<< back >>
|Wednesday, November 3, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 37:
Planes from the first mission of the day were just landing as a second mission briefing got underway at 1200 hours. Ninth Bomber Command Field Order 130 called for a bombing raid on the airdrome at Amsterdam Schiphol, Holland, the target was identified as ZH57. Our aiming point will be the motor transport park and barracks area on the southeast corner of the airdrome. We will furnish eighteen aircraft each loaded with four 1,000 pound demolition bombs. Nose fuses are set for one-tenth second delay, the tail fuses have one-hundredth second delay.
Major Thornton will fly lead ship, Captain J.T. Wilson will head up the high flight, and Lieutenant Lien will lead the low flight. The 322nd Bomb Group will lead the entire formation; followed by the 323rd Group, then the 386th, and finally the 387th Group will bring up the rear. All Groups will furnish eighteen aircraft plus two spares each. Zero Hour is 1500.
The weather officer gave out his information; as did the communications officer. Crews were also informed of enemy fighter attack probabilities along with flak battery locations regarding their flight route. Briefing ended at 1310 hours. The usual preflighting of aircraft was accomplished. The first man was into the air at 1404 hours. Visibility was twelve miles with cumulus clouds over the airdrome at seven to eight-tenths from 2,000 and topping out at 6,000 feet. After reaching 9,000 feet the eighteen ship formation set out on a course of 46 degrees to Splasher Beacon Number 6 at 1452 hours. Rendezvous was made with the 323rd Group fifteen miles east of Splasher Number 6 because the 323rd Group was late. With the 386th in trail the 323rd led on a course to Orfordness located on the English Coast which was exited at 1514 hours. Fighter rendezvous lay eighty-two miles ahead on a course of 82 degrees.
Formation leader of the 322nd Group was a great distance ahead; several thousand feet below cumulus cloud cover was thinning to one or two-tenths. Visibility had decreased to about eight miles over the North Sea. All bomber Groups had completed test firing of guns just prior to fighter rendezvous at 52 Degrees 10 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 30 Minutes East. The Spitfires wheeled overhead as well as some distance off to each side of the air armada; which was now approximately sixty miles off the enemy coast. Four to five-tenths cumulus clouds were forming ten miles off the Dutch Coast at an altitude slightly higher than the bomber stream - this would be an ideal situation for enemy fighter pilots lurking above!
The formation crossed the enemy coast amid both light and heavy type flak at 1545 hours. However the flak was considered to be slight in amount and inaccurate for position. The bombers pressed on to the I.P. located five miles northwest of Woerden at the southwest end of a two mile long lake. A wide sweeping left turn was executed which put them on a heading of 340 degrees approximately ten miles southeast of the target airdrome.
About two minutes later, 37mm and 88mm flak began coming up from a town known as Uithoorn - a mile and one-half to right of course, luckily it was slight and inaccurate. Seconds later all hell broke loose, heavy type 88mm flak bursts all around the bombers - it was very accurate! Lieutenant G.S. Jones flying, "TEXAS TARANTULA" 118284 RU-M received a cracked windshield and hits in the left engine nacelle which caused an oil leak in that engine. The formation had come into range of a six gun anti-aircraft battery located two and one-half miles east-southeast of the target - they were flying almost directly over the heavy gun emplacement!
A blinding flash of fire; a B-26 had taken a direct hit in the left wing fuel tank. The plane dropped out of formation as the left wing came off. The flaming mass hurtled earthward like a blazing comet! The ship had been flying in number four position of the lead flight in the 323rd Bomb Group formation directly ahead of the 386th Group. No parachutes were observed. Two more heavy gun positions joined in the anti-aircraft barrage from left of course. One was a six gun position two and one-quarter miles southwest, and a four gun position two miles south of the target. The flak fire was intense and accurate! In a matter of seconds twelve of the eighteen ships from the 386th were battle damaged.
The 190 m.p.h. bomb run had commenced on a course of 340 degrees. It was bombs away at 1552 hours as seventy-two 1,000 pound bombs slanted down toward the enemy airdrome 10,000 feet below. The Group made a quick left turn off the target as flak continued to harass them. Each of those 88mm guns was capable of putting up fifteen rounds per minute. The sixteen gun barrage went on for some two and one-half minutes, lobbing approximately three hundred fifty rounds of 3.46 inch diameter, twenty-two pound projectiles at the formation of eighteen ships from the 386th Group!
Top turret gunners in several planes alerted their respective crews via intercom of enemy fighter action above and ahead. German planes were diving down on the 323rd bombers; the action became furious. A Messerschmitt 109 approached the number one ship in the low flight from 5 oclock position. Tail gunner Staff Sergeant A. Mandreger fired about eighty rounds from his twin fifties at 600 yards. His tracers were visible all over the belly of the enemy ship as it entered a steep left turn - its pilot bailed out, and Mandreger received full credit for an Me-109 destroyed. Flak gunners fired at the bombers as they reached the enemy coast three miles south of Zandvoort. Several balloons were observed flying at 5,000 feet just to the north of Zandvoort on the Dutch Coast. The Germans had two gun emplacements there, each with six 88mm anti-aircraft guns installed.
A Focke-Wulf-190 made a pass at the 323rd Group ship in number two position of the high flight. The enemy came from 5 oclock position as the waist gunner rattled off some eighty rounds at 500 yards down to 100 yards - scoring hits in the fuselage behind the cockpit. Then the tail gunners in ships number one and three in the lead flight fired upon that aircraft as it broke down and away. The enemy was being pursued by two RAF Spitfires. Credit for a damaged German plane went to Staff Sergeants J.W. McClelland and J.S. Scruggs from the 323rd Bomb Group.
Just a short way off the Dutch Coast another FW-190 attacked the number four ship in the high flight of the 323rd Group. The enemy pilot leveled off and fired a burst 500 yards out from the bomber with no effect. The tail gunner opened fire along with another tail gunner and top turret gunner in another B-26 in the formation. The fighter went into a dive in the direction of the 386th Group following about one mile back - spurts of flame came out from the engine cowling of the damaged aircraft at 1558 hours.
The sun was at 10 oclock position in relationship to the bombers as Staff Sergeants J.L. Holmstrom, Jr. and M.W. Crawford picked up the fleeing enemy. Both 386th top turret gunners began firing as the FW-190 came around from a 2 oclock position only 300 feet above them at an elevation of 80 degrees. Crawford fired sixty rounds along its wing and into the engine, the plane burst into flames as it passed over. Then into a dive down through 7 oclock low position - a wing broke off as the enemy pilot was seen to fall clear of his aircraft. Sergeants J. K. Burns and L. J. Hutson of the 323rd Bomb Group along with Staff Sergeants J.L. Holmstrom, Jr., and M.W. Crawford of the 386th Group; all shared equal credit for the destruction of that enemy aircraft.
An Me-109 from 1 oclock high came in on, "MAN-O-WAR 131619 YA-U piloted by Captain J.T. Wilson, leader of the high flight. His top turret man Staff Sergeant J.L. Holstrom Jr., fired two bursts of one hundred and fifty rounds at 300 hundred yards during the evasive fish-tailing antics of the German pilot - pieces were seen to fall off the aircraft. That enemy also drew fire from top turret gunner Staff Sergeant N.F. Pratt who was flying in, "SHADRACK" 131586 RG-U piloted by Lieutenant Jesse Higgins. The enemy plane continued across and down to the lead low flight ship by the name of, "THUMBS UP" 131621 RU-P being flown by Lieutenant Arthur Lien. His top turret man Sergeant J.W. Sanders fired twenty rounds at 150 yards as the plane rolled over showing a silver belly. Three Spitfires came screaming down upon the enemy ship which had white, black and orange cross markings. The RAF fighters raked it with their 20mm cannon fire as witnessed by Staff Sergeant R.G. Fitsemons flying with Lieutenant Lien. Staff Sergeant J.J. Dugan, tail gunner with Captain Wilson saw the German pilot bail out, his parachute jerked open, seconds later the Me-109 crashed into the North Sea twenty miles off the Dutch Coast. Staff Sergeant Harry A. Schwartz, waist gunner flying with Lieutenant Higgins was also a witness to the scene. A Spitfire pilot received full credit for the kill!
Number four ship in the high flight was, "MR. FIVE BY FIVE" 131612 YA-Z piloted by Captain Sands - his bombardier, Lieutenant Joseph Ross, Jr., began firing his nose gun at an Me-109 with light blue wings, it was coming in from 2 oclock position at 150 yards. The fighter ducked under the number four ship and broke away low under the formation. About the same time a mile or so ahead, the 323rd Group came under attack. A German fighter approached the low flight from 3 oclock and a little above the formation. The enemy was taking evasive action from some Spitfires, but was not under fire from them. He turned left behind the low flight and received fire from the top turret and then the tail guns from the number four ship, all so from the top turret and tail guns of the number six plane. Hits were scored heavily in the nose and behind the cockpit. The enemy plane fell into a spin while burning, then crashed into the sea. Credit for the destruction of that plane was awarded to Sergeant E.C. Bell of the 323rd Bomb Group.
Spitfires began appearing fairly close to the bombers - a sort of silent acknowledgement that the enemy had been dispensed with! Safety of the English Coast was still over one hundred miles away over open sea - a long way to fly with a bunch of battle damaged bombers. However one good sign was the fact that all of those thirteen foot diameter fans were still turning the proper revolutions!
A November 3, 1943 German Fighter Command intelligence report confirmed that five German fighter planes were lost in operations from the II/JG-3 "UDET UNIT" this date. Two Me-109s crashed near Zandvoort, Holland - both pilots were killed! Three other fighters were shot down out over the North Sea. Two pilots were listed as missing in action. A third pilot was killed - he was Major Werner-Kurt Brandle. He was a leading Ace with 180 planes shot down, most of his victories had taken place over Russia. The Spitfire escort observed thirty plus enemy planes in action during the mission. The RAF claimed nine German planes destroyed and no losses to themselves.
The bomber formation was on a 270 degree heading for Southwold on the English Coast. The leader saw a large convoy of ships ahead, complying with regulations not to fly over a convoy; he made a deviation to the north and made English landfall a few mile south of Lowestoft. At that point the bombers each headed southwest to their respective airfields. The 386th flew a course of 237 degrees to Great Dunmow where they began landing at 1651 hours.
Truck transports picked up the flight crews at the various hardstands and carried them to the interrogation building, also referred to as debriefing. It was a noisy place, fighter claims being filed, bombing results reported, flak battery locations plotted, and enemy fighter tactics recorded. Most agreed that the RAF escort work was highly effective. A number of complaints were registered: The 322nd Bomb Group was too far ahead by some fifteen miles or more. Should have been more like a mile spacing between Groups. Large gaps between boxes allows ground gunnery positions to regroup and rearm. On the other hand the last Group over the target was the 387th, they were three miles behind! A spread out formation also thins out the escort forces too much. Our Group had to circle fifteen miles east of Splasher Beacon Number 6 while waiting for the 323rd Bomb Group to show up! Some crew members said the chow in the officers mess was poor before the mission. Others thought more time should be allowed to prepare aircraft between the briefing and take off time.
Thursday, November 4, 1943:
Ninth Bomber Command sent Field Order 131 to the Group which directed the 386th to attack a target in France known as Z970 located at Mimoyecques. The nature of the target was classified as secret! The aiming point was defined as Excavation Number 8 as shown on Illustration 5740/3. This mission was to made up two bomber formations, one with thirty-six aircraft, and the other would have eighteen aircraft. All would carry a pair of 2,000 pound general purpose demolition bombs with five second delay tail fuses only. The first thirty-six bombers would operate on their own along with RAF escort. The second formation of eighteen would be led by eighteen planes from the 387th Bomb Group and RAF escort. The bombing altitude was set at 10,000 feet. All bombers would hit the same target. The first formation had a Zero Hour of 0900 Hours. The second formation Zero Hour was 1100 hours. Before Group could set the Field Order in motion, Bomber Command issued Annex Number 7 to F. O. Number 131. That cancelled the order and called off operations for the day due to very poor weather conditions in the proposed target area.
Chester P. Klier