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|Friday, March 9, 1945 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 356.
Target: Marshalling Yard located at Weisbaden, Germany.
Briefing ended at 1000 hours - first man off 1030 hours. The Group left over base from Beaumont sur Oise, France at 10591/2 hours. They crossed the bomb line at 1215 hours. The thirty-six ship formation of A-26 Douglas Invaders was led by Pathfinder pilot Lieutenant Fitch.
Heavy type flak, although moderate in amount was encountered at the IP (Initial Point) and continued on into the target area. Many of our planes received battle damage. A ship flown by Lieutenant Shute was hit by flak in the right side engine on the bomb run. He feathered that engine and continued his bomb run to the target. Engineer Gunner Sergeant William Bode was wounded by the same burst of flak. He was struck in the face and left arm which was rendered useless! The right engine was again struck by flak which apparently knocked off the propeller hub - the propeller began wind-milling.
A fire erupted with a lot of black smoke, flames extended passed the top turret nearly to the tail of the aircraft. After bombs away the formation executed a steep right turn off the target. Flying in number five position with a dead right engine Pilot Shute could not respond; so he put his plane into a straight forward dive under his low flight. Then he eased his aircraft into a shallow right turn in an attempt to follow the formation.
At 1255 hours enemy fighters attacked the Group, approximately thirty of them mixed it up with our Eighth Air Force area cover. The enemy pressed their attack with Me-109s and FW-190s. The air battle became furious and filled the sky around the formation of A-26s. The low flight in the second box of eighteen took the brunt of the attacks. In the lead flight of box one, number two position, Lieutenant Lefever lost an engine due to flak and had to dive into the clouds to escape the fighter attack. He made it back to base even though his aircraft 358 RU-L was badly damaged. Lieutenant Minnick flying number six position in the same flight was not so fortunate-- was reported missing in action, along with his gunner Sergeant McCleskey. Their plane 375 RU-P was last seen on single engine, dropping far behind the formation and losing altitude very fast!
Three FW-190s came up from below out of cloud cover and began firing. Each of them was equipped with four 20mm Mauser Cannons, and two 13mm Rheinmetall-Borsig Machine Guns. The plane in number six position 351 AN-X flown by Lieutenant Thomas Jenkins was shot down. Sergeant Bode flying in ship 365 AN-O which was piloted by Lieutenant Shute returned fire. Using only his right hand due to the flak injury to his left arm. He picked up three FW-190s at 700 yards as a fusillade of 20mm cannon shells and machine gun bullets hit his aircraft in the engine, wings and tail assembly. Bodes fire struck a FW-190 squarely, it rolled over on its back with flames emitting from the engine cowl, and went down in a blazing mass!
A number of machine gun bullets from one of the enemy fighters slammed into Bodes gun turret position. One 13mm round hit his forty-five automatic gun on his right hip, it ricocheted into his right leg. Nearly instantaneously a second round struck him in the right side buttock. There was numbness from his hip to his foot, he could move but had no feeling in that leg. At that point he heard a cacophony, but could not tell if it was his ammunition cans exploding or if 20mm shells were hitting something else nearby. While all this was happening in mere seconds, he managed to fire at the second enemy ship causing heavy damage, a third FW-190 broke down away from the doomed bomber! A few minutes later Lieutenant Shutes plane was becoming unmanageably - he ordered Bode to bail out before the ship exploded. He exited the plane with a headlong dive out of the bomb bay. When his chute popped open he found himself engulfed in very thick clouds. As he broke clear of the clouds a large open field came into view with a clump of trees in one corner. Then he saw a group of men running across the field heading for the trees, he assumed they were German soldiers! Bode landed at the woods edge behind enemy lines. He slipped off his parachute harness and made for the tree cover with his injured leg as best he could. At that point an aircraft buzzed the area, he did not look up so he didn'tt know if it was a friendly or enemy fighter plane.
The airman saw three men dressed in dark green clothing with a large letter "P" on their right breast. They identified themselves as Russian POWs who had just killed their German guard. Now a few more Russians showed up, all intent on making a bid for freedom. They motioned to Bode to go to the other side of the woods, saying, "Boche"! They carried the gunner and hid him in the brush. One of the rescuers bandaged up his badly bleeding arm, while another cut away the trouser leg on the wounded limb. By this time the American was nearly unconscious as the Russians carried him to a nearby road where they stopped a farmers cart; they put Bode on it. One of the POWs mentioned, "Ameriski" and pointed to the west.
Shortly they came upon an advanced American Army Column headed by a Lieutenant in a jeep. He looked at Bode and asked if he could speak English - he answered the officer in his finest Missourieez that he was indeed an American. Some of the men in the column took him to an army aid station in a small nearby town the troops had cleared a short time earlier.
That night he was taken by ambulance to Bitburg, Germany along with a German soldier with critical stomach wounds, later died en route! The young airman had his left arm and right leg operated upon the next day. The following Monday he was put on a train which took his to Paris where he was checked into the 191st General Hospital. While in the hospital Bode was visited by Colonel Thomas Corbin who was the current 386th Bomb Group Commander. For his efforts Sergeant Bode was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds, and the SILVER STAR MEDAL - our nations third highest award for heroism in combat!
Local German people found Lieutenant Shutes body near his crashed airplane. They buried the pilot in their town cemetery. The shot down crews were: Lieutenant Thomas W. Jenkins - KIA. Sergeant Robert W. Workington - KIA. Lieutenant John W. Shute - KIA. Sergeant William E. Bode - Evaded. Lieutenant James I. Minnick - Evaded. Staff Sergeant David F. McCleskey - KIA. Minnick gave the order to bail out and McCleskey acknowledged. The pilot called several times after that but never received an answer, he assumed that his gunner had bailed out, at that point the pilot bailed out. Lieutenant Minnick made it back over the front line, but no word was ever received concerning Staff Sergeant McCleskey, he was listed as MIA until declared dead in 1946.
Returning crews stated that enemy fighters were predominately FW-190s with a small number of Me-109s as well. The crew of Lieutenant McIver crew second box leader reported one Me-210 making a pass at the high flight just after the flak ceased. The attacks were in the main from low to level from 6 oclock direction. The enemy planes came in successive waves of three to four abreast staggered for approximately period of ten minutes. Their efforts were centered on the high flight and low flight of the second box.
Captain Cavanough led the first box, and Lieutenant McIver headed up the second box. All bombers carried six 500 pound bombs, composition "B" type, with a mixture of 60 % RDX and 40 % TNT, mixed with beeswax. The bomb run heading was 217 degrees at an altitude of 13,000 feet. Temperature was a minus 13 degrees Centigrade. The wind was from 360 degrees at 60 m.p.h. Bombing results were unobserved due to ten-tenths cloud cover. During interrogation the 386th gunners filed claims for seven enemy planes as destroyed, one probably destroyed, and five others damaged. A 553rd Squadron Pilot, Lieutenant Dean E. Keil made a belly landing with his battle damaged aircraft number 231 AN-R.
SILVER STAR MEDAL
"For gallantry in action on 9 March 1945. While dispatched on a mission to bomb the marshalling yards at Weisbaden, Germany, Sergeant Bode distinguished himself as an engineer gunner of an A-26 type aircraft. His aircraft received severe battle damage while executing the bomb run and Sergeant Bode was painfully wounded; however bombs were released on the objective and simultaneously his aircraft was attacked by three enemy fighters. Without regard for his painful injuries Sergeant Bode courageously met their attack and destroyed one, and damaged another while the third was evaded. When the aircraft became extremely difficult to control the pilot ordered Sergeant Bode to abandon the plane. By his gallant actions on this occasion Sergeant Bode displayed a devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the service."
Chester P. Klier