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|Friday, July 16, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Diversion Mission Number 1:
Briefing was called to order by Captain Hankey at 1700 hours. This Wing will attack a target in occupied France; and conduct a diversionary effort in conjunction with this attack as directed by Third Bomb Wing Field Order number 06. The 323rd Bomb Group will attack the marshalling yard located at Abbeville, France, referred to as Z440 on our target map. The 323rd will supply eighteen aircraft, they will be dropping both 300 and 500 pound demolition type bombs. Our 386th Group will furnish eighteen ships and fly as a decoy for them, we will not cross into enemy territory.
Colonel Maitland will lead our formation with six ships from the 554th Squadron, the other twelve ships are from the 555th Squadron. The high flight leader is Lieutenant J.T. Wilson, low flight leader will be Lieutenant R.E. Sands. Our route out is from base to Orfordness to 51 Degrees 30 Minutes North, 02 Degrees 20 Minutes East to Broadstairs, and return to base. Zero Hour is 1940 hours at 12,000 feet over Orfordness, where we rendezvous with two squadrons of RAF Spitfires, (twenty-four fighters) they will be our close escort for this operation.
If there is a cancellation by Mission Control, the fighter leader will recall bombers by VHF Radio or by waggling his wings in front of the bomber formation. If rendezvous not made or contact not maintained with escort, mission will be abandoned. Rendezvous time must be Zero Hour, or within two minutes thereof. Would be better to be slightly early because fighters are instructed not to wait, but return to their bases if bombers are not at rendezvous point on time! Bombers must maintain an indicated air speed of 200 m.p.h. while with escort.
Enemy fighter reaction is expected, their strength is estimated between ninety and one hundred aircraft in this area of the Western Front. No enemy vessels or convoys believed to be operating near the mission area. One group of P-47s will precede our diversion by three minutes, another group will fly directly above us, and a third group will follow us by eight minutes. After we make our turnabout, all P-47s will continue on to make a fighter sweep of the French Coast area north of Abbeville, and along the Dutch Coast.
Communications: Fighter to bomber on VHF Radio Channel C. VHF bomber call sign is "SUCCESS", fighter call sign is, "QUEENDOM." Bomber to bomber while over England on 6440 Kilocycles, and 5295 Kilocycles outside of England. Radio operators in the flight commanders aircraft will tune transmitter and receiver to Wing frequency and monitor same during entire mission. If aircraft is forced down at sea, next in command will report that fact to M/F Section N and request a position fix. Flight Commander will report enemy attacks or unusual occurrences on Wing operations
frequency. All aircraft with VHF Channel C, will monitor listing watch on both VHF and Command frequencies. Flight leaders only will transmit on VHF, except in an emergency. The 386th call sign for today is, "SUNDIAL."
The weather will be clear except for some scattered clouds between 5,000 and 6,000 feet. Visibility will be approximately six miles. Synchronization of watches was made and the flight crews departed the briefing room, climbed into trucks, and where driven out to their assigned aircraft at approximately 1805 hours. A ship by the name of, "TEXAS TARANTULA" 118284 RU-M with Colonel Maitland in command took off at 1857 hours, followed by seventeen other Marauders. The bombers circled the airdrome at Boxted as they gained altitude and filled out their formation pattern of three flights of six aircraft.
The formation was on time as they linked up with their Spitfire escort 12,000 feet over Orfordness on the English Coast, thirteen miles east of Ipswitch. The Group headed out over the North Sea, within minutes the rumble of heavy machine gun fire could be heard as the B-26 gunners test fired their weapons. The top turret gunner who was flying with Lieutenant W.T. Caldwell in "BOOMERANG" 131631 RU-G reported via intercom that his guns had malfunctioned, however the ship continued on flying just off the left wing of Colonel Maitland.
The coast of Ostend, Belgium came into view as the formation reached position 51 Degrees 30 Minutes North, 02 Degrees 20 Minutes East. They began a turn to the right so as to take up a heading of 235 Degrees which would lead them to Broadstairs - a point of land near North Foreland on the southeast coast of England. The P-47s flying above continued on across the North Sea to carry out a fighter sweep. The twenty-four RAF Spitfires stayed with the bombers.
Twelve freighters in a convoy were heading west about eight miles out from Broadstairs, they were towing two balloons above them. Three destroyers were also observed moving west about twelve miles further out at 2006 hours. At this point the beach at Dunkerque and the enemy were only thirty-eight miles off to the left of the formation. The formation made English landfall and then turned right onto a heading of 330 Degrees which would carry them back to base where Colonel Maitland landed at 2057 hours. Soon the crews entered the interrogation room where they filed their mission reports.
Several crews reported damage to their aircraft when struck by spent shell cases during test firing of aircraft guns. Lieutenant Raymond Sanfords ship named "HELLS FURY" 131625 YA-R received a hole in the top turret dome and a dent in one wing. Lieutenant Wilma Caldwells ship "BOOMERANG" was also struck by empty cases. Lieutenant Emmett Curran flying "CLOUD HOPPER 2nd" 131763 RU-O received a six inch hole in his right wing and dents in the right engine cowling along with dents in the horizontal stabilizer. Lieutenant A.N. Hillis flying "LITLJO" 131622 RU-D reported damage to his wings inboard from both engines, all damage was caused by spent cartridge cases.
The High Command was satisfied with the combination diversion and bombing raid. The mission was a definite success and inaugurates the entry into conflict with the enemy by the Third Bomb Wing (Medium) as part of the Eighth Air Support Command in the campaign of the Eighth Air Force and the RAF to crush the German Air Force. Conduct of combat crews over flak defended territory was excellent, and bombing results were fair on the marshalling yard located at Abbeville, France. Fighters of the Eighth U.S. Fighter Command and the RAF gave complete protection from enemy fighters. All of our aircraft retuned safely.
Chester P. Klier