9th AF Patch

416th Bombardment Group (L)

Conversion from

A-20 to A-26 type aircraft

 

Transcriptions from USAF Archives (Declassified IAW EO 12958)

WWII-Medal

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See also:
PDF version of Original Memo pages.
A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation.

E - 5 - 5

HEADQUARTERS
FOUR HUNDRED SIXTEENTH BOMBARDMENT GROUP (L)
OFFICE OF THE COMMANDING OFFICER

APO 140, U.S. Army
2 November 1944


SUBJECT: Conversion of 416th Bombardment Group (L) From A-20 Type
         Aircraft to A-26 Type Aircraft.
TO     : Commanding General, 97th Combat Bombardment Wing (L),
         APO 140, U. S. Army.

1. At approximately noon, 30 September 1944, this Group was notified that it was to be converted to an A-26 Group in the near future. That evening, at approximately 1800, sixteen A-26 airplanes, plus crews, arrived at Station A-55. During the next few days five more aircraft were destined to arrive. Although the newly arrived crews were not certain of their mission or status, plans were immediately laid for rapid conversion of the Group.

2. Because the Group was to remain fully operational, it was decided to divide the training load equally among the four Squadrons. One six-crew flight from each Squadron was taken off operations, and these flights were assigned to the A-26 Training Unit for conversion. In addition to the combat crews thus assigned, one-fourth of the engineering personnel from each Squadron were assigned to the A-26's for training. This meant the Group was to conduct a full time combat operations course while at three-fourths strength, conduct an A-20 indoctrination course for newly arrived replacement crews, and, in addition, conduct an operational training unit for rapid training of an A-26 Combat Group.

3. On 1 October 1944 a minimum standard of training was set up as follows:

a. 4 hours cockpit familiarization.
b. Complete Questionnaire.
c. 5 hours transition, including a one-hour orientation ride.
d. 5 hours of 3-plane formation.
e. 2 1/2 hours of 6-plane formation, including join-up and landing procedures.
f. 2 1/2 hours of 18-plane formation, to include evasive action, turns, and cross-overs.

4. In reference to (b) above, a Questionnaire was drawn up which included starting and operation of engines, airplane operation, propellers, superchargers, fuel systems, engine oil and dilution systems, and the airspeed systems. All pilots were required to complete this Questionnaire, plus a blindfold cockpit check before they were allowed to solo the aircraft.

5. Expected A-26 Mobile Training Units had not yet arrived. Consequently, improvised lectures by A-26 personnel were given concerning the fuel system, flight characteristics, and emergency procedures.

6. Thus, during the first day, in which training crews received familiarization lectures and cockpit time, the training program was organized. The next day, 2 October 1944, actual flight training was inaugurated with preliminary orientation rides. Good weather favored flying, and all pilots were ready to begin the next day with solo and transition flying. However, the dawn of the next day revealed a nemesis which was destined to plague us during the entire period of conversion-bad weather. Consequently, a total of only eight hours of flying time was logged. The next day, 4 October 1944, all of the transition pilots soloed in spite of poor weather conditions.

7. During all flying training, the extremely poor condition of the field and taxi strips was a constant handicap. The weather conditions were forcing us behind our training schedule. The location of the A-26 aircraft, which were dispersed on the grass at the south end of the field because no hardstands were available, magnified the difficulties in crew availability. The shortage of transportation made it extremely difficult to assemble the various ground crews, air crews, and equipment at the proper times. Consequently, it was decided that, when the first cadre of trainees had completed training, one entire Squadron would be taken off operations. This would necessarily increase the operational load on the other three squadrons, but would place all personnel and equipment of that squadron available for concentrated A-26 training.

8. During several days when the weather prohibited flying, Squadron C personnel were given familiarization lectures, Questionnaires, and cockpit time. Therefore, when a short spell of favorable weather allowed the completion of training for the first cadre, Squadron C was ready to start flying training immediately. Things went smoothly until 15 October 1944. At first light on this day our eager crews had all available aircraft airborne. Misleading weather information had assured us of favorable conditions. However, our old nemesis, weather, soon closed in so quickly that only one aircraft was able to get back into the field. Two days elapsed before our aircraft were able to return. One had crashed and one had crash-landed because of weather.

9. Squadron C completed training on 18 October 1944. Squadron D, having previously completed preliminary lectures, Questionnaires, and cockpit study, commenced training on this date. Bad weather limited flying for the period 20-25 October 1944 and totaled 22 hours; it was not until 29 October 1944 that D Squadron was able to complete its training.

10. Squadron B started training on 30 October 1944, and, at the time of this writing, is in the process of conversion.

11. Next let us consider the ground phase of the training program. During the entire period of conversion, ground crew personnel of the Units undergoing training were assigned to A-26 aircraft for practical training and actual maintenance.

12. The first A-26 Mobile Training Unit arrived on this base the night of 6 October 1944, and commenced functioning as a training unit the morning of 7 October 1944. Two Squadrons were assigned to this unit for training. The next two M. T. U's to arrive were each assigned to a Squadron, and the fourth Unit was assigned to the Service team. Thus, although only one Squadron at a time was conducting flying training, all personnel concerned with the conversion were undergoing ground training. This ground training, of course, was necessarily coordinated with air training and operational missions.

13. The following schedule was setup as a minimum requirement amount of instruction for various personnel by the Mobile Training Unit:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Pilots  B/N  Gunners  Mech.  Arm.  Inet. Elec. Turret
                                                    Specialists
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bombing and
Armament        1      3      1       1     3
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Turret GSFC     2      1      3       1                        12
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Electrical      2      1      1       3                  4
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fuel System     1      1      2       2
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Instruments     1      1      1       1           3
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Flights and
Flaps           1      1      1       1
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hydraulics      2      1      1       4
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Power Plant     1      1      2
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOTALS         11     10     10      15     3     3      4     12
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
At the completion of this training, specialist, repair, and trouble shooting courses were held at an A-26 airplane with groups from the various sections and an instructor from the M.T.U.

14. In addition to their courses with the M.T.U., the gunners received practical turret training in the aircraft, and were required to fire one hundred rounds of ammunition in the turret trainer. For purposed of a turret trainer, one A-26 airplane, which was out for maintenance, with auxiliary power, was used as a trainer. No air-to-ground or air-to-air gunnery facilities were available.

15. Because the radio equipment is the same as that in A-20 aircraft, Communication personnel spent time in study of the wiring system of the A-26.

16. All Armament personnel were given a minimum of six hours practical work in loading different types of bombs in the A-26.

17. The following table indicates the average time which may be expected to be consumed in loading various types of bombs in a single aircraft. This time does not include fusing time.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
TYPE          NUMBER OF          NO. OF PERSONNEL              TIME
BOMB            BOMBS            IN LOADING CREW
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
100#             22                     4                     48 minutes
            (Bomb bay tank
             installed)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
250#             12                     5                     40 minutes
6           (Tank installed)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
250#             14                     5                     45 minutes
            (Tank not installed)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

260#         12 (single cluster)        5                     30 minutes
M-81 Trng    18 (double cluster)        5                     50 minutes
  Bomb       16 (single cluster         5                     40 minutes
                 tank not in-
                 stalled)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
500#              6                     4                     55 minutes
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1000#             4                     4                     30 minutes
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

18. Training and conversions will continue along these lines until the entire Group is converted; it will then be necessary to carry on sustained training in all available aircraft. This sustained training will emphasize 18-plane formation, practice bombings, and night indoctrination.

19. During the entire period of conversion, several difficulties are outstanding. The poor condition of the airfield and taxi strips slowed down training and damaged equipment. The heavy flying schedule in favorable weather, plus the fact that ground crews were not entirely familiar with the equipment, was detrimental to proper maintenance. The urgency of the situation prevented the usual thorough acceptance inspections. Spare parts were scarce; consequently, mechanical difficulties were common.

20. However, the outstanding difficulty has proved to the weather hazard. The constant threat of bad weather works havoc with our flying schedules. The total available flying time during the period 1-30 October 1944 was 140 hours. During this period, 972 training hours were logged with an average of ten available aircraft.

21. Nevertheless, the Group is now well on its way to being comverted, and should be carrying on its usual outstanding operational efficiency with the new aircraft in the near future.


THEODORE R. AYLESWORTH,
Colonel, Air Corps,
Commanding.



The first page of the November, 1944 Group Historical Data completes the description of the A-26 conversion as follows:

The A-20 Havocs with which we had operated for 158 missions were now almost a thing of the past for the 416th. (Exhibit #1-Nov 1944). Conversion to the A-26 Invaders was completed on 5 November. The A-20s that we had been using were flown back to England. On the 7th, the pilots flew the first A-26 Invaders that were assigned to our Group onto the field. Acceptance checks began immediately to be completed by noon of the 9th. At that time the Group would be considered ready to operate with the Invader. In all of our 158 missions in the Havoc, we had flown 5567 sorties and had dropped 4659 1/2 tons of bombs.

Two days later, on the 11th, the training planes and the Mobile Training Unit left the Base for another Group.

Although the Invader was not a child of this War, having been in the designing stage since 1941, it was new as far as production was concerned. Production in the solid-nosed plane was progressing satisfactorily, but as yet, no glassed-nosed planes were available. As a result it was necessary to continue using the A-20-Js for lead planes on our formations.



See also PDF version of Original pages.



September, October and November 1944 416th Bomb Group
and Squadron History Extracts related to the A-20 to A-26 Conversion

"416th Bombardment Group (L) - Group History 1944"
Transcribed from USAF Archives

... September, 1944 ...

On the 30th, we received more concrete evidence of what was in store for us in the future. Sixteen A-26s, the Air Forces' newest and fastest medium bombers, landed at the Base. They were to be assigned to the Squadrons where training in them was to begin immediately. Ours was to be the pioneer A-26 Group just as we had been the pioneer A-20 Group in the E.T.O.

... October, 1944 ...

With the almost continuous rain, mud became an enormous problem. It was solved mostly by "mud discipline." Never-relaxing care was observed to stay on the walks provided. Vehicles had to stay on the hard pavements. A tractor sweeper swept the heavily-traveled roadways. Although mud continued to be a nuisance, it was controlled and would be kept to a minimum.

The weather not only cut down on our scale of operations, but it [slowed us] down on our training in the new A-26 Invaders. The planes were to be rotated through the four squadrons for this training. Each squadron, during its training period, was to be taken off operations. Ground training, augmenting the flying training, was carried on with the assistance of a 9th Air Force Mobile Training Unit. With good flying weather it was estimated that it would take about a month to convert to the new aircraft. The weather was very unfavorable, yet, with an intensified ground program and with dawn-to-dusk flying when the weather permitted, the four squadrons completed checking out on the plane by the end of the first week in November. Exhibit #1-Oct, 1944.

An unfortunate accident marred the training program. Early in the morning on the 15th, six A-26s took off in fair flying weather. The planes had just taken off, however, when the weather closed in. One plane was able to return to make a safe landing. The others in the formation flew on, hoping to find a break in the clouds and land elsewhere if necessary. Three of them were diverted to A-61 where they landed safely. The ceiling was estimated to be 400 feet by 200 yards visibility. The remaining two planes could not be contacted by radio to be averted. Both of them crashed. Second Lieutenant Samuel P. Leischman's plane was last seen near Sezanne, flying very low. He had evidently been trying to let down through the overcast. The plane was in a 30-degree dive when it struck a large tree on a hill-side in very hilly country. The pilot and his two gunners, Sergeants Joseph F. Siracusa and Eugene H. Shempren, were killed in the crash. The second plane crashed near Rouen. The pilot was 2nd Lt Stanley H. Sheley. When he became lost from the formation, he decided to pick out an open field for a forced landing. The ceiling was from 100 to 300 feet at this time. He finally located a field and brought the plane in. The plane touched the ground safely when it hit a bump, causing the nosewheel to turn sideways. After skidding along in that position, the strut collapsed. The plane was badly damaged, but none of the crew at all was injured.

The gunners were Sergeants D. V. Paladine and F. M. Thorp.

... November, 1944 ...

The A-20 Havocs with which we had operated for 158 missions were now almost a thing of the past for the 416th. (Exhibit #1-Nov 1944). Conversion to the A-26 Invaders was completed on 5 November. The A-20s that we had been using were flown back to England. On the 7th, the pilots flew the first A-26 Invaders that were assigned to our Group onto the field. Acceptance checks began immediately to be completed by noon of the 9th. At that time the Group would be considered ready to operate with the Invader. In all of our 158 missions in the Havoc, we had flown 5567 sorties and had dropped 4659 1/2 tons of bombs.

Two days later, on the 11th, the training planes and the Mobile Training Unit left the Base for another Group.

Although the Invader was not a child of this War, having been in the designing stage since 1941, it was new as far as production was concerned. Production in the solid-nosed plane was progressing satisfactorily, but as yet, no glassednosed planes were available. As a result it was necessary to continue using the A-20-Js for lead planes on our formations. (Exhibit #1A-November 1944).

With continued bad weather, and operations almost impossible, the Group carried on its training program. Many new pilots, with experience only in Havocs, were assigned to the Group. This bad weather afforded a wonderful opportunity for them to be checked out. Those already checked out improved their formation flying. The one noticeable disadvantage to the Invader was its poor visibility. This made close formation flying was more difficult than in the Havocs. Only practice could improve this--and practice formations were flown every possible minute of the day.




"Attack Bombers, We Need You! A History of the 416th Bomb Group"
Ralph Conte
Pages p156-159

The last word in fast light bombers, the new A-26 planes arrived at our group today. They will begin training flights for indoctrination with check outs being conducted with the pilots who had experience in them, who led the new planes to Melun.Those A-26 pilots will become members of the 416th Group. For a period, the glass nosed A-20s will lead all flights, with the A-26 planes forming up the remaining five planes of the flights.

...

The transition training of pilots and Bombardier-Navigators for the shiny aluminum A-26s continued, with all crews anxious to get into them and fly missions. The lack of glass nosed, - Model C - A-26s were not available yet, so as stated, A-20 glass nosed planes would carry the BNs to missions, with the A-26 gun ships behind them in flight formations. Speed was increased and the tripled bomb load of the 26s over the A-20s made these planes the desire of pilots and BNs. However, since the A-20 still had not expanded their range of operation, the type of missions flown had to co-incide with that lead plane's ability.




"Operational History 668th Bomb Squadron (416th Bomb Group (L)) WWII" (PDF)
Wayne Williams, et.al.

... September, 1944 ...

September 30, 1944 - The Group received over 15 A-26's today; rumor has it we will use them for training purposes. Each squadron will receive four or more, and pilots, gunners, and ground crews will be "checked out" on them. This is a pre-monition to our future activities in combat theatre. The A-26's are the last word in the newest light bombers.

... October, 1944 ...

October 1, 1944 - Training on the A-26's began, with both ground and air crew going to "school". All who come in contact with its various characteristics holds the A-26 in high esteem. Each squadron has four of these sleek, silver bombers, and it is the ambition of all to go up in them. It may be probable that we will train in these planes, and after the war is over in this theatre, we will move to the Jap theatre with A-26's. That seems to be the conclusion drawn by most of the men. ...

October 4, 1944 - Training on the A-26's continues with everyone very impressed by them. Truly, they are a fast, hard-hitting plane and surpass our present A-20's. The fact remains, that in the states, they no longer build A-20's. So, our future seems to point to the A-26. ...

October 6, 1944 - Training on the A-26's continues, with crews being checked out every day. These who have flown them and who have flown in them, solidly swear by the A-26. The opinion of the crew chief's who work of them, finds the A-26's easier to work on than the A-20's. ...

October 13, 1944 - Remainder of the day was spent in training flying. All the newcomers to the squadron averaged 2:00 on transition flying. Something new has been introduced into the squadron. From higher headquarters has come a request for volunteers for "night intruder" activities, employing the A-26's. As to the actual duties this will involve is unknown, but it is logically surmised that it will detail great risk and much night flying. We expect to know more about this in the near future. ...

October 17, 1944 - We had a release for the rest of the day, and local transition flying was accomplished. Ground training for the A-26 crews is in full swing, with the A-26's being loaned to the 670th Sq. ...

October 24 thru 30, 1944 - Ground training continues on the A-26's, with the planes being loaned out to the 671st Bomb Sq. At present we have eight full crews considered ready for combat in the A-26's. The day is drawing near, when we use these ships in actual combat. ...

October 31, 1944 - With no mission being flown since 17 October 1944, there isn't much to say in an "operational" sense of this log. During these two weeks, we made the change we were all waiting for. With weather still not favorable, we made the change from A-20 bomber group, to an A-26 bomber group. At last we have them. ...

... November, 1944 ...

On 4 November 1944, all flyable A-20 aircraft left this field in formation to fly to England. This was a ferrying mission, taking our last A-20's we were ever to work with. After having them for about almost two years, we are bound to miss them. Combat personnel from this squadron that took part in this move were; Capt. McNulty & Lt. Bursiel, in an A-20J; Lt's Evans, Chalmers, Brewster, Stanley, Hale, Kenny, McCready, Meredith, Svenson, Montrose, Jacobson, and Roberts. Their mission was to fly the A- 20's to England, and return with new A-26's.

In the late afternoon, 6 November 1944, these men returned back to the field flying in low formation with the A-26's. The sight they presented will be hard to forget. It was on of the prettiest sights we have ever seen. That day, we gained eleven A-26's to the squadron. A correction must be made at this point. We kept one A-20J, and two A-20K's in the squadron. These planes will be used to lead the A-26's in formation on missions. So, the transformation was finally made. The A-26's are sleek, new, fast, and hardhitting. ...

The weather itself continues to be very lousy. The few days we have had this two weeks have been spent in checking out pilots and crews on the A-26's. At present we have about twelve crews ready for combat in the A-26. Twice missions have been set up, but weather has interceded every time. Soon we expect to run our "first" with the A-26's.

November 14 thru 16, 1944 - These three days have been spent in "sweating out" the weather. We are now considered operational with the A-26's, and are awaiting our first chance to go into action with them.




"668th Bombardment Squadron (L) History"
Transcription from USAF Archives

... September, 1944 ...

On 30 September the Group received a shipment of fifteen A-26's, the sleek, silver ships which we were to give their first full scale combat test.

... October, 1944 ...

On the first day of October, ground and air crews began indoctrination and training in the A-26 Invader. A Mobile Training Unit gave technical instruction, while several newly assigned A-26 pilots began checking our men out on the airplane. Airmen and maintenance crews both waxed enthusiastic over the new ship. Pilots were especially pleased with its single-engine performance. The only complaint registered was the fact that for close formation flying, the A-26 was inferior to the Havoc, since the engine nacelles of the Invader were so located as to cut down the pilot's visibility. All agreed, however, that the advantages of the new airplane far outweighed this one disadvantage.

... November, 1944 ...

Intensive training continued on the A-26. Crews newly assigned from the States had been trained on the A-20, and the burden of transitional instruction in the Invader fell upon the tactical unit.

On 17 November, the Squadron participated in the first combat mission flown by the A-26. Due to a shortage of glass-nosed Invaders, A-20 Havocs were used in the Number One position for all flights.

The early combat missions uncovered several "bugs" in the Invader, and the technical sections, together with the Douglas Field Representatives, wrestled with the accomplishment of minor mechanical improvements. For air and ground men alike it was pioneer work, and though fraught with difficulties and hazards, it had its compensations in the sense of real achievement that was felt by the entire Group.




"669th Bombardment Squadron (L) History"
Transcription from USAF Archives

... September, 1944 ...

On the 30th, we received more concrete evidence of what was in store for us in the future. Sixteen A-26's the Air Force's newest and fastest medium bombers landed on the Base. Four of them were assigned to our Squadron and training in them was to begin immediately -- both ground and air training.

... October, 1944 ...

The outstanding event of the month was the training program set up for the conversion to the A-26 Invader. Weather was a great factor in the program. Originally set up to take about a month to convert, bad weather kept the planes on the ground for days at a time. When our Squadron was assigned the planes on the 30th, a slight break in the weather and dawn-to-dusk flying enabled us to convert in the record time of 5 days. The Group was completely converted by the 5th of November - after 35 days of training. ...

Crewman from the 669th were found on every loading list for the month. While the other Squadrons were checking out on the A-26 Invader, we had to furnish extra crews to complete the formations.

... November, 1944 ...

With the month of November rolling around, it became more apparent that the days of the Havocs were numbered. The first week of November marked the completion of the task of converting to the A-26 Invader. All the Havocs, with the exception of a few of the glassed-nosed models, were flown to England. The pilots returned with our first assignment of Invaders on the 7th. Within two days, the acceptance checks were completed and we were ready to operate with the new plane. Our group was to be the first to fly the Invaders operationally in any combat theatre.

Although the training planes and Mobile Training Unit had left by the 11th, our own training was far from complete. Many new pilots were assigned to the Squadron. Every available minute of flying weather had to be utilized to get these men checked out on the plane. Few, if any of them, had even seen the A-26 before they arrived on the Base. Pilots were not the only ones who had to be trained, however. The new gun turrets with the latest fire-control mechanism was something entirely strange to most of the gunners and turret mechanics. This meant that they would have to be thoroughly trained before they would be allowed to touch the guns. Communications, engineering, armament, and ordnance were all in need of training to learn the differences between the Havoc and the Invader.




"670th Bombardment Squadron (L) History"
Transcription from USAF Archives

... October, 1944 ...

A group of A-26 "Invader" combat crews were received by the squadron, giving a glimpse of things to come, when Captain Richardson, Lieutenants Heinke, Magliano, Jordan and Turner joined the organization on October 1st. ...

October 5th proved to be an important point in the history of this organization, the beginning of an important change in the makeup of the Group, when the 123d Mobile A-26 Training Unit arrived to take over the training of personnel for the conversion of the Group to the Douglas A-26 Aircraft, replacing the now famous A-20 Havocs which served so well against enemy installations in our eight months of operations. The new airplane with its greater bomb load and increased speed promised even greater operational success.

Major Dunn led a mission on October 8th against Linnich, Germany. This mission was the last flown during the month for our squadron, as on October 13th we were put on a non-operational status while our crews completed training in the new "Invader" aircraft. The 670th was the first squadron to start and to complete this training. Bad weather badly hampered the efforts of the crews to become operational in the new planes in the desired time. ...

On October 15th, while on a routine training flight, the squadron suffered the loss of a complete crew, when Lieutenant Samuel P. Leishman, pilot, and Sergeants Eugene H. Shempren and Joseph F. Siracusa, gunners, were killed. Bad weather closing in caused the planes to scatter and seek landing fields. Lieutenant Leishman's plane was last seen near Sezanne, flying very low. He had apparently been trying to let down through the overcast. The plane was in a thirty degree dive when it struck a large tree on a hillside, in very hilly country.

Lieutenant Sheley's plane crashed near Rouen. When he became lost from the formation he decided to pick out an open field for a forced landing. The ceiling was from one-hundred to three-hundred feet at the time. He finally located a spot and brought the aircraft in. It touched the ground, but hit a bump which turned the nosewheel sideways and the nosewheel strut collapsed. The aircraft was badly damaged, but the crew uninjured. The other planes landed at varied places. Major Dunn was compelled to land near Paris; one plane landed at Brussels, and several flew to England before finding an open airfield.

... November, 1944 ...

Thirteen of the squadron's A-20 aircraft took off for England on November 4th, to turn them over to the United Kingdom. As they flew over the squadron saluted the many fine airplanes which had served so well in blasting the enemy. The pilots returned three days later with the new A-26 "Invaders" which were to be used in future missions. ...

With A-26 training completed, three pilots and one bombardier who were sent to aid in the instruction of the new craft, took leave of the squadron on November 11th. Captain Richardson, Lieutenants Jordan, Magliano, and Dan O. Turner were transferred to the 409th and 410th Bombardment Groups, to repeat their training program there. ...

The christening of the new A-26's in combat, and the first mission for the squadron since October 8th, took place on November 17th. Eleven of our crews took part in an attack on the Haguenau storage depot. Forced to go below a cloud cover on the bomb run, the crews bombed from 8,000 feet. The attack was centered on two large warehouses, fifteen miles north of Strasbourg. Only weak flak was encountered and excellent bombing results were obtained. Bombs demolished bridges, railroad and warehouses in the target area.




"671st Bomb Squadron (L) Unit History" (PDF)
Gordon Russell and Jim Kerns

... October, 1944 ...

Conversion to A-26 Seen

A few days after the advanced echelon arrived at Station A-55 a formation of A-26s' soared out of the blue, and by the time their wheels hit the runway, word had spread that the 416th Bomb Group was to be trained on the combined version of the-A-20, B-25 and B-26 ... the A-26. This became a kmown fact a short time later when a mobile A-26 training unit moved on the field, and preparations were made for training both air and ground personnel. Five A-26 pilots, 6 gunners and two bombardier-navigators were assigned to the 671 st Bomb Squadron, as well as five sleek Invaders.

Each Squadron took one flight off operational status and sent crews to ground school, after which the flight was checked out on the new ship. Ground personnel in the meantime took an overall familiarization course.

It was found that under this schedule it would take too long a period to check the whole Group out. Therefore, the 670 Bomb Squadron was taken off Operations completely on the second week in October. Bad weather held their program up somewhat, but they finished on October 17th, 1944, and the next morning the 671st switched over to A-26s' in a before dawn to after dark schedule, intended to fully train the Squadron in three or four days.

At this rate the Group would be fully trained by the end of October ... and the fulfillment of the aim to transfer the 416th from the outmoded A-20 Havoc to the long ranged, improved A-26 Invader, would be in sight.

The following crews were checked out on the A-26s' the second week in October:

    Captain R.V. Wheeler      Lt. D.A. Fero        Lt. D.M. Eastman
    Lt. H.T. Arriilgton       Sgt. T.W. Skelton    Sgt. A.B. Eaton
    S/Sgt. O.E. Swank         Sgt. A.A. Rojas      Sgt. R.J. Johnson
    Sgt. C.W. Gurkin

    Lt. D.L. Withington       Lt. A. Remiszewski   Lt. J.C. Gary
    S/Sgt. C.F. Huss          Sgt. J.H. Migues     Sgt. A.E. Schoen
    S/Sgt. L.D. McElhattan    Sgt. F. Di Orio      Sgt. B.W. Cheuvront

October 15th, 19th, and 22nd, 1944 ... Training Mishaps

Missing in Action on a training flight ... that was the status of Lt.Floyd W. Henderson who was flying an A-26 on a transition hop on the morning of October 22nd. He took off at 0830 without his crew, and in five minutes the field was covered up by a fog bank. Lt. Henderson called the tower for instructions, but was unable to contact it. The weather was getting worse, so he went down on the deck, trying to find the Seine River. He just missed a tower, so pulled back up and took a heading to Cherbourg, where he intended to follow the French coast until he hit Le Harve. Then he planned to follow the Seine River to Melun and in turn be able to locate the field.

The weather, however, foiled this plan as he could not distinguish the coastline, so he followed his only remaining alternative. He set his course for England and landed his A-26 at an R.A.F. field East of London, after being in the air for three hours and thirty minutes. He was unable to service his plane there so he went to nearby Ninth Air Force C-47 base.

The "wheels" at A-55 figured this was what had happened to him, but when no word was received that day or the next day, it began to be doubtful if Lt. Henderson had survived his ordeal. The Group contacted most of the fields in France and England, but was unable to get any information. By the afternoon of October 24th, two and a half days since he left this field, it seemed pretty evident that Henderson had had it, and Missing in Action papers were drawn up. However, about 1630 on October 24th the drone of a lone A-26 was heard in the sky over A-55, and Lt. Henderson called in for landing instructions. The weather was not much better than when he had taken off, but Henderson set his ship down and reported to Operations.

He explained that he had given instructions to two stations in England to relay the message back to his home field of his safety, but apparently both failed to do so.

This came close to being the second disaster since the Group took over on A-26s. On October 15th the tower permitted several ships to take off in unfavorable weather. The 670th was undergoing their training and Lt. Leischman was in this Squadron's A-26, No. 196. He was unable to land after taking off, and crashed; killing the whole crew. Another ship crashed landed, while several others landed in England and other fields in France.

Lt. William H. Ames, Assistant Operations Officer of this Squadron also ran into a little difficulty on October 19th, but was none the worse for his experience; Upon landing his A-26, the nose wheel buckled and he plowed up the runway with the nose, Lt. Ames did an excellent job of keeping the plane on the runway though, and the crew was uninjured. ...

When the A-26s' moved in to A-55, their crews were split up and assigned to the Squadrons. The 671 st was given five pilots, two bombardier/navigators and six gunners. At the time it was not known whether they would stay with the Squadron or leave when the training was complete and at this late stage of the training program there is still nothing definite on the situation. The crews assigned are: 1st Lt. Claude J .Brown, 1st Lt. John A.Buskirk, 1st Lt. Cecil A. Fitch Jr., 1st Lt. Melvin T. Middlebrooks, Captain Lee J. Sutton Jr., all pilots.

Bombardier-Navigators, 1st Lt. Robert C. Hanna and 2nd Lt. C.O. Reeves; and gunners, T/Sgt. H. P. Williams, S/Sgt. D. G. Gilliam, S/Sgt. H. E. Sunderland, S/Sgt C. H. Corbritt Jr., S/Sgt. D. J. Rio and S/Sgt. M. H. Williams.

... November, 1944 ...

Weather Curtails Missions; Squadron Completes A-26 Training

Facing almost impossible flying weather, the 416 Bomb Group failed to run a mission from October 17th, 1944 through the end of the month, and up until November 3rd when the Group was taken off operations for conversion to A-26s. Missions came in just about every day, but after everything was set up, each one would be scrubbed before the ships left the ground - and many times before briefing. On the very scarce days when the sky overhead was clear there was heavy cloud coverage in the target area. The Marauder and the other two A-20 groups were able to take off on a few occasions, but the bad weather hindered bombing results considerably. ...

Meanwhile the 671st, taking advantage of the few passable days, completed their A-26 training on October 30th, 1944. All but the last nine crews to join the Squadron were checked out on the Invader. The pilots of this Squadron who have completed their course will train them in turn.

On November 3rd, 1944 the pilots were alerted for a ferry mission to take A-20Gs back to England and return with A-26s. The next day the formation took off, and the old reliable A-20Gs, which had served the 416th for many months, were on their way to a fate unknown. The boys were weathered in at the English field over the 4th and 5th, but returned on November 6th with the shiny A-26s which correspond to the A-20Gs. Glass nose Invaders were not available at the present time, so the Group retained it's A-20Js and Ks to lead the flights and boxes.

Bomb Division gave the 416th a three-day stand-down after arrival of the planes in order that thorough acceptance inspections could be made. The 416th will be the first complete group to operate with A-26s, although the outfit, which is training this Group, ran a few missions from England using no more than one box. ...

Just one month after the 416th had run its last mission, the new A-26 Invaders zoomed into the blue on their first operational mission. It was on October 17th that the 416th Bomb Group ran its last Group of operations for a while, but poor weather curtailed flights since the first of November. Then on November 17th, 1944 Bomb Division called on the 416th to hit a stores depot at Haguenau in conjunction with a grand Allied offensive.




"671tst Bombardment Squadron (L) History"
Transcribed from USAF Archives

... October - November, 1944 ...

During October and November the 416th Bombardment Group (L) made the most important transition in it's combat history. Since the activation of the group every type of A-20 from the "A" modification through the "K" modification has been flown, but never before had it's name been associated with any other type of aircraft. That precedent was broken one afternoon in the middle of October when sixteen A-26 aircraft circled the field and landed. Much to the surprise of most everyone on the base, the personnel of this mobile training unit commanded by Major FERRIS, stated that they were told to report to this base and check out the combat and ground crews in the A-26. Needless to say the usual rumors as to the change of combat tactics swept through the group and squadron but the veteran rumor mongers were shamed by the fact that this major change had taken place without them even suspecting it. To speed up the transition one squadron at a time was changed from combat operations to training status until all four squadrons were checked out. The 671st Squadron was the second squadron to train with the new plane. This transition was made much more difficult and tedious by long spells of cold foggy weather which often closed in on the field while the airplanes were in the air. Some airplanes and crews of other squadrons were lost trying to land in the fog and many pilots were forced to fly back to England. This hazardous weather limited operations of the Group also, no combat missions being flown from October 17 to November 17. ...

Toward the middle of November the weather cleared somewhat and the need for air support became urgent. On November 17 the Group flew their first mission using A-26 airplanes with A-20K airplanes leading each flight. The target was a supply warehouse at Haguenau, France. Ten crews of the 671st Squadron participated in the mission with Captain Cole and Captain Wheeler leading two flights. ...

Although the A-26 was a highly touted airplane most combat crew members did not like it as well as the Havoc. Its increased speed, fire power and bomb load were definite assets but the difficulty of flying good formation in addition to the expected mechanical "bugs" were a source of worry to most of the pilots. Maintenance crews also experienced difficulty keeping the airplanes on operational status. Most of the problems that were of major importance were overcome when the combat and ground crews became more familiar with the aircraft.






(Declassified IAW EO 12958)
Documents available from the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL.

See also:
PDF version of Original Memo pages.
A-26 ETO Combat Evaluation.