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September 22, 1943 - Target: Airdrome located at Evreux Fauville, France.

The usual time check, synchronizing of watches took place and then the crews left the briefing room at 1324 hours. Trucks transported them out to their respective aircraft.  Preflight inspections were soon underway. The author would be flying with his regularly assigned Lieutenant Donald E. Vincent crew in "MISS CARRIAGE" 134961 RG-M.  Our own aircraft "BUZZ-N-BITCH II was badly mauled by enemy fighters the last time out, and was undergoing major repairs.

Our crew had some misgivings about the plane we were assigned to fly today!  She gave us a real fright on a mission which was recalled because of weather conditions over the English Channel.  It happened twenty minutes before engine start up time. Pilot Vincent and myself had just completed our walk around inspection of the airplane, and climbed up inside.  He sat down in the co-pilot’s seat to read over the Form 1-A book. I took the pilot’s seat. Our bombardier was Staff Sergeant Zephire Peterson; he had crawled into the nose compartment and was checking over his equipment.  Staff Sergeant Leo Grus was back in the radio compartment getting things squared away at his position.  Our co-pilot Flight Officer Robert Gragg and tail gunner Staff Sergeant James Wilkie were outside standing by the left engine.

The bombardier had closed the bomb bay doors, but for some reason he decided to open them again - they did not budge!  He called back to us saying that this was Captain Ostlind’s plane, and that he had installed an experimental bomb bay door-opening device in this ship.  Part of the set-up was inside a small aluminum box mounted on the floor in front of the pilot seat - he said, "Pull out that long pin with the chain attached.  I leaned forward and began to pull it out.  Unknown to me at the time, he was depressing the thumb button on top of the bomb bay door selector handle, and was trying to push the handle forward to the open position.  When I pulled the lock pin free in the cockpit, his lever slammed full forward passed the door open position and into bomb salvo position!

The bomb bay doors flew open and crash - the plane emptied its entire load of 300 pound demolition bombs onto the hardstand.  The sudden release of all that weight made the B-26 jiggle violently on its tires and oleo struts. Bombs were rolling all over the pavement. Within seconds every man was out of the ship and running like mad! We weren’t the only ones making tracks. The crews parked near us saw the bombs fall out and were sprinting also. In a few minutes our operations officer, one Captain Charles Thornton, who saw the entire fiasco roared up with his jeep - he was pale like us and very angry.  He was so "shook" all he could say was, "You have got to be more careful with those things or somebody will get hurt."  The ordnance people were summoned to go about defusing the bombs, some of the fuses were smashed—they went about their most hazardous task.

Time was rapidly approaching start up sequence.  We thought we’d sit this one out, but the operations officer told us otherwise - "Bombs or no bombs, you’ll fly this mission" Captain Thornton growled; we need your firepower in the formation."  With that we flew merrily off to war with an empty bomb bay.   As it turned out the mission was recalled about half way across the channel.   We watched the other ships jettison their bombs into the water, which was standard practice in the early days of operations.  We knew that all eggs were still very dry on the hardstand back at Boxted!  The Germans bombed our field twice - our crew bombed it once the hard way, while we were parked on it! Nobody could argue that the plane had not lived up to its name, "MISS CARRIAGE."

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“MISS CARRIAGE” 134961 RG-M flying in number four position.  “Pansy YOKUM” 13168 RG-N bring up the rear in number five position during early operations.  As of November 1943, all 386th BG. Planes had horizontal yellow band painted across the fin and rudder.  It extended downward twenty-four inches from the top rudder hinge.

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8th Air Force Station Number 150 - Boxted, Exxex, England - nearby Colchester. Home of the 386th BG from June 10, 1943 until September 24, 1943. THe base was bombed twice by German Air Force while our group resided there.

The identity of the ordnance crew learned later were, Tech Sergeant Ulysses Troxclair and Staff Sergeant George Reynolds, Jr. They were awarded THE SOLDIERS MEDAL, the highest award for non-combat heroism.

Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group

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