COMMENTS & NOTES
DATE: 24 Sept.1943 349th Sqdn. A/C #42-30259 Damifino II
TARGET: Practice Mission MACR #778 (Micro-fiche #257)
2nd Lt John G.Gossage P Rescued & later a POW (3/3/44) Berlin
2nd Lt William S. Grier CP KIA
2nd Lt Walter Nichols Jr NAV POW 8/10/43 Bremen (with Lt Becktoft Crew)
2nd Lt Theodore J.Don BOM Rescued & CPT sn# 0-676883
T/Sgt William S.Humphrey TTE Rescued & later a POW (3/3/44)
S/Sgt Ralph Schulte RWG KIA
T/Sgt Michael W.Gillen ROG Rescued & CPT
S/Sgt Francis J.DeCooman BTG KIA
S/Sgt Bruce E.Alshouse TG Rescued & CPT (1994 President of the 100th BG Association)
S/Sgt Clyde O.Lovell LWG KIA
This crew joined the 100th Group in August 1943 a few days after the Regensburg raid of 17/8/43.(17 Aug 43). Flying with the Crew on the Sept 24, 1943 mission was 2nd Lt Ward Dalton(Nav) in place of Lt Nichols and was KIA.
Missions Flown by Lt Gossage Crew:
September 15, 1943 Paris a/c 230170 "Torchy II"
September 23, 1943 Vannes a/c 230023 "Forever Yours"
On 24/9/43 a rather sudden practice mission was scheduled and it was dis-covered that this crew's regularly assigned A/C was still loaded with bombs from a mission scrubbed earlier that day. Another A/C was assigned the crew and in the rush to take off at the proper time, it was not immediately discovered that the ten machine guns were stored in the nose compartment.
While over the North sea on the practice mission, about 10/15 enemy fighters jumped the formation and left Gossage's ship badly shot up and #3 engine and part of the right wing burning fiercely. Gossage ordered the crew to bail out but he rode the ship to a crash landing in the sea. After about an hour in the water, Gossage, Don, Humphrey, Gillen and Alshouse were picked up by Air-Sea Rescue. Bodies of Schulte & DeCooman were never recovered and their names are inscribed on the Wall Of The Missing at Cambridge, Eng. Bill Grier is buried in the Cambridge Cemetary.
On 3/3/44, Gossage flying with a new crew was shot down on a mission to Berlin and became a POW. Sgt.Humphrey, with the crew of R.D.Vollmer, went down on that same mission and became a POW.
See Bruce Alshouse record for a description of the rescue, it was not Air Sea Rescue, rather a Royal Navy combat flottila.
View from the tail
by Bruce E. Alshouse
After the 24 September 1943 combat mission was canceled, we were told we were going on an afternoon practice mission to drop practice bombs over the North Sea. We did not even have guns to put in our ships. We took off thinking we were going for a nice joy ride. We were flying in a formation with about eighty other fortresses.
Most of us were in the radio room relaxing when two enemy fighters jumped us. There we were over the North Sea with no guns. Their first pass at us put two cannon shells in one of our engines and it flamed up. We were afraid the gasoline was going to blow up.
The bombardier, Ted Don, opened the bomb door and the pilot, John Gossage, told us to bail out. We were in dive at 250 mph when we started jumping. I was the last one to jump and was about 1,000 feet above the water when I went out. Just as soon as I pulled the rip cord and my chute opened, I hit the water. I inflated my life preserver but it didn't work. The waves were about fifteen feet high and my chute was dragging me across the sea. I had a hard time getting our of my harness, but finally got out. I had to struggle to keep afloat, I went under several times.
Then I saw two small boats go by me in the direction of the way the plane had been going. I gave up all hope of being saved. Then I saw another boat in the distance, coming in my direction. It stopped so I didn't think they has seen me. After a while it came on and picked me up.
I was pulled on board and then I passed out. The next thing I knew I was having my feet rubbed vigorously by two English seaman, but I couldn't feel my toes. After and hour of rubbing, my feet came to life again. Then they gave me some brandy to warm me up. It just went down and came right up again with all the salt water I had swallowed. I asked how many of our crew were found and they told me they picked up five of us alive, two dead and that they couldn't find the other three.
After the torpedo boat completed its night mission, looking for trouble along the Dutch coast (as if we hadn't seen enough already), we put into port around noon on Saturday, 25 September 1943.
The five of us, who are still alive, feel pretty good but we are being sent to a rest home for abut ten days. We leave tomorrow. Our own navigator didn't come with us because he was sick. The substitute navigator, J. Ward Dalton, was killed. We are all going to fly again if we stay together, otherwise we don't want to fly.
Don't ever razz me about my big mouth because that is what saved me. The British crew couldn't see me, but one just happened to hear me shout. The English sailors are swell people. Don't ever let anyone tell you different, I owe my life to them.
I now have two raids to my credit. I am kind of anxious to get a crack at some of the Jerries for killing four of my best buddies. I am going to try and get a Jerry for each one of them.
This is no military secret so you might let some of the people back home know that this is no basketball game over here. Don't forget to say a prayer for the British sailors, I do it every night.
(Written to a friend a few days after the incident)
Attacked over the North Sea
by Theodore J. Don - 100thBG
On the morning of 24 September 1943 we were alerted for a trip to Stuttgart. Adverse weather canceled the mission and we all retired to our sacks. It was almost noon when we were recalled and quickly briefed for a hurried practice mission in the area of the Wash. I later found out the entire Third Division had been called out for this effort to experiment with Pathfinder bombing.
Out crew, under pilot John Gossage, having racked up our first mission the day before, headed for our ship, "Laden Maiden," we found it still loaded with 500-pound bombs. No time to unload the bombs so we were assigned to another ship. "Damdifino II."
There was no time to check things except the important items. Ten machine guns lay in the nose compartment. A few ships had skeleton crews, but we had a complete crew. Major Flesher and Capt. Barr led the high squadron. We flew the #2 position. Assembly was routine.
Before too much time had elapsed our navigator, J. Ward Dalton, Jr., told me we were nearing our target area, so I prepared for bombing. The clouds were 10/10 beneath us. I waited for ages but received no signal for "prepare to bomb" and began to wonder how much further we had to go. We were supposed to rendezvous with our friendly escort, P-47's, near Wash. When we spotted a bout ten to fifteen dots headed toward us from one o'clock we naturally thought they were our fighters.
We were rudely disappointed. The top turret of Barr's ship began to sputter and we were alerted. They circled and came on us from the right. I unlimbered my nose gun. The attack was fast and invisible. They came out of the sun at one o' clock. Our fuselage, from the bomb bay back, was ripped with machine gun fire. Then a 20mm landed directly behind Number Three engine. The oil tank was hit and flared up furiously. We were flying tight to Barr who kept waving us away. We stuck to him like a leech as we thought he wanted us closer.
Then we discovered the fire and banked away and lost altitude. Gossage intended to ditch but the wing was burning so badly he thought the gas tanks would go. He then gave the order to bail out. I opened the bomb bay doors and we commenced to hit the silk. We must have been no higher than 1,000 feet when I went out, as I hit the water right after I yanked my rip cord.
I was in the North Sea about 45 minutes when I saw the boats. I marveled at the fast action of Air-Sea Rescue. Two boats passed on either side of me while I was hollering my head off. They didn't hear me and I thought I was lost.
Then a boat came down the middle and picked me up. My only thoughts were that God must have directed them. Bruce E. Alshouse, tail gunner, Mike Gillen, radio operator, and I were picked up by the same boat. The other boats picked up John Gossage and William Humphrey, engineer/ top turret gunner. The Co-Pilot, William Grier and the Navigator, J. Ward Dalton, were dead when they were picked up. We stayed in the area for a long time, but the boats could find no trace of the two waist gunners, Clyde O. Lovell and Ralph Schulte, or the ball turret gunner, Francis J. Cooman.
How ironic! The air-sea rescue turned out to be British motor-torpedo boats, five English-manned and one Polish-manned out on a sortie to the Dutch coast. That night we played tag with German shipping and German "E" boats all near the Dutch coast. We were picked up by Commander Donald Bradford, who was leading the flotilla. He will long be remembered in my thoughts.
I learned later that our pilot, John Gossage, stayed with the plane. He wanted to skim the water and make a splash which might put the fire out. It didn't work. He hit the water nose down. Somehow, while the nose was under water, he crawled through the side window. He had to leave a shoe behind a rudder pedal. The ship floated for five minutes and then dived for the last time.
By the way we never received credit for that combat mission.
North Sea Catch
by Donald Bradford
I was leading a unit of six boats across the North Sea, bound for the coastline of Holland. We were expecting to meet a large Southbound enemy convoy in which was a big supply ship that had been fitted out for the blockade running to Japan. Our orders were to sweep the convoy route until we found it, or dawn broke. If it was sighted we were to sink it al costs.
As always when an important sortie had to be laid on the weather was unpromising. The wind was blowing hard and the sea had a nasty chop to it that foretold of a wickedly uncomfortable night. Still, there was no rain which was a blessing and although the clouds were low they were white and feathery, scurrying hurriedly toward the East and showing intermittent patches of blue sky.
With the sea dead astern, we were charging along at about 20 knots, in "line ahead," with an occasional boat "taking charge" as a comber lifted under it's stern and shot it ahead as it rode the crest of the wave, temporarily out of control. Consternation and panic was caused on the bridge at the seemingly inevitable collision with the ship ahead, until just in time the wave shot by and repeated the trick on each boat in succession up the line. We had just approached Brown Ridge, our half way point across the North Sea, when I heard the faint noise of airplane engines and hurriedly signaled for all boats to reduce speed to six knots so that the line of our creamy high speed wakes on the water would not attract the attention of a possible German spotting plane.
As the noise became louder and louder, I could hear an uneven beat and sputtering as if the engines were unhappy and liable to break down at any moment.
All eyes were aloft, trying to spot the aircraft. From the sound, it appeared to be circling above the cloud layer right over our heads. Then we saw it -- nosing down toward the sea about half a mile away to starboard with fire licking one wing. It was a Flying Fortress. The pilot was obviously going to make a crash landing in the sea. As we watched spellbound, I saw the first of the dark specks plummet from the fuselage as the crew commenced to bail out.
The sight of the floating parachutes broke the spell that was holding me as I followed the plane along it's graceful glide to destruction. Grabbing the R/T microphone, I broke my rule, "no transmissions except in sight of the enemy," as I passed out the order for the boats to scatter and rescue.
I charged my boat towards a cluster of three parachutes which were rapidly drifting away to the Eastward. As we gathered speed, I saw them drop into the water, one after the other. Through my glasses, I could see that two were in serious difficulties and unable to cast off their parachutes. The wind was blowing them across the water like a couple of ten meter class yachts with spinnakers set.
There was only one way to get them -- drive eastward at top speed and having passed them, to lie "beam on" in their path and let the wind blow them against our hull. This we did and soon a couple of very waterlogged airmen were gasping and retching on out deck. Now to find the third in the bunch. Without the white of his parachute to guide us and in the fading light, it was a hard and urgent task. The tumbling sea did not promise long life for the best of swimmers -- even with a "May West" around his body.
As we quartered around, reports of success or failure began to come in from my other boats. Quickly totting up the score, I realized that this missing man was the only man (out of eight chutes we saw) not accounted for.
After a quarter hour of fruitless searching, I was becoming desperate. Time was short and out operational orders were concise and clear -- we had to be in a certain spot by a definite time -- come what may.
It looked as if the unfortunate Yank -- if still alive would have to be abandoned. As a last measure, I moved about half a mile to the east and fired a red Very light into the air. It worked. Faint on the wind we heard a shout and knew that he was somewhere upwind of us. Steaming slowly into the west, we fired a succession of "lights" and guided by his shouts, we soon picked out a dark head occasionally showing in the water.
A couple of my ratings, Emerson, the ginger-headed pom-pom gunner of Grosverner House, and Wilson, a radar operator and machine gunner, were over the side in a jiffy and between them, with the aid of a length of rope, enabled us to haul the three parts drowned and completely exhausted man on board.
I reformed my unit and, going up to full speed to make up for the lost time, set a course for the starting position for our sweep along the Dutch coastline.
After my Coxswain and Bill, the First Lieutenant, had worked on the three survivors for awhile, getting the salt water out their congested lungs and finishing up with roll of blankets and the traditional Naval medicine -- a tot of rum -- they were fairly comfortable. Not all the boats could report such happy results. Three of the other five died, two from injuries and one after artificial respiration had been tried for nearly three hours.
I questioned one officer named Don, who had been the bombardier, and discovered that their plane had been on an excretes flight over the North Sea and had been jumped by a couple of German fighters. The crew were all new and fresh from the States and it had been their first taste of sharp and sudden death. I was very astonished to discover that none of them had seen the boats until we actually maneuvered alongside to pick them up. I had somewhat naturally assumed the Captain of the aircraft had seen us as he came out of the clouds and decided to bail out there and then -- rather than struggle nearer to the English coast.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful. The weather lived up to our expectations and the fury of the wind and sea as they clawed and pounded us on the homeward crawl the following morning is something that lives in my memory yet.
We berthed at Yarmouth in the early hours of the afternoon, wet, cold, sodden and dispirited -- a glum crowd. As I had sent a signal to Base during our plod home, reporting the American survivors on board, there were a couple of small ambulances and a staff car waiting to pick them up and whisk them off to their airfield somewhere in Norfolk.
They were a tough and friendly bunch and had practically recovered from their enforced bath by the time we berthed. As we all had a drink in my small, wet cabin before the left, one of them turned to me and said, "Say Captain, I guess you fellows need that rum that they hand out in the Navy of yours to keep you from longing for that comfortable spacious bench in the park to sleep on."
It was an apt, concise summing up of the crowed uncomfortable conditions under which we lived.