Burl W. Thompson
387th Bomb Group, 556th Bomb Squadron
June 19, 1943
April 25, 1944
556th Bomber Squadron, 387th Bomb Group off for duty at Station "X" (Chipping Ongar) somewhere in England, from Presque Isle, Maine. TABASCO forced to return to base, engine trouble.
TABASCO off early in morning on first leg of overseas trip. First stop, Goose Bay, Labrador. Refueled and more engine work. Second stop, SW1, Greenland.
After overtaking rest of formation at SW1 off for Reykjavik, Iceland.
Next step, Prestwick, Scotland, bad weather forcing us to stop at Stornoway, Scotland.
The night of the 24th spent in Prestwick, Scotland.
Our seventh night en route spent in Aldermaston, England.
A tired and dirty group arrived at our new home after crossing the Atlantic without mishap, "Thanks" to Col. Storrie and his well-trained pilots. Lt. Bartley (556) crashed his ship landing at the base, all escaped injury.
June 27 to August 15-
Spent in flight training and ground school.
Station 152, later to be known as "Chipping Ongar" is located 9 miles west of Chelmsford between the villages of Willingale, Fyfield, High Ongar, and Chipping Ongar. London lies approximately 25 miles southwest of station 152.
Aug. 4--- Diversion.
A diversional raid aimed at the northern coast of France. For most of us it was our first sight of the French mainland. We were well covered by P47 fighters as our escort. As expected, we saw no enemy fighters or flak. We flew F/O Earl J. Dillionaire's ship "QQQQ". As hoped, our crew was kept together. Lt. M.R. Campbell, Pontiac, Mich., Lt. B.J. Anderson, Butternut, Wis., Lt. J.P. Spurlock, Atlanta, Ga., S/Sgt. E.V. Burd, Califon, New Jersey., S/Sgt. H.W. Altizer, Henlawson, W.Va., T/Sgt. Burl Thompson, Sedan, Kansas. 36 Planes
Aug. 15--- Sortie
Hot Damn, the real thing. 36 ships to the Fort Rouge Drome at St. Omar, each with 8-300 lb. bombs. Heavy flak at coast, intense at target, all very accurate. Good evasive action probably saved the day for a lot of us. Took off at 0900, landed at 1115. Lt. Nielson in Gravel Agitator landed at an emergency field. 35 ships returned to base, several with flak scars but none serious. We flew "Stinky" in no. 33 position. M.R. did a swell job of flying in late position, pushing us hard to keep up. No fighter opposition, good coverage by Spits.
Results uncertain due to .6 cloud at target. Later showed "not so hot". 36 Planes, 8-300lb bombs.
Aug 16--- Sortie
Our second mission was another 36 ship formation aimed at the airfield at Bernay, France. Took off at 1000, met our escort of "Spits" and proceeded across the Channel. We had both light and heavy flak, very meager and fairly accurate. Again we met no fighter opposition. This time we really blew hell out of things. Bombs hit all over the target, starting fires that sent columns of smoke 2000' into the air. We flew Williamson's "Roughernacob", this time in the "purple heart" corner (Tail-end Charlie, the last ship in the last formation was said to fly in the purple heart corner since it was usually the first one to be attacked by fighters.). Lt. "Tex" Allen accompanied us on this mission riding as waist gunner. All ships returned to base with very little damage. Results-GOOD. 36Planes, 8-300lb bombs.
Aug. 19--- Sortie
Our third raid took us to the much-bombed field at Poix, France. Again 36 ships with the same bomb load took off at 1100, met our Spit escort at the coast and went into France. We received quite a surprise as we met neither flak or fighter opposition as this was to be one of the toughest field yet visited by us. Hits were well patterned throughout the dispersal areas. We flew Lt. Anderson's ship, "Jisther". All ships returned to base at 1330 with no damage. Results-GOOD
Aug 24--- Diversion
This day proved to be a disappointment to me, my birthday and we were scheduled as a spare ship on a more disappointing mission - another diversionary raid. We followed the formation off the ground at 1715 and very shortly fell into no. 18 position. We headed for the coast of France then turned north just off the coastline hoping to draw fighters from a 17 formation striking at Paris. We met absolutely nothing although
we were a little surprised and excited when plenty of Spits appeared as escorts after being told we would have none. This was the first trip for TABASCO, our own ship. More pleased than ever with the ship.
Briefed at 1500 for a dusk smash at an airdrome at Lille, France. Take off at 1730, 36 ship formation with Spit escort. We encountered no fighters but those damn Huns threw everything but the kitchen sink at us. We missed our landfall and entered over Dunkirk after meeting flak while still over the Channel. We failed to reach our target and returned to base with our bombs. Some fun putting those pins back in the bombs before landing. One ship lost - a direct hit from flak.
Briefed at 0330 for a smash at the marshalling yards at Rouen, France. We took off at 0630, met escort and the 386th, making a 72 ship formation. We had light to heavy flak over the target. Col. Storrie again led the formation. Results of the bombing were good, with hits all through the yards. We flew Lt. Grau's ship, "Los Lobos Grande", in the no. 34 position. Lt. A.W. "Willie" Wells went as co-pilot while Andy is recuperating. M.R. continued his good work at formation flying, he can't be beat. This was the mission we had been looking for, no. 5, the Air Medal.
For the second time today we were briefed for another smash at marshalling yards, this time at Serqueux, France. Again we went with the 386th, another 72 ship formation. We took off at 1640, and as before, met our "Spit" escort and the other Marauders at the coast. We proceeded into France along the same route used in the morning. We encountered no flak and no fighters. Made a good run on the target with very good results. This time we flew our own ship, TABASCO, again in the Purple Heart corner with Lt. Wells as co-pilot. All ships returned to base, the crews tired but happy for two sorties.
This morning we were the second formation to be briefed. The weather was as thick as soup, we doubted a try at takeoff as visibility was less than 100 yds. Col. Storrie soon informed us it was to be an instrument takeoff. Rumors were hot that an invasion of the French coast had started, was further strengthened by the fact that our targets were gun emplacements on the coast. These were our first pinpoint targets and were located at Boulogne-sur-Mer. The takeoff was as planned and worse than most of us thought. One ship lost on takeoff. The bomb run was uneventful other than for the usual heavy flak. One ship was forced to ditch after leaving enemy coast, (Lt. Brown, 556). As we left the coast we saw a large invasion force about five miles from Boulogne-sur-Mer. This later proved to be only a maneuver. Lt. Alford (556) made a nice belly landing at base. Lt. Hughes co-pilot. Results-Good.
Briefing at 1400, this time for a smash at the Merville, France airdrome. Took off at 1610, joined the 386th at the coast. We entered France at Gravelines and proceeded to the target with moderate flak and no fighter opposition. Again we flew our own ship with Andy back as co-pilot. We flew in no. 28 spot with Lt. Grau as box leader, Maj. Boren as group leader and Maj. Ives as our element leader. Beautiful cover by escorting "Spits". All ships returned, some with slight damage from inaccurate, meager flak.
Sept. 18- Sortie
The airdrome at Beauvais-Tille listed as an important target for us. We met no fighters and very light flak. Results of the bombing uncertain due to .7 cloud over target. Later called FAIR. Flew TABASCO in no. 29 spot.
Sept. 23- Sortie
As usual, today called for the blasting of another airdrome. This was to be the deepest penetration yet made by our outfit. The target was the Conches airfield 60 mi. west of Paris. Capt. Don Scott led the group, Lt. Grau led our box, Maj. Ives our flight. The 322nd made up the 72 ship formation with us in the no. 29 spot again. The bombing on this mission was fair. After making a perfect bomb run we damn near missed the target. After no flak or fighters at the target, "Al" was the chief attraction by taking a good blast at the target with his guns. No. 10 for us, an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal. (TABASCO)
Sept. 24- Sortie
Continuing our blitz on enemy airfields and installations, we went to Evreux-Fauville, 40 mi. west of Paris. This was the deepest penetration yet attempted by our group and the second raid on this field in three days. Bombing results were very good, with hits well placed in both dispersal areas. On return trip we passed over Rouen (mistake no. 1) and caught a #*?& of a lot of flak. We missed our landfall (mistake no. 2) and caught the rest of Adolph's flak. Flak was intense and accurate over the target, with lots of light flak, the tracers making the sky look like the 4th of July in the U.S. This made No. 11 for us. In the afternoon "Andy" received the Purple Heart from the raid of Sept. 2. (386th & 387th, 10-300 lb.)
For the third straight day we hit at enemy airfields. This was our second raid on St. Omar fields. Maj. Ives led our group. We made landfall south of Boulogne-sur-Mer and made a SW to NE run on the target, leaving France at Furness. The target was almost covered by clouds and results of bombing were not immediately known. Our crew went intact, including TABASCO. The plane was perfect after two missions in which she suffered partial loss of power. All ships returned to base. Cold as ? (322nd & 387th, 6-500 lb.)
Moving our aim farther north, this for our first time was the fighter drome at Woensdrecht, Holland. This proved to be the toughest target yet hit by our group. Poor visibility caused us to miss our landfall and as a result caught a hell of a lot of flak. We made a good bomb run in spite of intense flak. After the bombing we put on quite a show for the people of Holland, just flying around like a bunch of darn fools. Maj. Sykes led our group, Lt. Grau our box, following the 323rd, much to our sorrow. Lt. Grau finally led us out. We came close to returning on one engine, flak hit our oil return line. Bomb results good. (323rd & 387th, 10-300 lb.)
We were briefed for the drome at Evreux-Frauville. After penetrating about twenty miles inland the Spits turned us back due to poor visibility and possibly due to a poor formation. It was bad. We went deep enough to get credit for a sortie. In the afternoon we were briefed for St. Omar again. The same formation, the same escort and the same position. This time we were turned back before making landfall. (72 planes, 6-500 lb.)
Our target was the auxiliary landing field at Beauvais, known as Beauvais-Niviliers. We led the 386th, escorted by 11th Gp. R.A.F. Spits. The cover provided was perfect. The sky was full of Spits, P47's and Lightnings. The other group had other escorts. Bombing results were good and the weather was good over there. This was the biggest day of the war for the B26's and the 4000 lb. bomb load our largest, raised more than 100 enemy a/c for our escorts to take care of. We were the first to land as the formation broke up over the base due to weather. Lt. Bartley crashed at another field, killing Lt. Terrio. Our 15th op. (386th & 387th, 4-1000 lb.)
Another blast at enemy dromes, this time with darn good results. This was one of our deepest penetrations, approx. 75 mi. inland to the St. Andre drome. Spit escort as usual, and credit should be given for a wonderful job. The bombing was done in perfect weather with visibility unlimited. Great fires were started, presumably oil storage and ammunition dumps. The fires and smoke were visible a hundred miles away on the return trip, almost to the English coast. Flew TABASCO. (387th & 322nd, 4-1000 lb.)
This was our first try at softening up the invasion coast of France. We hope. Our target today was construction works in the Calais area. They were pinpoint targets and we had results classified as FAIR. Flak was weak to meager and inaccurate. All ships returned. (387th, 2-2000 lb.)
Attempting to hit a drome in Belgium, we were unable to bomb due to weather. Part of the formation did bomb, so we received credit for an op. Results were nil, flak weak, and no enemy a/c. (387th, 6-500 lb.)
Construction works in the Calais area. Some of these missions we met heavy and intense flak. Some attacks were made by enemy fighters with no results. Results of bombing varied from GOOD to NIL. The complete crew made these raids in our own ship, TABASCO. These targets were usually hit by squadrons of 18 planes.
-- Extremely rough
This was our first try at an enemy airfield for some time. We were unable to bomb the Cambrai drome so returned to the coast and bombed at the field there, missing the field with our 120 lb. frag bombs, but plastering the town of Berck, starting fires and blowing up the gas works. This made 30 raids for four of the crew, 33 for M.R. and J.P.
Feb. 13-Calais area.
Feb. 15-Cherbourg (rough) Lt. Alford.
Feb. 15-Calais area.
These missions were a continuance of the attacks against the "secret targets" in France. The Cherbourg mission was very rough -- heavy, intense flak, very accurate. Brought Shady Lady (Lt. Alford) down over the target. Bomb results were very good. The afternoon mission in the Calais area was the milk run of the day. No flak, no fighters and perfect weather. Again the bombing results were very good.
This was our first briefing for a drome in some time. A long trip to the Gilze Rijen field in Holland to be made in bad weather. In getting through the overcast we lost so much time we had to be content with a diversion for the day.
The longest trip yet attempted by B-26's, 250 mi. north to the Gilze Rijen field in Holland drome on the northern tip of Holland. The weather was perfect and the bombing better. Great fires were started, visible 100 mi. away on our return trip. Our group met no flak. The 322nd received light, inaccurate flak but seemed to have knocked out the guns before we arrived. (322nd & 387th, 30-100 lb.)
The afternoon mission was another on the "secret targets", now called "rocket guns" by the press, on the French coast. The weather was still good and we did a FAIR job on the target. I flew both missions today with Lt. Debolt in 866, "Miss Satan 2".
This was our first opportunity to see the so-called "Third Reich". The Venlo drome was located 1 mi. west of the German border. After leaving the target, we circled over Germany in turning back. We were the first B-26's to fly over Germany. Weather was poor over England and the North Sea but cleared over Holland. FW190's attacked us after we left the coast, knocking down four 558th ships. Maj. Richardson and Lts. Falls, Jansig, and Steinback. R.A.F. Mustangs and Typhoons escorted us for the first time. We received considerable English flak both times we crossed the coast. In the PM we made two unsuccessful tries (due to weather) at Calais targets. (323rd & 387th, 10-250 lb.)
Calais (Mar. 2 with Pathfinder)
The Amiens marshalling yards made the second mission of the day. Weather made the bombing difficult, but we bombed the target, already burning like ---- from the 323rd's good work. We made a 360 turn directly over the town of Amiens but caught only light inaccurate flak. The temperature was the coldest we had experienced. (For the past month and time to come the groups have ceased to operate as full groups.)
This drome at Montdidier, France was one of Jerry's more popular JU88 bases in France. Supposedly some 30 planes were based on this field. This was our secondary target, but through some error in navigation we reached here first and plastered this field with 100-pounders, frags, incendiaries, etc. This mission, made without loss, was made in even colder weather than the previous day. We damn near froze.
Maline marshalling yards. Weather returned us. ( . Now known as Mechelen)
Avesnes marshalling yards.
After messing up good and proper on our first try, we went back in the afternoon and really plastered this field. This raid was timed to aid the heavies on their return from "Big B". Nice warm fires were started in the dispersal areas, hangars, and some planes parked on the ground. Lt. Sargent, Lt. Ogden, "Doc" Nordhlone, Joe Simonski and Harry Bear were lost after takeoff in a two-plane crash over the field, in Double-Trouble and Itsy-Bitsy.
Criel marshalling yards.
This was the morning we had been waiting for-our chance to lead the groups on a raid. Manny did a beautiful job of leading and was highly complimented on his work. Lt. Boggis failed to locate the target after turning on the bomb run. He had seen it all the time we were circling for the bomb run but lost sight after turning toward the target. Bill was certainly a sick boy over his error and assumed all responsibility as Lt. McCabe had taken us directly to the target as briefed. This error made our formation of 18 ships the only ones failing to drop the bombs on the target. Manny did a masterful job at evasive action, causing many to think the Old Master (Capt. Grau) was leading as scheduled. We flew Capt. Sanders' ship, Hangover Hut, with Lt. McCabe as navigator, and Lt. Boggis in place of our ailing J.P. Spurlock. This was M.R.'s 50th op., the first pilot to reach that number. We all started a 14-day leave that evening. (First again) (387th & 323rd, 6-500 lb. and 2-600 lb.)
These guns, estimated to be 285 to 300 mm, were in the heavily defended port of Le Havre. [It was] the most perfect job of bombing we had done. We won't have to go back to that d#*# place. My clos-est shave came when a piece of flak went completely through my turret dome, missing my head by about six inches. M.R. said I was good for 48 more. BULL*ONEY. (All groups, 4-1000 lb. Specials.)
A "noball" in the Calais area was one of our most flaky missions. Did a good job of bombing but lost one ship. (Lt. Pratt) Our base closed in and we set down at a "Fort" base near Norwich, home of the famous 96th Bomb Group. Enjoyed our visit and left for home in the afternoon.
Our group CO, Col. Caldwell, with Lt. "Dick" Moffitt, was lost in the Channel while after coastal guns in Dunkirk proper. Lt. Col. Thomas M. Seymour became Group Commander.
The Namur, Belgium marshalling yards was the beginning of a drive to put out of commission the rail facilities in the occupied countries along the invasion (?) coast. After almost three full months of hammering
at the Calais pinpoint targets, these targets now seemed easy to hit with damaging results. We bombed this target through the edge of a cloud, but results were very good.
Another Belgium marshalling yard caught our bombs this time. As weather improves we are going deeper and more often against those targets that the Germans depend upon in supplying those areas along the coast. The Maline yards were an important target, being used to furnish western Belgium and Holland with transportation. We stopped that completely, for the time being, at least.
Two more trys at the "rocket" installations in the Pas de Calais area. We landed at our base about 1200 on the 22nd of April and then heard rumors that two crews from our squadron were being returned to the States for thirty days. The rumors persisted, finally settling on Lt. Jones crew and ours. At 1500 hours that evening, Lt. Col. Seymour and Lt. Col. Crosswaite broke the good news and also gave us our travelling orders. A happy bunch.
Home to Chipping Ongar
Left home on June 10th, starting the long return trip to the E.T.O. Spent the first night with the Dyers in Topeka and reported to the base on the 11th. After a two-day train ride, reported back in Atlantic City for the transportation to our outfit. After three days in A.C. we go by train to Camp Kilmer, N.J. to sweat out the boat. These two weeks were the ones we had hoped to miss, K.P. gas chamber. In fact, we had one 47534 of a time before we finally left for the boat on the 1st of July. The return trip to the E.T.O. was made on the Queen Mary. Like the previous crossing, this voyage was uneventful except a couple days of
rough weather. The 81st Infantry Division really suffered and heaved. We docked in Glasgow, Scotland at the Gourock docks entrained for Stone, England after two nights in Stone. We arrived at our station on July 8, completing the ten week, 10,000 mile trip and 30 days at home.
July 16- No. 55
Window ship for the formation, (387th) dropping frags on German troops in the St. Lo sector. Dropped bombs via pathfinder via 10/10 cloud. No flak. No fighters. Flew ship 912 "Damfino" - our first "op" since returning from the states. McFee flew as engineer.
July 18- No. 56
We led the second box of 18 ships dropping frags on German troops in support of the British and Canadian troops attempting to break through the Orne River defenses. We were a small part of the greatest air armada ever massed in direct support of ground troops. In less than four hours seven thousand planes dropped eight thousand tons of bombs. Gen. Monty later said, "After an enormous air and artillery bombardment, our troops crossed the River Orne and moved forward. The day's progress was very satisfactory." Bomb load: 16-260 lb. frags. (later) The terrific air bombardment by itself completely destroyed one Nazi division. S-2 reports the division marked off the list. Encountered heavy flak.
July 22- No. 57
A pathfinder smash at a railroad bridge at Lisieux, southeast of Le Havre. Bad weather at takeoff, worse on the return and 10/10 cloud at target. Led the high flight in 686 on her 107th mission. As yet she has never aborted with us. Bomb load 4-1000 lb. (Bridge smashed)
Sweat out the nose wheel on 811 for the day's entertainment.
July 25- No. 58
Dropped frags on the St. Lo sector in support of the American drive. Our good coverage of the target area and the boys moved forward. We led 2nd box, flying ship 835 "My Ideal S.O.B."
July 27- No. 59
Another pathfinder smash at a railroad bridge and fill east of Leidier. We led the group in 835 again. "Willie" made a forced landing in Normandy for gasoline, was strafed by FW-190's and shelled by guns, all in two hours. Bomb Load 8-500 lb.
July 30- No. 60
Pathfinder smash at bypassed German troops in the Caumont area, also to assist in the launching of another American drive. Again we flew 835 as lead ship for the second box. Box leading seems to be our job now. We all like it. The missions since our return are really milk runs in comparison to the work before our leave and D-Day. For the 5th out of 6 times we received no flak. Bomb load 16-260 lb. frags.
Aug. 4- No. 61
August 4, 1943 - our first operation - a diversion. Aug. 4, 1944 - target railroad bridge at Honfleur. Weather was bad over target, and after four runs on the target, still unable to bomb. We started for home.
The lead ship erred slightly in navigation causing us to get the hell shot out of us. Maj. Grau in the No. 1 spot, us in the No. 4 spot, both had to land in Normandy. We got our left engine shot out, and the hydraulic system was causing our right engine to heat up. Unable to get our landing gear down, we belly-landed at B-8 - a Canadian airstrip. Andy was injured in the landing, M.R. was hit by flak-not serious. Lt. Morson seriously injured by flak and died at 8:00 AM, Aug. 5. Everyone [else] was bruised but not hurt. The ship was a washout but Manny did a beautiful job of landing with one en-gine out. The next day we went to B-14 and were brought home by Avro Anson. Andy is still in 20th Gen. Hospital at Bayeux (2 days later).
Aug. 12- No. 62
Weather and a shortage of "petrol" forced us to salvo our bombs. After failing to locate the Corbeil marshalling yards in the southeast section of Paris. We again led the group with Lt. Agner as co-pilot, Gehrke as engineer, Sloane as Gee, McCabe as navigator.
Aug. 16- No. 63
Pont-Audemer - a pathfinder smash at one of three bridges using 2000 lb. bombs. Weather was clear and flak was meager but accurate as -----.
Lt. McClung's radioman badly wounded in legs, forced to land in Normandy. Our right engine [was] badly shot up. We really sweat out the return trip across the Channel, expecting the worst at any time. Bomb load 2-2000 lb.
Aug. 28- No. 64
A fuel and ammunition dump north of Amiens was our first mission flown for our new base at Cherbourg, France. Flak was rough. the 558th lost Lt. Jordan. We made it OK in 857 "Shootin' In". Maj. Grau again caught most of the flak, causing them to "sweat" the return. Bombing results were good, causing explosions on a large scale. Bomb load 8-500 lb.
Sept. 6- No. 65
An easy run over the stubborn German garrison at Brest. We were a small part of the large bombardment carried out against this point for several days in an attempt to force the surrender of Brest. No flak, no fighters. Our tough luck spell seems to be broken. Flew 857. Bomb load 4-1000 lb.
Sept. 10- No. 66
A long haul to Nancy on the German border east of Paris. This was the longest haul we have yet made-four hours and twenty minutes, 732 mi. Bombed a strongpoint of German defenses in the woods just west of Nancy. Again we flew 857 as leader of the group. We passed to the south of Paris going out and directly over while returning. A good view of the Eiffel Tower and the city. Seems darn funny to fly over France for 732 miles and see no flak--what a difference three months can make! Bomb load 28-100 lb. H.E.'s
Oct. 2- No. 67
After an "unasked for" rest of three weeks we led the group in the mission to open the drive through the Siegfried Line in the Aachen area (south). We were the first ship to bomb with "bombs away" at 0900'45 to open the bombardment by over 500 planes. This was preceded by an artillery barrage directed against flak strongpoints. Lt. Fisher was forced to land 310 (B26 serial number 42-96301) in Belgium after Dobbins, Braunsweiger, Patterson, and Fulgrum had hit the silk (bail out). We received no flak in our flight-all others did. Bomb load 16-250 lb. H.E.'s.
Oct. 14- No. 68
Unsuccessful due to weather over target-tried at railroad bridge in the outskirts of Trier, Germany. Flak was moderate and accurate, but mostly against 2nd box. Flew 186 "Los Lobos Grande".
Manny made Ops Officer Oct. 24.
Moved to Saint Quentin Nov. 3, 1944.
Nov. 3 to Dec. 15-
Very little flying, only enough to get my flying pay. All of these flights were either "ferrying hops" or transition with Manny or B.J.
The great day! All checked out and off to Paris on the first leg of the long trip home. Stayed in Paris seven days, then flew (by C-47) to England and again reported to Churley for transportation to the States. Spent three weeks there before again boarding the New Amsterdam at (port on the river Clyde), Scotland for home. Arrived in New York Jan. 22, 1945 and went to Camp Kilmer, N.J. for the night. Arrived at Ft. Leavenworth Jan. 25 and home in Wellington (KS) on Jan 26. For thirty days' leave. Reported to Miami Beach Feb. 25 for processing and reassignment to Dodge City AAF. Reported there Mar. 8 and worked as Radio mechanic until discharged May 25, 1945 at Ft. Leavenworth.
Thank God it's over.