416th Bombardment Group (L)
January 23, 1945, Tuesday
Aircraft Serial Number (Type): 41-39235 (Douglas A-26B-20-DL Invader)
9th AF; 416th Bomb Gp; 670th Bomb Sq
Mission # 191; Box: I; Flight: 1; Position: 1; A/C Fuselage Code: F6-M
Reason: Enemy anti-aircraft
Damage: Crash Landing, Battle damage
Point Of Departure: A-55 Melun/Villaroche, France
Location: Weltz, Luxembourg
Captain Atkinson picked up two planes of his flight and headed for the target at Arzfeld. Intense, accurate flak knocked out his left engine, hit his bombardier in one leg, and injured himself. Smoke entered the cockpit so that he had to jettison the hatch, but he continued on to bomb, in the vicinity of Dasburg. He peeled off and went down to strafe. After strafing with telling results, he attempted to get a homing. When he failed to contact any station and when Lt Ackerson was hit in the other leg, he began to look for a field in which to make a forced landing. In the meantime, his gunner, Sergeant J.L. Collier, bailed out. Information is still sketchy as to the exact spot where he jumped so that he is still unaccounted for. Afraid that Lt Ackerson might bleed to death, Captain Atkinson brought the plane down on a gentle slope that he found. The momentum of the plane carried it over the crest into a gulley on the other side. Lt Ackerson was thrown clear of the plane and into the snow. Fortunately, the plane did not burn because Captain Atkinson was unable to get out unassisted. Some Army personnel hurried to the scene and pulled him out of the wreckage. Lt Ackerson's legs were both almost shot off below the knees and his shoulder dislocated. His present condition is unknown. Captain Atkinson suffered a fractured ankle and hand, but is expected to return soon.
(416th BG History 1945)
At the target they met heavy accurate flak and Captain Atkinson's ship was hit badly. Lt Ackerson's left leg was almost severed at the ankle, Capt Atkinson was hit in the face, and the aircraft was burning. One engine was knocked out and Captain Atkinson feathered the propeller. The cockpit was soon filled with smoke so they jettisoned the canopy in case the plane was burning. The elevator trim was used to control the plane, because the elevator controls were useless. He then dropped the bombs on the target area. They noticed the plane vibrating and think it was S/Sgt Collier, the gunner, using his guns. After the smoke cleared out of the cockpit, Captain Atkinson depressed the nose of the airplane with the trim tab and strafed with his forward guns. Despite his wounds, Lt Ackerson kept on the alert and continued to check the aircraft's position. He was losing blood rapidly. They went on about a minute heading further into Germany and Captain Atkinson turned back, firing his nose guns once again on the way out. About that time Captain Atkinson noticed the red jettison light burning, which could have been S/Sgt Collier bailing out. Lt Ackerson checked their position while holding his leg in an effort to stop the blood, and gave a correction. Captain Atkinson called fighter ground control three times but could get no response. They were on single engine going about 260 miles per hour. The right engine was "wide open". When they got back to about the bomb line they were again hit hard by flak and Lt Ackerson was struck severely in the right leg just above the ankle. The airspeed indicator went out but Captain Atkinson was still able to fly the airplane. Lt Ackerson indicated that they were back over in friendly territory. Captain Atkinson saw that his Bombardier- Navigator would probably bleed to death if he wasn't given help soon, so he decided to crash land. He picked out a small field and landed wheels up, flaps down and going up hill. They slid by a tree on the crest and hit in a deep gully on the other side. Lt Ackerson was thrown out and landed in the snow beyond the plane, dislocating his right shoulder. Fortunately the plane did not burn because Captain Atkinson had his shoulder harness locked and was pinned in the seat for four or five minutes. Some infantry men came along and helped him out of the wreckage. They were given first aid and rushed off to a field hospital. Captain Atkinson suffered a fractured ankle and hand. S/Sgt Collier must have bailed out over Germany when he saw the canopy go. This was the "last resort" signal to abandon ship in case interphone, emergency bell and gunner's call light were out. He is carried on reports as Missing in Action. Captain Atkinson and Lt Ackerson were transferred to a General Hospital.
("670th Bombardment Squadron (L) History")
See Mission # 191 for additional details