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|Thursday, July 29, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Diversionary Mission Number 4:
Local flying began at 0730 hours. A combat mission warning order was received from Third Bomb Wing at 0849 hours. Another order came in at 1154 hours which changed earlier instructions from a combat mission to a diversionary mission. A Field Order from Third Bomb Wing, number 17, directs all B-26 Groups to participate in an attack on a target in France, and we also conduct a diversionary sweep in conjunction with that attack. The Bomb groups involved will be the 322nd, 323rd, 386th, and the 387th - each group will furnish eighteen aircraft plus some spares. A target in the Rouen area will be attacked by 2 Group RAF simultaneous with our attack.
The 323rd Bomb Group will attack the airdrome at St. Omer, France, which is identified on the target map as Z256. The 322nd and 387th Bomb Groups will support them with a diversionary feint at the enemy coast near The Hague. Our Group will be operating well out over the North Sea. Captain T.J. White will lead our formation, Captain Thornton is high flight leader, and Major Beaty will be leading the low flight.
Route out from base to Ordfordness for a rendezvous with our fighter escort at 12,000 feet. Then fly to 51 Degrees 47 Minutes North, 03 Degrees 07 Minutes East - at that point make a right turn and fly back to base. Our escort will be three groups of P-47s from the Eighth Fighter Command. Upon our reaching the turn around point, the P-47s will continue on to make a fighter sweep of Knoke on the Dutch Coast, Courtrai in Belgium, and swing down for a run on the French Coast at Dunkerque.
All flight leaders of P-47 aircraft will land at Boxted after completing their mission today for discussions concerning the feasibility of P-47s as escort for B-26 operations. A report is desired from all leaders of B-26 bombardment formations as soon after landing as possible on the results of the escort duty from the bomber pilots point of view.
The weather situation at the moment looks like low clouds along the English Coast. Air to ground visibility will be less than desirable with haze to about 7,000 feet - above that altitude it will be very clear with a forward visibility being unlimited. Communications: Fighters to bombers on VHF Channel A - fighter call sign is, HAYBANK. Bomber call sign is, TYPEWRITE, and Ground Sector Control sign is, MORELIGHT. The Splasher Beacons in use will be: 5C, 7C, 10H, and 11G, from 1600 to 2000 hours. The briefing ended and the flight crews reported to their respective aircraft.
Captain T. J. White lifted "TEXAS TARANTULA" 118284 RU-M into the air at 1659 hours. Captain Charles Thornton, high flight leader was off at 1702 with his ship named "CRESCENDO" 131644 RG-C, and Major Sherman Beaty low flight leader took off at 1706 hours with "SON-OF-SATAN" 131613 YA-Y. The Group formed up quickly and climbed on a northeasterly course which would carry them to a point of land known as Orfordness.
The fighter escort was right on time as the force of B-26s and P-47s headed out over the North Sea. After completing test firing , the formation pressed onwardsoon the turn around was reached, the bombers began a standard rate turn to the right which would head them homeward. The fighters broke away to carry out their assigned sweeps on enemy installations on the Continent.
Vessels could be seen plying the waters twelve miles off Harwich, one ship was seen to have four barrage balloons in tow. Another ship with a balloon was sighted five miles further south as reported by Captain Whites crew. The crew of Lieutenant Emmett Curran flying in "LADY LUCK" 134947 RU-K noted a vessel estimated to be twenty miles off the English Coast at 1832 hoursapparently dropping depth charges, one explosion was seen. The formation leader received word via radio that the diversion had been recalledhowever this operation would count as the Group had made their turn around as prescribed in briefing, and was on the return flight when they were informed of the change in orders.
For some unexplained reason the formation made English landfall eight miles south of its prescribed return course! The first plane landed at 1848 and the last ship came in safely at 1901 hours. All flight crews headed into the interrogation room, there were some complaints. Major Lockhart said at the turn around point he could not keep up with the other ships - the whole formation never really got together! Lieutenant J.T. Wilson stated he was pulling 43 inches of manifold pressure at 2500 r.p.m. in order to hold his position in the formation. Lieutenant Curran related that his left engine high blower was inoperative. Flight Officer Casey, pilot of "4F" 131771 RU-R did not take off because of an engine problem.
The 323rd Group bombed their target with fair to good results. Bursts were observed in the dispersal area of the airdrome, also bursts on an intersection of a road and railroad east of the target. Other hits were noted in the center of the airfield, along with a few strikes in the southwest dispersal area. The 322nd Group flew a seventeen plane diversion - one plane developed a smoking engine, could not keep up with the formation, and returned to base.
Our 386th Aircraft could now display a second duck symbol on the side of the nose of each participating aircraft on diversions number one and four. Diversions number two and three were recalled prior to turn around, so they did not count officially. The sitting duck symbol was chosen because it was a "Decoy Mission."
Chester P. Klier