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|Sunday, November 7, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Mission Number 39:
The briefing was called to order at 0620 hours, roll call of airplane commanders was taken. The target for today is an aircraft assembly factory located at Moulan-Les-Muraux in France. It is identified as target Z157A. We also have a secondary target which is the airdrome at Beauvais Tille, and a last resort target airdrome located at Poix Nord, both are in France. Zero Hour is 0910.
Our Group will be operating in conjunction with the 322nd, 323rd, and 387th, Bomb Groups. We will follow the 387th Group. Each Group will put up eighteen ships, all are loaded with six 500 pound general purpose demolition bombs, fused nose and tail with one-tenth second delay. A cheer went up when the briefing officer announced that the fighter support was to be American pilots flying P-38 Lightnings. The bomber crews were fond of their usual RAF Spitfire escort pilots; however it did seem like a treat to have all of our own on a mission now and then!
Briefing continued with flak information, the route out and return; weather data, communications, etc. After a time check flight crews filed out of the room at 0706 hours heading for their awaiting aircraft. Captain Weiss would be leading the 386th contingent, Captain B.B. White would head up the high flight, and Lieutenant Lien would lead the low flight. The lead ship, "INCENDIARY MARY" 131768 YA-O piloted by Captain Donald Weiss was airborne at 0800 hours. Soon the remaining bombers were forming up behind him - departing from base at 0856 on a course of 220 degrees heading for the location of Splasher Beacon Number 11, where they would rendezvous with the 387th Group.
Both Groups proceeded to Splasher Beacon Number 9 where they joined up with the 322nd and 323rd Bomb Groups. The seventy-two plane formation took up a heading of 142 degrees which would carry them to rendezvous with the fighter escort. A point identified as 50 Degrees 10 Minutes North, 00 Degrees 40 Minutes East at 0938 hours; approximately fifteen miles off the French Coast at 11,000 feet.
Visibility was twelve miles but stratocumulus cloud cover mid way across the channel had increased to nine-tenths with tops to 6,000 feet. The weather caused some faulty navigation which brought the bombers over enemy coast about ten miles south of Point DAilly, several miles south of intended course at 0943 hours. Lieutenant Duane Petit experienced a mechanical problem with, "BAR FLY" 131877 RU-V just after crossing the enemy coast amid some light type flak, the plane returned safely to base.
The formation leader angled his new course in a southeastern direction toward the I.P. located at Limay. However that maneuver allowed the bombers to fly a bit too close to Rouen on the south side which brought the heavy type anti-aircraft guns of the northeastern region into action. Lieutenant Burger who had been flying in number six position of the low flight moved forward to number three position which had been vacated by Lieutenant Petit. Now his aircraft. "HELLS-A-POPPIN II" 131987 YA-G was damaged by a brief encounter with the flak battery; his was the only ship struck by the moderate but inaccurate barrage! The Continent was now completely overcast with very thick clouds extending up to 8,000 feet, with only the very tiniest of open spaces observed. The formation leader initiated a fairly steep left turn just short of the I.P. area - the mission was called off due to the impossible cloud cover condition in the foreseeable distance. The bombers were on a homeward course.
Top turret gunners squinting their eyes into the bright sun saw abrupt maneuvering of the P-38s high above the formation - now they were diving down! A number of enemy planes had penetrated the top cover and were now heading for the bombers. Two FW-190s were streaking down with P-38s in hot pursuit. The Lightnings chased the enemy fighters under the bombers high flight from 3 oclock over to 9 oclock, then a steep 180 degree turn back to 3 oclock position.
Tech Sergeant Edward A. Pitts flying with Captain Robert Sands in a ship called, "MR. FIVE BY FIVE" 131612 YA-Z fired off two bursts of twenty-five rounds each at a range of 800 yards, no hits were visible. Staff Sergeant Christian J. Wick got off twenty rounds while flying with Captain B.B. White in a plane named, "PERKATORY" 131627 YA-Q, no damage noted at 1,000 yards. Meantime Staff Sergeant Leonard B. Kennedy who was flying with Lieutenant Robert S. Morr in, "HELLS BELLE" 131623 YA-T fired off fifteen rounds at 200 yards; tracers appeared to hit the enemy plane in the fuselage with no apparent effect as the German pilot darted down and away into the heavy cloud cover! Two black Me-109s climbed up out of the cloud cover from 10 oclock low at 800 yards. Lieutenant Allen F. Baker fired a fifteen round squirt from his nose gun, no hits were observed. He was flying with Lieutenant Albert G. Burger, Jr. in, "HELLS-A-POPPIN II". Waist gunner Staff Sergeant Alvin H. Bauer got off a few rounds also as the enemy planes broke away at 1,000 yards.
At approximately the same time six FW-190s dove down from 12 oclock high, one of them made a 180 degree turn to climb toward the 387th formation flying about a mile ahead of the 386th Group. The other five continued their dive; then cut under the bombers out of range. An Me-109 passed under the high flight but did not fire its guns at the B-26s. It was obvious the enemy pilots were using the bomber formation as a screen to separate themselves from the aggressive American fighter pilots! By this time the P-38s were to be seen in all quadrants of the clear blue sky - resembling swarms of angry bees! One somber note: A fighter believed to be a Lightning was going down in the vicinity of Quiberville. The bomber formation exited enemy territory at 10,000 feet over Point DAilly at 1024 hours. The bombers crossed over the English Coast at Hastings, time was 1050, they took up a course of 350 degrees - arriving over base at 1118 hours. They began their let down through five-tenths stratocumulus at 3,500 feet to begin a landing sequence. During the debriefing that followed, crews stated that the P-38 escort gave extremely effective cover by driving off enemy attackers without serious engagement with the bomber formation. They did a beautiful job!
Chester P. Klier