In the summer of 1944 the U.S. Ninth Air Force had a new twin engine medium bomber that needed testing over western. Europe. The Douglas A-26. It had never been in combat anywhere. It was projected to replace the Martin B-26 Marauder. It was much faster. It flew much better on one engine. It was assigned to my 553rd. Squadron for testing as to its capabilities as a lead plane, to see how it would perform on the bomb run with the Norden bombsight. As Sq. Bombing Officer I was primarily responsible for this testing. Lt, Bill Smith, from the great state of Georgia, a great lead bombardier and one of my best friends, worked with me on the project. We found the A-26 to be a poor bombing platform due to a faulty bombsight mount. It was unsteady. We discussed this problem with Capt. Bert Dugger, our Squadron Engineering Officer, Bert suggested replacing the entire A-26 mount with the proven B-7 mount found to be so successful in the B-26. No sooner said than done. The conversion worked perfectly. Shortly thereafter we were heading out on that FIRST MISSION to bomb fortified gun emplacements defending the German-held port of Brest. Our formation was composed of two flights of seven planes each As I recall we had two Generals and several Colonels on that first mission. They came from all over. Bomber Command. Wing Command and other Groups. It was a prestige event. The date was Sept. 6, 1944. I was part of the lead crew. I felt pretty good that day I was Group Bombing Officer for an outfit that had just been awarded a Presidential Unit Citation which reads as follows: (in summary)
The 386th Bombardment Group (M) for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy in the ETO from 30 July 1943 to 30 July 1944. During this period the 386th Bombardment Group (M) attained the most outstanding record of all B-26 Groups in the ETO in terms of number of successful sorties flown tonnage of bombs dispatched and enemy aircraft destroyed, while at the same time maintaining the highest bombing accuracy score.