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|Sunday, October 3, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 31:
The third mission briefing for the day commenced at 1315 hours, with Major Hankey conducting. Third Bomb Wing Field Order 112 directed the Group to attack an airdrome located at Beauvais Tille, France, identified as Z154 on the target map. There was also a secondary target, Z136 which was the airdrome situated at Abbeville Drucat, also located in France. This raid will be a four group effort with the 323rd leading the entire show. They will be followed by the 322nd, 387th, and our 386th bunch brings up the rear! Each group will furnish eighteen ships plus one extra. All of the planes are loaded with six 500 pound demolition bombs fused for one-tenth second delay, both nose and tail. Our escort will be Spitfires from 11 Group RAF.
The route out from base to Splasher Beacon Number 7, and rendezvous with the 387th Bomb Group, then fly to Splasher Beacon Number 8 to rendezvous with the 323rd and 322nd Bomb Groups. From there to our fighter rendezvous at position 50 Degrees 20 North, 01 Degree 00 Minutes East at 12,000 feet. We make enemy landfall at Criel and on to the I.P. at Onsembray to target. The route back is a left turn off target to Ault to Dungeness, and back to base. We will bomb from an altitude of 10,500 feet, axis of attack is generally southwest to northeast. The aiming point is the north dispersal areas and personnel accommodations. If we go after the secondary target, bomb on return course with aiming point being the northwest dispersal area.
The flak situation: Weak and inaccurate heavy type at Criel, avoid Le Treport four miles east of enemy landfall where heavy guns and automatic weapons fire has been recently experienced. Heavy type guns have been reported two miles northeast of Envermen. Some flak experienced southwest of Beauvais in vicinity of Onsemray. The primary target has a six gun position two miles north-northeast. One four gun position three and one half miles northeast, a six gun position one and one-half miles east; and another six gun emplacement 1100 yards south-southwest of the target - all are believed to be 88mm type. En route from the target between St. Omer, En Chaussee, and the area around Marseille En Beauvais, there is weak but fairly accurate heavy type flak. A truck mounting a heavy flak gun, often camouflaged with bales of straw is attached to every train operating in the Abbeville-Le Treport area. The exit point at Ault will sometimes be weak and inaccurate heavy type flak; on occasion it has been intense and fairly accurate!
The secondary target has a six gun position three-quarters of a mile to the east-northeast, a four gun position 1600 yards southwest; and another four gun emplacement three and three-quarter miles to the southwest. On recent raids, intense accurate heavy type flak was experienced by Bomphoons (Hawker Typhoon Fighters fitted out for dive bombing) during diving attacks from altitudes of 12,000 and 9,000 feet, down to a low of 4,000 feet! The airdrome is reported to be well camouflaged.
Regarding the primary target - operations against it during recent weeks has reportedly rendered it more or less fifty percent unserviceable. It is hoped that this raid will make it completely unserviceable. However it must be borne in mind that it is virtually impossible to render an airdrome to a permanently unserviceable state - the enemy can if he desires, restore an airdrome to operational condition no matter how well it is hit!
The nineteen crews received all required communications information for the mission, and a very favorable weather forecast for conditions over the channel and The Continent. However there would be some nine-tenths cumulus and stratocumulus clouds between 3,500 and 5,500 feet to contend with until clearing the south coast of England. Briefing ended at 1446 hours with the synchronizing of all watches - crews departed the room and went out to their assigned aircraft.
Engine starting time arrived, and five minutes later formation leader Major Beaty began to taxi out. He was into the air with, "SON-OF-SATAN" 131613 YA-Y at 1524 hours, all of his lead flight were 555th Squadron planes. The high flight was led by Captain Ronald Aultman, all of his pilots were from the 552nd Squadron, but two of the pilots, Lieutenants John Petrey, and Donald Vincent would be flying ships borrowed from the 554th Squadron. The author would be flying with Lieutenant Vincent. The low flight was led by Captain Robert Sands from the 555th Squadron with three pilots from the 554th Squadron, and two pilots from the 553rd Squadron. Captain D.H. Dewhurst, Jr. was scheduled to fly in the number four spot, but an airplane problem prevented him from taking off. Lieutenant Robert Harris from the 553rd flew in that position, and the extra pilot Lieutenant James Peters from the 554th Squadron filled in the vacated number six position. Field visibility was four miles in smoke and haze as the last plane cleared the runway.
The single box of bombers formed up rather loosely to afford a safer climb up through the nine-tenths cumulus clouds draped over their airdrome At approximately 6,000 feet they broke out on top into the clear, and the formation was able to tighten up as they continued circling above the air base at 11,500 feet. At 1629 hours the formation departed over base on a 180 degree heading for Splasher Beacon Number 7 where they made rendezvous with the 387th Bomb Group. Then with the 387th in the lead they flew slightly southwest in the direction of their next link up, which took place at Splasher Beacon Number 8. The two box formation fell in behind the thirty-six ship formation of the 323rd and 322nd Bomb Groups respectively.
The seventy-two plane bomber stream was on a twenty-eight mile route to the English Coast at Beachy Head, where they flew out over the channel at 1655 hours on a heading of 130 degrees. This carried them to a navigation point twenty-five miles off the enemy coast of France. Rendezvous was accomplished at 1703 hours with the Spitfire escort. The bomber formation crossed the enemy coastline at Criel eight minutes later without a single round of flak being fired at them. They flew directly inland on a true course of 140 degrees for a distance of fifty-five miles to the I.P. at Onsembray. A left turn was executed and the bombers set up a course of 100 degrees while indicating an air speed of 190 m.p.h.
Heavy type flak bursts were observed a mile or so ahead as the formation leader entered the target area. This was one of the disadvantages of flying as Tail-End-Charlie box; you always get a preview of what will be happening to you in the next few minutes! Another consideration is enemy fighters prefer jumping the bombers at the rear of the formation.
First Lieutenant William L. Leirevaag was the lead bombardier flying with Major Beaty, he had just opened the bomb bay doors on, "SON-OF-SATAN to commence the bomb run; the target was clear of clouds, and visibility was eight to ten miles at 10,500 feet. A few black puffs of 88mm flak appeared around our box of eighteen ships, suddenly the anti-aircraft fire became intense and accurate as the enemy unleashed a barrage of fire! This was particularly unnerving for the author who was flying with the Lieutenant Vincent crew - This was my first mission since being wounded by the nasty stuff, while flying on my thirteenth mission with this crew!
Our box leader released his bombs at 1727 hours, within thirty seconds the bombs were exploding in the town of Tille, now being used as a dispersal area, and personnel living quarters by enemy forces. Our high flight bombs hit two aircraft shelters in a dispersal area, and many other buildings. The low flight bombs were bursting on a number of buildings in Tille, undoubtedly doing heavy damage. Our raid results were rated as fair to good.
The formation made a sweeping left turn away from the target area and headed in the direction of Aultflak followed along with the bombers. Three miles northeast of Tille, a near flak burst flipped a Spitfire over on its back to starboard side, it started to smoke. The spectacle was viewed by Lieutenant Mc Callums crew flying in a plane which was named, "YE OLDE CROCKE" 131755 RU-F, number three position in the low flight. The Spitfire pilot quickly regained control of his ship continuing on with the formation. The flak subsided momentarily, but only to give way to a new threat!
A Messerschmitt-109 attacked, "SHADRACK" 131586 RG-U, number six ship in the high flight flown by Lieutenant Romney Spencer. The enemy pilot came in from the 5 o'clock level position; firing a long burst from 800 yards, but was ineffective. The fire was answered by Staff Sergeant Howard Scholz who returned 150 rounds from his waist position as the German pilot turned away showing a gray underside and a yellow nose. Two minutes later the same B-26 was attacked from 6 o'clock high, top turret gunner Staff Sergeant J.R. Frederick opened fire at 800 yards, he could not be certain of any hits as the Me-109 broke off the attack, climbing out to the right side of the formation.
Still another Me-109 went after "SHADRACK" flying on a curving route from 8 oclock around to 2 oclock behind and now level with the bomber. The enemy pilot did not fire because tail gunner Staff Sergeant E.A. Kahl picked him up and got off 200 rounds at 400 yards, thus breaking up the attack effort. Staff Sergeant James Wilkie got off 100 rounds from his tail spot in ship "?" 131635 RU-H flown by Lieutenant Donald Vincent in the number five position in the high flight. Although hits were scored in the mid section of the enemy ship, it flew away apparently unhampered. Captain Justin Lubojasky was flying in number four position of the high flight in a plane named "WINNIE" 131617 RG-A when a Messerschmitt-109 singled out his ship for attack from 7 oclock low. At that time Tech Sergeant S.N. Triantafellu rattled off 40 rounds at 600 yards from his waist gun position as the enemy fighter peeled away to port side.
Seconds later another Me-109 was flying at 9 oclock level, then flew toward 5 oclock position and began climbing - the tail gunner on "WINNIE" for this mission was Staff Sergeant Norman Bell who let loose with 125 rounds at 200 yards. In his top turret spot in the same plane, Staff Sergeant Eugene Hood fired 100 rounds as the enemy plane climbed upward smoking slightly at 600 yards, the German pilot leveled off and quickly flew out of bomber range!
Approximately fifteen miles northwest of the target in the vicinity of a town named Randvilliers, a FW-190 began maneuvering for a 6 oclock low attack on ship number six in the low flight called, "CLOUD HOPPER 2nd" 131763 RU-O from 750 yards out. The enemy pilots 20mm cannon fire seemed ineffective as he closed to 500 yards. Tail gunner Staff Sergeant W.S. Gardner flying with Lieutenant James Peters took up the challenge by firing a burst at 250 yards that appeared to strike the fighter in the left wing root area. Directly across in position number five, two gunners in ship 131775 AN-N piloted by Lieutenant H.E. Fansler, Jr. joined in the aerial battle. Staff Sergeants, J.C. Balfour in the tail and P.E. Schoch at his waist position contributed to a flurry of tracer bullets seen whizzing toward the German plane at short range. The FW-190 pilot nosed down abruptly, then broke away underneath, "CLOUD HOPPER 2nd showing no visible battle scars after his brief encounter with the B-26s.
The bombers continued flying on a heading of 325 degrees - seven minutes had passed since leaving the target when a FW-190 began a pass on Lieutenant Peters aircraft. The enemy fighter came in on the number five ship in the low flight from 5 oclock low firing a burst at 400 yards which apparently missed the bomber. Staff Sergeant J.C. Balfour expended 60 to 70 rounds from his tail position guns with little or no effect, the German pilot sliced down and away toward 7 oclock low!
Dead astern of the high flight, a FW-190 was observed by the author as it rolled into a 90 degree bank approximately 800 yards out, the maneuver exhibited a perfect top plan view of the aircraft as it began a steep diving turn toward our low flight ships. The enemy headed under the last three planes of that flight, and approached from 5 oclock low. It was lined up on, "YE OLDE CROCKE" flown by Lieutenant Mc Cullum in the number three position. His tail gunner was Staff Sergeant G.E. Esquidel who fired a short burst at 200 yards, no hits were observed. At that instant a second FW-190 flashed by from 7 oclock low - the two fighters crossed paths behind the bomber. No gun fire was seen to come from either of the German fighter planes during their passes.
Most of the Spitfire escort was off doing battle with the Luftwaffe well out from bomber gun range. The Lieutenant Robert Harris crew saw what they believed to be a Spitfire going down on fire from 10,500 feet at 1713 hours. Major Beaty made note of a terrific mass of orange flashes in the sky which lasted about fifteen seconds and left no smoke. The display was similar to a string of exploding firecrackers! The enemy coast was at hand over Ault as German anti-aircraft gunners responded with light type tracer flak. It was slight in amount and considered inaccurate for position at 1740 hours. A few bursts of 88mm flak were also observed. The formation crossed the channel and made English landfall over Dungeness, from which each bomb group headed for its own base. Flights of six began fanning out to form up a landing pattern over Great Dunmow.
Lieutenant Milfred Elling circled waiting his turn to land , he was not fully aware of the battle damage done to, "HELLS-A-POPPIN" 131614 YA-X. The landing gear came down and locked so he made his usual landing approach, touched down lightly on the main gear, and holding off the nose wheel until all wing lift had dissipated. The ship was rolling on all three wheels as smooth as a seven dollar marble, he eased on his brakes and realized he had no hydraulic pressure. The plane continued to roll at a good clip as the pilot activated the emergency air brakes - they fail to function, the hydraulic and air brake line had been shot out by flak! The plane ran straight off the end of the runway, it skipped over a ditch and crashed into a pile of lumber. The nose and main gear folded and the left propeller was bent backward - the entire Plexiglas nose was smashed which allowed the right side fixed nose gun to protrude forward like a lance! A five foot long belt of ammunition dangled from its storage box. Tech Sergeant A.P. Bonnickson and Staff Sergeant G.A. Sampson were slightly injured in the crackup, all of the other crew members escaped unharmed. "HELLS-A-POPPIN" was Lieutenant Albert Abersons assigned aircraft - it was declared a total loss and was hauled off to the salvage dump!
During mission interrogation Lieutenant Fanslers crew reported seeing a B-26 turn back at 1705 hours with its left engine smoking, then it made a steep bank and dive toward some Spits for cover about twelve miles off the enemy coast. Four Spitfires came to his aid. The crew of Captain Sands saw a Spitfire turn back under control as two Air-Sea-Rescue boats were heading out on a course of 190 degrees. One crew reported that M/F and D/F Stations were not sending out call signs.
The other B-26 Groups had a few problems on the joint mission: Two 322nd Group ships returned early, one had loss of power, and the other one had rudder control difficulties. The 323rd Group also had two early returns, one crewman forgot to take his parachute along; the other ship had a propeller governor malfunction. The 387th Group had three aircraft with mechanical difficulties, one of those planes was forced to land at another base.
Monday, October 4, 1943:
Briefing was underway at 1315 hours, the briefing officer read a report from Third Wing:
Enemy aircraft reaction to the 322nd, 323rd, 386th, and the 387th attack on the Beauvais Tille Airdrome on October 3, 1943. The RAF plotted sixty to seventy enemy aircraft in the Lille, Beauvais, and Evreux areas. Eleven of the enemy aircraft were destroyed - six FW-190s, four Me-109s and one unidentified. Five enemy planes were damaged - four FW-190s and one was a Me-109. Four Spitfires were lost in the air action. Bombing by 323rd Bomb Group was rated very good, hits could be seen on the western dispersal area.
Our target for this afternoon is Z619, the airdrome located at Beauvais Nevillers, France. We will put up thirty-six aircraft plus four extras. Each ship is loaded with ten 300 pound demolition bombs fused both nose and tail for one-tenth second delay. The aiming point is the northwest dispersal wooded areas and taxi track. We also have a secondary target identified on the target map as Z364, Poix Nord Airdrome. Zero hour is 1650 hours.
The route out from base to Splasher Beacon Number 8, where you will rendezvous with the 387th Bomb Group, they will have thirty-six aircraft. Then continue on to the coast at Dungeness, out over the channel to a position 50 Degrees 20 minutes North, 01 Degree 00 minutes East, and make rendezvous with your Spitfire escort. Enemy landfall will be made at Criel, then on to the I.P. located at Onsembray and on to the target. Axis of attack is generally west to east. Make a left turn off target and fly back to Criel, then to Dungeness to base. Flight crews received all pertinent information regarding Flak, enemy fighter data, communications, and last minute weather update. Briefing was completed and the airmen reported to their respective aircraft.
The formation leader took off at 1530 hours and the Group circled over base while forming up at 10,000 feet. At 1624 hours they departed on a heading of 175 degrees for Splasher Beacon Number 8, where they joined up with the 387th Group. The seventy-two plane formation left the English Coast at Dungeness at 1645 hours on a true course of 178 degrees. They proceeded to fly toward navigation position 50 Degrees 20 Minutes North, 01 Degree 00 minutes East, out over the Strait Of Dover - however just prior to that location, a radio message was received by the formation leader. The mission had been recalled before making rendezvous with their fighter escort. All planes jettisoned bomb loads into the channel and flew back to base where all landed safely.
Tuesday, October 5, 1943:
Due to bad weather, no flying was scheduled.
Wednesday, October 6, 1943:
Persistent poor weather prevailed yet another day, no flying as a result. A decision was made in regard to a daily training report requirement - it would list names of all men involved and total hours spent concerning: Gunnery, bomb trainer, Link Trainer, practice bombing, and other schooling. It should be submitted each day no later than 1300 hours by all squadrons. All officers under the rank of Major are required to drill one hour each day, and are to be excused only when a mission or weather interferes!
Thursday, October 7, 1943:
No flying scheduled, although weather appeared fairly good. The electricity was off nearly all day - Group had a problem with The Air Ministry concerning the use of the auxiliary power supply. A red alert was sounded late at night, several enemy aircraft flew over Great Dunmow, no bombs were released in this area.
Chester P. Klier