us.gif (82 bytes) B26.COM Guest Book Pages & Links

Clyde Harkins, Pilot
387th Bomb Group, 558th Bomb Squadron

wedding.jpg (27807 bytes)

Clyde and Amy Harkins

Pictured from L-R: Clyde Harkins, Pilot; Bill Kennedy, Co-Pilot; Chet Malec, Navigator;
Gus Gustafson, Engineer/Gunner; Lou Stone, Radio Gunner; Joe Paduano, Tail Gunner.

Silver Star,  Mayen Bridge

Chet Malec

Mayen Bridge Mission

20.jpg (16177 bytes)

Top Row: B. Kennedy, M. Moskowitz, J. Paduano, L. Stone. Lead Navigator: Chet Malec (not pictured)

Bottom Row: C. Harkins, W. Butterfield, R. Gustafson

Bill Kennedy, Clyde Harkins and Don Block
Bill Kennedy, Clyde Harkins and Don Block

tent_2.jpg (32582 bytes)

tent_1.jpg (32007 bytes)

ch.jpg (50611 bytes)

se_1.jpg (26786 bytes)

se.jpg (18223 bytes)


DATE A/C    
9th 41-35016 K Mantes Gasicourt     no attack weather recall  
16th 41-31654 P Foret de la Guerche fuel dump  
23rd 41-31865 C Serquigny railroad bridge  
24th 41-31661 J Livarot ammunition dump  
28th 41-34993 M Senonches fuel dump  
5th 41-35015 K Briollay railroad bridge  
12th 41-34993 M Corbiel refuelling sidings  
26th  42-96179 Z St Govain fuel dump  
5th 42-96179 Z Brest strong points  
6th 42-96179 Z Brest strong points flight lead
29th 42-96179 Z Euskirchen marshalling yards flight lead
2nd 41-34993 M Ubach defended area flight lead
3rd 41-34965 Q Duren ammunition dump  
6th 42-107631 H Duren ammunition dump  
20th 42-107631 H Moerdijk railroad bridge  
4th 43-34341 Z Eschweiler gun positions flight lead
5th 43-34341 Z Homburg railroad sidings flight lead
9th 43-34341 Z Dieuze  
16th 41-34993 M Luchen troop concentrations flight lead
17th 43-34341 Z Weisweiler troop concentrations, no attack solid cloud undercast flight lead
19th 43-34341 Z Landau arsenal flight lead
25th 43-34341 Z Kaiserlautern ammunition dump, no attack flight lead
1st 42-96164 J Saarlautern defended area flight lead
9th 42-107630 A Dellfeld railroad sidings flight lead
11th 43-34341 Z Dellfeld stores depot flight lead
23rd 43-34341 Z Mayen railroad bridge       superior bombing flight lead
24th 43-34341 Z Nideggen railroad sidings superior bombing flight lead
25th 43-34341 Z St Vith troop concentrations flight lead
27th 43-34341 Z Noneweiler railroad bridge   superior bombing group lead
14th 43-34289 Q Ahrweiler railroad bridge    excellent bombing flight lead
28th 43-34341 Z Mayen communications centre group lead
6th 43-34341 Z Berg Gladbach motor transport depot group lead
1st 43-34341 Z Rheinbach communications centre group lead
4th 43-34341 Z Bruhl communications centre group lead
11th 43-34341 Z Sythen explosive works group lead
15th 43-34341 Z Pirmasens road junctions   excellent bombing group lead
18th 43-34341 Z Worms road junction          excellent bombing group lead
21st 43-34289 Q Stadtlohn road junction       excellent bombing group lead

23 December 1944 "Battle of the Bulge"

"On 16 December 1944 the Germans launched their great counter offensive, known as the Battle of the Bulge, against the Allied armies in the west, and made considerable progress during the next week under cover of weather unfavorable for flying. It was not until the weather finally improved enough during the night of 22 December 1944 that the full strength of the Allied power could be used to block General Von Rundstedt's offensive. As a means of doing this, it was imperative that the main enemy lines of communication and supply to the Bulge be severed. A target of high priority in this category was the Railroad Bridge at Mayen, Germany, which was one of the key bridges on the main railway from the German heartland to the Belgium Bulge. The 344-foot span of this bridge carried the enemy lifeline across the deep ravine of the Nette River, and its destruction would sever the railway for supplying the German offensive for a considerable period of time.

On the night of 22 December 1944 the 387th Bomb Group received its orders to attack this bridge the following morning. This was good news because for the past week at night our airbase near St. Quentin. France had been subjected to several German air raids, a strafing attack and some reports of enemy paratroopers dropping in our area.

The weather was so uncertain that Pathfinder (PFF), radar equipped, B-26's were scheduled to lead the first and second boxes in case it would become necessary to bomb on instruments because of cloud cover over the target. My good friend Dick Gunn of the 558th Bomb Squadron was leading the second box and I was leading the high flight of six bombers in the second box. After the PFF aircraft assumed the lead, we became separated from the first box because of the lousy weather and were unable to meet our fighters at the rendezvous point but decided to proceed without them.

Near Bastone we started receiving moderate flak which required our standard evasive action turns. Shortly afterward, radio transmissions warned us of enemy aircraft in the area and almost immediately we were attacked by 15-25 enemy fighters consisting mostly of ME 109's. I kept my six-ship flight in close proximity to the box leader to provide for a concentration of firepower from our two flights.

While looking down at the low flight in our box. I observed many enemy fighters pressing the attack with guns firing and pieces falling from the B-26's as they burned and spun out of control. As I recall the action now, it seemed like the whole thing was in slow motion with fighters moving in and B-26's falling out of the sky. It was all very depressing because I could see the guns firing from the fighters but I was unable to see any guns from the B-26's firing back. I reported this fact in the debriefing but later realized that from my angle of observation I would not be able to see the B-26 guns firing back. It did not take long before all ships in the low flight were gone. I thought all of them had been shot down but I believe one or two did survive although badly damaged. During all this activity one of the German fighters suddenly appeared from nowhere off my left wing and we looked directly into the faces of one another. After an instant of time, he pulled up and out of the formation. During debriefing, I was informed that this same sort of thing has occurred in prior mission reports and it was assumed that some hotshot German fighter pilot was just showing off.

In the meantime, the enemy fighters turned on the box leader and my flight but broke off for some unexplained reason before shooting any of us down. My tail gunner, Joe Paduano, received credit for shooting down one ME-109. During all this action, one of the ME-109's appeared suddenly in a head-on attack for my flight. I tried to fire my four 50 caliber package guns mounted on the fuselage but, in all the confusion , they had not been charged so I missed my chance to shoot at that German! It was a lost opportunity that never occurred again! The fighters broke off as we neared the target area but then we started picking up intense and accurate flak. Also, the PFF ship broke off from our formation for some unexplained reason, and was later observed below and behind the formation being attacked and destroyed by enemy fighters. All of us had received some damage from flak and fighters that day. One ship in my flight had to return on single engine and another one was so extensively damaged that it was salvaged upon return to base.

As luck would have it, clouds covered the target area on my first bombing run but there were breaks in the clouds and my bombardier, Warren Butterfield, felt he would have a good chance to bomb the bridge if we made another run. So back we went through the flak again and Butterfield did his thing again. He put the bombs right on the target and knocked the bridge out----Mission accomplished!!! The bomb pattern was within 120 feet of the aiming point with direct hits on the bridge. Out of 36 aircraft from our 387th Bomb Group, we were the only flight to hit the target. It was reported by a reconnaissance plane the next day that one span of the bridge had been destroyed and another partially destroyed. Railway tracks leading up to eastern approach to the bridge had been cut by direct hit. Through rail traffic from Andernach to Pelm was impossible. Both Dick Gunn and I were awarded the Silver Star Medal for this mission. In addition , the 387th Bomb Group was awarded the "Distinguished Unit Citation" for this mission at a presentation made in Paris at the end of the war.

As you can easily tell from the above events, that was a memorable day for me and I will never forget it. In addition, there was another reason that the date of 23 December 1944 stands out in my mind, it was also my 22nd birthday!

One more memorable event occurred in September 1990 when my wife and I were on a trip in Europe and were able to get to Mayen, Germany and see that bridge. It is a very picturesque bridge with tall supporting arches made of stone block that looked like the Romans had built it. I climbed up the embankment and walked across the bridge with many mixed emotions. It was only about 350 feet long and supported a single-track railroad. We lost six aircrews, suffered other personal injuries, and sustained physical damage to every one of our aircraft to stop the flow of war supplies to the German offensive-----I hope it was effective and worth all the sacrifices.

It sure makes me feel out of date to think that one pilot, one plane, and one bomb can do today what it took 36 planes and crews to do in 1944."

Col. Clyde Harkins

Bomb strike photos on 23 December 1944 of the railroad bridge at Mayen, Germany.

mayen1.jpg (27851 bytes)

Photos of Mayen Railroad Bridge taken in September 1990.

mayen3.jpg (17020 bytes) mayen4.jpg (14694 bytes)

us.gif (82 bytes) B26.COM Guest Book Pages & Links