Robert E. Fitzgerald
Missions with the Bloody Hundredth Bomb Group in WWII
Station #39 Thorpe Abbotts, England
Mission #1 Sarrbrucken – Nov 9 1944
Flying conditions were bad because of bad icing. Our bomb load was 8 – 1000 lb. Six (6) in the bomb bay and two (2) under the wings. Briefing at 0510. Wilson, the pilot couldn’t get the plane off the runway until we hit the end of it and then was just able to lift it over the radar equipment sending ground crewmen scattering out of the way as we cleared them. We flew to our buncher beacon and then climbed to 12, 500 feet, climbing in a spiral over our radio beacon in an attempt to avoid planes from other groups. This load would be the heaviest we would ever carry. We broke through overcast at 12, 500 feet and could see several groups of bombers falling into formation. Our bomb group signal to identify them was yellow-red flares, which we soon spotted and pulled into formation. We flew over England for two hours with one bomb group after another falling into line and heading out over the North Sea towards our target, a German ground fortress with our secondary target being a rail yard at Saarbrucken on the French-German border. The eighth AF put up 1300 bombers with 500 Mustangs flying escort. The mission was in support of General Patton’s new drive. All planes were leaving contrails and the temperature at our bombing altitude was -37 degrees. If things are going to go wrong, first mission is a good as any. Lou Chappell’s (Navigator) heated suit plugs wasn’t working so we took turns using mine. The primary target was cloud covered so rather than take a chance on hitting our own troops we flew on to the secondary target, the rail yard at Saarbrucken. We saw no enemy fighter planes over the target. There were some openings in the clouds and we were receiving some very accurate anti-aircraft fire. Coming up on the bomb release point a plane in the group in front of us was hit and fell out of formation with it’s #3 engine on fire. The last I saw of it, it was staggering behind us. As the bombs dropped we could hear and feel shell fragments hitting our plane. One hit our number 4 engine but no harm done. Sam Allen, out tail gunner had holes all around him. The closest being about 6 inches from Bob Beck, our BT gunner. The 8th lost 19 bombers and 42 US fighters being shot down. All went fine on our way home. Bombardier and Navigator were happy to fly at lower altitude seeing that we found out that one heating suit plug in can’t keep 2 crewmen warm. Our group lost one bomber on this mission.
Mission #2 Weisbaden
We got a late start today, taking off at 0812 with 36 100 lbs bombs. We pointed our nose up and we didn’t stop until we reached 29, 000 feet. We flew with the high element of the low squadron, one of the safer places in case we should be attacked by enemy fighters. Just as we hit the I. P. to turn on the bomb run for the target the other two squadrons headed for home. We found out later that they had received radio message that the mission had been called off but our squadron didn’t receive it so we headed for the target. We had almost 100% undercast until almost over the target when we hit some opening in the clouds. Started picking up some flak which hit the lead plane and threw them into a bank just as the bombs dropped. All of the rest of the planes also went into a bank as they dropped their bombs which threw us off the target. They landed in a river and on the other side of the river alongside of the airfield. S2 reports later reported that the bombs landed in the river, broke open an air raid shelter under the river and killed 5, 000 persons. I find it hard to believe the 100 lbs bombs could do that kind of damage. (photos later revealed that several the groups planes had released their bombs on the town of Ingelheim) Six of the twelve planes in the Squadron received enough flak damage that they were forced to fall out of the formation, all but one was able to land in France. The lead plane lost #2 and #3 engines. #3 was burning and they were not able to close their bomb bay doors and dropped out of formation. We had flak hits by splinters of shell but was not injured. Col. Hub Zemke. Commander of the 56th Fighter Group had been just reported lost in action. The 56th was a Thunderbolt P-47 group but had recently changed to P-51 Mustangs. Their field was near us and they flew fighter support for us. His wingman said they hit bad weather on the Hamburg raid and found himself hanging upside down by his safety belt and by the time he righted his plane he had lost track of Zemke but thinks that is what caused his lost.
Tonight the buzz bombs are going over. We ran out of the barracks and watched as the anti-aircraft guns tried to shoot them down. They sound like a boat motor in the sky. The V-1 is a small rocket plane with a built in 2, 000 lbs bomb. The V-2 is a much bigger sent over from Belgium in a high flying rocket and cannot bet shot down. Carries a 2, 000 lbs bomb. One bomber lost on the mission.
More on the V-1 and V-2 rockets
V-1 26 feet long and 16 feet wing span. 4000 lbs weight and 1800 lbs explosives. Altitude 3000 feet and 375 miles per hour. 8000 were launched between 6-13-44 and 9-6-44. Some were launched from the ground and some from planes.
V-2 First V-2s hit London on Sept 8, 1944 range 230 miles, very accurate, main target England, mostly London also Antwerp, Brussels and Liege. Last fell on London on 27 March 1945. 1115 launched at England. 2050 fired at Antwerp, Brussels and Liege as of 3 April 1945.
Mission #3 Duren
We were awakened at 0400 for briefing at 0515. We were to carry 260 lbs fragmentation bombs with fuses set to go off 50 feet above the ground. Our target was German soldiers in the Duren. After the bombing the 9th Army was going to advance into the area after being held up for 2 months on the Siegfried Line. The 8th AF, the 9th AF and the RAF were all taking part in this mission. The 8th put up over 1200 bombers. As we approached the target I could see 2 bombers in the group ahead of us going down in flames. We got by lucky. We got some flak just before the target and some more just after we turned off after bombs away. We got back to our base at 1300 but the visibility was so bad we weren’t able to land until 1620.
S-2 reports that prisoners taken claim that 500 out of 800 of their company were killed or wounded. When the planes came over they laid in foxholes to protect themselves from the bombs only to have the fragmentation bombs explode 50 feet above them covering the whole area with deadly bomb fragments. No planes lost.
Mission #4 Hamm
Today I am 21 years old and as a gift I won a trip to Germany. Our target was a bridge S. E. of Hamm. Other groups were to bomb the rail yards at Hamm. We were told that there were 40 88MM guns protecting the target. We carried 6 – 1000 lbs bombs. There were enemy fighters in the area. I could see our P-51 escort dogfighting with some of them while others attacked the bombers. I could see bombers being knocked out of formation and others falling in flames. There were many fighter planes falling out of the sky and parachutes all over, but we did have Me-110 shoot six rockets at us but they missed.
The flak over the target was not very accurate. We dropped bombs at 1218. I watched them hit. It looked like we were right on target but there was to much smoke for me to see if they destroyed our objective. We had a left turn off the target and dropped 1000 feet which took us over Bielefeld, which had been bombed by another group. There were large fires and smoke coming up to 3000 feet. We got some flak here. Three more times coming out of Germany we got more flak. On the bomb run one of our lead planes was hit and went down but later we heard they were able to pull the plane out of the dive and get back to crash land in Belgium.
We had good P-51 fighter protection and our little friends kept the German fighters off of us. We also had British Mosquito’s along to help out. Almost the whole mission was visual with the only clouds over Holland. We bombed at 24, 000 feet and the temperature was -43 degrees. The fighters had a great day shooting down 110 Luftwaffe fighters, mostly ME-109’s and FW-190’s. The bombers shot down 12 more and fighters destroyed seven more on the ground. The 8th AF losses were 37 bombers and 13 fighter planes. That’s 336 men lost from 1100 bombers and 500 fighters.
Mission #5 Merseburg Nov 30, 1944
Our target was the synthetic oil refinery at Merseburg. We were to have 1170 fighters planes for protection. The Germans don’t like us bombing their oil refineries. We took off at 0830. Picked up some flak over enemy lines. Just before the I. P. a German plane looked like a ME-210 shot a rocket into the group in front of us. There was a huge explosion but I didn’t see any bombers go down. We over flew the I. P. and had to turn on the wrong heading taking us over the town of Zeitz. They threw a wall of black flak up so thick you couldn’t see through. A ship in front of us blew into nothingness and took it’s wing man down with it.
In about 3 minutes we were over Merseburg with it’s 3000 anti-aircraft guns. The flak here was 10 times as bad as Zeitz. At one time I could see three bombers going down in a ball of flames plus a couple dozen more falling out of formation. A fighter pilot bailed out of his plane and fell right through our formation. I could see him coming right at us and was we were going to hit him, but didn’t. I am not sure if he was American or German since he didn’t have his chute open. I watched a bomber whose right wing was sheet of flames fall about 10, 000 feet then 2 chutes came out of it just before it hit the ground and exploded one more chute opened.
One of the crews that came to the 100th with us went down but I heard they were able to crash land in Belgium. A burning ship passed right in front of us and when we hit it’s prop wash we fell 3, 000 feet before we could pull out. So there we were 3, 000 feet below the rest of the planes and they were getting all the flak and we were getting none. The target was covered by a smoke screen but our bombs looked to be right on target, but we heard later the results were disappointing. We flew 27 minutes in the flak area and lost 56 bombers and 30 fighter, all from flak. The fighters did shoot down 3 ME-109s. 1250 bombers hit Germany today. They also hit oil refineries at Bohlen, Zeitz and Lutzendorf all in the Leipzig area and the rail yards at Saarbrucken. This oil area is protected by twice as many anti-aircraft guns as Berlin. Our plane was the only one from the 100th to return without flak damage. Most likely because we flew most of the flak area 3000 feet below the rest of the group. Our group only lost one plane which was lucky considering all the planes shot down in the target area. The 8th AF lost 56 bombers and 35 fighters. 534 men.
Mission #6 Berlin Dec 5, 1944
Each mission we fly we seem to go a little deeper into Germany. Today we go to Big “B” (Berlin). Berlin has sent a lot of it’s anti-aircraft guns down to protect it’s oil refineries so there would be less flak but were warned to watch for enemy fighter planes. The 8th put up 550 bombers and 800 fighters for this mission.
We took off at 0640, fell into formation and left the coast at 0730. We had a 50 knot tail wind and before I knew it we had crossed Holland and were over Drummers (sic Dummers) Lake a spot where German fighters like to jump bombers. We weren’t long waiting before we were warned of German fighters in the area. We came in over Berlin at 27, 000 feet with temperature at -49 degrees. We had an undercast but with enough holes in it to be able to see Berlin. Our targets were factories. The anti-aircraft fire was not to bad on our group but some of the others were it pretty hard. There were plenty of enemy fighters around us, I saw some P-51 Mustangs shoot down 3 planes right in front of us. There were a lot of straggler bombers which had been knocked out of formation and the Luftwaffe fighters were picking on them. There were 80 German fighters shot down today. On the way home one rocket was shot at us but missed and over the coast of Holland we had more flak. We watched one bomber land in the North Sea closer to Holland than England. We were in the air 8. 5 hours today. We lost one plane from the 100th but did bring home some wounded airmen. The 350th squadron was taking Lou Chappell away from us and using him as a lead navigator and having me fly as navigator until we could get a new navigator for which the promised I would receive a D. F. C. but never did.
Mission #7 Koblenz Dec 11, 1944
This was my first mission as a navigator. Lou Chappell is now flying as a lead navigator. We took off at 0830 and flew to Buncher 28 and joined our formation. We left English coast at 1120. We flew right over Brussels and on into Germany. Our primary target was the rail yards at Giessen but as we hit the I. P. and turned on to the bomb run another group cut us off so we took a new heading and headed for the rail yards at Koblenz. All the way to Giessen we were the target of rockets being fired at us by ME-110s. We were flying over clouds about 5 minutes from Koblenz and started receiving flak off to our right but kept getting closer to us. By the times bombs were away we could feel the concussion of the flak bursts. Bombs were away at 1249. By this time the flak was very close. The #4 engine on the plane in front of us was hit, exploded and the cowling blew off and almost hit us, then the plane rose, came back right over the top of us, missing us by no more than 10 feet. They were able to get their plane under control and made it home. After we turned off the target they stopped shooting at us. We were under fire for about 6minutes which can seem like a long time when you feel like the target in shooting gallery.
On our way home we were supposed to fly over Paris at 10, 000 feet to help the morale of the citizens but we were tired and headed right home, landing at 1607. S-2 reports that we hit our target which we couldn’t see because of clouds. The 8th put up 1600 heavy bombers plus 900 fighters. That’s almost 16, 000 men and the planes formed a column 100 miles long with Engines producing 7. 518, 200 horsepower equal to the daily output of 4 Boulder Dams. We burned enough gas to drive 15, 200 cars from New York to San Francisco. 21, 200 50 caliber machine guns lined up would make a firing line 200 miles long. Our group had no losses today, but other groups lost 12 bombers plus 2 fighters.
Mission #8 Mainz 18 Dec 44
Our target was the railroad marshaling yards at Mainz protected by 60 anti-aircraft guns. Mainz is right across the river from Weisbaden where our plane took its worst battle damage on our second mission. Took off at 0915 with a load of 18 – 250 lbs general purpose bombs and 2 clusters of incendiaries. We formed formation over buncher 28 and left the English coast at 1115 hitting French Coast at 1135 just west of Dunkirk which had to be avoided because it is still occupied by the Germans and remained so until the end of the war. Arrived at I. P. at 1254 at 30, 000 feet where we turned on the bomb run. We were still in the clouds at this altitude with only about 300 feet of visibility. About this time another bomb group cut right in front of us. We made a sharp turn to the right to avoid them and then came back on bomb run on new heading. Bombs away at 1304. Because of poor visibility we saw no flak but crews said we were receiving some. On the way home we flew over Brussels and hit coast abut 20 miles east of Dunkirk. Hit English coast at 1619 and landed at 1635. Again our group had no losses. But other groups lost 3 bombers and 3 fighters.
We didn’t fly the day before yesterday. Sunday 16 Dec 44 and missed a hot one. The 9th AF which are 2 engine medium bombers along with fighters escort were hit by 450 Luftwaffe fighters. 97 German planes were shot down with a loss of 31 US planes. This was the largest Luftwaffe effort since D-day. We didn’t know it at the time but this was the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge.
Mission #9 Biblis 24 Dec 44
Out target was an airfield At Biblis, Germany. We carried 38 – 100 lbs bombs. Took off at 0930 and joined formation over buncher 28. We flew #2 lead squadron. Hit Belgium coast at 1135 and flew over Brussels. About 30 miles west of Frankfurt a group of tanks opened up on us with their 88MM. They had our range and hit every plane in out group. A fortress in the group in front of us went down in flames.
Our elevator controls were knocked out and we flew the rest of the mission on our trim tabs. We flew around Frankfurt and came in on the bomb run from the east. I watched two groups bomb another airfield and both hit it good. The next group hit a small town. It looked like the town was completely demolished. We hit our target perfectly and some of the bombs hit in the woods along side the airfield which must have had gas storage tanks. There were some large explosions and much fire. After leaving the target we had to fall out of formation because of the elevator control problem. A sitting duck for enemy fighters but we didn’t see any. We didn’t get back to base until 1800, 8 and on half hours in the air. We landed with one tire shot out, also had holes gas tank and de-icers and auto-pilot shot out. Our original navigator Lou Chappel flying in a lead plane with a flat tire and crashed up on the runway and then had the next plane behind crash into them. No one was seriously injured.
A good friend of mine was wounded today. Marvin Berg a bombardier in out barracks. He was not expecting flak from the tanks and was caught by surprise like the rest of us. As soon as he saw flak exploding so close in grabbed his parachute and snapped it onto his chest. Right then a piece of flak went through his hand, hit the metal handle on his parachute rip cord and bent it double. Hitting the metal handle probable saved his life.
Several of us went to the area hospital to see him a few days later. He was in a ward with mostly wounded soldiers from the front lines. He was very lucky. The fragment that hit was a one quarter inch by one inch and it passed between the bones of his hand without hitting them. The other soldiers showed us their wounds which were all arms and leg wounds and most of them rotten with gangrene. The soldiers were trying to save them from amputation. Many of the holes were so big you could stick your hand right through the limb. The rotten smell was terrible but they all appeared to be happy. We have not lost a plane this month. Hope we continue the record.
Mission #10 Kaiserslauten Dec 25 44
Our target was rail yards and workshops. We were not supposed to fly today but because of the battle of the Bulge we were pressed into action at the last minute. We were to leave a fancy turkey dinner with all the trimmings for Christmas. By the time we could be back at the base the forecast was for zero visibility so our dinner was flown down to Paris where we were to land, eat, and stay until we could fly home. That sounded great. What a great Christmas we were going to have. We took off at 0815 with 15 – 500 pounders and two clusters of incendiaries. We flew over English coast at exactly 1023 and entered Belgium at Ostand over Brussels and south to the foothills of the Alps, then east to the target at Kaiserslauten. We could see lots of flak going into formations in front of us. They waited until we were almost on top off the target then opened up with 32 anti-aircraft guns and put their shells right into our formation. It was a cloudless day which makes for good shooting. Just before bombs away we were hit by 8 bursts of flak. I had put my flak vest on when 2 bursts exploded by the nose of the plane. Plexi glass from the nose flew all over us. A piece of shrapnel came through the side of the nose and hit me in the chest knocking me to the floor and dazing me. I got up and there the piece of flak was laying in my lap. Another box hit the Gee box on the navigator’s table and put it out of order. About that time the bombs were away and we hit the target. The floor camera in the waist of the plane which shot pictures as soon as the bombs start dropping shows a perfect hit on the target. I have a copy of this picture in my collection. After bombs away we dived our plane and turned off the target and headed for Paris. All of Western Germany was a mass of destruction after the bombing the last two days. When we got to Paris we were not able to land because of bad visibility so we headed back to England but were not able to land at our base for the same reason. So they sent us way down to Land Ends in the south west tip of England, where we were able to land in bad weather. Zero visibility.
For supper we had spam. I wonder who had turkey in Paris. We had lots of damage but all planes got back and my Christmas gift was a piece of flak from the Germans.
Mission #11 Fulda 27 Dec 44
Our target for today was the marshaling yards at Fulda , Germany. We took off at 0817 after an hour delay because of fog. On our way we saw a B-17 and B-24 hit head on, then another B-17 going down in a spiral and explode on the ground. We came out of the fog at 500 feet and circled for altitude we could see black columns of smoke rising out of the fog from the accidents. I am afraid they were too low for anyone to have bailed out. We pulled into formation and left England at 1017 and hit the coast at Ostand at 1039 at 17, 000 feet and climbing. We flew the #2 plane in the low squadron. Our target was about 40 miles east of Giessen
which was our target on an earlier mission. We passed just enough north of Frankfurt to keep out of the range of their guns. To our north we could see two bomb groups getting a lot of flak. There were bandits reported in our area. The 364th fighter group of P-51 Mustangs intercepted about 300 German fighters shooting down 29 of them. They didn’t attack us. We reached the I. P. at 1235 and bombs away at 1249. The radio operator, Al Cekutis, always opens the door to the bomb compartment after bombs away to make sure all bombs dropped. He called me on the interphone and told me 4 bombs didn’t drop. I went back to the bomb bays with a carry around oxygen bottle. There was not enough room in the bomb bays for me to put on my parachute and oxygen bottle both and I had to have oxygen. In the bomb bay there is a narrow catwalk over the open bomb bay doors and in the center on both sides the panel for the bomb shackles. There is room for four rows of bombs if small enough, one row on each side one above the other. I tried to trigger them loose, but it didn’t work. I didn’t feel comfortable in the catwalk with nothing between me and the ground but 5miles of space. I took hold of the control cable on the ceiling and stepped out on top of the top bomb and jumped up and down on top of it. That did it, down it went knocking the others loose but there I was hung by my fingers from the cable with my legs hanging down in the bomb bay. About that time Al opened his door and saw me trying to get my legs back on the catwalk and pulled me back. I looked down and could still see the 4 bombs and then a small street village came into view in front of the bombs. I sat there on the catwalk until I could no longer see the bombs but it wasn’t long before the exploded on the little village and as smoke settled all I could see was red brick dust and not a house standing. This was my last mission as a navigator and here I was kicking bombs out on a little German village. War is hell!! We also hit the marshaling yard. There was only one 4 gun battery of 88mm shooting at us. On our way home we saw and counted over 80 barges on the Rhine river all docked together. We reported them when we got back to base. They would make a nice target! We crossed the line at Saarbrucken and when we approached Ostand the Germans to the northeast opened up with more anti-aircraft shells at us. No one was hit and we landed at 1530.
Mission #12 Frankfurt 29 Dec 44
We have our new navigator now so I am flying as Bombardier again. Navigators name is George Holser from Sacramento, California. He is a sergeant who had washed out of navigation school and came overseas to the 100thas a gunner.
Our target today was the marshaling yards at Frankfurt. We carried 16 – 300 lbs bombs. We took off at 0815 joined another group at buncher 28. Left the English coast at Lowwnstoft and Belgium coast at Ostand. We flew past Frankfurt on the north side and made a 180 degree turn and made a run on the target. We salvoed the 16 bombs and they were right on target. The flak was very heavy over Frankfurt. Four planes from our lead squadron fell out of formation and looked like all were going down but all were able to make it to France or England.
We were flying in the high squadron and the two lower squadrons were getting most of the flak. We had just one 5 gun battery shooting at us and they were leading us a little too far. One plane in our squadron took a hit in the engine and went into a dive. The pilot gave the signal to bail out and we counted 4 chutes. The Navigator, Bombardier, Engineer and Co-pilot. Then the pilot was able to pull the plane out of a dive and brought it home. (Plane #44-8514 known as “Lassie Come Home” piloted by John Furrer). It was to be the Navigator’s last mission and he spent the rest of the war as a guest of the Germans. We landed at 1345 with no planes lost. In the spring of 1991 we visited George Holser and his wife in Aptos, California. Found out something. George didn’t wash out of Navigators school but graduated. The Air Force decided that they had too many Navigators and took commissions away from the lower grading 10% of the class and sent them gunnery school…
Mission #13 Kassel 30 Dec 44
Our target today was the marshaling yards at Kassel, Germany. We are bombing rail yards to do everything we can to disrupt transportation of supply to the German front lines. Many of the fighter planes go down to tree top level looking for trains or tracks to shoot up. They try to hide them during the day time and run them up to the front at night when it safer to travel. We took off at 0830 in a heavy fog and didn’t break out of the clouds until 9000 feet. I sit right in the nose of the plane and keep my eyes open. I use a ammunition box of extra 50 caliber machine gun shells as a seat. Visibility was poor in the clouds and I saw a fortress pass right under us. An awful lot of planes were lost by collisions of planes climbing through the undercast after take off. We flew and old veteran Plane named “Heaven Can Wait” a 418th ship. Crews don’t name ships anymore because you keep flying different planes and if you do get your own plane it isn’t until you have about half of your missions flown. There is so much battle damage to planes that they are constantly being repaired so you fly with what planes are available. We flew low element in the lead squadron but when we got near the target the PFF equipment went out so we had to bomb on the high squadron. Only the three lead planes in each squadron carry bombsights. The 12 planes following in the squadron drop their bombs when the lead plane drops. The first bomb out of the lead plane trails smoke all the way to the ground. There was a lot of flak over the target today but it wasn’t accurate, they were shooting in barrages we got through with no damage. We landed with poor visibility at 1345.
I found out that Heaven Can Wait crash landed on Jan 19, 1945 with a full bomb load and plowed to a stop behind the control tower. Miraculously no one in the crew was injured before the bomb load exploded which broke dozens of windows in the vicinity. Thus came to an end a famous plane we flew on this mission.
Mission #14 Frankfurt 5 Jan 44 (sic 45)
Our target for today was the marshaling yards at Frankfurt. We have been given our own plane, #805. We took off at 0720 assembled over buncher 28 and left England south of London. We flew far south into France then turned east and crossed the lines where twice we were fired on by flak guns and one ship was knocked out of the low squadron and headed back for emergency landing in France. We dropped our bombs and 2 clusters of incendiaries over the target at 1334 about one third of the bombs hit the target with the balance falling into the town. We had a SE wind flying to Frankfurt and on the way home the wind changed to NW at times our ground speed was only 50 MPH. We were on oxygen for 6 and one half hours. There was a storm over the channel so rather than try to climb over it we went under it. All but 12 of our planes said they didn’t have enough gas to get home so they landed in France and Belgium.
We flew just over the waves in the channel and had to gain altitude to clear the cliffs of Dover. We landed at 1720 with only 50 gallons of gas left. We were in the air for 10 hours compared to 5 and one half hours the lasts time we went to Frankfurt showing what kind of factor the wind can be. No planes were lost but he had the people at the base worried when only 12 of 36 planes landed.
Mission #15 Annweiter 6 Jan 45
Our target for today was the marshaling yards a Ludwigshaven. We took off at 0800 in #805 with 12 500 lb. gp bombs and 2600 gallons of gas. Take off was in fog with icing conditions. We left England’s SE coast and headed for France. Over Germany we had overcast skies with a few breaks. Our primary target was under clouds so we flew looking for another target. We finally spotted a rail yard at Annweiter we flew on east and made a 180 degree turn to our bomb run. As we turned the anti-aircraft guns opened up on us at Stuttgart. They were very accurate. Our plane was hit three times but held together. The togglier from crew 46 in our barracks was wounded by flak. He was flying in the plane of wounded Marvin Berg who was wounded Christmas Eve. The last ship in the lead squadron was hit and lost 2 engines so our squadron took over the lead for him. Bombs were away at 1234 most of them hit to the left of the target but we still had many bombs on the target. The flight home was uneventful and we landed at 1515. The temperature at our altitude over Germany was minus 50 degrees. No planes lost. Part of our group got separated and bombed Germersheim.
Mission #16 13 Jan 45
Our target for today was a railroad bridge over the Rhine river between Mainz and Weisbaden. We took off at 0830 in 805 with 5 1000 lb. Bombs. We had clouds from the ground to 6000 feet. We left the English coast at 1030. The target area was 8/10 cloud cover and couldn’t spot the bridge so we headed for the secondary target, the Mainz marshaling yards. The flak over the target was fairly heavy but most of it was aimed at the two other squadrons. We were having trouble with our #s # and 4 engines so had to work hard to keep in formation. After the bomb run another plane came right down on top of us not more than six feet above us about this time, we hit some prop wash and Willie put us in a dive to get out of the mess. Back in England there were clouds with tops at 4000 feet right down to 400 feet. As we came down watching for ground I keep my eyes open for trees, towers, buildings or other airplanes to warn the pilots about. You never know if the clouds go right down to the ground or not so its a real relief to make out houses and what ever else on the ground. No losses today.
Mission #17 14 Jan 45
My navigator and I were awakened at 0230 for pre-briefing. Had breakfast first and the to Chapel for confession and communion which I did before every mission, you never know when you are going to flying your last mission. I have also noticed there are not atheists among the flying men. Some good has to come out of war. We had pre-briefing at 0345 at which we study maps and air photos of the target. Main briefing at 0445. We flew our plane again after the ground crew was up all night working on the engines. Our crew was alternate lead in the low squadron. We were to take the lead if anything happened to the lead plane. There was also and alternate-alternate in case anything happened to us and the lead. We took off at 0800 and formed over buncher 28 at 6000 feet. Our target was a group of three buried oil tanks near the down of Derban, Germany east of Berlin.
We left the coast at 1030 and hit Denmark at 1140. We passed the mouth of the Kiel Canal and crossed it about 15 miles inland. Every fair size city had a smoke screen over it and all the boats were going around in circles to avoid being attacked. It was one of those clear days and we were going after Hilter’s oil so we had our eyes open watching for fighters. Were getting some light flak over the Kiel Canal. We had a hit in the right wing which left a hole big enough to stick your arm through but it didn’t hit anything vital. The flak was getting pretty close so we started doing evasive action to keep away from it. You can do this anytime but on the bomb run you have to hold steady to enable the bombardiers to get their bombs on the target.
About this time our P-51 escort caught up to us. You feel much more at ease with them flying over you. At about 1200 we could see the contrails of fighters in dog fights with Luftwaffe fighters to the SW. At 1213 about 80 ME 109s and FW 190s and ME 262s and 163 jets attacked us head on. Our 30 P-51s engaged about one half of them while the other half came at us. Most of them turned off went around us and headed for the 390th BG right behind us while a few of them came right through our formation. Our tail gunners counted 12 bombers shot down out of the 390th.
Our plane had fallen behind because of flak damage and one of the German fighters that came through the 390thformation came in on our tail to try to shoot us down but by then we had more of our fighter planes coming in to get a crack at the Germans and a P-47 Thunderbolt fell right in behind the German fighter and blew him out of the sky. The 100th gunners shot down six fighters and 3 probables and 2 damaged. After about 30 minutes of fighter action all around us things quieted down. The escort fighters I am sure saved us from enemy losses by interfering with the Luftwaffe attacks on us. Every time they would come at us our little friends would go through them sending many of them spinning down in flames. Between the fighters and bombers 163 German planes were destroyed today. By now we were flying past Berlin which was covered by a smoke screen and no flak guns. Bombs away at 1304 and we demolished the target and about half of the town of Derban right next to the target. We could see Hilter’s oil going up in fire and smoke.
Going out of Germany we had German fighters flying under us but they had enough for today and didn’t attack us. We landed at 1520 with believe it or not no losses after being attacked by fighters. The fighters and bombers set a record today on German fighters destroyed, compared to 134 on raid November 2 on Mersberg (sic Merseberg) oil refineries. This was the mission when Bud Anderson and Chuck Yeager flew all over France and Switzerland on their last mission in Old Crow and Glamorous Glen while the rest of their fighters shot down 56 and one half German fighters near Berlin. They were heart broken when they found out that they missed. Anderson was squadron leader while Yeager often flew wingman with him.
Mission #18 Heilbronn
Got up for pre-briefing at 0300. Our target for today was the marshaling yards at Heilbrunn (sic Heilbronn) a town of 80, 000 between Stuttgart and Mannheim. We took off in #805 at 0800 carrying a bomb load of 6 1000 pounders. We left the coast at 0945. Over the channel we ran into clouds and didn’t break out of them until almost to the target. There was so much snow in it I had snow drifts in the nose of the plane. The visibility was so bad that it broke up the formation so by the time we got out of the clouds we had only 6 planes left. The target was partly cloudy. There was a lot of flak in the air but they didn’t bother our little group of 6 planes. There were plenty of other large formations to shoot at. When bombs away four of mine hung up. I got rid of them in about 5 seconds and watched them fall and thought I hit a bridge over the river but S2 says my late bombs hit a factory on the other side of the river. We landed at 1530. This was our easiest mission so far.
Mission #19 Mannheim 21 Jan 45
Got up for pre-briefing at 0300. The good thin about flying is that you get two real eggs instead of powdered. We also lived on a steady diet of Spam. I will never eat a bite of Spam after I get out of the army. The sight of it makes me sick. Briefing was at 0500. Our target was the bridge over the Rhine river between Ludwigshaven and Mannheim or if it was cloudy the marshaling yards at Mannheim. There are 600 anti-aircraft guns in the area. Took off in 805 at 0805 carrying six 1000 pounders. We were in the clouds as soon as we took off. Formed into a group over buncher 28 as soon as we could but many of the planes never found us, just like yesterday. We headed for our target climbing as we went, the visibility in the clouds was very poor and we were leaving heavy contrails to boot. When we broke out of the clouds at 24, 000 feet there were only seven of the twelve planes left in our squadron. The target area was partly cloudy so we went for the yards. The flak over the area was very thick but there were to (sic too) many groups over the area at the same time that they were shooting at every one so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Because of clouds we couldn’t see if we hit the target or not. The trip home was uneventful and we landed at 1530, with no losses. There were German jets reported in the target but we didn’t see them.
Mission #20 Duisburg 28 Jan 45
Got up for briefing at 0530. We flew 840 in it’s first mission. It even smelled new. Our target today was a bridge at Duisburg. The Ruhr valley is one of the most protected areas in Germany by anti-aircraft guns. It’s nick name was “Happy Valley”, I don’t know why.
Our load was six 1000 pounders. The plane was covered by ice and snow and we cleared the ground at the end of the runway and cleared the trees by about 10 feet. I borrowed our co-pilot’s camera to get some action pictures. Our first flak was on the bomb run. I watched as a plane in the group in front of us was hit and burst into flames and went into a tight spin and exploded on the ground. I saw no chutes. It’s pretty hard to get out of a plane going down in a spin. The flak over the target was very accurate. One of our forts had over 200 holes in it. As usual we were lucky and had only two holes in our brand new plane. The target a rail road bridge was hit, one bomb it a train in the middle of the bridge while most of the bombs were at the end of the bridge. After bombs away we went into evasive action until out of the flak area. One on the hits on our plane did knock out the hydraulic system but we were able to make a safe landing. No losses, no fighters. How long will out good luck go on. Not long.
Bremen (recalled) 31 Jan 45
The end of Heaven Can Wait. The target was synthetic oil refinery. After take off and the group had formed the mission was recalled due to bad weather. By the time the group got back over the base it was socked in with low ceiling. 517 (HCW) flown by Bill Appleton dropped down below the overcast and found themselves headed for the tower. They banked to the right and hit two tents that house maintenance personnel. Lucky for them it was payday and they were in the pay line, the plane then belly landed hit more tents and burst into flames, the crew all escaped before the bombs exploded. One engine was thrown 300 feet onto plane 610 which had to be salvaged. We flew 517 on at least one mission.
Mission #21 3 Feb 45
I was awakened at 0210 for pre-briefing. We flew in 840 today with 10 – 500 pounders. Our target was underground railroad station in the center of Berlin. We took off at 0730 formed over buncher 28 hit the continent over Holland and crossed the Zider Zee. Halfway to the target enemy fighters were reported but didn’t bother us. The 100th was leading the 3rd Air Division of the 8th AF and was about ten minutes behind the last group of the 1st Division. We were flying in the lead element of the lead squadron of the high squadron. We were alternate lead. On the bomb run we could see Berlin covered by smoke screen and smoke and flames from the 1stDivision. The sky in front of us was full of flak and we could see two bombers going down in flames. The guns quit shooting as the last group of the 1stDivision left the target. The gunners had ten minutes of rest and time to take careful aim at us.
We were almost over the target when the flak started exploding in our squadron. The lead right wing tip got a direct hit which blew it’s right wing off. The #4 engine broke away from the wing and went on forward but losing altitude with the prop still spinning and the back of it was leaving a trail of flames. The wing turned up toward our plane and passed right under us. The plane itself did a slow roll right under us. The last I saw of it was off to our right and flat spinning slowly down in a mass of flames. It no sooner got out of sight than the lead ship of the low element burst into flames. It slowly pulled off to the right and passed under our ship it moved out about 200 to 300 feet to our right and exploded into nothingness. Beck from our barracks was flying in that plane. He had been shot down on his 1stmission but was able to crash land and his whole crew came back. This was his 5th mission. Next Rosie’s lead ship was hit in the right wing, the shell passed through and exploded just above us. The #3 engine caught fire and there was a lot of smoke coming out of the wing and bomb bays. He held the plane on course. Next Oldham’s plane was hit and caught fire pulled off to one side and started down. The whole crew bailed out. At this time our ship was being thrown around by exploding shells. I could hear many of the shell and explode and they must be close. One large fragment came through the nose of the ship and right over the navigator’s head. Small pieces hit me in the back and helmet and I had one piece pass through my jacket sleeve. Another piece hit and exploded the ammunition box I used to sit on. All this time I kept checking my bombsight to make sure our cross hairs were staying right on the target, if they wonder off you miss the target. They held right on. About this time bombs were away.
Right after the bombs were away a shell exploded right under us lifting our plane making my stomach feel like it was ten feet below me. I checked the lead plane and the whole in the wing was big enough to jump though. A lot of flak we were getting was white meaning they were using the large 105mm and 155mm which would account for the large hole. After bombs away Rosie called us and told us to take over he said he couldn’t make it. He pulled off to the left while we stayed with him past the RP. I saw 3 chutes come out but someone on the interphone said they counted six. The Major opened the window and had his head out of it. He was flying in the co-pilot’s seat. Smoke was pouring out the open window. He was losing altitude fast the tail fell apart and went into a flat spin. We didn’t see any more chutes but saw the plane crash on the east side of the river. Lou Chappell our original navigator was flying with Rosie as lead navigator and we prayed he got out. I will always when we were getting flak and I would put on my steel helmet and flak vest on and he wouldn’t bother. He would say when ones got your name on it you’ve had it helmet and vest or not. So out crew led the 3rd Division of the 8th AF off the target at Big B. I looked at Halsey and his forehead was bleeding but we decided it was minor. We did dead reckoning navigation across the channel and back to base landed at 1530. Our squadron lost 4 aircraft of 12 planes in about 1 minute. We had 30 holes some holes in our plane. The largest was in the tail about 5 inches in diameter. There were 8 holes in the nose and four in my gun turret. On Feb 24th the Stars and Stripes our army newspaper carried a small article stating that the Russians had rescued 7 airmen including Major Rosenthal. Sure enough they cant kill him and in a few weeks he was back with us. I asked about Chappell and what had happened. He gave me the story a shell went through the right wing and exploded about ten feet above it. The #3 engine caught fire and a fire broke out inside the wing filling the plane with their oxygen masks and goggles on he tried to hold the plane steady while the crew bailed out. He continued flying east until he felt sure everyone was out then he climbed into the nose to bail out when he say Chappell dead with a hole in his head plus other wounds. He bailed out and said the Germans were shooting flak and small cannon shells at the chutes, he landed on the east side of the river and broke his arm in the landing. He got ups and saw two soldiers with rifles running at him. He yelled comrade which was a mistake they were Russians and they thought he was a German. One of the swung his rifle butt at him and he ducked and the butt hit the other Russian in the face, knocking him out. He finally convinced them that he was American by pointing to the flag on his jacket shoulder. He later was taken to headquarters where he found John Ernst with his leg blown off by the Germans as he parachuted down. (sic John Ernst was captured by the Germans, his leg was severely injured when he struck the open bomb bay doors bailing out. He was captured by the Germans and repatriated. ) At that time he thought that the rest of the crew had landed in German territory but several more of them were picked up by the Russians and sent back to us. 8th AF losses were 19 bombers and 5 fighters.
P. S. (sic PS)
After the mission when I was taking off my flight suit a noticed blood below the knee of my electric flying suit. When I took off my suit I discovered a small hole in the front of my leg half way between my knee and ankle. I was downed if I wanted to be put in the gangrene ward where Berg was so I opened up my emergency pack applied it to the wound. Bandaged it up and never had any trouble with it.
The main reason for the 3 Feb 45 bombing of Berlin was that intelligence determined that the 6th Panzer Army was moving through Berlin on its way to the Russian front. For that reason the main target was the railroad marshaling yards and rail stations 25, 000 Germans died in the raid.
Mission #22 Chemnitz 6 Feb 45
Plane 414 Heaven Sent. Our target for today the marshaling yards at Chemnitz, Germany. We took off at 0730 and headed across the channel to Holland. I could see that the group I front of us which we were following we were following were hitting the coast south of the flak free corridor. As they hit the coast flak started appearing in their formation. Our ship in the group in front of us went into a spin and crashed into the North Sea. Several others were hit and received enough damage to turn back. Next it was our turn, the shells exploding all around us. We thought we had made it through without damage but when we approached the IP our #1 engine ran away. It couldn’t be controlled so Willie turned it off and tried to feather so we had to let it spin. The added resistance along with one engine missing started to slow us up and we were falling out of the formation. Wilson told our two wingman to leave us and join up with the rest of the formation. We slowly fell further behind and had other bomb groups passing us. We had clouds under us so we couldn’t see the ground but could see smoke trails from the lead ships smoke bombs. So as soon as we reached the smoke trails I dropped our bombs and we headed west for home. By now we were all alone. We were receiving flak ever since the IP and it was coming up in barrages and were aimed at the bombers flying in formation. So the only time we were in danger was when a bomb formation went by us. Now as we headed west our airspeed was down to 130 MPH and were losing altitude. The navigator gave Wilson a compass heading for Holland but what we didn’t know was at our present altitude we had a strong north wind. By now we were flying in the clouds and still losing altitude. To make matters worse two of our engines were not running right. Bob King, our engineer, was concerned we might not have enough gas to get back to England. We talked it over. Should we continue on towards Holland or take a more southern compass heading to France. We took a vote and decided to continue to Holland and then if we didn’t have enough fuel we would follow the coast to France. I started taking radio fixes and Gee Box readings to be sure we were. I plotted an X on the map marking out position each time marking our position each time I got a reading but my course of Xs was to far to the south of where the navigator was plotting our course. He was sure I was not getting good readings and that we would soon be over Holland. By this time we were down to 9000 feet and dropping below the clouds and right under was a large city. I looked it over and said this was Frankfurt and George said it cant be were no place near Frankfurt. We now could see a airfield and two fighters planes taking off. Wilson worked hard at getting us back into the cloud cover with the fighter planes coming up after us. Before they could get to us we were back under the protection of the clouds and did not see the fighters again. Tail gunner Sam Allen said he got one of the fighters. The engineer gave us a warning that our gas supply was getting low and we were not going to make it back to England. I sat on my ammo box and watched the ground waiting for the coast to show up. On and on we flew but no coast. We would never see the coast because it was Frankfurt we had flown over and even now we must have been flying over the front lines and no one took a shot at us and we were the more than 4-5000 feet up. Why they didn’t shoot at us over Frankfurt I will never understand. I am sure they were tracking us all the way across Germany. My guess would be that they knew that if they could see us at Frankfurt to send fighter up a fighter to shoot us down otherwise we were not worth the effort. The engineer came on the interphone again saying we were almost out of gas. Wilson told the crew members to put on our parachutes. About this time we spotted a plane flying at right angle to us. Ours or theirs we didn’t know. The gunners stood by their guns and studied the approaching plane. It was a C-47. We shot off red flares as a distress signal. The pilot of the C-47 signaled us to follow him and soon approached a small field. We headed right in for a landing but were signaled off. There were some fighter planes using it to takeoff. We circled the field one time and came in again the navigator and I moved to the waist of the plane to be ready for a crash landing because it was a very short runway. Wilson brought us in and sat down right on the end of the runway and gave it brakes. He couldn’t get it stopped on the runway and ran right off the end into the mud and came to a stop about 100 yards off the runway as just then the fuel tanks went empty. I got the bombsight our of the nose and we took the machine guns apart and left them in the waist of the plane. By tis (sic this) time we had lots of company. French civilians who came to get a close look at one of the flying fortresses they had seen in the air. The airfield turned out to be a French fighter field and they were not real happy with the big bomber sitting at the end of there (sic their) runway. We asked where we were, the nearest town was Dole, France. A city of about 20, 000. They recommended that we go to the airfield at Dijon about 20 or 30 miles to the NW. Dijon had a population of about 100, 000 and the airfield was under American control and they could take care of us. So we grabbed our B4 bags and me lugging the bombsight and we headed for Dijon. We hadn’t gone far when a jeep full of MPs pulled up to us, jumped out and pointed there (sic their) guns at us and demanded we identify ourselves.
We had no ID since we never carried any on a mission. Other than our dog tags. They looked those over and then started asking us questions such as the capitals, baseball players etc. Then they told us that Germans dressed as Americans were working behind the lines and they thought that’s what we might be. They warned us to be careful and drove off. Pretty soon a truck came along stopped and more MPs jumped out with their guns drawn. They asked for ID and told us to get in the truck and hauled us off into headquarters where we were again questioned. We had a hard time convincing them how we got way down here. The did some phoning and finally told us to get back in the truck and they would drive us to the airfield at Dijon. When we got to Dijon airfield and asked if they could fly us back to England they said they had more important things to do. They did take my bombsight off my hands which was OK to me as I was getting tired of carrying it around. We told that we were staying the night there until someone flew us back to England because it wasn’t safe to be roaming around the countryside. We did go into town one day to eat something besides C-rations. The thing I remember best is seeing old grandmas going through garbage cans looking for something to eat. After a couple of days at the airfield we finally found a C-46 which was going to fly to England. When we finally got back to our base we found out that we had been listed as missing in action until they had found out that we had made it to France. We all decided that one mission to Chemnitz was enough. Little did we know that our nect (sic next) mission would be back to Chemnitz again.
PS. When we out to meet the plane in morning Wilson complained to crew chief about poor shape the plane was in to ehich (sic which) the crew chief replied he didn’t care if the plane ever came back because he wanted a new plane. He got his wish. We also found out later after the mission that our group was hit by fighters over the target which was rare on cloudy days and we missed out on all the excitement.
Mission #23 Chemnitz 14 Feb 45
Out target for today was a factory at Chemnitz. We took off at 0730 hit the continent at Holland where we were shot at by 88mm flak guns. Most of it was off to our right. We had an undercast until we reached Germany.
Fighters were reported in the area. We watched for them but didn’t see any. Just as we got to the IP and started the bomb run we entered a cloud and we were in it all the way to the target. The visibility in the cloud prevented us from seeing much flak but it was there. We dropped our bombs at 23, 000 feet still with poor visibility. Al Cekutis the radio operator called me over the interphone to tell me that 2 bombs had not dropped. I tried to drop them with my controls up front but with no success. So I grabbed my oxygen walk around bottle and went back to the bomb bay. Here I was over a narrow catwalk with no chute and 23, 000 feet of nothing below me. I opened Al’s door and signaled him to keep an eye on me. I worked on the bomb release for a while but still they didn’t drop. Finally I stood up got a hold of the control cable and reached out with one leg and gave the top bomb a good kick. Down it dropped taking the lower bomb with it. I went back up front closed the bomb bay doors. As we flew west the clouds ended as we approached the front lines west of Koblenz the air was full of flak. A ship in the group ahead of us took a direct hit and went down in a spin. We counted 5 chutes when it exploded at about 15, 000 feet. The chutes all came down right on the front lines. About that time a dozen P-51 Mustangs who saw what happened dived and started shooting at the German troops trying to protect the 5 airmen. We didn’t hear how they came out.
Mission #24 Cottbus 15 Feb 45
Our target today was the oil refinery at Ruhland with the secondary being the marshaling yards at Cottbus. We took off at 0800 in 994 which the same plane we took to Merseberg. Since then it had been shot down and crash landed in France been repaired and we were the crew to put it back in business. We carried 10 – 500 pounders. We again crossed Holland and the Zuider Zee with no flak for a change. Over the continent we had and undercast again. We passed near the town of Bautzen and they really opened up on us with flak aimed at the group right behind us, which was the 95th or the 390th we always fly together which makes up the 13th Combat Wing.
The primary target was covered by clouds so we turned to the secondary at Cottbus. There were a few holes in the clouds and I could see the city. There was only a small amount of flak over the target. We dropped out bombs at 1211, as we turned off the target our plane gave a jump as if it had been hit by anti-aircraft shell. There was a terrific explosion on the ground and flames and smoke came up to 12, 000 feet. S2 reports that we hit 37 rail cars loaded with cannons and ammunition headed for the eastern front. We left Germany over the southern route again. There was some flak popping up around us and we went into evasive action until we had crossed the lines. 12 out 36 planes from our group reported that they didn’t have enough gas to get home and had to land in France and Belgium. We landed at 1730. We flew 1200 miles and were in the air 9. 5 hours. Our group lost no planes but the eight (sic 8th AF) lost 9 bombers and 5 fighters.
Mission #26 Brunswick 3 Mar 45
Got up 0200 for pre-briefing. We were to fly alternate lead to Brunswick, Germany. Our target was a truck factory in the southern part of the city. We took off at 0600 in ship 840 with a bomb load of 7 – 500 pounders with long delay fuses and 6 m17s. We entered Germany just over Hamburg. They had a fair smoke screen over it. We received some flak passing the coast. Bandits were reported in the area. Our group was leading the 3rd Division of the 8th AF. Six of out planes were flying off to our right dropping chaff which looked like Christmas tree tinsel and interfered with the German radar. All went OK to the IP. Shortly after we turned on the bomb run 6 German jets ME-262 attacked our chaff ships shooting down the lead plane and one plane on his wing. The wing ship was the new crew from our barracks. The jets grouped together and came at the chaff ships again but the four remaining bombers pulled over into our formation for protection. And the jets broke off about 1000 feet out looking for an easier target. 13 50 caliber machine guns on each bomber times forty bombers equal 520 guns which is a dangerous target. When the jets left us the anti-aircraft gunners opened up on us with a fairly heavy amount of flak. But we got through it. Our bomb (sic bombs) were on target and we left Germany over the Zuider Zee. The 8th lost 19 bombers and 6 fighters today.
Mission #27 Siegen 7 Mar 45
Up early for pre-briefing. We are alternate lead of high squadron. Our target was coking plant at Datteln with the secondary target being the marshaling yards at Siegen. We took off at 0830 and entered Germany by the way of the Zuider Zee. There was an undercast at the target with some opening. The flak was very heavy. We took a hit in our oxygen system which started leaking. Our PFF ship was hit and there (sic their) radar knocked out right over the target so we didn’t drop our bombs. We turned off the target and took a new heading for Siegen our 2 target. We received no flak at Siegen which a (sic is a) Ruhr valley city which are known for there (sic their) numerous anti-aircraft gun protection. Right after the target we had to fall out of formation and loss altitude because of the loss of oxygen. We were a sitting duck if there were any German fighters in the area. Several P-51’s flew above us for protection and we received no fire going over the lines. The (sic they) were firing at the plane (sic planes) in formation but didn’t bother with a single bomber. We landed at 1630.
Mission #28 Dortmund 10 Mar 45
Up early for pre-briefing. We were fly lead in the high squadron. We flew 834 with 42 100 pounders and 5 – 500 pound incendiaries. We took off in the clouds and didn’t break out until we hit the bombing altitude. We picked up light flak over the coast. Fighters were reported in the area but were too busy fighting with out fighters to bother us. We were receiving very heavy flak over the target. We dropped out bombs on the marshaling yards at Dortmund. Landed at 1600.
Mission #29 Hamburg 11 Mar 45
We flew 840 lead in the second element. Varied (Sic probably carried) 20 250 pounders. Our target was an oil refinery in the dock area at Hamburg. We went in the northern route over the island of Heligoland and across the Kiel canal where we were fired on by anti-aircraft batteries. On the bomb run as we approached the target enemy filled the air with flak and almost all planes received some damage but none went down. Although some planes were full of holes. We had a light cloud cover over the target but could see the bombs exploding on the target. All went well after bombs away and we landed at 1630.
Mission #30 Hannover 14 Mar 45
We flew with 32 – 100 pounders and 2- 500 pounders filled with M47 incendiaries. We took off at 1030 flying lead ship in the high squadron. Our target was the marshaling yards just west of Hannover. We went into Germany on the Koblenz area. Fighters were reported soon after we entered Germany. Hannover had a heavy haze but was visible. The flak was heavy and accurate. We were receiving many hits. One large fragment hit just behind Cekutis our radio man and went through his transmitter then into the waist where it hit 3 oxygen bottles all of them exploding. One shell exploded just in front of our left wing and filled the left wing with holes. It was so close our ears rang for an hour. The main span of the wing was cut in half and was riddled with holes but #1 and #2 just kept running. Our bomb (sic bombs) hit the target and we headed home. We landed at 1730. We had 15 large holes plus so many small ones we gave up counting. The plane had to have a new left wing put on.
Mission #31 Wittenburg 15 Mar 45
Target for today was the rail yards at Oranienburg on the north edge of Berlin. We didn’t feel to comfortable having to go to Berlin on our next to last mission. It can always be a rough one. We took off at 1120 in #840 with 12 – 500 pounders with long delay fuses flying lead in the high flight of the lead squadron. The take off was in heavy fog. Entered Germany at the Zuider Zee and headed for Berlin. Fighters reported in the area. A heavy smoke screen covered the target. We flew the bomb run receiving heavy flak but we didn’t drop our bombs because the target couldn’t be made out in the thick smoke and there was a POW camp in the area. Rather than take a chance on hitting our POW’s we headed for our secondary target the marshaling yards at Wittenburg some distance west of Berlin. We received some more flak. On the bomb run we received very heavy and accurate flak. We could hear the shell fragments hitting our plane. We then heard and felt a hard hit. Bob King our engineer reported we had a very large hole through the right wing just behind the #3 engine and there was gas pouring out the back of the wing. Wilson shuty (sic shut) 33 engine and feathered it to keep the exhaust from exploding the gas. We then noticed that the right wing was flopping like a bird wing. Wilson ordered us to put on our chutes on first just in case we should lose the wing. The shell had passed through the gas tank then cut the main span in half leaving a 6 inch diameter hole in our wing and didn’t explode, a dud. Luck was still riding with us. We kept an eye on our flapping wing, received more flak while leaving the coast and landed at 1820. The right wing had to be replaced. Two wings in two days. Thats (sic that’s) what they mean in the song “coming in on a wing and a prayer. ” We counted 12 large holes in the plane and numerous small ones.
Mission #32 Plauen 17 Mar 45
St. Patrick’s day. We flew 840 with a new ing (sic wing). Our primary target was an oil refinery at Ryhland and our secondary target was a tank factory at Plauen. Our load was 12- 500 pounders. We entered Germany on a southern route. We received flak over the lines. We made a bomb run on Ruhland and received flak again. Because of bad weather at Ruhland we took a new heading for Plauen. We got some more flak over Plauen but got our bombs away. Didn’t see hits because of cloud cover. We had to fly through two weather fronts up at 27, 000 feet. Returning home we got some more flak. The temp was -50 degrees at flying altitude. You never took your gloves off. Fingers would freeze in a matter of minutes. This was our final mission. Wilson always said if we got our last mission he was going to slow role (sic roll) right over the airfield, but we were so happy we could hardly wait to land that plane and get out and kiss the ground. After each mission each crew member got a double shot of good scotch whiskey. We and many of the crews saved those shots for one party after the last mission. Joe Michael’s crew in our barracks finished the last mission a couple of day before us. Our three crews were the only three to complete there (sic their) missions from our barracks in the time we were there the rest were all lost. Stan Lawrence was the third crew to complete his tour.
Author’s summary omitted . . pw