Gayle L. Smith
Group Operations Officer
|Well, Mr. P-47 moved right along with every move we made to Beek, Holland. The
557th Engineering/Maintenance section kept it in perfect flying condition.
Our move to Chateaudun, near Chartres, on September 17/18, 1944, was a move to be at closer range to the targets in support of Army ground forces. Our first mission was on September 21, 1944 - the Ehrang Railroad Yards. We continued to target ammunition and fuel dumps, railroad bridges and highway bridges. Our last target, on October 31, 1944, was the Moerdijk Highway Bridge-a mission that was scrubbed.
We moved to A-71 (St. Quentin) northeast of Paris, on November 1-3, 1944. The first mission scheduled was November 4, 1944 against gun positions at Eschweilen. Identification and accuracy were predominant criteria to be followed on every mission to avoid any friendly casualties. This mission was aborted.
The period from early November through December 22, 1944 was one of frustration. The weather, rain, snow, and fog prevented us from accomplishing many missions. During this period we flew 13 missions against German defensive positions; ammo and ordinance dumps, defensive artillery positions, and other strong points. However, weather caused us to scrub 23 missions, and 9 missions had to return with bombs aboard.
It was during this period that the German army mounted an offensive - strafed A-71, and also caused us to be placed on a 6-hour alert to evacuate A-71. On December 9, 1944, we experienced our worst ground disaster. On one of the missions in which we could not identify the target, and had to return with the bombs aboard, one aircraft crashed at the approach end of the runway, catching on fire. Bombs on board exploded, injuring many and killing 29 medics, firefighters and others who exposed themselves unnecessarily. (This figure is controversial.)
The weather cleared briefly from December 23, 1944 through December 27, 1944. We were able to fly seven missions in 4 days against railroad and road bridges, including the Mayen Bridge on the 23rd. The defenses of road and railroad key areas, particularly bridges, were becoming more intense as the ground troops kept closing in on the German retreat.
Weather throughout January '45 continued to haunt us. We were able to fly only 9 missions, while scrubbing 17. Weather began to be on our side starting the middle of February '45. During the last seven days of February '45 and all of March we flew 48 missions in 41 days with only 3 missions that had to be scrubbed. The targets, until the last one in April, were directed at bridges, railroad yards, communication centers, ammo and ordinance facilities, strong points, and defense positions. Our last scheduled mission was on April 26, 1945 - the Schrobenshen Oil Storage facility-the mission was aborted. We moved to Beek, Holland on April 28-29, 1945, and never flew another mission prior to the German surrender on May 7, 1945.
The Final Tally Total
*18 Preparations Cancelled Prior to Briefing
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