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|Tuesday, June 6, 1944 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Numbers 193, 194, and 195:
By order of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, this is D-day - the invasion of the Continent. At that point there was no more order in the briefing room as fifty-four flight crews broke into loud cheering! The U.S. 1st Army under General Omar Bradley will make an attack on the French Coast on the Peninsula Of Cotentin. The U.S. 7th Corps under command of General Collins has been assigned a landing area code name Utah Beach. General Gerow heads up the U.S. 5th Corps in an area code name Omaha Beach, which is about eleven miles east of Utah Beach.
Time was 0300 hours as the briefing continued. This will be a three box, fifty-four plane effort. Box one (mission 193) will be led by Lt. Colonel Beaty, his deputy lead will be Major James Wilson. High flight leader is Lieutenant Romney Spencer, low flight lead is Captain Perkins. Box two (mission 194) will be led by Major Dewhurst, his deputy lead is Captain Blackburn. High flight leader is Captain Nagle, Low flight leader is Captain Sands. Box Three (mission 195) leader will be Lt. Colonel Ramsey, his deputy lead is Captain Hillis. High flight leader is Lieutenant Marble, and low flight will be led by Captain Purdy.
The weather situation could be critical, so we will get right to it. Captain A.W. Anderson 386th Group Weather Officer makes the presentation for a period from 0400 to 0800 hours. At take off: 0440 hours, nil high and medium cloud, six-tenths cumulus base at 2,000 feet. Route out: Nil to two-tenths high and medium cloud entire route. Nil medium cloud increasing to south coast to variable six-tenths to nine-tenths base 7,000 feet to 9,000 feet. Variable cumulus and stratocumulus mainly six to nine-tenths over England, decreasing three to five-tenths over channel and France. Bases 4,000 to 5,000 feet except 1,500 to 2,000 feet in scattered showers. Some patches of low stratus over channel becoming eight to ten-tenths over Cherbourg Peninsula, tops 1,000 to 2,000 feet.
Visibility four to six miles over England increasing to ten to twelve miles in the target area. Target area: Six-tenths to eight-tenths medium cloud at 7,000 feet, three to five-tenths high stratocumulus, base 4,000 to 5,000 feet. Visibility ten to twelve miles. Return route: Similar to route out except cloud should be decreasing over England to two to four-tenths. Home base: At 0735 hours four-tenths to five-tenths stratocumulus and cumulus two-tenths to four-tenths. Visibility six miles.
The briefing officer said, "No matter what the weather, we are going in to assist the troops landing on the beaches - even if we must go in at an altitude of 500 feet!" That statement snapped more than a few heads - if there were some sleepy eyes among the the flight crews, they sure were wide open now! Many recalled what happened to the 322nd Bomb Group on May 17, 1943 when they flew to a target located near Ijmuiden, Holland. Eleven ships were sent out, one of which aborted - the other ten planes were shot down by flak and enemy fighter planes. That ended low level attacks by B-26s. Operations were resumed during the month of July, 1943, but this time all Groups flew between 10,000 and 12,000 feet!
No bombs will be dropped on primary targets after Zero Hour minus five minutes. We have secondary targets, they will be attacked if formations arrive at primaries after Zero Hour minus five minutes, or if smoke or weather prevent bombing of primaries. If the weather prevents making bomb run at assigned altitudes (11,000 to 12,000 feet) attack will be made below cloud deck. Norden Bomb Sights will not be employed - instead D-8 Bomb Sights will be used if targets are attacked at 4,000 feet or below! Secondary target information will be given to lead and deputy lead bombardiers and navigators. The 344th and 386th Bomb Groups have a total of four secondary targets. They are identified by military coordinate code--this is one for example: 4902W/J/12/M.P.I., 021060.
The route out: Base to Dartford to Splasher Beacon Number 9 to Shoreham to Selsey Bill to St. Catherines Point to 49 Degrees 31 Minutes North - 01 Degrees 20 Minutes West to Target. Route back: Target turn right to Bill Of Portland and back to base. Any aircraft compelled to abort the mission after leaving the English Coast will execute a right turn and retrace route as near as possible! Timing for your check points en route follows: Leave base 0509 hours at 2,000 feet. Arrive Dartford 0519, Splasher Beacon Number 9 at 0532 hours and make two circuits then leave at 0543. Shoreham 0546 arrive Selsey Bill 0553 hours, on to St. Catherines Point at 0600 hours. Then head out over the channel to 49 Degrees 31 Minutes North - 01 Degrees 20 Minutes West to target area. All planes are loaded with 16 x 250 pound general purpose demolition type and are fused instantaneous nose only.
386th Formation leader Lt. Colonel Beaty will attack a defended locality on Utah Beach, St. Martin de Varreville, France. His box is identified as Heavy Weight One. Second box leader is Major Dewhurst. He will attack a defended position on Utah Beach known as La Madeleine, France. His box is Heavy Weight Two. Third box leader will be Major Ramsey. He will attack a defended locality on Utah Beach called Dunes de Varreville, France. His box is identified as Heavy Weight Three. All bombing to be done by flights of six planes each!
Communications: R/T communications must be kept to an absolute minimum required by operational or emergency necessity. VHF Channel B will be used by Headquarters ships and FDT as well by fighter controllers, by order of Colonel Thatcher. IFF will be operated in accordance with IX Bomber Command Signal Operation Instructions by the Number 28-1, dated 1 June 1944. VHF Channel D (10 Group Guard 2) call sign to be "PINGO." Friston Channel D, call sign "SHELLPINK." Brighton area Channel C, call sign will be "PARADE." Home base area Channel C, call sign also "PARADE." Call sign for fighter ground stations detailed to communicate with bombers will be known as "FARMHAND." All emergency homing on HF/DF to : Exter, Boscomb Down, and Keevil. Splasher Beacons operating 0400 to 2300 hours are: 4A, 10B, 8D, 9E, 11F, 13G, 5H, and 16I.
Very pistol cartridges will be used by all groups in the assembly of their formations, but will be fired only by the formation leader. Assignment of colors follows:
98th Wing will use single star cartridges except on Group which will use triple star cartridge yellow green yellow. However there shouldnt be any confusion here because of geographical separation between Wings! Operational time tick for all units of IX Bomber Command was accomplished with standard operational procedure 53-1 of IX Bomber Command dated 25 May 1944. With that briefing ended at 0345 hours.
Crews were at their assigned aircraft at 0350, with engine start up time coming around at 0424 hours. Lt. Colonel Beaty began to taxi out at 0435 - he was into the air at 0440 with his ship, "SON-OF-SATAN" 131613 YA-Y. The rest of his flock followed at twenty to thirty second intervals. Then it was Major Dewhurst with his second box of eighteen ships flying in ship number 296275 AN-T. Major Ramsey flying his plane named, "YE OLDE CROCKE" 131755 RU-F led his third box of eighteen planes climbing out from runway 33 and turning into a left hand pattern, as did his predecessors. The fifty-four plane armada made its way to all of the predetermined check points as specified during the briefing due to excellent navigation by lead navigator Captain Edward ONeill, Jr. At 0600 Hours the formation crossed out over the English Coast at St. Catherines Point.
It was a breathtaking sight for the air crews looking down upon the thousands of ships making their way toward the enemy coast. It must have been equally inspiring for all of the troops and sailors to look up at the hundreds of aircraft, bombers and top cover fighter planes - all planes had black and white stripes twenty inches wide painted on the top and undersides of their wings, and also on the aft portions of their fuselages. Allied Intelligence was fully aware that the enemy had in the past acquired allied planes which had fallen into the hands of the enemy. The 386th Bomb Group for one, had gone on record stating B-26 aircraft with no Group markings had flown behind and off some distance to the side of our formations tracking our movements, speeds etc. The order of the day was, "Any aircraft of any type not displaying the black and white markings on wings and fuselage would be shot down!" Heavy shelling was in evidence as the war ships on station poured their lethal rounds into the invasion beach areas, soon to be swarming with American ground forces!
A few miles off the English Coast Lieutenant Lytle flying ship number 296128 AN-N lost the use of his altimeter and airspeed instruments - he made the prescribed right turn away from the formation and returned to base. He had been flying in number six position of the low flight in the second box of eighteen planes.
P-47s from the Eighth Air Force were traversing the sky above the bombers as the 386th Group neared the invasion coast. At this point each box fanned out slightly to develop their headings into their target zone. Lt. Colonel Beaty took up a heading of 145 degrees flying at 185 m.p.h. His target was located at St. Martin de Varreville. In box two Major Dewhurest lined up on 150 degrees for his objective at La Madeleine, and Major Ramsey leading the third box was now flying on a heading of 140 degrees going after his target at Dunes de Varreville. Now the boxes began to string out some, so as to allow their ships to slip into a bomb by flights of six configuration. Major Ramseys planes were the first to release bombs at 0623 ½ hours from an altitude of 3,500 feet. Then Captain William Leirevaag Bombardier for Beatys crew flying at 4,200 feet released his bombs at 0624 hours. Major Dewhursts planes dropped their bombs at 0624 ½ hours from an altitude of 4,500 feet. Deadline for releasing bombs was set by Allied Command at 0625 hours. Five minutes later at Zero Hour, the first troops hit the beaches!
The bombers made a right turn off their targets in flights of six planes, when over the water they began rejoining into boxes of eighteen ships each for the flight home. The scheduled English landfall was made at Bill Of Portland, and on back to base where they arrived at 0831 hours. Total mission time was three hours and fifty-one minutes.
Soon flight crews were going about the business of mission interrogation, they all had a lot to report. At 0622 hours approximately three miles off Marcouf Island flying at fairly low altitude - an aircraft believed to be a Douglas A-20 appeared to be laying a smoke screen. The plane crashed about 300 yards from some small boats. Speculation was, it might have been struck by a heavy incoming shell from one of the war ships shelling the installations back of the invasion coast. An orange flash was observed on the surface of the water, which lasted some ten seconds, then simmered and then went out! Five medium size ships, one possibly a cruiser in Casquet or Alderny was seen at 0649 hours.
Heavy type flak was observed being fired at a B-26 Group flying in the vicinity of the Jersey and Guernsey Islands. Heavy type flak which appeared to moderate in amount also seen in Cherbourg area near Grandcamp. A medium size ship was seen to explode one mile north of Marcouf Island. Five trucks were seen firing flak from Carentan. A large number of enemy tanks reported on a road between Lessay and Periers.
Tech Sergeant Paul Scott reported shooting at German armored car just southwest of the target area. He was flying with the Lieutenant Hodge crew in ship 296116 AN-A. That crew also reported seeing a B-17 ditched in the channel, a rescue ship was standing by. One Me-109 was reported in the area, but did not attack. Crews mentioned seeing numerous parachute canopies scattered about the area inland from the beaches. They were abandoned there by the U.S. Paratroopers who had made their landings the night before! Lt. Colonel Sherman Beaty had this to say for a press release, "We had to go in at 4,200 feet because of clouds, and we went right down the alley to smack hell out of the target. There was a lot light flak, but it didnt bother us. The sky was full of fighters, all ours!" Major Simon G. Economidis 386th Group Bombardier made an evaluation of our Groups bombing as follows.
Results: Box I, Lead Flight--Excellent. Target: St. Martin de Varreville, France.
High Flight - Good.
Results: Box II, Lead Flight--Unobserved in smoke. Target: La Madeleine, France.
High Flight - Good.
Results: Box III, Lead Flight--Good. Target: Dunes de Varreville, France.
High Flight - Good.
Chester P. Klier