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Group History

Capt. James R. Stout Combat Log

Stories from-“B-17 Memories From Memphis Belle to Victory”

By T/Sgt. James Lee Hutchinson

Pages 56 – 82 The “Bloody Hundredth”

 

                                         Captain James R. Stout’s Combat Log

Captain James R. Stout was a bomber pilot in the early years. His combat log is an amazing account of his Eighth Air Force B-17 bombing missions. As a veteran of 20 missions a year later, I can appreciate the flak, fighter attacks and engine problems they encountered in the early days. The fact that their missions were a year before mine when Germany’s Air Force (Luftwaffe) was at its peak, awes me. The Stout crew survived practically every deadly situation experienced by thousands of WW II bomber crews.

James Rowland Stout, a fellow Hoosier, graduated from Shortridge High in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1934 and worked at the L.B. Price Company in Columbus, Indiana. Eight years later, he had a wife, Norma and a two year old daughter, Janet Rowlyn when he enlisted in the Air Cadet program at Bowman field, Kentucky in April 8, 1942.

He did pre-flight training at Maxwell Field, Alabama; primary flying training at Dorr field Florida; basic flying at Gunter Field, Alabama and advanced flying at BAAF, Blytheville, Arkansas. He completed pilot training with class 43D in May, 1943 at Hendricks Field, Sebring, FL. After thirteen months of intensive training, he was assigned to combat crew training at Moses Lake, Washington. Later, Second Lieutenant Stout and his crew were deployed to Kearny, Nebraska and prepared to fly the North Atlantic Route to join the Eighth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations.

The twenty-six year old pilot entered the combat zone October 15, 1943, completed thirty hazardous missions and attained the rank of Captain before he left the ETO, May 20, 1944. He remained in the

service and volunteered as a test pilot in October. The veteran pilot was assigned to the Office of Flying Safety, Santa Anna, CA.

Captain James R. Stout was flying a B-25D test bomber when he was fatally injured in an emergency crash landing at Douglas Air Force Base in Douglas, Arizona on January 12, 1945. The engineer flying with him escaped with minor injuries. A second daughter, Joyce Rowjean was born after his death.

Note - I wish to thank Captain Stout’s daughter, Janet (Mrs. Tom Cotton) for allowing me to print her father’s flight log. It is a very concise and informative set of notes written after he had completed each long, tiring and dangerous mission. This hero’s story should be preserved to tell this and future generations of his Eighth Air Force combat experiences. Sit back and imagine you are the pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress flying bombing missions over Europe in 1944.

The 2nd Lt. James R. Stout bomber crew arrived at the Bloody Hundredth October 15, 1943 and was assigned to the 349th Squadron. According to group procedure, they received training in formation flying and combat procedures before flying in tight formations. New pilots were required to fly their first mission as co-pilot with an experienced pilot. Lt. Stout’s first mission was out over the North Sea and across Holland to Munster, Germany as co-pilot with the Lt. Donald H. Moede crew.

Munster Dec. 22, 1943 It was a rather uneventful trip except for moderate, but inaccurate flak. We sighted no enemy planes, but had plenty of P-47 escort fighters which certainly look good to a bomber pilot. We flew in the number two element of the lead squadron and used PFF radar to bomb through the clouds. Flying in the right hand seat as co-pilot was awkward. Mac came along too as waist gunner.

Ludwigshaven Dec. 30 This was our crew’s first mission, our plane was “Dodie,” # 783. There was no excitement on the way, except a continually “running away” propeller on engine # 4. We ran into flak at the IP (initial point to start the bomb run) but it was about 3000 yards to the left. However, it got very accurate and heavy over the target and afterward. We received a hole in the right wing; # 3 engine was smoking; Chet had holes in the plexi-glass nose; our astrodome was shattered and a piece of flak hit Nelson’s desk, tearing his log .The main gas tank on # 2 was hit; the oil tank on # 1 was punctured and the prop on # 4 was still “running away.” A flak burst exploded directly above us and stunned me for a second – so we were fairly busy for a while. After the flak finished with us, our leader, Captain Henry Henington dropped back with a feathered # 3 motor and Lt. Moede took over just before we were hit by the “Abbeville Boys”, a Focke-Wulf-190 fighter group with a reputation for attacking in spite of Hell. They came in from out of the sun and clouds and got Lt. Marvin ‘Pappy’ Leininger’s plane on the first pass. As the plane went down in flames (see Air Corps song) three chutes were seen to bail out, but one was on fire. They also got the Smith plane out of the low squadron and worked over George Brannan’s plane until our P-47 fighters came in to chase them off. His bomber crashed out of control on our return to base, but no one was hurt. His bomber had been hit by a 20mm shell during the fighter attack: the ball turret gunner was shot through the ankle; the bombardier hit in the face; throat microphones were clipped off both waist gunners and one had five holes in his pants without a scratch!

Today we flew the # 2 position in the lead element of the High squadron and bombed by PFF through the clouds again. The crew performed very well, especially Charles Lynch, our tail gunner, a very good man. (Lt. Robert J. Digby co-pilot on the Lt. Dean Radtke crew was killed.)

Note – Allied fighter and bomber pilots came to respect the “Abbeville Boys.” The yellow nosed Messerschmitt-109 or Focke-Wulf- 190 fighters were flown by some of the best Luftwaffe pilots of the war. The JG26 (Jagdgeschwader Schlageter) fighter group was stationed at Abbeville, France. Bomber crews especially were respectful of them due to their ability to penetrate their escort fighter screen and shoot them down.

Kiel Jan. 1, 1944 We flew #170 (Mikklesen’s ship) in Purple Heart Corner with Lyons of the Morgan crew for ball turret gunner as our

Danny Greene has the mumps now. Flight was all over water until we hit Denmark. Flak was heavy and accurate hitting our right wing. We got a hole in # 4 nacelle, behind the astrodome and a piece in my cockpit hit the oil gauges for # 3 and 4 engines. More worrisome was the erratic formation flying by our group leaders which finally broke up our element entirely. We straggled back alone, but finally picked up a B-24 and another B-17 as wingmen. We let # 4 run out of gas and feathered the prop before turning on our reserve fuel in the Tokyo tanks

We were very lucky that no enemy fighters came up for we were “duck soup.” We came home alone behind the formation and had to crank the flaps down before landing. A ball turret gunner on another plane died of anoxia (lack of oxygen) and Mac’s electric glove burned out, blistering his left hand. This was our second coldest mission. We had 45 below and the High squadron reported a low of 55. My crew’s gunners made Staff Sergeant today and Clegg made Tech.

Ludwigshaven (again) Jan. 7 PFF Mission - We were pretty well frightened and worried when they uncovered the map at the briefing and showed us our target. We remembered the hell we caught at Ludwigshaven the last time, just eight days ago. S/Sgt Hopkins was our ball gunner this mission. It was an uneventful trip with light flak and the most beautiful fighter support I ever expect to see! We had P-4, P-51 and Spitfires protecting us. We saw no enemy aircraft, although we flew directly over the lair of the “Abbeville Boys.” I saw one yellow nosed fighter leave the field, but he didn’t come up after us. We flew plane # 972 and bombed PFF again. We were # 2 in the last element of the high squadron. Our most narrow escape of the day was during

Group Assembly this morning, with B-17 and B-24 bombers whizzing every which way!

St. Omer Jan. 21 Visual mission to a Crossbow installation of V-1 and/or V-2 guided missile sites. We flew bomber # 783, now named “Call Her Savage,” in the # 2 position of the second element with the High squadron. We went in over the target by squadrons at 20,000 feet. Bob put on his flak vest and flew the ship while I tried to put on mine. I couldn’t get it on, got mad and threw it down in the hatchway. An action I regretted moments later when we flew into the most accurate flak we have seen. Something went wrong with the lead bomber’s AFCE (automatic pilot) and we had to circle around and make a second pass through their defenses. This time it was “Bombs Away” and the ball turret gunner said our bombs went smack on the target. There were two flak holes in the leading edge of the left wing between engines # 1 and 2 visible from the cockpit. Radio operator called the Bombardier on the inter-com and said the bomb-bay door had a flak hole in it. We also got a piece through the # 1 nacelle and a piece through the bottom of the left wing outboard of the # 1 engine, which narrowly missed the fuel line. The piece through the bomb-bay door apparently went in on the first run when the doors were closed and our bombs were still in there! Bombardier says bombs wouldn’t have exploded unless it had hit a fuse, but I wouldn’t care to depend on them not going off! Seems like every time we fly bomber 783 we bring her home full of flak holes, but we do come home. No enemy fighters today and good fighter support of P-38, P-51 and P-47 fighters, of which we saw forty. Putman bombardier was wounded. This was the third day we were briefed for this one.

Note – Crossbow was the code name for Royal Air Force and Eighth Air Force bombing missions against all phases of the German long-range weapons program which was firing V-1 and V-2 rocket bombs into England. Crossbow missions were dedicated to destroying Germany’s rocket launching sites and the manufacture and transportation of rockets. The target at Omer was La Coupole, a giant concrete bomb-proof rocket launching site under construction by prisoners/slaves from Poland and Russia. Crossbow missions had a high priority until the end of the war. The La Coupole launching site was never completed and today it a St. Omer tourist attraction as a WW II rocket museum.

Heddernheim Jan. 21 Visual or PFF Recalled--- Well, we were awakened at 2:30 am for a 3:00 am breakfast and 4:00 am briefing for a target close to the heavily defended Frankfurt deep into Germany. We took off in pitch blackness at 7:00 am got into our # 3 position in the second element of the Lead squadron off Mik’s wing. While circling, we saw a searing sheet of flames scud along the ground off to our right, which later turned out to be Drummond of the 351st. I was pretty well sickened by the thought of those poor devils dying horribly in that inferno. When we returned to the field we learned that he had dived into the ground to avoid another plane. The miracle was that there was only one man killed, the bombardier and one, the navigator, seriously injured. The rest of the crew exited under their own power. Well, after the Major dragging us and the low squadron through thick clouds, we hit for the enemy coast. We were past Brussels and making 258 knots with a strong tailwind when the “recall” came, only a few minutes from the target. We had marvelous fighter support of which we saw a hundred P-47s and 50 P-38s. Beautiful! Altogether there was to be 880 P-47, P-38 and P-51 fighters escorting us. No flak going in and only three, count ‘em, weak bursts coming out near Dunkerque. BUT the bomb group ahead of us caught hell and the tail was shot off one plane, apparently scattering tail gunner all over Belgium. We dropped our “hot” bombs in the Channel and landed back at our field in the closing haze. Not bragging, but we were the second and only ship of my squadron to get in on the first pass at a badly obstructed field. This was our first trip in # 170 since it was assigned to us. Last night our crew and ground crew voted on a name and “Pride of the Century” placed first, “I’ll Be Around” second and “Flak Foot Floogie” came in third.

Frankfort Jan. 29 Bombing PFF It was another repeat on the mission of January 24th. At 3:00 am, breakfast, 4:00 briefing and takeoff scheduled for 6:30 and as we taxied out to the runway (after the crew chief gave # 018 a quick pre-flight) we saw a $350,000 “bonfire” that one of our ships was making off the end of runway 28. It was Marks and his crew who were carrying ten 500 general purpose bombs which exploded on take-off. Three men were supposed to have survived. Nice repeat performance of January 24 and a very “encouraging” way to start off a draggy 8 hour mission. As we took off through the overcast and the thick black smoke from the early morning funeral pyre, Bob leaned over and said that he had something to tell me when we got back. As we cut the engines back at base, he told me that I had been taking off minus the supercharger, but he quickly turned on the electronic regulator to the correct setting and we lifted off, thereby he probably saved our lives. With a quick twist of the wrist and we live to take off another day. We had an uneventful climb and I found our formation over radio splasher # 6, however some of the boys never showed up and others aborted. It was generally screwed up. We crossed the enemy coast above a complete overcast and nothing unusual occurred on the way in. We got flak fairly heavy, but very inaccurate at the target and after turning to the formation rally point. Again, we had beautiful fighter support going in and coming out and saw no known enemy pursuits. However, somebody caught it as we could hear it over the UHF radio. Back at base we skipped down through the overcast as a group; a neat maneuver (Alexanders DeVore) As we circled to land, we got the “Bandits call” signifying enemy aircraft in the vicinity and we had to hurriedly re-load our guns. Mac, the left waist gunner, had a run-a-way gun, scaring us all and we found out later, the boys on the ground too. As we peeled off to land and tried to lower flaps. Clegg, the engineer went back to crank ‘em down but had no crank extension; so I decided to make a no flap landing, a not too pleasant procedure. We were almost to the ground when I saw the plane in front of me on the runway was too close so we pulled up to go around on our fast-disappearing gas. Clegg found the trouble and changed the flap fuse so we had flaps. Bob called the tower to give us a clear priority on landing this time around as all the tanks were pumping empty. I had to cut out one man on the approach and another had to go around but we had to get in. Our actions were verified and justified. Moments later when the #1 motor coughed her last and ran out of gas as we taxied past the tower, we restarted 2 and 3 and taxied in on them.

As we were heading out this morning tail gunner, Lynch, again proved himself a real man by battling a leaky oxygen filler hose into submission in time to save us from aborting. Clegg, too had a busy day as he had to crank the bomb-bay doors down and up over the target, which at 25,000 feet is a superhuman task, standing there on a narrow catwalk with no chute doing a breath stealing, arm breaking job while staring into 25,000 feet of space, partially flak filled. Strong as he is, at that altitude he had to stop every few turns and rest, which was the smart thing to do. I’m pretty proud of my crew all the way around. Chet, our bombardier, had a sick headache on landing (I don’t blame him.) We flew # 3 in the lead element Low squadron on Mik who scattered all over the sky both ways. We blasted I G Farber Industries. Nel came back from cleaning guns to say that we had only 20 gallons in motors # 2 and 3 but 1 and 4 were dry. All but Marks, Lundholm and the engineer died in the morning crash and only Lundholm is expected to live.

Brunswick Jan. 30 Mission Aborted 3:45 breakfast 5;00 am briefing for a repeat on Jan 11th “rough and tough” ( 59 bombers lost. We) took off at 8:15 and climbed right into position #3 lead element of high squadron (Moede.) Immediately after takeoff, oil poured ‘up’ over our #3 nacelle and the pressure dropped slightly. We stayed with formation, but it kept on and I aborted, intending to pickup # 347 and meet the formation at the last control point, but the left wheel would not extend so we went around. Going around, the oil pressure went out too quickly to feather the prop and the engineer reported that the wheel could not be cranked down.

We raised the other wheel and prepared for crash landing. We flew out over the Channel, dropped our bombs and flew back over the field and received instructions to go back out and jettison the ball turret. We did and had a hell of a time. The boys took off the necessary nuts and the ball slipped down and stuck at an angle. Clegg, Calkin and Trembly worked like beavers with Chet helping by battering at the hung part with a heavy sheet of armor plate. Everybody was holding on to everybody else and then Chet hit on the idea of using the armor plate as a crowbar and finally the ball went away with a great whooshing and the heavy armor plate actually floated in the hole for seconds before going down. All this time the # 3 engine was a molten mass with a wind-milling prop. On our way back to the field it set up a great vibration and sparks showered back. Finally the prop broke down at an angle, still spinning and chewed our cowling and then flew off into space. We hoped it didn’t kill anyone, but were very glad it was gone.

Coming back over the field, we circled ‘til about 3:00 p.m. using up gas and then flew to Honington for the finale. I put the crew in the radio room, well padded and ready to set about setting her down. (# 972 Croft’s ship.) My first pass was too high so I went around, taking more room next time, cut # 2 and dragged it in on # 1 and 4. It landed at 70 MPH very smoothly and I was able, to my surprise, to keep it straight with brakes. After stopping, before I could unbuckle my safety belt, co-pilot Lunds was out and jumping off the nose. I just sat there and had to laugh at his speed. I shut off the switches, climbed out and started collecting equipment. Met B. B. Smith of the 447th from Sebring there, he was sweating out a buddy who also had to belly land. They had our ship off the field in 45 minutes, very little damage was done to it. Flew back to base with Harrington. (On pass in London, we saw Murray make a belly landing in a newsreel.)

Note - Honington was a former RAF base used by the 8th Army Air Force as an Air Depot base to repair or modify B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 3rd Bomber Division. It was a designated site for bombers needing to make a belly landing.

Wilhemshaven Feb. 3 PFF mission Just in off a pass and Whammy! It was a 3:30 breakfast, 4:30 briefing. Our boys got in at 3:30. Briefed for sub pens and repair docks with lots of P-51, P-47 and P-38 support which we got. Beautiful again today, semi-darkness at takeoff time, uneventful climb through it to altitude, got too high and had to come down as the formation formed between layers. Our # 2 and # 4 superchargers lagged badly from the start. Contrails were dense and lots of clouds. Finally at 28,500 feet and 46 below, we bombed as low group. The sky was filled with Eighth Air Force bombers being lead by our A group and Col. Harding in lead squadron. As far as you could see, planes carrying Hitler’s medicine to him and fighters protecting them. (Blakely, now a Major and Lauro led B group.) We flew # 3 lead element off Moede’s wing. The flak was moderate and not too accurate, although our left aileron was hit and a couple of holes outboard on our left wing. No enemy fighters were seen. On the way back, # 1 oil pressure started fluctuating, then the prop ran away and could not be feathered. It started vibrating and ran up to 3300 RPM. We were hoping for it to fly off, but “no soap:” we were 60 miles out over the North Sea with only one good engine, # 3, because 2 and 4 were still lagging. The prop acted like it would fly off at any minute, so I sent Chet and Mel back out of the nose. Finally, we reached the coast with # 1 still at it. Headed in calling “Clearup” and the Aylesworth base picked us up and said we could land there. Just then I spotted home and headed for it with gas dwindling. We got “Clear-up” and permission to come straight in. It was a nerve wracking, wobbly landing, but we got down okay and # 1 prop stopped at last and started belching smoke. We taxied back with the inboard engines. The firemen, complete with asbestos suits, followed us clear to our dispersal to the tower, at my suggestion that that it wouldn’t hurt to be ready. Although I didn’t think it would burn. Lost one plane on Monday, one today and many on the deck! Today, we carried ten 500 lb general purpose bombs.

Frankfort Feb. 4 Visual or PFF mission Here we go again at 4:15 breakfast - 5:15 briefing. It was eggs and lousy tasteless bacon for breakfast. Briefed for Frankfort and they announced that we had killed 5,000 and rendered 40,000 homeless on our last raid, which possibly was to boost our morale, but it just made me a little sick. Anyhow we were to fly our own ship #170 which was in the hanger where it had been for a while for repairs. When we were briefed they said to sweat it out as they didn’t know if it was operational. While we waited, Capt. Herlihy came in and told us to take # 799, which Brown was going to fly but his crew was sick. I flatly refused 799 and said I would rather wait for # 170. We got off in our proper spot after a raunchy takeoff. We sweated it out because we aren’t accustomed to flying a ship right out of the hanger loaded with ten 440 pound bundles of incendiary bombs. God himself must have been tapping me on the shoulder saying “uh huh” to # 799; because Bob Lunsford remarked about how insistent I was that I wouldn’t take it. Brown got a new crew, took # 799 and did not come back! He was a hell of a swell guy. We can only hope he got out alive, if a prisoner.

We flew # 2 in the second element of low squadron. Mickleson led the squadron and did a p-- poor job. After the target, he passed out, dived and broke up the formation, which scattered. The flak was terrific, although our group was not hit hard, and ourselves not at all. B group had holes in every ship. We got in the edge of the Ruhr valley and it was the “walking on” type of flak for forty minutes straight. Before, at and after the target the flak was continuous. After Miks dive, the formation scattered and we went up to the diamond last element of the high squadron and then the pink Focke-Wulf-190s struck and I switched to the echelon off the # 2 man; however, they did not attack us. Three of our planes, Brown, Mc Phee and Green did not return. They must have been straggling behind as our waist gunner could see fighters swarming the stragglers. We don’t know yet if flak or the 190s got them. Sweat (at 40 below mind you) popped out in the palm of my left hand gripping the wheel through two pair of gloves, wool and leather, so I must have been scared somewhat. After we crossed the Channel, we left the group, ducked under the clouds at 400 feet and came back alone. Number 2 and 3 superchargers lagged, but engines ran swell. Danny, in the ball turret, said Frankfort looked like peacetime Broadway at Christmas time from our bombs.

Note - On visual bombing missions the ball turret gunner was a valuable observer. Hanging under the bomber, he could see how well bombs hit the target and report results to the pilot and intelligence officers at de-briefing.

Villa Coublay (Paris Airdrome) Feb. 5 Visual mission Wow! Three in a row this is getting tiresome. Another 4:00 am breakfast and 5:00 am briefing for the Romilly Repair Airdrome but it was covered with clouds so we blasted the secondary target and I mean blasted. We were scheduled as a spare, but we took over a nice spot as # 3 in the lead element of High squadron. Col. Kidd led the group and Capt. Swarthout the squadron, very good lead today. Had our own plane, Pride of the Century, again today and her engines performed like a dream. Flak over Paris was moderate but accurate and we picked up holes in the wings. Saw FW - 190s but none attacked our group. We had P-51 and P-47 escorts all the way, mostly P-51s for a change. Made a bouncy landing back at base. It was a comparatively uneventful mission, for which I thank God.

Brunswick Feb. 10 Mission aborted Took off as a spare this morning. We had alternate snowstorms and clear weather all day. Altogether, ten planes were unable to get to home base (make the formation.) During the climb we were having low oil pressure on #3 and overheating (300°) on # 4 and we could not catch the 100th, so we filled in with the 96th at the # 2 slot in the second element of the High squadron. Got to the enemy coast and # 1 oil pressure plummeted down, but Bob punched the feathering button in time to feather the prop. We “aborted” the formation and a P-38 picked us up immediately. He took us all the way back to base. He dropped his wheels and flaps to slow down and flew formation with us. Took some pictures of him, hope they turn out okay. His number was 888 with R. L. C. on the side. One plane which looked like a P-51 came over, but the P-38 chased him off. We found a hole in the overcast muck and came down over Horsham St. Faith airdrome. Contacted them and requested a “Weather Clear-up.” They advised us to land there, so we did, and it’s a very nice Former RAF base built in 1938. The 458th Bomb Group of B-24 s had been there two weeks, but non-operational as yet. Had dinner and shot the bull with several P-51 and P-47 pilots who were also forced to land there (Maj. Irvine, Peterson and Christenson.) Rondo came over in a truck and took us back to base, after Col. Kidd refused to allow us to fly back on three engines. We were commended in a letter from the Armament officer to our C.O. for seeing that our plane and guns were properly cared for at a strange base. The fighter pilots said the Germans threw up everything today and that statement was later confirmed. We lost Croft and Scroggins today from the 100th. Flew ship 170 today. This was the third Brunswick raid we had missed, God is still taking care of us!

Bois Rempre Sunday Feb. 13 No ball mission Briefed at 12:00 for a no ball target (V-1 missile site) flew a 351st ship # 936 and filled the diamond in the second element of Low squadron. Took off at 1:15, made two bomb runs at 12,000 ft and knocked hell out of Adolf’s secret weapons. No flak or enemy fighters. But the tail gunner saw a great explosion, thought to be a B-17 back of us. Note - The name “No Ball” identified the target as part of Hitler’s unmanned rocket project. This target was a launching pad for V-1 flying bombs bombarding England. No Ball missions were special targets of the Royal Air Force “Crossbow” operation to destroy the deadly missiles.

Brunswick (Vorden Drome) Mon. Feb. 21 PFF or Visual Breakfast at 4:45 am, briefed for Brunswick as the primary target PFF or visual at 5:45. We flew # 2 in the lead element of the Low squadron lead by Capt. Moede who finished his 25th mission today. (Went to Munster as Co-Pilot with him on my first raid.) Normal assembly led by Reeder, 100 B and Major Elton, 100 A. The formation got into the wrong Wing and ended up circling around and bombing the hell out of a Heinie airport. Saw scores of supporting fighters out of the 1,000 + promised in briefing. We saw a giant parachute-like explosion out over the Channel at 5:00 o’clock. Flak was present today, but none close. One plane,”Fletcher’s Castoria” is missing.

Rostock, Germany Thurs. Feb. 24 PFF Mission Breakfast 3:30, briefing at 4:30 for Poznan, Poland. We flew # 347 as # 3 in the last element of the High squadron of Amiero until Gossage aborted then we moved up to # 3 off Harrison’s second element. It was a long haul of 10.5 hours. Took off at 8:00 am and landed at 6:30 pm. Good formation, we had flak at the Danish coast, it knocked Gossage out. Then four Ju- 88s bounced our squadron with four passes coming in very close from 1:00 o’clock high. How in hell they missed us, and vice versa, I’ll never know; they were so close I could see pimples on the pilot’s nose. I think they were damaged by our gunners, only three came in on the second pass and two on the third and fourth. Got almost to primary target and it was overcast; we headed for Rostock and caught hell in flak on a half hour bomb run. More flak at the target, we bombed PFF. The group to the left and behind us caught hell from Fw -190 fighters and one ME-109 came through from 10:00 o clock out of the sun to knock out one B-17 which peeled off to the left where the fighters bounced him. Back at base, we sneaked in and landed with the lead group 100 B because we had only 200 gallons of gas left!

Regensburg February 25 Visual mission Dear God, spare us another mission like this last one, Amen. Well, we took off in plane 018 flying # 2 in second element of the Lead squadron. We did individual climbs up through overcast to assemble on top. The group went in at 20,000 and caught hell all around us all the way. Saw plane after plane go down. Four Forts and a Liberator definitely exploded either on the ground or on the way down. There were some parachutes. Just prior to crossing a large river, we had 100 pound oil pressure on # 2 engine. She was smoking and we couldn’t feather the prop. We dropped our bombs on Lowenstein and tried to keep up with the formation. Our tail gunner says we blasted hell out of the town we hit. We cut short of the target figuring to pick up with a formation heading home. We were circling all alone, but were not molested. We got in with the 95th formation and the leader slowed down so his men and we could keep up. All was okay until # 1 supercharger amplifier went out. Joe Daugherty (radio operator with 24 missions) changed the amplifier in the radio room and we got # 1 back. Of course we lost the formation and were once again all alone. Then # 1 ran out of gas and we transferred fuel from # 3, a little later # 3 went out and we only had engines # 1 and 4 left.

 I called a B-24 group behind us for fighter support, which we got. Meanwhile, we had thrown out all guns, ammo and flak jacket armor to lighten the load and save gas. Over France # 1 went out and we started down to ditch in the Channel. Flak from Abbeville laced us badly in the wings and beneath the radio room. We could not spare much evasive action and both the radio operator and I were sending out Mayday (SOS) calls. The Mayday station answered that they were getting us loud but garbled and that they had a fix (location) on us. Our last engine conked out and we started our last glide, calling Mayday. We hit the water about six miles from Dunkirk, France and Spitfires circled as we did. We hit hard and water rushed in immediately. Bob dived out his window head first and I thought he had fallen in so I went over the top to help him up. We went back to pull the raft from the outside as the inside handle failed. Our raft inflated okay but got away from us. Bob got in it and commenced to organize things. I had jumped in the water without inflating my Mae West and had to take care of that “toot sweet.” Bob was in the raft with four of us hanging on the ropes around the side; Clegg with blood streaming from his head, Calkin, his hands frozen to the CO2 bottle and Mac, opposite from me. All of a sudden, Calkin screamed, “There’s someone under the tail, get him!” I looked back and there was a bobbing human just out of my reach. It was Chuck, he had floated around from the other side of the plane. I got a hold on him and got him to hang on to the ropes. He was giving off the most pitiful gasps, but he obeyed instructions. Now we were all trying to get the raft away from the plane before it went down. It seemed that nobody could climb into the raft. Finally, I got both feet and one arm over the side (how, I don’t know) and Bob pulled me in. Together we got Lynch, Mac and Calkin into the raft. Clegg was too heavy for us and although he must have realized he was doomed to die in the icy water, he was as calm as could be. There was one humorous moment, when Bob was bailing out water and throwing it out on Clegg, who said wearily,

“Throw it out on the other side Bob.”

Well just then the little rescue launches appeared over the horizon and I commenced selling Clegg on the idea of hanging on ‘til they got to us. He did and the launch pulled the guys in our raft aboard. Those Air-sea rescue guys are wonderful. They got to us in less than a half hour and dived into the icy water to help us. Once inside the launch, I couldn’t move and Lynch was actually green. I just sat there with my nose running while they got my clothes off and put on dry ones. They warmed us up and we headed back to Dover. The launch was # 186, commanded by a Lt. Jones.

Chet, Mel, Joe and Greene in the other raft were picked up by the second launch. Their raft had only partially inflated and was upside down in the water until Danny turned it upright; Chet was injured in the head and ribs. We were taken to RAF “Sick Quarters” in Dover where we received new Royal Air Force clothes, food and first aid for Chet and Clegg. I got two right foot boots which was comical. They took the officers to Lymone and enlisted men to Hawkings for the night. Lt. Sheen was swell to us at Lymone and there were also two rescued Liberator crews in there. One crew had bailed out and the other crash

landed. Next day, we all met at Manston where a plane was to pick us up. Weather prevented that, so we all drew coats and took a train home. Our trip through London in boots and RAF Sergeant or Corporal uniforms was a panic.

Augsburg Fri. March 17th PFF Mission Breakfast at 3:00 and briefing at 4:00 am. We were starting all over again (after a three week rest) flying # 3 in the lead element of the high squadron. We had Me -109 and FW -190 fighters nearly all the way and near the I.P. there were 110s, 410s and Ju-88s in a groups of 21 firing rockets into the rear of our Fortress formation. We had our new silver ship # 607, “H for Harry.” Saw two forts go down, one in flames and another smoking (both confirmed). Lynch got a twin engine fighter from the tail and Chet got an Me-109 flying 90 degrees across our nose. These were our first claims for kills of enemy fighters. Got the usual flak at the target and dropped our bombs on the PFF. About minutes after the target, we had to feather # 3 engine. Well, we sweated that one out remembering the last time. We stayed right in position and prayed. Coming back over the Channel, I listened in on an Air Sea Rescue frequency. Three ships had to ditch, one was a B-24 and only ONE man got out!

We left the formation and dodged barrage balloons all the way home, but we beat the group to land in the haze. The next day, they went to take #607 into the hanger to change engines and ran out of gas. That’s how much we had to spare!

Note - A major Messerschmitt factory was an important target at Augsburg, deep in the heart of Germany. It was a long mission almost out of range for bombers based in England.

Augsburg (Lechfeld) Saturday, March 18 Breakfast at 4:00 am and a 5:00 briefing for the same vicinity as yesterday. Our 8:00 am takeoff was delayed one hour. We were leading the second element of the Low squadron. Corvans was squadron leader; Shaddix his right wing and Harte left wing. We had Horne as co-pilot and Myers in top turret (Luns and Clegg still in the hospital.) Uneventful flight to target and missed most of the flak. Then we caught it when Fw-190s passed on us twice from 2:00 o’clock high. Danny, in the ball turret, claimed a FW-190 skipped in from the front and killed Cowan’s radio operator with a 20 mm in the back. One burst directly in front of Cowan’s windshield (bullet proof) cutting his face severely. (For the last two days Joe has had no bullet proof glass.) Our # 2 engine ran rough all the way, but it’s the first time I got back with all four props turning in a long time. Bad weather the whole trip.

Berlin Wednesday, March 22 Well, at 5;30 this am we were briefed for the big town, the first time for our crew 41. I led the High squadron in ship # 249 for my very first squadron lead. Kressling and Lauro were leading the group. We went the long way, across the North Sea and Denmark and south to Berlin. Saw no fighters in or out, except “friendlies” but my God the flak! The heaviest and most accurate in my 18 missions. What a big town Berlin is! We got at least 40 holes in our ship. All four engines were hit with holes in the bottom and sides of the bomb-bay, in the flaps and ailerons, the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and nose. Nelson’s hand was scratched near the tail wheel. There were holes inches from Calkin, right waist gunner. Engine #3 exhaust was holed, # 4 throttle cables severed, and holes in gas tanks. Glad to get back “whole!”

Bordeaux (Merignac) Friday, March 24 Well, this was merely an eight and a half hour tour through France to bomb and airfield and assembly plant Merignac. Started out in # 607 leading the third element in the High squadron. Ended up over the target as # 2 in the second element of Lead squadron. Some flak no enemy fighters. One B-17 ahead of us turned left out of the formation slowly with # 2 engine smoking and four chutes came out. Our tailgunner reported it explodedd on the ground. We had excellent P-38 fighter support, especially at the target.

March 31 No mission Had a brush with an intruder(German bomber) who laid eggs on runway 28. We took off anyway, past the holes, but were recalled.

April 1 Recalled Flew # 607 as lead in second element of High squadron, but very bad haze forced us back.

Quackenbruch Saturday. April 8 Flew # 607 as lead of the third element, High squadron to hit an airfield. It was a nice “milk run” with lots of fighter support. Uneventful trip.

Lippstadt Wednesday, April 19 Flew # 607 as lead of the second squadron in the Low squadron, led by Morgan. Some flak, lots of P-38. P-47 and P-51 fighter support. We hit the target well. Unevental trip.

Marquisville Thursday, April 20 Flew # 710 in the # 2 slot off Mason, leading the group. No evasive action into the Noball target. Made a dry run the first time. On the second run we were hit by flak a couple of inches below my a___ setting the cockpit on fire. Clegg handed me a fire extinguisher and we got the fire out. The oil pressure on # 1 and 2 went out and I feathered # 1 but # 2 wouldn’t feather and in the

excitement, I pulled all four fuel shutoff switches off. Corrected it and came home on two engines later started # 3 again, I think the instruments were out. Landed and ran off the perimeter when the brakes failed. One landing gear collapsed on # 487 at the end of runway 28. Many men were injured.

Brunswick Wednesday, April 26 Flew # 607 leading the High squadron with Major Fitzgerald as co-pilot on a PFF milk run to dreaded Brunswick. Dense but in-accurate flak. No enemy fighters.

Berlin April 29 Stout flies the long ones! Flew # 607 again. We led the Low squadron. The Eighth lost 77 airplanes on this one, but our wing did not see an enemy plane. However, we did hit the famous Berlin flak and came home on three engines with # 4 having a flak hole that cut off our supercharger at 27,000 feet.

Saarguemines May 1 Flew # 723 and led third element in High squadron. Bob ended up leading the second element in the Low squadron as first pilot. Piss poor weather. Got attacked by four Me-109s but lost no one, although some came home alone on two engines. Blais-Moore co-pilot flew with us.

Berlin May 7 Today we led the Low squadron in # 607 on a milk run to “Big B.” Had good fighter cover and saw no enemy fighters. Plenty of flak as usual, but got only one hole in a gas tank.

Berlin May 8 We were flying # 987 today in a screwed up deal. Started out leading the High squadron and the group leader never showed up, so we led the group. Horne was my co-pilot, because Lunsford was leading a High squadron after that until he too aborted. We flew on toward the I.P. and saw many “flamers” going down from other groups. We lost our # 4 engine just before we reached the I.P. and I aborted from the group to come home alone. Weather was lousy. Picked up four P-51 escorts and finally had nineteen altogether. Nelson did swell navigation on his last mission and we saw no flak on the way back. Flew at 28,000 feet today and had eleven abortions out of thirty one ships.

Liege Thursday, May 11 Flew plane # 607 and led the High squadron for 390 A. We had a good assembly. Flak at Antwerp got one ship out of the lead group and flak at the target got Hunter out of the 100th in A wing. Saw no enemy fighters and had plenty of fighter support. Herres and Roeder were exceptionally good wing men.

Brussels # 30 Saturday, May 20, 1944 Fini! One Tour of Operations, USA here I come! (I hope) Yesterday the group was hard hit. One ship limped back with its stabilizer “twenty milimetered” and all shot to hell. Another ditched and we lost Horne in our ship # 607. We took off in #806, a new ship on its first mission. Did an instrument take off and uneventful climb to assembly. Ran in to the target and out with little flak. We could not drop our bombs because clouds covered the target which was in country occupied by our ground troops.

Chet, Chuck, Mac and I finished our tours today, but could not buzz the field because of a 500 feet low ceiling and terrific haze. However, we shot off lots of flares to celebrate and we were damned happy!

 

About the Author:

T/Sgt. James Lee Hutchinson served 20 missions as radio operator/gunner on the Lt. William D. Templeton crew of the 490th Bomb Group (H), Squadron 848 at Eye, England. He writes to record and preserve veterans’ memories which would have been lost. Eighth Air Force combat in 1942-45; the survivors, POWs and the boys who died --- too young to vote, but old enough to fight!  Numerous photos and stories tell of young airmen flying 25,000 feet on oxygen at 40 degrees below zero to face enemy fighters and flak over the target! The black smoke of exploding 88 mm shells looked harmless, but filled the sky with shrapnel like a giant shotgun shell. A direct hit knocked bombers out of the sky; a lost engine or fire meant dropping out of formation to face enemy fighters alone or bailing out to become German prisoners of war (POW.)

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