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Thursday, May 25, 1944 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 180:

Briefing was underway at 0715 hours, the target was a railroad bridge which was located at Leige, Belgium. The aiming point was designated as the center of the bridge. The Group had a secondary target, an airdrome located at Denain/Prouvy. The formation was made up of thirty-eight ships plus two spares, each plane was loaded with two each 2,000 pound general purpose demolition bombs. Nose fuse setting one-tenth second and tail fuse was one-fortieth second delay. Intervolometer setting to be 50 feet.

Colonel Joe Kelly would lead the entire formation in a ship named, “SON-OF-SATAN” tail number 131613 YA-Y. His assigned altitude was 11,500 feet. His high flight leader was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Lockhart, his plane was, “WINNIE” 131617 RG-A. He would be flying at 11,700 feet. The engineering officer from the 552nd Squadron Captain William Price would be flying with him. Low flight lead was Captain Sands in his plane named, “MR FIVE BY FIVE” 131612 YA-Z. His altitude would be 11,300 feet. His flight would have seven ships instead of the usual six.

The second box leader Captain Gianatsis would be flying at 11,000 feet in his plane called “DINAH MIGHT” 131576 AN-Z. Up in the high flight lead was Captain Nagel in a ship named, “LA GOLONDRINA” 131583 AN-X flying at 11,200 feet. He also had seven planes in his flight. The low flight lead man was Captain Curran flying a plane named, “YE OLDE CROCKE” 131755 RU-F. His assigned altitude was 10,800 feet. Pilots flying the two spare ships were Lieutenant Dunlap in plane number 296082 YA-J, the other plane flown by Lieutenant Richardson in, “SPARE PARTS” 131656 AN-H.

The weather briefing officer had an optimistic forecast for the mission - the target area would have two tenths cumulus with visibility from eight to ten miles. En route there would be low clouds over England and channel becoming two to three-tenths cumulus over France. Visibility generally eight to ten miles. Cumulus rapidly increasing over France with six to eight-tenths coverage upon return. Temperature at altitude plus four degrees Centigrade, and a wind from 320 degrees at 27 m.p.h. Formation air speed was assigned at 185 m.p.h.

Briefing ended at 0755 hours, trucks transported flight crews out to their respective ships where they arrived at 0800 hours. Engine start up time was scheduled for 0830 with taxi out time of 0840 hours. Colonel Kelly was into the air at 0845. His remaining flock took off in thirty second intervals until all were airborne. A few circuits around the base and they were headed off to rendezvous with the 391st Bomb Group at 0948 hours near the English Coast. They took up a heading which would carry them out over the North Sea to meet up with their 9th Air Force P-47 Thunderbolt fighter escort at 0955 hours.

Enemy landfall had been accomplished as Colonel Kelly brought his formation around to a bomb run heading of 320 degrees. Heavy type flak began to erupt among the B-26 Marauders as they began maneuvering into flights of six planes each. It was bombs away for the lead flight at 1049 hours. The bombs fell in a good concentration 150 yards south of center of the bridge - landing on southern approach and extending westward doing damage to a factory area. The high flight had good hits on the northern approach and a small factory 140 yards northeast of the bridge. However the majority of bombs fell in the river 150 yards east of the aiming point. The low flight had fair results as their bombs fell 350 yards west of the bridge and doing damage in a shipping and factory area.

Flak was moderate and fairly accurate at 1050 hours with some light type flak mixed in as the second box began releasing their bombs by flights of six. Lead flight could see good hits 200 yards southeast of the aiming point even though there was considerable smoke caused by the first box of nineteen bombers. Damage was certain but some bombs appeared to hit near the southern approach to the bridge. The ship in number six position was flown by Lieutenant Fugit, its name was, HARD LUCK” 131610 AN-P. Lieutenant Rick Conner was the bombardier. A flak fragment struck the nose of his plane which showered him with splinters of Plexiglas causing painful facial cuts. Fourteen ships were battle damaged by flak - eight were in the first box, and six were in the second box.

The high flight leader pulled his seven ships off the target run due to congestion of airplanes in the target area - he led his ships to a double bridge near by. Their bomb strikes were 2,000 yards northeast of the primary target aiming point. Some bombs fell in the river 300 yards northeast of the double bridge. Bombs also fell in a factory area near the edge of the river. The poor results were most likely attributed to the fact the lead bombardier did not have sufficient time to set up for the impromptu target change. The low flight leader’s six ships had good hits which occurred in a strung out pattern 100 yards northwest of the aiming point. A near miss was scored on the bridge. Smoke obscured the target. Damage uncertain-- strikes on both north and south approaches rendered the bridge unserviceable! All bombing results were evaluated by photo interpreter Lieutenant Robert Lyon. Thirty-one aircraft bombed the primary, and seven aircraft bombed the double bridge location.

Several officers from our Group were lining the railing on the observation deck of the Great Dunmow control tower waiting for the bombers to return. Presently the formation came into view, all thirty-eight of them - the two spare ships had returned earlier as they were not needed. The heavy drone of seventy-six 2,000 H.P. engines at low altitude really reverberated the surrounding area! The planes broke off into flights of three as they flew the left hand traffic pattern to the runway. First man down at 1238 hours.

Soon the flight crews were taken to the interrogation room by trucks. They returned with a great deal of recon information. At 1145 hours two possible brown color dinghies were reported by an aircraft flying at 7,200 feet. Position 51 Degrees 15 Minutes North - 02 Degrees 00 Minutes East. Twenty small boats were spotted eight miles west of Ostend. Two large ships in the Dunkirk Harbor and two large vessels in the Ostend Harbor. The west end of Namur marshalling yard was full of rail cars, and apparently operating. The Crammont marshalling yard was also loaded with rail cars.

The Lieutenant Novitsky crew flying ship number 134962 RG-X in number four position of the low flight first box, reported seeing a 391st Bomb Group aircraft flying on single engine just off the target with six P-47’s covering it. Another B-26 crew flying at 10, 500 feet reported a P-47 smoking about three miles off Furness and going down out of control. That P-47 pilot had successfully dive bombed a boat which was still burning at a location between Ostend and Furness. He was seen to bail out of his disabled plane about three miles off the coast of Furness.

Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group

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