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|Sunday, May 28, 1944 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 185:
Target: German Naval Radio Direction Finder Station. ( RDF ).
Location: Bruges/St. Michiel, Belgium.
Time was 1155 hours as the RAF Typhoon mission leader and his wing man became airborne, followed closely by five more two man flights of Hawker Typhoons. Their target for today was the enemy radio direction finder station located at Bruges, Belgium.
This was the start of a day long attack carried out by Allied planes on a single target. The British and American powers to be were aware that the German Navy had a RDF station located near the Belgium or Dutch Coast. It was suspect that the Germans used that facility for homing guidance for their submarine fleet, along with surface vessels operating in the North Sea and beyond. However the Allies did not have a precise location, although not confirmed, that information may have been forthcoming from the Underground Movement which was very active in Belgium.
The main target was a large house known as Chateau Ter Linden. The building was a stately residence that strongly resembled a French Castle. Allied Military Intelligence had determined that the Chateau was the Headquarters Building for the German RDF Station. It was situated in a complex of smaller barracks type buildings which was believed to house many technically trained irreplaceable personnel. Two of whom were Hans Breuss and Walter Sehn, both men managed to survive the war.
Approximately 1230 hours the twelve Bombphoons as they were called when configured to carry up to eight sixty pound rockets, or up to a pair of 1,000 pound bombs. The ships flying in an easterly direction at 10,000 feet, had reached their I.P. The leader and his wing man rolled into a 90 degree turn which would line them up on a south to north axis of attack. The leader pushed the nose of his plane over into a steep screaming dive, at 4,000 feet he and his wing man rounded out their dive and each letting go with eight rocket projectiles. Then began firing their four 20mm Hispano Mark II cannon, each of which supplied with 140 rounds per gun to pin down any ground gunners. The procedure was continued by the remaining five pairs of RAF Squadron 184 Hawker Aircraft. This action drew an intense response from several light type anti aircraft batteries in the target area--luckily all returned to base and landed safely at 1255 hours, total elapsed time for the mission was exactly one hour!
Two Douglas A-20 Groups were also assigned to attack Ter Linden. There were 42 ships from the 416th Bomb Group which attacked with 166 general purpose 500 pound bombs at 1218 hours on a heading of 318 degrees. The other A-20 Group was the 409th Bomb Group, they dropped 135 general purpose 500 pound bombs at 1241 hours with 34 ships.
The 322nd Martin B-26 Marauder Bomb Group was also selected to bomb Ter Linden. They would supply 36 aircraft, each would carry two 2,000 pound GP demolition bombs. The formation leader received a radio message to change Zero Hour to plus fifteen minutes. He unsuccessfully attempted to contact Bomber Command to have the P-47 escort vectored. The mission was then flown as briefed. No escort was reported by any aircraft in the first or second box!
There were no losses, casualties, or battle damage reported. The bombers all attacked in flights of six. The bombing results as follows: Box I, 1st six--excellent. Box I, 2nd six-- gross. Box I, 3rd six--good. Box II 1st sixfair. Box II, 2nd sixpoor. Box II, 3rd six-- gross. The 322nd Group dropped a total of 62 x 2,000 pound bombs. Three aircraft failed to attack due to mechanical trouble. One other ship did not bomb on the primary as the bomb bay door handle refused to function in time; a decision was made by the flight crew to release their 2 x 2,000 pound bombs on Coxyde Airdrome two miles east of the Chateau, on the return flight. That airdrome had been designated as a casual target.
The 386th Bomb Group was directed by Field Order 75-334 to attack the Chateau Ter Linden, located near Bruges, Belgium. Briefing was underway at 1630 hours. Our Group would furnish 36 aircraft, each loaded with 2 x 2,000 pound GP demolition bombs. Major White would lead the formation at 11,500 feet. His ship had the name of, "YE OLDE CROCKE" 131755 RU-F. High flight leader was Lieutenant Ralph Marble flying, "MERT" 131616 RG-H. Low flight leader was Captain Lien flying, "LITLJO" 131622 RU-D. Back in the second box, leader was Major Dewhurst with, "BLAZING HEAT" 131585 AN-J at 10,500 feet. His high flight leader was Captain Haber flying, "ELMER" 131577 AN-Y. Low flight lead was Captain Sands flying a ship named, "MR. FIVE BY FIVE" 131612 YA-Z.
The 386th would rendezvous with our P-47 Thunderbolt escort over North Foreland at 11,500 feetZero Hour plus twenty minutes. The route out from base to North Foreland to 51 Degrees 00 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 00 Minutes East to the target. Turn right off the target to 51 Degrees 00 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 00 East to Furnes then to North Foreland to base. Intervalometers all set to 50 feet. The weather in the target area as follows: Three to four-tenths cirrus above 20,000 feet with a trace of altostratus around 12,000 feet. Patchy medium cloud at 13,000 feet to 14,000 feet. Visibility 10 to 15 miles. Temperature at altitude plus one half degree Centigrade, and wind from 150 degrees at 15 m.p.h. Briefing ended at 1655 hours, crews were at their respective aircraft at 1700. Engine start up time rolled around at 1730 hourstaxi out time 1740, with first man off 1743 hours. Captain Tener flying, "SPAM BURGER" 131970 YA-F had his left engine generator go out while circling around the base, he was forced to abort the mission. Lieutenant Lytle flying extra in ship 131805 AN-D took over the now vacant number six spot in the high flight, second box. Cruising at 185 m.p.h. the Group met up with the P-47s over North Foreland as prescribed, then set off across the English Channel at 1850 hours.
After making enemy landfall the Group headed for the I.P., then lined up in flights of six planes each on the bomb run heading of 35 degrees, axis of attack from southwest to northeast. A roadway called Witte Molenstraat ran roughly along the south side of Chateau Ter Linden. It was bordered on the east side of the property by another road that was dead ended on the south by Witte Molenstraat and by Koningin Astridlaan on the north side of the complex. The 386th bomb run heading had them flying directly above Witte Molenstraat, which led them straight into the target. Formation Lead Bombardier Lieutenant Thomas at 11,500 feet made a 75 second bomb run at 1917 hours. High flight Lead Bombardier Lieutenant Whittle at 11,700 feet had a 90 second bomb run. Low flight Lead Bombardier Captain Smehyl at 11,200 feet made a 62 second bomb run.
Back in the second box, Lead Bombardier Captain Hillis was on a 120 second bomb run at 10,500 feet. High flight Lead Bombardier Lieutenant Connell was at 10,700 feet and was also on a 120 second bomb run. Low flight Lead Bombardier Lieutenant Ross was flying on a 45 second bomb run at 10,300 feet. Formation air speed was a steady 185 m.p.h. No flak was fired at the Group at anytime! One possibility might have beenthe earlier in the day cannon strafing and rocket attacks by the RAF wiped out the enemy anti aircraft defenses. As the Group exited the target area several flight crews reported seeing a series of light flashes originating from the ground showing dit, dit, dit, dah. That was Morse Code for the letter "V", thus indicating the phrase "V" for victory which was very popular at that time in the war!
386th Bomb Group results as reported by Group Photo Interpretation Officer Captain R.W. Bushnell: Box I, 1st sixfair, bombs fell 600 feet east of aiming point, hits on remains of Chateau, and area immediately east in a good concentration. This flight bombed last on a second run. Box I, 2nd sixgross, bombs fell 2200 feet northwest of aiming point on main roadBruges to Thouroat. Damage to a few suburban houses. Box I, 3rd sixgross, bombs fell 2200 feet northeast of aiming point across road. Several houses were demolished.
Box II, 1st sixexcellent, bombs fell in a concentrated pattern centering on aiming point.
Box II, 2nd sixgood, bombs fell 500 feet northeast of aiming point, with all bombs in target area, along with near misses to Chateau. Box II, 3rd sixexcellent, bombs fell 200 feet southeast of aiming point in a concentrated pattern. They demolished three small buildings in this part of the target area.
During the Month of May 1979 I was contacted by Noel Schillewaert who lives in Loppen, Belgium. He told me he was researching a mission flown to Bruges/St. Michiel, Belgium by the 9th Air Force, on May 28, 1944. We exchanged information concerning that raid. He provided me with much insider information used in this story. It included an eight page report written by the Commanding Officer of Ter Linden, which was sent to the High Command in Berlin. Two words in his report summed up the state of affairs at his command"Alles Kaputt!"
On May 28, 1944 a total of 371 England based 9th Air Force B-26s were dispatched to various targets on the Continent. Here are the losses for the day: Two aircraft were lost over enemy territory. One from the 344th Bomb Group and one from the 391st Bomb Group. A total of 88 planes were battle damaged. One man was killed in action, seven men wounded, and twelve men missing in action.
Bruges, Belgium is situated approximately nine miles inland from the North Sea. This is a very picturesque city, and has many quaint shops. The place is laid out in such a unique manner as to encourage strolling among its streets. Brasseries on the north side of Grote Market are known for serving fine plates of mussels along with a glass of beer.
Another charming feature of the city are, "The Swans of Bruges," as they are known. In the year 1488 the town leaders overpowered Archduke Maximilion during his troops occupation of the area. After putting him in prison; they saw fit to execute his most loyal servant. A bit later Maximilion agreed to withdraw all of his troops in exchange for his freedom. However there was a certain conditionthe townsfolk must always maintain swans in the citys many canals in memory of his slain servantthat practice continues to modern times!
Chester P. Klier
Mission 185 .PDF File