On or about the same day that Paris was liberated from the German Army the crew of Lt. Col. F.W. Harris, Pilot -- Capt. Wm. E. Smith, Bombardier -- Capt. H.P. Dye, Navigator and Lt. Col. T.G. Corbin, Co-pilot were leading a large formation of Marauders against a target not far from Paris. Flak knocked out one engine causing the plane to drop out of formation and head back for home base. Smith & Dye immediately suggested that they had already picked out a target of opportunity to hit on the way back. No need to change plans just because of the loss of one engine and the entire formation.
Since a B-26 will not hold its altitude on one engine with a full bomb load it became necessary to make an estimate of what the altitude would be by the time they reached their new target. The estimate was 6000 ft. Another problem was that their plane likely would stall out on one engine if the bomb-bay doors stayed open for very long. Smith instructed his Engineer to go into the bomb-bay and pull all of the arming wires from all of the bombs. This would allow Smith to use his bomb-sight on the bomb run but he would salvo his bombs armed so that they would explode on contact. Otherwise, bombs that are dropped in this manner will not explode. Their plan worked. He made a short bomb run. When his bomb-sight contacts came together he hit the salvo lever. An air bottle activated which kicked open the bomb-bay doors and released the entire load almost in a single motion. The doors closed immediately which allowed the plane to stay on a fairly even keel. As I recall, his plane camera recorded a fiery explosion and lots of black smoke. A bulls-eye.
Even without the extra weight their plane could not make it back to base. They crash-landed in an open field that turned out to be a no-mans-land between our troops and theirs. Smitty took his favorite bomb-sight out of its mount and put it in its case. The film was removed from the camera. Within minutes a Ninth Infantry Division Jeep raced up and the driver told all of them to get in fast. He pointed to a grove of trees a few hundred yards away and announced those-woods were full of German soldiers. With Smith toting his Norden bomb-sight they piled into the Jeep and soon found themselves in just-liberated Paris.
Their activities in Paris were never reported very much in detail. However, there were rumors of girls, champagne and lots of good French food. Much-deserved decorations were awarded to this outstanding combat crew.
Paris was retaken on August 25, 1944.
Albert E. Hill