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|Sunday, September 26, 1943, 386th Bomb Group Mission Recalled:
Major Hankey began the briefing at 0700 hours, our primary target is the airdrome located at Conche, France which is identified as Z661. We also have a secondary target, Beaumont Le Roger Airdrome Z460. We will put up two boxes, thirty-six aircraft plus four extras. All ships are loaded with ten 300 pound GP demolition bombs fused both nose and tail with a one-tenth second delay. Our Group will be following the 323rd Bomb Group on this one! Our escort and support fighters are Spitfires from 11 Group RAF, we rendezvous with them over the channel.
The route out from base to Splasher Beacon number 8 where we rendezvous at 12,000 feet with the 323rd Group at 0930 hours. Then on to Lewes to position 50 degrees 10 minutes North, 00 degrees ten minutes East where we meet up with our fighter escort at 0950 hours. Continue to fly to five miles northwest of Fecamp where enemy landfall is made, on to the I.P. at Quillebeuf to target. The axis of attack is generally from north to south, and the aiming point will be the intersection of the runways. The 323rd will be aiming for the southeast dispersal area. We will be bombing from 10,500 feet. Route back: turn right off target to Serquigny to eight miles northeast of Fecamp where we exit enemy territory at 10,000 feet. Then head for Beachy Head crossing the English Coast at 6,000 feet, and back to base. Diversion airdromes are West Malling and Frisden.
In regard to flak information - on August 24th a B-17 outfit attacked this target from 23,000 feet. They encountered extremely accurate heavy type flak fire from twelve heavy guns situated to the southwest, northwest, and northeast of the target airdrome. The defenses fired a single predicted concentration, followed by predictor control "SEEN"! September 23rd B-26s reported weak inaccurate heavy type flak northeast of Fecamp, coming from flak ships. Also weak and inaccurate 88mm flak has been reported at Eletot and Fauville. On a raid to secondary target September 16th, crews reported slight inaccurate heavy and light type flak just west of Beaumont Le Roger. There are four guns located one and three-quarters miles northwest of town and six guns two and one-quarter miles southeast of town. Runways are reported to have been coated over with tar. Four barrage balloons observed flying at 2,000 feet reported at Quillebeuf.
The latest word concerning enemy fighter base locations follows: Aircraft previously based at Evreux and Beaumont Le Roger are now believed to be relocated to other smaller landing grounds or airdromes in the same general area. We believe this change is the result of successful bombing of the Wing against these airdromes; causing some decrease in efficiency of their operations with the destruction or damage of repair and maintenance facilities. These raids most likely have caused a decline in morale of air crews and ground crew personnel of the enemy!
Communications for today: Bomber to fighter on VHF Radio Channel B, also with 323rd Group. Bomber call sign is CIVIC, fighter call sign is CROKAY, and the Ground Sector Control call sign is PETRO. Air-Sea-Rescue on VHF Channel D. Splasher Beacons in use for entire mission are: 5D, 6F, 7G, 11I, 13J, and 15E. Leader or deputy leader will report to Wing upon clearing the enemy coast.
After briefing, flight crews were transported to their assigned planes. They busied themselves loading on personal gear, then began checking out their aircraft. Soon it was engine start time, followed by taxiing out to the active end of the runway for take off sequence. Major Beaty was into the air with "SON-OF-SATAN 131613 YA-Y at 0829 hours, the other five ships in his lead flight were close behind. Then came the high flight leader, Captain Charles Thornton flying his "CRESCENDO" 131644 RG-C, was off at 0832 hours. The author flying with the Lieutenant Donald Vincent crew in a ship called "SEDUCTIVE SUSIE" 131738 RG-O, was off at 0834 hours, right behind us was Lieutenant Romney Spencer piloting an aircraft called "GERONIMO" 131630 RG-J in number six position. The low flight leader was Captain Robert Sands flying "MR. FIVE BY FIVE" 131612 YA-Z.
Second box leader was Captain Emmett E. Curran with "LADY LUCK" 134947 RU-K was off at 0842 hours. High flight leader Captain Albert Caney maneuvered his plane "PRIVY DONNA" 131658 RU-A into the air at 0849 hours. Low flight lead was taken by Captain R.D. Williams flying "DINAH MIGHT" 131576 AN-Z, clearing the runway with five of his flight in close pursuit. Thirty-six aircraft plus four extra planes swung around the field gaining altitude, and filling in flight positions, then heading south to their rendezvous with the 323rd Bomb Group.
Suddenly the author saw black spurts of smoke emitting in rapid succession from the two large exhaust ports on the left engine of "HOT PISTOL" 131633 RG-P. Captain Justin Lubojasky was its pilot flying in number four position of our high flight. My crew was flying in number five position off his right wing, a bit lower and slightly back which gave me a clear view of what was happening! His plane dropped about seventy-five feet down below our plane then slide out to the right side of us.
Lieutenant Amar Andranigian who was standing between the two pilots of "HOT PISTOL", prior to moving into the nose compartment, takes over the narrative: "I heard a split second stop and go from the left engine - within a short time there were several similar occurrences. Captain Lubojasky, or Lubo as he was known, gave me a quick glance over his shoulder and shook his head from left to right. Then he asked me to give him a heading to the North Sea by the shortest route; we would have to salvo our bombs. Our co-pilot John Bryant moved his seat back on its track so I could slip down into the nose of the ship.
After reaching my bombardier station I looked to my left and noted that our left propeller was stopped in the feathered position. Before we reached the English Coast an urgent call came over the intercom from Captain Lubo, "Andy get rid of your bombs!" I asked him to lower the nose a bit before I opened the bomb bay doors, then gave him verbal directions so as to line our ship on an inlet that we were approaching. I called to our tail gunner Staff Sergeant Hugh Everhart via the intercom requesting that he keep a sharp eye on where our bombs landed.
The bomb bay doors were open, using all manual control switches to release the bombs I noticed that not all lights had gone out on the bomb position indicator panel. As usual I called out bombs away. Our crew procedure before closing the bomb bay doors was for me to take a quick look over my right shoulder toward the co-pilot, he in turn would look back into the bomb bay to make certain all bombs left clearly and completely with no bombs hanging. If okay he would give my the "OKAY Sign" with his right hand, made by forming an "O" with his thumb and index finger while holding his other three fingers erect. Not this time however, he flashed four fingers indicating four bombs had hung! I ran the switches again manually, but to no avail. Immediately I closed the bomb bay doors being aware of the increased drag they were creating, which in turn put an added burden on our only remaining engine.
I informed the pilot that we must land with four 300 pound bombs in our racks. Captain Lubo excepted the situation, then asked for a heading to the nearest airfield. We were just north of Tollsbury and a short distance south of our former base at Boxted, near Colchester. I gave him a northerly heading, moved out of the nose compartment, and took up a position standing just behind the two pilot seats. Staff Sergeants Eugene Hood, Jr. and Hugh Everhart came up into the radio-navigator compartment. Tech Sergeant Socrates Triantafellu was our radioman, he was busy making some homemade safety pins from a roll of wire to insert into the bomb fuses, both nose and tail. Our procedure was, shortly after take off the crew members would pull the pins and lay them on the catwalk when going back to their crew positions. As the bomb bay doors would open, the pins and tags would blow away!
We approached Boxted from a southerly direction in a rapid let down, our air speed was 205 m.p.h., too fast for a straight in approach, so Captain Lubo elected to pull around to the right losing some speed and then swing around to set up a left hand pattern coming in from the north with the landing gear down. He held the control wheel with his left hand while holding onto the rudder trim crank with his right hand; he made a slight correcting turn into the dead engine, the ship was settling fast! Suddenly a house appeared amongst some trees - the pilot judged we would clear it. He jerked up the landing gear and applied power to the right engine creating just enough lift as the house flashed under us. He jammed down the landing gear and cut power, flared the ship and touched down with a hard bounce at the end of the runway. However we were not going down the runway, but rather across it! We continued bouncing over the unpaved portion of the airfield. I was still standing just back of the pilots and holding onto their seats, and feeling much like a chariot driver in the Roman Days of old! The plane finally came to a halt in the vicinity of the airdrome fuel supply dump with no visible damage to the aircraft. Later some airmen from Boxted told us they thought we had crashed after dipping down below the tree tops on final approach. We borrowed a jeep and our crew headed for base at Great Dunmow about twenty-six miles away. The trip proved to be most adventurous, we took many wrong roads in the process. Due to war time security measures most all road signs had been removed for the duration!" End of bombardier statement. In the interim, Bomb Wing issued a recall and all Group planes jettisoned their bombs into the channel eight miles east of Bradwell and returned to base.
Chester P. Klier