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The One That Got Away

The decisive air war over Europe took place before D-DAY, 6 June 1944. On the morning of the greatest amphibious invasion in History there were thousands of warplanes over the Normandy landing beaches. Very few bore the Iron Cross of the Luftwaffe. One reason so few enemy planes were to be seen was the relentless pounding they took from eight Groups of B-26s and three Groups of A-20s of the U.S. Ninth Bomber Command from the late summer of 1943 until D-Day 1944.

We shot them down. We bombed their bases. We destroyed much of their fuel, supplies and equipment in marshalling yards and supply dumps. From Holland on the north, all of northern France, including the Paris area, then west through Rennes and Brest, we destroyed just about every target assigned to us. But, not all.

On 26 March 1944 the 386th Bomb Group, among others, was ordered to strike the E-boat pens of the German Navy at Ijmuiden, Holland. We weren't too sure what an E-boat was at the time. We understood they were small, fast and armed with torpedoes -- very similar to the P.T. Boat commanded by a U.S. Naval Officer by the name of John F. Kennedy half-way around the world in the Pacific.

As I recall, the roof protecting those E-boats was reported to be about 12 feet thick and composed of concrete and steel. Bomber Command provided us with special 1600 lb. bombs for this mission. These bombs were different, and deadly. Ground Crews were warned to be extra careful not to drop one while handling.

By the end of the day on 26 March we knew which was the toughest.  It was no contest - THE ROOF won. Our bombs did little more than clean it off good. No further missions were planned against this target as far as I know. As I recall this was the only target ever assigned to us that we failed to destroy or severely damage. There seems to be one in every crowd.

Albert E. Hill
Col. U.S.A.F.R.
7 December 1987

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