Saturday, September 16, 1944—386th Bomb Group:
99th Combat Field Order Number 272 directs the 386th Bomb Group to
participate in a bombing mission to Metz, France. The target is a fort
located in Metz along the east bank of the Moselle River. Our Group will
furnish thirty-six aircraft in this effort. The briefing progressed along
with the usual pre mission information. However the weather forecast was not
optimistic. There was heavy cloud cover over the Continent. Word was
received from Wing stating that Zero Hour would be delayed one hour. The
flight crews managed to kill time in the war situation room looking at
previous bomb strike photos showing bomb patterns on various targets. There
where also 1: 1,000,000 scale air navigation charts mounted on the walls.
There was other data illustrating how the war was going in general.
Presently the crews were informed to man their planes. They were transported
out to their assigned aircraft via trucks. The usual preflight walk around
inspections of the planes was accomplished in short order. Soon it was
engine start up time, and the planes began to taxi out from their hardstands
to the active runway.
The formation leader took to the air at 1555 hours followed by the seventeen
bombers in the lead box. Then the second box leader led his remaining
seventeen ships aloft. The first box was now circling the airdrome at Great
Dunmow as the second box planes began their climb to the prescribed
altitude. The formation had cleared the area when a radio call to the leader
informed him to abandon the mission! Wing had received information from a
weather recon plane—weather over the Continent was a hopeless situation. The
Group planes were ordered to land immediately, the landing sequence was
begun as one bomber after another screeched onto the runway.
The author was flying with Major Bud Lambert from the 552nd Squadron. We
were just entering the traffic pattern when he said to me, “Look over to the
left at that black smoke coming up—somebody must have gone in!” It was a
rapidly rising column of dense smoke emanating from a spot a little over a
mile away from the runway threshold.
Now it was our turn to land, as we began a turn off base leg onto final
approach it became evident what had taken place. The pilot who was a member
of the 554th Squadron was Major Turner, a former B-17 pilot. This was his
first attempt to land a Martin B-26 with a full load of fuel and bombs. He
simply got too slow when turning off base leg! The ship stalled and whipped
over on its back, then smashed into the ground upside down. It exploded with
some 900 plus gallons of fuel on board. The entire crew killed on impact!
There is no record of the plane’s tail number, only squadron letters RU
indicating it was from the 554th Bomb Squadron. The crew: Major Edward E.
Turner-pilot, Second Lieutenant Arvil R. Woolsey-co-pilot, Second Lieutenant
James C. Ambrose-bombardier navigator. The flight engineer was Staff
Sergeant Donald L. Schoffstall. The radioman was Sergeant George G.
Vogiatzis. The gunner was Private John J. Rudy.
Major Bud Lambert logged our flying time as one hour and ten minutes.
Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th B.G.