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Group History

Thomas C. Hughes - Combat Diary

1st Lt. Thomas C. Hughes - Combat Diary
Mission #22 - Hamburg - 31 Dec 44

Joe C. (Joseph R. Calistra - regular Navigator) is still in the hospital (he was replaced by Dan Shaffer) but Joe Dye flew with us for which I am very glad. We went to Hamburg to get an oil plant. On the bomb run we encountered the heaviest and most accurate flak I have ever seen. It was so close we could hear the explosions and then we could hear the frags rattle on the skin of the plane. We were in the awful flak for 25 or 30 minutes. Two planes of our squadron collided and went down just a few minutes before the target. Two (2) others from the group went down in flames and several had engines out and were straggling. On the bomb run we could see two (2) Me-262's above the division column just cruising along. They were giving our course, altitude and speed to the ground batteries, and also directing Jerry fighters which we could see in the distance.

Our own P-51 escort had been diverted to Hanover where several other groups were bombing. We turned off the RP and had a pretty good formation, that is what was left of us, and as we left the RP about fifty (50) FW-190's jumped us. We were under attack for 8 minutes with Jerry coming in from 6 to 7 o'clock high and low and five (5) to seven (7) at a time. We were ready for them and it was a very reassuring sound when those 50's started to chatter. No one was knocked our of formation by the fighters but we think they did for the stragglers. We claimed four destroyed and one damaged. Top turret (John Wolos) got two (2), chin turret (Joe Dye) one (1) and tail (Rudolph Dunker got one (1). The damaged (claim) was between the ball turret (William Luby) and the left waist (Glen Davis) guns. We were all pretty scared when the tail gunner said both his guns were jammed. He got one of them going again right away. I am very proud of all the crew. They did a wonderful job. There was no panic and no yelling over the interphone. Fighters were called out as they came in and every gun on the ship was trained on them.

The one that Joe Dye got came in from 5 o'clock high and then came under. The tail gunner called him out and Joe swung his guns to 11 0'clock and started firing before he even saw the Jerry. Jerry flew through a hail of .50 caliber slugs and started to burn. After the attack let up the lead took us right over Kochshaven where they shot some more flak at us, but it was a rather half-hearted barrage. Over near Heligoland our escort showed up and went home with us. When we got home and counted noses there were 13 missing out of forty-two (42). There were also numerous ships with wounded aboard. Our element leader had his co-pilot killed and his radio operator fatally injured. We had no injured and no serious battle damage. We were mighty glad to be home and considered ourselves lucky.

Time logged 7 hours and 30 minutes

 

Thomas C. Hughes
Lt Col. USAF Ret.