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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 bomb!
 
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 townspeople.
 
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.
 
Note:
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 Lieutenant Perry.
 
Chester P. Klier - Historian
386th Bomb Group

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