Sunday, October 24, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 35:
Nineteen combat crews were assembled at 0745 hours in the briefing room, five days had past since the Group had flown a mission. The assignment for this morning—bomb the airdrome located at St. Andre de L’Eure, France. Each of the four B-26 outfits will be putting up eighteen aircraft plus
some extras. All of our escort will be made up of American Fighters today. A loud cheer was heard at that announcement. We liked the Spitfires—but today these were all our guys! P-38 Lightning’s for close support, and P-47 Thunderbolts will provide high cover. Gunners stay on the ball up there,
let’s not mistake a P-47 for a FW-190—or the other way around , either!
The route out from base to West Malling for rendezvous with the 387th Group at 12,000 feet. We will lead them to Splasher Beacon Number 9 where we will tack on behind the 322nd Group. They will follow the 323rd Group who will be leading the entire mission. The seventy-two plane formation will rendezvous with our fighter forces at position 50 Degrees 10 Minutes North, 00
Degrees 20 Minutes East to enemy landfall ten miles northeast of Fecamp, France to the I.P. at Damville, to the target. The route back is left turn off target to ten miles northeast of Fecamp, to Beachy Head, and back to base. The altitudes are: Rendezvous at 12,000 feet, bomb at 10,500, cross enemy coast out at 9,500 and return to England at 7,500 feet. Axis of attack is generally from southwest to northeast. The aiming point will be hangars and dispersal area on the southwest side of the airdrome. All ships are loaded with six 500 pound general purpose demolition bombs and are fused with a one-tenth second delay both nose and tail. The 552nd Squadron will furnish two aircraft, the 553rd will have six, the 554th has nine, and the 555th will put up one ship plus one extra. Major Ramsey will lead our Group, Captain Dewhurst has the high flight, and Captain E. Curran will lead the low flight. Emergency airfields are located at West Malling and Gravesend. Zero Hour is 1200 hours.
Let’s take a time hack now, coming up on fifteen seconds—ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, hack!
The flak map shows Fecamp to have light and heavy type, but is considered to be weak and inaccurate. You will pass along the edges of some heavy type gun emplacements near Evreux Airdrome, also at Conches. Flak in those areas have been known to be very accurate, and at times putting up intense fire—you can expect some flak opposition in the target area as well! On the route back, Rouen with heavy flak will be seven miles to your right, stay well west of there. St. Vallery has several heavy guns, and is located four miles east of course as you exit the enemy coast. There are a number fighter airfields on both sides of your route from French Coast to the target. Be advised of a German fighter attack at anytime along your course.
Weather at take off time: No middle or low clouds, visibility is one mile in haze. The route out has six-tenths cumulus clouds with a 2,000 foot base, and tops to 9,000 feet. They will break off abruptly at the channel. Visibility will improve to four to six miles at rendezvous points and increase to ten miles plus over the channel and enemy coast. The target, high cirrus overcast,
visibility twenty miles. Return flight will be similar to route out. Communications:
Bomber to bomber on VHF Channel C. Our Group call sign for today is, TYPEWRITE THREE. Fighter call sign is HAYBANK, and Ground Sector call sign is WARMSUN. Emergency homing to Ford on Channel B, call sign will be COACHRIDE. Air-Sea-Rescue on VHF Channel D. Splasher Beacons in use for entire mission are: 4D, 5E, 6F, 7G, 8H, 9J, and 11K. The Group Leader or Deputy will report On Command Control Frequency after clearing enemy coast.
Briefing was completed at 0912 hours, flight crews climbed into trucks to be delivered to their assigned aircraft. Engine start time was 0947, and the planes began to taxi to the active runway at 0952 hours. Formation Leader Ramsey was into the air at 1002—he was followed in close order by all the other planes in his flock. The seventh bomber to start a take off was a ship called, "DINAH MIGHT" 132576 AN-Z, commanded by Captain Dewhurst. About half way down the runway a propeller over speeded ( a run away prop ) causing the pilot to abort his take off and return to its
parking place. Cause of the malfunction was attributed to weak batteries. Captain J.A. Gianatsis flying in a plane named, "LA GOLONDRINA" 131583 AN-X took over as high flight leader. The formation of eighteen aircraft departed over base at an altitude of 10,000 feet, time was 1154 hours. They set course for West Malling at 175 degrees to make rendezvous with the 387th Bomb Group. At that point a course of 232 degrees was flown to Splasher Beacon Number 9J where rendezvous was made with the 323rd and 322nd Bomb Groups at 12,000 feet. The four group formation took up a new heading of 153 degrees which would carry them fifty-two miles out over the English Channel to link up with their fighter escort.
A short time later Lieutenant Robert Harris flying, "GRIM RAPER II" 134888 AN-L in number five position of the high flight had an engine failure. The crew jettisoned their bomb load into the channel and returned to base. Lieutenant Robert Kingsley flying a ship called, "MR. FIVE BY FIVE" 131612 YA-Z took over the vacated position in the high flight. Test firing of bomber guns had just been accomplished as the fighter escort arrived at 1227 hours.
The fighter pilots were informed during their briefing that the bomber crews had been especially briefed with regard to recognition of P-38 and P-47 type aircraft. It is also desired that close escort and escort groups of this VIII Fighter Command stay as close to the bombers as the limitations maneuverability will allow! If the mission were to be abandoned because of weather, the P-38 leader will notify the bomber leader by radio using call sign—TYPEWRITE ONE, TYPEWRITE TWO, TYPEWRITE THREE, or TYPEWRITE FOUR—depending on which of the four bomber groups he wishes to contact. If the fighter leader chooses not to use radio, he may turn back the bombers by zooming across in front of the lead bomber. Two hundred and fifty P-38’s and P-47’s will be taking part in this operation. Some will make fighter sweeps in the area, all others will perform escort duty for the seventy-two B-26’s flying on this particular mission. The formation flying on a heading of 158 degrees made enemy landfall at 1238 hours, ten miles northeast of Fecamp, with not a single flak burst to be seen. The target lay approximately seventyfive
miles ahead. Several thousand feet above the formation, a high cirrus cloud overcast was very much in evidence, however at bomber level and below was clear of clouds and visibility was at least twenty miles. Lieutenant James Baxter was flying as co-pilot with Captain Emmett Curran, leader of the low flight. Baxter glanced up at the high fighter cover and witnessed a strange sight. Some Focke-Wulf 190’s had actually infiltrated part of our P-47 escort, flying along in loose formation off to one side! None of the FW-190’s fired upon the P-47 aircraft. Apparently the German aircraft pilots hoped to stooge along briefly with our escort waiting for an opportunity to break away and make a steep diving attack upon the B-26’s a few thousand feet below. The ploy was detected by an alert Lockheed Lightning pilot who’s plane lived up to its name as it flashed down after a FW-190 with a withering blast of gun fire—knocking the enemy plane out of the sky just a few hundred yards off the left wing of Lieutenant Baxter’s ship. Another FW-190 was observed high and to the left of Baxter’s plane number 134947 RU-K. To escape pursuing American Fighters, the German pilot came diving down in a turn from 10 o’clock to about 1 o’clock position and headed under the bomber. Bombardier Roy Stroud grabbed his flexible nose gun and rattled off 75 rounds at 500 yard range, but claimed no hits upon the enemy fighter. All fighter attacks took place approximately twelve miles southwest of Rouen. The I.P. at Damville was reached and a prescribed left turn was initiated as the bomb bay doors were opened, final maneuvering was accomplished and the sixty second bomb run commenced on a heading of 60 degrees at 190 m.p.h. A number of Junkers JU-88 Bombers could be seen parked in the south dispersal area of the target. From an altitude of 10,500 feet, it was bombs away at 1300 hours. One aircraft failed to release due to a bomb rack malfunction, it later jettisoned its load into the English Channel. Ninety-six 500 pound bombs from our sixteen planes whistled earthward and were observed to erupt in mounds of dirt causing clouds of dust to rise rapidly—the bombs walked across the aiming point of the target in the dispersal area. Bombing results were assessed as good! An immediate left turn was made off the target to a heading of 236 degrees. The sun was Shining
brightly almost directly behind the bombers from 5 o’clock high position—more enemy action was at hand! A Messerschmitt-109 was in trouble after an engagement with the P-38 escort. It went diving passed the lead flight of bombers from 7 o’clock high around to 1 o’clock high position. Top turret gunner D.E. Coffman flying with Captain Albert Caney in their plane named, "PRIVY DONNA" 131658 RU-A let loose with 50 rounds at 300 yards, and striking the enemy plane in the cockpit area. Bombardier, Lieutenant W.B. Greer flying with Lieutenant Robert Spencer in ship number 131790 RU-T in number two position of the lead flight, fired 35 rounds at the green and black camouflaged enemy plane. His tracers could be seen glowing all around the Messerschmitt as it pulled up at 11 o’clock, and then pitched down at 12 o’clock position in a semi-controlled spin, and acting crazily. He thought it might have been hit by our fighters. The Air Combat Board ruled: Although both men undoubtedly inflicted additional damage upon the enemy plane, its doom had
already been assured by the P-38 escort; and they should receive all credit for the kill! Lieutenant Ralph Marble’s crew had counted twenty enemy aircraft in the area, only two of them managed to break through the escort cover.
Slight and inaccurate 88mm flak was encountered from the vicinity of a village know as Quittebeuf. The Group continued on its departure leg to the enemy coast where they exited ten miles northeast of Fecamp at 1319 hours. Major Thomas Ramsey received word that weather at home base was unsafe for landing, visibility on the ground was from 400 feet to one-half mile. A route deviation made English landfall at Dungeness instead of Beachy Head as briefed.
Major Ramsey landed at The Third Division Air Depot located at Honington along with Captain Caney, and Lieutenants, Spencer, Carlson, Green and Jones. Captain Gianatsis landed with eleven other ships at the 388th Bomb Group’s Base located at Knettishall. The other pilots were Captains, Perry and Curran; Lieutenants, Callahan, Marble, Darnall, Meyers, Michael, Giles, and Kinsley.
Lieutenant Darnall’s crew liked the food served, and would like to eat regularly like the B-17 guys—fried steak with onions, oranges and a non-com bar stocked with whiskey and beer, who said, "All’s fair in love and war?" About thirty miles inland while on course to the target, one of the 322nd Group pilots observed a very intense blue light, it shown clearly through the sky. He thought it must be a signal to the German fighter pilots! The VIII Fighter Command issued a statement concerning their fighter escort mission of Sunday, October 24, 1943: The enemy fighter defense reacted in unprecedented force to the Marauder raids this morning. About one hundred and fifty plus enemy aircraft—a figure which represents more than seventy-five percent of the total German fighter strength in the area of the targets were aroused!
The bombers attacking in Fighter Command II—Montdidier and Beauuvais encountered somewhat heavier opposition than the force dispatched to St. Andre de L’Eure about thirty minutes later. This is perhaps attributable to the fact that the former bomber force was numerically greater than some Fighter Command III enemy aircraft in their attempt to intercept the Montdidier-Beauvais raiders. This probably dissipated their flying time and were incapable of serving against the second phase of the attack to their own area! German fighters, probably from the Lille-Cambrai, and Beauvais areas were airborne early, in most instances probably before the bombers had crossed over the French Coast. Preliminary reports indicate that at least some of these seventy to eighty fighters came to grips with the Spitfire escorting forces of Montdidier and Beauvais bombers. Enemy aircraft from the Bernay-St. Andre
area were in general, more tardy in their reaction—but seemed to successfully have effected interception of the American Bomber-Fighter formation en route to St. Andre. However in no case did enemy aircraft appear to pursue the formation for any extended period of time with their seventy plus aircraft. The Montdidier-Beauvais escort claimed five destroyed, one probably destroyed, and five of the enemy damaged. Fighter sweeps claimed one destroyed, and St. Andre escort claimed one Messerschmitt-109 destroyed. U.S. Fighter Forces did not suffer any combat losses in today’s operations.
Walker Greer 2nd right back row in picture below