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|Wednesday, May 31, 1944 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 189.
Target: Highway bridge located at Rouen, France.
The target area had eight-tenths altocumulus with a base of 13,500 feet. Visibility was four to six miles in thick haze up to the bombing altitude. Wind was from 150 degrees at 15 miles per hour, and temperature was minus one degree Centigrade at altitude. 88mm flak began to come up and for the most part was concentrated on the high flight of the first box of eighteen flying at 10,500 feet, on a heading of 340 degrees at 185 m.p.h. The flak was moderate in amount but was very accurate for altitude and position. Formation leader Major Perrys ship,"BLACK MAGIC" 131620 RG-R dropped its bomb load at 1142 and ½ hours, the bombs hit 100 yards short and to the right of the aiming point. The high flight leader Lieutenant Ralph Marble flying "GERONIMO" 131630 RG-J had his right engine knocked out of commission by a flak hit. A large hole also appeared in his left engine nacelle along with many smaller holes. Major White was the second box leader flying "YE OLDE CROCKE" 131755 RU-F was on a bomb run of 300 degrees. The enemy flak gunners concentrated their fire on his lead flight, five of his six ships were damaged.
The high flight slid over to the left as one ship dropped its bombs. A 2,000 pounder fell on Lieutenant Wrens plane, "CLOUD HOPPER 2nd " 131763 RU-O, it was flying in number two position of the lead flight. The bomb did not explode, but knocked off the propeller and cowling from his left engine. The engine mount and engine was still attached to the aircraft was bent down at an odd angle. Lieutenant Wren guided his plane out of the formation to the right.
Lieutenant James Kerr was flying "THE BAD PENNY" 131628 RU-L in number five position directly behind and slightly lower than the stricken ship! His first knowledge of anything happening were pieces of cowling whipping passed, followed immediately by a rotating thirteen foot diameter four bladed propeller, all of which miraculously cleared over the top of his airplane!
Lieutenant Reeves crew flying in ship 296128 AN-N low flight, position number six witnessed the Wren aircraft with wheels down, and bomb bay doors open; five chutes were seen. They reported that the plane crashed and exploded seven miles from the target.
Two P-47 escort planes from 373rd Fighter Group flying close to the doomed aircraft reported six men bailing out. The ship crashed at 1153 hours at the edge of a wooded area near Louviers. The spot was placed at 49 degrees 15 minutes North01 degree 10 minutes East. Lieutenant Richmond of the 373rd Fighter Group, 303 Wing called 386th Bomb Group S-2 Officer Captain Thomas B. Hiare via telephone at 1515 hours to confirm the crash site.
Pilot Donald B. Wren landed safely in his parachute and found his way into the hands of the French Underground. The International Red Cross confirmed information that his co-pilot, Lieutenant U.W. Miller was found lying dead on the ground with his unopened parachute. They believe he had struck his head on some part of the aircraft as he bailed out! The wren crew: Lieutenants D.B. Wren and U.W. Miller, Tech Sergeant S. Tirpac, Staff Sergeants D.E. Mitchell, T.J. Yates, and Sergeant A.M. Staffo.
The Group bombing results were rated as fair. One of the problems experienced by the bombardiers was all the smoke raised in the target area by proceeding bomb groups. Heavy haze was another factor. It seems particular flights were singled out by the flak batteries and concentrated upon. Flight crews had mixed feelings about the effectiveness of Radar jamming Window used on this mission! Total flight time for the 386th Group on this mission was three hours and forty-five minutes.
An olive drab painted Martin B-26 believed to be enemy operated was sited by the 397th Bomb Group at mid-channel en route to the target. The same aircraft or another was also reported near the enemy coast eleven minutes later. Three single engine enemy fighters were observed taking off from an unidentified airfield while the 322nd Bomb Group was on their bomb run.
After parachuting from his disabled aircraft Lieutenant Wren lived in the woods for some eleven days. The sister of a French Underground partisan eventually rescued him. He spent three months with the French Underground - allied evaders were no longer being taken over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. The front lines were quite fluid at that time; so it was best to wait for the American Army to overrun the area where the downed airmen were being hidden. While in France, Lieutenant Wren was reunited with one of his flight crewmembers - Tech Sergeant Steven Tirpac, radioman. Later they were returned to their 554th Squadron located in Great Dunmow, England.
Lieutenant Donald B. Wren had graduated from pilot training in Class of 43B Roswell AFB, New Mexico. He retired from the USAF after 33 years of service with the rank of Colonel.
Chester P. Klier