- Friday, December 15, 1944 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 308.
- Target: Defended village located in Gemond, Germany.
- Field Order Number 390 from 99th Combat Wing states 1st Pathfinder
Squadron (Provisional) will lead the formation to and from the target. The
route out is from base to location K-7803 to I.P. to target, make left
turn off target and retrace route back to base.
- Allied fighters will provide area cover beginning at 1150 hours. If
unable to bomb primary we have a casual target located at Dorsel, Germany.
Bombing altitude will be 12,000 feet. Heavy cloud cover is expected at
target, horizontal visibility at altitude will be unlimited. You can
expect heavy cloud cover over base upon return.
- Thirty-six aircraft from the 386th are scheduled for this operation.
Bomb load will be sixteen 250 pound general purpose demolition bombs. Each
fused for one-tenth nose and one-fortieth tail. Intervalometer will be set
for 50 feet. You will bomb by flights of six. Major White will lead the
formation, high flight lead is Captain Bartolain. Low flight leader is
Captain Vincent. Second box leader is Captain Marquis. High flight lead is
Lieutenant Cleveland, with Lieutenant Oliver leading the low box.
- All targets are built up defended areas which the 1st Army has
requested us to obliterate! Take usual extreme precautions to avoid
dropping on our troops - in case of a visual view of target anticipate
target identification banners, because of snow on the ground. Be on alert
for enemy fighter reaction. Our counter battery measures against enemy
flak positions should lessen the intensity of any flak experience! Watches
were synchronized after a ten second countdown, and the flight crews left
the briefing room heading for their assigned aircraft.
- The formation left over base at 1034 hours. While flying in the
vicinity of Creil, aircraft 334190 RU-O flown by Lieutenant Oliver leading
the low flight in the second box was experiencing his left engine cutting
out. Then a rise in cylinder head temperature, followed by a drop in oil
pressure. He pulled out of formation and headed back to base. Deputy lead
pilot flying in number four position in the low flight, Lieutenant Oates
took over the lead with his plane, ďBAR FLYĒ 131877 RU-V. Upon returning
to base, an inspection of Oliverís plane reveled the impeller clutch was
slipping, allowing oil to get into the blower section, as well as the
carburetor. The corrective action was a left engine change.
- Meanwhile the formation pressed on toward the I.P. located at
Blakenheim, Germany, where the formation made a left turn and formed into
flights of six planes each. Time 1155 hours. At that point the formation
leader decided not to bomb the primary at Gemund, but headed for Dorsel
instead. With bomb bay doors open the flights of six ships were on their
bomb run. For some unknown reason the leader of the first box slowed his
speed. At that point the lead flight of the second box following close
behind found itself sliding under the high flight of the first box just as
the high flight released its bombs 1205 hours. The bombs of one plane fell
through the second box lead flight, all fell clear with exception of one
- The number five plane in the second box lead flight was struck by a
250 pound bomb amidships which exploded, causing the doomed plane to catch
fire which engulfed the entire aft fuselage and tail assembly. A number of
flight crews in the formation were witnesses to the horrendous spectacle;
until the plane fell into a thick layer of cloud cover and was lost from
their view. On the ground witnesses heard a very loud moaning sound from
the plane as it dropped out of the cloud cover at approximately 1,000 feet
with one wing off. It crashed burning near the town of Aremberg, Germany.
Four bodies were seen to fall in the area of the crash site. They were 2nd
Lieutenant John D. Perry, Jr. along with Sergeants: Harold E. Harr, Harvey
M. Clark, and Henry E. Dawson. They were buried in a local cemetery by the
- Bombing results were unobserved due to the heavy cloud cover.
Twenty-six bombers attacked the casual target at Dorsel. Bombs
dropped--401 x 250 on casual, 15 x 250 jettisoned, and 96 x 250 returned.
En route back to base at Beaumont-sur-Oise, Station A-60 it became obvious
that the cloud situation would preclude any landings there. The formation
split up with some planes landing at A-69 Laon/Athies, France, and A-70 at
Laon/Couvron, France. During mission interrogation several crews reported
seeing Lieutenant Sumlinís ship struck by a bomb from the flight flying
above. Two of our planes had category A flak damage, one man was wounded,
and another aircraft was damaged by the explosion of Sumlinís plane.
- The following are two affidavits from 386th flight crew members flying
in todayís formation: I was flying in the lead of the high flight of the
second eighteen. Shortly after the bomb bay doors opened, the second
eighteen gained rapidly on the first eighteen. We had been maintaining a
close , but safe position behind and slightly to the right of the lead
box. I believe the sudden gain was unavoidable on the part of the leader
of the second box, being due, in my opinion to the sudden throttling back
of the lead box.
- Just as the lead flight of the second eighteen came under the lead
box, the bombs were released from the lead box and those of the high
flight fell directly through the formation of the second eighteenís lead
flight. Most of the bombs (16 x 250 in each plane) fell clear of the
flight, but before the last few had gone through, the number five aircraft
296275 AN-T received a direct hit from a falling bomb, and exploded
immediately. I observed no parachutes to open.
- Signed - Edward D. Cleveland
- 1st Lt. Air Corps, Pilot
- I was flying as tail gunner in the lead ship, high flight, second box.
Lieutenant Sumlin was flying number five position, lead flight, second box
off to our left. I heard an explosion and looked out of the side window
and saw that Lieutenant Sumlinís plane was on fire from about the aft bomb
bay back to the tail. Most of the tail blotted out by flames. I watched
him go down through the clouds and didnít see chutes open. That was the
last I saw of him.
- Signed--- Kenneth J. Russell
- Staff Sergeant, 553rd Bomb Squadron
- On May 3, 1946 an American Graves Registration Team from the
Identification Section found another body that had been buried near the
crash scene. That was 2nd Lieutenant Joe L. Houser, the co-pilot. August
6, 1947 two German civilians, Werner Vellis and Willie Lenz, found under
the wreckage, remains of yet another crew member. That being the pilot,
whoís identification tag bore the name Ralph F. Sumlin XXXX5849.
- This was mission number five for the Sumlin crew, however they were
flying without their regular bombardier/navigator Lieutenant Charles J.
Miller. He had been grounded for an intense course of combat navigation in
order for him to become a lead navigator in the 553rd. Bomb Squadron.
Lieutenant John Perry took over that position on the Sumlin crew that
fateful day! It is not known if that was the first combat mission for
- Chester P. Klier - Historian
- 386th Bomb Group