. The 387th Group Leader made a tactical error when he decided to press on into enemy territory without his fighter support. The formation made enemy landfall, then made a swing into a 360 degree turn as six to eight-tenths clouds at 6,000 feet hid important land marks to some extent! Coming about full circle, the leader had made a five mile penetration into enemy territory, and then made a 180 degree turn which would carry them back to open sea. Upon crossing the coast he saw his fighter escort approaching, at that point he made another 180 degree turn back to enemy land fall with the Spitfire escort flying on both sides and above the bomber stream. They made for the I.P. at Steenbergen twenty-eight miles ahead, as they passed three miles south of Schouwen Island. The north edge of Tolen Island was passing under the right side of the formationonly eight miles further on was the I.P. Three minutes later the bombers made a 90 degree turn at the I.P. which set them up on a 170 degree bomb run heading into the target area. Their air speed was 190 m.p.h., and bomb bay doors were open as they began a sixty second duration bomb run at an altitude of 10,500 feet. Heavy type flak began to blossom with black ugly puffs among the Marauders, but that was not the only problema large cumulus cloud had moved across the target area, thus blocking the view of the lead bombardier. The first seventeen ships from the 386th Group did not release their bombs, instead they closed bomb bay doors and headed for the secondary target. A fairly stiff wind moved the large cumulus cloud away from the target as the second box from the 386th headed by Major Ramsey arrived. Light type flak came up at them, but was only slight in amount and inaccurate. The 88mm heavy stuff was moderate in amount and fairly accurate, as bombs were released from 10,000 feet at 1125 hours. A tight turn was executed and the bombers headed northwest in the direction of Goes, Holland.
Only three of the B-26s received battle damagetheir Spitfire escort appeared to have attracted far more intense flak fire over the primary target than the fifteen 387th Group bombers had incurred! Two squadrons of Mark V Spitfires operating from Heston were flying close escort for the second box of 386th Bombersthey reported seeing results as fair with hits on the east and south side of the target airfield.
The lead box of 386th Group bombers led by Major Franklin Harris having by-passed the airdrome at Woensdrecht, were now on a 230 degree bomb run heading into a secondary target at Haamstede. One hundred and fifty-nine 300 pound demolition bombs rained down on the enemy airdrome, one aircraft failed to drop due to a bomb rack release mechanism malfunction. Overall results were considered as fair. Heavy type flak came up at 1136 hours as the Group departed enemy territory over Schouwen Island. It was slight to moderate in amount and considered as inaccurate. The formation flew back to England making land fall over North Foreland, then angled northwest back to base where they arrived at 1240 hours.
All crews piled into the interrogation roomto say the least, they were very unhappy with the days events! Captain Sandfords crew: Dont race across the channel and then circle, was indicating 200 m.p.h., but still could not keep up with the Group. Planes were forming up in too tight an area, groups could get mixed up. Need silk gloves for gunners. Lieutenant Eldridge crew said, officers mess is poor, and no transportation in from planes. The crew of Lieutenant Lien said, complete formation screwed up! The crew of Lieutenant G.E. Hoffman said the 387th Bomb Group did a poor job of leading. Lieutenant Petits crew: Get ordance on the ball, arming vanes not on right. Some of the arming wires cut too short while others were left too long. No transportation after landing.
Lieutenant G.S. Jones crew: Bombs not properly armed, no clips in nose or tail fuses. Suggest removing link chutes from tail gun turrets, they get all fouled up during firing of guns! Major Harris crew: Need better briefing on secondary targets if Wing is serious about wanting them bombed. Need warmer gloves for gunners. Lieutenant Kingsley crew: Enlisted men want hot cereal for breakfast. Saw some discs floating down from above bombers, probably a few inspection plates fell off a Spitfire! Captain Caney stated that the briefing for secondary target was not adequate. Lieutenant Greens crew: Lets not circle over enemy territory!
The RAF filed a report concerning enemy fighter activitiesa total of eighty to one hundred enemy aircraft plotted came from Courtrai, Belgium, and Deleen and Schiphol in Holland, also from Lille and Cambrai in France. RAF Squadron 129 claimed four enemy aircraft destroyed, this was the Woensdrecht escort. They had a plot of fifteen to twenty form the Cambrai Wingno definite figures on other enemy Wings. No losses or casualties suffered by the Spitfire squadrons.
Chester P. Klier