Saturday, February 13, 1944 - 386th Bomb Group Mission 102:
Briefing was called to order at 1305 hours. IX Bomber Command directs the
386th Bomb Group to attack a V-1 Rocket site in France. The Group will put
up one box of 18 planes. The target is Launching Site A-56 in the Pommerval
area. The Eighth Bomber Command will be attacking targets in the same
general area just prior to our attack. The II Group RAF will supply Spitfire
escort for all IX Bomber activities in France today. Other B-26’s operating
with us in this effort will be the 323rd and the 387th Bomb Groups. Altitude
will be 12,000 feet. Time over target, 1608 hours.
The route out: Base to Hastings where we will rendezvous with the 323rd and
387th Bomb Groups at 1527 hours over Hastings. The 323rd will lead us. Then
fly to Beachy Head at 1531 hours. Then take a heading for a navigation
position point out over the channel at 50 Degrees 10 Minutes North - 00
Degrees 25 Minutes east. There we join up with our fighter escort at 1541
hours. Proceed to enemy coast making landfall at position 49 Degrees 50
Minutes North - 00Degrees 52 Minutes East. Then fly to Yvetot and on to
Pavilly. Continue on to the I.P. located at 49 Degrees 32 Minutes North - 01
Degrees 18 Minutes East, make a left turn and you are on the bomb run to the
target. Route back: Target turn left to Tocquville, to Hastings to base.
All aircraft will carry 6 x 500 pound general purpose demolition type bombs.
Fusing is one-tenth nose and one-fortieth tail fuse. Intervalometer setting
is fifty feet. Aiming point is center of the target. Axis of attack is
generally from southwest to northeast. Maximum combat ammunition to be
carried by each aircraft. Emergency airfields are, West Malling and
Weather at take off: seven to eight-tenths cumulus at 3,500 feet, also
altocumulus about eight-tenths. Visibility three miles. Route out: Same as
base, in the London area visibility will decrease to one to two miles.
Cumulus clouds will increase to nine-tenths on way to the English Channel,
then decreasing inland over France to two-tenths base at 3,500 feet with
tops to 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Visibility is six miles. Six to eight-tenths
altocumulus decreasing en route to nil over your target. Return route will
be similar to route out. Home base will have two to three-tenths cumulus at
3,500 feet and some altocumulus and altostratus at nine-tenths, Visibility
will be five miles.
Communications: Air-Sea-Rescue on VHF Channel C. Emergency homing: To
Friston on VHF Channel B. Call sign is Shell Pink. To West Malling on VHF on
Channel D. Call sign "birdcage". 386th Bomber to fighter on VHF Channel B.
Target A-56 radio call sign for bomber is Buckshot Four. Fighter call sign
is Donlop. Splasher Beacons in operation during entire mission are: 5A, 6B,
7C, 8D, 9F, 11F, 14G, 15H, and 16I. Gee Navigation information: Eastern
Wyoming and Southern Carolina - Grade A between 1430 and 1630 hours.
Major Hankey will lead the formation, his high flight lead is Lieutenant
Hillis, and Lieutenant Nagel will be the leader of the low flight. Briefing
ended at 1345 hours when the flight crews synchronized all watches. Trucks
transported the crews to their respective aircraft 1350, engine start up
took place at 1420 hours. Major Hankey began to taxi out at 1430, he was
airborne at 1440 hours. We will fly as a lone box of eighteen ships to
rendezvous point with the 323rd and 387th Bomb Groups at Hastings.
Our Group of eighteen aircraft left over base at Great Dunmow area at 1511
hours on a course of 170 degrees true for Hastings which was reached at 1527
hours. The 323rd and 387th Bomb Groups did not show at the prescribed bomber
rendezvous point. Major Hankey began flying a series of shallow “S” turns en
route to allow the tardy bomb groups to catch up - they never made an
appearance. He elected to proceed to the fighter rendezvous as scheduled
without the other two groups. The Spitfire escort was right on time at 1541
hours, a course of 162 degrees true was taken for enemy landfall at
position, 49 Degrees 50 Minutes North - 00 Degrees 52 Minutes East.
Enemy landfall was mad at 1547 hours. Then a course of 148 degrees true was
flown to Yvetot, being accomplished at 1552 hours. Another course change was
made to 112 degrees true which carried them to Pavilly where they arrived at
1555 hours. A true course of 100 degrees was flown to a point located at, 49
degrees 32 Minutes North - 01 Degrees 18 Minutes East which was made at 1559
hours. At that point a left turn was executed to a true heading of 00
degrees 00 minutes.
Bomb bay doors were now open and the formation maintained a steady air speed
of 190 m.p.h. Too late to release bombs, the target was not picked in time.
Bomb bay doors were closed, the formation started a left turn to make
another run at the target. However that would be impossible because another
B-26 Group was maneuvering in the vicinity to make their run on a nearby
target. Major Hankey broke away from his turn and headed for the secondary
target located at Bernaval on the French Coast. Some coastal guns were
established there. It was reached at 1608 hours on a heading of 290 degrees,
and it was bombs away. The formation left the enemy coast at 1609 hours.
Their bombing results were undetermined at that time.
The 386th Bombers were flying on a true course of 338 degrees which was a
beeline to Hastings on the English Coast. They arrived at 1630 hours and
took up a true heading of 351 degrees to home base where they arrived at
1649 hours. Soon all flight crews were filing their mission reports. The
Group received no battle damage from the enemy. There were many informative
observations to report however. At 1541 hours a large aircraft believed to
be a B-24 dropped out of its formation near Londoniers and losing altitude
Large clouds of black smoke reaching an altitude of 15,000 to 20,000 feet.
Ten miles north of course on the way out of France. An unidentified object
was observed at 1546 hours, it was believed to be a ditched aircraft on
fire! Its position was noted to be six miles off the enemy coast on a line
between Tocqueville and Hastings. At 1550 hours a waist gunner reported
seeing a P-47 down in the channel, as two Spitfires circled over the site. A
dinghy was also observed in the water nearby - as viewed from an altitude of
8,000 feet. A B-26 navigator marked the location as, 50 Degrees 15 Minutes
North - 00 Degrees 55 Minutes East. At 1603 hours two big splashes and pools
observed at position 50 Degrees 20 North - 01 Degrees 00 Minutes East. A
number Spitfires were seen circling at that location.
The following information was related to the author by former 386th
Operations Officer Lieutenant Colonel Tad Hankey. At the time of the
incident he was a Major:
"There was a miscue concerning today’s rendezvous
with the bombers from the 323rd Bomb Group over Hastings. Colonel Herbert
Thatcher was leading that Group. At a later date during a meeting with
General Anderson at IX Bomber Command - Colonel Thatcher became mad as hell
with me because he said I left the rendezvous point two minutes early
without his formation. I felt we were on time and he was late! He was really
pulling rank, and calling me a liar. I pointed out we got to “the point”
when the fighters did, and they left with us. This made him even madder as
he had no fighter cover. Boy it became a real Donnie Brooke, until I asked
him where he got his time setting. Then he said in a very aggressive way,
“From the Bomber Command.”
So I asked General Anderson where they got their time set - and this set up
the funniest chain reaction I ever saw. Then the General turns to ask the
Chief Of Staff, he turns to ask the Operations Officer and he doesn’t know;
but he will go and get the Navigation Officer, which he did. The Navigation
Officer comes in with an old chronometer in a wooden box, which he placed
before the General. He looks at me and say’s, “Okay, where do you get your
time?” I told him that I called Greenwich every morning and got a time tic -
which the whole world used including the British Fighter Command. That ended
Colonel Thatcher’s argument, but he never forgave me!"
Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group