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Narrative - Official Air Force Mission Description

The 577th, 578th and 579th Bom-bardment Squadrons (Heavy), 392d Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrive at Wendling, England from the US with B-24s. The squadrons will fly their first mission on 6 Sep 43 and remain at this station until Jun 45.Source: THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, 1941-1945 by Carter / Mueller, the Office of Air Force History,

Mission Reports

44BG Mission Report - Our 37 aircraft departed Benina at 0430(?) to attack their assigned targets of Credito-Minier and Columbia Aquila. 36 A/C reached targets between 1210 and 1213 hours at altitudes from 120 to 250 feet. 48 x 500 lb GP bombs fused 45 second tail, and 139 x 1000 lb bombs fused one hour tail delay, plus 22 boxes of incendiaries dropped on targets along the route, but taking no account of unreported planes. The groups assembled as planned except for the 93rd, which due to blowing dust, were delayed in taking off with the result that they were unable to form over their field and had to do so enroute. As the force reached the coast of Greece, the groups were in visual contact, but from the coast to the turning point of Pirot they encountered poor weather. The 98th Group descended below the clouds, the other four remained above, and, in consequence, lost contact. The 376th and 93rd, separated from the other groups and turned for their run into the I.P. (Floresti) about 4 minutes too soon and, therefore, missed it. A run was made from a town which they mistook for Floresti, the mistake being undiscovered until the lead force (376th Group) sighted Bucharest. They then turned north toward the original IP, sighted Ploesti, and attacked the targets on a heading of 35deg. Only three ships from the 376th bombed an objective, the remainder slavoed their bombs in the fields. The 93rd sighted White III too late to change course and bombed White IV and White V. Their approach to the targets brought the two forces near the defenses on the outskirts of Bucharest, on through those of Brazi, and into the most intense in the Ploesti area, with a resulting high loss of aircraft. Unfamiliar with the angle of approach, they were forced to climb to find their target and were subjected to fire from heavy anti-aircraft fire. The 389th and 44th Groups became separated from the 98th when the latter descended under the clouds on the way in from Greece to Pirot, and the 389th after coming to the conclusion that the others were uncertain of their own position, broke off and proceeded to Pitesti alone. Arriving in the foothills north of Pitesti, they became confused by the similarity of the valleys there, and made a run down one of them towards Targoviste in the belief they were in the Prahova Valley. Discovering their mistake, they turned north again and made a second southerly run down the Prahova valley itself. This time they easily recognized and hit their target, the Steaua Romana Refinery. The hilly nature of the country surrounding the target apparently made a certain amount of surprise possible, as the first four waves over the target encountered little opposition, while the last wave met considerable resistance. No heavy anti-aircraft fire was reported. The 44th BG, mistaking the 389th for the 98th BG, followed the former until their mistake was discovered. We then found ourselves ahead and above the 98th and so let down and circled behind into our proper position. They reached Pitesti and followed the planned route, by Floresti, to the target. White IV, already hit by the 93rd, was the target ssigned to the 98th and their own certainty that they hit it well is upheld by their photos. The comparatively small amount of damage shown in the P.R.U verticals leads to the belief that a great proprotion of their bombs did not go off or were removed before they could do so, thereby tending to substantiate the information contained in the telegram from General Arnold, July 9 1943 on experiments with 1000 lb bombs with delayed fuses, in which it was found that 50% of the bombs failed to detonate when dropped against solid objectives from low level. The 44th B.G. arrived at their Ploesti target at 1515 hours, plunging into a hail of flak and ripping tracers, smoke, fire and exploding bombs. Several parts of the extensive plant were already afire, and to reach their specified targe, the 44th would have to fly directly over this fiery and bursting cauldren of oil, and through a veritable forest of anti-aircraft guns. What had been modest barns and harmless appearing hay stacks now became gun implacements, and from everywhere, including handcars on the sidings, upward flew the barrage of steel. And from the flak towers, down came additional hail of metal. Col. Johnson headed for the target with the Group in perfect order behind, and here is where the real story of heroism and valor ahd sacrifice begins. The Ploesti plant was a sprawling panorama of buildings streched over several acres of land. Because a concentrated attack on one specific target by the entire force employed would do but a minimum of damage, each group had been assigned a separate area on which to concentrate their strength. That had been the real purpose of a low-level attack. The idea was to get in fast, drop the bombs and get out just as fast, but fate had ruled that it wouldn't be so, for as Col. Johnson's Group approached their target, it was observed that through an error, another group has already bombed the target assigned to the 44th. What was there to do now? Fly straight on and turn for home, thereby nullifying months of preparedness, or seek an alternate target and possible doom? In a split second, Col. Johhson chose the latter. Altering his course and heading straight and low through the smoke and flames and floundering 24s, he made straight for a cracking plant as yet untouched. Planes were going down on all sides. One, caught in the blast of an exploding bomb(s), pointed her nose upwards, climbing an imaginary ladder several hundred feet before falling onto its helpless back. Another, completely enveloped in flames, plunged headlong into the flaming oil below, adding extra fuel to the raging fires, but Suzy-Q pressed onward to the new target with a flight of now crippled B-24s behind. Off Suzy's starboard wing six Liberators disappeared into a column of rising smoke, from which only one burnt and blackened pane emerged to follow the formation. What now remained of the 44th continued to the target and deposited their bombs neatly and beautifully below. Now began the mad dash for home. Col. Johnson's ship had ailerons and rudder perforated; Lt. Carpenter's bomb bay doors smashed and gas leaks in the starboard tanks; Lt. Mitchell, one engine feathered and one smoking; Capt. Cameron's rudders and fuselage peppered; Lt. Henderson's with a thousand flak holes in all parts of the ship; Lt. Hill's right wing was severly cut between the fuselage and #3 engine all the way to the main spar where she had smashed through a balloon cable. Such was the shape of the 67th's ships leaving the target. Most were blackened by the oil fires, blistering the paint. Skimming low between and under telegraph wires, and rubbing their bellies against fields of corn in order that they might avoid the fighters and flak towers, the big 24s dashed bravely along. Pursued by fighters and pounded from all directions, they nevertheless remained in their positions and finally broke into the clear. Lt. Mitchell was the first to leave the formation, heading in the general direction of Turkey; Lt. Henderson was next to leave and landed on the isle of Malta. Lt. Carpenter ditched in the Mediterranean 50 miles off the African coast, and all but two of the crew were rescued forty hours later. Lt. Fred Jones crash-landed in Italy; Lt. Worden Weaver and Lt. Reinhart went down over the target in flames. All in all, five planes were definitely established as lost, while the remaining four would be out of action for some time. (67th planes only) Loss of life was not as serious as at first feared and news came in that all damaged ships landed with but slight casualties to personnel. So it came: Mitchell's crew in Turkey, Jones' prisoners in Italy; Henderson's in Malta; all but two rescued from Lt. Carpenter's. Approximately 18 to 20 enemy aircraft attacked our formation with claims for 13 of them destroyed and 1 damaged. Only 23 of the 37 planes in our Group managed to land safely at the base, returning by 1800 hours. 14 were unreported. One B-24 letter bar W, bellylanded near the I.P. but the crew are believed safe. Other items include: Flak encountered at Verona on way out. Smoke screen at target started well in advance of arrival. 10 to 15 barrage balloons west of target flying at 4000 feet. For Lt. Whitlock's crew (506th) this mission was quite saddening as they were forced to abort some 125 miles short of the oil complex, near Craiova, Rumania. Fuel transfer problems and oiling difficulties caused the pilot to shut down #1 engine and feather the prop. We were tail-end Charlie, eating everyone's prop wash. We kept lagging farther behind until #4 engine lost power, too, so with no other choice, turned to return to base. Navigator Ricks gave a course heading to the nearest friendly landing field, Cyprus. some five flying hours distance. Flying southbound they crossed the Danube at a point where people were wading and swimming, and not wanting to hurt them dumped their bombs farther down the river. They overflew Bulgaria into the Aegean Sea and skirted west of Turkey. 20 minutes from the Cyprus coast number four engine quit entirely. They were running out of altitude. At 500 feet and still dropping, Lt. Whitlock turned and asked S/Sgt. Chase if he was set up for a distress call - and he was. He knuckled out repeated SOS morse signals, giving code and holding the transmitter key down for 15 to 20 seconds so air-sea-rescue could home in on them. Meanwhile the crew threw out clothing, radio tuning units, ammunition, etc. to lighten the load so we could make landfall. The coast loomed in sight and luckily, they were lined up to land. No turning, straight in they went while S/Sgt. Chase fired red flares to ward off pattern aircraft. It was a good landing! The 68th Squadron lost #42-40995 Co- Piloted by Capt. Rowland B. Houston over the target.(A/C pulled up steeply) The 66th lost Ist Lt. H.A. Lasco, Jr. in #42-24153 L "Sad Sack II" who went down after target. Three 66th planes were caught in that terrific.explosion: 1st Lt. G.W. Winger in #41-240l5 R "Wing Dinger"; Capt. R.M. Gentry in #42-40l82 A "Porky II"(?) and 1st Lt. C.E. Hughes in #42-40777 N "Flossie Flirt". Somehow, Lt. Hughes managed to take his shattered plane to Turkey. 1st Lt. T.E. Scrivner in #42-40375 G crashed near a clump of trees. CORRECTIONS: No 44th A/C with Bar W - - none lost near IP. Incorrectly reported. Jones' crew ditched south of Corfu.source: 44th Bomb Group web page http://www.8thairforce.com/44thbg

Non-Combat Accident Reports

Aircraft: B-17F (#42-2970).
Organization: 324BS / 91BG of Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.
Pilot: Gladhart, David F.
Notes: landing accident.
Location: Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire England.
Damage (0-5 increasing damage): 3
source: Aviation Archaeology http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/

Mission Stats (Targets, Aircraft, Casualties, etc.)

Mission "Strategic Operations"
Unit arrivals and transfers in UK
August 01, 1943

Primary source for mission statistics: Mighty Eighth War Diary by Roger A. Freeman