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Sgt. William R. Campbell
723rd Squadron

Bill and Jo - 1945

Picture provided by Vernon D. Hasley, 723rd Squadron

Diary of William R Campbell – In Italy a gunner on the Tung Hoy B-24


Going -                                               Arrived          Left

Alamogordo, New Mexico               9/28/43 –   11/21/43

Herington, Kansas                                   11/21/43 – 11/25/43

Morrison Field, Florida             11/25/43 – 11/27/43

Borinquen Field, Porto Rico            11/27/43 – 11/29/43

Atkinson Field, British Guiana            11/29/43 – 11/30/43

Belem, Brazil                                     11/30/43 – 12/01/43

Natal, Brazil                                       12/01/43 – 12/02/43

Eknes Field, Dakar                         12/03/43 – 12/09/43

Casablanca                                       12/09/43 – 12/17/43

Chatteaudun du Rhummel               12/17/43 – 12/20/43

Manduria, Italy                              12/20/43 –




1. January 8, 1944  Pilot – Lane  Mostar, Yugoslavia


            Hit an airfield with a perfect bomb pattern but the target was airfield on the other side of the river. Had our first taste of flak – heavy and accurate. P-38 escort knocked down the only fighter that challenged us. We dropped 10-500 lb. demolition bombs. Pilot lost control over target because bombs fell from right racks first and then from left. Bombs flew in every direction.       


2. January 13, 1944 Pilot – Lane Perirgia, Italy


            Dropped 120 frag bombs but visibility was poor and we didn't observe results. Capt. Miller was leading our element of 5 when another element crowded us out of the formation so he decided to take us on a sight-seeing tour. We were jumped by three ME-109 fighters but they only made 1 pass from 5 o'clock high and quit. No hits, no runs, and no errors.


3. January 15, 1944 Pilot – Gernand Prato, Italy


            Formation led by Colonel Mills. He rides on 50 inches of mercury so we had to circle a couple of times in order to stay behind the 449th who were to go over the target first. Somewhere around Corsica when we lost the 449th. They were on over the target with the fighter escort so we head for home and dropped 500 lb. demos in the drink. We became separated from the formation but nothing came up to meet us so we enjoyed the scenery. Rome, Naples, Mt. Vesuvius etc…

Passed a formation of 22 JU-88's about 5 miles to our right but they were going toward Corsica and didn't bother us.


4. January 16, 1944 Pilot – Gernand Ossopo, Northern Italy


            Hottest raid yet. Main and Tokyo tanks were topped off for a long ride. Lt. Gernand came in and asked for a ball and tail gunner to take 2 AWOL gunners place. Hasley and I volunteered. Lead bombardier became eager and dropped his bombs on a bridge before we got to the target so all we did was hit the edge of the airfield with a few scattered bombs. We dropped 12-500 lb. demos. No flak over the target but when we left, we flew through a wall of it to the coast. Lt. Holloman had 2 engines smoking and was about Ύ mile behind when ME-109's attacked. They swarmed over him like flies. At briefing we were told if any fighters attacked they would be Italian pursuits flown by Germans and no flak. 18 German fighters coming through their own flak at us. About 20 miles off the coast Holloman's No. 2 engine burst into flames and spread rapidly over the wing. We counted 11 chutes open before it exploded just above the water. No one was on the interphone to tell from which direction the fighters were coming from so I had to turn the turret in the direction where most of the fighters were. The main formation had turned right instead of left as briefed but the pilot leading our element almost made his last mistake by not following. He went as briefed. The main formation blew up a ship that just unloaded some German troops and split the town in half with the rest of their bombs. They had no flak or fighters to bother with. They were all after our little bunch of lone wolves.

            From the main group of fighters I saw a ME-109 making a breakaway attack and coming under the tail of the sky flying Purple Heart corner. I had him framed perfect in the reticles of my sight and followed him all the way across the back of our element throwing everything I had at him. Hasley's tail turret motor was out so he was standing in the waist watching the show. He saw my tracers going into him and watched him go into a vertical dive. Finally the pilot bailed out and the ship fell into the sea. I didn't see him because when the ship was past the point where he could still shoot us I turned back to pick up another one. Shortly after that was when Holloman went down with 2 ME's following him to make sure. My left gun went out and I wasn't able to fix it. About 2 minutes later the right gun began to fire slower and slower until it finally went out too. Then we overtook a squadron of B-17's and had to drop half flaps to slow down to their speed. The fighters left and we proceeded on our merry way with the 17's for a few miles then headed for home. Four men were shot up in the ship flying Purple Heart corner and they had to land without rudders. The cables were shot away. We had 2 bullet holes and few flak holes in our ship but theirs looked like a sieve.


5. January 20, 1944  Pilot - Capt. Miller Guidonia, Italy


            We had our regular crew except for the officers. Capt. Miller was leading our element and the squadron, navigator and bombardier were in the nose arguing where the target was. Finally they agreed and dropped the bombs, then looked up and saw the target ahead. Dropped 120 frag bombs. Flak was moderate but inaccurate. The target was an airfield where an aircraft research lab and experimental station were located. A few bombs hit the target.


6. January 22, 1944  Pilot – Capt. Miller Arezzo, Italy


            On the trip up we noticed ships off shore near Rome shelling a town clearing a way for the invasion. We had only our own group and no fighter escort on this raid. It was cloudy most of the way and we thought we wouldn't be able to see the target but just as we flew over the edge of a cloud bank we saw the target and dropped our 10-500 lb. demos. Blew hell out of everything for a change. One bomb lit on a building surrounded by flak guns that were pounding away at us. It will be a long time before they hit the ground again. No fighter opposition. Flak was very light and far away. Invasion was taking place when we came back along the coast. Headed inland across Naples toward home. A Bristol Beaufighter came up behind us but turned tail and beat it when he saw all the guns swing on him.  

            Colonel Mills was leading the first formation and Capt. Miller was leading the second. The Col. didn't do so good with his formation but our formation hit everything he missed which was 9/10 of the target.


7. January 27, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Miller  Istres LeTube, France (No Credit)


            Our group took off in the wee hours of the morning and joined 5 other heavy bombardment groups on their way to targets in the same vicinity as ours. We flew till we were within sight of Southern France and the prop governor went out on No. 4 engine and we had to turn around and come home with no escort. A dogfight was in progress behind us just before we turned back. The group went on over and leveled everything on the field. Flak was heavy. One ship in another squadron had a flak burst in the bomb bay and 8 bailed out, 2 with their chutes on fire. General Twining sent the 450th his congratulations for a successful and profitable raid. 

8. January 29, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Miller  Siena, Italy


            Another milk-run. We flew up the Adriatic and across North central Italy and back along the West coast. The target was a marshalling yard but from a few miles inland past a range of mountains there was an undercast which lasted till we were almost back. We left the I.P. and dropped 12-500 lb. bombs through the clouds onto the approximate vicinity. One ship circled the field for a few hours after we lit because he could only get his nose and one main gear down circled the field 4 times finally and 2 men bailed out each time. They went to another field with a hard-surfaced runway to make a crash landing. 


9. January 30, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Miller  Udine Camformido, Italy


            Flew up the Adriatic into Northern Italy with escort of 35 P-38's. Dropped 120 bombs (frag) on hangars, barracks, administration buildings, etc…Perfect bomb pattern that destroyed everything. Flak was below us and moderate. 3 ME-109's made a few faint passes at us but our formation was tight and the escort took good care of them. This was one raid we enjoyed. The 720th C.O. got a piece of flak from below that came out his stomach. He died the next day. One of his crew members had a few small pieces in his leg and received the Purple Heart.


10.  February 3, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Miller  Pontassieve, Italy


            We took off to raid the marshalling yards but couldn't bomb it because of an undercast so we cruised around looking for anything we could find through a hole in the clouds to bomb. Finally found a factory and dropped 12-500 lb. demos on the hillside to the left. Four bursts of flak were all we saw, one of them was about 2 feet under my turret when it went off. Shook me up a bit. Had a blow-out after we lit but the ship had almost quit rolling and we turned off at the end of the runway and left it to sit.


            February 2, 1944 took off to raid Budapest but was called back from the middle of the Adriatic. February 4th we took off to raid the submarine pens in Toulon, France. We were shot at North of Rome but didn't get credit for the missions. Received credit later for the Toulon mission.


12. February 8, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Miller  Viterbo, Italy


            We took off to raid an Airfield at Viterbo but came in on our I.P. a little too far South of course. The formation was too large to make the short turn so we circled the target and dropped our frags on another airfield on the coast. S-2 told us flak would be heavy, intense, and accurate and that about 60 fighters were able to come up in that vicinity. We didn't see a thing.


13. February 15, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Miller  Verona, Italy


            After sweating out a storm for several days and alerts everyday we finally took off to blow up some marshalling yards that are fed direct from the Brenner Pass. We carried 12-500 lb. bombs but dropped them on a railroad station quite a ways to the right of the target.  A few fighters came up to our altitude (25,000 ft.) but none attacked us. Saw two of them dive on Gernand's tail just before we made a turn and he went into a glide without following us. He disappeared behind a cloud and that was the last seen or heard from him and Rickey's crew. 4 other ships that were missing flew in around dusk.

            We saw the Swiss Alps and were almost to the base of them. The ships left vapor trails for miles behind and when we couldn't see a fighter we knew he was there by his vapor trail. Several of us were frost bitten and a few had frozen toes. The air thermometer registered 47 degrees below zero. Flak was fairly thick where we were and intense over the target. Sixteen out of forty ships turned back before we reached the target.


14. February 16, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Miller  Pontessieve, Italy


            The raid today went over without flak or fighters. We flew up the Adriatic, across Italy and back down the Tyrrhenian Sea. Our 12 bombs fell right on the target. No. 1 engine sprung a gas leak and we had to feather the prop just as we left the target. We led our formation all the way back and kept well up with them.

            I operated my turret in azimuth without turning on the sight. Now the sight won't give me the lead in Azimuth but is still O.K. in elevation.


15. February 17, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Lane  Rocca di Papa, Italy


            Was supposed to be on pass but they came through the barracks looking for an extra gunner and I volunteered. The target was about 30 minutes southeast of Rome where they believed the Germans had a fresh supply of trucks, ammo, etc…We didn't have a picture of the target and had to go by a map.  We hit the spot they told us to. I was riding as nose gunner and really had a good view of the country-side. We flew in over the beach head and picked up a lot of accurate flak over the German lines. After we dropped the bombs we circled and came back over the same spot at 16,000 feet. It was accurate then, but our ship was on the left side of the formation and the flak was in the middle. Evasive action carried us almost into it before we turned the other direction. One blew up under our left wing and one in front but they were the only close ones. We saw plenty of action below us. One ship had a flak burst in the bomb bay which cut all his fuel lines but didn't start a fire and as we flew over the beach toward home he left the formation. He almost hit us as he flew under and I raised up in my seat to let him pass. They bailed out over the beach head and let the ship go. My right shoe burned out when the flak was getting close over the lines but I was too busy trying to avoid a hot foot to be interested in it.


16. & 17.  February 22, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Miller  Regensburg, Germany


            First time over the hump. We had a 10/10 undercast over the target but the 8th Air Force was there before us and hit the ME-109 factory before the undercast closed in. We dropped our 12-500 lb. bombs through the clouds. On the way back we were flying right wing on Lt. Nillson when one of his engines went out and he waved us and the other ship on. By then the fighters were on the formation on our right making head-on attacks in groups of 5 & 6. They jumped Nillson when he fell behind and he didn't get back. Our 2 ships were catching up with the lead formation while the fighters were tearing up the same formation on the right. After they made a pass and were coming around for another I turned the turret around to see if there was much doing on the other side. At 9 o'clock was sitting an ME-109 following us and apparently waiting for a chance to come in. I lined him up and started shooting and didn't quit until he fell over on his left side and went down through the clouds.

            Out of nine ships from this squadron, 6 returned early, 3 went over the target and 2 returned. We were flying "Yankee Fury", a ship from the 721st squadron.

            Before target time we noticed 9 twin engine ships low at 8 o'clock. They moved up to about 10 and then came up to our altitude. Staying at our altitude they fell back and moved in behind us then went about 2,000 feet above us and started shooting at us with cannon and rockets. One ship fell out of our formation and headed for home but we don't think he was hit. Just engine trouble. Shortly after that the nine ships all banked to their left and disappeared. They must have been JU-88's. Me-110's would have attacked.

             That night the C.O., Major Miller, called us together and ate the boys out for returning early. He expressed the attitude that he didn't give a damn anymore and that as long as a ship can keep up with the formation he wanted it to go on over the target.



18. & 19.  February 23, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati  Steyr, Austria


            We blew a supercharger on take-off and by all rules shouldn't have left the ground but with a full bomb load, crew, and gas tanks filled we somehow made it. We could only draw 29 inches of mercury from No. 4 supercharger so we were way behind the formation and in doubt if we would be able to catch it. Finally over Yugoslavia in enemy territory we caught up with them and pulled into a position in the middle formation.

            A few minutes inside of the German border a formation at 5 o'clock from us was jumped by fighters. Major Miller was leading them with Lt. Whitney's crew. They hit his No. 2 engine and set it afire. 3 men bailed out just before the ship went into a vertical dive and fell about 10,000 feet then exploded. Saw one B-24 crash and blow up on the ground and 2 other blow up in the air. Never had a chance to get a good shot at a fighter because they weren't attacking the formation we were in.

            Miller's formation slid in under us after the C.O. went down and we thought we'd get it then but they didn't attack us. As we approached the target we saw a heavy wall of flak over it at our altitude and thought we might have a little trouble getting through, but all I noticed that were close were 2 bursts on the right that shook us a little. When we dropped our 12-500 lb. bombs and were on our way home the fighters came in with belly tanks and were prepared to follow us all the way home. They had just gone to work on us good when the P-38's came in from the South and really took a load off our minds. From then on the fighters hung in the air about 4 miles behind us and finally turned back. Lt. Zink saved our necks when he grabbed the controls from the pilot and shoved them forward. A '24 that was all shot up just about fell on us out of control. Later I noticed this ship flying on our right wing with gas pouring from its No. 2 engine. They had jettisoned most of their equipment expecting to bail out but they took a short route and nursed it home on #3 and #4 engines. I never expected to see them again but they made it.


20.  March 7, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati  Certaldo, Italy


            Another milk run. No flak or fighters. We couldn't drop our bombs because of a broken rod on the bomb racks so we let them go by tripping them one at a time into the water on the way home. Feathered No. 3 engine. My guns were both out. Cover was off of the right gun and the ammunition chute was jammed on the other so the rounds wouldn't feed into the gun, so I operated the camera over the target. I don't think that was working either because there was no juice in the outlet to run the motor. This was the 1st mission on the new ship. With all the "bugs" in it I wonder how it ever got off the ground. 


21. & 22. FUBAR  March 17, 1944  Pilot - Lt. Col. Guideon 


           Hasley, Keleshian and I flew with Lt. Kellman's crew with Guideon as pilot leading the 47th Wing to Vienna. An undercast obscured the target so we found a hole in the clouds over Graz and dropped our 10-500 lb. bombs on a factory, tearing things up pretty well. The interphone went out in the ball leaving me in a world of my own. Flak was heavy and accurate over the target both times. We came back through again so the Colonel could get some more pictures of the flak.

((( Lavariana, Graz, Schwechat)))


21. & 22.  March 17, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati  Schwechat, Austria


            There was a complete undercast under the formation so the other groups and the fighter escort turned back. The 450th kept going towards Vienna hoping for a hole in the clouds. We flew over Vienna thinking we'd drop our 10 bombs on ETA but didn't. Finally turned around and dropped them on Austria somewhere and headed for home. The ship in front of us in the pattern cracked up on the runway so we had to fly it again. Had a new co-pilot on this raid, his first. Our old one has a crew of his own now.

23.  March 18, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati  Lacariana, Italy


            Raided a new airfield with frag bombs and had a good pattern but there was nothing there to hit except 3 planes. What little damage we did wasn't worth the effort we put into it. Coming back we flew over a naval base on Pola. Several big ships were anchored there and another that was coming in threw up quite a bit of flak at us and gave us a laugh. The gunners on it could use a lot of practice.


24. & 25.  March 19, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Col. Gideon  Graz, Austria


            We took off to raid the ball-bearing factory at Steyr again but the farther North we flew the cloudier it got. Haley, Keleshian and I were assigned to Kellman's crew as replacements on this run. In Southern Austria we fell over on our left wing and almost into the ship in No. 3 position. The A-5 pilot was being "monkeyed" with. We found a hole in the clouds over Graz and dropped our bombs (10-500 lb) on a factory. Blew hell out of it. Flak was heavy and when we flew through it once we turned around and came through it again. The Colonel takes a picture of it. The interphone on the ball turret was torn out when the ball was lowered so I had to sweat it out.


26.  March 24, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati 

            Were supposed to raid Steyr again, as usual didn't get over the hump on account of bad weather. "Yankee Fury" and another ship in the 721st squadron collided in mid-air on the way up and nobody bailed out. They fell together from 6,000 feet. Tierney sent in a "Mayday" call over VHF that was answered by "Big Fence" in Foggia to Air-Sea Rescue. We turned back over Northern Yugoslavia and toggled off our 10 bombs in the Adriatic. 8 ships from another squadron took off on a lone wolf raid over Northern Italy out of our formation and were jumped by fighters.

3-24's were shot down. They were led by a Colonel who was on his second mission and apparently didn't know how "hot" that country is up there. All they did was tear up a few hundred yards of double track. We never expected credit for this mission but losing 5 ships would be hard to explain. We were reported as one that collided.


27. & 28.  March 29, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati  Bolzano, Northern Italy


            We had several P-38's for escort on this mission as we didn't worry too much about fighters, although we did see a few. We were flying next to the Swiss border for several miles over the Alps and even at our altitude we weren't very far above them. Coming into the I.P. we saw a thick wall of flak about 15 miles away over the target where other groups were going over before us. We saw 1 B-24 go down in flames after being hit. When we got to the target I couldn't spot our aiming point because the whole area was covered with smoke and dust from bombs before we got there so we dropped ours through the smoke. A bombardier layed a string of bombs through the center of a small town on the way back. It was a pretty good looking town from the air before the demos split it in half.


29.  March 30, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati  Sofia, Bulgaria


            The largest attack made yet by 4-engined bombers on a single target, by the 15th Air Force. We were well covered by P-38's so we enjoyed the mountainous scenery on the way over. Our element flew over the target at only 18,000 feet the other groups were up around 21,000. Just as we turned at the I.P. onto the bomb run we noticed heavy flak at our altitude over the target, waiting for us. A ME-109 came in on the tail of the center element and broke away behind our element where I picked him up and started shooting. All of a sudden then guns quit, the turret stopped, the interphone and heated suit went out. A burst of flak under our No. 2 engine all but knocked us down. We had no electricity, no radio, 3 superchargers knocked out, 7 holes in our hydraulic system, but the engines weren't hit although we didn't have power to keep up with the formation. The bombardier was hit in the shoulder by a piece that came through the intervalometer while he was kneeling over the bombsight. The nose gunner was hit on the upper left leg, and the tail gunner was hit on the right foot but neither one of theirs broke the skin. Raised some nice welts though. After the power went out in the ball I cranked it around manually so I could get out, and at the same time took a look at the target. It was one big cloud of smoke and dust. Then I noticed hydraulic fluid covering the ball that was leaking out of the nose. The bomb bay doors could not be closed because the tracks were hit. The catwalk was covered with hydraulic fluid and slick as ice but we had to cross it several times anyway. When I found out Chris was hit I crawled up in the nose and pumped some morphine into his left arm and then found out they'd had a fire caused by wires which were shorted out. The co-pilot put that out. The leader of our element (Courtright) radioed the 38's to cover us while we were over enemy territory and dropped back so we could catch up. Finally we were left behind and had to fly back to the base without a compass. Over the field we shot off 4 red flares to get the ambulance on the ball and then started lowering the gear. I cranked down the two main gears, Adams dumped over the nose wheel and by sign language, Keleshian told us the main gear were down and locked. Then the co-pilot started to pump down the flaps by hand but the lines were blown away by flak so he just gave us another dosing with hydraulic fluid. The pilot gave us our choice to either bail out or ride it in with him so we decided to ride. As we crossed the olive trees at the end of the runway the ship stalled out doing 175 MPH and we were all as far back in the tail end as possible hoping to drag the tail to help stop but the tail didn't touch the ground. We didn't think there was enough hydraulic fluid for the brakes but the pilot applied them once and held them till we stopped. That was all we had left. The older crews received their Air Medals later that afternoon.


30. & 31.  April 4, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati  Bucharest, Rumania


            Our take-off was delayed one hour and a half because of a ground fog but visibility over the target was perfect. Our group of 18 flew off course up the Danube for a while and finally we began to think we were going over the target all by ourselves. Just as we were turning at the I.P. we saw groups in every direction all converging on the target at the same time. We flew along the tracks until we were over the big marshalling yards and dropped our 12-500 lb. demos in salvo. We had a new bombardier and this was his first mission. He forgot to pull the pins on his bombs but Tierney got most of them out just before we dropped them. We saw several big fires burning and one tremendous explosion that sent a smoke ring several thousand feet in the air. The flak was very inaccurate because the 1st attack unit was throwing out tinfoil to destroy the effects of the radar. A few fighters attacked but weren't aggressive and did no damage.


32. & 33. April 5, 1944  Pilot – Lt. Barbati  Ploesti, Rumania


            We were briefed at 9:30 and finally got in the air and on our way about 11:30. We were again in No. 4 position in the center box of the 2nd attack unit. We were told at briefing to expect a possible 200 fighters and reconnaissance photos showed 144 heavy guns. The fighters jumped us just before we reached the target and in their first attack knocked down 3 B-24's. I took a picture of the first one to go down just before it blew up in front of us. Then the fight got a little too rough to mess with a camera so I set it aside. Lt. Lael's ship left the high right box of the 1st attack unit and went into a tight spin that tore the right rudder off. 2 men was all I saw bail out but the sky was full of chutes from other ships. The flak was closer than we thought it would be over the target but we had other worries and didn't pay too much attention to it. As I looked thru the side glass to check the bomb bay doors a piece of flak put a nick in the glass between the guns and I didn't notice it till I turned back. That was the first time a ball turret I was in was ever hit. As we turned away from the target the fighters began to pour it on but were coming in only by 1. They forgot about their teamwork. Keleshian, Macafee, and Tierney each claimed one on this raid. The flak followed us for several miles and the fight with the FW's lasted 34 minutes. Everyone on the crew seemed to be calm, except the bombardier and this was only his 2nd mission. We were about the only crew that wasn't shooting at anything more than a mile away. Coming back we passed over a big M/Y and had quite a bit of flak thrown at us but it didn't do any damage. We came home with No. 4 engine feathered.

             Just before the 450th took off, a ship from the 451st was taking off on it's first mission when it's left landing gear collapsed and it slid into the same spot where Isbell's crew wound up (3/3/44). The explosion didn't help our morale any. Counting that ship, the 451st lost 7 ships and we lost 5 for this raid.       



** Note**

William Campbell returned to the USA after this mission to train replacement gunners for aerial combat.

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