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Formation of B-24 Liberators on their way to Austria, 12 April 1944

Formation of B-24 Liberators on their way to Austria, 12 April 1944



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Consolidated B-24 Liberator (Crowood Aviation), Martin W. Bowman . A well balanced book that begins with a look at the development history of the B-24, before spending nine out of its ten chapters looking at the combat career of the aircraft in the USAAF, the US Navy and the RAF.


Johnny Olsen, Ball turret gunner, 8th AF

More letters

I was not in your uncle's crew. I was an armorer in the 763rd B.S. of the 460th B.G. It has been forty-seven years since this happened and this is what I recall of what happened that day.

Your uncle was flying a B-24 whose call letter was O-Oboe. The plane that rammed it was F-Fox. It was one of the four planes that our crew serviced.

On this particular mission O-Oboe was an "early return" the right side of the fuselage, from the nose turret to the cockpit, was caved in. The right inboard engine was shut down. The crew was still badly shaken. After the collision they went into a dive and they managed to pull it up at 5,000 feet.

The formation flew into some clouds. The collision happened over the north end of the Adriatic at about 10:00 a.m. The horizontal and the vertical stabilizer of F-Fox were cut off. Air Sea Rescue was called and given the location but I do not believe there were any survivors.

It is with a certain amount of sadness and pride that I close this letter. The 15 AAF was given a very tough mission and it succeeded. Those of us who were lucky enough to return will always be in debt to those who didn't.

Very truly yours,
Harry B. Johnson

Thank you for your letter of Feb 21st, and the information you enclosed concerning your uncle, Wayne Miller, who lost his life on 20 Oct, 1944.

Before responding to the questions you raised in your letter, you will be interested to know that I witnessed the accident on that October day over 50 years ago when your uncle was killed.

It so happens that I kept a diary and made notes in it after each mission I completed. I was a young radio operator-gunner, in my 20's at the time. When you wrote that your uncle was killed on 20 Oct, 1944 I looked up my diary and was amazed to recall that I was on what turned out to be my last mission (of 50).

We were supposed to go to the Munich (Germany) airdrome, about 20 miles south of Munich, but it was covered over, so we bombed the first alternate target, called the Rosenheim Marshalling Yards, in Austria. Here is what I wrote in my diary (in part) after returning from that mission:

"On the way up a terrible accident happened. Two planes from the 763rd squadron in the box behind us collided (I was in the 761st squadron). One went straight down into the Adriatic. No chutes were seen. Three men bailed out of the other and then it came out of its spin and flew back to the base."

This ties in with the 1988 news article you sent me, and the letter you received from Ray Weber, a crew memeber of your uncle's.

As a radio operator bunner (ROMG) I manned one of the two waist guns when I was not manning the radio. I arrived at Spinazzola on 3 July flew my fisrt mission on 7 July: to the Blechhammer Oil Refinery, Germany observed my 23rd birthday on a mission to Nimes, France on 12 July flew my last mission on 20 Oct and returned home on a troop ship in time to be home for Christmas with my family ( I wasn't married at the time) in December 1944.

Sincerely,
Henrik B. Hansen

In reply to your leter of early March, I was a nose gunner on a B-24 in the 763rd BS, 460th BG based at Spinazoola, Italy.

I made nineteen missions with the 60th until I was wounded over Vienna, AUstria on 2/14/45, receiving some plexiglass in my right eye which left me blind in that eye.
After three weeks in the 25th General Hospital at Bari, I was transferred to the 17th General Hospital in Naples, spending one week there.

I left Naples on 3/21/45 aboard the Hospital Ship "Larkspur" and arrived at Stark General Hospital, Charleston, South Carolina on 4/9/45 and remained there until I received a medical discharge on 9/27/45.

Although you did not give the date of the mission on which your uncle lost his life, I flew on a mission (my 3rd) on 10/20/44 to Rosenheim, Germany and winessed a midair collision exactly as described in the newspaper article that you sent.

I am enclosing a copy of the official Air Force report detailing that mission. We were flying the #3 slot that day and were to the immediate left and slightly to the rear of your uncle's plane. Being in the nose turret gave me a close view of the collision.

I am enclosing a photo of our crew taken just before boarding the plane for a mission. I hope the enclosures have helped you in your research and if you have ruther questions, please write.

Comments about the letters from Ray and Fred.

Receiving the letters from Ray and Fred shed total light on what happened to my uncle, Wayne. While Ray said four men bailed out of the plane, it was confirmed that three men, including my uncle bailed out of the plane and were never found.

Next I will be sharing letters from some men I found who witnessed this tragedy from their own planes.

I must say that once I found out what Bomb Group Wayne flew with, I was able to contact their association. From there I heard from men who wrote and told me what they saw on that day. It is interesting to read their accounts.


Barber’s File

Name: Victor H. Barber
D.O.B: September 27, 1923
Hometown: Peoria, Illinois
Current: North Port, Fla.
Entered Service: April 29, 1944
Discharged: October 14, 1945
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Unit: 15th Air Force, 451st Bomb Group, 724th Squadron
Commendations: European-African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon w/4 Bronze Battle Stars, 1 Overseas Service Bar, 1 Purple Heart
Battles/Campaigns: Rome-Arno, Apennines, Southern France, Air Combat Balkans
Click here to read about another B-24 pilot.

Click here to view Barber’s Collection in the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, October 25, 2010 and is republished with permission.

Click here to view the War Tales fan page on FaceBook.

Click here to search Veterans Records and to obtain information on retrieving lost commendations.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.

*Click here to read about Carl Citron, a WWII B-24 pilot and Citron’s follow-up here.
Click here to read about Leon Peragallo’s ten months in a Luftwaffe POW camp.


Join the 392nd Bomb Group Memorial Association

The 392nd Bomb Group Memorial Association was formed in 1985. The Association currently has more than 250 members who, through their donations and interest, support the research efforts to remember the history and legacy of the bomb group and to honor the American men and women who served the 392nd between 1943 and 1945.

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392nd Bombardment Group 1943 - 1945

The group was constituted as 392nd Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 15 January 1943 and activated on 26 January 1943 at Davis-Monthan Field, Tucson, Arizona. The cadre coming chiefly from the 39th and 34th Bomb Groups, Lt. Col. Irvine Rendle commanding.

Trained with B24 Liberators, at Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas and Alamogordo Army Air Base, New Mexico. Moved to England during July-August 1943 and assigned to 8th USAAF at Wendling Air Base in East Anglia.

The first B-24s of the Group landed at Wendling, Norfolk, on 15 August 1943. The first mission was made on 10 September 1943 against Poix Airfield, France.

The group began combat on 9 September 1943 and engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic objectives on the European continent until April 1945. Attacked such targets as oil refineries, marshaling yards, railroad viaducts, steel plants, tank factories and gas works.

Participated in the intensive campaign against the German aircraft industry during the "Big Week," 20-25 February 1944.

The Group's outstanding mission was the mission on 24 February 1944 to the Gotha Waggenfabrik at Gotha, Germany, the largest twin engine fighter plant in the Reich. The 392nd ships fought their way into the target and dropped 98 percent of their bombs within 2,000 feet, completely destroying the target. Lt. Col. Lorin L. Johnson was the command pilot for the 392nd and 14th Bombardment Wing formation. The group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for destroying an aircraft factory in Gotha, Germany.

The 392nd flew its 100th mission on 6 June 1944-D-Day. The target-The Invasion Beach, France. The 392nd was cited by Maj. Gen. James P. Hodges for a degree of bombing accuracy on its 100 missions consistently better than that of any other unit of the 2nd Air Division.

Bombed airfields and V-weapon launching sites in France prior to the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, struck coastal defenses and choke-points on D-day in addition to supporting ground forces and carrying out interdictory operations. Hit enemy positions to assist ground forces at St. Lo, France, during the breakthrough in July 1944.

Bombed railroads, bridges and highways to cut off German supply lines during the "Battle of the Bulge" December 1944 - January 1945. Dropped supplies to Allied troops during the airborne landings at Eindhoven and Nijmegen, Holland, in September 1944, and during the airborne assault across the River Rhine in March 1945. Flew last combat mission on 25 April 1945, then carried food to the Dutch.

The group flew 285 combat missions, suffering 1552 casualties including 832 killed in action or line of duty and 184 aircraft lost.

As the curtain rang down on the war for the strategic Bombardment Groups of the Eighth Air Force, the men of Station # 118 at Wendling could reflect back with justifiable pride on the previous nineteen months and sixteen days of combat operations credited to the 392nd since the Liberators took to the air on their first mission, September 9th, 1943. The bombing record of the fourth oldest B-24 Group to be assigned to the Eighth would go down as an excellent one - ranking well above the average in comparison with all other bomber units. But, the persistency and determination with which its aircrews had fought their bombers through to attack some of the toughest targets in Hitler's Nazi Germany had also cost a grisly toll of men and aircraft. Those who never returned would not be forgotten by their comrades who, through God's fortune, did come back from it all.

In June 1945 the group returned to the United States and was inactivated at Charleston AAF in South Carolina in September of the same year.

Redesignated 392nd Bombardment Group (Light) in June 1949. Inactivated on 10 November 1949. In the 1950s, squadrons of this group activated as missile experimental and training units in Strategic Air Command.

SQUADRONS: 576th, 577th, 578th and 579th.

STATIONS: Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, 26 January 1943 - 28 February 1943 Biggs Field, Texas, 1 March 1943 - 17 April 1943 Alamogordo Army Air Base, New Mexico, 18 April 1943 - 18 July 1943 Wendling Airfield, Norfolk, England, July 1943 - 15 July 1945 Charleston Army Air Field, South Carolina, 25 June - 13 September 1945 Barksdale Field, Louisiana, 30 July 1947 - 10 November 1949.

COMMANDERS: Col. Irvine A. Rendle, 26 January 1943 - 20 June 1944 Col. Lorin L. Johnson, 21 June 1944 - 26 May 1945 Lt. Col. Lawrence G. Gilbert, 27 May 1945 - 13 September 1945.

CAMPAIGNS: Air Offensive Europe Normandy Northern France Rhineland Ardennes-Alsace Central Europe. Flew 285 missions between 9 September 1943 and 25 April 1945, and dropped 17,452 tons of bombs. Completed 7,060 sorties., Lost 127 B-24s in combat, 57 in other operations., 144 enemy aircraft claimed as destroyed, 45 probable, 49 damaged. Lost 832 men killed, lost 447 men as prisoners of war, internees and evadees/escapees. Total Casualties 1,602.


455th Bomb Group

A B-24 Liberator (serial number 44-50468) of the 455th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force which crashed landed on its nose as a result of a freak accident on take off, 1945. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Extraordinary take off crash, Italy.'

B-24H-10-CF 41-29264 SKY WOLF w/ air crew 15th AF 455th BG, 740th BS, Italy B

41-29264 B-24H-10-CF SKY WOLF ground accident with Heaven Can Wait, 455th BG, Italy

B24H-10- CF 'Sky Wolf' of 455th BG, 15th AF 41-29264 Purcell Crew #418

part one of Jimmy H Smith's World War two adventure with the 741st bomb squadron of the 455th Bomb Group.

part two of Jimmy H Smith's World War two adventure with the 741st bomb squadron of the 455th Bomb Group.

S/Sgt Kenneth Griffith, 742BS, 455BG, 15AF.

Captain Gilbert Cole, 741st Bomber Squadron, Killed in Action.

The group was activated July 1943 with four essentially stand-alone bomb squadrons: 740th, 741st, 742nd, and 743rd. After a somewhat nomadic training regimen with dilapidated equipment, the pieces of the group came together at Langley, VA in October 1943. They were issued G and H models of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.

They departed Langley in December 1943 and flew to Tunisia by way of Brazil, arriving in January 1944. They remained in Tunisia until completion of their airfield at San Giovanni, Italy, about five miles west of Cerignola and 20 miles southwest of Foggia. The group moved to San Giovanni in February 1944 and flew its first combat mission (Anzio) on 16 February 1943 as part of the 304th Bomb Wing, Fifteenth Air Force. The group flew its last mission (Linz, Austria) 15 months later on 25 April 1945. The mission scheduled for the following day was cancelled and the group began preparations to return home. Probably no one was sorry.

The group had only two commanders during combat operations. Col. Kenneth A. Cool commanded from July 1943-September 1944. Col. William I. Snowden then commanded until May 1945. Both survived the war but both are now deceased.

The 455th flew 252 combat missions over France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Austria, and the Balkans. They dropped 13, 249 tons of munitions with the following approximate targeting breakout

Authorized personnel strength was over 4,000 personnel. The group lost 118 aircraft, 31 directly to fighters, 36 directly to flak, and 51 from all other causes combined. The figure for combined causes includes causes such as collisions, ditchings, and crashes attributable to fighter or flak damage. As time passed, the fighter opposition decreased but the Germans concentrated their anti-aircraft guns around the fewer remaining targets, so the threat from flak remained intense. They suffered 147 KIA, 268 MIA, 179 POW, and 169 wounded in action. On the other hand, the group is credited with 119 enemy aircraft destroyed and another 78 probables. Only about 40% of the original crews returned.

Most members would probably agree on the two toughest missions. The Group hit the ball bearing plant at Steyer, Austria on 2 April 1944. They lost 4 of 40 aircraft—40 comrades. In addition to successful target damage, they were credited with 27 enemy aircraft destroyed and 17 probables. It was their first heavy loss in two months of combat. The other consensus mission was the Moosbierbaum oil refinery at Vienna, Austria on 26 June 1944. Thirty-six planes took off with only 26 returning. Six of the ten losses were from a single squadron. Several of those crews were on their 50th mission.

The 455th BG received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission on 2 April 1944 when the group contributed to Fifteenth AF’s campaign against enemy industry by attacking a ball-bearing plant at Steyr. They lost 4 of 40 aircraft—40 comrades. In addition to successful target damage, they were credited with 27 enemy aircraft destroyed and 17 probables. It was their first heavy loss in two months of combat.

Although meeting severe fighter opposition and losing several of its bombers on 26 June 1944, the group proceeded to attack an oil refinery at Moosbierbaum, receiving another DUC for this performance. Thirty-six planes took off with only 26 returning. Six of the ten losses were from a single squadron. Several of those crews were on their 50th mission.


Formation of B-24 Liberators on their way to Austria, 12 April 1944 - History

Target: Bihac Marshalling Yard, Bihac, Yugoslavia

The first mission flown by the Group was flown to the Bihac Marshalling Yard in Yugoslavia. This mission was led, of course, by Col. Glantzberg. Flight leader 1 st Lt. Joseph Donovan was the lead pilot with Col. Glantzberg flying as his co-pilot. Capt. Marion Pruitt, Group Navigator, was on the lead aircraft with 1 st Lt. George V. Leffler, Group Bombardier as the bombardier. The Deputy Group Commander Lt. Col. Philip F. Hawes, the Group Operations Officer Maj. William Burke and four Squadron Commanders: Maj. James E. Knapp, Maj. Robert E. Applegate, Capt. James C. Dooley and Capt. Edwin T. Goree flew the mission either leading a flight or as Deputy leader in the No. 2 position in "A" Flight of each Section. Two of the Squadron Operations Officers, Capt. William Franklin and 1 st Lt. William H. Tallant, also flew on this mission.

The weather was excellent the bomb load was fragmentation bombs. All members of the crews were intensely interested in watching their first bombs hit a target. As a result two aircraft collided over the target and were lost. One of the planes was piloted by 1 st Lt. William H. Zumsteg, the other by 2 nd Lt. Sidney S. Wilson.

Intops Summary No. 255, 2 April 1944. "35 B-24s of the 461st Bomb Group off on their freshman mission dropped 61.5 tons of 20 lb. frags between 1131/11:37 hours from 19,000 - 20,000 ft. 5 A/C jettisoned 9.5 tons, while 1 A/C dropped 1.8 tons on Pianosa Island. Six other A/C returned early. 4 E/A were seen in the target area but there were no encounters and no claims. 2 B-24's were lost due to a collision at the rally point. Results reported by crew observations claim 40 to 60% of bombs hit target area with heavy smoke in the south part of the M/Y. Bomb strike photos give incomplete coverage of bursts."

Target: Drnis Marshalling Yard, Drnis, Yugoslavia

The next day the Group was back to Yugoslavia again on another of its freshman missions. This time the target was the marshalling yard at Drnis. Lt. Colonel Hawes was the formation leader while Colonel Glantzberg flew as a Second Section Leader. Flying in the lead plane with Lt. Colonel Hawes were the pilot, Flight Leader 1st Lt. Floyd W. Woodard Captain Pruitt and Lt. Leffler. Again Major Burke, the four Squadron Commanders, and the two Squadron Operations Officers who had not flown the previous day: Captain William J. Bock and Captain David P. McQuillan also flew this mission. The air speed flown by the lead plane was too slow with the result that the formation was badly spread.

The day was hazy and Group leaders had difficulty in identifying the target against the tan background of early spring. The mission was not as successful as had been the first one, and the crew members began to realize that targets were not easy to identify and hit.

Target: Nis Marshalling Yard, Nis, Yugoslavia

This mission was led by Major Robert E. Applegate, 765 th Squadron Commander. Colonel Glantzberg flew the deputy lead position. The Deputy Group Commander, the Group Operations Officer, and all the Squadron Commanders also flew this mission.

To the haze that had been experienced on the second mission was added 8/10 undercast for this third mission. As a result of the haze, the undercast, and the tan background on the ground, the target was missed completely. For the first and only time during the month no pictures of the bombing were obtained.

The formation was the best thus far flown by the Group. Several mistakes, however, were made. The Group failed a 360º circle and let down to bomb below the overcast it failed to get on the step before the bomb run it failed to cover a cripple on the way home and it also failed to get under the overcast for the return trip home across the Adriatic.

Target: Zagreb Airdrome, Zagreb, Yugoslavia

The 764 th Squadron Commander, Captain Edwin T. Goree, did an outstanding job in leading this mission. The lead pilot, 2 nd Lt. James O. Bean, his bombardier 2 nd Lt. George B. Cran and the Squadron Navigator, 1 st Lt. Earl M. DeWitt were the officers on the lead plane. For the fourth day in succession the freshman mission took the Group to Yugoslavia.

The mission was another fragmentation mission this time to the north end of the airdrome at Zagreb. Nine-tenths cloud coverage obscured the target and only fifteen of the thirty-one planes over the target dropped their bombs. This was the first mission on which the Group had fighter escort and was its first encounter with enemy fighters. The attack was made by six ME-109s and by nine FW-190s. One enemy plane was shot down. This fighter was claimed by S/Sgt. Melborn Dale Williams the top turret gunner on a plane in the 765 th Squadron.

The plane flown by 2 nd Lt. John K. Specht and Major Robert E. Applegate, which did not drop its bombs on the target, developed a fire in the bomb bay that led to an explosion when the bombs were jettisoned over the Adriatic returning from the target. Three members of the crew left the plane and were lost. They were: the bombardier, 2 nd Lt. William S. Sullivan the navigator, 2 nd Lt. Harold E. Milne and the nose turret gunner, Sgt. John J. Marszalkiewicz. Near the base the seven remaining members of the crew abandoned the plane and parachuted safely to earth. Crew members were rapidly learning that combat missions are dangerous. As a result of this mission all crew members developed a deep-seated and persistent dislike for fragmentation bombs.

The Commanding Officer, the Deputy Group Commander, the Group Operations Officer, the four Squadron Commanders and two of the Squadron Operations Officers flew on this mission.

Target: Ferrara Marshalling Yard South, Ferrara, Italy

Freshman mission days were now behind. Instead of flying individual missions, the Group was assigned for the first time to fly Wing formation. This was the first of several missions to be flown with the Groups with the 55 th Wing.

Beginning with this mission the Group began to curtail on the number of executive pilots flying every mission. As a result of the experiences gained in the former missions, Colonel Glantzberg ordered that an exceptionally competent bombardier or navigator should ride in the nose turret of the lead ship to assist in pilotage. 1 st Lt. Stiles, 766 th Squadron Bombardier, flew this mission in that capacity.

Although the crews did not sense it when they were briefed for their fifth mission on Good Friday morning, their missions were getting tougher. Their target was the first one which the Group had been assigned in Italy, that of the South Marshalling Yard, Ferrara. Colonel Glantzberg, Lt. Donovan, Captain Pruitt, and Lt. Leffler, who had led the first mission, were back again in the lead. Again enemy aircraft were seen but not encountered. The pilots all did a superior job of formation flying on this mission. Over the target the Group experienced intense, aimed, and extremely accurate heavy flak for the first time. Despite this new shocking experience the crews did an outstanding job. Having seen enemy fighters for the second time, having been hit hard over the target by enemy anti-aircraft guns, and having really covered the target with a beautiful pattern of bombing, the crew members began to believe they were veterans. There was no stopping this Group after confidence built in all personnel by the success of this mission.

Intops Summary No. 260, 7 April 1944. “33 B-24’s of the 461st Bomb Group were dispatched. There were no early returns and all bombed primary dropping 66 tons of 500 lb GP bombs at 1310 hours from 21,000 feet. 5 S/E aircraft and 4 JU-88s were seen in the distance 15 miles S.E. of target. Flak at the target was intense, accurate, heavy, aimed type. There were no losses. Photo reconnaissance photos show bombing exceedingly well concentrated on the target area, and in addition to hits which have totally blocked the yards and inflicted much damage on rolling stock, several damaging hits have been scored on industrial buildings, including the reported ball-bearing plant West of the yard. The main weight of the bombs fell on South end of the M/Y and the loco depot, damaging many of the approximately 200 cars present and at least two locos. Hits were scored on the immediate approach to the South end of the river railroad bridge which completely blocks the yard on the sugar refinery, flour mill, goods shed West of the main line tracks and two large buildings just to the East of the yard. Observation of other evidenced damage is hampered by the smoke from fires started in the area.”

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As a result of this highly successful mission, a commendation, in the form of a TWX, was received from Major General Nathan F. Twining, Commanding General of the Fifteenth Air Force.

"For the excellent bombing pattern on attack of Ferrara, Italy, Marshalling Yards as evidenced by strike photos, I desire to send 'well done' to the 461 Group."

Target: Zagreb Marshalling Yard, Zagreb, Yugoslavia

On the 8 th of April and again on the 9th, missions were briefed for the Marshalling Yard at Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Both missions stood down. On 11 April still another mission stood down. The target for that day was to have been the Marshalling Yard at Bologna, Italy.

After four days of inactivity, mission #6 was flown on 12 April. The target was the Marshalling Yard at Zagreb. Despite a four-tenths undercast and much flak, the crews did an excellent job.

Target: Duna Tokol Aircraft Components Factory, Budapest, Hungary

For the seventh mission, which was against the Duna Tokol Aircraft Components Factory at Budapest, RDX bombs were used for the first time by this Group. Major Burke flew as Group leader for the first time. On this mission a total of 58 enemy aircraft were seen. Several encounters were experienced, three enemy planes were destroyed and three more claimed as probable. Twin-engine enemy airplanes fired rockets at the formation. Single engine enemy airplanes flew parallel with the Group at a safe distance and radioed headings, altitude, and air speed to their ground installations. Flak over the target was intense, accurate, and heavy. Two bombers were lost over the target. 1 st Lt. Charles W. Bauman, flying the deputy lead position in “A” Flight of the second Section, had part of a wing shot off by flak. His plane fell into the plane in the number 4 position of the same flight, which was piloted by 2 nd Lt. Paul S. Mowery. A third plane flown by 2 nd Lt. Kay B. Steele, which had come off the target with the formation, failed to return to the base. Colonel Glantzberg, who was flying as co-pilot in a plane in the second Section, led a small formation of planes in chasing attacking JU-88s away from this damaged plane. He was unable, however, to stay with the plane because of an undercast. Fifteen planes were damaged over this target.

Again the Group turned in an excellent mission by dropping 45 percent of its bombs within 1,000 feet of the briefed aiming point on a comparatively rectangular building well hidden in woods.

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Target: Chitila Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, Roumania

With Mission No. 8 the Group was off on its first mission to Roumania. Bad weather built up over Yugoslavia and there was nine-tenths cloud coverage in the target area. Bombs were dropped, but the results were unobserved. Twenty enemy aircraft were seen but there were no encounters.

Target: Belgrade Zemun Airdrome, Yugoslavia

The primary target for this mission was the Brasov Airdrome in Roumania. Bad weather experienced the day previous on the Bucharest Mission had moved westward and built up to over 20,000 feet. Nineteen of the thirty-four planes to take off lost the formation in the clouds over Yugoslavia and returned to the base. Fourteen others individually worked their way to the top of cloud formations and reformed on Colonel Glantzberg who chose the last resort target, Belgrade Zemun A/D in Yugoslavia, as his target.

Fragmentation bombs were dropped with unobserved results through haze and six-tenths cloud coverage. Again twenty enemy aircraft were seen without any encounters. Half of the planes over the target were hit by flak and one was lost through flak over the target. On this plane, piloted by 1 st Lt. Floyd W. Woodard, were the members of one of the four original “model crews”.

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Target: Belgrade Zemun Airdrome, Yugoslavia

The primary target for this mission was the last resort target of yesterday. This time the target was completely obscured by clouds and no fragmentation bombs were dropped. This was Major Knapp’s first mission as Group leader.

Target: Tagliamento Casarsa Railroad Bridge, Italy

Reconnaissance photography having revealed that the enemy had partially repaired the damage this Group had done to the South Marshalling Yard at Ferrara, Italy on April 7 th , the Group was reassigned to hit another section of the same target. Because of bad weather over the primary target the Group went on to bomb the first alternative, the Tagliamento Casarsa Railroad Bridge at the head of the Adriatic in Italy. This was the first attempt of the Group to bomb a bridge. The cloud coverage was seven-tenths. Coming down the river and hitting the target at right angles, the Group scored several hits on both the railroad bridge and the highway bridge beyond it. Fifteen percent of the bombs dropped were plotted within a 1,000 feet of the briefed aiming point. Thirteen enemy aircraft seen by the Group made no passes at the formation.

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Target: Chitila Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, Roumania

Again the target was the Chitila Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, and again the weather was bad. A solid undercast prevented bombing with the result that all bombs were jettisoned in the Adriatic. Forty enemy aircraft were seen, several were encountered and one was shot down. A nose gunner, Sgt. W. G. Rollins, became the first casualty on a crew when his face was cut by shell casings from another plane.

Target: Bad Voslau Airdrome, Austria

When the crew members learned at briefing that they were to attack their first target in the Vienna Area, they fully realized that they were now in the big time. Before our Group hit its target the 304 th Wing had performed an outstanding job in practically demolishing the buildings at the Airdrome. Uncovering the three flights of each Section in approaching the target, the Group, led for the first time by Captain Dooley, completely sprayed the landing field with fragmentation bombs. The bombing pattern was one of perfection. The returning crews doubted if it would ever be necessary to return again to that target. Several encounters were had with twenty-three enemy fighters, two of which were claimed as probably destroyed. Fourteen planes over the target were hard hit by flak.

There were two casualties as a result of this mission: Bombardier, F/O R.B. Stewart, and a ball turret gunner, Sgt. P.N. Godino, both on 2 nd Lt. G. Fulks’ crew. Each was hit in the foot by flak.

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Commendation

From: Operations Office, 49th Bomb Wing

To: Commanding Officers, 451st, 461st and 484th Bomb Groups -

The bombing of Bad Voslau, 23 April, by the 49th Wing was excellent. Please pass to all participating my commendation for a job well done. Col. Lee desires to express appreciation for a job well done.

Target: Chitila Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, Roumania

For the third time during the month the Group went to Chitila Marshalling Yard at Bucharest, Roumania. This time the weather was CAVU with haze. The target was picked up by the lead plane, but unfortunately a bomb rack malfunction temporarily held up the bombs in the lead plane, which overshot the target. This was also true of most of the planes in the first attack unit who were dropping on the section leader. The second Section saved the day for the Group by getting 11 percent of all the bombs dropped by the Group on the briefed aiming point. The flak was intense and heavy, but inaccurate. Of the twenty-five enemy fighters seen, several were encountered, one was destroyed, and one was damaged.

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29 April 1944

Target: Submarine Pens, Toulon Harbor, France

This mission took the Group on its first trip to France and to a target in the sixth country of Europe which the group bombed during the month of April. This was the first mission on which the 451 st , 461 st and the 484 th flew as the groups of the 49 th Bombardment Wing. The mission provided another new experience for the Group in that the target had been previously obscured by a perfect smoke screen from smudge pots located both on land and on ships in the harbor. For the first time the Group used 1,000 pound bombs. Results were unobserved, but no bombs were believed to have hit the target. The Group Bombardier, Captain Leffler, who was the lead bombardier and who had already turned in five successful missions during the month, both laughed at and cursed the clever Krauts.

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30 April 1944

Target: Alessandria Marshalling Yard, Italy

For the last mission of the month the Group was back in Italy and to its Marshalling Yard targets. The target, a large one, was hard hit, but the bombs were scattered across a long area. Colonel Glantzberg was most unhappy when the pictures showed that only 17 percent of the bombs had hit the aiming point of this easily identified target, especially since the weather was CAVU, and there were neither flak nor fighters to interfere with the bombing.


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Hermann Göring reportedly ordered the Zerstörerwaffe to make all the Luftwaffe ' s Bf 110s available for operations. According to the Luftwaffe Order of Battle, a total of 102 Bf 110s were used in the September Campaign with a loss of about 10 aircraft. Polish pilots were unfamiliar with the type [1] often identifying them as bombers. Future ace, commander of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 and Jagdfliegerführer Rumänien Wolfgang Falck scored his first kills over Poland, as did future night fighter ace Helmut Lent. Gordon Gollob, future General der Jagdflieger. Falck's unit, I./ZG 76, claimed 31 kills during the campaign, of which 19 were confirmed. [5] I(Z)./LG 1 also contributed. Escorting German bomber formations on attacks against Warsaw, the unit claimed 30 kills on the first day. Polish fighter units reported a 17% loss rate on this day. This rose to 72% in five days. JGr 2 also claimed 28 aerial and 50 ground victories. [6]

Most of the units protecting western Germany from aerial attack were equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109. One of the Bf 110 units assigned to air defence in this sector was Lehrgeschwader 1. On 23 November 1939, the Bf 110 claimed its first Allied victim when LG 1 Bf 110s engaged and shot down a Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 of the Armée de l'Air over Verdun. [7] Just three weeks later, on 18 December 1939, the Bf 110 participated in the first German victory over British arms in World War II. [8] RAF Bomber Command sent 22 Vickers Wellington bombers to attack the German naval base at Wilhelmshaven. Despite help from Bf 109 units, it was the Bf 110 which excelled in the bomber destroyer role. By the end of the fighting, the Germans had claimed 38 RAF bombers. [9] Actual losses were 11 Wellingtons and six damaged to varying degrees. [10] Some sources claim a 12th Wellington was destroyed. [11] The raid convinced RAF Bomber Command to consider abandoning the daylight bombing of Germany in favour of night actions.

The Bf 110 Zerstörerwaffe (Destroyer Force) saw considerable action during operation Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Denmark and Norway. Two Zerstörergeschwader, (1 and 76), were committed, with 64 aircraft. [10] The Bf 110s destroyed 25 Danish military aircraft stationed on the Værløse airbase on 9 April through ground strafing. One Danish Fokker C.V did manage to get airborne but was immediately shot down. [12] During this campaign, Victor Mölders, brother of the famous Werner Mölders, took the official surrender of the town of Aalborg after landing at the local airfield. Dressed in flying gear, he was given a lift into the town centre by a milkman to find suitable quarters for I./Zerstörergeschwader 1's (ZG 1) Bf 110 crews. [12]

In Norway, the Bf 110s helped secure the Oslo-Fornebu airport, escorting Junkers Ju 52 transports loaded with paratroops (Fallschirmjäger). The Germans were engaged by several Gloster Gladiators and machine guns manned by troops on the ground in the ensuing battle, both sides lost two aircraft. [13] The Messerschmitt pilots did not know that many earlier waves of transports had turned back and that the airport was unsecured. Landing their cargoes, many transports were destroyed. The remaining Bf 110s strafed the airfield and helped the ground troops take it the air support provided by the Zerstörer was instrumental, and it was to perform well as a fighter-bomber in the coming campaigns. During these battles, a future 110-kill Luftwaffe ace, Helmut Lent, scored his fifth and sixth victories against Norwegian opposition.

With experience fighting in Norway, efforts were made to extend the combat range of the Bf 110C these became the Bf 110D Long Range (Langstrecken) Zerstörer. Several different external fuel tanks, originally a 1,200 L (320 US gal) centerline ventral fuel tank (nicknamed Dackelbauch (dachshund's belly), later 300 L or 900 L (240 US gal) underwing-mounted tanks, resulted in no less than four versions of the Bf 110D. The enormous Dackelbauch ventral tank, owing to cold weather and limited knowledge of fuel vapours, sometimes exploded, leading to unexplained losses during the North Sea patrols. As a result, the aircrews came to dislike this version. The handling characteristics were also affected the Bf 110 was not manoeuvrable to begin with and the added weight made it worse. [15]

The Zerstörerwaffe performed well when it encountered mostly British bombers. On 13 June 1940, a squadron of Skua dive bombers was intercepted trying to reach and bomb the German battleship Scharnhorst. A squadron of Bf 109s and another of Bf 110s shot down eight in as many minutes with the Bf 110s claiming four kills among the victors was Herbert Schob, who survived the war as one of the most successful Bf 110 pilots. Total losses during this campaign amounted to little more than 20. [16] During July, the RAF made several raids on Norway. On 9 July 1940, seven out of a force of 12 Bristol Blenheims bombing Stavanger were shot down by a mixed force of Bf 110s and Bf 109s from ZG 76 and JG 77 respectively. [17]

In the spring of 1940, Walter Horten, Jagdgeschwader 26 technical officer, was invited to participate in a "mock combat" with a Bf 109E. The Bf 109 bested the Bf 110 time and again. Afterward, Horten said,

Gentlemen, be very careful if you should ever come up against the English. Their fighters are all single-engined. And once they get to know the Bf 110s weaknesses, you could be in for a very nasty surprise. [18]

During the Phoney War, a number of French aircraft were shot down by Bf 110s. ZG 1 Gruppenkommander Hauptmann Hannes Gentzen became the highest-scoring fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe on 2 April, when he shot down a Curtiss Hawk over Argonne. [18] For the attack on the Netherlands, 145 Bf 110s were committed under Oberst Kurt-Bertram von Döring's Jagdfliegerführer 2. [19] During the campaign, the Bf 110 demonstrated its capabilities as a strike aircraft. On 10 May, ZG 1 claimed 26 Dutch aircraft destroyed on the ground on Haamstede airfield. Between 11 and 13 May, most of the 82 aerial claims over Belgium were made by the Bf 110 equipped ZG 26. [20] However, this was tempered by the loss of nine Bf 110s against the RAF on 15 May. [21] By this date, Oberstleutnant Friedrich Vollbracht's ZG 2 had claimed 66 Allied aircraft. [22]

The Bf 110 force also encountered the Swiss Air Force during this period, as several German raids violated Swiss airspace. About five Bf 110s were shot down by Swiss Bf 109s. [23] [24] The Bf 110s participation in Fall Rot's Operation Paula, an offensive to destroy the remaining French air forces in central France, was to lead to 101 losses for the Luftwaffe, of which just four were Bf 110s. No further losses of the type occurred for the remainder of the campaign. [25]

The campaign in the west that followed in 1940 demonstrated that the Bf 110 was vulnerable in hostile skies. It performed well against the Belgian, Dutch and French Air Forces, suffering relatively light losses, but was quickly outclassed by increasing numbers of Hurricanes and Spitfires, especially when forced into a tactical role it was never intended for – close range bomber escort – where it was unable to take advantage of its superior altitude performance and speed, and was forced to wait for the enemy to attack rather than roaming about finding and destroying enemy aircraft, as the original Zerstörer concept had intended. [2] [26] In the Western Campaign, 60 were lost. [23] This represented 32 percent of the Zerstörerwaffe's initial strength. [27]

The Battle of Britain revealed the Bf 110's fatal weaknesses as a daylight fighter against single-engine aircraft. A relatively large aircraft, it lacked the agility of the Hurricane and Spitfire and was easily seen. Furthermore, although it had a higher top speed than contemporary RAF Hurricanes, it had poor acceleration. However, it was better suited as a long-range bomber escort than most other aircraft of the time, and did not have the problems of restricted range that hampered the Bf 109E. The design excelled at "high escort" where Bf-110 squadrons were sent well ahead of the bombers to clear the skies of enemy aircraft, using their speed and firepower advantages in diving attacks to counter the enemy's maneuverability, then breaking contact and climbing away, [28] what the Americans would later call "Boom-and-Zoom." But the Bf-110 suffered greatly in "close escort," where they were forced to lumber alongside the slow bombers, taking away their tactical edge and forcing them to always respond to the attacking fighters, which were never taken by surprise and could easily avoid the attacks of the Zerstörer, and even turn the tables. This limitation of tactical flexibility greatly hampered the ability of the Bf 110 to counter enemy single-engine fighters on a level of parity. [26] [2]

Hermann Göring's nephew, Hans-Joachim Göring, was a pilot with III./Zerstörergeschwader 76, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110. He was killed in action on 11 July 1940, when his Bf 110 was shot down by Hurricanes of No. 87 Squadron RAF. His aircraft crashed into Portland Harbour. [29]

The worst day of the battle for the Bf 110 was 15 August 1940, when nearly 30 Bf 110s were shot down, the equivalent of an entire Gruppe. Between 16 and 17 August, 23 more were lost. [30]

After the 18 August there was a marked reduction in the number of Zerstörer operations. Their seeming absence has often been equated with the simultaneous disappearance from the Battle of the Ju 87. But wereas the Ju 87 had to be withdrawn because it simply could not survive in the hostile environment over southern England in the late summer of 1940, the reason for the decrease in Bf 110 activity was much more mundane. Replacements were not keeping pace with losses. There were just not enough Zerstörer available.

The last day of August proved to be a rare success for the Messerschmitt Bf 110. ZG 26 claimed 13 RAF fighters shot down, which "was not far off the mark", for three losses and five damaged. However, on 4 and 27 September, 15 Bf 110s were lost on each day. [32] The Luftwaffe had embarked on the battle with 237 serviceable Bf 110s. 223 were lost in the course of it. [33]

On 10 May 1941, in a strange episode in the aftermath of the Battle of Britain, Rudolf Hess, the deputy leader of the Nazi party, flew in a Bf 110 from Augsburg, north of Munich, to Scotland, apparently in an attempt to broker a peace deal between Germany and Great Britain.

The Messerschmitt Bf 110C and Es were committed to the invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941. I and II./ZG 26 were deployed to the theatre. Once again, the Bf 110 encountered foreign flown Messerschmitt Bf 109s, this time belonging to the Yugoslav Air Force. As over Switzerland in 1940, the battles ended in their opponent's favor. On the first day, 6 April, Bf 110s of I./ZG 26 lost five of their number in exchange for two Yugoslav Bf 109s. II./ZG dispatched several Hawker Furys, but managed to lose two of their own against the biplanes. [34] Over Greece, on 20 April, II./ZG 26 claimed five Hurricanes of No. 33 and No. 80 Squadron RAF for two losses. This engagement saw the death of 50-victory ace Marmaduke Pattle of No 33 Squadron. Staffelkapitän Hauptmann Theodor Rossiwall and Oberleutnant Sophus Baagoe were amongst the claimers on this day, taking their scores to 12 and 14. Also killed in this battle was the ace F/Lt W.J. "Timber" Woods of No. 80 Squadron with 6½ kills. Oberleutnant Baagoe was killed on 14 May 1941 while on a strafing mission during the Battle of Crete. The British defences and a Gloster Gladiator pilot claimed credit. Around 12 Bf 110s were lost over Crete. [35]

The Rashid Ali Rebellion and resulting Anglo-Iraqi War saw the Luftwaffe commit 12 of 4./ZG 76's Bf 110s to the Iraqi Nationalist cause as part of "Flyer Command Iraq" (Fliegerführer Irak). The German machines reached Iraq in the first week of May 1941. The campaign in the desert would last for ten days. Two RAF Gladiators were claimed by future night fighter ace Martin Drewes, but RAF raids badly damaged two Bf 110s. However, by the 26 May, no Bf 110s were left serviceable and German personnel were evacuated. [36] One Bf 110 (Wk-Nr 4035) was captured by the RAF and test flown as RAF serial HK846, "Belle of Berlin". Based in Cairo, Egypt, it was to be deployed to South Africa as part of a program to train pilots on enemy equipment, but it did not make it, crashing in the Sudan. [37] In the North African Campaign, the Bf 110 acted as a support aircraft for the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka units. In 1941, nearly 20% of the Zerstörergeschwader ' s missions were ground-attack orientated. A number of Bf 110 aces were lost in aerial combat during this period, and other losses were considerable. [34] Significantly, on the night of 22–23 May, the Bf 110 was pressed into night fighting service over the desert. Oberleutnant Alfred Wehmeyer scored three nocturnal kills against Allied bombers in the space of a week. In August 1942, a stalemate between the Allied and Axis forces in North Africa permitted the withdrawal of III./ZG 26 to Crete for convoy protection. During this time, a number of United States Army Air Forces B-24 Liberators were destroyed. [38] On 29 September 1942, while on patrol alone, Oberleutnant Helmut Haugk of ZG 26 engaged a formation of 11 B-24s, dispatching two of the bombers. The Bf 110 had demonstrated its capability in a role it was to excel in over Europe. [39] Lastly, in February 1945, two Bf 110G-4s were supplied to the Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia (ZNDH). One was destroyed by Allied bombing at Zagreb the other survived and sought sanctuary at Klagenfurt in Austria with other retreating ZNDH aircraft in May 1945. [40] [41]

Just 51 air worthy Bf 110s took part in the initial rounds of Operation Barbarossa, and all were from three units ZG 26, Schnellkampfgeschwader 210 (redesignated from Erprobungsgruppe 210) and ZG 76. The Bf 110 rendered valuable support to the German Army by carrying out strike missions in the face of very heavy anti-aircraft artillery defences. A huge number of ground kills were achieved by Bf 110 pilots in the east. Some of the most successful were Leutnant Eduard Meyer, who received the Knight's Cross on 20 December 1941 for 18 aerial victories and 48 aircraft destroyed on the ground, as well as two tank kills. Oberleutnant Johannes Kiel was credited with 62 aircraft destroyed on the ground, plus nine tanks and 20 artillery pieces. He was later credited with a submarine sunk and three motor torpedo boats sunk. [42]

In the far north, in the battlefields between Kirkenes (Norway) and the port of Murmansk, the Bf 110 still could claim important successes in the first half of 1942. For example, the Zerstorer unit deployed there, the 10.(Z)/JG 5, achieved an important victory on 10 May 1942 when six of its Bf 110s, which were escorting Ju 88s of the KG 30, ran into a formation of six Soviet SB-2 bombers escorted by nine Hurricanes of the 2 GSAP. In the ensuing dogfight the Zerstorer pilots not only wildly overclaimed 13 victories (when their opponents were only nine) but also misidentified them as "MiG-3", including five claims by experte Theodor Weissenberger. However the 2 GSAP indeed lost five Hurricanes in that combat, for only one Bf 110 lost in return, which is a remarkable victory. [43] In total Wessenberger scored his first 21 victories (out of his 175 on the Eastern Front) on the Messerschmitt Bf 110 he would score 33 more in 1945 while flying Me 262 against Western aircraft).

In the role of ground support, and flown by seasoned pilots. the Bf 110 (particularly the version F-4) was lethal. For example, during Operation Blau, on 3 July 1942 the Gruppenkommandeur of I./ZG 1, Hauptmann Wolfgang Schenk and his three wingmen repeatedly attacked a column of 50 Soviet vehicles, destroying 30 of them. [44] Schenk was to achieve 18 aerial victory credits on the Zerstorer, and was awarded with Eichenlaub (Oak Leaves) for the Knight's Cross on 30 October 1942. One of his deputies, Leutnant Rudolf Scheffel, was awarded the Ritterkreuz (Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross) a day earlier for scoring five aerial victories and destroying 50 Soviet tanks during Operation Blau. [45]

As long as the brunt of air opposition in that front consisted of slow and outclassed Polikarpov I-153, I-15bis and I-16 fighters, and the tactics and training of the Soviet pilots were inferior to those of the German airmen, the Bf 110 could still more than hold its own in the skies of the East. But the mid to fall of 1942 meant the end of that era, and the losses began to mount very quickly. A couple of examples show the increasing toll taken by the Bf 110 in the hands of the Soviet airmen:

  • On 11 March 1942 the 6.(Z)/JG 5 lost three Bf 110 at the hands of Soviet P-40 Tomahawks of the 147 IAP (later 20 GIAP), in the Artic front. [46]
  • On 8 July 1942 the LaGG-3-equipped 131 IAP shot down four Bf 110E of ZG 1 over the Donbass, without losses on the Soviet side. [47]
  • The story repeated on 13 July 1942, when five Bf 110s of 5./ZG 1 were shot down in a single combat against the LaGG-3s of the same Soviet unit (131 IAP), which recorded the encounter on the 14th. [47] The Bf 110E-1 "SB+EN" flown by Oberfeldwebel Willi Dibowski and Unteroffizier Kurt Meyer was probably the sixth victim of Soviet ace Leytenant Dmitriy Pavlovich Nazarenko. Nazarenko would end the war with 18 individual victories and 7 shared ones, being awarded the title of Geroy Sovietskogo Soyuza (Hero of the Soviet Union). [48]
  • On 17 September 1942 the Bf 110Es of the 5./ZG 1 ran into four Yak-1s of 182 IAP/105 IAD, and two of them were immediately shot down by the Soviet airmen, together with one of the escorting Bf 109G of II./JG 52. One of crews went missing in action and the other was wounded. Later that day the Zerstorer unit lost one more aircraft when a Polikarpov I-16 flown by Leytenant Ivan Matveyev (738 IAP) rammed the Bf 110E of Unteroffiziers Gottfied Seifert and Alfred Brandt, killing both German airmen. [49]
  • The 1./ZG 1 lost two Zerstorers over Stalingrad on 19 September 1942 when LaGG-3 pilot Lev Binov, batalioniy komissar of the 291 IAP, shot down the Bf 110E-1 "S9+PH" of Unteroffizier Richard Söchtig and then rammed the aircraft "S9+AH" of Oberleutnant Theo Kehl, the unit's Staffelkapitan. Binov could bail out of his airplane, but both German crewmembers perished. [50]

At the beginning of Operation Blau, on 28 June 1942, the Luftflotte 4 had 86 operational Zerstorers, including fifteen Bf 110 which performed reconnaissance duties in three units – 3.(H)/31, 3.(H)/11 and 7.(H)/LG 2 the remaining 71 examples served on ZG1 and ZG 2. Only one month later, ZG 1 and ZG 2 had lost 31 Bf 110s (all to Soviet fighters), plus five more of the recce units to the same cause. As a result, ZG 2 was disbanded, and all its surviving aircraft were transferred to ZG 1. [51]

The number of Bf 110s on the Eastern Front declined further during and after 1942. Most units that operated the 110 did so for reconnaissance. Most machines were withdrawn to Nazi Germany for the Defense of the Reich operations.

Eventually withdrawn from daylight fighting, the Bf 110 enjoyed later success as a night fighter, where its range and firepower stood it in good stead for the remainder of the war. The airframe allowed for a dedicated radar operator, and the open nose had space for radar antennae, unlike the single-engine fighters. As the war wore on, the increased weight of armament and radar detection equipment (along with a third crew member) took an increasing toll of the aircraft's performance.

It was also used as a ground attack aircraft, starting with the C-4/B model, and as a day bomber interceptor, where its heavy firepower was particularly useful. Later on, there were dedicated ground attack versions which proved reasonably successful. The Bf 110 served the Luftwaffe extensively in various roles, though no longer in its intended role as a heavy fighter. Another role the Bf 110 took on was as a potent bomber-destroyer. The extreme power of the Bf 110's weaponry (when fitted with 20mm and 30mm cannon) could cripple or destroy any Allied bomber in seconds. Without encountering an Allied escort, it was capable of wreaking immense destruction. When encumbered with a total of four 21 cm (8 in) Werfer-Granate 21 (Wfr.Gr. 21) rocket tubes, with two of these under each outer wing panel, and additional armament, the 110 was vulnerable to Allied escort fighters, partly from the development of a major change in American fighter tactics at the end of 1943, rendering them increasingly vulnerable to developing American air supremacy over the Reich. In late 1943 and early 1944 Bf 110 formations were frequently devastated by the roving Allied fighters.

It was in the role as a night fighter, often armed with the surprisingly effective Schräge Musik upward-firing twin autocannon offensive armament installation, that the Bf 110 and its pilots achieved their greatest successes. Luftwaffe night fighter ace Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer was the highest scorer in the Defence of the Reich campaign and ended the war with 121 aerial victories, virtually all of them achieved while flying examples of the Bf 110. [52] Others, such as Helmut Lent, switched to the night fighter arm and built on their modest daylight scores. Other aircraft, such as the Junkers Ju 88 and the Dornier Do 217, also played a big role, but none more so than the Bf 110. [53]

In January 1943 the Eighth Air Force began taking their daylight operations into Germany. Beyond the range of fighter escort, Bomber Command discouraged the idea, but the Eighth believed their aircraft would be able to fight their way through to the target. The initial raid was against Wilhelmshaven. The first attack on 27 January was conducted with 60 B-17s, and was met by resistance from JG-1. The B-17s brushed the defenses aside and delivered their loads on Wilhelmshaven, while suffering the loss of 3 aircraft. [54] Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring insisted that all aircraft, including the night fighter force, would be put into the air to resist these attacks against Germany. The second raid 4 February was mounted against the marshaling yards at Hamm. [55] Poor weather was a problem, and the mission was diverted to the industrial area of Emden. JG 1 again responded, but this time they were joined by 8 Bf 110s of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1. Neither German fighter unit possessed the techniques of attack developed in northern France by JG 2 and JG 26, and had a difficult time engaging the bombers. Official Luftwaffe doctrine was to attack bombers from the rear and above. Against the heavily gunned B-17s, crews knew such attacks were suicidal. [56] Several attacks from the beam were made, and eventually a break in the formation opened a gap which Hans-Joachim Jabs and his wingman took advantage of. Getting into the formation both made head on attacks and were each credited with the destruction of a B-17. Overall 5 B-17s were lost on the mission, one due to a mid-air collision with a Fw 190, but of the 8 Bf 110 aircraft put up, all 8 suffered significant damage. [57]

This was my only day victory in a night fighter. We flew these missions at no greater than Schwarm strength, and were ourselves never escorted. It was wasteful to use highly trained night fighter crews in this role, and it was given up when the US escorts appeared. [58]

On 4 March 8 Air Force returned, this time losing three B-17s, with two Bf 110s being lost in the attacks. [59] On such missions USAAF bombers were afforded limited protection by American fighters, which did not yet have sufficient range to escort the bombers all the way to and from the target on deeper raids. This gave the Zerstörer force a window of opportunity to wreak damage on the bomber streams. However, the Bf 110s were called away to the Eastern and North African fronts "rapidly" and "often" to perform strike, reconnaissance and even dive-bombing missions, leading to inevitable losses. When these units returned to the Reich, they were depleted and required reforming, retraining and re-equipping. The wastage and woeful deployment of the type prevented any lasting success. [60]

In autumn 1943, the Zerstörergruppen were recalled from their Eastern or Mediterranean bases, and formed into RLV units. Along with the Me 410, it formed the newly rebuilt ZG 26, equipped with three gruppen (two Bf 110 and one Me 410), based near Hannover. I. and III./ZG 76 were based in Austria, and II./ZG 76 was based in France. [61] On 4 October 1943, the Bf 110 Geschwader intercepted B-17s of the 3rd Bomb Division. The targets around Frankfurt and the Saar region were hit. The Bf 110s flew alone against this formation and destroyed four B-17s, before having the misfortune of running into 56th Fighter Group P-47 Thunderbolts. The Bf 110s lost nine machines, with 11 killed and seven wounded. It is not clear if they managed to shoot down any of their attackers. [62]

The Bf 110 also supported the German defence during Big Week in February 1944, as Lt. Gen. Doolittle's tactical changes for the 8th Air Force's escort fighters (increasingly consisting of P-51 Mustangs) went into effect:

The experiences of Zerstörergeschwader "Horst Wessel", a Bf 110 squadron, indicates what happened to twin-engine fighters in the new combat environment. The unit worked up over January and February to operational ready status. At 12:13 pm on February 20, 13 Bf 110s scrambled after approaching formations. Six minutes later three more took off to join the first group. When they arrived at the designated contact point there was nothing left to meet. American fighters had jumped the 13 Bf 110s from the sun and shot down 11. Meanwhile two enemy fighters strafed the airfield and damaged nine more aircraft. [63]

On 22 February, six Bf 110s were lost for two kills against B-17s, while on 6 March, five Bf 110s were lost and one damaged out of nine machines committed. [63] By April 1944, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe had hoped to convert the Bf 110 Geschwader to the Me 410. However, after the Me 410 suffered equally high casualty rates, the conversion was delayed. The Bf 110 was considered to be obsolete and phased out of production accordingly. However, while crews found the Me 410 faster in "raw speed", they found it even less agile than the Bf 110 and very difficult to bail out of. The only other replacement type was the Dornier Do 335, which existed in the form of only a few airworthy prototypes at the time, still undergoing test flight programs. [64] On 2 April 1944, the Bf 110 achieved one of its final successful engagements. A force of 62 attacked a mixed bomber stream of B-17 and B-24s with R4M rockets, destroying five B-17s and three B-24s, as well as a single P-38 Lightning. Losses were eight Bf 110s. [65] On 9 April, ZG 76 committed 77 to an USAAF raid on Berlin. USAAF P-51 Mustangs had now appeared, and were able to escort the Allied bombers to and from the target. The Bf 110 force lost 23 of the 77 machines. It never flew another mission in this capacity. The losses had "marked the beginning of the end of the Bf 110 Zerstörer as a first-line weapon in the RLV". [66] The Zerstörer was only to fly as a day fighter against unescorted formations. This would be rare throughout the remainder of the war. [66]

The Bf 110 would be the backbone of the Nachtjagdgeschwader throughout the war. The first units undertook defence operations over Germany as early as the autumn of 1940. Opposition was light until 1942, when British heavy bombers started to appear.

One of the most notable actions of the Bf 110 occurred on the night of the 17/18 August 1943. Some Bf 110 units had been equipped with the experimental Schräge Musik system, an emplacement of two upward-firing cannon, which for its initial installations placed the twin-cannon fitment almost midway down the cockpit canopy behind the pilot, which could attack the blind spot of RAF Bomber Command's Lancaster and Halifax bombers, which lacked a ventral turret. Using this, NJG 5's Leutnant Peter Erhardt destroyed four bombers in 30 minutes. [67] Despite excellent visibility, none of the RAF bombers had reported anything unusual that would indicate a new weapon or tactics in the German night fighter force. This ignorance was compounded by the tracerless ammunition used by the Bf 110s, as well as firing on the British bombers blind spots. Many RAF crews witnessed a sudden explosion of a friendly aircraft, but assumed, in some cases, it was very accurate flak. Few of the German fighters were seen, let alone fired on. [68] Later on, as the specialist Bf 110G-4s were received by night fighter wings, the mid-cockpit mount was replaced by one at the extreme rear of the cabin.

In September 1943, Arthur Harris, convinced that a strategic bombing campaign against Germany's cities would force a German collapse, pressed for further mass attacks. While RAF Bomber Command destroyed Hannover's city centre and 86% of crews dropped their bombs within 5 km (3 mi) of the aiming point, losses were severe. The Ruhr Area was the prime target for British bombers in 1943, and German defences inflicted a considerable loss rate. The Bf 110 had a hand in the destruction of some 2,751 RAF bombers in 1943, along with German flak and other night fighters. [69] Later, the RAF developed a radar countermeasure Window, to blind German radar and introduced de Havilland Mosquitos to fly feints and divert the Bf 110s and other night fighter forces from their true target, which worked, initially. At this time, the Bf 110 remained the backbone of the night force, although it was now being reinforced by the Junkers Ju 88. [70] In October 1943, General Josef Kammhuber reported the climbing attrition rate as "unacceptable", and urged Hermann Göring to stop committing the German night fighters to daylight operations. Many Nachtjagdgeschwader had taken part in costly daylight battles of attrition. From June–August, it had increased from around 2% to 9.8%. However the fortunes for the mostly Bf 110 equipped force turned during late August/September 1943. The night fighter arm claimed the destruction of 123 out of some 1,179 bombers over Hamburg on one night a 7.2% loss rate. [71] During the Battle of Berlin, 1,128 bombers were lost in five months. RAF Bomber Command had "nearly burned out". [72] These losses were primarily a result of fighter defences, at the heart of which was the Bf 110. The German defences had won a victory which prevented deep penetration raids for a time. But Luftwaffe losses were high 15% of crews were killed in the first three months of 1944. [73]


Contents

The 446th Operations Group was activated at McChord AFB on 1 August 1992 under the United States Air Force Objective Wing organizational model. The operational squadrons of the 446th Airlift Wing were reassigned to the newly established group and an operational support squadron was activated along with the group. Since 1992, the group has flown channel, special assignment, and humanitarian airlift missions worldwide and taken part in joint and combined exercises, both within the United States and abroad. The group is an associate of the regular 62d Operations Group and the units fly the same aircraft, which carry the emblems of their parent wings. The group flew the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter until it was phased out in 2002, but began transitioning into the McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III in 1999. Γ]

The 446th Operations Group manages the aircrew and flight operations of the 446th Airlift Wing. The group is made up of four squadrons and two flights:

  • 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
  • 446th Operations Support Flight
  • 446th Airlift Control Flight.

ANATOMY OF A BOMBING MISSION

The 392nd BG had one purpose-to place bombs on the target. This article describes the process by which that happened. Much of the information on mission preparation comes from Roger Freeman's book, The Mighty Eighth War Manual. In it, he noted that "For every combatant in 8th Air Force there were 20 personnel in a supporting ground role."

At Eighth Air Force Headquarters

In the early days especially, the main factor affecting air operations was weather. Briefings were held three times daily at 8AF headquarters to give senior operations officers a forecast for prospective target areas and bomber bases in England. If the forecast was reasonable, the Operations staff selected suitable targets from a prioritized list.

Weather also affected the size of an operation. Clear skies might lead to a concentrated attack on one of the most important targets in the priority list. With cloudy conditions, the bombers might be split between several targets to increase their chances of success. If only part of enemy territory had a suitable weather forecast, target selection might focus on that area.

After weighing all options and up-to-date weather and operational data, the 8th's Chief of Operations made a decision about targets, the force required to destroy them, and a coordinated plan for the participating divisions. This information and supporting details became the formal Field Order (FO). However, to give participating units enough time to prepare aircraft and brief personnel, many operational directives reached units as an advance to the FO. Many FOs were cancelled before they evolved into a mission.

At 2nd Air Division Headquarters

After 2AD was notified of an impending mission, it alerted its Combat Wings who then informed their Groups. When 2AD got the target and ordnance requirements, specialists studied target indentifications, established Mean Points of Impact (MPI, the intended center for all dropped bombs), prescribed the type and quantity of bombs to be used, assessed the force of aircraft needed, plotted routes and times and specified altitudes. 2AD also coordinated appropriate support by 8AF Fighter Command.

These details were sent to Combat Wing headquarters as they became available. Combat Wings and Groups could start their mission preparations after learning only the intended target, the order of Combat Wings, the number of squadrons in each, and tentative routes and times.

At 14th Combat Wing Headquarters

The 14th CW directed the 44th, 392nd, and 492nd BGs. It dealt primarily with operational matters its major function was to create a coordinated plan for its Groups during all stages of a combat mission and to act as the controlling agency throughout. A flurry of annexes to the FO flowed back and forth along the chain of command, advising of changes and adding new information.

At the Bomb Groups

The individual Groups were told of an impending mission via a telephone call on the secret "scrambler" line in Group Operations' Message Center. The Watch Officer immediately had his duty clerk notify all affected base services that an alert message had been received. They included the CO, Air Executive, S-3 Group Operations Officer, S-2 Intelligence Section, Group Navigator and Bombardier, Weather Office, Flying Control, ordnance and armament sections, engineering office, signals and photographic units, mess hall, transportation (motor pool) and the Charge of Quarters (CQ, or duty sergeant) on each squadron living site.

The ripples from the alert order kept spreading. The duty officer informed the guard room, told the base telephone exchange to restrict calls and asked that Military Police be posted at the doors of Operations and the War Room (the main office of the Intelligence Section). CQs raised a red flag on the living sites, restricting personnel to the base. Squadron operations officers went to Group Ops to get advance FO information on how many a/c the group had to provide and bomb and fuel loads. Their first job was to update crew and aircraft status boards. Then, a list of available planes and crews was created and assignments made.

The initial alert gave the name of the target in code. In the War Room, the S-2 officer decoded the target and clerks pulled the appropriate folder. The S-2 officer plotted the MPI on target photos while S-2 clerks assembled maps, photos and all other target material needed to brief combat airmen. Ops personnel affixed a ribbon to the large map in the briefing room to show the route to and from the target and points of fighter escort.

The Group Navigator's office plotted courses, distances, and times for assembly. After weather data for temperature and wind speed expected on the route were obtained, air speed, ground speed and drift on each leg of the route were calculated and checked against Division figures.

The Group Bombardier's office assessed target conditions and used wind, a/c speeds, drift and heading data to compute bombsight settings for the attack altitude. A schedule was established so the Group would be ready on time. Working backward, planners needed to allow at least an hour from the first take off for formation assembly (longer if the weather was poor) 10-15 minutes for marshalling and taxiing 10-15 minutes for starting engines 10 minutes for crews to board a/c an hour before engine start for crews to inspect their a/c an hour for main briefings an hour for breakfast and 30 minutes for crews to be awakened. Reveille for combat crews was therefore about five hours before take off time.

Bombs

Ordnance was informed as soon as the required bomb load was learned and the process of moving the bombs onto trailers at the bomb dump, transporting them to the hardstands, and loading them into the planes began. Other personnel brought belts of .50 caliber ammunition to the planes. The wooden boxes were placed throughout the ship for the gunners to set up when they arrived. The machine guns, removed from the planes after every mission for cleaning, were also brought back.

576th Sqdn armorer Tom Perry says, “At the far left of this photo is the bomb service truck’s I-beam, which had the rolling hand crank hoist for loading and unloading the heavier bombs. Using the winch took too much time, so we usually loaded the bombs by hand. The man at the back of the trailer is attaching the tail fin, which is secured by a ring collar screwed onto the threads on the bomb itself. The four men by the waist window are using grappling hooks on two rods to lift the bomb onto the dolly, a three-wheeled cart. Then, the bomb shackle is attached and the dolly moved under the bomb bay. We hoisted it up and hooked the shackle to the bomb rack. The last step was to attach the nose and tail fuzes. Usually a team worked on each side of the same bomb bay. There was a beehive of activity at the planes before the crews arrived!”

578th Sqdn personnel at work. At left, Cpls Gaetano (Guy) Spinelli and Ken O’Boyle prepare to hoist fragmentation bombs into a bomb bay for D-Day.

This display shows the variety and sizes of bombs dropped by the 392nd BG (and therefore unloaded, inspected, stacked and stored by the 1825th Ordnance Co.)

Men at work in the bomb dump on 2 Jan 1944.

The Field Order gave the number of ships each Group was to provide, the type and number of bombs per plane and the settings for the nose and tail fuses.

The Army Air Corps and the Navy used the same bombs but attached them to their planes differently. As a result, each bomb had three lugs: one near the front and tail for use in AAC planes and one in the center on the other side for use in Navy planes. (576th armorer Tom Perry said the Navy's lug "always got in the way" when loading bombs.) A metal clip called a shackle was clamped onto the two lugs the shackle was then hooked onto the bomb rack.

When the bomb was released, the shackle disengaged simultaneously from both ends of the bomb. A bomb was "hung up" when one end did not completely separate from the shackle. An airman then had to step out on the narrow catwalk in the bomb bay (without a parachute, as he wouldn't fit if he wore one), often at bombing altitude, and kick the bomb loose.

8AF bombs ranged from 6 to 4,000 pounds and were of five types: General Purpose (High Explosive), Incendiary, Armor Piercing, Semi-Armor Piercing and Fragmentation. Different types and weights of bombs were often carried in the same B-24. For example, on 29 Apr 1944 the 392nd's planes were each loaded with five 1,000-pound GP bombs and three 100-pound Incendiaries.

The bombs had a fuze in both the nose and tail as a precaution, these were inserted at the last minute. A cotter pin kept the firing pin locked in place, preventing detonation. This cotter pin was pulled out by an airman when the plane was on its way to the target.

Each fuze also had an internal wind-driven vane which had to rotate between 18 and 690 times (depending on the type of fuze) before the fuze was fully activated. As each bomb was loaded in the plane, a wire was attached to each fuze vane and then connected to the bomb rack. This arming wire kept the vane from spinning while the a/c flew to the target. As the bomb dropped, the arming wires pulled out, enabling the vanes to spin freely and completing the arming process.

Bullets

Station Ammunition Officer Charles Dye recalls, "When we first started operations in September 1943 the ammunition came to us in boxes already linked into belts. Later, as more Bomb Groups arrived and more ships flew, the ammunition came loose in wooden boxes as did the metal links. They had to be linked by hand with a machine that could link 10 rounds at a time. This was a time-consuming job. Later, we received an electric linking machine but still had to feed it by hand. Following the linking, the belt had to be checked for proper spacing to ensure that the gun wouldn't jam.

Loading 42-7466, Ford's Folly, with bombs and bullets for a mission on D-Day.

"Men in the ammunition section spent eight to twelve hours a day linking bullets. After the belts were inspected, they were turned over to squadron ordnance, which kept a large supply of belted ammo at their huts. 1825th personnel replenished the supply of belted ammo as necessary."

"Initially, the ammunition was linked 5-1, that is, 5 armor piercing and 1 tracer. Later when the incendiary round became available we linked them 2-2-1, meaning 2 armor piercing, 2 incendiary and 1 tracer.

"Many gunners 'smuggled' extra bullets onboard. There were a few instances when the a/c commander had to actually restrict this practice due to overload of the aircraft."

1825th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Co.

1825th CO Jack Teufel says his main responsibility was the bomb dump at Honeypot Wood. Convoys carrying bombs showed up at all hours of the day and night. After unloading the trucks, 1825th personnel inspected each bomb for damage in shipment and then stacked them in rows, by type and size. It was a daunting task. For example, the 1825th history says that during July 1944 alone, 1,367 tons of bombs were unloaded from convoys while 840 tons were loaded for bombing missions.

Each squadron had its own revetment at the bomb dump with different-sized bombs in their own bays. The larger bombs (2,000 pounds and up) were stored by the side of the road for easy access by cranes.

Charles Dye, Station Ammunition Officer, says the 1825th had fuze personnel who inspected and maintained nose and tail fuzes for each type and size bomb. They set the fuses as required in the Field Order and delivered them and arming wires to the ordnance office just outside the bomb dump.

Squadron Armorers

S.J. "Sandy" Elden was an armorer in the 577th Sqdn. He recalls, "There were 30 of us who shared the responsibility of delivering the bombs out to the aircraft. We had four bomb service trucks, each with a crane at the back. That was used to load the bombs on to trailers. Two trailers could be attached to each truck if required.

"Virtually all the missions were called late at night. When we received word of a mission coming up, we all headed to our squadron headquarters to pick up our equipment. We then drove to the Bomb Dump, loaded up the type of bombs assigned to the mission and we then delivered them to the planes. At each plane site, the bombs were individually placed in cradles. Fuzes were then screwed into the nose and tail of each bomb and the fins attached they were then left to be loaded into the aircraft. We returned to the bomb dump and repeated the process until all our planes had their bombs. The process took several hours.

"When a mission was cancelled, our crews were called out, more often than not in the middle of the night, to return the bombs to the dump. Generally this happened before the bombs had been loaded into the planes.

"In the months leading up to D-Day, the frequency of missions significantly increased and our crews worked relentlessly. There was much loss of sleep. But all in all, on a comparative basis, our work was easy compared to our air crews and we always kept this in mind."

Guy Spinelli remembers that his team loaded the bombs using muscle power. "One man would hoist the front of the bomb, one would hoist the back end, and a third would squat so the middle of the bomb rested on his back. Then we would lift up together. None of us ever complained of back problems, either."

Roland Brown says his section had about 15-18 armorers and they all worked to load bombs. It was not a fast operation. But, they always got the job done and usually with time to spare. He also recalled that they used a winch to load the heaviest bombs-2,000 pounds and up. He eventually was trained and became a Power Turret Specialist. He ensured that the two .50 caliber machine guns and the hydraulic controls in his turrets were working correctly. That job was not nearly as exhausting.

Ground Crews

Aircraft maintenance personnel were awakened about three hours before take off (although crew chief Ernie Barber, who slept in a line shack near his hardstand, once noted that the noise of the ordnance trucks woke them up even earlier.) The crew chief and assistant crew chief preflighted their plane. They began by manually turning each propeller to remove fuel in the cylinders and circulate the oil. Then the crew chief climbed into the cockpit and began engine priming procedures. After starting the putt-putt (a portable generator) to boost battery power, the assistant, with fire extinguisher at hand, positioned himself near the engine to be started where he could also see hand signs from the cockpit. The first engine cranked up was always the one that drove the plane's electrical generators.

Each engine was started, then run up and held at maximum revolutions to check oil pressure, turbo-supercharger and magneto performance. Prop feathering mechanisms were tested as well as all electrical and hydraulic functions that could be checked on the ground. When all seemed in order, the crew chief cut the engines off.

Fueling the aircraft with 2,750 gallons.

Ernie said each plane was generally refueled to about 2,750 gallons when it returned from a mission, nearly one fourth of the gross weight at take off. More could be added via two auxiliary fuel tanks, each holding 400 gallons. An oxygen truck ensured that all tanks and walk-around oxygen bottles were full.

According to photo lab technician Harvey DeVoe, two to three lab personnel installed a camera in the floor hatch (between the waist area and the tail) of designated B-24s. They then attached trip wires to a bomb or bomb shackle. When activated, the camera took photos automatically at pre-set intervals until it ran out of film. The developed photos were used to analyze bomb strikes at the target and thus, mission effectiveness. An electric blanket covered the film section and camera mechanism to keep the camera from freezing up at altitude.

Air Crews

Lead crews were awakened first so they could attend pre-briefings. As they were briefed, CQs woke up the rest of the men. Officers and enlisted personnel were billeted separately but all were grouped by crew, so the CQ had only to call out a pilot's name to awaken the right men. They dressed, washed and shaved (to ensure a tight fit for their oxygen masks), and then went to breakfast, the cooks having been awakened even earlier.

Chaplains

Bert Prost was a gunner on the Wittel and Paroly crews in the 576th. He remembers, "Capt Paul A. McDonough (from Massachusetts) was our Group Catholic chaplain and a very good and dedicated man. On mission days we'd be awakened early, typically about 2:30 or 3:00am. We would proceed to the combat mess for a hearty breakfast. There at the rear of the Mess Hall were the Catholic and Protestant chaplains. Father Mac would give me Holy Communion and Conditional Absolution. The Protestant chaplain, Capt Donald B. Clark, could only shake hands and pray."

Briefings

The main briefing was attended by everyone in the selected crews. The "highlight" was when the mission map was revealed. 577th copilot Les Hadley recalls, "It was a real map the route in and out was shown by colored tape pinned on the map. It was covered with a cloth that was drawn aside as the mission briefing commenced. The covering was withdrawn from west to east, so first we saw where our base was. Let me tell you, I and everyone held their breath as the curtain was withdrawn to the right, showing the continent and our route and the target area. As we flew more missions, we got to know where we would encounter the most flak enroute so we really looked at the map. Wish I had the ability to express our feelings at briefings. the Hollywood movies never came close."

392nd crews being briefed for the first mission on D-Day. Front row, left to right: unknown, navigator Capt Leonard F. Untiedt, and navigator Capt Walter F. Joachim. Second row, left to right, pilot 1/Lt William Meighen, copilot 1/Lt John J. Mason, unknown. Behind Mason is navigator 2/Lt Thomas Kirkwood. Manning the projector is S/Sgt Harold Buirkle.

This is the map shown at the crew briefing on 28 Jan 1945. It shows where P-51 fighter escort was expected, the I.P. (Initial Point, at which the 392nd would turn toward Dortmund), targets for the 96th, 2nd and 20th CWs, and locations of the 1st and 3rd US Infantry Divisions.

Crews were told the location and importance of the primary and any secondary targets, camouflage in use, the route, check points, mission procedures, enemy defenses (both flak and fighters), and forecasted weather conditions. Emergency landing spots and POW and escape procedures were covered. As the war progressed, the current location of Allied and enemy troops on the ground was also given. The briefing ended with a "time hack" to synchronize watches.

"Time hack" before the 392nd's 100th mission, the first of three on D-Day. At left with pistol is CO Col Irvine A. Rendle, in center is Group Bombardier Capt Harold Weiland.

Navigators and bombardiers then went to additional briefings. According to 579th lead navigator Manny Abrams, "There we did our map planning, circling flak installations along our route, and developing a flight plan in advance." Gunners had their own briefing, too. It covered the target and route type of friendly fighter support with time and place to expect it type of enemy fighters anticipated and where, as well as probable attack tactics the formation setup when to disperse chaff to confuse enemy flak radars and how much and escape and evasion information.

Radio operators got specific signal details such as the day's wireless codes, radio call signs and frequencies.

Left: Before the advent of the electrically heated flying suit, airmen used sheep skinlined clothes to combat the cold. Here, 579th radio operator T/Sgt William Sullivan on 1/Lt Gordon Hammond’s crew demonstrates his battle attire. A seattype parachute is attached to his harness.

Right: S/Sgt Jon Bross, on left, is putting an electrically heated flying suit over the heated boot inserts. The flying boots are in the foreground parachute harnesses are in the background. At right, S/Sgt Perry Onstot is wearing the complete outfit.

Flying Equipment

As each briefing ended, the men went to the personal equipment room and collected their flying equipment. (Flak aprons and helmets were delivered to the hardstands). Escape kits with foreign money, maps, matches, chocolate, and other items useful in evasion were distributed.

Manny notes, "WWII was before the present day of pressurized or heated cabins. The air inside the plane was the same temperature as that outside. This required human adaptation to a harsh environment-frequently down to -40o C or lower. So, heavy underwear, heavy socks, regular uniform shirt and pants, heavy electric jacket and electric pants (a sturdy suit with copper heating wire running throughout), electric gloves, heavy shoes that fit inside sheepskin boots, a wool scarf and, of course, a parachute. As I recall, we would often have a chest pack 'chute as a back-up. "When aloft, add an oxygen mask, a flying helmet, goggles, and a flak jacket when needed. Finally (!) a steel GI helmet fitted on top of the flying helmet.

"I never weighed all of these articles of clothing, but I would estimate the total to be at least 40 pounds before flak helmet and jacket-round it all off at 75+ pounds. Standing for eight hours, the navigator could not think of feeling tired. At any moment, his information might become vital."

Transportation

When properly equipped, the airmen were taken to their planes.

Jim Goar was originally the 578th Sqdn Supply Officer. He says, "One of the early missions almost didn't get off the ground because the trucks weren't there to take crews to their aircraft. I was appointed Group Transportation Officer and I fully understood that I was to make sure it didn't happen again. I assigned a truck to two crews of the same squadron, and that truck was to be at the disposal of those two crews both for launch and recovery. Sometimes it took several trips to get everyone from Operations to the hardstands."

Jim also recalls that for safety reasons, Group Flight Surgeon Maj Robert M. Holland prohibited anyone from riding on truck tailgates. "I sometimes had to tell men going into combat that they couldn't sit on the tailgate because it was too dangerous."

At the Planes

Generally, waist gunners installed their guns and ground crew personnel installed turret guns. The pilot(s) and crew chiefs walked around the plane for a final visual inspection.

Parachute harnesses and Mae Wests were checked, chute packs and flak jackets placed at crew positions. Finally, the crew took their positions for take-off: navigator, bombardier and nose gunner usually on the flight deck engineer between the pilots radio operator at his desk and the other gunners in the waist area.

With 42-95151, Monotonous Maggie in front, B-24s on the taxiway wait for the go order. CO Col Lawrence Gilbert noted that when a mission was cancelled, the entire procession moved around the taxiway with pilots pulling off to their hardstands as they came to them. For some crews, this meant a slow trip around the entire airfield.

Taxi Time

The pilots started engines again. By this time, the Group Operations Officer was at the control tower. He would supervise the take off and handle any problems.

Flying Control fired a green flare as the sign to start taxiing. Each pilot knew his assigned place in the queue the general order was lead, then high and low squadrons in the formation. In turn, each pilot signaled the ground crew to pull away the wheel chocks and then moved his ship onto the taxiway. Eventually, the Group and section lead planes stopped at the head of the runway, with a bomber's length between each plane lined up behind them. Depending on the number of planes, the entire taxiway could be filled. The noise of over 100 open-exhaust engines running and the frequent squeal of brakes was deafening. Each bomber used about 60 gallons of fuel during this period.

Men at the Flying Control trailer watch #42-50323, Heaven Can Wait, approach.

Launch

A green light, flashed from the checkered Flying Control trailer, was the go-ahead for take off. The lead pilot immediately released his brakes and headed down the runway while the copilot set all throttles for maximum power and the engineer monitored instruments. A fully-loaded B-24 needed about 3,000 feet to become airborne but common practice was to use the entire runway so as to gain maximum airspeed. (At Wendling, one runway was 6,000 feet long and two were 4,200 feet long.)

As one plane moved down the runway, the next a/c got into position the engines were revved to full power with brakes applied. As the first plane lifted off, the control van signaled the second plane to move. Once in the air, each B-24 kept straight for about two minutes then headed to the Group assembly area, climbing at a predetermined rate.

To assemble with the correct Group, crews looked for their own Group assembly ship (a war-weary a/c painted in unmistakable colors) or for a plane shooting a specific color combination of flares.

Once fully assembled, the formation headed toward that day's target. Ground support personnel rested, for they would have work to do when the planes returned.

Getting Ready

576th Sqdn pilot William T. Kamenitsa wrote, “We called the cockpit The Front Office. Now, there are not many flight instruments in the cockpit—only the airspeed indicator, needle and ball, altimeter, and climb indicator. The rest are engine instruments. Before takeoff the copilot, pilot, and engineer coordinate everything. The pilot set all the throttles and fuel mixtures the same the copilot checked the magnetos and energized the startup motor. This was a heavy duty thing that would rev up to high speed and then engage the engine. It would turn the props over like a starter on your car and it made that special high pitched whining sound as the engine engaged. It was the sound of World War Two for many of us.

“You’d taxi out for takeoff and you were ready to go to work.”

Assembly

After takeoff, a pilot usually kept on a straight course for about two minutes, in part because the B-24 was not very maneuverable until it had gained speed and altitude. The pilot then climbed at a predetermined rate (about 300 feet per minute at 150 mph Indicated Air Speed) to the assembly area assigned to the 392nd. A ship, usually #41-23689, Minerva, orbited a radio beacon at the prescribed altitude and fired designated colored flares to signal 392nd BG a/c. The specified assembly altitude was based on cloud conditions. Clear skies meant assembly could be at 5,000 to 10,000 feet. Often, though, pilots had to climb to 20,000 feet or higher to get above the clouds, relying on instruments to maintain headings, speeds and timed legs.

The 392nd’s assembly ship, #41-23689, Minerva

After finding the Group’s formation, 392nd pilots took their positions in the lead, high and low squadrons. Her job done, Minerva returned to Station 118 while the Group headed to the Wing assembly area.

Sometimes, a pilot was unable to locate his own Group. He then had to choose between two less than-ideal options: aborting or joining another Group on its way to an unknown target.

“Prior to D-Day,” 579th navigator R.W. “Red” Sprowls says, “we formed at higher altitudes in England in order to reach the European coastline near our target altitudes. This, of course, made us less vulnerable to 88s and 105 antiaircraft fire. After the invasion we formed at lower altitudes in England and generally had more time to climb to a bombing altitude while flying over occupied European territory.”

Hundreds of planes from bases all over England went through the assembly process almost simultaneously. Depending on the briefed altitude, weather conditions, and number of planes involved, assembly could take between 30 and 90 minutes. And, on every mission, there were pilots going through the process for just the first (or second, or third) time. To further compound the difficulty, 8AF planes often were forming up as RAF a/c were coming back from their night bombing missions.

Danger in English Skies During Asembly

Many airmen thought that assembly in English skies was almost the most dangerous part of a mission. After all, hundreds of planes fully loaded with bombs and fuel were being launched at the same time, in limited airspace, often in total darkness, with complete radio silence and no radar guidance from the ground. Statistics bear this out: 89 men who were or had been Crusaders were killed in action while forming up.

576th radio operator George Michel recalls that on one mission, “The gunners in the plane ahead of mine on the taxiway must have pulled the cotter pins from their bombs as it was easier to do on the ground than to squeeze back there with a walk-around bottle of oxygen and no parachute. Anyway, they crashed right after takeoff and the bombs exploded. My plane flew through the explosions. It was the worst flak I ever experienced.”

On 29 Jan 1944, 577th pilot 1/Lt William F. Usry collided at 14,000 feet with a plane from the 482nd BG flown by 1/Lt James N. Taylor. Aboard the 482nd BG a/c was Command Pilot Maj Clyde T. Gray, 576th Sqdn CO. Taylor and nine men in his crew had flown several missions with the 577th Sqdn before their transfer to the 482nd to be a Pathfinder crew. Everyone on Usry’s plane was killed, as were Gray and seven others in his ship (including six former Crusaders).

On 6 Mar 1944, 1/Lt Paul F. Shea, 579th, took off when fog limited visibility to 100 yards. His plane crashed and exploded about 2,000 yards from the end of the runway. The entire bomb load exploded and the a/c was completely burned. All 10 crew members were killed.

Assembly on 9 Apr 1944 was done under instrument conditions through a thick overcast. At about 7,000 feet, 578th pilot 2/Lt Hubert F. Morefield collided with a 389th BG plane. Eight men from the 392nd and nine from the 389th were killed.

Icing is the likely reason the left wing on 577th 2/Lt Louis F. Bass’s plane broke off during assembly on 21 Apr 1944. The plane crashed at North Tuddenham with eight men killed. The entire 8AF formation was eventually recalled, but not before two other B-24s also crashed in England. Maj Clinton P. Schoolmaster was the 577th Sqdn CO before being moved up to 14th Combat Wing Headquarters. On 25 May 1944, he was piloting a P-47 Thunderbolt and monitoring the form-up of the Wing's three Groups. When he didn't return, it was presumed he crashed at sea.

1/Lt Owen H. Filkel's crew (576th) was the first a/c to take off for Brunswick on 5 Aug 1944. Haze limited visibility to just 600 yards. The plane cleared the runway but crashed at 0925 hours near Sparrow Green, Gressenhall, killing the ten men aboard. The next plane in line took off 30 seconds later, flying directly through the smoke and flames.

A week later, 2/Lt John D. Ellis's plane (577th) was nearing London on its way to bomb an airfield east of Paris. Heavy overcast skies had already caused six 392nd planes to abort and put the sortie 30 minutes behind schedule. Contrails from Groups ahead merged into dense clouds. Ellis ran into "prop wash"-horizontal tornado-like turbulence caused by the clockwise rotation of hundreds of propellers-and flipped upside down. The a/c spun violently all the way down the ten men were killed on impact near Cheshunt, Hertfordshire.

Capt James B. Stauder flew missions in the 578th from September 1943 to September 1944. In November 1944 he was sent on detached duty to the 2AD's Scouting Force, co-located with the 355th Fighter Group at Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire. According to http://www.littlefriends. co.uk/gallery.php?Group=sf, the Scouting Force, flying P-51s, was tasked with "helping the Squadrons, Groups, Wings and Divisions to form up over England, leading the bomber stream through bad weather, appraising the mission commander of weather at the primary, secondary, & tertiary targets, helping tighten bomber formations, and defending the bomber stream against enemy fighters." While performing these duties during the mission to Bingen on 25 Nov 1944, Capt Stauder was lost at sea.

On 25 Mar 1945, the 392nd had just finished Group assembly and was moving to the Wing assembly area. After entering clouds at about 12,500 feet, 578th pilot 2/Lt Phillip W. Kaiser and 576th pilot 1/Lt Clifford O. Markuson collided. Sixteen men were killed.

The 14 Apr 1945 target was a gun emplacement north of Bordeaux, France. 2/Lt Charles W. Warner, 578th, had just cleared the runway when his two left engines lost power. The fully-loaded B-24 crashed at 0445 hours. The remaining planes took off over the burning wreckage. Seven crewmen were killed immediately the eighth, nose gunner S/Sgt Donald A. Kight, died in a hospital on 29 May 1945. He was the last 392nd casualty of the war.

Ball Turret Gunners: An Elite Group

Ball turrets occupy a special place in aviation history. The B-24 and B-17 bombers are the only aircraft to have ball turrets. In the 392nd, their time in combat was limited to September 1943 through summer 1944.

Due to its low ground clearance, a B-24's ball turret (BT) was housed in the fuselage just aft of the waist guns during take off and landing. Once lowered into position below the plane, the ball turret could move in a complete circle horizontally and rotate 90 degrees downward. Its gunner fired on enemy a/c coming from any direction below.

As the plane flew toward enemy territory, the BT gunner used a hand crank to point the guns straight down, thereby making the hatch door accessible. Unfastening the hatch, the airman lowered the turret using a hydraulic valve. After disconnecting his oxygen hose, interphone and electrically heated flying suit, the gunner stepped down into the turret. He sat on a metal shelf the door served as his back rest. There may have been a clip-on safety strap but certainly no elaborate mechanism to keep the gunner from falling if his turret were damaged.

Once inside, the gunner refastened his cords, latched the door and turned on the hydraulic and electric drive motors. After charging the two .50-caliber machine guns by pulling handles located at his feet, he was ready for action. Until the ship was out of enemy range on the return trip, he'd be on his back, feet straddling the 18-inch viewing plate and knees bent in a fetal position. To fire below the plane, he had to rotate the turret until he was positioned nearly upright. Thumb buttons fired the guns and moved the turret. The intercom talk switch was under his right toe beneath his left heel was the spring-loaded range pedal for the Sperry computing gunsight.

The guns and ammo cans left little space for the airman and no room at all for his parachute. The cans held 1,150 bullets total, enough for 90 seconds of constant firing. (That would burn out the gun barrels, though, so gunners fired only in very short bursts no matter how intense the combat.)

The gunsight was mounted in front of the gunner's face. A mechanical analog computer, it was sophisticated for its time. The gunner tracked an attacking a/c in azimuth and elevation and raised the range pedal as the enemy fighter closed in. The gunsight advised when the target was at a firing range of 1,000 yards. The sight automatically led the target and compensated for bullet drop over distance.

A 2AD memo to 8AF dated 21 May 1944 recommended removing ball turrets from its B-24s. "Operational experience" suggested that "the benefit derived from the Sperry ball turret may not be commensurate with the weight and parasite drag involved in this installation."

As proof, 2AD gave statistics showing that ball turrets accounted for only 5.1 percent of 1,022 gunner encounters with enemy a/c between November 1943 and April 1944. The tail turret was highest, at 30.5 percent, followed by top turret (17.2 percent), nose turret (16 percent), and waist guns (15.6 percent each). Additionally, the ball turret position had the smallest number of claims approved as destroyed (3 percent), probably destroyed (4.4 percent), or damaged (4.4 percent).

2AD said the small number of claims by BT gunners did not justify the extra gas consumption caused by the 1,500 pound turret. 2AD also reported that of its 14 Group commanders, five wanted to remove all ball turrets, two wanted to remove them from some planes, and seven did not want to remove them yet but might want to do so at a later date.

2AD suggested the ball turrets be stored at each Group in case they were needed in the future. 8AF gave its approval, but the date is not known. Bert Prost, 576th waist gunner, flew his last mission on 29 Jun 1944. He is positive the 392nd's ball turrets were still in use then.

465th Sub Depot Sheet metal workers in the 465th worked long hours to make covers to patch the holes and then to build wooden crates for storage and eventual shipment to the US. 576/9th pilot Don Scharf says, "The hole in the bottom of the plane was covered over with the regular aluminum skin and the hole in the waist section by corrugated aluminum flooring to match the flooring where the waist gunners stood."

The 465th history for August 1944 reports, "The tough problem of securing the lumber held up the packing and crating for some time but this month finds close teamwork between the boys in Sub Depot Supply and the Engineering Carpenter Shop. There are still a few more of these turrets to be packed but there is no particular hurry as the turrets have to be held here until the ship to which the turret is assigned either goes down in action, becomes salvageable or war weary, or is transferred to another station. The packing and crating of the turrets is not an easy job due to their shape and weight. Much credit is due both departments for this splendid and efficient teamwork, the same kind of teamwork that the paper headlines proclaim is being used by the Allied Armies in making a rat race out of the German forces in France.”

The Life magazine 29 Jan 1944 drawing shows a ball turret gunner in combat position.

S/Sgt Zigmund T. Kaminski, 465th Sub Depot Supply Te c h n i c i a n , stands behind an upside down ball turret. The.50 caliber guns fit into the holes on either side of the observation window, whose Plexiglas was about two inches thick. The photo shows why the man in the ball turret was often the smallest gunner on his crew.

Although the ball turret seems the most dangerous crew position, statistics show it was the safest. The Office of the Chief Surgeon, European Theater, analyzed 8AF battle casualties between June and August 1944. Of 1,117 casualties due to missiles, 20.9 percent were waist gunners, 17.6 percent were bombardiers, and 12.5 percent were tail gunners. Only 5.9 percent were ball turret gunners.

What happened to the 392nd’s BT gunners after their turrets were removed? In many cases, the man was taken off his own crew to become a permanent substitute, filling in on any crew that needed a gunner due to injury or illness. Other crews apparently rotated their four gunners through the three guns in the waist and tail. Still others used the BT gunner in the nose turret where previously the bombardier had manned the guns. Eventually, crews ordered to the 392nd did not include a ball turret gunner.

Of 963 casualties from flak, 21.6 percent were waist gunners, 15.8 percent were bombardiers, 13.2 percent were navigators, and 12.6 were tail gunners. Only 5.5 percent of flak casualties were ball turret gunners.

These statistics are somewhat skewed because each plane carried two waist gunners. Also, by the time of this analysis, the ball turrets had been removed from some or most B-24s so BT statistics were mainly for B-17s.

Groups -> Wings -> Divisions

After each Group assembled, they formed into Wings and then Divisions. It was critical that each Group and Wing get to their assembly points at the specified time and altitude in order to take their designated position in the bomber stream. To help, assembly routes included dog legs, or L-shaped course changes. If a Group or Wing was behind schedule, it could cut across the dog leg to make up time. If it was early, the planes flew in circles or in an ¡§S¡¨ pattern to kill time. As the formation grew, it became more cumbersome to maneuver and harder for late planes or Groups to merge in.

Once the planes were aloft, airmen moved to their assigned positions. In some crews, it was routine practice for the tail gunner to be in his turret throughout taxi, takeoff and assembly so he could watch for planes coming too close. The ball turret gunner did not usually enter his turret until the plane neared the reach of enemy fighters.

The 576th Sqdn during the 22 Mar 1945 mission to the jet airfield east of Schwabisch Hall. Clockwise from upper right: 41-29476, Gashouse Gus, with pilot 1/Lt Frederick T. DePalma 42-51340, with pilot 2/Lt William Raczko 41-28991, Gravel Gripper, with pilot 2/Lt Donald E. Ault, and 42-95299, with pilot 2/Lt Herchel E. Proctor.

In Flight

As the plane climbed, the temperature dropped. There was no central heating or air conditioning the temperature inside the plane was about the same as the temperature outside. Waist gunners stood in front of open windows for hours on end. Wally Blackburn, 579/6, served as both a waist and tail gunner. He says it was colder in the tail than in the waist but it was coldest of all in the nose, where the crewmen suffered not only from the cold temperature but also from the wind roaring through the gap between the turret and fuselage. Electrically heated flying suits were therefore plugged in and rheostats adjusted to the desired warmth. When they worked, the suits were wonderful. There were many problems, though, especially for waist gunners. 576th gunner Bud Guillot on the Kamenitsa crew says, "Waist gunners were always kneeling and then standing up again, depending on where enemy fighters were and how they had to position their gun. As a result, the wires behind their knees would short out sometimes they would burn the skin or catch fire." The suits didn't always heat evenly, with feet too cold and hands too hot, for example.

Radio operator Gerald Gersten, 577th, recalls a mission to the oil refineries at Harberg, Germany. Pilot 1/Lt Dale W. Enyart directed Gersten to open the bomb bay doors manually. He sprang into action so fast that his oxygen mask and interphone headset came off and the cord to his electrically heated flying suit detached. Engineer T/Sgt Charles E. Aycock came to the rescue and reconnected all his cords. However, Gersten had been unplugged long enough that he lost all the toenails on both feet.

The B-24 was not pressurized. 578/9th Sqdn radio operator Bert Hinckley recalled that for breakfast on the morning of a mission, "we had fresh eggs and any other breakfast foods that would not generate abdominal gas. Non-pressurized flying meant that gas would expand to triple volume, at altitude." Airmen were cautioned not to chew gum before or during high altitude flights as too much air was swallowed in the process which could lead to potential problems.

"The only protection the plane offered was the 1/8th inch aluminum skin," he said. "The only armor-plating was steel around the back and sides of the pilot and copilot. Everyone else had to depend on the flak vests and helmets."

Pilots sat on their parachutes all other airmen generally used chest-type parachutes. Most turret gunners couldn't fit in their turrets if they wore a chute men who could wear a parachute usually didn't as they were bulky and the added weight was exhausting. Therefore, airmen often left their parachute packs on the floor near their position with the hope that they could find them and have time to hook on a chute if necessary.

This photo, looking toward the front of the plane, shows 579th ball turret gunner S/Sgt Richard Hoffman during a combat mission. Before takeoff, waist gunner Sgt Charles D. Martin was given a camera and told to get some combat photos. After Hoffman’s turret was damaged by an ME-109, he went up to the waist area. Hoffman saw more ME-109s coming in with machine guns firing. He grabbed Martin’s waist gun and was shooting back when Martin took this photo. Hoffman is wearing complete combat gear, including a flak vest (7.5 pounds) and flak helmet. The thick hose connects his oxygen mask to the onboard system (the oxygen came from the large tanks overhead). Two parachute packs are at his right foot. Parachute packs were bulky and cumbersome so about half the men who could wear chutes didn’t instead, they placed them near their stations to grab in an emergency, as Hoffman did. The thin cords connect him to the interphone (the on-board communication system) and an outlet for his electrically heated flying suit. The boxes in the background are probably filled with chaff. The machine gun belts for the waist gunners are visible on both sides of the photo. Even with their thick gloves, a gunner could hook on another belt in less than two seconds. The lens used to take this photo distorts the dimensions it is not quite this crowded in the waist section!

Oxygen

All crewmen were required to go on oxygen as the plane gained altitude. 579th navigator Red Sprowls recalls, "We generally were instructed to use oxygen around 8,000 feet. If it was a long mission we might delay using oxygen at this altitude in order to conserve the supply. Oxygen was also used to overcome the effects of too much celebrating the night before and it was not uncommon to don the oxygen mask even prior to takeoff."

A designated man made an "oxygen check" every 15 minutes. 578th tail gunner Joe McNiel says every person in his crew had a number, which they repeated during the check. If a man didn't answer, someone would go to his position to ensure he was ok.

Faulty oxygen equipment or a disconnected hose could cause death in minutes. For example, on the 2 Nov 1944 mission to the oil refinery at Castrop-Rauxel, 576th tail gunner S/Sgt Jack V. Negus was found unconscious, leaning out of his turret. He died soon after. Official reports say he suffered a heart attack, but navigator 1/Lt James McCutcheon's log noted that he died of anoxia, or lack of oxygen in the blood. 576th tail gunner John Rosenberg says his "first mission could have been his last if it weren't for the oxygen check." On 4 Dec 1944, he was having trouble with his turret guns. As he tried to fix the problem, he dislodged his oxygen connection.

When he didn't respond to the next check, waist gunner S/Sgt Robert W. Brennan came back and revived him. "It was like being suddenly awakened from a very deep sleep," Rosenberg says. "I was startled, so I punched him!"

If the mask didn't seal tightly, ice crystals formed on the face as the airman's breath froze. Blackburn says after flying four missions in four days, his face was extremely chapped and "Vaseline was the only remedy." 577th tail gunner Harry Walz comments that even something as simple as not shaving properly before a mission could keep the mask from fitting close enough.

Guillot recalls, "Lark Morgan, our tail gunner, smoked with his oxygen mask on. He would move the mask to one side of his face and stick a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and then pull a little of the mask over the lip holding the cigarette. One could easily judge the ferocity of each mission by the number of cigarette butts on the floor of Morgan's tail turret." If a man had to leave his position for any reason, he unplugged the hose and attached a small "walk-around" bottle that held about 15 minutes of oxygen. They were also used in other emergencies. 579th pilot 1/Lt Harrison Cassell wrote his wife about the mission on 13 Nov 1943, "Just after we had hit the target (Bremen, one of the toughest in Germany) fighters were coming in from all directions and the top turret was busy spinning around tracking them. We had an oxygen filler hose connected to it & while spinning it came off-and before the radio man could get it stopped the oxygen all ran out of the system that supplies the nose. The nose turret gunner passed out. Then [bombardier William F. Cetin] passed out & [navigator Kenneth S. Bevan] called me about then. We kept passing around the walk-around bottles down to them and then they finally came to with Ken doctoring them."

In his journal, Cassell noted that right waist gunner S/Sgt Cecil Rothrock "passed out & was out for a good while. He also got his heel burnt and two toes frozen on the same foot."

Food and the Bathroom

In a June 2005 interview, 578th copilot William Riddleberger said, "We did not eat or drink or relieve ourselves during the entire flight. Prior to the mission, each of us was given a chocolate bar and a fruit bar, but we rarely ate it during the flight. I would leave them in my locker, and eat them later on." Gersten took a candy bar with him. It froze at altitude but he still gnawed on it when he got hungry. "After all," he says, "I was young and invincible."

If someone had to go to the bathroom in flight, there was a relief tube in the plane, basically a funnel that opened outside the plane. Memories differ as to where it was located. Blackburn's ground crew chief always put empty ammunition cans throughout the plane. If one was used during the flight, the airmen tossed it out over the water on their way back so the ground crew wouldn't have to deal with it. Flak helmets could also be used if necessary.

Most airmen simply didn't think of eating or using the bathroom during a mission as they were too focused on fighters and flak.

Interphone

A B-24 was so noisy that communication was only possible through the interphone. It was an open circuit so everyone heard everything that was said. The navigator regularly informed the pilots of times and headings. When under attack, gunners advised each other of incoming enemy a/c (i.e., "two o'clock low, twelve o'clock high").

When a plane got hit by flak or fighter bullets, the interphone system sometimes stopped working as a result, men positioned far from the damage were sometimes not aware that their plane was in serious trouble till they saw flames and smoke in the a/c or parachutes blossoming below.

Arming the Bombs

As the first step in the arming process, a man had to go to the bomb bays and remove the safety cotter pins from the bombs. As the armorer-gunner on his crew, Guillot "was responsible to remove all the safety pins and serial number tags from each bomb in our bomb bays as soon as we got over the English Channel. The safety pins were there to keep the bombs from exploding if they were accidentally dropped on takeoff or on the English Countryside. I had to save each of those tags to turn in after each mission to prove the bombs were armed and ready to detonate on ground contact. I was to hook into the portable oxygen bottle, go through the small door to the bomb bay with my bulky flight suit and chest parachute harness on and walk down that narrow catwalk between the two bomb racks carrying that awkward portable oxygen bottle, wind whistling through the loose-fitting, noisy, rattling bomb bay doors while retrieving all bomb tags. I never attempted making that walk again with a portable oxygen bottle. I just held my breath."

Test-Firing the Guns

At about 25 miles out from the English coast, gunners fired a short burst to ensure their guns were working correctly. Even this simple, routine task could have unexpected results. While at 19,700 feet on 29 Apr 1944, 579th pilot 2/Lt Dewey L. Gann noticed a large oil leak in the #3 engine. He feathered the prop and aborted. Inspection on the ground revealed that an empty shell case, ejected when ships in front of him test-fired their guns, had severed the oil line.

Radio Operator/Engineer Duties

Radio silence was generally maintained, but radio operators always manned their sets, listening for Morse code messages affecting recall, diversion or change of target. 577th Sqdn engineer Gerald Cross says one of his main duties was to "transfer the gas as needs be and situations permitted-during a lull in the action, never during fighter attack or warning. Some planes were more gas efficient, so were some pilots. The position in the formation had a lot to do with throttle jockeying and increased gas consumption." Joe DeSario, 579th engineer, said he usually transferred fuel after leaving the target. With the sight gauges as a reference, he moved gas between the tanks so that each engine had the same amount of fuel.

Chaff

When the formation neared known flak zones, waist gunners were instructed to throw chaff out of the plane. These strips of aluminum were intended to mislead German flak radars about the formation's altitude.

Gunners

An air-cooled Browning .50 caliber machine gun fired 750 to 850 bullets per minute at a velocity of 2,900 feet per second. Gunners fired only in short bursts so the gun barrel wouldn't overheat. Gunners constantly scanned the skies for enemy fighters, often staring into the morning sun in the process. DeSario says they had sunglasses "but they weren't the best in the world." Cross remembers that "watching the skies for those rapidly growing black spots demanded constant attention. Once when the contrails were very dense, suddenly out of the trails popped the nose of a German fighter plane, the 20mm guns blinking red fire. He had come in too close for anyone to react with control. The German pilot was experienced enough to drop down slightly and get out of the scope of the top turret. The tail gunner opened up but froze to his guns, burning one up completely. The nose gunner reported seeing white explosions up front. The shells went on each side of the top turret, except one which struck the #2 engine, knocking it out without exploding. The whole attack took only seconds. It took much longer than that for me to do several 'Our Fathers'."

Mission Routes

Routes were scheduled to avoid major flak areas as much as possible and to mislead enemy fighters about the intended target. Each route, then, included several course changes until the Initial Point (IP) was reached. The IP was usually an unmistakable landmark, both visually and on radar. At the IP, the lead plane alerted the formation to turn toward the target by signal flares or by opening its bomb bay doors. All other planes promptly opened their own bomb bays and made the turn while simultaneously aligning in trail. On the bomb run, Groups were usually two to five miles apart.

Riddleberger said, "With our air speed at about 300 mph during the bombing run, we were subject to anti-aircraft fire for about ten minutes. Most of the Germans were using 88mm anti-aircraft guns for flak fire. At the time, the German 88mm gun was considered the best anti-aircraft gun in the world. On the ground, the enemy anti-aircraft guns were usually protected by bunkers or revetments. Flak fire was encountered in areas other than over the target."

Almost every airman remembers missions when "flak was so thick you could walk on it." In his memoir, 578th pilot Bruce McClellan calmly notes, "At an average of 1,000 feet per second, it takes 20 seconds for an 88 shell to reach our altitude. In that same 20 seconds we shall have traveled something more than a mile. It's not exactly a turkey shoot for anti-aircraft guns."

He then writes, "First, we see the black puffs. Then we begin to smell the black powder. A little closer and we see the ugly red burst itself and perhaps feel and hear the impact of small shrapnel fragments. Those we can live with if we have just a bit of luck. When it's closer than that and shell bursts begin to toss the plane around, the odds are against us. We need lots of luck then.

". as we approach a heavily defended area, the Germans employ the same sort of statistical analysis which we use to plot our course. Knowing from aerial reconnaissance the number and placement of enemy anti-aircraft batteries, we calculate a 'flak clock' which tells us how to select a route which reduces to a minimum the number of shells which can be flung at us while we are within range overhead. Conversely, the anti-aircraft defenders identify probable targets and calculate a mathematical 'box,' which they attempt to fill with enough shrapnel so that no plane, theoretically, can pass through the box without suffering fatal damage. None of us ever doubted that German calculations for 'boxes' over major targets were accurate. It was terrifyingly awesome to see ahead a 'box' of German anti-aircraft fire through which you knew you had to fly in your gossamer craft if you were to complete your mission."

Initial Point

When the planes got to the IP, they made the final turn toward the target. As McClellan points out, they were then "on a fixed track, which simplified the calculations of anti-aircraft batteries. We had no options of course or altitude. Whatever the target-railroad yard, engine factory, refinery-it was a fixed point on the surface of the earth, and we had to navigate to a fixed point 20,000 feet or so roughly above it to accomplish our mission."

Target

On the target run, lead bombardiers set their bombsights to allow for range (altitude) and deflection (bomb drift to the left or right as it fell to earth). The other bombardiers set up the assigned drop pattern on their intervalometers. This device controlled the time interval between successive bomb drops the shorter the setting, the less distance between bomb hits on the ground as the plane flew over the target. Before the Radio Bomb Release, bombardiers pressed a toggle switch to release their bombs as soon as they saw bombs fall from the lead ship. The time lag between the first and later releases was accounted for by the bombsight.

The toggle switch could be used to bypass the bombsight in an emergency there was also a manual release that jettisoned all the bombs at once. As the practice of dropping on the lead plane became the norm, many planes flew without an officer bombardier. The man who pushed the toggle switch was known as the "togglier."

After bomb drop, the lead plane continued straight ahead for a few seconds to allow trailing planes to drop their bombs and close the bomb bay doors. Then it made for the Rally Point. Chosen to be away from known flak batteries, the RP was where Groups reformed into defensive formations. As soon as possible, the radio operator in the Wing lead plane sent a "target bombed" signal to Division headquarters.

Hung-up Bombs

Occasionally, a bomb did not properly release from both ends of its shackle and was "hung up." This happened to 579th pilot Don Scharf's crew. He says, "After we had dropped our bombs on one mission, a live 500-pound bomb was discovered hanging at an angle from one shackle in the bomb bay. We couldn't land with a hung-up bomb as it might break loose when the plane touched down on the runway. When we got to a low enough altitude over the Channel, we opened the bomb bay doors and armorer/waist gunner Constantine Rigas had to walk out on the 10-inch wide catwalk without a parachute and try to pry the bomb loose from the shackle with a screwdriver. After much prying, in the frigid wind blast, he finally managed to get the bomb to fall away. Everyone breathed a big sigh of relief." [Editor's note: These incidents did not always end so well. On 13 Feb 1944, 579th gunner S/Sgt William G. Dickison fell to his death in the Channel while trying to release a hung-up bomb. His body was never recovered.]

Bailing Out

Guillot was told in training that "if it were necessary to bail out at extreme altitude, don't waste time looking for a portable oxygen bottle just bail out and don't pull your ripcord. You may pass out for a couple of minutes but you will come to and have ample time to pull your ripcord and make a safe landing."

Riddleberger concurs. "Above 20,000 feet, the temperature was usually minus 40 degrees inside the plane. Without gloves your hands would freeze to the guns or metal. If you had to parachute from 20,000 feet, you were instructed to free fall for a while so you didn't freeze to death when you opened your chute." [Editor's note: Current US Air Force reservist Ben Jones says that WWII airmen did not have oxygen bottles to use as they descended. "The amount of time from bailout to landing was fairly short that's why a lot of times you'll hear the stories of guys blacking out just after leaving the airplane and then coming to on the way down. There are various formulas about how fast you fall on average it's about 30 feet a second but when the chute deploys that drops to around 10-15 feet per second (on today's chutes). So a freefall would be about 5.5 minutes from 20,000 feet to 10,000 feet" when you would no longer need oxygen.]

Return to England

With bombs gone and less fuel, planes flew faster on the return trip. After leaving hostile airspace, the bomber stream separated into Divisions, each with its own briefed landfall point. When 100 miles from England, badly damaged a/c began to divert to the nearest air base or the emergency landing fields at Manston or Woodbridge. Their landing strips were 1,000 feet wide and 12,000 feet long, perfect for planes whose hydraulics had been shot out or had other mechanical damage.

All planes began "letting down"-reducing altitude about 500 feet per minute-so they were down to just a few thousand feet by the time they reached the English coast. At that point, each Group made for its own station. Gunners couldn't completely relax until their plane landed, as on several occasions enemy fighters followed the bomber stream back to England and strafed some airfields.

Station 118, shown in this photo taken at 8,000 feet on 20 Apr 1945, was a welcome sight to returning Crusaders. North is at the top.

Wendling

The bases obtained an estimated return time when Flying Control picked up radio chatter. Operations was notified at once and the duty Ops Officer went to the control tower. The Ops clerk alerted all necessary sections, MPs were posted at the briefing room, and medical and fire department personnel went to their vehicles.

Many people gathered at the Control Tower to wait for the planes.

By this time, the formation was down to a few hundred feet. While in the landing pattern circuit, the engineer confirmed the wheels were down and locked. Planes with wounded aboard or severe battle damage fired two red flares and landed first. Otherwise, the left aircraft of the lowest left element of the low squadron peeled off to land first, followed by the element leader and the third a/c. These planes were followed by the second lowest element. Meanwhile, the lead and high squadrons made a wide left-hand circle above the base until it was their turn.

Scharf recalls, "There would be three or more planes on the runway at the same time: one ready to turn off onto the perimeter strip, one or two spaced on the runway behind him, and one just touching down. It was a hairy thing to do because if we misjudged our spacing we would run up on the guy ahead of us and would have to pour on full power, jump over him, and go around again. More than once I had guys run up on me and then thunder a few feet over the top of our plane. It was very disconcerting since I couldn't see them coming up behind me at over 100 miles per hour."

"Sometimes," Scharf continues, "badly damaged planes that were still in no immediate danger would circle until the rest of the group had landed to prevent blocking the runway in case they crashed on landing." This procedure sometimes had deadly consequences. On 29 Apr 1944, for example, plane #41-29427 exploded while in a landing pattern circuit over Wendling. 2/Lt Bernard Fryman and the other nine men in his 579th crew were killed.

Planes with wounded personnel turned off the runway as soon as possible, halting on the taxiway or the nearest hardstand where the ambulance was waiting. The other Libs went directly to their dispersal points, having opened their bomb bay doors to vent built-up gas fumes. DeSario says he often felt like kissing the ground and thanking God he had gotten back safely.

After Landing

After landing, crewmen deplaned and took off their flight gear at the hardstands. Gunners removed their weapons from the a/c they were usually cleaned after interrogation. Engineers and pilots reported known mechanical problems and battle damage on Form 1A while other air and ground personnel made a visual inspection for additional damage. Logs maintained by S27, German Voice Interpreters, were picked up at the hardstands for immediate transfer to 2AD. Photo lab technicians removed cameras from planes and began developing the film right away.

Interrogation

Trucks took the men to the briefing room, which was now set up for interrogation. Every crew was checked in by an S-2 clerk who verified each man's name and position. Any changes from the original crew load lists were reported on a "Sortie Record" to ensure that everyone got credit for completing the mission. This report also named crews who would not get credit because they aborted.

Crews are interrogated on 16 Jul 1944 after their return from Saarbrucken.

Personal equipment (parachutes, flying suits, Mae Wests, escape kits and oxygen masks) was turned in, as were bombardier and navigator folders. Then, the exhausted airmen got refreshments, served by Red Cross personnel. Coffee, juice, donuts, sandwiches, and a shot of whiskey were available. Engineer Gerald Cross notes that the 577th Sqdn greeted its returning crews with 100 proof Pennsylvania bourbon served in glass tumblers. In his memoir, Country Boy, Combat Bomber Pilot, Robert H. Tays, 578th, recalled, "After each mission, we were served a double shot of straight bourbon for medicinal purposes. Not having eaten since early in the morning and with empty stomachs, the effect was quite pronounced."

Aircrews first reported "hot news"-details on convoys, a/c in distress, etc.-that needed to be transmitted right away. Crews were then thoroughly questioned. Using a preprinted Interrogation Form, the debriefing officer noted crew comments about their bombing attack (time, altitude, heading, number of bombs dropped on target or jettisoned, and results, if seen) personnel injuries and plane damage equipment malfunctions or failures enemy a/c encounters (including tactics and unusual weapons used) friendly fighter support (time, place and effectiveness) and locations and types of flak encountered.

579th navigator Red Sprowls notes, "It was always very important to know where and when the Group e n c o u n t e r e d flak since the Germans were using mobile guns mounted on rail cars and they continued to move their guns. We knew that the major cities were well-protected but intelligence always wanted the extent or any changes in the intensity of the flak. This was of course used in plotting the future route in and out of targets. These flak areas were plotted on the lead navigator and Mickey operators' maps and were extremely important if the Group was forced off the plotted course due to weather or error."

After all crews had been questioned, their responses were compiled and Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) drafted. Navigators turned in their logs and bombardiers completed bombing reports. Lead crew command pilots, navigators, and bombardiers wrote detailed accounts about what they did and why. If a tactical error had been made (such as bombing the wrong target), the process was especially intense. Finally, crews were released to go to the mess hall or to their barracks. For men who had just returned from a mission and knew they faced many more, sleep was difficult.

This Combat Duplication Check Form shows the time and type of enemy fighter attacks against the lead block (578 and 579th Sqdns) on 4 Jan 1944. Attacks portrayed on the upper right were from below those at left were level.

Gunner Claims

A pre-printed Interrogation Form was used by S-2 officers to thoroughly document all claims by gunners that they had shot down an enemy a/c. It asked the tactics used by the enemy pilot, how close his plane came, what action the gunner took, where the enemy plane was hit, how much damage was seen, and how the plane looked and flew going away. Other crewmen who could verify the claim were named.

After all crews had been questioned, S-2 personnel created a Combat Duplication Check Form. Its diagram structure showed the direction, approximate time, and type of enemy a/c from all attacks colored arrows showed whether the attacks came from above, below, or level. This visual aid helped S-2 officers determine if gunners were claiming credit for the same incident.

When all analysis was complete, the Interrogating Officer suggested the credit he thought the gunner deserved: no claim, damaged, probable, or destroyed. The claim forms were typed and submitted to 2AD where the final decision regarding approval and for what type credit was made.

Reports

Once the strike photos were developed, photo interpreters and intelligence personnel analyzed where the bombs impacted and likely damage caused. The information helped planners at 2AD and 8AF evaluate the mission's success.

A Telephone Flash Report (giving number of a/c airborne, dispatched, and attacking plus the number of a/c that did not bomb and why, personnel casualties, and number of planes with battle damage) was phoned to Division. Supporting details were sent by teletype to both Wing and Division as soon as possible. MACRs were finalized and submitted as was a detailed description of encounters with enemy aircraft and flak. Aircraft damage reports were prepared and photos taken.

1/Lt Sidney Cohen’s crew, 578th, took this photo at 21,000 feet during the NoBall mission on 26 Mar 1944. The 392nd’s Photo Interpreter labeled it “B24 Down.” The photo may show 578th 1/Lt Robert E. Fletcher’s crew leaving the formation after flak killed bombardier 1/Lt Garland W. Judd and wounded tail gunner S/Sgt Joseph McNiel. Capt Edwin Reed was the 392nd’s Photo Interpreter until transferred to 2BD around May 1944 his replacement was T/Sgt Paul Wright.

S-2 personnel compiled the crews' reports and prepared a Formation Diagram at Assembly and Target and a list of turret and gun malfunctions for Group Operations. When all work was done, they returned target and map material to the S-2 Building.

1825th Ordnance Co. Commander Capt Jack Teufel reported the number of a/c departed, returned early, attacked target or were lost the number of bombs loaded, expended on target, jettisoned, returned, or unaccounted for the number of machine gun rounds expended by a/c that reached the target or aborted and the quantity aboard a/c lost or missing.

The data reflected how bad the mission was. On 4 Jan 1944, the 23 Libs that reached the target expended 20,850 rounds against 50 attacking enemy a/c. On 13 Feb 1944, the 24 ships bombing the target fired only 2,332 rounds.

Ground Crews

After the planes were at their hardstands, maintenance crew personnel swarmed around their assigned Liberators to identify and start repair work. The line chief notified his squadron Engineering Officer of major problems and together they decided which planes could not fly the next mission.

579th turret mechanic Bernard Sender wrote, "You started working as soon as the planes landed. Air mechanics, armorers, and radiomen all headed out about the same time and assembled on 'The Line' to wait. When the crews and planes touched down, we'd go over and talk to the gunners to see what problems they'd had with equipment: Were the guns jamming? Did the turret motors behave properly? And so on. When the B-24s started coming over with the Emerson turrets in the nose, you'd talk to the guys up front-the bombardier and navigator.

"If it was three o'clock in the afternoon that the mission ended, you started immediately and worked right through the night. Let's say the dome on the top turret took some flak or it cracked. it had to be replaced. As winter drew near, the sun went down earlier. Let me tell you, it could be bitter cold at night over there, and we did all our work outside. You couldn't put spotlights up either, because they never knew when Jerry was coming around.

"We didn't work by the clock . we didn't belong to a union, all right. When the task was completed, you'd go back to the barracks to get some sleep. That might not be until eight o'clock in the morning. If the mission was six hours, then we'd have to get back to the line when the planes returned that afternoon. To make things a little more efficient, they finally moved us to a farmhouse that was right on the line."

Pvt Rudy Santelli (2nd from left) and other 577th sheet metal workers with their repair shop, “The Hole Chasers. ” They moved it from plane to plane to patch holes caused by flak, bullets, and rockets. Background: #42-95079, Puss ’N Boots.

L-R: 578th Power Turret Specialists S/Sgt John L. Kocevar, Sgt Kenneth W. Lintz, S/Sgt Hortis D. Hanna, and Airplane Armorer Cpl Andrew Pedeski wait for the planes to return.

Pvt Rudy Santelli was a sheet metal worker in the 577th Sqdn. Many years later, he told his son that he saw "countless men pulled from B-24s shredded by enemy fire" and "the floors of some of the returning planes were running with blood."

578th crew chief T/Sgt Lowell D. Hale paints bombs showing missions completed on #42-7624, Flying 8 Ball.

Many ground crewmen felt the Libs belonged to them and were only "loaned" to the air crews. And, although air and ground crews rarely mingled, there was a special bond between crew chief and pilot.

T/Sgt Lowell D. Hale kept #42-100187, Pallas Athene (The GI Jane) in great condition for 578th pilot Neely Young and crew. According to Neely, Hale "was the best crew chief in the 8th Air Force" and "he knew the plane from nose to tail." The last thing Neely always saw as he left his revetment was T/Sgt Hale giving him a thumbs up he was always standing at the revetment when they returned. Neely says simply, "My crew and I owe our lives to him."

576th Inspector Stanley White noted, "The most forlorn [ground] crew could be found at the empty parking area of a plane that did not return."

He also wrote, "The mechanical work on the line was basically a remove-and-replace operation. There were a number of specialists available such as electricians, instrument repairmen, sheet metal workers, propeller specialists, and armament workers. Major repairs were performed at the 465th Sub Depot."

2nd Bomb Division and 8th Air Force

Intelligence Officers analyzed strike photos and teletype reports from all their Groups. Questions or requests for more data were relayed to the Groups. A preliminary assessment was sent to 8AF with updates as new information was received.

8AF compiled all the data to determine how effective the bombing had been and whether another attack would be necessary. Details on enemy defenses were used to update intelligence records. Analysis at the highest level continued even as the individual Groups and airmen were flying other missions.

The Weight of Command

Col Lawrence Gilbert, 392nd Operations Officer and eventually Commanding Officer, wrote, "We went over to England in 1943. I was a young 25-year-old with what might be considered a pretty heavy responsibility. At times I couldn't believe the decisions that were entrusted to me then I'd look around at the upper echelon who were only a few years older than me. It was very sobering experience and it's very difficult to put into words what I felt when we lost crews. You didn't dare let it dwell in your mind for long the chances are that by the time you found out you had lost six crews, you were well into planning for the next operation."


John Bybee B-24 Liberator, Construction, Operation, WW2 and History Research Home Page.

B-24J - The Tulsamerican - S/N 42-51430-15 AAF, 461 B.G., 765 Sq. - Crashed in the Adriatic Sea Mission 151 - 17 December 1944. Last B-24 built by Douglas Tulsa AAF Plant - Still aboard her is Pilot, Lt. Eugene Ford, Navigator, Lt. Russell C. Jandry , and Flight Engineer, SSgt. Charles Priest.

The William Donald Crew was assigned the aircraft at Topeka, Kansas beginning September 9, 1944. Two hours were
pun in calibrating "The Tulsamerican" instruments

Time Line:
Sept. 16 - Flew from Topeka to Grenier, New Hampshire.
Sept. 17 - To Gander, New Foundland.
Sept. 20 - To Lagens, Azores
Sept. 22 - To Maraketch, Africa
Sept. 25 - To Tunis, Africa
Sept 27 - To Giola, Italy and turned in the Tulsamerican.

Oct 2001, Springfield, IL. L to R: Paul Beard, John Bybee, Norma "Joy" (Ford) Beard.
Norma was six months old when her father 1Lt. Eugene P. Ford was killed aboard the "Tulsamerican"

P rop blade and wheel off the
461st B-24J "Tulsamerican"
lost off Hvar on 17 Dec 1944.

B-24 Liberator, "I Walk Alone"

ECM capable B-24J-1-DT, 42-51226, 8th AF, 482nd BG, 36th RCM Sq., attached 100th Group RAF.
Shot down by 425th NFS P-61 on 10 November 1944, Tincourt-Boucly, France

Polish Air Force B-24 Liberator

Former 465th BG B-24J-35-CF #44-10339

From the Webmaster: Do you see all of these men in the pictures in this exhibit? They knew that they had a one in four chance of coming back alive. Many of these men are listed as KIA and many are totally disabled. We have to give them all of the respect in the world because they knew that their chances of coming home again were almost none, yet they stood in long lines to defend our country.

But what happened to our country. Read about Roy Carlson and you will understand what happened to our country. We have enemies right in our homeland and we call them great men and women. We call them celebrities and we call them stars. Look at what these celebrities are doing to our kids. Listen to the music, the TV commercials and the TV programs and Hollywood movies. Terrorism comes, in it's greatest form, in the way of psychological warfare. Read this article about dangerous cartoons then watch Family Guy on TV and you will soon see why kids are now killing their parents. Watch a kid play the game, "Grand Theft Auto" and you will see why there is so much crime in America and with only 5% of the worlds population, the United States has 25% of the worlds prisoners. Don't think about it, watch these programs and think for yourself.

One day the news talked about Paris Hilton getting a DUI and I never heard about Paris Hilton before this time. Fox TV gave her most of their newscast, every day, for weeks. I never heard of Paris Hilton. So I typed into the search engine, "Paris Hilton, Pardon" to see if she would get a pardon from Arnold Schwarzenegger would give her a pardon. Click Here, Here's what I found. Tell me this, what did these guys fight for? What? I listen to parents today say that they don't want their kid to go to the military because they don't want their kid to be killed in a war, yet in Chicago alone, this year, 2008, there were more murders than U.S. Soldiers killed in all of the world's wars today. But they don't tell you that on TV.

It's Psychological Warfare being fought against the United States, right in front of our noses, and we say it's freedom of speech. Did you every see a good murder movie? How could a murder movie be good in any way? Think about it. How many of our kids are having their lives ruined by drugs. Yet, it's freedom of speech for the music to sing about drugs, sex, murder and gangs glorifying all. Did you get to vote on any of these freedom of speech laws? When Hugh Heffner started Playboy, the United States Postal Service had him arrested and took him to court because sending pornography in the mail was illegal. Now kids in high school are wearing playboy icons on their jewelry and clothing and they are head banging to the music. Listen to the music today and listen to what they say. Many times the music is embedded with code word for Meth and other drugs, code words that the average person cannot understand. This is why I say, "What did these soldiers fight for. Why did they give their lives. Was it for our current form of Freedom of Speech or so all of the Presidential Candidates are not allowed to take part in the Debates?" Think about it!

C. Jeff Dyrek, Webmaster and Disabled Veteran.

Capt. Jack R. Cody, 15AF, 49th BW, 461st BG, 765th BS

2 Lt. Philip J. Crossman's crew with Jack Cody not in Photo.
Capt. Jack R. Cody was the 461/765 Gunnery Officer and he was manning the upper turret on Phil Crossman's B-24 on 17 Dec 1944. This is Crossman's crew, Jack Cody not in photo.

Young Officer, Jack Cody, Commands Air Base Unit

Lieutenant Cody, 22, Directs Squadron at Pocatello Center
Tribune Intermounntain Wire
Pocatello, Idaho -- At 22 years of age, First Lieutenant Jack R. Cody is already an "Old Man"

Jack Cody Reported Prisoner of Germans

First Lieut. Jack R. Cody, husband of Mrs. Mary Lou Cody, 2913 North Edith, who was reported missing in action on Dec. 17, 1944, has been reported a prisoner of war of the Germans, according to a telegram received by his wife from the War Department. He was gunnery officer in a B-24 Liberator group of the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy. Before entering the service, Lieut. Cody was an employee of the Continental Oil Co. here. He has been in service three years and over seas one year.

First Lieut. Jack R. Cody, whose wife, Mrs. Mary Lou Cody, lives at 2913 North Edith, has been liberated from a German prison camp and is on his way home, according to word received by Mrs. Cody. He had been a prisoner since December. He was gunnery officer of a B-24 of the 15th AAF based in Italy.

WASHINGTON, The war department announced the temporary promotion of Jack Riley Cody, 3005 Mesa Verde Dr., Albuquerque, and Davis Matthias Santa Rita, N.M. from first Lieutenant to Captain in the air corps. Lt. Col. Clarence Frederick Vogel, Albuquerque, was ordered to active duty in the Army of the United States.

Cody is Retired from Army Duty

Capt. Jack R. Cody, 604 W. Iron, after four years service with the U.S. Army Air Forces, has been retired from Active duty. He served as a gunnery officer in a heavy bombardment group of the 15th Air Force based in Italy. He was shot down on a mission over Vienna and was liberated from a German prisoner of war camp near Munich, last April by Patton's Third Army. He has been decorated with Distinguished Flying Cross Air Medal with clusters, Purple Heart and Presidential Unit Citation with clusters.

Jack Cody's Mission #151 Odertal, Germany

Dear Frank
In answer to your recent request, enclosed is a write up of the December 17, 1944 Odertal Mission. This is only one man's recollection of events that happened 42 years ago, so I'd like to hear from other people, who also lived through that awful day.
You may want to clean up the language in a couple of spots for publication in the "Liberaider", but I'm telling it like it happened.
Write if you get the opportunity, and in the meantime I'm looking forward to seeing you in New York next Fall. Hugh Hanley.

Mission #151 ODERTAL, GERMANY, MY 10th MISSION
by Hugh Hanley -- 765th Squadron.

Having checked the flight board on the evening of Dec. 16th, and finding our crew scheduled for tomorrow's mission, we all went to bed early. We were awakened at 4 AM with the terse notification, "briefing in an hour" After coffee and a light breakfast (we didn't have a big appetite on those days we were flying), we went to the briefing room. As we entered, and saw that grin black line due almost direct northeast into Eastern Germany, someone muttered, Oh ----, Blechanner again!". Bill McClain, our Navigator replied, "No, it's East of that area".

S-2 began the briefing by telling us that the target today was Odertal, a small oil refinery near the Polish border. There would be little if any flack. Ball turrets would not be lowered until we came to the IP, Zuckmantel. Loading was 6,500 lb GP's and 2700 gallons of fuel. Altitude would be 26000 ft. (What else?) Almost as an afterthought, he mentioned that we would likely catch fighter opposition. In retrospect, this would have to qualify as the understatement of the year, if not the century.

We set at the flight line, our crew consisted of following: Phil Crossman - Pilot Whitey Kreps - Co-pilot Bill McClain - Navigator yours truly - Bombardier Larry Eidsmore - Nose gunner: Lenny Geier - Engineer Val Barnson - Radio Operator Bill White - Ball Turret Johnny Sainio - Waist Gunner and Bernie Freeman - Tail gunner. In addition to our regular crew, 1st Lt. Jack Cody, Squadron Gunnery Officer, would fly with us, and man the Top Turret. This necessitated moving Barnson to one of the waist guns.

The green flare arched into the sky and the mission was underway. A typical Italian winter day, weather overcast and somewhat chilly. Takeoff was uneventful and we began our climb t altitude to formation. Over the spur of the "boot", and out over the Adriatic, - climbing all the way. Strictly routine, as in the previous nine. Oxygen checks - crew banter. All of a sudden, somebody is in TROUBLE. "Horizontal" Moore is aborting - engine trouble. Lucky so and so. Through the alley between Vienna and Bratislava. Always NNE. Check arming, five minutes to IP. Routine up to here.

Christmas 1944: Jack was a POW . Jack befriended a German citizen Fred Seegardel, who in turn forced a German officer to allow Jack out of the POW compound for a night in warm room in Nurenberg.
Fred Beegardel
Stamberg Germany Obb.
Postlagernd
Starmberg, Germany Dec. 3rd 1949.
My dear friend, my good Jack:
It is a long time since I received the last letter from you. But still longer that you received one from me too. This is easy to explain. In spring of this year I wrote to you and mentioned that I had been sick with my right hand and could not write so well. Short time after I received your kind answer to this letter. I thought to do something special for your - and what you think I done. ----- I bought train ticket from here to Moosburg in order to visit hat place my behooved and true friend Jack had been a prisoner while I could not do a thing for him. When I left the train at Mossburg I felt like going to a Cemetery to look for a grave o one of the dearest of mine.
Soon I stood at the entrance of the that former camp. I felt terrible beliefs no dear Jack. Nobody there. I walked in and through the whole place - from street to street from building to building and found not stop my tears from running down. I lifted up my face and my voice to God whom I been asking so long to bring me back to the States the only country I could be happy again.
I stepped into many of those buildings, thought here was the room (maybe) where Jack Lived, then into another one possibly be used as a theater, again I thought here had my friend been walking in and out. Another place had been a church - here had been Jack for sure I thought. Even through former toilet's I walked - just for the reason to step right in your footsteps - into the footsteps of a true and good friend of mine. Yes dear Jack - I will never forget this afternoon on June 19th 1949. I simply lived through everything you had lived through after you and I separated from each other in February 1945.
You really think, that I -- could ever in this life forget you?? Never, and I say never my dear friend. During my walking from one and to the other at that former camp for prisoners I took several pictures - sorry to say with a very poor camera. Two are with two of the main streets and two others with the former camp prison building in two different pictures. All the others have not come out at all.
Dear jack, in case you are special interested in several good pictures for the book of memorial you told me once you were writing, I will travel to Mossburg again and take an photographer from town who must take pictures from places you would like to have especially. In that case it would be very clever to give me a blueprint of the camp as true as you could remember it still today and mark important places you would like to have a picture from.
Anyway today you will get what I have to fare, you may like it. In the back of each picture I will write what it is and you find out if you can remember places. I intended to mail then to you in June, and thought I did so after month I found letter and pictures some place - un-nailed at my room.
Receive them today as a Christmas present from a friend whom you know since Christmas 1944 at the hospital at the city of Olmutz in the country of Czechoslovakia.
Let's remember how we - you and I celebrated Christmas on that Christmas Eve. Let's not forget dear Jack before God and man how we came together, the way we became real friends - and then how we spend the last days on the German trains, the night at Nuermberg when I forced the German officer to take you out of that cold prison cell (Room) and finally you and I could sleep together in a warm room at a different building. Yes and then, when we came to Frankfurt/Main took the streetcar and drove down to the place we were separated until now.
Every Christmas Eve I am telling this true story to the people celebrating with me - and they sure hear it very interested - and last year when I mentioned it again - one could hear a needle drop.
Now you would like to hear I think how fare I am with my papers back to the States. Dear Jack, the affidavit you mailed to me was not accepted at the Consulate, for the season it was not the proper Affidavit of Support which is needed in my case.
If you care for helping me, please go to a Notary Public or to a Consular Service office and ask for a full Affidavit of Support.
The one you send me as very good to prove my character person towards America and American interest.
I leave it to you, as you know how you feel towards me, and God bless you and your loved ones all the time.
I will place in this letter a Christmas card which I tore off from a full card you mailed to me Christmas 1947. I have no English Christmas cards at hand - and may you like it to have yours back from Christmas two years ago.
Best regards to all of your beloved family. How is Mrs. Cody and my little girls? Hope very well.
How is your health my dear Jack? Do suffer any after the operation done in 1944. ------
Hope to hear from you soon, I am longing for an answer. Yours very truly Fred S.

Jack Riley Cody, Wounded in Battle 1944
Thank you for your help and interest in regarding the event of Dec. 17, 1944. I remember so little of it after being hit by cannon fire. Other crew members have been of great help in telling the story. I am now 84 years old, like my other crew members and our members are not so good. Thanks again for your help and interest. Jack R. Cody. Please excuse my writing, I am blind. Jack R. Cody, Captain USA, Retired.
On December 17, 1944, Capt. Jack Riley Cody was wounded in the head by a 20mm shell from an II JG300 FW-190A-8. Jack has passed on, but this is a short letter he wrote me when he was 84 and blind. John Bybee

Jack Cody's Grave with a B-24 Liberator Propeller over it.

Capt. Robert T. Chalmers

Robert Chalmers crew of #23 "Judy R" .
Two crewmen were in hospital when photo taken on afternoon of 17 Dec 44. "Judy R" was scrapped.

Capt. Robert T. Chalmers' #23 "Judy R"
touching down at Torretto, Italy after returning from Odertal on 17 Dec 1944.

L to R: 1Lt. Eugene P. Ford --TA pilot KIA 17 Dec 1944

B-24 Liberator, "The Peace Maker" #41

15th AF, 49th BW, 461st BG, 767th BS.

15th Air Force, 49th Bomber Wind, 461st Bomber Group, 764th Bomber Squadron
Clair Alexander's #12, Hank Davies on Wing.

Clair Alexander's #12, Spring of 1945, Torretto, Italy. The Poppies Blooming in the Foreground.

1st Lieutenant Robert A. Galvan

461st Bomb Group, 767th Bomber Squadron, 15th Air Force, WWII,
1st Lieutenant Robert A. Galvan , standing on far right. (Lee Cock)

Robert Galvan Czech Republic Reunion 2000

Arsenic & Lace #66
R. Modrovsky Ball Turret Gunner, Ed Kussler Bombardier, Robert Galvan

Robert A. Galvan 1942 of the Galvan Family.

1955 TDY Lakenheath -- Trondheim, Norway

Gloria and Robert Galvan Wedding July 24th 1944

Gloria and Robert Galvan Wedding 1944
Photo by Ed Kussler

Col. Gallien has passed away,
I'll ask Lee Cook how old the photo is.

William H. Zumsteg's B-24 Liberator Airplane Crash
Zumsteg's B-24 lost in a storm and low on fuel made a downwind night crash landing there on 5 December 1943.

William H. Zumsteg's Crashed Airplane Side View

Standing L-R: SSgt. Woodrow P. Clayton SSgt. James A hatch SSgt. Alvin J. Kadlecek (R)
Lt. Joseph J. Repko (N) Lt. Georg M. Felber (B)

Kneeling L-R: SSgt Antonio P. Lerrna (E) Sgt. Richard Karl : Lt. John C. Fuller (CP) :
SSgt Andrew J. Allocco Lt. William H. Zumsteg (P)

Four months later, following a midair collision,
Zumsteg and his crew were KIA on 2 April 1944 over Bihac , Yugoslavia

Bob Brown and his B-17s

Bob Brown January 2nd, 1944 with the B-17 "Pistol Packin Mama" and it's Crew
Pilot, Francis Co-Pilot Brown Bombardier, Wiseman Navigator, Myers "Spud"
Flight Engineer Murray Tail Gunner, Anderson Left Waist Gunner, Walters "Rocky"
Ball Turret Gunner, Davis Right Waist Gunner, House Radio, Martin.

Bob Brown, March 3rd, 1944 with the "Blues In The Night" and Crew.
Pilot, Bob Brown Co-Pilot, McDaniels Navigator, Tilton Top Turret - Flight Engineer, Claypool
Radio, Patton Tail Gunner, Roberts Ball Turret Gunner, Green Right Waist Gunner, Roundhill "Limey"
Ground Chief, Rockman Crew Assistant, Whitt Assistant, Miller Left Waist Gunner, Edikita "Whitey"

John Augarten
Arab-Israeli War, 16 October 1948
American Volunteer Israeli 101st Fighter Squadron,

Rudy Augarten's German Me-109 WW2 Aircraft
with a British Spitfire in the Background

Flying an Avia S-199 (Czech-built version of the Me-109) for the Israeli's 101st Fighter Squadron, American Volunteer Rudy Augarten was patrolling between Majdal (Near Gaza) and Beersheba on 16 October 1948. As he cruised just below 10,000 feet, he spotted a pair of Egyptian Spitfires a few thousand feet below, heading in the opposite direction. A quick wingover and shallow dive put him behind the unsuspecting pilot of the rearmost Spitfire. Closing in, he fired short burst, scoring hits on the Egyptian fighter, Pouring smoke, the Spitfire went down to crash near a coastal sand dune.

Augarten went on to score three more victories in the Arab-Israeli War. Adding the two Me-109s he shot down while flying P-47s with the 976 fighter Group in World War II. He became one of the six Americans to achieve ace.

This is the only photos of full face views of Capt. Bruce "Bucky" Harris
and 1Lt. Charles W. Ward.

Oct 1954. Coronado Heights near Lindsborg, KS

40th Bomber Wing Logo
25th Bomber Squadron "The Executioners)
by Robert F. Darden Jr.

Robert F. Darden Jr . was Capt Galvan's regular copilot,
he missed that fatal flight because he was on emergency leave to attend his grandmother's funeral.

This Col. John Gallien , 40th BW, 25BS, he was pilot in command of
B-47E "Ajax-12" on 26 June 1956. Then Captain Gallien landed without incident
on the same runway about 15 minutes behind Capt . Galvan ill-fated Ajax-18.

Crew Chief Lee Cook
40th Bomber Wing, 25th Bomber Squadron, Smoky Hill Air Force Base

Ajax-18 the B-47 story is there because Capt. Robert A. Glavan was a B-24 aircraft commander in WWII with the 15AF,
49th BW, 461st BG, 767th Sq. Galvan was deputy lead on the 17 Dec 1944 Odertal Mission.
Galvan was flying B-24H-15-DT, 41-28913, #67. FW-190A-8s from II JG300 damaged Galvan's B-24 and he made a
forced landing at Roszyne, Hungary and the crew all became POWs.

Capt Galvan's B-47E crashed in Kansas as did the DC-4M-2 over Nigeria .

This photo from Hugh Burt-Staffordshire, UK. His father took in mid 50s at Entebbe.

BOAC Canadair DC-4M-2 Argonaut, G-ALHE crashed on climb out from runway 25 @ Kano, Nigeria on 24 June 1956 @ 1721hrs. There were t-storms in area but none close to the DC-4M-2. From 1956-1976 the official cause was listed as pilot error . The late Dr. Ted Fujta's research into macro/microburst changed that verdict. As I mentioned in my Ajax-18 article, in my humble amateur opinion, Capt Galvan's B-47E encountered the same conditions over Kansas as did the DC-4M-2 over Nigeria , two days prior.

The TulsaAmerican was 765 lead and was hit by FW-190A-8s of the II JG300 just before the IP in CZ. They made Split, Yugo on 2 engines and tried for Vis. Last 2 engines ran out of gas and the Lib rolled over into the Adriatic from a 100 feet.

A-4, Falklands--tell me more when you get a chance!

I worked with the IWM on a B-47E story. I've attached a draft. Capt. Galvan was 767 deputy lead on 17 Dec 44 mission. Shot up and made a forced landing, POW and KIA 26 June 1956 in B-47E at Smoky Hill AFB, KS.

Nobuko worked at a department store in Koza, Okinawa, while I was stationed at Henko, Okinawa 1968-1970, of course I didn't know her then.

Gerry Landry who retired from the Cal Tech subsonic wind tunnel, his cousin Russel Landry was the nav.

Hi Jeff,
Very glad to hear from you. You did a super job with the content and presentation of your website. How in the world did I miss the fact that you are in Bushnell?? I've been to your website several times and your data has helped me solve the mystery of the Jesse Pettey's 461, Sq #52 and 451 B-24G #42-78436 "Shady Lady" which went MIA at 1320hrs, 18 Dec 1944 near the center of the Nagykanizsa Oil Triangle in southwestern Hungary.

Have done research for a book on the Sunday 17 December 1944 mission flown by the 49th BW to Odertal, Germany (Kozle, Poland). The 485th BG on the return leg from this mission alleges that they had six B-24s damaged by SAMS at 1414hrs @ 12,000 feet @ 46-33N 16-30E. The "Shady Lady" went MIA in the same general area. The 2nd BG (B-17) recounts they were attacked by Rheintochter SAMS over Wiener Neustadt in late Dec 1944. I can send you links to a my blog on same. I've been fortunate to have 3 articles published in AIR CLASSICS. This spring I did an article on the 31 March 1931 TWA/Rockne crash for Randy Reynolds ' TWA / Jack Frye website.

Currently, Gary Hyatt of the Davis-Monthan website has asked if I would be a guest editor and do the Fokker page for the website and Dave Powers of the PanAm LOGBOOK magazine desires that I do a piece on TWA.Do you follow the history of Camp Ellis? YES, I would love to have your insights and help for online publishing if I ever get the Odertal book done. I belong to the informal SPG (Same Page Gang) and we think we have found a prop blade and wheel off the 461st B-24J "Tulsamerican" lost off Hvar on 17 Dec 1944. Have attached a photo. Looking forward to your response.
Ciao.
John

I am doing ongoing research on the Sunday 17 December 1944 mission to Odertal (Kozle, Poland) and Hughes G. gave me your new email address. I read very great interest you article about your book ONE MORE MISSION and the Goia Sgt/Painter that was selling Shady Lady nose art off a stencil. Is it possible that you flew #13, 42-51336 to >Italy, this aircraft lost 24 Aug 1944 at Pesaro with Lt. John R. Wren hr.'s crew? Shady Lady #52,B-24G-16-NT, 42-78436 shows going to 451st on 24 November 1944 and went MIA on 18 Dec 1944 with 451/727, 2Lt. John D. Holland Jr. commanding. #52 went MIA in the center of the Nagykanizsa (Hungary) Oil Triangle. This was the same area that the 485th claimed they had six B-24s damaged by Nazi SAMs on 17 Dec 1944. Let me dig out my notes on Holland etc. Sincerely,
John D. Bybee
Vermont, IL

Something's amiss big time since you flew 42-78436 over to Italy. You recall any extra electronic equipment like in RCM / ECM / ELINT mode?

Your research has been a revelation for me, although I have not spent a lot of time worrying about what happened to the Shady Lady. I was informed, probably by rumor, that she had been shot down and I accepted the information because about 50% were lost. Many years later I found on our website the same serial number for an airplane that a Lt. Wren piloted over Persaro and was MIA. Much later I stumbled across a photo of someone stenciling a Shady Lady in the 451st. I naturally assumed that someone was stenciling many aircraft with the same stencil, which I though was humorous. Now you uncover, with convincing evidence, that the aircraft was transferred from the 461 to the 451 in November and was later MIA. Since I was not consulted or asked for my permission to transfer the Shady Lady by the top command, I will accept your account of "The rest of the Story" of the Shady Lady.