IN THE BEGINNING < back >
Wednesday, November 25, 1942:
This date the 386th Bombardment Group was constituted by the United States
Army Air Forces as a Medium Bomber Group. Four squadrons were assigned to
the new group. They were known as the 552nd, 553rd, 554th and 555th
Tuesday, December 1, 1942:
This date the 386th Bombardment Group was activated by Third Bombardment
Wing with orders to organize at MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida. The Group
would be equipped with Martin B-26 Marauders, which were designated as
medium bombers. The man who was selected to head this new Group was an air
pioneer by any means of measure - his name, Colonel Lester J. Maitland.
During the month of July 1921 as a young lieutenant, he took part in bombing
and sinking of the captured German Battleship Ostfriesland while flying a
Martin MB-2 Bomber. He helped Brigadier General William Mitchell prove that
aircraft attacks could sink any capital ship!
Thursday, March 29, 1923:
Lieutenant Maitland was flying a Curtiss R-6 Racing Plane at Mc Cook Field,
Dayton Ohio. A new world speed record was established at 236.598 m.p.h.
Later he was to serve as an aide to General Mitchell during the special
aviation hearings which were held in September of 1925.
June 28 and 29, 1927:
Triumphant days for Lieutenants Lester J. Maitland and Albert F. Hegenberger,
when they became the first airmen to fly across the Pacific Ocean.
Twenty-four hundred miles over open sea in twenty-five hours and fifty
minutes from Oakland, California to their goal in Honolulu, Hawaii. Their
Fokker C-2 Aircraft was named, "Bird Of Paradise". It was powered by
three Wright J-5 Whirlwind Engines, each of which were rated at 200
horsepower. Wright Fieldís designation for this aircraft was P-463. The
"Distinguished Flying Cross" was awarded to both airmen. They also received,
"The Mackay Trophy" which is awarded to the person or persons who makes the
most meritorious flight of the year.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, Colonel Maitland
was in The Philippineís as the Base Commander at Clark Field, north of
Manila. He had a small number of Martin B-10 Bombers, a few Douglas O-2
Observation planes, along with a contingent of Curtiss P-40 Fighter planes.
One week less than a year later, he found himself as a Group Commander of a
brand new combat outfit - the 386th Bombardment Group, by recommendation of
General Eubanks. A strong factor in the selection of Colonel Maitland for
this post was his five years of experience at Kelly Field in the Flight
Training Command. Prior to reporting to MacDill Field, the Colonel put in
some flying time at Barksdale Field located near Shreveport, Louisiana. He
wanted to fly the Martin B-26 extensively to learn about the bad points as
well as the many fine points of this new hot bird in the Army Air Force
Monday, December 7, 1942:
Sources from which personnel would be obtained and developed to cadre
strength was spelled out in a special order; by the transfer of Army Air
Force Officers and enlisted men from the 21st Bombardment Group, which was a
operational training unit. Other personnel would come from Third Bomber
Command, Third Air Force, and also from MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida. Key
personnel being hand picked for the job by Colonel Maitland and First
Lieutenant H.G. Hankey, his operations officer.
Colonel Maitlandís Executive Officer was Major E.F. Quinn, Adjutant was
Lieutenant George Dougherty who had served under the Colonel in the
Philippines. S-2 Officer was Major J.I. Mellen. S-3 Officer was Lieutenant
H.G. Hankey, S-4 Officer was Lieutenant Marion B. Smith. Colonel Maitlandís
Engineering Staff was headed by Captain U.J. Carruth. Group Navigator was
Lieutenant E.E. Raper, and the Group Bombardier was Lieutenant S.G.
Economidis. Lieutenant E.J. Levin Headed Group communications, and Captain
J.W. Saar was the Group Surgeon.
The men selected to head up the squadrons were: Lieutenant T.G. Corbin in
the 552nd, Captain F.W. Harris in the 553rd, Captain T.I. Ramsey in the
554th, and Captain S.R. Beaty in the 555th. Squadron Adjutants jobs were
held by Lieutenantís E.W. Downs of the 552nd, L.T. Little of the 553rd, with
W.C. Wolfret in the 554th, and H. Lowe in the 555th. Lieutenantís W.J.
Friedman in the 552nd, W.P. Zoellner in the 553rd, E.M. Weicherz in the
554th, and M.J. Warren in the 555th. All were performing tasks which
concerning personnel, and the supply requirements of their respective
Lieutenantís G.S. Hogg and T.B. Haire were assistant S-2 Officers in the
552nd Squadron. Lieutenantís S.I. Jaffe and J.L. Moore, Jr. were S-2
Officers in the 553rd and 554th Squadrons respectively. Lieutenant P.F.
McDivitt was Statistical Officer in the 553rd, and Lieutenant H. Reefe held
the same post in 555th Squadron. Lieutenant J.T. Maletic was assigned as
Group Armament Officer, and Lieutenant Miller Headed the Ordnance Section of
the 553rd Squadron. Colonel W.L. Lee was the Commanding Officer of the
Training Wing at MacDill Field. For the most part, both personnel and
equipment would be acquired with the assistance of his organization until
the new 386th Group was firmly established!
Friday, January 1, 1943:
Four B-26 aircraft were assigned to each of the newly formed squadrons, and
training flights got underway. Other equipment was also assigned to the
units. The Group would continue to grow throughout the month, some of the
newly arrived pilots were fresh out of flying school. Others had varied
backgrounds, and brought valuable experience to the Group. Lieutenant Leland
Perry had flown B-17ís with the 19th Bomb Group. He had also flown C-47ís
over the "Hump" in the China-Burma-India Theater, and Africa as well.
Lieutenant Charles Thornton had been a pilot with Pan American Airways, and
had also flown in the C.B.I. Theater with Perry. Bud Lambert and Duane Petit
were both Staff Sergeant Pilots when they reported into the Group for pilot
Enlisted men came from all over the country after completing their specialty
training such as; armament, radio, engine and aircraft mechanics, aerial
gunnery. Also from the Glenn L. Martin B-26 Training School located at the
aircraft factory located in Middle River, Maryland. Colonel Maitland was
most pleased to learn that a number of line chiefs and mechanics who had
served with him at other locations were back in the fold! Newly commissioned
bombardiers and navigators also arrived in adequate numbers.
The Group had moved across the base to its own barracks, as still more
equipment was assigned to the individual squadrons. Other details were
looked into, for instance the designing of squadron insignias. It seems
there was an abundance of roll calls, also periods of guard duty, and
special details that tend to take the very joy out of military life! Club
and recreational facilities were most adequate for officers and enlisted
men. Passes to Tampa were possible, but the military police seemed awfully
anxious to enforce the many restrictions. In spite of it all, Group
personnel were able to frequent a few haunts; such as The Tampa Terrace,
Flamingo Room. Columbia Restaurant and Larry Fordís.
Six weeks of training had been accomplished, flight crews had mastered the
sixty-five foot wing span of the B-26B-4 with its 1850 horsepower Pratt and
Whitney R-2800-5 Engines. Most would agree that coming in over the end of
the runway with about fifty feet of altitude at 130 miles m.p.h. - and then
flaring out to land was the appropriate method to handle the beastly flying
The earlier model B-26ís were soon replaced with the B-26B-10 Model which
had an increase of wing span to seventy feet. Pratt and Whitney had modified
the induction system of their 2800 cubic inch engine displacement - it now
delivered 2,000 horsepower during take off. The new ships got off some 300
feet sooner, and landed about 10 m.p.h. slower. The first phase of overseas
training had been completed on schedule with a good record, but it was time
to move on. The Group had been alerted to move from Florida to Lake Charles,
Louisiana. This is where the second and third phases of training would be
Sunday, February 7, 1943:
The air echelon began taking off at 1050 hours to fly to its new base at
Lake Charles. At 1800 hours the ground echelon boarded a train which would
take them to their new base of operations.
Tuesday, February 9, 1943:
The ground echelon arrived at Lake Charles Air Base, and were greeted by the
flight crews. The base had previously been operated as an advanced flight
training field. It was smaller than MacDill, and lacked some of the more
elaborate facilities. It was a clean and comfortable place, and the Group
soon felt very much at home there. It was situated on the main highway some
four miles west of the town of Lake Charles, a very pleasant hospitable
southern town. All training was carried out at squadron level, but under the
direction of Group Operations and Group Intelligence. Each of the squadrons
operated out of its own ready room in which the intelligence officers were
set up. Flying schedules were made up as follows: 0800 to 1130 hours, 1300
to 1730 hours, 1900 to 2300 hours as a daily routine. Crews not scheduled to
fly found themselves in classes studying aircraft recognition, naval vessel
identification, radio aids, map reading, and first aid work.
Sunday, February 14, 1943:
Flying began as scheduled at 0800, but was halted at 1130 hours by a
teletype Tech Order Compliance issued by Third Bomber Command. All Group
planes would be grounded until each was checked to see if each complied with
Tech Order Compliance (01-35E-27) in the B-26 Airplane Handbook!
Monday, February 15, 1943:
Due to the Tech Order Compliance, all planes in the 552nd Squadron were out
of service, and five planes from the 553rd as well. The 554th could only
qualify one aircraft, 118133. The 555th had only one aircraft grounded as a
result of the order. The Group received a request to participate in an
aerial search mission at 1000 hours. The missing aircraft was a Curtiss AT-9
on a flight between Lafayette, Louisiana and Beaumont, Texas. A search line
was established between these two areas and extended south to the Gulf Of
Mexico. The 386th Group dispatched four aircraft. The search was terminated
at 1345 hours due to weather conditions. All night flying was suspended at
Tuesday, February 16, 1943:
Morning haze and smoke delayed flight operations until 0835 hours. Weather
continued to improve throughout the day. A tow-target plane managed to
swerve off the runway, but no damage to plane or occupants. Two Group ships
were out on cross country flights, one to Denver and the other to Tampa.
Both aircraft remained at those locations over night. Local flying ended at
2330 hours, however Lieutenant G.J. Newton, a 552nd pilot landed one hour
Wednesday, February 17, 1943:
Flying began as scheduled at 0800 hours, at 1555 hours aircraft 118157 blew
a tire upon touchdown with no further damage to the ship. A near accident
was caused by a gas truck crossing runway 14 while a plane was landing on
that runway. Both ship and truck were from the 552nd Squadron. Flying ended
at 2330 hours.
Thursday, February 18, 1943:
A ceiling of 300 feet which topped out at 4,000 feet along with a fog bank
about one and one half miles south of the field wiped out the entire morning
flying schedule. Weather cleared by lunch time, and a full afternoon of
flying was accomplished. Night flying began at 1900 and continued until 2100
hours, at which time a weather situation ended the dayís operations.
Friday, February 19, 1943:
Flying began at 0800 hours, and all scheduled flights were completed by 1730
hours. No night flying scheduled due to an inspection. The weather began to
turn a bit sour in the early evening.
Saturday, February 20, 1943:
All morning flight activities were cancelled because of poor weather. A full
afternoon schedule was carried out beginning at 1300 hours.
Sunday, February 21, 1943:
The morning schedule was cancelled due to very poor weather conditions.
Flying finally got underway at 1300 hours. The 552nd Squadron lost plane
number 118160 when the ship crashed while its crew was testing a low level
bomb sight, which was in the process of development. The ship was flying
with its bomb bay doors open when an engine failed at very low altitude. The
pilot, Lieutenant B.R. Ostlind and his co-pilot Lieutenant J.H. Blackwelder
had very little choice but to crash land in a river bottom running south out
of Lake Calcasieu. It was located near the town of Cambron, some two miles
north of the Gulf Of Mexico. Two of the crew were seriously injured, while
the other crew members received cuts and bruises in the crash. All other
flights landed by 1530 hours so crews could attend a meeting that was
scheduled at 1600 hours. Deteriorating weather necessitated cancellation of
all night flying.
Monday, February 22, 1943:
A persistent fog condition kept all Group planes grounded until it finally
cleared at 1500 hours.
Tuesday, February 23, 1943:
No flying today, all aircraft undergoing carburetor inspections. Some B-26ís
had been lost at Barksdale Field and MacDill Field when engines had sudden
and complete failure on take off! The new aromatic fuels were causing
deterioration of a rubber balance type diaphragm located in the un-metered
fuel side of the Stromberg Carburetor. During high manifold pressure demand
the diaphragm would rupture and the engine would quit running instantly! All
such faulty diaphragms were replaced with new parts made from material
compatible with the new fuels, and that type of engine stoppage problem
ceased to exist.
Wednesday, February 24, 1943:
Foggy conditions prevented flying between 0800 and 1130 hours, however by
lunch time weather conditions improved, and flying was resumed at 1300
hours. The Lockheed Hudson B-34 aircraft which the Group used for tow-target
service was at work over the gunnery range. Suddenly it developed a fuel
system problem, it is not known if it was a fuel pressure drop or a fuel
transfer pump malfunction. The pilot Second Lieutenant Roy A. Andes was
forced to crash land his ship number AJ 223 in the marsh land due east of
Pelican Island. It is located on the southeastern shore of Lake White -
eight miles north of the Gulf Of Mexico. The crew scrambled out of the
wreckage, but the radioman was missing! Pilot Roy Andes ran back to look for
him, just as the plane exploded. The 552nd Squadron pilot died of injuries
sustained in the explosion. The co-pilot and two enlisted men escaped
injury. Two other enlisted men were picked up approximately twenty-four
hours after the crash. One of the men, Staff Sergeant Billy T. Davenport
died of a toxic condition brought on by a severe case of insect bites!
Thursday, February 25, 1943:
Because of extremely poor weather conditions the entire 0800 to 2330 hours.
The flying schedule was abandoned. Ground school classes went on as usual.
Friday, February 26, 1943:
Field Order Number One directed a number of planes to bomb a predetermined
target. The aircraft arrived over the specified area only to find nobody had
erected the required targets. General flight training continued through 2330
hours. Ship number 118152 remained over night in Memphis, Tennessee with an
Saturday, February 27, 1943:
Flying commenced at 0800 hours. Field Order number two dispatched some
B-26ís on a mission; after which all returned to base. However one aircraft
number 118142 remained in San Angelo, Texas with a magneto problem.
Sunday, February 28, 1943:
All flying schedules cancelled because of very poor flying conditions.
Monday, March 1, 1943:
Weather delayed all flight operations until 1400 hours. It became a very
busy afternoon and evening with crews flying right up to 2330 hours.
Tuesday, March 2, 1943:
Weather conditions precluded all flying schedules for this date.
Wednesday, March 3, 1943:
A complete weather turn around from yesterday, ships were in the air at 0800
hours. Flying continued throughout the day until 2330 hours.
Thursday, March 4, 1943:
Training flights commenced at 0800, however some bad weather began to move
in after lunch. All flying activity ceased for the day at 1630 hours.
Friday, March 5, 1943:
The entire flying schedule was wiped out because of weather. Five aircraft
from the Group remained over night at other locations for that reason.
Saturday, March 6, 1943:
Poor weather delayed flying activities until 1300 hours, and then flying
continued on to 2330 hours. Two Group ships returned from cross country
Sunday, March 7, 1943:
At last - a full day of flying from 0800 to 2330 hours.
Monday, March 8, 1943: Another good flying day, it started off with skip
bombing practice at 0800, bombing results were rated fair. All flying ended
at 2330 hours.
Tuesday, March 9, 1943:
Good weather for a full day of flying, which got underway at 0800 hours. The
Group Operations Officer, Captain Hanky was flying in the co-pilot position
of a Martin B-26. He was about to check out a relatively new pilot in the
art of single engine operation. Leaning to his left, he announced that he
intended to cut an engine, so get ready! Quick as a flash the Captain pulled
back the mixture control on one engine. The student pilot froze in position.
Did nothing, in spite of some very well orchestrated phraseology as what to
do - in a manner that only instructor pilots ever seem to master, still the
student pilot did nothing!
Frustrated and angered the instructor pilot was determined to show his
student how to rectify this situation quickly. He reached over the pilots
pedestal and activated the propeller feather switch, a brilliant maneuver -
had he not done it on the good engine! What a predicament, one engine wind
milling on idle cutoff and causing high drag; the other engine set on cruise
power with the propeller feathered. Something snapped and the manifold
pressure gauge for that engine began fluctuating. With no noise coming from
either engine, aerodynamics came into play rapidly. Now, with that unusual
set of circumstances - the very highly streamlined sixteen-ton Martin
Marauder, possesses the uncanny ability to instantly transform itself into
Furiously moving hands were pushing engine control levers, switches, and
grabbing the rudder trim crank as the engine came back to life. Then the
other engine responded, but with reduced power output. The aircraft was
immediately flown back to base and was safely landed. A post flight
inspection showed one cylinder had sheared its bolts and separated itself
from the power section of the engine, on which the fearing switch had been
Wednesday, March 10, 1943:
Too good to last, the bad weather situation set in again! Only one ship got
into the air. It was flown by Captain Hankey on a weather check flight.
Everything went fine until he was coming in for a landing. The landing gear
position instrument indicated that the right main gear was not in a locked
down position. He continued on final approach touching down on the left
gear, then eased the right side wheel onto the runway. The drag on the tire
as it contacted the pavement caused the landing gear leg to snap slightly
backward which pitched the tang on top of the strut forward into the yoke
lock. Then the down lock pin slid in behind the tang, and the gear leg was
safely in the down locked position.
Thursday, March 11, 1943:
The poor weather still hangs on, as a result, Field Order Three could not be
Friday, March 12, 1943:
The weather condition prevented any flying until 1230 hours. The weather did
clear some, but then became marginal, and all flights ceased at 1730 hours.
Saturday, March 13, 1943:
All morning flights were suspended due to the poor weather conditions.
Afternoon flying began at 1300 and continued until 2330 hours.
Sunday, March 14, 1943:
Morning flights got underway at 0800, but were curtailed at 1730 hours. No
later flying due to foul weather.
Monday, March 15, 1943:
Morning flights were delayed until 1015 hours by weather. All flights called
in at 1730 hours when the weather took a turn for the worse!
Tuesday, March 16, 1943:
No local flying due to weather. Captain Hankey took off at 1515 hours,
destination was Los Angeles, California. He landed at Tucson, Arizona at
2030 hours where he remained overnight.
Wednesday, March 17, 1943:
Local flying began at 0800 and continued until 1945 hours. No further night
flying due to weather conditions.
Thursday, March 18, 1943:
Unfavorable weather continued to plague the Group with only one hour of
flying time, which took place between 1400 and 1500 hours.
Friday, March 19, 1943:
Absolutely no flying permitted, weather was atrocious all day!
Saturday, March 20, 1943"
A weather hangover delayed operations until 1200 hours. All flights were
called off at 1730 hours due to deterioration of the weather.
Sunday, March 21, 1943:
The sun was seen for the first time in many days, flying was underway at
0800. One ship went on a cross country flight to Patterson Field in Dayton,
Ohio. Other Group planes continued on local flights right up to 2400 hours.
Monday, March 22, 1943:
Another good morning for flying, which started at 0800. Lieutenant L.E.
Haber from the 553rd Squadron was flying plane number 118158 which developed
an engine problem. He flew the ship back to base where he proceeded to make
a very smooth single engine landing! All scheduled flying was completed by
Tuesday, March 23, 1943:
Another good day for flying, which was conducted between 0800 and 1900
Wednesday, March 24, 1943:
The damp Louisiana weather has struck again, all flight schedules cancelled.
Rain water nearly knee deep in some places around the base area.
Thursday, March 25, 1943:
Rained all last night, and water continued to rise. Flying was impossible to
Friday, March 26, 1943:
Weather looked promising as flight operations got underway at 0830 hours. A
teletype order was received from Second Air Support Sub-Command Headquarters
stating that the Group would participate in maneuvers to be carried out
today and tomorrow. All flying ended at 1730 hours.
Saturday, March 27, 1943:
Flying activities commenced at 0800 with the continuation of maneuvers,
which began yesterday. All flights ended at 1730 hours, and were very
successful. No night flying was scheduled. This completed the third phase of
training with 7,999:20 of Group flying time accumulated. The original goal
was set for a total of 8,000 hour of flying time training.
Sunday, March 28, 1943:
Holiday for the Group, no flying scheduled!
Monday, March 29, 1943:
A good weather day, flights began taking off at 0800 and continued until
about 2200 hours.
Tuesday, March 30, 1943:
A fog kept Group planes on the ground until 0945 hours. Each of the four
squadrons sent three ships on a one thousand mile cross country flight. The
route was from Lake Charles, Louisiana to Houston, Texas to MacDill Field,
Florida, where all remained over night. Local flying at the base ended at
Wednesday, March 31, 1943:
Marginal weather delayed flight operations until1000 hours. Our planes
returned to base from MacDill Field, with the exception of ship number
118155, which had a brake problem. All local flying stopped at 1730 hours
because of poor weather moving in.
Thursday, April 1, 1943:
Weather cancelled all morning operations. Flying finally underway at 1300
hours. Captain Hankey returned from his flight to California. Weather halted
flying at 1700 hours. Ships 118155, and 118158 remained over night at
Friday, April 2, 1943:
Twelve aircraft from the Group made a cross country flight to MacDill Field
in the morning. Local flying was called off at 2200 due to weather change.
Saturday, April 3, 1943:
Thirteen aircraft from Group took part in a cross country flight to MacDill
Field in the morning. No local flying was carried out after 1500 hours
because of the poor flying weather.
Sunday, April 4, 1943:
Weather conditions held up flying schedule until 0900 hours, then twelve
Group planes flew to MacDill Field. Local flying ended at 2200 hours.
Monday, April 5, 1943:
Flying operations were underway at 0800 when fourteen planes from Group made
a flight to MacDill Field. Local operations closed down at 2200 hours.
Tuesday, April 6, 1943:
Two planes had remained over night at MacDill Field, one had an engine
problem, and the other had brake trouble. Because of unfavorable weather,
local flying did not begin until 1400 hours. Operations ceased at 2200
Wednesday, April 7, 1943:
Flying began at 0800, one aircraft was sent to DeRidder for inspection and
demonstration. The last plane down ended flying at 2200 hours.
Thursday, April 8, 1943:
Morning flying activities held up until 0930 hours due to local weather
situation. Twelve of the Group aircraft flew to DeRidder on a practice run
for demonstration. Local flying stopped at 1700 hours because of weather.
Friday, April 9, 1943:
No morning flying, poor weather was the cause. Ships were into the air at
1330 hours. Demonstration went off fine, with time and deflection accurate.
Some weather moved back in, and local flying came to a close at 1700 hours.
Saturday, April 10, 1943:
Flying began at 1000 hours and ended at 1730 hours. No night flying carried
out due to poor weather situation.
Sunday, April 11, 1943:
Weather conditions delayed all flying until 1430 hours, flying ended at 1730
Monday, April 12, 1943:
Flying delayed until 1100 hours. The 552nd and 553rd Squadrons flew a two
aircraft mission for the Louisiana Army Maneuvers. The objective was reached
and bombed. First Lieutenant Raymond Sanford and Second Lieutenant Thomas
Haire were dispatched on detached service to the Second Air Support Command
as liaison between the Group and the Armies on maneuvers. The 344th Bomb
Group arrived on the base for the purpose of participating in the Louisiana
Maneuvers. Their Commanding Officer was Colonel John Hilger of the famed,
Tuesday, April 13, 1943:
Flying underway at 0800 hours with three missions being flown in support of
the Blue Army. Air operations came to a close at 2200 hours.
Wednesday, April 14, 1943:
Another full schedule of flying ran from 0800 to 2200 hours. Lieutenant
Leland Perry was a flight leader in the 552nd Squadron. He was discussing
radio communications with Lieutenant Ralph Marble and some other pilots.
Perry said, "Weíve got to have some short communication identification for
talking over the radio. When I say this is "Mert" you will know itís me
talking!" "Mert" was a telephone operator on the popular Fiber McGee and
Molly radio show of the time. Eventually a name was painted on the nose of
Perryís plane known as, "MERTíS FLYING CIRCUS."
Thursday, April 15, 1943:
The 552nd and 554th Squadrons were off to an early start at 0700 hours to
support the Blue Army in a surprise attack on mock enemy troops. Four Blue
Army missions and one Red Army mission were completed. All flying ended at
1730 hours because of the deteriorating weather.
Friday, April 16, 1943:
Flying began at 0800 but was shut down at 1000 hours when poor weather
conditions developed. No more flying for the balance of the day and night.
It is beginning to look as if boats will be required to navigate about the
base! Six flight crews left Lake Charles by train. They were, Captain T.J.
White, First Lieutenant P.B. Green, also Flight Officers G.A. Purdy, R.B.
Spencer, A.M. Lien, and W.T. Caldwell. The crews were headed for Omaha,
Nebraska for the purpose of ferrying new B-26ís to Hunter Field, Georgia.
Saturday, April 17, 1943:
The B-26 crews arrived in St. Louis, Missouri where they had a four-hour
layover. After reaching Kansas City, Missouri, they enjoyed another four
hour layover at a place called, The College Inn. Then back on a train en
route to Omaha.
Sunday, April 18, 1943:
Arrived in Omaha in the morning, spent most of the day relaxing and visiting
places of interest. Two of which were The Hotel Paxton, and The Colony Club.
Monday, April 19, 1943:
The ferry crews were assigned stripped B-26C aircraft at the western factory
of the Glenn L. Martin Company. After preflighting their ships they took off
for the city Memphis, Tennessee. After servicing their planes, the crews
remained there over night.
Tuesday, April 20, through Monday, April 26, 1943:
The ferry crews took off from Memphis on the final leg of their mission to
the air base known as Hunter Field, Georgia. Flight Officer Caldwellís Plane
developed a minor problem concerning its electrical system just prior to
landing. The crews spent the night at the Hotel Desota in Savannah, Georgia.
They would catch a train in the morning for their return to their Air Base
at Lake, Charles.
The next six days would be very busy times for the Group members, they had
been alerted for overseas movement! Personnel shot records were updated,
physical and dental examinations were given to all. Inspection was the key
word, if it had a name, or could fit in a box or bag, it was inspected -
over and over again!
Excitement was in the air as personal air combat clothing and equipment was
being issued, and made ready for shipment to the theater of operations.
Security talks were given to all personnel, and security silence was clamped
down. The rumor mill was working full blast grinding out several very good
ones every day. They touched on such things as: Which theater would the
Group go to; what types of flying would be required of them in combat, and
so on! All squadrons had been divided into air and ground echelons for
transfer overseas. The air echelon would fly new planes to their overseas
location, and all ground echelon personnel would travel by ship.
For months the big push was to complete training, and to get overseas into
combat! Now that actual orders had been received - time of reflection
settled over the Group members. Many of the troops would keep Chaplain Odor
busy tying marital knots. All would miss the friendly citizens of Lake
Charles who had treated them as members of their families. Favorite spots
like, The Palms, Blackstone Cafť, The Green Frog , Charleston Hotel, Bat
Gormleyís, and the Avalon. Last but not least was Walgreenís, where a good
rumor was always available. All you had to do was asked, "What do you hear?"
Soon all of this would fade into a jumble of pleasant memories!
Tuesday, April 27, 1943:
"Shipping out day," the entire air echelon was up very early - who could
sleep? All barracks bags and B-4 luggage had been loaded on the train. Very
eager and excitedly anxious air crew members boarded the train bound for
Selfridge Field, Michigan. Last minute yells and arm waving to the ground
personnel who for the day, must remain behind as the train departed at 2105
Wednesday, April 28, 1943:
A typical day on a troop train, listening to the train wheels clacking over
countless rail joints, mile after mile. The troops were always in line for
something - shaving, eating, etc. After a few rounds of cards, then back in
line for the next meal. In the evening was the wait for Pullman berths to be
made up for sleeping.
Thursday, April 29, 1943:
The troop train arrived in St. Louis, Missouri where supplies were taken on,
and another train crew took over. Soon they were rolling onward into the
Friday, April 30, 1943:
A cold spring rain greeted the flight crews as they arrived at Selfridge
Field. However that was soon forgotten as they viewed the brand new Martin
B-26B and B-26C Model Ships which would be assigned to them.
Saturday, May 1st through Friday, May 7, 1943:
Today is "MAY DAY" - in a few short weeks the calling of "MAY DAY" would
take on an entirely different significance for some of these crews! During
the next two weeks all would be busy working long hours with their
individual aircraft. Checking over the ships and equipment, doing
modifications and installing new equipment. Also making final tests before
the long flights ahead! Sometimes this work was done under adverse weather
conditions, such as cold wind and rain. All work was done out of doors.
After several days of rain, the air field was flooded with fifteen inches of
water when a nearby rain swollen creeks overflowed their banks. The
airplanes were moved to higher ground and the labor continued.
Saturday, May 8, through Monday, May 10, 1943:
Two troop trains had backed into sidings at Lake Charles, and all the ground
echelon climbed aboard for their trip to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. The post
band played a medley of military marches as the men entrained. One troop
train commander was Captain Christian, and the other was Captain McKinney.
The rail siding had not seen regular maintenance in several years, as a
result the rails looked a bit like rusty steel snakes. It was slow going for
some twelve miles until they reached the main line junction six hours later.
Troop train travel can be entertaining with all the card playing, and the
discussing of all rumors! However it always seemed like a long time between
meals, with no place to buy snacks while waiting for the next chow call!
Tuesday, May 11, 1943:
The Group arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, thus beginning two weeks of
organized aggravation! There was a drill to learn how to get off a train,
and how to go up and down a gang plank of a mock up ship, even abandon ship
drill. Clothing was issued, then taken away - only to be issued all over
again! Censorship of mail was begun, that detail fell to the 386th Officers.
On a few occasions men were allowed an evening pass to visit New York City,
some forty miles distant. Some whoís families lived in New Jersey or New
York, it was a break to spend some evenings with them.
Monday, May 17, 1943:
Meanwhile at Selfridge Field, crews from all four squadrons were winding up
mandatory refinements on their respective planes. Nicknames, and in some
cases designs were being painted on the sides of ship noses. The 552nd
squadron had ship names like: "WINNIE", "BLACK MAGIC", "GERONEMO", "MERTíS
FLYING CIRCUS", "HOT PISTOL", "PANSY YOCUM", from the comic strip, Lil Abner.
There was: "DANNY BOY", "CRESCENDO", "GAMBBLERíS LUCK", "SLIGHTLY
DANGEROUS", and "THE DEACON." That particular ship was assigned to
Lieutenant Ronald Aultman, it was named after his friend who was a test
pilot at the Martin Aircraft Factory. He was known as, The Deacon. Some crew
positions also sported little messages by the gun positions of the crewmen
who manned them. For instance there was Staff Sergeant Alan Dippleís little
notation by his tail guns, which stated, "DIPPLES NIPPLES", still another
was, "SHOOT YOUR FADED."
The 553rd Squadron had their share of names as well, "CRIME DOCTOR", there
was a radio show by that name. Then there was the, "MAD RUSSIAN", "RAT
POISON, "TWO WAY TICKET," "WOLF," "BOMB BOOGIE," "ELMER," "GRIM RAPER," and
"BLAZING HEAT," to name a few.
The 554th Squadron had some dandy nicknames as well, such as, "CLOUD
HOPPER," "BAR FLY," "BOOMERANG," "HONEY CHILE," "PAY OFF," "PRIVY DONNA," "LITL
JOE," "TEXAS TARANTULA," and "LETHAL LADY."
The 555th Squadron did not stand short in the nickname department - one day
movie Actress Loretta Young visited the airfield, and was persuaded to
autograph the nose of Lieutenant M.O. Ellingís plane. She wrote, "LORETTA
YOUNG" in long hand about four feet in length just aft of the bombardier
compartment. A bit later an Air Force Artist over painted her signature.
Most of the planes names seemed to follow the lead of Major Beaty, his ship
was called, "SON-OF-SATAN". Another was, "PERKATORY", named after its pilot,
Lieutenant Robert Perkins. Other planes had names like, "HELLíS ANGELS",
"HELLíS HURICANE", "HELLíS FURY", "HELLíS-A-POPPIN" from the movie. There
was, "MAN-O-WAR," was the name of a famous race horse. Also, "NEMO." "MISS
MURIEL" was named after Lieutenant Paul Bartolainís fiancťe. No attempt has
been made to list all of the names of Group aircraft at this point. Other
names will be brought forth along with the names of the flight crews who
flew them, as events and situations dictate.
Tuesday, May 18, 1943 through Wednesday, May 19, 1943:
Planes from the 555th Squadron were first to leave Selfridge Field. Major
Sherman Beaty led them off on a fuel consumption hop to Hunter Field,
Georgia. All the Group aircraft would follow this procedure in the days to
come. While at that location a final check was made on personal and combat
equipment. The planes were weighed for maximum loads, all individual
aircraft record books (Form 41-B) must be current before any ship would
receive clearance to leave the field. Most co-pilots and flight engineers
were kept busy with that detail. Discounting any weather problems, getting
out of here would require anywhere from three days to a week, depending on
the number of aircraft to be processed at any given time.
Thursday, May 20, 1943:
Flight Officer W.T. Caldwell and crew christened their ship, "SHADRACK,"
named after the three (Shadrach, Meshach, Abenego) thrown into the fiery
furnace as told in the bible story. The nickname was spelled ending with the
letter K, whereas the biblical spelling ended with the letter H. The plane
was officially known as B-26B-16, tail number 131586.
Friday, May 21, through Sunday May 23, 1943:
More Group planes arrived at Hunter Field, having flown down from Selfridge
Field via Nashville, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama. "SHADRACK" was among
those with a fuel consumption test of 125 gallons of fuel used per hour
during the flight.
Monday, May 24, 1943:
A number of 552nd Squadron aircraft took off for Hunter Field, Georgia. They
were the last of the 386th Bomb Group planes to clear form Selfridge Field.
Wednesday, May 26, 1943:
The ground echelon received orders to board a troop train at Camp Kilmer
which would carry them to the port of embarkation in New York City. The air
echelon was also on the move. A number of the 554th Squadron ships got off
early, refueled at Langley Field, Virginia where they hoped to take off for
Presque Isle, Maine. However the weather turned bad, and they parked there
for the next two days.
Thursday, May 27, 1943:
The ground echelon arrived by train at Hoboken, New Jersey. They boarded a
ferry boat which took them across the Hudson River to Pier 79 where the huge
Queen Elizabeth was docked. A band played military marches as thousands of
men who were to board the transport ship waited on the crowded dock. Finally
the 386th was called to go on board, sightseeing as much as possible as they
were being herded to their assigned area on The Cunard Star Line ship.
Enlisted men were allowed to sleep in bunks only every other night. On odd
nights they would sleep in the halls or out on enclosed decks. There was a
regulation against sleeping out on open decks. The officers found themselves
with as many as eighteen persons crammed into small staterooms!
Friday, May 28, 1943:
It was fortunate the Queen Elizabeth was a fast ship that could proceed
along without escort. Because it did so, it had to sail an evasive course.
Every twenty minutes it would violently change course. This was to foil any
enemy submarines that might try to set up an intercepting course. Fire
drills and life boat drills were held everyday, and then there were those
long chow lines! Any time left over was usually spent playing cards, and
shooting crap. Private Morris Coopersmith had at one time, about
seventy-five percent of all the money on "B" deck, but the fortunes of
gambling can turn very quickly!
Saturday, May 29, 1943:
The weather improved at Langley Field, and a few planes with clearance all
the way to Presque Isle, Maine got off early. One of those planes had the
name of, "TEXAS TARANTULA." It was flown by Captain Thomas White, also on
board was Colonel Maitland and his staff. Planes taking off a bit later
caught up with the storm moving across the upper New England Coast, so they
landed at Grenier Field, which was located in New Hampshire where they
remained over night.
Saturday, May 30, 1943:
A number of planes had been cleared to fly to Presque Isle, but soon found
themselves flying around local storms; and at times leapfrogging each other
into various air bases along the East Coast. Arrival at Presque Isle was
made in the midst of cold steady rain. It became evident that crews and
planes must be ready to take off the minute weather clearance was issued.
With an entire bomb group on the move in a relatively short time span,
locale airfield facilities could become overloaded very quickly!
Monday, May 31, 1943:
The storm had cleared out, and the world looked much brighter as the flight
crews went into briefing concerning flying outside of the continental limits
of the United States. The navigators were briefed on routes to be followed,
and the hazards of navigation near the Arctic Circle. Pilots were briefed on
weather forecasts, peculiarities of vision in the northern latitudes, along
with alternate airfields, distress procedures in case of possible
emergencies. Crews were given some British maps which would soon become very
familiar to them!
The weather forecast was CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited) along the
entire route. This leg would be from Presque Isle, Maine to Goose Bay,
Labrador. Some of the crew members felt the spirit of pioneering and high
adventure as they all made ready for this flight - which would take them out
of their native country, for who knows how long?
The route angled off to the northeast over New Brunswick, and to the broad
mouth of the St. Lawrence River. It was some one hundred miles wide at the
western tip of Anticosti Island which lay midway in the mouth of the great
river. The island pointed like a tongue into the gulf of the St. Lawrence to
the east. The flight continued on over Quebec, and finally crossing into
Labrador. The airfield at Goose Bay was located by the Hamilton River, at
the head of Lake Melville. It provided flight crews with a formidable sight
with all its floating ice in abundance as the planes flew their landing
patterns - thus ending a four hour flight from their homeland to the eastern
coast of Labrador. It was learned later some earlier arrivals had been able
to secure a clearance, and were at this moment were winging their way to
Tuesday, June 1, 1943:
Another good weather forecast, by 1013 hours most of the planes with
clearance had taken to the air en route to Narsarssuak, Blue West One Air
Base, Greenland. It was referred to as BW-1 Greenland. Floating ice could be
seen for a few miles off the east coast of Labrador. Then only open water as
the planes continued climbing on course to reach a cruising altitude of
11,500 feet. Off to the left crews could see the waters of the Davis
Straight blending into gently rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Looking
ahead through windshields with the sun position at a high angle - there was
no definite horizon, but rather a mosaic of sky, water and haze! Flight
crews had been informed at briefing, that phenomena of this nature was to be
expected in the northern region.
It was on this seven hundred and seventy-six mile flight from Goose Bay to
BW-1 on a later date that the author and crew experienced a stomach
twitching thrill! Flight Officer Donald E. Vincent was our pilot, and Flight
Officer Robert C. Gragg was the co-pilot, Staff Sergeant Zephire Peterson
was the bombardier-navigator. Staff Sergeants Leo Grus and James D. Wilkie
were the radioman and tail gunner respectively. I was known to the crew as,
"C.P." - my job was that of flight engineer.
I was all bundled up in a leather sheep lined flying suit, complete with
sheep lined boots to ward off the cold in our unheated ship flying at 11,500
feet--while seated in the navigatorís chair. My first indication of a
problem was hearing load yelling going on between the pilots, then arm
waving and pointing. I went forward to the cockpit, just as the pilot told
Gragg to get "C.P." up here! I tapped him on the shoulder saying, "Iím here,
whatís the problem?" He looked over at the co-pilot and said, "Donít you say
a word, letís see what he has to say." Then he pointed to the oil
temperature gauge. The needle on the right engine had just past through the
orange arc (caution indication) and was now into the lower red arc (danger
indication) marking on the dial. The pilot snapped, "Well, what do you think
should be done?"
Quickly glancing at the cowl flap and oil cooler shutter position
indicators, I noted the cowl flaps on the right engine were about one half
open, and the oil cooler shutter was in the full open position. A look at
the oil temperature gauge showed it was now in the middle red range and
rising! Something had to be done fast or we would lose that engine. I said,
"Close the oil cooler shutter and the cowl flaps on the right engine." The
co-pilot reached down near the bottom of the pilot pedestal with his left
hand to activate the lever for the oil cooler shutter. The pilot shouted,
"Donít do that, its too damned hot already!" Then the pilot turned to me and
said, "What the hellís the sense in doing that?"
I proceeded to explain very quickly that the engine was over heating because
the hot oil coming out of the engine, and going into the oil cooler was
congealing. The oil was not recycling properly back to the engine. This was
happening because of the wide open oil cooler shutter, ram air was permitted
to go directly through the unit, and was putting a quick chill on the oil.
The reason for closing the cowl flaps was to trap as much hot air as
possible inside the engine nacelle to assist thawing the oil in the oil
cooler unit. The pilot said, "Okay, close it up."
We all looked intently at the oil temperature gauge which was centered just
above the pilot pedestal on the instrument panel. The indicator needle was
slowly dropping from the high red range down into the orange arc, now mid
way and still dropping lower into the green arc range on the instrument
face. In a few minutes it was well into the normal operating range. The
pilot said, "Okay C.P." The co-pilot turned to me with a hurt look on his
face and said, "I tried to tell him we should close it up, but he wouldnít
believe me." I patted him on the back and said, "Your doing a fine job Bob,
keep up the good work, we may get to England yet!" We all laughed, and I
returned to the navigator seat where I resumed construction of a cheese and
cracker sandwich made from the contents of a K-Ration box.
Far below, ice floes traversed the North Atlantic as observed through
occasional breaks in the cumulus clouds which appeared to be hovering just
above the icy water. Two crewmen were in the nose compartment, two more
standing behind the pilot and co-pilot seats - all eyes were searching ahead
at something that resembled ice covered rocks. minutes later those rocks
transformed into shoreline mountains about 1,000 feet high on the
southwestern tip of the Greenland Coast. Presently even higher mountains
were spotted bounding the great ice of Greenland , which covers
approximately eighty-five percent of the worldís largest island.
A low frequency radio range signal with an "A" antenna, and an "N" antenna
would guide the aircraft into the proper fjord by sending out two letters in
Morse Code. One was Morse letter "A" (dit-dah) and the other was Morse
letter "N" (dah-dit) which the pilot would hear in his headset. When flying
into this airfield, the pilot would hear dah-dit (N) if he was to left of
course, and dah-dit (A) if he was to right of course. The most desirable
situation was to hear one continuous tone which indicated the plane was
directly on course to the station.
Flying into this place would test the mettle of any pilot - the approach to
the landing was to fly for many miles inside a narrow fjord, a few hundred
feet below the top of the fjord walls to avoid any wind conditions, then
come in low over the harbor in which icebergs were floating. Then touch down
on a steel mat covering the runway that runs upgrade with a mountain at the
far end! The steel mat creates a terrible clatter inside the cockpit via the
open nose wheel well doors while rolling along at some 100 miles per hour.
The airfield has only one runway which is surrounded on three sides by high
rock cliffs. All landings are made upgrade while take offs are made
downgrade. Precise scheduling is the key factor for successful operations at
Captain Fredrick (the whip) Heward was the operations officer in the 554th
Squadron, he brought up the rear guard as he settled in nicely for his
landing. Crews were climbing out of their planes and stretching to get the
kinks out of backs and legs. This had been four hour and forty-five minute
flight which had required the use of a 250 gallon bomb bay tank. This
brought the total fuel capacity to 1212 gallons of high octane aviation
fuel. The tanks had been installed in all aircraft back in the States prior
to taking off on this adventure into the elusive "WILD BLUE!" The air
temperature here was about 35 Degrees Fahrenheit as the fliers looked around
this strange territory. This truly was a land of barren rock and ice with
scattered pieces dark green moss, seemingly struggling for its existence.
Wednesday, June 2, 1943:
The crews learned the reason for blackout curtains on all sleeping quarters
windows, certainly not to hide lights from the enemy! In Greenland at this
time of year, daylight persists nearly around the clock. No planes would be
flying out today because of the downgrade take off requirement, wind
conditions were critical concerning take off safety for this base. The
prevailing wind was much higher than the allowed tailwind limit of 05 m.p.h.
The entire air echelon would be idle this day!
Not so for the ground echelon however, the Queen Elizabeth had arrived at
Gourock, Scotland, which is situated deep in the Firth Of Clyde near the
city of Glasgow. With 20,000 troops onboard, the 386th Group has to await
its turn which finally came at 2040 hours. They were transported from ship
to dock by lighters. The men loaded down with helmets, bags, and carbines
were at last assembled on the dock where they were served coffee and
doughnuts by smiling Scottish girls working for the American Red Cross. All
during this time a Scottish Band played most enthusiastically nearby.
Shortly the Group was loaded onto a train which had backed onto the dock,
finally at 2215 hours it pulled out slowly. Surprisingly it was still
daylight at this late hour, nobody had heard of British double summertime!
Some looked out of their train windows, and others dozed as the train
rattled on through the night - destination, somewhere in England.
Thursday, June 3, 1943:
Morning found the train chugging steadily along through the picturesque
English country-side, and occasionally sounding its shrill steam whistle.
Short stops were made at Lancaster and York where English girls handed out
small cakes and coffee to the always hungry young Americans. Eventually the
train swung away from the main line, and was now rolling along a single
track road through lovely rich green country. About mid afternoon the train
ground to a halt at a small railway station known as Eccles Road. Word
spread fast throughout the train - this is it!
Piling out of the railway carriages the men were quickly lined up in
formation, then marched down a small narrow country road to the Groupís new
home located at a place called Snetterton Heath, also known as Station 138.
Group personnel were to be first to introduced to a British secret weapon -
the Nissen Hut! The huts were about forty-five feet long and approximately
twelve feet high. Made of corrugated metal. Imagine if you will, the top
three quarters of a huge sewer pipe laying on its side with ends closed in
with brick or wood construction. It had a door and two windows at each end.
Located on a concrete slab, about half way into the hut was a cylindrical
stove about thirty inches high and about fifteen inches in diameter. A stove
pipe went straight up and out through the roof. The major output of this
contrivance was the delivery of dense smoke, both inside and outside the
hut. It became obvious to most, that this was a German invention, and
probably supplied by them as well!
Meanwhile back at BW-1 many crews had received clearance and were lining up
for take off. Captains Caney and Heward, also Lieutenant E.E. Curran all led
flights on the seven hundred fifty mile hop to Meeks Field, Iceland. The
over water flight was fairly easy for them, however their landing was
accomplished in very poor visibility. Another crew was having a problem with
their aircraft, thus delaying their departure from BW-1. Squadron Line
Chiefs, and some Maintenance Crew Chiefs were flying with a number of air
crews. Three of them were, Master Sergeant Leo L. Duda along with Tech
Sergeants Fredrick G. Danker and Robert E. Tuttle. They worked feverishly to
clear up a pesky intermittent electrical fault in the left engine
Captain B.R. Ostlind was assigned to lead a flight of 552nd Squadron planes
to Iceland. The weather appeared to be alright as they took off, and flew
out of the fjord at BW-1. Major Charles Lockhart, 552nd Squadron Commander,
recalled a very tragic occurrence which happened after a few crews had left
Bluie West One: "A number of 386th aircraft were waiting for a weather
clearance to fly the next leg to Keflavik, Iceland. Three or four of our
552nd ships were ready to go, and I sent them on together when we got
clearance. The ill-fated plane developed trouble in one engine when its oil
cooler became frozen about half way between Greenland and Iceland. They had
to feather that propeller and of course, cut the engine! They began to lose
altitude and decided to dump all excess artic gear that was stacked up in
the bomb bay, even the waist guns. The crew opened the bomb bay doors, but
the baggage got caught between the bomb bay door and the catwalk. The 250
gallon fuel tank was on the other side of the bomb bay. They tried to clear
it by use of the emergency air bottle release, but that only compounded the
problem for the plane named, "STINGRAY."
The crew tried to close the doors but to no avail, they were jammed in the
open position. With all that extra drag - the plane was doomed, and drifted
lower to disappear into the under-cast. First Lieutenant G.J. Newton, Jr.
was the pilot, his windshield iced over thus making the situation even
worse. His ship was in controlled descent as he maintained voice contact
between two other planes flown by Captain Ostlind and Flight Officer John
Albers. The ill-fortuned crew called for Air-Sea-Rescue help, but whatever
allied ships patrolling the area were too far away to affect a rescue of the
fliers. Presumably they ditched their aircraft in the frigid waters of the
North Atlantic, and were lost! It was a very sad occurrence indeed! End of
Major Lockhartís statement.
Friday, June 4,1943:
Major Beaty was off early leading a number of his 555th Squadron planes from
Iceland to Prestwick, Scotland. Lieutenant Richard Sleinís expert air
navigation guided Captain Thomas Ramsey and his flight safely from Greenland
to Iceland. The new arrivals were saddened upon learning of Lieutenant
Newton and crew being lost yesterday!
When school boys in geography class we were told that Iceland was an island
located just below the Arctic Circle. It was volcanic in origin with geysers
and hot springs - to a degree reminiscent of our Yellowstone National Park.
Standing here on this treeless assortment of lava and rock, brings to mind
rather quickly the true meaning of drab! While waiting out the passage of a
slow moving weather front, some crew members visited the Capital City of
Reykjavik, along with nearby Keflavik. Icelanders, generally speaking were
not very cordial toward the Americans - their political stance was that of
Saturday, June 5, 1943:
Major Beaty and others landed their Marauders at Snetterton Heath, England -
finally reuniting with the ground echelon after a separation of thirty-nine
days. Group members were given a security lecture. After which they were
permitted to write or wire to their relatives in the U.S.A. Ground crews
took on a new job, guarding over the B-26ís, this was in addition to their
Sunday, June 6, 1943:
Back in Iceland Captain Ramseyís flight was behind schedule, and were
anxious to leave, and ready to except whatever weather clearance was
offered. What they got was definitely not a bargain - a flight level of 200
feet above the white-capped waves above the North Atlantic. The second
choice was to climb up through some 10,000 feet of cloud formations with
probable icing conditions, so they could fly could fly in the relative clear
at 11,000 feet. Most pilots chose the 200 foot level. After all most of
their B-26 training was done flying at tree top level and low over the Gulf
Monday, June 7, 1943:
More B-26ís arrived in Scotland, it was a beautiful sight from the air with
castles dotting the landscape for many miles in all directions. Some of the
medieval structures of stone appeared to be setting at the very edge of
steep rocky cliffs. Late arriving crews would spend the night in Prestwick.
Early morning would find them winging their way to the south to the new base
Tuesday, June 8, 1943:
English money--such as pound notes, ten shilling notes along with half
crowns and then there were shilling coins, also large penny coins were the
topic of discussion. Rationing was another rude surprise in store for the
crews. Each man was issued a ration card for purchasing items at the post
exchange (PX) on a weekly basis. They would be punched at the time of
purchase for such things as tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, matches, candy and
bar soap. For instance, one could buy seven packs of cigarettes or fourteen
cigars, two bars of candy and two bars of soap. More B-26ís arrived today
after their long overseas flights.
Morale of flight crews took a nose-dive when they heard about the 322nd Bomb
Group. That particular B-26 outfit had sent out eleven ships on a low level
mission to Holland on this past May 17th. One of the planes aborted with a
technical problem and returned to base, the other ten ships went for the
attack. All of them were shot down, mostly by flak, and a few by enemy
fighter planes. At a later date the author learned of that mission while on
a three-day stopover in Chorley, England. A B-17 flight crew had completed a
tour of twenty-five missions in their plane named "SOUTHERN COMFORT, and
were heading back to the U. S. They proceeded to tell me all about that ill
fated B-26 mission. I was told they thought I should transfer immediately
over to B-17ís or risk having a very short air combat life flying in Martin
A party of 386th Group Officers had driven over to another air base known as
Boxted, it was located near Colchester, England. The purpose was to be an
inspection tour of the airdrome facilities there. On the return trip to
Snetterton Heath their staff car driven by an enlisted man with an officer
riding in front was involved in an accident. The car apparently left the
road and struck a tree. Both persons in front were killed. Captain Hankey,
Major Mellen, and Group Communications Officer Elliott Leven were riding in
the back seat. Major Mellen was killed instantly, Hankey and Leven, although
knocked about a bit survived the accident.
Wednesday, June 9, 1943:
Group personnel liked this air base, no mud, nice green grass, and lots of
pavement also. They kept saying to each other, "This is too good to be
true!" They were absolutely correct - orders had been received to pack up,
the Group was moving to a place called Boxted.
Thursday, June 10, 1943:
The Groups departed Snetterton Heath at 0800 hours by rail, truck convoy,
and by plane. The sun was shinning brightly in the morning with no rain in
the forecast, later in the day it became hot. The ground echelon arrived at
Boxted, Essex England, AFF Station 150 at 1145 hours. Some of the 555th
Squadron ground echelon ate a "C" Ration meal along with their air echelon
members - all sat on the ground!
Friday, June11, 1943:
A quick daylight look at this place proved that this base had not reached
the status of Snetterton Heath! Several Nissen Huts could be seen, with many
more huts and other buildings under construction. There was a lot of dirt
and mud laying around and very little of that nice green grass the previous
base had exhibited in abundance. The fair sized City of Colchester lay a bit
over a mile south of the airdrome.
Saturday, June 12, 1943:
A training program was instituted to acquaint air crews with both allied and
enemy operational aircraft which might be encountered flying over the
continent. Classes were scheduled concerning British flying control
procedures such as Air-Sea-Rescue along with escape and evasion techniques.
Other items were flak data, German fighter tactics, and how to fly evasive
action in formation. A number of air navigation charts of all scales and
mimeograph dope on enemy operations were mounted on walls in the situation
room. It was located approximately fifty yards from the headquarters
building. Also nearby was one large hangar that would be shared by all
squadrons for all inside required maintenance work. All other aircraft
service would be performed in the open out on the hardstandings.
After waiting out seven days of poor weather, Flight Officer Wilma Caldwell
and crew were able to take off from Meeks Field, Iceland, and were en route
to Scotland. However about two hours later they ran into a bad weather
situation, and reluctantly turned the nose of "SHADRACK" around and flew
back to Iceland!
Sunday, June 13, 1943:
Weather was very good. The following aircraft arrived between 1530 and 1630
hours from Scotland: "CRESCENDO" 131644, "LITLJO" 131622, "GERONIMO" 131630,
"THUMBS UP" 131621, "THE DEACON" 131637, "BLACK MAGIC" 131620, "WINNIE"
131617, "SMOKEY" 131667, "BOOMERANG" 131631, "DINAH MIGHT" 131576, "STAR
DUST" 134937, "ELMER" 131577, "LA GOLONDRINA" 131583, "PERKATORY" 131627,
"DOTTIE" 134954, "HAZARD" 134958, "NEMO" 134944, "MISS MURIEL" 134948, "LADY
LUCK" was 134947, along with two other planes without nicknames were 131607
and 131611. Try, try again - Flight Officer Wilma Caldwell and crew took off
from Iceland, then flew through rain showers for two-thirds of the distance
to their destination in Scotland. They landed at Stornway, Scotland after a
nerve wracking six hundred and seventy mile flight at very low altitude,
some of which was just above the water. A quick refueling and they were back
into the air for a one hour southeast flight to Prestwick, Scotland - the
official check in location for all overseas flights. With the formalities
completed the crew took off for their new base at Boxted, England. They
landed with a total of eight hours and thirty-five minutes of flying time
for the day with good old reliable, "SHADRACK".
Late in the evening another batch of ships came in between 2130 and 2230
hours, they Were: "HOT PISTOL" 131633. "LEATHAL LADY" 131646, "?" 131635,
"MARGIE" 134970, "PRIVY DONNA" 131658, "HONEY CHILE" 131636, "THE BAD PENNY"
131628, one other plane without a nickname was 131641.
Monday, June 14, 1943:
No flying today, aircraft were being processed. Weather was okay until 1400
hours, then intermittent rain showers until 2400 hours. Meanwhile up in
Scotland a drama unfolded involving some 386th Group aircraft, really foul
weather had been a contributing factor. Lieutenant David Dewhurst, Jr. was
leading a flight of 553rd Squadron planes from Iceland to Scotland in crummy
weather! He made several attempts to climb over it, but to no avail. As a
result they were compelled to fly the entire seven hundred plus leg right
down on the deck! Nearly four hours later they reached the airdrome at
Prestwick, Scotland. They received landing instructions from the control
tower - visibility was only one-half mile.
Lieutenant Robert Saltsman was the pilot flying, "GRIM RAPER." This is his
statement as to what happened in the next few minutes: "I was the last to
come in for a landing, but at the last moment they switched runways on me,
no sweat. I made the adjustments necessary and came on in. When I got on the
ground however it was a different story. In those days the RAF coated their
runways with a mix of blacktop and wood chips to prolong tire life. Nobody
warned us about the fact when this stuff got wet it was like landing on a
sheet of ice, and this runway had just got soaked with a cloudburst!
Everything went just dandy until I tried braking - nothing. I thought I had
brake failure, since we were popping along at a pretty good rate, I pulled
the emergency air brake system handle, still nothing. At this point we were
about half way down what we found to be a very short runway. My co-pilot was
Lieutenant William Kemp, he and I started cutting switches just as I looked
up and saw a tractor pulling a B-26 along the perimeter track. It was now
crossing the end of our runway - seconds later we piled into the whole
damned mess! We immediately began to burn upon impact-- we were both stunned
into kind of lethargy. The fuel tank on the tractor which exploded when we
rammed by our aircraft. Hydraulic lines were ruptured in the nose well,
there was a solid pillar of flame coming up through the nose wheel exit into
Neither of us thought of the overhead exit at that instant, fortunately for
us we were both wearing helmets, goggles, and gloves. We sat there in a sort
of stupor with our seat belts still fastened. An arm reached out through the
flames, and I saw a hand release both overhead pilot hatches. With that my
co-pilot and I got it together; and we scampered out of the cockpit, and
over the nose of our plane. The man who had released us was our bombardier,
Lieutenant Thomas B. Stoval. He had been riding back in the navigators
compartment when all of this got started. All three of us received some burn
injury, but his was by far more serious, and required extensive treatment
before he could return to duty. He made his exit from the crashed airplane
by way of a waist window.
For his courage displayed in freeing us from the fire, he was awarded, The
Soldierís Medal. That medal is awarded to an individual who distinguishes
himself by heroism which involved voluntary risk of life under conditions
other than those of combat. He can probably lay claim to being the 386th
Bomb Groupís first authentic hero. Our plane and tractor were a total loss
along with the other plane as well. It was from the 554th Squadron, with the
name, "CLOUD HOPPER" painted on the side of its nose. That ship had slipped
off the runway during its landing roll out. I was absolved of any pilot
error in this mishap." End of pilotís statement.
Tuesday, June 15, 1943:
Four more aircraft arrived from Scotland, all were from the 552nd Squadron:
"MERT" 131616, "GAMBLER"S LUCK" 131639, "MISS CARRIAGE" 134691, and last but
not least, "PANSY YOKUM" 131638.
Wednesday, June 16, 1943:
Captain Hankey, Group Operations Officer attended a meeting held at Third
Bomb Wing Headquarters. Four additional aircraft flew in from Scotland. One
was, "BARBARA" 131743, flown in by Lieutenant Mayfield from the 554th
Squadron. Lieutenant Moore flew in an unnamed plane with a tail number of
134949, a pilot from the 552nd Squadron one Lieutenant McNutt also brought
in an unnamed aircraft number 134987. Lieutenant Rowe from the 554th
Squadron flew in the very first replacement aircraft for the Group, number
131673. That plane would take the place of the ship which was wrecked in a
ground accident in Prestwick two days ago, it would become, "CLOUD HOPPER
Thursday, June 18, 1943:
Weather was good but no local flying due to the continuing processing of the
Group aircraft. Ground school classes in radio began for all combat crew
members. General Brady visited the base, and was displeased with laxity of
men in displaying military courtesy. Immediate action was taken by all
squadron commanders to remedy that complaint! Airdrome runways were closed
for repairs at 1600 hours.
Friday, June 18, 1943:
Weather intermittent, rain began at 0900 hours, then off and on through the
day and night. Group Weather Station began regular operations this date.
Runways and airdrome lighting system still undergoing repairs. Group
aircraft continued to be grounded for modification work. Air navigation
classes begun in the afternoon. RAF Flight Lieutenant Pauls gave a talk on
flying control methods.
A conference of squadron commanders, and operations officers was held in the
Group Operations building. The purpose was to determine the most effective
defensive formation for the B-26ís to fly on bombing missions. The Javelin
Down with six to nine aircraft with tree boxes (later to be called flights)
in Group stagger was decided upon. All agreed that this type of formation
could be used effectively, and would be very maneuverable under combat
conditions. The results of the meeting were submitted to higher headquarters
The Group became acquainted with new units, which were coming on base to
provide services for our Group. The 76th Air Service Squadron, The 20th
Station Complement Squadron, 2045th Fire Fighting Platoon, 1769th Ordnance
Company, and the 1176th Military Police Company. All these new units would
remain with the Group until the end of its operations against Germany.
Saturday, June 19, 1943:
Weather was CAVU, however there was no flying because aircraft modifications
have not been completed. Assistant Group Operations Officer, Lieutenant E.A.
Rogers conducted his weekly meeting for enlisted men of Group S-3
Sunday, June 20, 1943:
Weather throughout the day was CAVU. The airdrome was closed for runway and
lighting repairs. The Commanding General of Third Bomb Wing, General Candee
visited the base.
Monday, June 21, 1943:
Another beautiful day. CAVU all the way!
Tuesday, June 22, 1943:
The weather was excellent. Three B-26ís from another group landed at this
base for a short visit. Captain Hankey attended a meeting in Elvedon Hall,
which is the location of Third Bomb Wing Headquarters. Two crews each from
the 552nd, 553rd, and 555th Squadrons were dispatched to Prestwick, Scotland
to ferry replacement aircraft to this base. An aircraft with tail number
131604 was repaired after a taxi accident Snetterton, Heath - it was ferried
to this base.
Wednesday, June 23, 1943:
Three aircraft arrived at this base, flown in by Lieutenants, J.H.
Blackwelder in a ship named, "SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS" 134941, R.P. Sanford with,
"HELLíS FURY," 131625, D.A.Tucker in, "HELLíS HURICANE 131634. A fourth
scheduled ship was named, "DANNY BOY," but unfortunately it crashed on take
off from Earls Colne airdrome. The wheels had just left the runway and were
being retracted when an engine failed. The plane was being flown by
Lieutenant J.A. Wendt. The ship slammed down hard onto the runway, and a
wing was torn off. Radio operator, Staff Sergeant James W. Hankemeyer said,
"we were up about twenty-five feet above the runway when an engine quit!"
All of the crew escaped injury, but the ship was a total loss except for
some minor salvage. Aircraft, 134899 was ferried in from Earls Colne to
replaced the crashed plane. Colonel Maitland held a meeting in the briefing
room, no definite information was given out because Third Bomb Wing
Headquarters had not released operational data required by the Group.
Weather conditions were ideal, but no flying was scheduled due to ongoing
modification of aircraft.
Thursday, June24, 1943:
A Douglas C-54 tail number 120127 overshot the field and crashed at the end
of runway number 28. No injury to the flight crew or passengers. The landing
gear, and engines along with the propellers were damaged. Also the fuselage
and one wing panel. Home base for that aircraft was Aldermaston, England.
A Group staff meeting was held at 1000 hours. Five of the six crews returned
to this base after completion of ferry flights from Prestwick, Scotland. The
lieutenant Haber crew were delayed, and did not make the return flight.
Friday June 25, 1943:
Weather conditions were fine, but very little flying activity was conducted.
Flight Officer McNeill arrived to pick up a Piper L-4B Liaison aircraft,
which will be on short loan to Third Bomb Wing.
Saturday, June 26, 1943:
The Group received two Douglas A-20 Havoc Aircraft from Earls Colne, their
serial numbers are, AW-411 and BJ-461. Their purpose will be to fly tow
targets during Group gunnery training missions. Captain Hankey was called to
attend a meeting at Third Bomb Wing Headquarters.
Sunday, June 27, 1943:
Weather was really good; but no flying, runways are being repaired again. A
number of our planes still undergoing modifications. Colonel Maitland called
a meeting for all combat crew members at 0800 hours. He mentioned that the
Group would carry out its first mission within the month. The entire Group
would be divided into three flights, the first mission would be a diversion
Monday, June 28,1943:
Weather inclement from 0600 to 1300 hours. Flying activity began at 1400
hours with donut run flights. Six B-26ís were ferried to Aldermaston,
England. They were tail numbers, 134899, 134761, 134873, 131641, 131611, and
134966. The flight crews returned to base by train. One of the ships was
accidentally towed into a shallow ditch. No visible damage was noted. All
Group flying ended at 2230 hours.
Tuesday, June 29, 1943:
Marginal weather conditions prevented all flying in the morning, however the
situation greatly improved. Local flying was begun at 1300 hours. Word was
received that the Commanding General of The Eighth Air Force would visit
this base tomorrow. He is Major General Ira C. Eaker, He was an air pioneer
in his own right.
Wednesday, June 30, 1943:
All morning flying schedules were cancelled due to poor flying conditions.
Major General Ira C. Eaker and Brigadier General Robert Candee were visitors
at this base. General Eaker spoke to all combat crews at 1300 hours. He
talked about operations in the E.T.O. (European Theater Of Operations) and
the part this particular Group would have in it. Local flying began at 1430
hours and ended at 2200 hours.
Thursday, July 1, 1943:
The weather had cleared and local flying was begun at 0700 hours. No flying
of water donuts (circuit navigation flights) because of foul weather over
the English Channel. The Piper L-B4 aircraft number 622 was returned to the
Group after a temporary loan to the Third Bomb Wing. Major Brett gave a
lecture concerning flak information.
Friday, July 2, 1943:
No flying in the morning because of poor weather. Comedian Bob Hope with
singer Frances Langford, and cast put on a show for Group personnel in the
large hangar from 1230 until 1330 hours. Local flying began at 1430 hours.
Captain B.R. Ostlind while taxiing his aircraft, "MISS CARRIAGE" 134961 to a
dispersal area - taxied into a ship called, "YE OLDE CROCKE" 131755. The
pilot of which, Captain T.J. White was parked at the intersection of a
hardstand taxiway, and the perimeter track. A wing tip on each of the
aircraft was damaged.
Saturday, July 3, 1943:
Flying began at 0700 hours. Two B-26ís tail numbers 134695 and 131604 which
had been assigned to this Group were ferried to Aldermaston, England for
permanent assignment. A Douglas A-20 aircraft numberAH-438 was assigned to
this base by Third Bomb Wing.
Sunday, July 4, 1943:
The Group celebrated "INDEPENDANCE DAY" by doing local formation flying
which began at 1000 hours. Group Operations moved into its new office.
However way you look at it, the job is still incomplete. Captain Hankey
successfully launched the first tow target from A-20 aircraft number AH-348
at 1530 hours. Lieutenant Giantisis and crew arrived from Scotland with
their ship, "BLAZING HEAT" 131585. All flying activities ceased at 2200
hours when local ceilings lowered to 1,000 feet. A little beer party was
also in order to enjoy the holiday!
Monday, July 5, 1943:
Scheduled flying began at 0800 hours. Lieutenant John Maletic from armament
left the base to procure seven Norden Bomb Sights, upon return he placed
same in the base vault. All flying ended at 2200 hours.
Tuesday, July 6, 1943:
A tow target mission set for 0600 hours was scrubbed due to a faulty towline
reel. A second tow target mission was called off at 0900 hours when the
BG-26 scheduled for gunnery practice developed a carburetor problem. Seven
RAF Whitley Bombers landed at this base, each with a glider in tow at 1130
hours. All took off at 1330 hours with their gliders. Colonel Maitland and
Captain Hankey were summoned to Third Bomb Wing for a conference at 1700
Wednesday, July 7, 1943:
Morning flying was called off because of poor flying weather. Four more
Norden Bomb Sights arrived at 1015 hours, and four more came in at 1115
hours. Afternoon formation flying with bomb sight practice was carried out.
While on gunnery range mission, Major Lockhartís gunners shot off the tow
target, losing all but 500 feet of the tow cable! Later Lieutenant Maletic
took two enlisted men out to the bombing range to maintain same.
Thursday, July8, 1943:
Flying began at 0730 hours. 552nd Squadron went out on a tow target mission.
The malfunction range (testing of guns on the ground) opened for business at
0800 hours. All Group flying ended at 2100 hours because of a down grade in
Friday, July 9, 1943:
Local flying commenced at 0730 hours, but ended abruptly at 1200 hours when
foul weather moved in rather quickly. A mid afternoon tow target
gunnery mission for the 554th Squadron was cancelled because the A-20 Havoc
was out of commission. A training movie film (The Battle Of Tunisia) was
shown to all combat crews at 1400 hours in the mess hall.
An operations meeting was held at 1500 hours to clarify required clearances,
("J" Forms) and local bombing, also gunnery tactics. An arrangement was made
with Third Bomb Wing which would not require "J" Forms for bombing at Ducks
Hall Range. The tail numbers of aircraft to participate will be telephoned
in one-hour prior to take off. They will be cleared for a one hour period
from take off time in which to utilize bombing range facilities. Dinghy
drill was also discussed; each crew will carry out one drill daily
consisting of three tries, this will begin immediately!
Saturday, July 10, 1943:
Flying operations began at 0730 hours. The 555th Squadron had a satisfactory
work out with the tow targets - targets were snatched off from the ground
very successfully. They landed tow targets, the first of which was cut in
the back, but did not work satisfactorily. Lieutenant Mullen of the 553rd
Squadron was making his take off run in a piper L-4B Number 622. His
passenger was Lieutenant Drugger, 553rd Engineering Officer, when suddenly
the ship was caught in a cross wind situation and ground looped. The
propeller was damaged along with a slight fabric cut on one wing tip. No
injuries to the occupants. The flight was for official business. Local
flying ended at 1200 hours for the balance of the day because of poor
Sunday, July 11, 1943:
Inclement weather prevented flying activities for the entire day, however
the paper mill was going full blast. Two accident reports were sent back
from Third Wing because of discrepancies - they were corrected and returned
this date through proper channels. Group operations staff meeting held at
1330 hours. All attended with the exception of Corporal Casebeer, who had
the day off. The "J" Forms will be made out on bombing missions hereafter,
thus canceling the statement to the contrary as shown on July 9th report. A
shadow graph machine was received and set up temporarily in operations
office, however one support post was missing!
Monday July 12, 1943:
Runway 04 not serviceable due to lighting repairs. Poor weather conditions,
no flying until 1200 hours. The tow target plane made no runs because of low
ceilings. Captain Fredrick Heward, 554th Squadron Operations Officer was
transferred to Third Bomb Wing Operations, it is a permanent change of
Tuesday, July 13, 1943:
Flying operations got underway at 0730 hours, runway number 04 is still not
serviceable. All tow target missions were successfully completed. High winds
prevailed throughout the day. Three pilots from the 554th Squadron undershot
the runway due to the tricky wind - they were, Captain Albert Caney, Flight
Officer Duane Petit, and Lieutenant Emmett Curran. Lieutenant Curran damaged
the nose glass, and the aft fuselage on the left side of his aircraft.
All operations officers were present at 1300 hours meeting for the
discussion of the following subjects: dinghy drills, formation flying,
gunnery schedules, and field of search for gunners on future combat
missions. The clock system will be used to call out enemy aircraft
positions. 12 oíclock is straight ahead, 6 oíclock is dead astern, 3 oíclock
is off the right side wing tip, and 9 oíclock is off the left side wing tip.
Intermediate clock positions will follow chronological order. Elevation
positions will be know as, high, level, and low - such as 12 oíclock high, 4
oíclock level, or 7 oíclock low, etc. It was decided to continue present
schedule until each squadron has had one mission. Then change so each
squadron would fly, even it the weather was poor. All flying for the Group
came to an end at 2230 hours.
Wednesday, July 14, 1943:
Flying began at 0730 hours. The 552nd Squadron flew a fourteen-plane
formation. The first flight was good, but the second flight was very bad!
The other squadrons were also flying formation practice. The accident
committee met to hear a detailed report of the aircraft accident yesterday.
It involved a 554th ship flown by Lieutenant Curran.
All squadrons were notified that a Group formation of thirty-six aircraft
will be briefed at 1300 hours tomorrow. Special photos were taken of the
combat crews wearing civilian clothing. The crews would carry them on their
person during all combat missions. In the event they were shot down - the
Underground members of enemy occupied countries would attach the photos to
phony passports. A passport would be made up for whatever country the airmen
happened to be passing through. All Group flying ended at 2200 hours.
Thursday, July 15, 1943:
Local flying commenced at 0730 hours. A Group briefing was called at 1300
hours, the Group they would be flying a thirty-six ship formation. Major
Lockhart will lead the first eighteen ships with six planes from the 552nd
Squadron. The remaining positions to be filled in by twelve 553rd Squadron
planes. Colonel Maitland will lead the second box of eighteen bombers with
six planes from the 554th Squadron. The 555th Squadron will supply the
remaining twelve planes.
Major Lockhartís flight flew a good formation, but the other twelve flew a
really poor formation. Back in the second box of eighteen led by Colonel
Maitland, all flew a very good formation. All ships got off on time. The two
boxes of eighteen, required a total of forty-six minutes to form into proper
positions. All local flying was completed be 2230 hours.
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 on
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. It is 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 form the 554th
Squadron, the other twelve ships are from the 555th Squadron. The high
flight leader will be Lieutenant J.T. Wilson, low flight leader is
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 the bombers by VHF Radio. Or he will waggling his wings out in front
of the bomb formation. If rendezvous not made or contact not maintained with
escort, mission will be abandoned. Rendezvous time must be Zero Hour, or
within three 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-47ís 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-47ís 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 flight commanders aircraft will tune transmitter
and receiver to Wing frequencies 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, to monitor listing watch on both VHF and Command
frequencies. Flight leaders only will transmit on VHF, except in an
emergency. The 386th call sign is, "SUNDIAL."
The weather will be clear except for scattered clouds between 5,000 and
6,000 feet. The visibility will be approximately six miles. Synchronization
of watches was made and the flight crews departed the briefing room, climbed
into trucks, and were transported 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 Marauders. The bombers circled the airdrome at Boxted as they
gained altitude, and filled out their formation pattern of three flights of
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 wing of
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-47ís that were flying above continued
across the North Sea to carry out a fighter sweep. The Groupís twenty-four
RAF Spitfire escort stayed with the bombers.
Twelve freighters in convoy were heading west about eight miles out of
Broadstairs, they were towing two balloons above them. Three destroyers were
also observed moving west about twelve miles further out at 2006 six hours.
At this point, the beach at Dunkerque and the enemy were only thirty-eight
miles off to the left of the formation. The Group 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 Sanfordís ship
named, "HELLíS FURY" 131625 YA-R received a hole in the top turret dome, and
a dent in one wing. Lieutenant Wilma Caldwellís ship, "BOOMERANG" 131631
RU-G was also struck by empty shell cases. Lieutenant Emmett Curran flying,
"CLOUD HOPPER 2nd 131622 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, "LITJO" 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 RAF gave complete protection from enemy fighters. All
of our aircraft returned safely.
Saturday, July 17, 1943:
Flying activities began at 0730 hours. Lieutenant Rogers was at Wing
Headquarters until 1400 hours. He was securing information for submitting
reports to that office. Captain Hankey spent several hours at flying control
giving instructions to pilots who were flying in formation. Local flying
ended at 2230 hours.
Sunday, July 18, 1943:
Flying was underway at 0730 hours. Captain Hankey held an operations meeting
in which formation flying, bombing, and gunnery activities were discussed -
nothing definite was decided. Another meeting to be held July 20th to
determine these points. A twenty-four watch schedule began in Group
Operations, it will consist of a clerk and one duty officer.
An armorer accidently fired three rounds from the fixed nose gun on a 552nd
ship called, "THE DEACON" 131637 RG-B. One field maintenance worker (an
Englishman) was scratched by flying shrapnel from a copper jacketed
Lieutanant D. Klimovich while flying , "THE MAD RUSSIAN" 131600 YA-U made a
forced landing on runway 10. A hydraulic line had broken, thus rendering
flaps, brakes, and oil cooler shutters not serviceable. He made an excellent
landing, and pulled the emergency bake air bottle near the end of the
runway. His aircraft ran twenty-five yards off the end of the runway. The
only damage was two torn up main gear tires. Local flying ended at 2230
Monday, July19, 1943:
Poor weather prevented local flying until 1300 hours. Lieutenant Wilson had
a propeller run away while he was making a take off. Staff Sergeant Kaleel
managed to nose over the Piper L-4B aircraft, damaging the propeller. The
accident was determined to be caused by a gust of wind. Captain Hankey held
a meeting of all the squadron operation officers, a number of discrepancies
were straightened out. Colonel Caldwell spoke with Colonel Maitland about
interviewing some of the officers.
Tuesday, July 20, 1943:
No flying until 1230 hours due to weather conditions. All bombing and
gunnery schedules were called off because of low ceilings. Major Lockhart
undershot the runway by a considerable distance, but no injury to personnel
or damage to his aircraft. Lieutenant James A. Baxter flew the Piper L-4B
Liaison aircraft with 554th Squadron Doctor Michael Mikita as a passenger.
The flight was scheduled from Boxted to the air field located at Salisbury,
some seventy miles southwest of London. They were to deliver some medical
specimens - however en route, winds of 45 miles per hour were encountered at
90 degree to their course. To keep things interesting, the shipís compass
went out of commission. Being far off course, the pilot made an emergency
landing at Worthy Down - they refueled, and had the compass repaired. Then
they took off again heading for Salisbury, where they landed safely one hour
and five minutes later.
An operations meeting was held from 1100 to 1200 hours and from1600 t0 1700
hours to decide on the type of formations to be flown, and the placement of
other planes if the leader is shot down. Also which aircraft would carry
bomb sights and navigators. It was agreed if the number one ship was shot
down, number four ship would move up forward and take over the lead position
of that flight. All local flying ended at 2230 hours.
Wednesday, July 21, 1943:
No flying conducted, due to inclement weather situation. Operations held a
meeting from 1000 to 1130 hours, discussing operational procedures
generally. No other activity within the Group.
Thursday, July 22, 1943:
A short flying schedule from 1230 to 1700 hours due to poor weather. There
was an operational meeting between 1400 and 1500 hours, formations were
discussed - number one and number four planes to have seven man crews. The
high flight leader and the low flight leader to have to have seven man
crews. The high flight leader will have a radio operator, and the low flight
leader will have a navigator. The radio operators will not leave their
positions in these aircraft except in the low flight lead ship.
Friday, July 23, 1943:
No flying because of foul weather conditions. No Group activity whatsoever!
Saturday, July 24, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Diversion Mission Number 2:
Briefing began at 1510 hours with Captain Hankey relating the following
information to the assembled flight crews. Third Bomb Wing Field Order
number 10, and 386th Group Field Order number 02 directs this Group to fly
an eighteen plane diversion while the 323rd Bomb Group attacks the
marshalling yard located at Abbeville, France. All of their planes will be
loaded with 500 pound demolition type bombs, we will carry none.
The 552nd Squadron will lead our formation with Captain Thornton in command.
Major Lockhart will lead the high flight. Lieutenant G.E. Hoffman will be
the low flight leader with six planes from the 553rd Squadron. Our Group
will also furnish three spare aircraft.
We will have two squadrons of Spitfires for close escort from 11 Group RAF.
We will rendezvous with them at Zero Hour plus four minutes (1904 hours) at
10,000 feet over Selsey Bill. We must maintain an indicated air speed of 200
m.p.h. while flying with the Spitfires. If we miss rendezvous or lose
contact with escort, we are to abandoned the mission. If Flying Control
aborts mission, the fighter leader will recall bombers by radio or he will
waggle his wings in front of the formation.
The route out from base to High Wycombe, to Selsey Bill to 49 Degrees 50
Minutes North, 00 Degrees 30 Minutes West. At that point we turn right and
begin our route back to Selsey Bill, to High Wycombe, and back to base.
There are two diversion airdromes: Thorny Island with radio call sign,
RAMROD. The other field is Ford with radio call sign, ROOKSNEST. The weather
will be, ceiling and visibility unlimited with a few scattered clouds at the
5,000 foot level.
Communications: Fighter to bomber on VHF Channel C. Fighter call sign will
is, CROKAY. Bomber call sign is, WINDBAG. Ground Control sign is, PETRO. The
552nd Squadron call sign is, PEERAGE, and the 553rd Squadron radio call sign
will be, HAYSEED. Splasher beacons in use between 1700 and 2100 hours are:
1A, 2B, 3C, 4D, 5E, 6F, 7G, and 8H. Splasher beacons are navigational aides
with a two mile radius signal range, which a pilot can pick up on his
command radio receiver. The beacon also flashes an orange light in Morse
Code to identify its location as a visually in a timed sequence.
A time check was made for all watches, then crews emptied their pockets
personal items such as wallets, photos, etc. All items were placed in a
small bag, one for each crew. In return they each received a small plastic
escape kit and a first aid kit. Time dragged on some because Wing had
changed the route and take off time three times!
Captain Thornton led the Group into the air flying, "CRESCENDO" 131644 RG-C.
All eighteen ships plus two extra aircraft were forming up while circling
the base. One other spare aircraft, "MISS FORTUNE II" 134885 AN-M commanded
by Lieutenant Hochrein did not take off because of an engine problem. The
formation leader had just reached his assigned altitude of 10,000 feet when
he received a radio message from Third Bomb Wing - they were calling off the
mission. All of the planes returned to base and landed safely.
Sunday, July 25, 1943:
Ground fog delayed flying operations until 0930 hours. Colonel Maitland and
Captain Hankey were to have a meeting at Third Bomb Wing, but that was
changed to 1400 hours tomorrow. All local flying ended at 2200 hours.
Monday, July 26, 1943:
Local flying began a 0700 hours. Colonel Maitland and Captain Hankey
attended a meeting called by Third Bomb Wing for 1400 hours. Captain Hankey
called 386th Group to request the tail numbers of aircraft which took part
in the diversionary mission of July 16th. The information required was,
which of these planes carried armor plate, and which had VHF noise
eliminators complete. That information was conveyed to him at 1617 hours.
Night flying for the Group ended at 2200 hours.
Tuesday, July 27, 1943:
Flying activities resumed at 0700 hours. Colonel Maitland and Captain Hankey
attended another meeting at Third Bomb Wing. Colonel Caldwell requested
report showing the number of 386th Group aircraft compatible with armor
plate and VHF noise eliminators complete. The number given was nine. This
Group was notified by Colonel Caldwell to be on alert for a divisionary
mission scheduled for tomorrow. Local Group flying ceased at 2230 hours.
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 the 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 target map as Z513. They will furnish eighteen planes, nine will
carry eighteen 100 pound bombs. The other nine will carry eight 300 pound
bombs. The 322nd Group will have a fourteen ship diversion, and the 386th
Group will fly a thirty-six plane formation 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 9,000 foot level, above 9,000 will be clear with about twenty miles
visibility - the weather should hold for the next few hours!
The 323rd Group will have 11 Group RAF Spitfires for escort. The 322nd and
our Group will have P-47ís 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 Bomb Group, then make a second pass
after the bombers clear the immediate target area.
We could be intercepted by Messerschmitt-109ís and Focke-Wolf-190ís - there
some one hundred or so enemy fighter aircraft based from Holland, Belgium,
and along the channel coast of France. Twenty fighter bombers have vacated
their airdrome at Poix, France, ten single engine fighters have been
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 number six ships should slide a little to the outside of
their flights to minimize risk of aircraft being struck by spent cartridge
cases during test firing of guns!
Communications for today: Bomber to bomber on 6440 kilocycles over England,
and 5295 Kilocycles outside of England. Splasher beacons in use from 1600 to
2000 hours are: 5C, 8F, 11G, and 13H. Turning the IFF, (Identification
Friend or Foe) on and off, and switching to emergency position will be done
by the pilot or navigator. All planes that are equipped with VHF Radio will
monitor both VHF and the Command Channel at all times during the mission.
S-2 has information regarding your conduct if forced down in an enemy
occupied area. Landing in enemy territory: Destroy entire plane if possible,
each plane 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 canít
destroy the aircraft, then destroy any 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 aircraft type, and other data on success of a 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,
which were parked about the periphery of the airdrome on hardstandings.
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 was airborne at 1754 hours.
Thirty-eight Marauders circled Boxted Airdrome while gaining altitude, along
with the shaping up of the formation. 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 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
Approximately ten minutes later Group made a 90 degree turn at 12,000 feet
over North Foreland. This maneuver would align them on a course to 51
Degrees 21 Minutes North, 02 Degrees 30 Minutes East, which was their turn
around point 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 Maitlandís crew received a radio message from Third Bomb 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-five
minutes in order to keep up with the formation. His crew reported seeing two
PT Boats about a 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 at 6,000 feet. The 323rd Group abandoned their
bombing mission because they failed to rendezvous with the fighter escort!
Thursday, July 29, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Divisionary 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. Third Bomb Wing Field Order number17 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 are: 322nd, 323rd, 386th, and the 387.th Each group will
furnish eighteen aircraft plus some spares. A target in the Rouen area will
be attacked by the 11 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 the 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, the high flight leader will be Captain
Thornton, Major Beaty will be leading the low flight.
Route out from base to Orfordness 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 we make a right turn and fly back to base. Our
escort will be three groups of P-47ís from the Eighth Fighter Command. Upon
our reaching the turn around point, all of the P-47ís will continue on to
make a fighter sweep of Knoke on the Dutch Coast, and Courtrai which is in
Belgium. Then they will swing down for a run on the French Coast at
Flight leaders of P-47 aircraft will land at Boxted after completing their
mission today for discussions concerning the feasibility of P-47ís as escort
for B-26 operations. A report is desired from all leaders of B-26
bombardment formations as soon as possible on results of the escort duty
from 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 Control 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. Major Sherman Beaty low flight
leader took off at 1706 hours in his ship, "SON-OF-SATAN" 131613 YA-Y. The
Group formed up quickly and climbed on a northeasterly course that would
carry them to a point of land identified as Orfordness.
The fighter escort was right on time as the force of B-26ís and P-47ís
headed out over the North Sea. After completing test firing, the formation
pressed onward - soon their turn around was reached, the bombers began a
standard rate of turn to the right which would head them homeward. The
fighters broke away to carry out their assigned sweeps on the enemy
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 Whiteís 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
hours - apparently dropping depth charges, one explosion was observed. The
formation leader received word via radio that the mission had been recalled.
However this operation would count as the Group had made their turn around
as prescribed in briefing. They were on their return flight before the
recall order was received.
For some unexplained reason the formation made English landfall eight miles
south of its prescribed return course! The first plane landed at 1848 hours,
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 his left engine high
blower was inoperative. Flight Officer Casey the pilot of, "4F" 131771 RU-R
did not take off because of an engine problem.
The 323rd Group bombed their target with fair results. Bursts were observed
in the dispersal area of the airdrome. Also bursts on an intersection of a
road and a 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 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!"
Friday, July 30, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number One:
To read about this first 386th Bomb Group combat mission, return to the
contents page and see heading - Combat Missions, then click on
Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th Bomb Group