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|Sunday, January 23, 1944 - 386th B.G. Missions number 81 and 82.
Both targets were V-1 Rocket Launching Sites. Sometimes referred to as, "no-ball" targets. The term in British parlance means, an illegally thrown ball, as in the game of "Cricket." Mission 81, identified as LS A-86, located at Le Nieppe, France. Mission 82 was identified as LS A99, located at Bois D Eneer, France. Each plane carried six 500 pound general purpose demolition bombs.
All fifty bombers would leave base as a single formation and fly to Hastings on the south Coast of England. Then across the English Channel to the enemy French Coast at the town of Le Touquet. The lead formation of thirty-five planes had one ship return to base after the test firing ritual about midway across the channel. Lt. Albert G. Burger, Jr.s plane, "SPAM BURGER", had a malfunction with its tail guns.
The lead thirty-four planes made a left turn shortly after enemy landfall and headed for their target area. The fifteen plane formation continued more or less straight on into their target area. The author was flying with that box in our ship, "BUZZ-N-BITCH II." Our formation bombed on a heading of 100 degrees at 1516 hours with good results from 11,500 feet--flying 190 m.p.h. Thirteen of our fifteen ships, which included mine were battle damaged by some very accurate flak fire. Our formation made a right turn off the target and headed for the Town of Berck sur Mer located on the French Coast. Then across the channel to Hastings, and on to base where we landed at 1612 hours.
The thirty-four plane formation bombed their target on a heading of 270 degrees at 1532 hours with good results. They were flying at 12,000 feet going 190 m.p.h. Five of their planes received flak damage. They made a right turn off the target and took up a heading for the enemy coastline at Gravelines, France.
At 1535 hours a FW-190 leader along with three others broke through the bomber cover Between Ghent and Lille. They attacked the low flight in the second box. The enemy Leader made straight for a Marauder in number six position flown by Flight Officer Barney Wasowicz. The name of his plane was, "EXTERMINATOR" 131618 YA-V.
A flurry of 20mm cannon shells bracketed the B-26, the right side engine and the radio compartment taking the brunt! The German pilot dove away at full power as two of the Spitfire escort fighters closed in from another direction. The enemy pilot pulled up steep and climbed directly into the sun, thus losing the two Spitfires. This was the 16th victory for this FW-190 pilothe finished out the war with a total of 21 allied planes shot down!
What follows is an account of B-26 pilot Barney Wasowicz as to what happened next. "As for my actions from the time we were hit until I bailed outeverything happened so fast there is not much to tell. The first thing that happened, I was hit in the neck and my right hand which was on the throttles. The cockpit filled with smoke, I could not see anything through the windshield; so my main concern was to get out of formation. I pulled back on the throttles and then opened the side window so I could see out of that side.
The radio compartment was on fire and the right side engine was out so I feathered the engine. The next thing I did was hit the bell to notify the crew in the rear to bail out. I dropped the landing gear and discovered that the nose wheel covers opened but the wheel did not drop. F/O. McClannahan my co-pilot, jumped up and down on the wheel and it went down enough for him to slide out. Lt. Matt Gemery our bombardier went out next. While all this was going on I had my hands full keeping the plane level as possible while flying at a much reduced speed.
I had no idea as to whether the men in the rear bailed out or not since the intercom system was outso I stayed with the plane as long as I could. After a few minutes our ammo in the radio compartment started exploding, this ammo supply fed the four package guns that were mounted on the outside of the ship. I decided it was time to get out, and I did!" End of pilot statement.
Tail gunner S/Sgt. Lester Higgins was seriously wounded in both arms, he bailed out first. S/Sgts. Louis Fischer, engineer and Robert Carpenter, radioman bailed out over the channel. A 55 m.p.h. wind carried them back over the enemy coast. Carpenter sprained an ankle in landing. McClannahan had burns on his neck and ears, also shrapnel wounds in neck and shoulder. Fire had burned the bungee cords off Gemerys chute pack which had been stowed in the radio compartmenthe jumped with his chute canopy held loose in his arms!
Fischer who had been wounded in both ankles by 20mm shrapnel, could see German soldiers watching him come down. After hitting the beach he tried to unlock his chute harnessit did not release when he turned the knob and struck it. Then he realized that he had jumped with the knob in the unlocked position! It was then that a German soldier walked up to him in a zigzag fashion. He spoke in clear English, "Today is your second birthday, the entire beach is mined, we were waiting for you to blow up!
Air Battle summary: Altitude was 12,000 feet, the formation was flying 190 m.p.h. Our gunners shot down a FW-190 and a Me-109. We lost one bomber. Air Combat Board decided to split credit for destroying a FW-190 between S/Sgt. A.A. Lopez and S/Sgt. S.F. Waite. S/Sgt. R.C. Brown would receive credit for destroying a Me-109. Some of the FW-190s had yellow noses, others had white noses. There were twelve encounters with enemy fighters. Most attacks come up out of nearly ten-tenths cloud layer below the bombers, making passes from 5 oclock around to 7 o clock, those planes rolled over on their backs and peeled down into the cloud cover to escape the Spitfire escort planes.
The Wasowicz crew: F/O Barney Wasowicz pilot. F/O Harold McClannahan Co-pilot.
2nd Lt. Matt Gemery Bombardier. S/Sgt. Robert Carpenter radioman. S/Sgt. Louis Fischer engineer. S/Sgt. Lester Higgins tail gunner. The entire Wasowicz crew spent the next fifteen months in German P.O.W. Camps!
Chester P. Klier