MISSION #61 30 MAY 1944 (GROUP MISSION # 188)
A. TARGET: MANTES-GASSICOURT HIGHWAY BRIDGE, SEINE RIVER, FRANCE. This is the same target we missed two days ago. Aiming Point: Center of the bridge.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: None.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. A second formation of the same size from another Group was briefed to hit the same target 15 minutes later Bombing by flights of 6 planes each. Bomb Load: 2 - 20001b. G.P. per a/c.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier of the 36 planes.
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: Bulls-eye. One span of this bridge was in the water by the time the bombs from the other two flights landed. Others: Four flights out of the six in our Group hit the target. No bombs landed in the-little town on either side of the river. Eleven flights used this bridge as an aiming point after it was destroyed. Most of the bombs from the later formation appear to have missed to the left. The center of the town, including a large church, appear to have been destroyed. This was a revolting, and unnecessary development.
F. LOSSES: None.
MISSION #62 4 JUNE 1944 (GROUP MISSION # 191)
A. TARGET: COAST GUNS NEAR AULT, FRANCE. An invasion defense gun battery. Aiming Point; Center of the battery. B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: Light to moderate flak. Some extreme range fire possible from the defenses around Boulogne.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. Bombing by flights of 6 planes each. Bomb Load: 2 - 20001b. G.P. per a/c.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier for one flight of 6 planes.
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: Landed in the not-too-well-define target area. Previous raids left the ground badly cratered. Such a target is difficult to identify. Others: It appeared that about 4 out of the other 5 flights hit within the target area.
F. LOSSES: None. Several planes were damaged by flak.
MISSION #63 6 JUNE 1944 D-DAY (GROUP MISSION # 193-196)
A. TARGET: A SECTION OF THE NORMANDY BEACH ASSIGNED TO THE AMERICAN FIRST ARMY, FRANCE. A small, innocent-looking farm house was my target. It was, in reality, a fortified strong point. This target probably was within sight of the beach landing area.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: Anything known to modern warfare is possible. In reality, we didn't expect much if we could go in on the target as briefed. Our main worry was the very bad weather we had come to expect during this time of the year. Another concern was the large amount of air traffic expected in the beachhead area.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: The Ninth Bomber Command committed 81 flights of 6 planes each (about 486 planes) to bomb just ahead of the American First Army landing troops. Most of this maximum effort consisted of B-26s. Two Groups of A-20s made up the total. These planes were manned by the most experienced, most efficient crews of any air force in any war zone, ever. The average number of combat missions flown by each crew member must have been well over 50. This was it. This was D-DAY. Bombing by flights of 6 planes each. Bomb Load: 30 - 1001b. G.P. per a/c.
D. MY JOB: I was the Lead Bombardier of the second box of 18 planes of the Last Group to bomb just before the landing boats hit the beaches. (Strike photo #29)
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: Heavy clouds caused us to go off course and down to about 6000 ft. My Norden Bomb-sight was useless at that strange altitude -- in and out of towering cloud formations. Any other time we would have aborted the mission to come back another day. Not this time. I toggled the bombs out the best I could. They landed just beyond my aiming point. Who knows what damage we did? At the very least we made our contribution to the thundering noise of D-DAY. Others: Probably only fair results under very difficult conditions. I suppose all bombs landed in the general target area. I am sure we could have done a lot more to help our boys on the beaches if we could have gotten a break in the weather.
F. LOSSES: Two of our planes were slightly damaged by ground fire. Most of what we saw was 40mm automatic cannon with tracer mixed in to show the gunner where his shots were going. Such weapons are no problem for us at our normal altitude of about 11,000 ft. I remember seeing all that tracer coming up at us as we crossed the English Channel. Also, I remember taking my steel helmet off my head and sitting on it. All of our planes returned to base. No German fighters were reported by any of our people on D-DAY.
MISSION #64 7 JUNE 1944 (D-DAY plus 1) (GROUP MISSION # 198)
A. TARGET: A RAILWAY JUNCTION 15 MILES S.E. OF LIRE, FRANCE Reported to be an unloading point for a German Panzer Division preparing to counter-attack our Normandy Landings. Aiming Point: Center of the junction.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: We expected the worst on this mission. We had to go in on the target at about 3000 ft. to get under a heavy cloud formation. At this altitude ground gunners should give bombers flying in tight formation a rough time. Our ground speed over the target is about 200 mph or slightly less.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. Bombing by flights of 6 planes each. Bomb Load: 18 - 2601b. FRAGMENTATION BOMBS.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier for all 36 planes. (Strike photo # 30)
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: The target was not where we thought it would be. We located another small railway junction and decided to bomb it. Our flight was on a collision course with another flight. I dropped my load. They hit beyond the aiming point as is usually the case when guessing at low altitude. It is very hard to adjust to the speed that the ground-passes under you. Events seem to occur at a much slower pace at higher altitudes. Others: Two of the flights behind me got good results on what they hit. They weren't too sure just what it was. F. LOSSES: None. We were not aware of any shots being fired at us, even at that low altitude. I guess they were saving their ammo for bigger fish.
MISSION #65 8 JUNE 1944 (D-DAY plus 2) (GROUP MISSION # 200)
A. TARGET: VERNON HIGHWAY BRIDGE, SEINE RIVER, FRANCE. Once blasted into the river, this bridge has been made serviceable again by the use of pontoons moored alongside the remains of the old structure. It appears that the goal of Ninth Bomber Command is to destroy every bridge that might be of any use to General Erwin Rommel. We don't want the German Army to carry anything across any river that is too heavy to swim with. Aiming Point: Center of the bridge.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: Light to moderate ground fire.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. Bombing by flights of 6 planes each. Bomb Load: 8 - 5001b. G.P. per a/c.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier for one flight of 6 planes. (Strike photo #31).
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: This was the first and (hopefully) only time I ever bombed a strictly civilian area. A short bomb run resulted in my pattern landing to the left of the bridge. It hit the outskirts of the small town of Vernon, France. Others: Bombing was erratic but the bridge was hit hard enough to put it out of commission---again.
F. LOSSES: None.
MISSION #66 12 JUNE 1944 (D-DAY plus 6) (GROUP MISSION # 205)
A. TARGET: BRETIGNEY MARSHALLING YARDS ON THE SOUTH EDGE OF PARIS, FRANCE. We received an urgent request to blast this target as soon as possible. A large contingent of German tanks was reported to be off-loading here for immediate use against our forces in Normandy. This is our kind of target. Aiming Point: Center of the marshalling yard.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: Moderate flak from gun batteries located at an airfield near the target.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. Bombing by flights of 6 planes each.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier for the second box of 18 planes.
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: Bulls-eye. We found the yard to be crammed with traffic. A large new sub-depot complex had recently been constructed adjoining the target. It did not appear in our target photos. Others: 5 out of 6 flights hit this target right on the nose. The 6th. landed well beyond the target. A huge ball of fire sent smoke billowing up almost to our altitude by the time we had turned around to head for home. As the COMMENDATION we received stated, we. destroyed everything we went after, and more. This had to be one of our best and most rewarding efforts. It came at a good time -- D-DAY plus 6.
F. LOSSES: We lost one plane to ground fire before reaching the target area. I was looking down and ,I saw the flash of a gun battery firing at us. I immediately asked the Pilot, Lt. Col. Tad Hankey, to make a left turn. He asked me, "Why"? A plane just ahead of us exploded and fell out of formation. I said, "That's why, Dummy". He turned our formation to the left.
G. COMMENT: It takes flak shells about 7 seconds to reach our altitude and explode. That gives an alert Lead Crew plenty of time to see the gun flashes and move their formation out of the danger area. I was able to do this repeatedly, as did others who wanted to get out of this mess alive. Also, it is helpful if the anti-aircraft fire is accurate. Only then could I be reasonably sure where the shells would explode. Obviously, this technique could not be utilized on the bomb run -- flying straight and level for up to one' minute . In that instance we preferred the ground gunners to be full of Schnapps. (German Booze) Lead Crew coordination is vital. Proper evasive action must be done as a formation, not by individual aircraft. Lt. Col. Hankey and I flew together only occasionally. To-day, if my regular Pilot, Major Dewhurst, had been at the controls I am sure "turn left" would have been enough. He would have recognized my voice and understood we were being shot at. In this instance I should have said, "Flak coming up. Start a left turn". Hopefully, we live and learn.
MISSION #67 15 JUNE 1944 (D-DAY plus 9) (GROUP MISSION # 210)
A. TARGET: LAVAL MARSHALLING YARD, FRANCE. A supply & distribution base for the German Seventh Army. Aiming Points: First 3 flights: Center of the yard last 3 flights: The center of a nearby construction complex for the repair of railroads, highways, airfields & bridges.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: This is another 3000 ft., low level, mission due to overcast weather. We could expect the usual 40mm tracer gunfire reception.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. Bombing by flights of 6 planes each. Bomb Load: 20 - 2501b. G.P. per a/c.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier for one flight of 6 planes. # 3.
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: Covered the storage sheds, the s a ion office, a memorial statue and cut the main rail line into the yard from the west.
F. LOSSES: None.
MISSION #68 18 JUNE 1944 (D-DAY plus 12) (GROUP MISSION # 212)
A. TARGET: FUEL & AMMO DUMPS IN THE CHAMPSECRET FOREST, FRANCE. Aiming Points: Various areas along side-roads reported to contain much need supplies for Rommelss Seventh Army.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: None unless we blunder over a Panzer unit.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. Bombing by flights of 6 planes each. Bomb Load: 30 - 1001b. G.P. per a/c.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier for all 36 planes. # 34.
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: All bombs in the target area. Others: Target roads in the forest were well covered but no large explosions or fires were seen. We may have done a lot of good. Maybe not. Either way, we did what we were told to do.
F. LOSSES: None.
MISSION #69 22 JUNE 1944 (D-DAY plus 16) (GROUP MISSION # 215)
A. TARGET: GROUND DEFENSES, PORT OF CHERBOURG, FRANCE. Allied troops are preparing a direct assault on this most important stronghold of the Seventh Army. The Port of Cherbourg, when in our hands, will be of great value as a deep-water off-loading supply funnel for our ground forces now engaged in a furious battle for control of all of. Normandy. This target has been assigned to the 386th. Bomb Group deliberately. We are to be the LAST formation to bomb before the ground assault begins. It is most important that our bombs explode among German defenders and not among the ready-to advance American troops. Aiming Point: Our target has the appearance of a small farmhouse with several out-buildings. This is the location of the main fortified position. However, we believe almost every foot of ground in this 8 mile ring around Cherbourg is heavily defended.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: Previous experience has shown that we can expect heavy, accurate fire from the best guns and the best gunners the German Army has at its disposal. however, on this particular occasion literally hundreds of planes have been hitting this area. That sort of effort tends hurt anti-aircraft batteries a lot more than coast guns because the gunners are mostly out in the open -- rather than hunkered down under a roof of concrete & steel several feet thick. The expected heavy cloud formations should also serve to give us some protection from anti-aircraft fire.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. plus every available Group in the Ninth Bomber Command. Bombing by boxes of 18 planes each. Bomb Load: 20 - 2501b. G.P. per a/c.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier of the second box of 18 planes. This is to be the LAST formation to bomb before the ground assault begins. Heavy clouds expected in the target area caused Bomber Command to assign Pathfinder air-. craft to be the Lead Plane for each b 'n case a normal bomb run cannot be executed.
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: Excellent. I disregarded Path Pathfinder in favor of a normal visual bomb run. The aiming point was well covered with the first part of the bomb pattern. None hit anywhere near where the American troops were reported to be. Pictures of this strike on Cherbourg were used on propaganda leaflets dropped behind enemy lines. Others: The first box of 18 planes in our formation followed the lead of their Pathfinder. Luckily, their pattern landed just beyond the aiming point rather than short. Where they hit may have been just as good as where they were briefed. All of us earned our pay on this day. Excellent Mission.
F. LOSSES: None. Some flak damage.
MISSION #70 25 JUNE 1944 (D-DAY plus 19) (GROUP MISSION # 218)
A. TARGET: AMMUNITION DUMP, ALENCON-ARGENTAN FOREST, FRANCE. On-the-spot supplies for Rommel's Seventh Army. Aiming Point: Center of the dump area. Just trees.
B. EXPECTED OPPOSITION: None unless we blunder over a Panzer unit.
C. WEIGHT OF OUR ATTACK: 36 a/c from the 386th. Bombing by boxes, of 18 planes each. Bomb Load: 30 - 1001b. G.P. per a/c.
D. MY JOB: Lead Bombardier for the second box of 18 planes. (strike photo # 36)
E. RESULTS: My Pattern: Bulls-eye, but no big explosions or fires. Others: The Lead Box hit mostly outside the target area. No obvious results from their strike either. Perhaps we tore up a lot of supplies and equipment. If our information from the French Underground was good then our results are bound to be just as good. Good or bad, they just don't show up.
F. LOSSES: None.