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|Wednesday, November 10, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 41:
Flight crews walking toward the briefing room were discussing the wisdom of a 0900 hours briefing call with weather like this! Visibility was only 1,000 yards in fog, and upper level haze extending to 3,000 feet. At the beginning of their take off run, pilots would not be able to see fifty percent of the runway in front of them! However orders are orders, and Ninth Bomber Command Field Order 136 would be adhered tobriefing commenced as was scheduled at 0900 hours.
The target for today was the airdrome located at Lille-Vendeville in France. Z141 was the official identification for the bombers destination. Last October 8th the Group started out for this target. Just after reaching the enemy coastline the forward escort turned the formation back due to solid overcast in the target area. The weather forecaster was not optimistic in his prediction concerning the prospects over the Continent during todays operation!
Take off time: Visibility 1,000 yards in fog, sky discernible with four-tenths medium clouds above. Route out: Same as above plus a haze layer topping out at 3,000 feet. In the London area cirrus cloud from four-tenths to five-tenths, and increasing to seven-tenths to eight-tenths near the south coast of England. Visibility three to four miles. Low cloud base of 2,000 feet topping out at 4,000 feet extending over channel, and increasing to overcast over the Continent. The weather on return route, similar to route out.
The flight crews had completed their preflight inspections, and were inside their assigned aircraft waiting for engine start time scheduled for 1032 hours. Suddenly a huge yellow rocket arched up into the air from the direction of the base control towersignifying the mission would be delayed for one hour. All of the crews remained in their planes which were parked on hardstands around the perimeter of the flying field.
Time dragged on as idle chatter gave way to just staring up at the stagnant cloud cover, and grumbling about the chilly temperature out in the open! The fog had lifted as the revised engine starting time arrived. Coughing engine noises could be heard around the airdrome as the eighteen cylinder Pratt and Whitneys came to life; then settled into a thunderous roar as cockpit crews began their engine and instrument checkout ritual.
Major Ramsey was airborne at 1147 with his plane, "4 F" 131771 RU-R. His two boxes of eighteen ships followed him into the air with twenty to thirty second intervals. The thirty-six aircraft plus one spare left over base at 11,000 feet on a course of 100 degrees true for Clackton-on-Sea. Rendezvous with the 387th Bomb Group was made at 1253 hours; but owing to the fact that their second box was not in formation, it was not at all possible for the 386th to tack on at the rear of the 387th until a bit later! From Clackton-on-Sea a course of 157 degrees true was followed to North Foreland where rendezvous was made with the fighter escort at 1302 hours, altitude was 11,000 feet. From there they flew a course of 170 degrees. Lieutenant Emmet Curran in number four spot in the lead flight aborted, "LADY LUCK" 134947 RU-K because an oil cooler shutter had been left open on one of his enginesoil was congealed! Lieutenant Romney Spencer flying extra in, "SHADRACK" 131586 RG-U took over that position vacated by Lieutenant Curran in the first box. About mid channel during test firing, it was found that the tail guns on, "SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS" 134941 RG-D were inoperative. As a result Lieutenant Robert Hoffman aborted his number six position in the high flight, in the first box and returned to home base.
The formation was suppose to make enemy landfall at Furnesbecause of a navigational error by the 387th Group, they went in three miles northeast of the town of Nieuport at 1317 hours. Cloud cover below the formation was increasing, as slight and inaccurate heavy and light type flak was encountered. The formation was flying occasional legs of evasive action along a general course of 170 degrees. They received slight inaccurate heavy and light type flak from Ypres. The Initial Point ( I.P. ) was located at La Bausie, however more poor navigation on the part of the 387th Group, they arrived three miles east of the intended I.P. A left turn was executed to initiate the bomb run on a heading of 85 degrees. The target lay a few miles distant but appeared to be totally overcast. Moderate and somewhat inaccurate heavy type flak came up at the formation, at that point through ten-tenths cloud cover. Altitude was 10,500 feet, time was 1330 hours. None of the planes dropped their bombs!
A right turn was made to a course of 260 degrees true. At 1340 hours the formation changed course to 310 degrees true. En route out of enemy territory heavy and light type flak was experienced between the target area and St. Omer from unidentified sites. While passing by St. Omer the formation received fairly accurate moderate heavy type flak, which grew more intense over Watten Forest! It became extremely intense and accurate a bit south of the town of St. Englevert, France.
A pink burst of flak was observed by several crewsthe flak became more accurate thereafter! Evasive action was being taken. It was reported by some crew members, they could hear escort pilots talking on the radio about enemy fighters. However no German planes appeared in the vicinity of the bombers at any time during the mission. The flak continued to track the formation all the way to the enemy coast. Lieutenant G.S. Jones flying aircraft 131790 RU-T was hit in the right engine which necessitated it be shut down at 1352 hours. The landing gear was also damaged. Staff Sergeant William A. Kohler,Jr., an engineer-gunner in the top turret was wounded in the neck by a small piece of flak. The plane was named, "HONEY CHILE II" 131636 RU-B was being flown by Captain Ervin Rogers, Assistant Group Operations Officer. Twenty-six of the 386th planes were struck by flak with various degrees of damage.
The formation took up a heading of 320 degrees to make English landfall about five miles south of Deal, from there a course was followed to Maidstone. At that point the 386th Group was advised to fly to Bassing Bourne where they had visibility of two and one half miles. Home base at Great Dunmow was reporting a haze layer cutting down visibility aloft to one mile, runway visibility was only three-quarters of a mile.
After crossing the channel Lieutenant Jones was forced to make a single engine belly landing at Manston emergency field. The plane was a total washoutnone of the crew were injured in the landing. Bombardier, Lieutenant Russ Biddick as he left the wreckage made a short speech of gratitude to the pilot, "Jones I thank youand whats more, my mother thanks you!"
Some of the more extensive damaged 386th aircraft: "THE DEACON" 131637 RG-B, Pilot Lieutenant Burgesslarge piece of flak hit top of left wing approximately one foot from trailing edge, and seven feet in from the tip. It passed diagonally forward through the wing coming out the center of the wings undersurface making a three inch hole. A piece of flak cut a three inch slit in the fabric of the right side elevator approximately eight inches from the trailing edge, four feet in from the tip.
"THE BAD PENNY" 131628 RU-L, Pilot Lieutenant Kilmartinflak entered through right wing six inches from center wing splice, and midway between leading and trailing edge. Penetrated through corrugated metal and exited through upper wing skin directly above point of entry. Flak entered leading edge of wing four feet outboard of the engine nacelle, and exited through top of wing six inches back from leading edge. One half inch tear in next lowest right cowl flap on right engine.
Aircraft " ? " 131635 RU-H, Pilot Lieutenant McCallumflak made a hole one inch by two inches in left nose wheel well door, continuing through internal and external flooring and exited six inches aft of the right rudder pedal. Elevator trim tab torque tube broken through. One inch hole four feet up on the rudder and one foot back of the leading edge of rudder, exiting two feet back on right side. Two inch tear half way between outboard and inboard edges of left aileron, exiting six inches from trailing edge, and passing right through aileron. One inch hole on right side of aft fuselage, two feet above slipstream deflectors. Flak entered through one inch hole on bottom of right aileron at extreme tip, tore and dented metal tip of aileron. Piece of flak entered fairing between wing and outboard nacelle midway between leading and trailing edge of right wing. It penetrated auxiliary fuel tank and exited inside nacelle three inches below liquidometer, making one inch hole in nacelle wall brace, also tore up liquidometer wiring.
"MR. FIVE BY FIVE" 131612 YA-Z, Pilot Captain Sandsflak hole in left side Plexiglas nose. Flak hole in right propeller cuff. Flak hole in turret dome Plexiglas, and flak hole in leading edge of right wing.
"LETHAL LADY" 131646 RU-C, Pilot Lieutenant J.F. Leeflak entered at base of vertical fin six inches back of left elevator, penetrated through two inch tear in internal skin, nicked brace and exited at leading edge of right horizontal stabilizer at point of junction with fuselage. Flak entered left side of vertical fin, made a one inch hole four feet up from fuselage, and six inches from trailing edge, exiting ten inches from trailing edge.
"THE YANKEE GUERRILLA" 134946 YA-L, Pilot Lieutenant Wentzsmall flak hole in right side nose section below co-pilots seat. Rear spark plug lead number four cylinder cut by flak. Four inch cut in propeller cuff caused by flak. Two inch rip in leading edge of right wing outboard of landing light. Aircraft 131790 RU-T, Pilot Lieutenant Joneshis plane was destroyed in a single engine crash landing, none of his crew were injured.
Wednesday, November 10, 1943Second briefing of the day. Mission recalled:
Ninth Bomber Command Field Order 137 directed the 386th and 387th Bomb Groups to attack an airdrome located at Montdidier, France. The weather situation at Great Dunmow Airdrome from 1311 to 1543 hours was as follows: Take off visibility 1200 yards in decreasing fogsky was discernable with four-tenths altocumulus.
The route out: same as above with top of haze layer reported at 2500 feet, four-tenths cirrus near London area was reported. Low cloud cover near London was four-tenths to five-tenths, and increasing from seven to eight-tenths near the south coast of England. The return route would be similar to route out.
Seventeen aircraft took off from this base at 1322 hours, eleven minutes late because the 322nd Bomb Group was taking to the air at the same time. Poor visibility prevented our aircraft from taking off because of the close proximity of their air base to our location!
The 386th Group proceeded on course of 175 degrees true for Splasher Beacon Number 8. Not finding the 387th Group at rendezvousthe 386th continued to Beachy Head, and thence to 50 Degrees 10 Minutes North, 01 Degree 00 Minutes East where rendezvous with the fighter escort was scheduled. There was a low cloud base of 2,000 feet with tops to 4,000 feet, with a visibility of three to four miles. The 386th formation turned around at approximately mid channel and returned to base where landing visibility was only three-quarters of a mile, all ships landed safely.