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|Wednesday, July 28, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Diversionary Mission Number 3:
Third Bomb Wing Field Order number 15 states: This Wing will attack a target in France, and conduct diversionary efforts in conjunction with the main attack." This operation will involve the 322nd, 323rd, and 386th Bomb Groups. The 322nd and 386th will not have a bomb load, but will carry maximum combat ammunition as enemy fighter reaction is expected.
The 323rd Bomb Group will attack the airdrome at Tricqueville, France - shown on the target map as Z513. They will furnish eighteen planes, nine will carry eighteen 100 pound bombs and nine will have eight 300 pound bombs. The 322nd Group will have a fourteen ship diversion, and we will fly thirty-six ships plus four spares. Our scheduled altitude is 12,000 feet with an indicated air speed of 200 m.p.h.
The route out from base to Clacton-On-Sea to North Foreland to 51 Degrees 21 Minutes North, 02 Degrees 30 Minutes East. At that point we will make a left turn to begin a direct route back to base. Weather will be good, some haze up to 4,000 feet can be expected over the North Sea. A few scattered clouds around the 9,000 foot level, above 9,000 feet will be clear with about twenty miles visibilitythe weather should hold for the next few hours!
The 323rd Group will have 11 Group RAF Spitfires for escort. The 322 and our Group will have P-47s for escort from the Eighth Fighter Command, some eight squadrons in all. Zero Hour is 1845 hours. Six squadrons of Spitfires will sweep the target ahead of the 323rd Group, and then make a second pass after the bombers clear the immediate area.
We could be intercepted by Messerschmitt 109s and Focke-Wolf 190s - there are one hundred or so enemy fighter aircraft based from Holland to Belgium, and along the Channel Coast of France. Twenty fighter bombers have vacated their airdrome at Poix, France, and ten single engine fighters have relocated from Deelen, Holland. All gunners keep a sharp lookout for German aircraft. Be especially careful during test firing so as not to fire in the direction of our escort planes. Number four ships should drop down slightly and number five and six ships should slide a little to the outside of their flights to minimize the risk of aircraft being struck by spent cartridge cases during test firing of guns.
Communications for today: Bomber to bomber on 6440 K.C. over England, outside of England use 5295 K.C. Splasher Beacons in use from 1600 hours to 2000 hours are: 5C, 8F, 11C, and 13H. Turning on the IFF (Identification Friend Or Foe) and off, or during switching to emergency position will be done by the pilot or the navigator. All planes equipped with VHF Radio will monitor both VHF and the command channel at all times.
S-2 (Intelligence Section) has some information regarding your conduct if forced down in an enemy occupied area. Landing in enemy territory: Destroy entire plane if possible, each aircraft is equipped with two Thermite Bombs. Set one on top of each wing over main fuel tank, arm the bomb, and run like hell! It will not explode, but in a matter of seconds the mixture of aluminum powder and iron oxide will produce an intense heat of some 4300 Degrees Fahrenheit, which will burn through the wing structure, and explode the fuel tanks. If you cant destroy the aircraft, then destroy secret documents and equipment. If taken prisoner - give name, rank, and serial number, nothing else. If you should land in a neutral country, such as Switzerland - destroy secret equipment as you will not be allowed to return to your plane. Landing at another airdrome in England: Teletype or telephone aircraft designation in code. If a friendly aircraft is down: Record time seen, place, and altitude observed. Also type of aircraft and other data on success of crash landing or number of men seen to bail out. One last thing, do not wear any clothing on a mission with squadron insignia attached.
Watches were synchronized and briefing ended. Flight crews climbed into their squadron trucks which transported them to their assigned aircraft parked on hardstandings located about the periphery of the airdrome. Crews usually had approximately thirty minutes to check over their aircraft prior to engine starting and taxi out time. Colonel Maitland led the first box of eighteen planes into the air at 1740 hours. Major Franklin Harris, leader of the second box of eighteen planes along with two spares was airborne at 1754 hours. Thirty-eight Marauders circled Boxted Airdrome while gaining altitude along with shaping up the formation. Two ships piloted by Lieutenants Sanford and Klimovich failed to make take off due to technical problems. The other planes continued to climb on course for the fifteen mile flight to Clacton-On-Sea where the P-47 fighter escort rendezvous would occur at 1845 hours. All of the participants were on time, and the formation took up a heading of 157 Degrees to the next check point located at North Foreland, some thirty-two miles distant.
Approximately ten minutes later the Group made a 90 degree left turn at 12,000 feet over North Foreland at 1858 hours. This maneuver would align them on a course of 51 Degrees 21 Minutes North, 02 Degrees 30 Minutes East, which was their turn around point in the sky over the North Sea. In a matter of minutes, machine gun fire could be heard throughout the formation as gunners commenced test firing their guns. A mere two minutes before reaching the turn around point, Colonel Maitlands crew received a radio message from Third Wing that the mission was abandoned, return to base immediately! The formation leader executed a left turn to a heading of 295 Degrees which put them on a direct line to base - sixty-five miles ahead, where he landed at 1959 hours.
During interrogation Lieutenant R.D. Wilson stated that he was pulling forty-five inches of manifold pressure on his engines for nearly thirty minutes in order to keep up with the formation. His crew reported seeing two PT Boats about one mile off shore heading south at 30 knots. Major Lockhart also reported two small vessels going south off North Foreland. Colonel Maitland thought horizontal visibility was excellent, but vertical visibility was poor with haze to 6,000 feet. The 323rd Group abandoned their bombing mission because they failed to rendezvous with the fighter escort.
Chester P. Klier