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Friday, October 8, 1943 - 386th Group Mission Number 32:

Very early in the morning Third Bomb Wing issued Field Order 114, it directed the 386th Group to furnish thirty-six aircraft and attack the airdrome located at Beauvais Nevillers, France in conjunction with the 323rd Bomb Group, the 386th would lead. The target was located approximately two miles northeast of the airdrome at Beauvais Tille. Route information, weather, and flak information also accompanied the order. Shortly before a mission briefing was called   -  Third Bomb Wing rescinded F.O. 114 at 0810 hours, but the Group would remain on alert status.

A bit later Wing issued Field Order 115, the airdrome located at Lille Venderville, France Z141 was to be attacked. Major Hankey called the briefing to order at 1230 hours. The 386th would lead the 323rd Bomb Group, each Group would furnish thirty-six planes plus extras. Each plane was loaded with ten 300 pound GP demolition bombs fused with one-tenth second delay both nose and tail. Captain Thornton will be the formation leader. The high flight lead would be Major Lockhart, and low flight leader is Lieutenant Purdy. The second box of eighteen will be led by Captain B.B. White, I ( Major Hankey ) will fly with him. Captain Dewhurst will lead the high flight, and Captain Weiss will lead the low flight. We have four designated extra aircraft.

The route a out from base to Splasher Beacon Number 8 where we rendezvous with the 323rd Group at 12,000 feet, time will be 1524 hours, then on to Dungeness for our fighter rendezvous at 1530 hours, make enemy landfall at Le Touquet and fly to the target. Route back: Right turn off target to Le Touquet across the channel to Dungeness to base. Altitudes: Bomb from 11,500 feet, cross enemy coast out at 10,000 feet, and return at 8,000 feet. Axis of attack is generally west to east. The aiming point will be the north dispersal areas and hangars. The 323rd will bomb the east-west runway. There are two emergency airdromes upon return, West Malling and Gravesend.

The 322nd and 387th Groups will be bombing at Chievres, Belgium about the time we go in - maybe they will draw a few enemy fighters away from our operation! We have a secondary target in Belgium, ZB864. This target will only be bombed from the northeast-southwest approach. Extreme care will be taken to avoid small adjoining towns to east and west. Do not confuse this target with any other in the near proximity!

Our Spitfire escort will be furnished by 11 Group RAF. Our Group and the 323rd will each have two squadrons of close escort. Both of our Groups will share two squadrons of escort cover, high cover, and top cover.

Flak and weather information was given to the air crews - freezing level was 8,000 feet with light to moderate icing conditions, and heavy cloud build up. Communications data was gone over in detail as to radio frequencies and VHF channels, Air-Sea-Rescue on Channel D, etc. Group leader or deputy lead will report to Wing on clearing the enemy coast. Briefing ended at 1320 hours with a time check of all watches, the flight members left to go out to their respective aircraft.

The bombers began to taxi out from their hardstands, however Lieutenant Duane Petit’s ship, "BAR FLY" 131877 RU-V had a tire go flat suddenly. Without enough time to change the wheel, his crew would sit this one out! A ship called, "SMOKEY" 131667 RU-N had an unacceptable magneto drop during engine run up, fouled plugs was the problem, so Lieutenant Robert Spencer’s crew would also stay at home today. The Group’s thirty-six aircraft plus two extras began taking off at 1414 hours, the last man was airborne at 1438.

Cloud cover over the airdrome was four to five-tenths cumulus beginning about 2,500 feet with tops to 6,100 feet. Visibility at ten miles would help, but the cloud build up did hamper formation assembly to some extent. The two box formation climbed to 10,000 feet at 1509 hours, then left over base on a 175 degree course. Cloud cover over London was eight-tenths cumulus which topped out at 6,000 feet as the formation flew to their first navigation point at Splasher Beacon Number 8. The 323rd was there on time, tacking onto the rear of the 386th formation at 1524 hours.

The formation took up a heading to Dungeness, a point of land on the southeast coast of England which projected out into the Strait Of Dover. The author was flying with the Lieutenant Romney Spencer crew because their regular engineer Staff Sergeant Rubin Rosen wished to attend religious services being held in London. He had asked our CO Major Lockhart if he could have the time off to attend. The CO told him that he was scheduled to fly and that was that. Then Rosen came to me and told me what he would like to do, then asked if I would fly in his place because I was the only engineer in the squadron not scheduled to fly - I told him to tell the CO that I would volunteer to take his place. A few minutes later he was back saying the CO wanted to see me right now!

The Major told me he could not order me to fly in anybody’s place under those kind of circumstances. The only way he would let me go on the mission was if I would freely volunteer. I said, "Sir I told Rosen I would take his place, and I am ready to fly!" The CO then said, "Tell Staff Sergeant Rosen to see me immediately! The Spencer crew had been assigned a ship by the name of, "SHADRACK" 131586 RG-U, this would be the first mission that "SHADRACK would be flying with 552nd Squadron markings since it was transferred over from the 554th Squadron. Up to now this crew had been flying other aircraft since they ditched a plane named, "MARGIE" 134970 RG-L into the channel on September 8, 1943. Their engineer Staff Sergeant John Park was killed during their ditching, he and I had gone through all of our flight training together. I was flying in the ship next to them when they lost an engine to flak, a few minutes later they were attacked by two FW-190’s. John was the first friend I had lost to air combat, that was a real shock for me!

The Spitfire rendezvous took place 12,000 feet over Dungeness at 1530 hours. The formation left the English Coast on a course of 134 degrees true for the enemy coast some forty miles ahead. Lieutenant Ansel Brandstrom flying, "SEDUCTIVE SUSIE" 131738 RG-O developed a problem, the crew jettisoned their bombs into the channel and flew back to base. "THE DEACON" 131737 RG-B flown by Lieutenant Ross McNutt also had a malfunction and pulled out of formation. The crew returned to base with all of their bombs still in the bomb racks. The pilot undershot the runway by twenty yards upon touch down, it was a jolt, but no damage to the aircraft.

Beginning approximately ten miles off the English Coast, a layer of stratocumulus cloud cover had increased until it extended as far as the pilots could see. The scene below sort of resembled thousands of acres of cotton balls packed tightly together and illuminated by the bright sunshine. Suddenly the fighter escort leader waggled his wings while he cut sharply across in front of Captain Thornton’s lead bomber - that was the signal to turn back, the mission was being recalled! About half way through the turn around maneuver, a few 88mm flak bursts came up at the formation from an enemy shoreline gun battery, it inflicted no damage to our planes.

All bombers jettisoned their loads into the channel and returned to base where all landed safely. Only the briefest of interrogation was carried out - Captain Thornton mentioned that the visibility was at least twenty-five miles. He also reported the fact that our fighter escort turned back the formation due to a solid overcast covering the Continent and that it extended up to 6,000 feet.

The 322nd and 387th Groups likewise aborted their mission because of all the heavy cloud cover. Flight crews from the 387th Group stated that fighter escort jettisoned their empty auxiliary gas tanks down through the bomber formation again! Luckily no bombers were struck by them!

Saturday, October 9, 1943:
No flying accomplished today.

Sunday, October 10, 1943:
A combat mission was scheduled in the morning, but was cancelled by a later order. No flying for remainder of the day. A siege of foul weather seemed to be settling in!

Monday, October 11, 1943:
No flying whatsoever!

Tuesday, October 12, 1943:
No flying scheduled this date.

Wednesday, October13, 1943:
No operational flying today. This Group has been assigned a new twin engine aircraft, it is called an Oxford and is English built. Major Hankey took it up for a test hop!

Thursday, October 14, 1943:
No flying scheduled. Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, a Ninth Air Force Command Pilot from Sicily visited the base.

Friday, October 15, 1943:
The 386th Bombardment Group along with the 322nd, 323rd, and 387th were transferred from the Eighth Air Force, Third Bomb Division to the Ninth Bomber Command in the Ninth Air Force on this date!

Saturday, October 16, 1943:
Major General Lewis H. Brereton of Ninth Air Force Headquarters visited this base. The Ninth Air Force issued an order requiring all B-26 units to paint Group identification markings on the vertical tail assembly. The 386th Bomb Group will have a horizontal yellow band thirty inches high extending across both vertical fin and rudder. The top edge of the band to be directly below the top hinge point of the rudder. No flying scheduled this date.

Sunday, October 17, 1943:
No flying activity all day. A combat mission warning from Third Bomb Wing came in during early evening - take off time approximately 0800 hours tomorrow!

Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group

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