A Navigator's Story, continued...
12/11/44 Mission #16
Milk run - grade A all the way. Target: Marshalling yard at Giessen, Germany. We led the high. Had quite a time assembling - had to go higher to get out of the soup. On the bomb run we were briefed to go through the Coblenz and the Limburg flak. So, of course, the bomber stream overshot the IP. Went right over Limburg. They shot at the group ahead but not us. After the target we played along the edge of the Frankfurt flak, no shots close. We were supposed to go over Paris at 10,000 ft on the way home - but weather didn't permit. Came over Belgium at 20,.000 to top the clouds. Peeled off over Splasher #u and came home. Visibility about 500 yds.
12.24.44 (Our narrow escape)
The boys had a mission today. We were scheduled to lead the low - but were taken off. The boys led the 8th Air Force today - Harriman led. Were hit by fighters over the lines - lost nine ships, including Reed, who took our place in low lead. Lost 3 lead ships, so we'll probably be up for tomorrow.
12/28/44 Mission #17
Woke up at 3:30 am - when the CQ came after Chuck and Bob. Laid there with a toothache until 4:30 when he came in for Jack and me.
Nice mission. Primary: a marshalling yard, visual. Secondary: Coblenz marshalling yard. From Brussels east there was a solid undercast topped at about 15,000. So we hit Coblenz, Germany. Tactical ground support. My Gee box picked up and controlled the Ruhr Chain - but wouldn't make sense. Guess Runstedt's counter offensive must be pretty close to Liege. Used the Rheims Chain from the IP on in. Four burst of flak observed - way down and behind, probably shooting our chaff. I think we threw the bombs east of the river. Got a Gee fix at bombs away that fell in the SE part of Coblenz - so did Whit with an Hxx fix. The target was in NW part of town.
12/31/44 Mission #18
A very rough day! Hamburg-visual. The CQ woke me at 2:45 - I thought it was Politz for sure. Target: oil refinery Hamburg. Took off and assembled in the dark. We had to switch planes at the last minute - late take-off.
Went out over the North Sea. About 60 miles out I told Jack we were 8 miles right of course. 150 miles out I called the Air Leader - we were leading the low - and told him we were 20 miles right of course and about to run into the Frisian Islands. The lead claimed that he knew where we were - so - a few minutes later we had several flak bursts about 500 ft off the right wing. As we passed Heligoland the clouds cleared off and we could see Hamburg 60 miles away. Went down the bomb run drifting over 30 deg. Chuck changed heading near the target so he would be able to kill the drift. He did - only 245 deg. We had a wind at 15 deg., 110 kts. Due to prop wash the fore and aft bubble was clear forward. We came the closest of our squadrons and we missed be 1500 yds. The flak was moderate to intense and accurate as hell. One of our ships had 60 holes in it. Tonight there are only 8 ships available for tomorrow. After the rally point 6 FW-190s hit the group right behind us. They got 3 B-17s. Two flamers and one spinner.
Our ground speed from Hamburg to the coast out was 74 knots. Boy! Did we sweat that out! The Cuxhauca corridor has been shut off - but we had no flak. This one ran Merseburg a close second.
1/3/45 Mission #19
What a long day! Up at 3:00 am. Target: Marshalling yard at Aschaffenburg, Germany, - PFF. Our new C.O. Colonel Martin rode with us. WE led the low. And finally, I really got some help from Lt. Wilkinson, pilotage navigator. It was solid 10/10ths all the way so he ran the Gee box. I plotted the fixes and had time to really navigate. I also gave Whit a workout on his Mickey set when we ran out of range of the Rheims Chain. It was a long drawn-out mission - but an easy one. Entered France at Calais and skirted the Belgium-France border to the Rhine just north of Saarbourg. Turned north to the target just 23 miles SE of Frankfurt. The only flak we had was 4 bursts from Stuttgart and that was about a mile off our right wing. The lead didn't drop on the primary but hit the secondary - marshalling yards at Pforzheim, Germany. They almost ran us into the Heidelberg flak. I took the low way to the left and rejoined them after they bombed. Milk run - only eleven, maybe ten to go.
The Colonel told us it was nice navigating and the pilotage navigator (27 missions) told Jack that I was the best he had ever ridden with. Bashful, aren't I?
1/7/45 Mission #20
Another day closer to home. Up at 4:00 am. Target: Primary a railroad viaduct, visual. Secondary Paderborn marshalling yards, PFF. So - of course it was 10/10ths and we hit the secondary. Went right over Bliesfeld and no flak. Only flak we saw was a groups ahead who crowded the Dutch corridor on the southern side. A three-gun battery put up about 40-50 rounds. No hits. We led the group. Had to come all the way home at 20,000 because of clouds.
1/14/45 Mission #21
Up at 2:45 for pre-briefing. What a target! Magdeburg - route in feinted at Berlin, cut back between Berlin and Brandenburg - over Magdeburg synthetic oil refinery - by Hanover, Dummer Lake, Zuider Zee, and out over the Hook of Holland. We were leading the low. Went over the North Sea route, in west of Neumunster, north of Hamburg, and aimed at Berlin. About 50 miles past Hamburg I saw 4 P-51s drop their tanks and peel off. One strafed a railroad, couldn't see the other 3. About a minute after they went down the Luftwaffe jumped the 390th flying 2 minutes ahead of us. They got all 9 of the low squadron in about a 3 minute fight. Not 15 minutes after that scramble was over about 30 FW-190s queued up about a half mile off our right wing. Before they could start in the P-51s hit them. Just before we turned north of Brandenburg they hit the 590th high squadron. I could see the 20 mm shells bursting throughout the formation. Four B-17s went down. In the two attacks I saw about12 fighters go down, couldn't tell whether they were 51s or 190s. Our high lead lagged behind just before Brandenburg. He never came back - it is supposed that the fighters got him. When last seen he was behind us at about 18,000 ft. and in the target area. At the IP our lead bombardier lost himself and took off toward Leipzig instead of Magdeburg. I thought the Air Leader had decided to bomb the secondary - but, after making a 180 we lined out on about a nine mile bomb run. Our group bombardier, Al Fillipane - riding with us - took the course as okay and killed his rate on the terrain. Result - we dropped east of the Elbe River. The high hit part of the target. The smoke screen was heavy.
Meanwhile the high squadron, with the #3 man leading, hadn't caught up. So they avoided the flak and joined us at the RP. The flak was intense and accurate - hit our #2 engine, right outside my window. We also had 6 hits in the wings and tail. We had to feather #2 on the bomb run. About 15 minutes after, #4 started running rough and smoking. Our Air Leader thought it was about to catch on fire. Jack opened the cowl flaps and cut it back. We held the lead - otherwise we never would have kept up. I kept a course to Brussels available in case we needed it. The high squadron dropped on the marshalling yard at Osmabruck. At the Dutch coast we headed for home and had to feather #4.
1/16/45 Mission #22
The CQ came in at 3:00 - but I was awake. Target: Dessau, Germany. What a Cook's Tour it was. In over Holland and the Zuider Zee - north of Hanover and Magdeburg. Target: East of Leipzig - Schweinfurt. Over the Rhine River at Strasbourg. At this point we had our only flak - it was one gun (?) at the front lines. The bomber stream was about 5 miles wide and he had so many targets he couldn't make up his mind. Finally hit a ship, wounded two men. Returned to base - but was diverted to a RAF field at Fenningway 120 miles north. We started running out of gas at Peterborough so we came down. Landed at Glatton.
Led the group today. Off the ground 9:05. Traveled over 1400 miles over 5 countries.
1/18/45 Mission #23
Was I surprised this morning! The CQ woke me at 2:45 for target study. I had him check his list 3 times to be sure he was right. Target: Kaiserslautern, Germany. There were 3 groups of us in the 4th wing going. They scrubbed the 1st, 2nd, and all of the 3rd divisions but us. At briefing they told us we would probably be diverted.
At the target we (the low) and the high dropped first run. It was supposed to be cat and mouse - but the cat beacon did not have the code sheet delay. We dropped PFF and I had a Gee fix just 2-1/2 miles short of the marshalling yards. The Air Leader with us wanted to circle the RP while the lead squadron made a second run. Bandits had been reported in the area and there was no flak at the target - so I said, Hell no - make a 2nd run with the high and lead. Then he told me the high had dropped so we went back over France and waited for them.
On the way back we were diverted to Laon Couvron Airfield, France. The soup was from 11,000 down to the ground. We made individual letdowns. What a nightmare! Couvron was full so we landed at Laon Ataise A/F. The ground pounders were betting ever money that at least one B-17 would crash - but no one did.
1/21/45 Mission #24
Here we go again! Target: Primary, Micro-H on an armored vehicle works. Secondary, PFF on the marshalling yards - both in Mannheim, Germany. The 487th did not put up a group of our own. We led a squadron with Rattlesden (low).
Formed at 12,000 and the weather caught us. Couldn't climb fast enough to keep out of it. So we took off on our own to avoid any planes in the clouds. Six of our wing men went home when they became separated from us. We left England on our own and headed across France for Strassbourg. The contrails were dense, persistent - really hard to even see our own squadron. Our Air Leader really got worried about us being by ourselves. Jack and I had to argue like the devil before he saw the light on the bomb run. He wanted to bomb in group formation with just anyone. We wanted to take our 7 plane squadron in by ourselves. On account of Whitt is really an expert on PFF (couldn't bomb Micro-H - too far from the beacons). Then - on the bomb run the bombsight froze up, due to lack of precautions by our visiting bombardier, and Whitt dropped the bombs, aimed PFF at the center of Mannheim.
Temperature at 27,000 was -65F and my left boot went out. Stamped my foot for 5 hours to keep it warm.
2/6/45 Mission #25
I wonder if there is any weather in which they don't fly in the ETO? Up at 2:00 again this morning. Target: Hold your hat! The Bohlen Synthetic Oil Refinery. Right in the center of the Merseburg-Lutz-Kendorf-Ziest areas. But - visual only. Dresden, secondary and Chemnitz, last resort.
We led the high. Took off in the dark, as usual, at 0705. Supposed to assemble at 17,500. Clouds finally forced us down to 7,000. Went in over Holland. Toured over every flak area between here and the target. Bohlen was 10/10ths - Dresden had cover to about 30,000 - so we hit Chemnitz PFF - two divisions - 1st and 3rd. The 2nd hit Magdeburg.
After leaving the target we received word not to try to come home the northern way but to go south. About that time the lead's Mickey went out and our VHF was out. So the low took over and we went right over Schweinfurt (no flak). After wandering around near Stuttgart we took off across the Rhine between Karlesruhe and Mannheim. Got some meager inaccurate front line flak. Let down all the way across Luxembourg, Belgium and France. Crossed the channel at 200 ft. The base had no ceiling and we sort of felt our way in. After landing we watched the boys come in. Like to scared us to death! Finally one went off the end of the runway. Three crews landed on the Continent and one crew bailed out by Beachy Head.
10-1/2 hours today. Flew over 7 countries - England, Holland, Germany, Czechoslavakia, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium.
2/9/45 Mission #26
Looks like they are trying to finish us up on the rough ones. Today's primary was Bohlen, visual only. That's what is saving us lately, that visual only. Secondary: Weimar, PFF or visual. So we bombed Weimar marshalling yard and small arms plant. We really plastered it! We went in the Coblenz-Frankfurt corridor. No flak - surprise! Just north of Frankfurt 6 ME262s jumped us but they didn't get a shot. One came across in front of us from 2 o'clock high to 8 o'clock low with a P-51 right on his tail. Rector had him in his sights but couldn't fire because of the P-51. That fellow was rugged - he circled around and tried again for a pass. Went right through the formation - but by then he had 5 P-51s after him and they weren't losing any ground either. I was too interested to be scared. At Hamburg and Magdeburg I was so scared I couldn't swallow - but today I was wishing to hell I had my guns back in or at least my camera.
We went on to the target. Feb. 6th we flew right over Weimar and didn't get any flak - it was 10/10ths. Today was about 5/10ths and they had a three gun battery. What sharpshooters! Went in at 26,000 feet and lost two ships. One went down at the target - lost a wing. The other one might have made France. Our pictures showed a perfect strike - one bomb went right in the building that was the MPI - and we were dropping RDK's too.
2/16/45 Mission #27
Really surprised this morning. We were not up to fly at 9:00 last night. But the CQ woke me at 5:30. He tried at 5:00 and I didn't wake up. 10:30 take off. Target: Hamm marshalling yard. We flew the low on Rougham. Bombing was supposed to be visual - cat and mouse - Micro-H. Flak was moderate and accurate. No. 3 ship in the lead blew up. We were bombing in 6-ship sections. Went in PFF and Al dropped visual at the last minute. Really hit the target, too - a beautiful hit. Just before bombs away we were spread all over Germany and bandits were reported in the area. To top it off I hadn't seen a P-51 all the way in. The section behind us told us later that the flak was tracking us all the way in and out - bursting right behind us. One went off right over the nose. It was between us and the sun and really blacked the nose out for a while.
Came back to the field and couldn't see it until we were about 150 feet over the runway.
2/22/45 Mission #28
Up at 2:00 am. Target: Cheb, Czechoslovakia. Marshalling yards. Bombing to be from 12,000 feet. Led the Group. Assembled and flew about half way over Belgium at 6,000 feet. Crossed the Rhine south of Strasbourg. Good view of the Alps - about 40 miles away. Descended to 12,000 and hit clouds. The bomber stream was all over southern Germany. We went to the IP. The primary and secondary were covered. So we wandered around Nurnberg. Jack wanted to bomb it from 16,000 but - we bombed the last resort from 19,000 - PFF. Crossed into France. As soon as I got Jack on course for Osrend I went back to the waist and went to sleep. I really had a headache.
2/24/45 Mission #29
Up at 1:30 am. Target: Sub pens at Bremen, Germany. Supposedly about as rough as Hamburg. We were leading the group with an Air Leader aboard. Take off was 6:00 - but was delayed 2 hours. I laid down on the cement floor at Engineering and really slept. Last night I "sweated" this one out - only slept about a half hour.
Instead of a wing assembly line - we all hit Buncher 23 and on to Southwold. I hit B.23 30 seconds early but there were two task forces ganged up and we could not find the "C" group that we were flying "D" on. So I hit Southwold 30 seconds early - still Eberhart was frantically calling with no results. On across the North Sea to the hook of Holland. I made it minute late. Finally, over the Zuider Zee, the Air Leader called that he had picked up Charlie - so we swung in the bomber stream. It turned out that it wasn't even our wing - but Task Force #2. By the time I convinced the Air Leader - we had overshot the pre-IP about 5 miles. So we cut across to the IP and hit it on the head. Made a PFF bomb run. Metro was 90 deg. off on their wind. Instead of 264 knots ground speed we went over Bremen at 190 kts at 26,000 ft. I only saw 2 bursts of flak just after bombs away. The flak was moderate to intense and accurate. It was bursting under and behind us. On the way home one ship from another group toggled on Quakenbruck. His 500-lb GPs fell short- only one hit the marshalling yards and his IBs lit in a field.
Major Eberhart complimented me twice. Once in front of the Colonel, and once at the critique, while I was reviewing the mission. I didn't say a word about his end of it.
Jack and Whitt finished up today so we buzzed the field shooting every kind of flare we had, except red-red. Darn near put one in the 72,000 gallon gasoline dump.
2/25/45 Mission #30 Graduation Day!!
Almost ashamed to finish up on this one. Except that our primary was visual only. Munich - PFF and the weather was briefed to be 6/10ths plus. Also we were given a diversion base in France.
What a trip! I rode the bomb aimer's seat. Clouds were 9/10th to Strasbourg. Then 3/10 to 5/10. Had some light accurate front line flak. Twelve o'clock, close in at Riegel. Had clouds over the bomb run - but I picked up the target about 15 miles out. Finally Rusty saw it. All 3 squadrons put their bombs right on the MPI. Results - good to excellent. The target was an underground oil depot on the south banks of the Danube - just west of Neuburg. On the way in we wandered off course and nipped Switzerland and Austria. I really had an easy day today.