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Sunday, February 20, 1944 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 108:

The Eighth Air Force is attacking targets in Germany and Poland, departing the English Coast at 0930 and 1045 hours. Our target today is the airdrome located at Gilze Rijen, Holland. Major Ramsey from the 554th Squadron will lead the first eighteen. Major Perry of the 552nd Squadron will fly lead for the second box of eighteen. We will also put up four extra aircraft. The 322nd Bomb Group will supply thirty-six aircraft and lead the entire show! The primary object for this mission is to furnish a diversionary support for the Eighth Air Force operations. Airdromes which are being hit by this Ninth Air Force Command are first priority airdromes currently in operational use by the German Air Force. In hitting these airdromes it is desired not only to pin down the enemy fighters in this area, but also try to destroy fighters on the ground!

The route out is from base to The Naze where you will rendezvous with the 322nd Group on Assembly Line Naze at 6,500 feet. The 322nd will leave The Naze at Zero Hour minus seven minutes. Rendezvous with the fighter escort will take place at a navigation point of 51 Degrees 40 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 25 Minutes East at Zero Hour plus twenty-five minutes. The RAF 11 Group Spitfires will furnish escort and support flying at 11,500 feet. After making enemy landfall take up a heading to Roosendaal and on to the target. Make a right turn off target to Roosensdaal, back to the same position over North Sea where you picked up the fighter escort on the way in. Fly to The Naze and on back to base.

Emergency airfields are located at Framlingham and Woodridge. Each aircraft will carry twenty 100 pound general purpose bombs fused instantaneous. Intervalometer setting is 100 feet. Bombing altitude is 11,500 feet, and an axis of attack generally west to east. The target is defended by two, four heavy type gun positions and two unoccupied four gun positions. Moderate heavy type flak was encountered at 19,000 feet and was of the predictor control, (seen) type. Schouwen Island and Tolen Island are noted to have weak inaccurate heavy type flak. The Heavies have reported heavy type predictor control flak at Bergen-op-Zoom, also barrage balloons. Woensdrech flak moderate to intense heavy type as experienced in the past. Heavy type flak has been reported on night operations from both Tilburg and Turnout.

Splasher Beacon assignment for assembly on top of clouds if necessary is Number 6 for the 386th and Number 7 for the 322nd Group. Air-Sea-Rescue will be VHF Channel D. Emergency homings to Manston on VHF Channel D, call sign, BLUEROCK and Earls Colne on VHF Channel D, call sign BOSSKIN. GEE information: Eastern Wyoming and Southern Carolina on Grade A. Transmission from 0830 to 1300 hours. 386th Group bombers to fighter communications on VHF Channel B. The bomber call signs will be NORTVIEW TWO and NORTHVIEW FOUR. Fighter call sign, BEAGLE and fighter Ground Station call sign, GREENSHIP. Communications to 322nd Group on VHF Channel B. Major Ramsey’s ship, "YE OLDE CROCKE" 131755 RU-F was into the air at 0854 hours, pursued by thirty-eight Marauders, three of which were listed as extra aircraft. A fourth extra ship, "LA GOLONDRINA" 131583 AN-X commanded by Lieutenant Fansler did not take off because of a technical problem. Visibility was about three miles at home base as the planes worked their way up through six-tenths cumulus clouds with a base of 2,500 feet and extending up to 3,500 feet. After rendezvous with the 322nd Group the formation set out over the North Sea. Cloud cover ranged from six to seven-tenths with occasional large holes.

All gunners had accomplished a successful test firing as islands off the Dutch Coast came into view through breaks in seven-tenths cloud cover, that condition prevailed for some ten miles inland. Enemy landfall was recorded at 1030 hours. Lieutenant Blackburn’s crew flying in, "HELL’S BELLE II" 131789 YA-A, number three position low flight in the first eighteen noted light flak being fired at the escort fighters from Shouwen Island. The formation continued to the I.P. At Roosendaal, however, the cloud cover in the target area had become ten-tenths, Major Ramsey elected to turn the formation around and made for their secondary target near the enemy coast. The author flying with the Lieutenant Donald Vincent crew in, "BUZZ-N-BITCH II" 131953 RG-T; gazed at the solid cloud cover below which appeared like countless gobs of whipped cream stretching as far as the eye could see!

The lead box lined up for a run on the secondary target when Major Ramsey aborted the attack at the I.P. due to ten-tenths cloud cover all along the coastline. He noted light flak somewhat inaccurate coming up from Walcheron Island as he exited the enemy coast two miles south of Inmere at 1050 hours. Meanwhile Major Perry brought his second box of eighteen around for a run on a last chance target, but it was all closed over. During bomb bay door closing a ship piloted by Lieutenant Hochrein, "MISS FORTUNE II" 134885 AN-M had an accidental bomb salvo. Three other bombardiers seeing the bombs fall thought it was a bonafide release and toggled their bomb loads. All bombs hit in the water just off shore as the formation cleared enemy territory at Niewe Sluis - where the Dutch and Belgium border meets the coastline.

The route back to base was a cloud covered condition of eight-tenths stratocumulus with tops now up to 6,000 feet. The first man landed at 1148 hours, about fifteen later the returning crews began arriving at the briefing room for interrogation. Lieutenant Hillis crew reported light and inaccurate flak at the coast going out at 11,500 feet. Major Weiss saw flak 5,000 feet below formation at 1035 hours. Lieutenant Buckeley’s crew flying in, "THE DEACON" 131637 RG-B reported seeing Spitfires chase after several enemy fighter planes. Flight crews stated our fighter cover was excellent. Major Ramsey said the bomb sight was thirty minutes late getting to his airplane, and suggested maybe the transportation people were not awakened early enough before briefing time!

S-2 disclosed Major Ramsey was unaware that we wanted him to loiter over Gilze Rijen to divert the enemy! Lieutenant Vincent’s crew filed a report of a large boat with a barge in tow at St. Annaland. Another crew saw a large vessel going east in the channel between Noord Beveland and Schouwen Island. One crew thought evasive action was too severe for no apparent reason. Other crew comments follow: Stop smoking in the briefing room. Flak helmets for all crew members. Another crew complained about the light bomb load, one ton of bombs was not enough! Last but not least - after briefing please hand out American gum, not the English stuff!

Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group

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