The WWII battle log of a B-17 waist gunner by Bill Ohl
June 25, 1943 Mission Number 1 5 Hours
We were awakened at 2:00am the morning of the twenty-fifth to go on our first mission over enemy territory. We had to turn back twenty minutes from the target, lost prop, and most of our No. 4 engine, which fell into the North Atlantic. Target was Bremen, Germany. It was our first raid. Lost three crews from our squadron.
June 26, 1943 Mission Number 2 5 Hours
Today we headed for LeMans, France. Turned back about ten minutes from the target due to cloudiness and shortage of gas. No losses today on crossing occupied territory that counts as mission No. 2.
June 28, 1943 Mission Number 3 9 Hours 40 Minutes
Today we bombed the German submarine pens at St. Nazaire, France. The target was hit hard by our 2,000-pound bombs. We flew through flak over the target, which the Germans shot from anti-aircraft guns. Torchy, our ship, got four flak holes today. No injuries. Enemy fighters came up but left without even coming into range, estimate number about thirty. Lost no ships in our group today, but saw one ship from another group go down in the channel. Mission No. 3 completed.
June 29, 1943 Mission Number 4 6 Hours
Today we went to LeMans and bombed German factories there. We did not make as good a bombing job as last time, but one of the other groups with us demolished the target. We flew over an overcast all the way to the target. A few fighters attacked the lead ships but did no damage. We picked up Spitfire escort before leaving the French coast. Encountered light flak at French coast. Mission No. 4 and still no battle scars.
July 4, 1943 Mission Number 5 10 Hours 45 Minutes
Today our target was LaPallice France. We flew through heavy overcast on our trip down there. We completely demolished the target, which was sub. pens again. We have a new ship now, 230170, named Torchy 11. It is our first mission in Torchy 11. She is a sweet ship, and is very fast. I still have my old gun, which I moved over into this new ship. We were in the air ten hours and forty-five minutes on this mission and I looked and felt very tired. One ship is missing from our group. We have been doing most of our raids over France. When we start raiding Germany we expect more losses. This is No. 5 mission and we are now entitled to get the Air Medal. We now have twenty more missions to do and then we will return to the U.S.A. the best land of all. We encountered three ME 109's but had no losses on their account. At the end of five missions we have a new ship, and still have the same old crew, except for a new co-pilot, named Jack Boyd. We are now Crew No. 1, we lost the first three crews on our first raid, so old Crew No. 4 is now Crew No. 1 and leads the Red 9's, or 349th Squadron, over the target. Our spirits are high, but this type of job is hard on your nerves, especially about five to ten minutes before you release your bombs on the target.
July 10, 1943 Mission Number 6 4 Hours 15 Minutes
This morning we got up at 1:30am, just after midnight to make an early morning raid on an airfield the Germans have just out of Paris, France. We had 16, 300-pound bombs on. We went in over the target, but there was a solid layer of clouds over both main and secondary targets. They threw flak from ground guns at us through the clouds without any effect. We were attacked by German Fighters, FW 190's. I tried my best to bring them down as they came in on these attacks, but they came right on in through a wall of bullets from my gun and firing as they came. Their wings light up like a billboard as the come in on you. I saw one burst out in a quick flare of fire, and then it went out. The ship did not go down, although it was hit badly. We lost two ships in our group. I saw one go down in flames and four of the crew bailed out and chutes opened OK. Our ship was not hit by the enemy but we had a fifty-cal. glance off the wing on my side. There was no other damage. Crew are all OK at the end of six missions over enemy territory and enemy occupied countries. We did not drop our bombs, as we didn't want to drop them on the French populous. It did count as a mission and all are OK after six missions.
July 25, 1943 Mission Number 7 8 Hours 30 Minutes
Today we took off to bomb a German aircraft production center in Denmark. We met a few fighters on the way up there but they didn't come in very close or give us much trouble. Our target was not visible due to an over cast and a smoke screen. So being only a few miles from the Keil dry docks and Sub pens we continued on to Keil, Germany through the heaviest flak I have yet been in and dropped our 10-500 pound bombs on the target along with every one else. One ship in the group in front of us got hit amid ship with a burst of flak and in a very few seconds was seen and no doubt everyone was killed. The flak in Germany is getting more intense every day. We had very good luck on this the 7th raid, although our ship had four good-sized flak holes there was no damage to the crew. The closest to me was a piece that entered the fuselage just back of the entrance door and went out the other side back of the tail wheel. We have two pieces of flak that stuck to the ship as souvenirs. I can say that this theatre of war is the toughest of any of them at present and that concludes mission No. 7.
July 28, 1943 Mission Number 8 5 Hours 30 Minutes
Today we got up to go on a raid at 3:30 A.M. We were to bomb a factory in Germany that makes F.W. 190 fighter planes. We took off at 5:30 A.M. We were the lead ship of the 100th group. We flew through heavy overcast all the way over the North Atlantic. We were attacked by about sixty to seventy German F.W. 190's and J.U. 88's. The fighters took good advantage of the clouds while we had to stay in formation. The 96th group lost three ships in the first sweep of the fighters. I was firing away and holding my own when the Sear in my gun broke and my gun would not fire. I got the Sear from the radio gun and was soon ready for action again. We could not drop our bombs even if we had reached the target due to over cast. That is the fault of the weatherman and S-2 and it isn't the first time they have done that on us. Although the fighters tried hard we in the 100th group had no casualties and all is well after the 8th mission.
August 12, 1943 Mission Number 9 5 hours
We took off this morning after a long siege of bad weather. I counted our ships as they run down the runway on the take off and soon found to my surprise we were going to be the "13" ship to take off. On the morning of Aug. 12 we were awakened at 2:10 A.M. for briefing. We took off, rendezvous and headed out over the Channel for Germany. We had P47 fighter escort in almost to the target. The 47's had just turned and left to go home and the German fighters hit us. We gave them a bad time and as we neared the target and the flak started coming up the enemy fighters left us. The flak that we flew through today was the heaviest yet, and each raid seems to have more then the last. As I said before being the "13" ship in the air this morning seemed to be a charm. Out of our entire group ours is the only one that didn't get a single hole in it. We did not bomb our primary target due to clouds, but instead we went to the secondary and blew hell out of the center of an industrial town called Bohn or Bonn. We bombed from 26,500 ft. and made direct hits right in the middle of town. I have never been so cold in my life before as I was today. It was 35 degrees below zero. We must keep our waist windows open from the time we take off until we land. I keep stomping my feet and marking time to keep my feet warm and slapping my hands but not once leaving my position. Ice was building up all over my eyes and my eyelashes were stiff like icicles. My oxygen mask was full of ice and water would run part was down my neck and freeze there. I saw one enemy fighter go down for good. The American 8th air force lost twenty five planes today. Reed, the pilot of crew six, very good friends of crew one, got hit in the chest with a piece of flak but will be ok soon. We were over Germany for at least an hour and a half. At the end of the 9th mission we are still all ok and ready to go again.
August 15, 1943 Mission Number 10 4 Hours 10 Minutes
Today we took off to bomb German airfields at Medville and Lille, France. The flak was light and only about five fighters. We completely demolished the both fields and lost no planes. The five German fighters really gave us a fight but did not hit any of our ships badly enough to bring them down. We lost no aircraft and that brings the number to ten missions.
August 17, 1943 Mission Number 11 11 Hours 15 Minutes to Africa 307 enemy fighters downed
Today we mad the first shuttle trip ever made by Forts. We took off and fought our way from the time we went into Germany over the Channel until we reached our target at Regensburg, Germany. We completely destroyed a ME 109 assembly plant. Our group lost 10 Forts, and our Sqd. Lost 2 crews and we lost our ship, which we left in Africa. We were attacked by about 200 German fighters and had a 2 hour fight all the way to the target. I saw lots of our ships go down in flame and fellows bailing out one after another. We flew by our selves 800 miles through southern Germany and Italy out over the Mediterranean and into Africa on 3 engines. We could not keep up with the formation so we continued on course to Africa by ourselves. We landed at Trobruk and slept under our ship for 2 nights and then continued in another ship, leaving ours behind. We landed at Oran and stayed 2 days and then continued to Marrakech and stayed 2 days. We took off at 9:20 P.M. the 21st of Aug. and flew all night up around Spain and Port. And landed in England the morning of the twenty second about noon. That completed our 11th mission and I should get 2 enemy fighters to my score. I shot the wing off of a F.W. 190 and a M.E. 109 exploded as I was firing at it. I am waiting to see if they give me credit for them or not. Our ship and crew downed 6 enemy fighters on this the toughest mission yet. So at the end of the 11th mission all is well and the half way mark is close at hand.
August 31, 1943 Mission Number 12 5 Hours 15 Minutes
Today we took off to bomb a German aircraft factory in Paris, France. We got over the target but there was to much of a cloud layer to see the target so we dumped our bombs in the Channel to save the French people and cities. We had P47 escort in and out and there were no enemy fighters and very little flak. This flight over enemy occupied territory completed the 12th mission.
September 3, 1943 Mission Number 13 5 Hours 45 Minutes
We took off in the lead ship of our group today and went to Paris, France to bomb a ME 109 repair station. We led the group over the target through very accurate flak that was bursting with loud explosions out side my waist window. The first four fighters that attacked us came in from the nose and as they went by I started one of them smoking. We did not drop our bombs as the bomb sight went out and we were going to go to the secondary target. We started to turn with the fighters still on us. One got in a lucky hit on our No. 4 engine and set it on fire. We were at 23,000 ft. and lead ship and our engine burning. We pealed off to the right to get away from the formation in case our ship would explode. The pilot said we would drop down few thousand feet and then bail out. As we cleared away from the group the pilot then threw the ship over on the left wing and we dove to the side away from the fire and went sown to 16,000 ft. and we still had our bombs in the bombay. We straightened up enough to get rid of the 6,00 lbs. Of bombs we were carrying, they were 12-500 pound bombs. As were coming down we were all getting ready to get out, but as we straightened up we saw that the terrific speed that we dove at blew out the fire, se seeing that we all got back on our guns and just in time to meet the attack of 4 German fighters that followed us down to make sure we were knocked out. Our guns started spitting lead again and two of the four were knocked sown and the other two went back to the other bombers. With three engines and all by ourselves and still very close at 16,000 ft. over Paris we started a fast long glide to the coast to make as much speed as possible. We were at about 5,000 ft. for most of the trip out to the Channel and ground gunners would fire 20 MM's and other small guns at us as tracers could be seen going by. We made the cast and dropped sown just over the water and came on in to our home base by ourselves, just arriving a few minutes before our group. We lost 1 crew and 2 ships out of the 6 that went in our sqd. As this the 13th raid was completed, we are still all ok and in a dammed good fighting mood from what happened to us. Torchy No. 1 was blown to pieces by a accident while in flight on the mission. I have two enemy fighters now and I hope to raise that score very soon and very high if I possibly can.
September 9, 1943 Mission Number 14 5 Hours Beauvais-Tille
Today we took off to bomb a German fighter field in France. We did not have any attacks by fighters on our group, but the low group was hit by 7 of them. I saw the attack but they were out of range for me to fire at them. The flak was light and we didn't lose any ships. I saw large convoys out in the Channel and it looks like an invasion of France is close at hand. After the 14th raid all crew members are all ok.
September 15, 1943 Mission Number 15 5 Hours
We took off to bomb the ME 109 reconditioning plant at Paris, France. There were a few fighters and the flak was the heaviest I've seen yet. I saw three Forts blow up as they went over the target in the group ahead of us. We then turned into the I.P. and on over the target and our navigator was wounded by a piece of flak that went through his left hand, but no one else was hit. We then continued on home and landed again after dark, completing out the 15th mission, still 10 to go.
September 16, 1943 Mission Number 16 11 Hours
Today we took off on a 1600 mile trip to bomb a target at Bordeau, France. We flew right down on the water all the way to within about 100 miles of the target and then went to altitude of 23,000 ft. and on in over France. Our target was under an overcast so we went over and bombed the Sub. Pens and docks at LaPallice. I saw 2 Forts leave the formation today, one on fire. Four chutes came out. The other left under control and headed for the clouds followed by two German fighters. As we were coming home down low over the water 4 JU 88's attacked us and one was shot down, the other 3 left soon after. We came on home and flew through fog from the time we got about 150 miles north and on top of that it was dark. We flew by ourselves to avoid a collision. At the completion of the 16th mission and 9 more to go I as still fine, but have been plenty scared at times but crew No. 1 and Bill Ohl are still giving the Germans hell at every chance.
September 26, 1943 Mission Number 17 5 Hours 30 Minutes
Today we took off in the lead ship of our group to bomb the Renneault factory at aris, France, or I should say at flak city, as Paris has the most and most accurate flak I have ever flown through. The Continent was a complete over cast of clouds and we could not bomb our target after flying around for nearly two hours over enemy occupied territory. We had a very good escort of P47's all the way in and out. I saw 5 enemy fighters but they did not attack us due to our large escort. We returned home with out any losses to our group. On the way home I saw 2 B17's or Forts collide and explode and go down over England in flames. No one got out of either ship.
November 29, 1943 Mission Number 18 6 Hours 15 Minutes
Today we took off to bomb the shipping center at Bremen, Germany. We flew at 27,000 ft. with a temperature of 56 degrees below zero. We dropped our bombs through an under cast on the flares of the pathfinder. Several FW 190' made one head on attack and left us. We had P47 escort in and out. We didn't get hit by either flak or fighters.
November 30, 1943 Mission Number 19 7 Hours 15 Minutes Solingen
We took off to bomb a town in the center of Germany with a population of 150,000. We bombed through an under cast at 29,000 ft. at 48 degrees below zero and started home. We had to feather one engine and the other 3 were freezing up and our superchargers were frozen. Our engines were running but not fast enough to pull the ship. We dropped out of formation over Germany and started losing altitude while heading for the coast. As we came over Holland Major Benett and Capt. Barr saw we could not make it across the North Sea. He gave orders to prepare to abandon ship after deciding that it would be better to bail out than to crash land and then destroy the ship. We all put on our chutes and were waiting to get out away from the towns so we would have a chance to hide when a flak gun began firing at us at four of five thousand feet over Holland. When the pilot took evasive action and began working the throttles the superchargers had thawed out at our lower altitude and the pilot called us and said to hold on a minute that he thought we could make it ok now. I looked out my window and saw No. 1 engine was being started. We then followed a river or inlet out to sea and continued on to our home base.
December 23, 1943 Mission Number 20 4 Hours Munster
Today we went to Munster, Germany. On our groups last mission there we lost all except 1 ship. We lead the group to Munster in Torchy 3rd. We had excellent fighter escort and light flak. We dropped our bombs through an undercast on the flares from the pathfinder ship.
December 24, 1943 Mission Number 21 4 Hours No ball 19-Pasde Calais
We took off at 11:45 A.M. to bomb French installations. The sky was as clear as a bell and we had about 600 fighter escort and 1300 heavy bombers in the air that day. That was the greatest number the 8th air force had yet sent against the enemy. We did not run into any flak or fighters. That is the easiest mission yet.
January 5, 1944 Mission Number 22 6 Hours
Today we took off leading the 100 group and with plenty of fighter escort. We went over into Germany and on into the Reuhr Valley to destroy a bolt and nut factory and in doing so we leveled the town of Nuess, a medium sized town situated between Dusseldorff and Cologne. We picked up flak from Dusseldorff. We do feel proud as we were leading our group on this raid and for the accuracy at which our bombs hit. I saw on FW190 exploded with a beautiful red flash and disappeared. The explosion came on a couple of seconds after the ship began to smoke. I believe our bombardier may get an award for this mission. As our briefed target was under an over cast we bombed this target of opportunity, as we called it, with such perfect results. It happened to be a vital war industrial factory. That brings my 22nd mission to an end and only 3 more to go.
January 14, 1944 Mission Number 23 4 Hours
Today we took off and bombed another German installation on the French coast. The code name of the target is No Ball 20. We did not get much flak and no fighters. We had excellent fighter escort and our pilot, Capt. S.L. Barr finished his missions and also our navigator, Capt. H. Basset finished his. Our crew is now broken up after six months of training in the States and of 8 months of combat together. Now we are sweating out our last few to finish up.
February 21, 1944 Mission Number 24 7 Hours
We took off this morning to bomb the Ball bearing factory at Brunswick, Germany. This target is 60 miles west of Berlin. We had excellent fighter escort all the way. We crossed over into the continent above a 10-10st over cast and continued on in. We got about 150 miles into Germany and ran out into a clear sky and right over and area of about 6 or 7 German airfield. The Gray leaders immediately each picked out a field and made a bomb run. We completely demolish our target. We then abandoned the operation on Brunswick and started home. We started picking up flak just after bombs away and it lasted about five minutes but was not very close, I would guess it was about 100 yds. Or so to the right and behind or at 5 o'clock. We then continued on home and landed to complete my 24th mission.
February 24, 1944 Mission Number 25 11 Hours 45 Minutes
We got up at 2:30 A.M., breakfast at 3:30 A.M. and briefing at 4:30 A.M. We were to bomb a fuselage and wing factory for German fighters at Posen, Poland. We were alone not having any escort. We took off and started in over the North Sea. We crossed the Island of Silt at 12,000 and went through a flak barrage, which exploded several thousand feet above us. I could look out and see the flak shells burning and leaving a light smoke trail as it shot up through our formation and exploded way above us. We went on in over Denmark and out over the Baltic Sea and as we crossed the coast again into Germany to get into Poland and our target we were attacked by 4 JU88 German fighters. They lined up at about 1500 yds. To the right of our formation and made pass after pass at our group from head on and guns a-blazing. I could see the 20MM's exploding all around. Our pilot kept up evasive action all the while we were being attacked. I wasn't getting any action on the left side so I called out the fighter's position to the crew so they could fire at them. I did get some shots at one that passed over the group but he was quite a distance up and I did not hit it. We finally got to the target after an hours fight with the fighters and we had got two of them. We found out that our target was under a cloud layer, so still being constantly followed and attacked by FW190's and ME109's. We came back to Germany and bombed a target at Rostock, Germany, that is every one except us. We opened our bomb-bay doors and our bombs began dropping out one by one so in order to keep a top bomb from falling on one of the lower ones we dropped them on the bomb run before we reached the target. The evasive action to keep out or the sights of the fighter's sights was so violent that the bombs pulled loose. We stayed in the formation after our bombs were away and went on over the target with our group. They dropped the bombs on the flares of the pathfinder through the clouds and we could not see if it was good job of bombing or not. We were in the flak with the group for about 10 minutes, and the only close flak we got was a follow up group of four bursts that came closer and closer until finally four burst exploded directly under our ship, each of the bursts could be heard, that is how you know it is close. We continued on over Denmark with the fighters still around. I saw on 17 get it's tail shot off and leave the formation and was shot down about five minutes later. A ME 109 came through the formation and passed about 150 or 200 yards off our left wing. He came out of the sun and was behind the wing until he got so close that I didn't have time to get a shot at him, when I did see him. He passed through without doing any damage. We passed out over the coast of the North Sea again and started loosing altitude about 2 hours and 30 min. later and came in over England at about 2,000 ft. and as it was getting dark and we had to wait for the B. group to land first we put on our clearance lights and finally landed to complete the 25th, and final mission over enemy occupied territory, where they can make it plenty rough as I have seen plenty of times in my 9 months of combat missions. I was really happy to get back from that 25th and last one and was plenty tired as we had gotten up for 4 morning straight. The missions were scrubbed the preceding mornings. At times, I thought I never would complete 25 missions as I had seen to many of my friends go down. Our group had two original crews finish and I happened to be one of them. Now that I'm finished I hope to be home for a furlough soon, by my birthday I hope.