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|Saturday, July 24, 1943 - 386th Bomb Group Diversionary Mission Number 2:
Briefing began at 1510 hours with Captain Hankey relating the following information to the assembled crews. Third Bomb Wing Field Order 10 and 386th Group Field Order 02 directs this Group to fly an eighteen plane diversionary while the 323rd Bomb Group attacks the marshalling yard at Abbeville, France. All of their eighteen planes will loaded with 500 pound demolition bombs, we will carry none.
The 552nd Squadron will lead our formation with Captain Thornton in command. Major Lockhart will lead the high flight, and Lieutenant G.E. Hoffman will be the low flight leader with six planes from the 553rd Squadron. Our Group will also furnish three spare aircraft.
We will have two squadrons of Spitfires for close escort from 11 Group RAF. We will rendezvous with them at Zero Hour plus four minutes (1904 hours) at 10,000 feet over Selsey Bill. We must maintain an indicated air speed of 200 m.p.h. while flying with the Spitfires. If we miss rendezvous or lose contact with the escort, we are to abandon the mission. If Flying Control aborts mission, the fighter leader will recall bombers by radio or he will waggle his wings in front of the formation.
The route out from base to High Wycome to Selsey Bill to 49 Degrees 50 Minutes North, 00 Degrees 30 Minutes West - at which point we turn to the right and begin our route back to Selsey Bill to High Wycome, and back to base. There are two diversion airdromes: Thorny Island, with radio call sign RAMROD and Ford, with radio call sign ROOKSNEST. The weather will be, ceiling and visibility unlimited with a few scattered clouds at the 5,000 foot level.
Communications information: Fighter to bomber on VHF Channel C. Fighter call sign is CROKAY. Bomber call sign is WINDBAG. Ground Control call sign will be PETRO. The 552nd Squadron call sign is PEERAGE, and the 553rd radio call sign is HAYSEED. The Splasher Beacons is use between 1700 and 2100 hours are: 1A, 2B, 3C, 4D, 5E, 6F, 7G, and 8H. Splasher beacons are navigational aids with a two mile radius signal range which a pilot can pick up on his command receiver. The beacon also flashes an orange light in Morse Code to identify its location visually in a timed sequence.
A time check was made of all watches, then crews emptied their pockets of personal items such as wallets, photos, etc. All items were placed in small bags, one for each crew. In return they each received a small plastic escape kit and first aid kit. The time dragged on some because Wing had changed the route and take off time three times! Captain Thornton led the Group into the air flying "CRESCENDO" 131644 RG-C. All eighteen ships plus two extra aircraft were forming up while circling the base at Boxted. One other spare aircraft, "MISS FORTUNE" 134885 AN-M commanded by Lieutenant Hochrein did not take off because of an engine problem. The formation had just reached their altitude of 10,000 feet when the leader received a radio message from Third Wing, the mission had been called off. All planes returned to base and landed safely.
Sunday, July 25, 1943:
Ground fog delayed flying operations until 0930 hours. Colonel Maitland and Captain Hankey were to have a meeting at Third Wing, but that was changed to tomorrow at 1400 Hours. All locale flying ended at 2200 hours.
Monday, July 26, 1943:
Local flying began at 0700 hours. Colonel Maitland and Captain Hankey attended a meeting called by Third Wing at 1400 hours. Captain Hankey called 386th Group to request the tail numbers of aircraft which took part in the diversionary mission of July 16. The information was, which of those aircraft carried armor plate and which had VHF noise eliminators complete. The information was conveyed to him at 1617 hours. Night flying for the Group ended at 2200 hours.
Tuesday, July 27, 1943:
Flying activities resumed at 0700 hours. Colonel Maitland and Captain Hankey attended another meeting at Third Bomb Wing. Colonel Caldwell requested a report showing the number of 386th Group aircraft compatible with armor plate and VHF noise eliminators complete. The number given was nine. The Group was notified by Colonel Caldwell to be on alert for a diversionary mission scheduled for tomorrow. Local Group flying ceased at 2230 hours.
Chester P. Klier