416th Bombardment Group (L)
Lt. Robert S. Bower
Pilot, 670th B.S.
Combat Journal Transcription
3 Feb 1945 to 26 Apr 1945
Lt. Robert S. Bower
This will be an attempt at a bird eye view of the missions I have flown in the ETO. Though confidentially I really can't understand why a person would desire to keep a running history of the un-glorious, but yet glorious as most people picture it, war of air to ground. Deep inside I feel that the hills accrued in warfare should be left on the field. Surely there is enough common turmoil and strife among people in daily living, without reminding people of this ungodly warfare.
My means of aerial conveyance at the present time is my Uncle Sam's very latest and highly potent A-26. I believe it has a few undesirable characteristics, but in general I think it is a very wonderful aircraft.
My first flight time in this plane was flown at airstrip A-55 located about 35 miles, SE of Paris and north of Melun. I had my first ride with Lt Grunig. He shot one full flap landing for me, then we traded seats and I made a landing. I don't know whether my landing frightened him or not, but he got out of the ship on taxiing back by operations and I was on my own.
Mission 1. 3 Feb. - 45
In line with squadron operations police, I flew my first mission as observer. Lt Merritt was my chauffeur, flying in number four position. The object of the mission that day was the bombing of a Nazi automotive repair depot at Bergisch Gladbach.
Due to the cloud cover of the target, the mission was run as P.F.F.. Naturally, with cloud cover, no pictures of results were available.
The flak on that mission was rather light and inaccurate. As I saw my first flak, my first impulse was to draw my arms in under my flak suit. I felt rather sheepish after that reaction, for I realized that what I could see bursting away out there wouldn't hurt me (it says here in writing).
I didn't sweat out the flak as much as I did those few seconds over the target prior to the dropping of the bombs. As Rooney, the flight leader, was forced to cut his power to avoid overrunning another, which had cut in front of him, Merritt cut his power but could not slow up his ship. Consequently we slipped under Rooney's plane just a few seconds before we dropped. At that moment I thought we were about to have it, for I was looking directly up into Rooney's bomb filled bomb bay. Just before bombs fell away, Merritt managed to slip our plane from under Rooney.
The return trip home was not too enjoyable for me. Heafies [Lt. Edward Heafey's (Mess Officer)] meat cakes which were on the noon mess didn't agree with me. So about half way home I made a wild grab for the cardboard cylinder, and up came my meal.
After that I turned the radio compass on, and listened to really swell German propaganda music. The Nazis really entertained me for the remainder of the trip.
Mission 2. 9 Feb. - 45 [Actual date Feb 8, 1945]
This was my first mission as pilot. In a way I was quite happy that I had made the team, though naturally I was filled with anxiety and wonderment of how the mission in general would go for me.
As the Canadians were preparing to make a drive in Holland, we were sent up with 5720 pounds of frags in each aircraft to give those boys some close support. It was highly improbable that our bombs would directly blast the German guns. The plan was to at least put the German soldiers in such a state of shock, that they would be able to offer a minimized resistance.
The bombs were dropped just over the bomb line, so it was a real milk run. I felt bad over that mission though as I had to salvo my bombs after three attempts at dropping them armed. I hope they went off, by some stroke of luck, on impact.
My gunner for that mission was Sgt Rhoney. He was really on ball over the target with his information about my bomb release malfunction.
Mission 3. 11 Feb. - 45 [Actual date Feb 10, 1945]
The writing of this flight is about a week later, so it is not too clear in my mind, as the two missions following it have made this one another milk run. The object of this mission was the bombing of a large German held forest. A large amount of supplies and troops were held here in reserve for another heavy counter attack. We believe that our bombs went down the chimney.
My gunner on this mission was Sgt. Hammond. His pilot at the time was up at the front, so squadron operations scheduled him to ride with me. Hammonds pilot is quite prone to fly a quite lose formation, while I think a very tight formation is much better. Consequently he was really "sweating out" my close flying. He has very good air discipline.
Mission 4. 15 Feb. - 45 [Actual date Feb 14, 1945]
Any aerial territory about the Ruhr valley is a good place to be "from". Today we hit a series of warehouses just south of Bonn along the west bank of the Rhine
The flak today was concerned as heavy and fairly accurate. After returning to the base I learned that one of our aircraft went down. One chute was seen to blossom out, with three more to go. I surely hope they all safely got out. I had a rather weak stomach for awhile when I heard that news.
I too was baptized today with flak. My ship ran amuck with flak when a small piece went through the rudder control. Several times in flight, while in the target area, I felt pretty certain that the plane was hit a good bit as the concussion of the exploding shell lurched us. as we say here I am no longer a "virgin sturgeon" to flak.
My gunner on this mission was Sgt Rhoney. He was really sweating out the flak. Can't say as I blame him.
Mission 5. 16 Feb. - 45
Today Capt. Borman, Lt. Chitty and myself really earned our Air Medal.
We had deep penetration today so we had a P-47 escort. We entered Germany north of the Ruhr Valley and turned south to our target. Boy what a ride that was. I really believe they had the master sergeants on the guns today. The flak was very, very intense and accurate. Everywhere I looked I saw flak. The sky just seemed to be filled with the lethal stuff. One curtain of it was so heavy it seemed like someone took a black crayon and colored out the blue sky. We encountered flak for about 15 minutes before we hit the target, over the target, and about 5 minutes after we left the target. Capt Borman's gunner counted 250 bursts and quite. My gunner called me and said, "Wow, you should see the flak back here." For my part I had all the flak in front of me that I ever want to see or even hear about. On our left turn, off target around Hamm, a very heavily defended city, we caught so much flak I thought the navigator had accidentally taken us over the town.
I'm sorry to say that the flak took its toll. Some of the boys saw two B-26's go down and one A-26 exploded. There is no such a thing as a glorious part of combat. One of our A-26's had the front canopy and bullet proof glass shot away. Many of the planes were shot up quite badly. Luckily only one plane in our flight was hit.
Our flight leader, Lt Singletary, really led us in some very violent evasive action. It was the most violent formation I have ever had to fly. We followed him into very steep turns, dives and climbs. His evasive action was jerky and sudden which didn't help matters. Had it not been for such violent evasive flying I am sure we would all have had it.
As usual I did everything I could to get full power at our altitude (12500). To stay in position I used full throttle, full R.P.M. and high blower. Due to the fact that the prop controls were not synchronized I had trouble on the entire mission synchronizing the propellers. I had my first chance today flying in number two position in the formation. I knew it would be a probation flight position for the day, as you are not scheduled to fly that position unless the "wheels" think you can fly good formation. The boys complimented me on my formation flying in that position, but I think I have a lot more to learn about it.
The target for the day was a small vehicle and arms repair depot. From what the boys in the first box had to say, I believe they really pranged the target. I sure hope they did.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Puskas. He is a pretty good boy, though I have a little more confidence in Sgt. Rhoney. Today, as usual, I had trouble understanding Puskas over the interphone.
On returning from this mission I really felt tired, a little washed out and my sinuses, along with a severe headache made my head feel like it was going to blow up. That steel flak helmet, and flak suit doesn't add to ones comfort.
Here is hoping that my next mission is not as rough as this one was. Though they promise us many more deep penetrations.
Mission 6. 21 Feb. 45
Today I got my first mission toward my first cluster. Our course took us up to the coastline of the North Sea, from there we headed Southeast toward the target. The target for this flight was two bridges in the town of Gildern.
We joined with the 409 Group over our field and proceeded with them in the lead. The 409 and our flights made two passes over the target. The first run was ineffective for bombing due to cloud cover and flights being a little out of position. As we began our second run Jerry opened up with his ack-ack. The flak came up first about 10 mile north of the target. There were about 30 to 40 burst in that curtain. A few seconds after we were on the bomb run, Jerry pin pointed usto some extent. I looked over at Joe Green who flew number three position and four bursts took shape a short distance above his ship. Ground inspection of plane showed no holes. A sec. Or so after that the flak became more intense as I found myself flying through the smoke of flak bursts. Our bomb run seemed and was unbearably long, for Jerry was really beginning to get his firing corrections set up. In spite of the flak which was thrown up, Lt Barausky with Lt O'brien on his observer mission, was the only one in our flight who sustained battle damage.
The evasive action by our flight leader lt Singletary, was not too violent, but was badly executed on his part. Consequently it was rather difficult to hold position.
My gunner was Sgt. Puskas. On the course home a British B-25 made a pursuit curve on our formation. As the B-25 kept coming in our formation, Nick decided it was time hecut lose with a few rounds across the path of the B-25, to let him know he was being watched. At those burst he broke away from our formation. That was good judgment on Nick's part, for one never knows wether a Jerry or an Allied pilot is behind the controls of any ship. It is known that Jerry has several P-47's.
On this mission I flew in number two position. My next scheduled mission is in the same position, ce bien.
58 more to go!
Mission 7. 23 Feb. -45
Here we go again on what turned out to be a milk run. The mission was a direct support bombing of Golzheim, a communications center and supply route for the front. The town is or was opposite the Ninth Army front. At that time the town was seven mile from our troops and three mile from the bomb line.
The ride out was good except for our flights join up with the box. In that Lt. Singletary, our flight leader flew into another flight and came very close to causing several mid air collisions. Consequently our flight had to brake to avoid disaster, but we soon rejoined into our flight with good formation.
The pathfinder plane led us on the bomb run, which lasted for about five minutes. At the time of bombs away every aircraft which I could see was in good formation. Due to a good dropping of bombs, and the fact that every plane was in positioin the bombs began hitting on the road an one edge of the town and hit on up through to the other end of the town. Thus the target was really pranged.
My gunner for the trip was Sgt. Rhoney. He saw six burst of flak, though I saw narry a burst.
The roughest part of the mission was landing. A thick haze had settled on the field with a light cloud layer about four hundred feet off the ground. I was the first ship out of my flight to land on the first attempt. The flight leader and two ships following me had to go around as they were overshooting and could not line up with the runway. To get in myself I had to completely cut my throttles, push my prop control to full R.P.M. position, lower full flap and dive the aircraft for the end of the runway. Consequently I picked up considerable speed, but somehow managed to hold the plane down.
With that mission ended I have 58 more to go.
Mission 8. 25 Feb. 1945
For awhile today I didn't think we would get off the ground due to a heavy over-cast and very poor visibility. But we took off in a single ship ascent, and joined in formation above the cloud layer.
I had trouble in getting off the ground today as my right engine did not develop full power. I could get only about 45 inches of manifold pressure when I should have been getting 52. Consequently I had trouble in staying with my formation, even on the bomb run. On the break away I could not stay with the flight so I had to drop from number 2 position to number 5.
We had a good ride going to the target as there was a complete cloud cover. But just as we went on the P.F.F. bomb run, the cloud cover stopped. For about 8 minutes we flew on visual target conditions without one small turn. Just a few seconds after we went on the run, all hell broke lose. They certainly must have had the master sergeants on the guns today. The flak was fairly heavy and very accurate. Some of the bursts were so close I could see the bright red orange flame of the flak burst. I grew quite uneasy as I knew they had pin pointed us.
Just before "bombs away" I had my right engine hit by flak burst. The explosion must have been quite close as it jarred the ship considerably. On a ground inspection of the ship I found that flak had hit and broken a push rod line. Consequently I lost a good bit of oil. One blade of my right prop, and my right inboard wing were gouged by flak.
Just at the break away, which was a diving turn to the right, I saw a ship take a hit on it's left engine. The engine caught fire and blazed furiously. I did not see any chutes leave the plane. I hoped and prayed that the Lord had made it possible for pilot and gunner to leave the ship. When I last saw the plane, the bomb doors were still closed. Something like that really strikes you hard and leaves you with a sick feeling. It very easily could have been you instead of the other poor fellow.
We returned to the home field and had to go down through the overcast by flights. Landing was quite hard due to a very heavy haze, with just about a mile visibility. On landing I was happy to be on the ground.
My gunner for the trip was Sgt. Puskas. He said the bombs hit dead center on the target. Ce bon.
Our target for the day was Kerpen, Germany. It was a close support mission with the Ninth Army.
Mission 9. 26 Feb. 1945
If I don't get flak I get weather. If I don't get weather I get flak. Think I would go wild with joy if I hit a mission free of weather and flak.
Again today for takeoff we had to make a single ship ascent. I went a little further out on my takeoff leg then the others in my flight, so I poured the coal to it and passed Chitty and Borman like they were standing still.
The whole mission today was over a heavy cloud cover about 3,00 feet thick. We made a pathfinder run on the target (primary) but due to equipment failure, the primary target was not bombed. We left the German lines and returned over our own where the leader took up a Germany Fix, heading on a secondary target. Going in on Germany we bombed the town of Sindorf. After bombing the box's turned to our own lines and headed for home.
Due to the 3,000 foot cloud cover it was necessary to make an element single ship instrument let down. I made the instrument descent in fine shape. Found my flight leader under the clouds when we broke out and I latched on to him.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Rhoney. He is a good gunner.
So ends another mission.
Mission 10. 1 March 1945
The outfit got off in really good style today. We joined up under the overcast and proceeded out on course. About halfway to the bomb line we proceeded to go up through the overcast. Lt. Brewster our flight leader flew erratic instruments, consequently giving us a rough time. We picked up a good bit of ice to boot. I stayed in tight formation with him so finally ended up "on top" in good shape.
Due to our inability to make fighter rendezvous, the box leaders set up a bomb on the secondary target with the use of Gee. At bombs away I pressed my bomb release button but the bombs failed to go. Pressed the button the second time, called "bombs away" but my gunner called back "no bombs away". I hit the salvo switch twice, as did my gunner, with no effect. Not wanting to carry the bombs home I figured any place in Germany would be better than no place. I closed the power circuit switch and pulled up out of formation. Then I made a climbing turn to the left over the flight and headed back into Germany with my bombs.
I picked up an easterly heading for "der Fatherland" and the formation proceeded onto to ward home. I flew for approximately five to ten minutes and closed and opened my bomb doors four times. After rechecking my bomb panel, and with every opening of the doors I repressed my bomb release button and flipped my salvo switch (my gunner repeatedly flipped his salvo) with no results. Then while pressing the button again I violently attempted to shake or throw the bombs out by shaking the elevators. No favorable results occurred. Again I reset my intervalommeter, checked my bomb panel, closed and opened the bomb doors, pressed the button and lo and behold my gunner sounded off with "bombs away".
That was enough for me. I did a "180" to pick up a westerly heading of 260* and headed for our lines. At the same time I put the ship in a steep glide for the clouds, loosing about 5,000 feet and picking up between 350 to 400 m.p.h.. Being alone I rode the clouds very closely for concealment.
For some time I could not see the formation due to the distance which came between us when I headed back for Germany. With the high airspeed I accumulated I finally saw the formation as a small speck, high at twelve o'clock. The distance between us must have been more than I had thought it was, for it took quite some time before I was able to make formation. Believe me it was certainly a wonderful sight and feeling when that formation came into view.
I shall probably never know what I hit with my bombs today, but even if I hit just an outhouse, I caused a Jerry some inconvience. Sure hope a Jerry occupied my probable "outhouse".
We all landed in fine shape, were briefed, enjoyed coffee and donuts and then went to chow. So ends another mission! P.S.: The target we bombed today was the Eller Bridge.
Mission 11. 3 March 1945 [Actual date Mar 2, 1945]
Here we go again, but for a predominately long, painful, cold ride. I am happy to say that there was an absence of flak, but the cold was terrible. From the grouond on up the cold took effect. The temperature at bombing altitude was -20 centigrade. By the time we hit the target area, my fingers and right foot were so cold they hurt. For a while I thought the fingers on my left hand were frost bitten. I had no feeling them for a while and on removing my hand from the wheel I had considerable trouble in straightening my fingers. Finally I could not take much more of the cold on my left hand, so as I used my right hand only to hold the wheel and alternately use throttles, I put my left hand between my legs and sat on it to gain heat. Due to a heavy cloud bank we could not let down, so the formation remained cold at 13,000 feet.
About 2 3/4 hours of the 3 1/2 hour trip was above 12,000 feet. At times I noticed the lack of oxygen in my breathing. That altitude bothered my sinuses the most. Here it is the evening of the same day and my sinuses are hurting terribly.
The mission was a tour of Germany. We entered north of Trier, flew on passed the Rhine and Ruhr territory and turned north to the target. The target was three groups of ordinance warehouses at Iserlohn. Bombadiers were told to use extreme caution as a P. W. camp was very close to our target. We bombed through the coulds after about a 10 minute bomb run; but I believe we overshot our target. We carried a complete load of 6 - 500 lbs. incendiary bombs.
My place in formation today was in the first box, third flight, second ship on the flight leader.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Rhoney (a good man). I felt sorry for him on that 10 minute bomb run, for I knew he was getting a terrific cold blast from the open bomb bay doors.
A good landing again closed another mission!
Mission 12. 5 March 1945
Had a real change in my load today. In place of bombs, I carried a load of window. Window is the name or term applied to the stripped tincil which is thrown into the air from three lead ships. At the I. P. (Initial Point), the three window ships pull ahead and below of the formation. With a special opening in the bomb bay, one gunner pushes the " window" out. The slip stream then disperses it from there. To aid in dispersing the material, the pilot flies a pattern of short curves while remaining in front of the formation. To remain on the same course as the formation, the turret gunner calls out the position of the formation.
The purpose of "window" is to foul up the enemie's radar waves to such an extent, that he is unable to plot the position of the formation as it makes its bomb run.
My turret gunner for the mission was Sgt. Rhoney. Sgt. Puskas lost out on a toss, so it was his job to get rid of the window. Except when he was engaged in dropping window, Puskas rode up front with me.
One of the best parts of the mission was the very low tactical formation approach and peel off.
To my complete satisfaction I saw no flak. Though bad weather did give us some trouble. We had to deal with it the whole way to the target. Several minutes before the I.P., the upper and lower cloud layer merged on our course. Consequently we were forced to fly formation A.I. (actual instrument). Luckily the "soup" cleared just prior to the I.P. Target was Marburg.
After landing I was out of the ship about five minutes when I was informed that I was on the afternoon mission. So without dinner I rushed to briefing, which had then been in progress. While at the plane after briefing operations had the mess hall send me a snack. After devouring two dry spam sandwiches, it was time to start engines for the second mission.
Mission 13. 5 March 1945
This mission is generally called 12a or 12b by those who are on the superstitious side and by those who aren't exactly on that side.
The target was a marshalling yard at Bingen. Another crack at breaking down German supply routes to the front.
Being the second mission of the day for me, and again at an altitude where the lack of oxygen takes effect, it was just one big yawn for me. Should I have closed my eyes just once I believe would have fell asleep.
The afternoon found the weather more stable and a good bit better than the weather during the morning mission.
My position in the formation was number two of second flight in the first box. Lt. Heinke led the flight.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Paladina. That was his first ride with me.
So ends mission 13!
Mission 14. 8 March 1945
Over the superstitious angle now, and on to an old castle like structure which was (I hope) used by ordinance. The target was at Wulfrath in the Ruhr Valley. Here I thought we would really be shot up, but I am happy to say that we experienced no flak.
In the usual style of the last several missions we had to make a 12 minute instrument takeoff. To my full satisfaction we had a 10/10 cloud cover over the entire route. Upon returning to the home field, it was necessary to make a single ship instrument let down. About halfway through the soup my canopy picked up a large amount of ice. My pitat tube must have frozen a little as my airspeed and rate of descent failed to vibrate for a time. Nevertheless I broke out underneath in fine shape.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Puskas. He did a fine job, and I believe is improving his radio work.
My position in the formation was number three in the second flight of the second box.
Mission 15. 9 March 1945
According to Major Conants views, I am now one of the old boys. He considers a fellow to be still a new man until he has in 15 missions.
We really hit the Germans a hard blow today. At Wulfen, we bombed a large bomb filler depot scoring many direct hits. Those who saw the bombs hit said the entire target just seemed to blow up and burn. That should help the British as that depot was supplying German troops in that area with shells.
Due to a relay switch malfunction on the bomb doors my bombs would not drop by use of the button. So in the turn off target I had to salvo my bombs (they went armed).
I saw only six burst of flak while turning on to the bomb run. The flight in which I flew received no battle damage, though the third flight picked up several good sized holes. Our lack of battle damage I believe came in part from the very sharp steep diving turn off target by the flight leader Lt. Heinke. I was just anxious to leave the target as was Heinke, so I stayed in very tight formation with him.
We had a smooth return trip home above the clouds. In trail of flights we let down through a break in the clouds.
Upon lowering my wheels for landing the green "down and latched" light of the wheel indicator did not light up. So for safeties sake I buzzed the tower and had them check my gear. After an ok from the tower, I joined on with another echelon and landed.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Burns.
My position in the formation was second ship of second flight in the first box.
Mission 16. 12 March 1945
Today I dropped 8,000 pounds of bombs - not bad. I'm really whipping up a little war of my own. For an appetizer today the mission took me over a railroad yard at Lorch. The plan or idea behind the bombing was to blast that railroad along the Rhine to prevent or slow up a possible shifting of German reinforcements from the South.
The weather was beautiful. C.A.V.U. at time of take off and return and a 10/10 cover over the target.
To help matters along we experienced no flak. For the past several missions now I have experienced no flak. This good fortune can't last forever. One of these days they are going to give us another hot reception.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt Neal.
At interrogation for this mission, I was told that I was on the afternoon mission. So I rushed over to briefing.
Mission 17. 12 March 1945
Boy, squadron operations is really brave with my body - two in a day. Had a little moral supporting this mission as Lt. Cappelle, from the 95th Infantry Division rode with me. He is visiting our outfit on the inter service exchange plan. He was really green about plane procedure and etc, but was really quite interested and intent on conforming to every thing I said. He took quite a few pictures while in flight, I hope they come out. He seemed to enjoy the trip quite a bit, and thanked me several times for riding with me.
Again the Nazi railroads took a beating. We hit, (I hope), a small railroad yard at Mummelbach.
The Lt. Saw one burst of flak. I didn't see any. Neither did my gunner. My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Sgroi.
My position in the formation was number 2 in second flight of the second box.
Mission 18. 13 March 1945
So we did try to eliminate a few more Krouts today. For a while I thought they were trying to liberate (same difference as eliminate) us. We were already in Germany a short distance when I remembered my flak helmet. Immediately I put it on, and just about 30 sec. later up came the flak. It was slightly off to our left, but on the right altitude. From what I could see, I estimated there to be 35 to 40 bursts.
After two dry runs over the target, visual conditions existing, we finally dropped on the third run. Boy, I was really happy to see those bombs go. This circling around over a target is strictly no good. The way I like them is to "get in good and get out". We left the target and headed for home. Just before we got over our own lines they threw up four burst of flak In spite of the amount of flak, and our circling over the target, no one to my knowledge received any battle damage.
We came over the field at 18:50, and I got down about 19:15. That late time gave me my first night landing in the ETO.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Ricketson.
Mission 19. March 17 1945
The weather man was strictly against us today. From the time of take off to landing we were greatly troubled by weather. After climbing single ship through a thick overcast our real trouble began just about the time we hit the bomb run. Being unable to fly under or over the weather the flights decided to go through it on instruments. Very shortly after we entered a heavy cloud layer, conditions became so bad that they decided to do a 180? turn and fly back out. Prior to that turn my wings and tail service became heavily laden with ice. In the turn my canopy took on a thick coating of ice which cut the flight leader from my view. To avoid a mid air collision and as I had trouble holding my position due to a low airspeed and an ice laden ship, I pulled out of formation. I immediately went on instruments and had to climb to 17,000 feet in order to get out of the clouds. By the time I broke out on top I was carrying an inch to and inch an half of ice on my wings and tail leading edges. I really had quite a bit of trouble in holding the ship.
As I was still over Germany with my bombs I called Parade for a definite fix. I called in for two fixes to definitely establish my position over Germany. I then flew on a heading of 90? for two minutes and dropped my bombs. Sure hope I hit something.
After doing a 180 degree turn I called Sweepstakes for a D. F. to my home field A-69. Due I believe to an ice laden aerial I had a great deal of trouble in getting aid. I called the four emergency services; Ripsaw, Parade, Roselee, Sweepstakes and after a time Sweepstakes received me. When they first received me or gave me my first D. F. I was 20 mile S. W. of Cobling on instruments with broken ice. Sweepstakes took me to within 65 mile of my field and I checked out with them as I had received Boatdeck D. F.. My checking ou was a mistake, for I was unable to get Boatdeck after that . I ascended and descended many times through a heavy ice laden overcast in an attempt to get Boatdeck D. F. at varied altitudes.
With my bomb bay tank completely dry, about 80 gal in each main, Parade came to my rescue as my left engine cut out when my left auxiliary ran dry. I switched to the main tanks and flew on the D. F. Parade gave me. With that D. F. Parade led me over my home field.
When I landed I had only 50 gals in each main.
Parade and Sweepstakes have my wholehearted regards, appreciation and gratitude. Had Parade not come through at the last when they did, I would very shortly after that have had to crash land my plane due to the lack of fuel.
I was the last ship in the entire mission to land. "Group" was sweating one out, they weren't sweating near as much as I was.
This was truly one of the most trying missions I have put in those far.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Basile. He was very excited and extremely worried when the ship loaded up with ice in heavy clouds.
My total instrument time on that mission was around an hour. In that hour I lived a year.
That is another one to chalk up for experience.
Mission 20. 'WORMS' March 18, 1945
The master sergeants were really on the guns today. Sorry to say that the Krauts knocked down four of our ships.
My first mission flying number four position and I really got baptized. From the very large bursts and large billows of black smoke it is believed they hit us with either 105's or 150 mm. What ever it was, it was terribly accurate and heavy.
In spite of the fact that visual conditions existed, the box leader made an 8 minute straight and level PFF bomb run. The run was made through concentrated accurate flak, and without attempting any evasive action.
About 4 minutes after our run began, the number three man in the first flight which was ahead of us received a direct hit. His right wing blew up instantly and he did a half loop over his flight. In order to definitely stay clear of the falling burning ship our flight broke up. When the burning plane fell past our flight, we immediately all went back in tight formation. We held that tight formation on a continued, straight and level bomb run inspite of the accurate flak.
While on the run I could feel my ship being hit by flak. The concussion of the bursting flak bounced my ship around quite violently. When I saw that ship explode, and felt my ship getting hit I mechanically slid as far down in my seat as possible. I really said a good many prayers but fast. The good Lord really brought me through that death valley.
A ground check showed that my ship had twelve holes; five in the nose of the fuselage, two in the right nacelle, one in the left wing tip, two in the left nacelle and two others somewhere. One hit went through my left nacelle and tore quite a hole in the gas tank. Unless it was the good Lord watching over me, I don't know what kept the gas tank from exploding. Two fairly large pieces of flak were taken from the tank, and one piece from behind the fire wall which it had pierced. I have two of those three pieces now.
I certainly hope the boys got out of those four ships that went down.
The target for this mission was the city of Worms. My gunner was Sgt Puskas.
Mission 21. March 18, 1945
As if above morning mission wasn't bad enough, they then put me on the afternoon mission. Seeing that ship explode and that accurate heavy flak really jarred me. I was glad in a way to make the P.M. mission for it helped to re-build my weakened nerve of the first mission.
Beautiful weather, and no flak, helped to make up a wonderful milk run on a marshaling yard just above Siegen. That mission was really a pleasure compared to the morning mission. Oh yes, we really pranged the town of Worms in the morning mission.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Riggs.
So ended a very busy and disturbing day.
Mission 22. March 19, 1945
Mission 23. March 21, 1945
Bombed the town of Vreden and hit it dead center. Visual reports said the bombs hit right on the target.
Caught flak at the bomb line going in and coming out. Proved to be inaccurate due to wonderful evasion action by Kirk and Rooney.
A good bombing mission though ended in disaster for Rooney on his 65 mission. I was flying number three on him when a ship came up from below and collided with Rooney's ship. Both ships spun in, with Kirk the only one to bail out. I circled the ships as they spun down in a flat spin. I saw Kirks chute open and I watched him float safely to earth. In the meantime both ships had struck the ground and exploded.
I felt quite sick and weak after watching them go down and realizing how close I to [sic] came to being hit. So near and yet so far.
Hope the good Lord will continue to be with me as He was then.
It really felt wonderful to get back on the ground.
Mission 24. April 3, 1945
Out today for a long range cruise; round laborious trips of about 900 mile.
The target for our mission was a large important marshaling yard at Hameln. From what I could see thru a small break in the clouds, the place was saturated with 1,000 pounders.
The flak for the day was described as being light inaccurate. All but one burst was low and to the rear of our first box. By some stroke of ill luck, a piece of flak tore a small hole in my left elevator control surface. I was the only one in our flight to get a hole.
Weather gave us more trouble than anything else. In order to make a bomb run above the clouds our box leader had to fly at 10000 feet for approximately 20 minutes. Due to the lack of oxygen I found myself slowly but surely dozing off to sleep. A burst of flak at just about the right time brought me to my senses. The entire route home was one continual struggle with bad weather; not to mention the crying need of conserving our dwindling gas supply. We hit many rain storms and due to a very low ceiling we were forced to fly on the deck most of the way home.
I flew the number two position of the third flight in the first box. My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Gatti.
Mission 25 April 4, 1945
This is a red letter day for me, my 25th mission and my promotion to 1st Lt. came through today.
The German field at Crailsheim, from which jet planes fly, had a hot time today. We hit the barracks area and surrounding constructions with a load of stick cluster type incendiary bomb.
Due to a 10/10 cloud cover we bombed on the P.F.F. (Pathfinder) aircraft.
For a change I saw no flak, but again weather gave us trouble. We made a single ship instrument takeoff and was full of weather until letting down on the return trip home. There was a strato cloud layer at 8,000 feet and broken alto-cumulous below that. We managed to weave down through the clouds to find a very low cloud base. Very turbulent air gave us quite a bit of trouble in flying formation on the deck.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Rhoney. He does a good job.
Again it was good to get on the good old terra firma.
Mission 26 April 8, 1945
The mission today was sort of a jumble again. We were supposed to bomb from 9500 feet, but due to a thick haze we dropped to 4500 feet. Abandoned ops on the primary and in climbing up thru the haze our flight lost the box. The rest of the flights bombed the secondary. The bombardier of my flight selected the town of Nordhausen and bombed it dead center.
An absence of flak on the mission. Though the town was supposedly heavily defended.
My gunner was Sgt. Puskas. He salvoed the bombs when they failed to release by button.
Number three in formation.
Mission 27 April 8, 1945 [Actual date Apr 9, 1945]
Today we went after an ordnance depot at Amberg. We again left the target blazing and exploding as a result of direct hits. Our missiles of liberation were incendiary clusters. Due to battle smoke covering the target from the bombing of the previous flight we had to make a second run.
Again there was an absence of flak.
Sgt. Rhoney was my gunner.
Number two position in formation on [Unknown word].
Mission 28 April 10, 1945
Today Czechoslovakia made my fifth European nation which I have flown over. The round trip to Eger was 814 miles and including total flight time it took 4 hrs and 30 minutes.
The target was a large Viaduct - it is no more. The bombs of the flight I was in, lit on the approach and the bridge itself. Not a bomb was wasted. Every plane was in tight formation at bombs away.
It was a perfect mission; even to the point of no flak. Though on the return home when we dropped down to 4,000 feet, the air was so terribly rough I had to fight the controls to stay in formation.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Puskas. I flew number two position on first flight of first box.
Mission 29 April 11, 1945
The marshaling yards of Saalfeld took a beating today. All flights dropped bombs on the target. Lt Morris was the bombardier for our flight.
I flew in number two position.
Weather and flak were in absence today. Ce bon.
Mission 30 April 12, 1945
The target this morning was to have been an ordinance depot at Kempton. From the time we left base weather gave us trouble. It held us down to 7000 feet. Just about the time we crossed the bomb line, we encountered lowered ceiling with rain showers. Around the target area the weather was so bad, rain and low ceiling causing marked decrease in visibility, that Kirk our bombardier was unable to find the target. After flying about looking for the target our gas in the meantime was slowly dwindling away. As we flew about looking for the target, we passed over three German airfields. I believe the bad weather was the main reason the Germans did not send their planes up after us; along with the fact that we had a P-51 escort of 13.
We did not drop our incendiaries on any German town as they are fastly moving our P.O.W’s from town to town. Consequently we returned with the bomb load.
Mission 31 April 12, 1945
In spite of bad weather the wheels sent us out again this afternoon. The entire way to the target we had to skirt around storms and fly on the deck to stay out of the soup. We crossed the troop line at 1500 feet indicated. I ordered my gunner to open up with his bottom turret if the Germans opened up with automatic weapons.
Over the target the weather cleared and we bombed from 7000 feet. I believe we got a near miss on the target. Our target was a railroad bridge at Hof.
The return trip home held more weather than the trip out. Two thirds of our trip home was through rain storms. As we hit the field a deluge of rain hit us. It just about obliterated the flight leader from my view. We finally made the landing pattern, echeloned and peeled off. The rain was so heavy I lost sight of the lead ship on the approach. I landed in good shape and finally saw my flight leader as he turned off the runway.
This was a real hair raiser of a mission.
My gunner was Sgt. Wilson.
It certainly was good to get on the ground.
Mission 32 15 April, 1945
The target for today was a large marshalling yard at Ulm. Due to a heavy overcast it was a PFF mission. The bomb load was six 500 pound gasoline jelly (etc) incendiaries.
The mission was uneventful until about 3 minutes before we crossed the bomb line returning home. At Freiburg, Jerry threw up about 30 bursts of flak. Luckily our evasive action out guessed them, or those bursts would have been right in my flight. No one received any battle damage.
Mission 33 16 April, 1945
In number two position of the first flight in the first box I made the mission to Wittenburg. Due to a thin cloud layer and battle smoke, the bombardiers were unable to pick up the target. Consequently we did not bomb.
A few seconds prior to our turn off the target, the flak came up. In about 30 seconds there were an estimated 100 bursts of flak over the target. Due to evasive action no one picked up any holes.
The gunner I flew today finished his last mission. The gunner was Cianciosi.
As a result of a late take off and a long mission, we did not land until 9:45 P.M. I logged 35 minutes of night formation.
Mission 34 17 April, 1945
On the ordinance depot target at Tubingen today my flight made four unsuccessful bomb runs. Believe me I was sure sweating out those last two runs. The flight leader was unable to drop due to a malfunction in the bombing system. Consequently our flight returned with all bombs – Nuts!
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Kublijako [Kubjalko].
Mission 35 19 April, 1945
A real bullseye today on the marshalling yard at Ulm. All bombs of the flight hit directly on target.
I flew number four position in the second flight of the second box. My total combat time today was approximately 8 hours. Left on a mission in the morning but was recalled by Parade before we crossed the bomb line. The mission then went out again in the afternoon on another target.
No flak experience. My gunner for the mission was Cpl. Finnel [Finnell]. Not satisfied with him.
Mission 36 20 April, 1945
Today the mission was the longest yet, 950 miles. Logged 4 hrs and 55 minutes. Another of Hitler's oil depots can be erased from the map. My flight as I believe every other flight did, as well as another group, hit the target dead center. I saw flames rise to between 5 to 6,000 feet in the air. That spout of flame was pretty in a way.
Down by the target we flew near the Austrian Alps for a while. The mountains were beautiful with the white coat of snow.
I saw no flak on route, though they threw up a few phosphorous disks and I believe six rockets of some sort.
We spent an hour and a half over enemy territory on the mission.
I flew number four position of the first flight of the second box.
It was good to get on the ground after 5 hrs and 5 minutes of combat formation time. I felt a little tired and sore.
Mission 37 26 April, 1945
The jet air field at Plattling Germany took a beating from 52 of our A-26’s carrying 22 – 100 pound bombs. Bombs hit on the runway and general area of the field.
There were supposed to have been 16 guns at the target, but we received no flak. While circling at the rendezvous point I saw another German air field in good shape, several aircraft on the ground and also four anti-aircrafts guns. I can’t imagine why we weren’t shot at, as we circled directly over the guns.
As the 9th Air Force is making a movie film of its work and history, two cameramen fly on missions to take pictures. It was my luck today to fly the camera plane. Consequently I did not have to fly in any one position. Naturally I had a good time in flying all around the planes in formation. To drop my bombs I tucked in with the 3rd flight of the second box in number seven position.
My gunner for the mission was Sgt. Rhoney.