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"We Remember"
by Dwayne O'Brien


Sgt. Raymond M. Hook
721st Squadron


Information courtesy of 450th Bomb Group (H) The "Cottontails" of WWII and Turner Publishing Company



A RECORD OF MY MISSIONS WHILE WITH THE FIFTEENTH AIR FORCE IN ITALY

            BY RAYMOND HOOK 721ST SQUADRON, 450TH BOMB GROUP

 

# 1 – Target – Innsbruck, Germany – Marshalling Yard

            Date – Saturday December 16, 1944

            Flak – Moderate – Accurate

Flak  bursted all around us but we didn't get any holes in our ship. I wasn't half as afraid as I thought I'd be.

 

# 2 – Target – Vienna, Austria – Florsdorf Oil Refinery

            Date – Monday December 18, 1944

            Flak – Moderate – Accurate but far to right.

We bombed through the clouds by P.F.F. (Path Finder Facility) as in first mission. No holes in ship & I wasn't afraid at all. Flak suit & helmet get awfully heavy after awhile though. We saw no enemy fighters today, thank God.

 

# 3 – Target – Salzberg, Austria – Marshalling Yard

            Date – Wednesday December 20, 1944

            Flak – Moderate – Inaccurate – Far below and to the left.

Strange as it may seem we got two holes in the tail of our ship. Again we bombed by P.F.F. & again we saw no enemy fighters, thank God.

 

# 4 – Target – Northern Italy – Ora Railroad Bridge

            Date – Tuesday December 26, 1944

            Flak – Light – Inaccurate – far below and around us.

The enemy lit many smoke pots trying to cover the target. We bombed visually & I saw everything The bridge was covered by big clouds of smoke, not from the smoke pots but from our bombs. I am sorry to say our bombs didn't hit the target because instead of the lead ship dropping his bombs & then breaking away, he broke away & then dropped his bombs. The bridge was destroyed though. On the way back to our base we passed over Venice & we saw six enemy fighters take off from an airfield near there. They must have thought we were going to bomb their field. They didn't attack us & our escort of P-38's didn't attack them. That was the first enemy fighters I've seen. We also drew some flak from Venice but it wasn't anywhere near us & I couldn't have been happier.

 

# 5 – Target – Brod, Yugoslavia – Martialing Yard

            Date – Friday January 19, 1945 (Quite a time since my last mission eh?) Put in for the Air   Medal today & even if I say so myself I earned it today.

            Flak – Heavy – Intense – Accurate

Things were screwed up before we got to the target. The Navigator in the lead ship brought us in on a wrong approach to the target so we passed over a little ways from the target, then turned around to make a new approach. Another Squadron was on their bomb run so we had to make another one- eighty. This happened five times & boy was I scared. We couldn't call the lead ship to ask him what he was doing because the enemy would hear us. All we could do was follow him and sweat. I saw one ship go down in flames but it wasn't from my Squadron though.

The strange thing about all this was that each time we'd pass almost over the target but we didn't draw any flak. I guess they were too busy shooting at the ships going over the target. When we finally did get on our bomb run we got flak & I mean FLAK.  I could see it, hear it & smell it. We got a hit in the left wing that really shook us. The shell that hit us went through the wing between the Tokyo tank and the Main tank and bursted above us. I thought our goose was cooked but my Miraculous Medal pulled us out of it that I am sure of. I had my flak suit, flak helmet & parachute on for over an hour & boy, did I suffer under the weight. I thought my neck and back was broke. All we needed was to be hit by fighters & the day would have been complete but we didn't. We had no fighter escort either.

 

# 6 – Target – Vienna, Austria – Moosbierbaum Oil Refinery

            Date – Wednesday January 31, 1945

            Flak – Heavy – Intense – Accurate

I never thought I'd have the chance to write about this mission because this mission brought me the closest to death than any time in my life. It all started when we started on the I.P. we lost number two engine due to mechanical failure (I think). We held our position in the formation as best we could until we started on the bomb run & that's when things started to pop. Number three engine almost tore itself apart so the pilot feathered it. That left us with only two engines (I thank God we still had the two outboard engines). We didn't go over the target because we couldn't keep up with the formation & then again we would be sitting ducks for that damned flak. We broke away with no purpose in mind other than to get out of the flak. The pilot tried to contact the lead ship but there was so much jabbering between the other ships he couldn't contact them. Besides he was doing too much dodging of flak to do much with the radio.

There we were two inboard engines out, eight hundred miles from our base, flak bursting all around us & nine men scared as hell. The pilot made a decision that proved to be a very wise one. He decided we'd head for the Russian lines. It wasn't as simple as that thought. The Navigator gave him a course to follow & we started out. I was in the waist throwing out chaf (that's strips of silver leaf that when thrown out in a bundle screws up the enemy's radar. That's what the manual says it does but that's a moot statement).

We were banking to the right and when I looked out the left waist window I saw the flak tracking us. They had our height but were about one hundred feet behind us. When I saw that I started throwing out chaf not three bundles every twenty seconds but as fast as I could pick it up. While bending over the box of chaf we caught a burst under the tail. The concussion knocked me head first into the box. I was afraid to look back at Danny in the tail turret because he and the tail was no more. But I proved to be wrong, we didn't get a scratch. They had our range & altitude now & they really threw it to us. The fact that we had two engines out made it easier for them because our speed was cut in half. We caught another burst under number two engine. If it was a little higher, well I may not be here to write about it. We didn't get away unscathed though. We got a big hole in the left side of the fuselage under the wing & it knocked the hell out of our radar jammer. Marty was only a few feet from the jammer & the noise of it scared him, he thought it was enemy fighters attacking us so he jumped up into the upper turret. By the time we got out of the flak area we had a nice soupy undercast. By this time, due to only two engines we were down to about 19,000 feet. We couldn't find an opening anywhere. We decided to get rid of the bombs to lighten the ship but we couldn't get the rear doors open so we had to drop them through the doors. Meanwhile we in the waist were busy throwing everything out of the ship we could get our hands on – flak suits, flak helmets, all the ammunition, oxygen bottles, etc…

The pilot decided to try to get down through the undercast but he couldn't, it was just one layer of clouds after another. By this time the Navigator was lost so to speak because he couldn't see the ground. We never knew when a mountain would come into view. We went down to 8,000 ft & still couldn't see the ground. The pilot told us to put on our parachutes & get ready to bail out. We went down to 6,000 ft, but still couldn't see anything. The pilot said we could bail out but he preferred we stayed with the ship. He said we'd go down to 3,000 ft & if he couldn't see anything we'd jump. We did & still couldn't see anything. He was just about to give the order to jump when "wham", there we were out in the clear & right below us was a town & a snow covered field with a few Russian C-47's (American made of course) lined up. I was so happy I almost cried. We circled the field and they fired a flare so I fired all the red flares we had to let them know we were in trouble. They lit a smoke pot on the field to show us the wind direction. We all got into the ditching position & went in for the landing. I've seen Kent land that ship as soft as silk before but that landing was the best, and on a strange "field" & two engines no less. What happened after that is another story that I will tell in person & it's quite a story. I must add though that even though death stared us in the face the crew's conduct as a whole, was superb. No one panicked and they all did as they were told promptly. As for myself personally, I couldn't think of anything but what the effect of my being M.I.A. would have on my wife Emily who was home seven months pregnant, because you see, I love my wife very much.

            TO BE CONTINUED

 

# 7 – Target – Varazdin, Yugoslavia – Bridge over Drava River

            Date – Wednesday March 14, 1945

            Flak – None (Surprising but true)

The target was to be bombed strictly visually because the Russian lines weren't very far away. When we got on the bomb run we found there was an undercast over the target so we went to the first alternate target which was a railroad martialing yard at Pogreska, Yugoslavia. That also was undercast & still no flak so we proceeded to the second alternate. That too was undercast & again no flak. Being we had no target we headed for home & landed with our bomb load which was five one thousand pound bombs. It was strictly a "milk run" but we got credit for it. I wish the twenty eight I have to go are like that one. Psychologically speaking though, it was a perfect mission after being M.I.A. the previous mission. We saw no enemy fighters today & our escort was thirty six P-51's. By the way, that second alternate target was a martialing yard at Zagreb, Yugoslavia.

 

# 8 – Target – Vienna, Austria – Moosbierbaum Oil Refinery

            Date – Thursday March 15, 1945

            Flak – None (Yes, I said NONE, and at Moosbierbaum too)

The target was pretty well destroyed by previous raids but in one corner there was still a refinery working so our mission was to wipe it out. At briefing when we were told that the target was to be Moosbierbaum I got a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach because as you'll remember that is where we were knocked down.

 The Navigator told us we were on the I.P. so we put on our flak suits, parachutes & flak helmets. Then I started throwing out chaf. What seemed like hours but was actually minutes I expected at any moment to hear someone say on the interphone, "Flak at 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock" but none came. My first thought was that the Navigator was wrong when he told us we were on the I.P. But as quick as that thought went through my mind, I heard someone scream over the interphone, "Bombs Away". I looked out the waist window at the ship on our left & a little above us & I saw the bombs spilling out of his bomb bay. As usual, right after "Bombs Away" someone yells over the interphone, "Let's get the hell out of here" & we did because we suddenly made a sharp right turn that knocked me against the side of the ship. I looked out the waist window to see if I could see the bomb hits but I couldn't because there was a lot of clouds. I don't know if we bombed visually or by P.F.F. I really sweated that one out & I still can't believe we go t no flak. We saw no enemy fighters today, thank God.

 

# 9 – Target – Amstettin, Germany – Railroad Martialing Yard

            Date – Tuesday March 20, 1945

            Flak – None (Yep, that's two in a row with no flak)

This target was our first alternate. The primary target was St. Valantine, Germany – Tiger Tank Factory. We ran into some bad weather not far from the primary so they decided to hit our first alternate. At briefing they told us that we probably wouldn't get flak at the primary target but they didn't mention about the alternate. The Navigator told us we were on the I. P. so we did some quick moving putting on our flak suits, flak helmets & parachutes. Usually we put them on before we get to the I. P. We were originally in number ten position in our box but the lead ship had supercharger trouble & had to drop back. We moved up to number seven slot when the lead went out & then to number four slot when the deputy lead went out. I was watching the ship on our right to see his bombs go. The way we bomb is all the Navigators watch the lead ship & when they see his bombs fall everyone releases theirs. It's called, "Saturation Bombing". Today they didn't bomb that way, at least we didn't. As I watched the ship next to us I saw his bombs go & about ten seconds our bombs were dropped. I followed the other ships bombs down as far as I could but I lost them because we made a sharp right turn like we do when there is flak. Boy, did that target get plastered. Our bombs and the ships next to us didn't hit the target though. The reason is the ship in the number four slot let his go when the box in front of us did so we did the same. He thought it was our lead ship dropping them. Our bombs hit about 3,000 yds from the target. The rest of the Squadrons bombs all hit the target because then we got there it was giving off great clouds of smoke & I could see many fires. I counted five fires & it seemed as though every square foot of the target was hit. I thought this was going to be another "milk run" but on the way back to the base we suddenly was surrounded by flak.

There we were with no flak gear on & the damned stuff was getting closer. Parr looked down and saw seven guns shooting at us. What you see is a doughnut and a light winking in the center. The doughnut is the gun emplacement and the winking is the gun firing. We were only at 13,000 ft & I didn't like that a bit. All of a sudden I heard someone yell, "Look, they hit one of our ships". Sure enough there it was. All we could see of it was one of the wings falling & was on fire. It was one of the ships that was flying in a box that was well above us. None of us saw when it was first hit. All we counted was four chutes. We had an escort of P-38's & boy they certainly did a swell job of escorting. They kept going back & forth over us in groups of six. There was thirty of them in all. Oh yes, our bomb load was five one thousand pound bombs. We took off at ten thirty A.M. & landed at five thirty P.M.  We saw no enemy fighters today, thank God.

 

# 10 – Target – Vienna, Austria – Railroad Goodsiding in Southeast Martialing yards.

            Date – Thursday March 22, 1945

            Flak – Heavy – Intense – Very Accurate

This mission I can honestly say was the roughest one I've ever been on. I didn't think we were going to get any flak because we didn't get any at Moosbierbaum which is in Vienna but I was sadly mistaken. I don't know the size of the shell they were throwing at us but it was the biggest flak I & the rest of the guys around here ever saw. It was so accurate that all the ships in my box didn't go over the target. We had ten ships in our box & only five went over, the others salvoed their bombs and scattered all over the sky. We were in number ten slot but we kept right in there & dropped our bombs with the lead.

We started getting flak about two minutes before bombs away & it continued for about two minutes after. It seemed like a lifetime though. I was in the waist all decked out in my flak gear & crouched in a ball on the floor to make myself as small a target as possible. You get the feeling that they are shooting at only you. I didn't see one burst of flak because my flak helmet came down over my eyes & besides I had my head down as far as it would go. God, I was scared. I could hear the flak bursting near by. On other missions I heard one or two bursts but today I lost count. I felt the ship get hit a few times but at the time I wasn't interested in just where we were hit. I prayed today & I mean prayed. After the flak stopped we all came out of our hiding places (Ha-Ha, as if you could find a place to hide up there) to see how bad we were hit. Number four engine had a big hole underneath it & there was a big piece of the cowling hanging down. Why that engine didn't go out is a miracle but it kept right on plowing along. We got a hole about five inches long by one & a half inches wide in the escape hatch on the floor of the waist. It hit about one & a half feet from Parr & I. We also got hits in the command deck, the tail, the rear part of the waist & for all I know a lot more. Parr got the piece of flak that missed us; it was about one & a half inches long & a half inch square. The excitement or should I say fear of that bomb run was plenty for that day but that wasn't the end of it. On the way back we were talking about our experience & looking over the ship for damage when all of a sudden the ship went into a steep left bank. It almost threw us off our feet, and then before we could get our senses to react we were frozen in our tracks from the power dive we were in. Lt. Raab pulled it out from our downward speed of 340 M.P.H. (the ship is rated at 320 M.P.H.) Now he did this all by himself because the co-pilot was back in the waist with us looking at the flak holes. How Lt. Raab pulled the ship out of that dive all by himself is a mystery. Being we were going so fast he couldn't straighten it out so the ship went over on it's back & we fell over. Lt. Raab kept it going over & we did it. Ewing was in the nose turret & he managed to turn his head to look at the wing & he said it was flapping like a bird. We didn't find out what caused it until about ten minutes, we were so frightened we were in shock.

Well it seems the leader of our box  lead us through some bad weather so Lt. Raab decided it was too dangerous flying formation through bad weather so he started going up to get over it. He said as we were going up suddenly another ship was in front of us banking to the right so he racked it over to the left. As soon as we came out of it we all grabbed our chutes & put them on. To tell you the truth I never thought we would pull out of it but Lt. Raab did a beautiful job. When we got back to our base there was a ship cracked up on the runway due to a blown out tire so we had to circle the field for almost an hour. When we landed the pilot told the crew chief what happened & you guessed it, he didn't believe him. The next day the crew chief went to the B.O.Q. to tell the pilot that the main spar in the wings were bent & he found some control cables frayed. He now believes we did a slow roll. AMEN! Marty had the crew chief find the piece of flak that hit us in the number four engine & boy what a piece it was. It was a big gun that fired that shell. I hope in the future I never go on a mission like that again. We saw no enemy fighters today. I'm really surprised we didn't, everything else happened.

 

# 11 – Target – Neuberg, Germany – Jet propelled Airfield

            Date – Saturday March 24, 1945

            Flak – None

This was an easy mission in comparison with that last one. It was the longest one we've been on so far. We were in the air for eight hours and fifteen minutes. Again we were in the number ten slot in our box. Our bomb load was two hundred & sixteen frag bombs in clusters of six. Bombing altitude was twenty one thousand feet & it was only twenty one degrees below zero. The target layed on a huge expanse of flat land just behind the Alp Mountains. We passed a lot of towns on the way up & they all had smoke pots burning. Why, I don't  know but they did. Just before we got to the target we could see Innsbruck about thirty miles away. Our bomb run was a heading of two hundred ninety four degrees & we were the third box to go over the target. At briefing they told us we would likely be hit by enemy fighter today so we all strained our eyes all the way up there. When we were on the I. P. I was looking out the right waist window at the ground when all of a sudden I saw two ME-210's (Jet Propelled) go underneath us about three thousand ft below us. That was the first enemy fighters I had ever seen. I couldn't have been mistaken about their identity because our escorts were P-38's which is very easily identified by their twin tail booms. Well, I watched them until they got out pretty far then they split up, one went toward the nose of our ship and the other went towards the tail. I called them out to Danny & Ewing but they couldn't see them so I had to watch both of them. I damned near went cross eyed trying to watch both at the same time. I was afraid to take my eyes off one of them because I might not have been able to find him again. They both went in opposite directions then cut in towards our ship & went under us again. After that I lost track of them. Why they didn't attack us is beyond me but they may have been trying to draw the P-38's which was above us, away from the formation & while they're keeping the P-38's busy we'd be attacked from the other side by either fighters or jet propelled fighters. If that was the strategy it didn't work.

Bombs away was to 12:14 P.M. & boy, did we plaster that airfield. Those frag bombs are small but they pack a mean wallop. When they are dropped they break out of the cluster & spread out in a wide circle. We weren't the only ones that hit this airfield. In my group alone forty ships hit it & another group hit it before us & I don't know how many more groups came in after us. I never saw so many planes in my life; they were flying in all directions & all altitudes. We had all to do to keep from flying into some of them. When we came off the target we made a left turn that took us near Munich. I don't know what they hit but some groups hit something there that rose clouds of smoke about twelve thousand feet. I could see planes dropping bombs on it that weren't frag bombs because they made huge flashes of flame. The trip back was uneventful. I might add though those Alp Mountains sure are beautiful but I wouldn't want to be forced down in them. I can't say we didn't see any enemy fighters today because we did – two.

 

# 12 – Target – Ground support of 5th Army in Northern Italy

            Date – Monday April 9, 1945

            Flak – Light – Inaccurate

This mission was one of the few that was in direct support of the ground forces. They went to a lot of trouble in preparing this mission. At briefing secrecy was stressed even more than it is on other missions. At briefing they didn't tell us the whole story about the mission. We found out when we got up to the target though. Our bomb load was two hundred sixteen frag bombs in clusters of six. Bombing altitude was twenty thousand feet & the temperature was twenty two degrees below zero. When we came in on the I.P. we could see white markers on the ground that they placed there to separate our lines from the Nazis lines. They put huge arrows on the ground pointing in the direction of the target. They also lit orange smoke pots to help guide us & they also shot up flak. No, not at us, it burst about five thousand feet below us. The Nazis shot flak up too but only a few burst came close to us. After we dropped our bombs we made a sharp left turn. Just as we made the turn I looked out the left waist window & saw a ship going down. It was from my group but not from my box. It wasn't on fire but it looked like one of the vertical stabilizers was shot off. It had its nose pointed down & was spiraling in. We counted three chutes open before it hit the ground. Boy, was I scared. It doesn't do your morale any good when you see a ship get knocked down & only three chutes open. The trip back was uneventful. Our escort was twenty P-51's. We saw no enemy fighters today.    

 

# 13 – Target – Campodazz, Italy – Railroad Bridge in Brenner Pass

            Date – Wednesday April 11, 1945

            Flak – Medium – Moderate – Inaccurate

I was scared even before we took off on this mission. Brenner Pass is still a hot spot, we call it, "Flak Alley". Last mission up there we lost a ship. Bomb load was five one thousand pound bombs. We knew we were going up to Brenner Pass even before we went to briefing, we can tell by the bomb load. If they load frags we are going to hit an airfield, eight five hundred pounders, we are going to hit a Railroad Martialing Yard, five one thousand pounders, a bridge. Right now the only bridges still standing are in Brenner Pass.

Well, we started engines at eight A.M. & took off at eight fifteen. Target time was twelve fifteen P.M. Bombs away was at twelve twenty seven, bombing altitude was 27,000 ft. temperature at bombing altitude was thirty three degrees below zero. We were in box Y-2, the last box in our group. There was flak but it didn't come near us. We had a K-13 camera mounted on the floor, the regular cameraman was sick so I operated the camera. The lead navigator brought us in on the wrong heading & we had to make a three sixty. As soon as we got on the bomb run I started the camera working. I took thirty pictures of the target & on the way back we passed over an enemy airfield with a lot of planes on it so I took eight pictures of it. That was the easiest mission to Brenner Pass that I've ever been on. I thought we'd get the holy hell shot out of us. The trip back was uneventful. Can't say we didn't see any enemy fighters today, we did, on the ground. (That's the best place for them). Our escort was 30 P-38's.

 

# 14 – Target – Bologna, Italy Area – In support of the 5th Army

            Date – Sunday April 15, 1945

            Flak – Heavy – Scant – Inaccurate

The events was practically the same as the last mission we flew in support of the 5th Army only this time we took a different route. We flew overland to Rome, went directly over Rome, then out over the Mediterranean Ocean & flew parallel with the coast. We flew a little ways then cut inland again & passed Florence. Just as we cut inland all the ships opened their bomb bay doors over the water because a malfunction may occur while opening the doors & someone may drop their bombs on our own troops. As we came near the front lines we could see the ground markers & the flak our troops was shooting up to guide us, it was about five thousand feet below us. Also we saw the orange smoke pots they lit. Going in on our bomb run the Nazis shot some flak at us but it was way off. At briefing they told us there was a lot of flak guns up there but before we get there our artillery would knock out those guns & by gosh they did a swell job of it too. We dropped our bombs but couldn't observe our hits because the target area was covered with smoke. We made a sharp left turn & came back almost by the same route only we went further out on the Mediterranean this time. On the way back we passed over the Island of Monte Cristo where in the book the Count was supposedly been exiled to. Our bomb load was sixteen two hundred fifty pound bombs, bombing altitude was 22,000 ft., target time was one forty five P.M. & takoff time was nine forty five. We were in the air seven hours & twenty five minutes. Our escort was twenty four P-51's. We saw no enemy fighters today. Thank God.

 

# 15 – Target – Bologna, Italy – In support of the 5th Army

            Date – Monday April 16, 1945

            Flak – None

This mission was the same as the last one except takeoff time was nine fifteen A.M. & target time was one P.M. Bombing altitude was 21,500 ft & the bomb load was the same. I didn't fly with my crew today. The crew I flew with had no radio operator so I had to fly with them. I got a cluster to my Air Medal today & I earned it. That pilot could use a few more lessons in flying tight formation. Boy, did I sweat out that mission. Lt. Raab put me in for S/Sgt (I hope I get it). We didn't drop our bombs though because the target area was undercast so instead of risking dropping on our own we held them. Ships no. 2 & 6 dropped theirs though. They thought they saw the lead ship drop his so they dropped. They are sure the bombs dropped in enemy territory though. We saw no enemy fighters today. Our escort was again 24 P-51's.

 

# 16 – Target – Bologna, Italy – In support of the 5th Army

            Date – Wednesday April 18, 1945

            Flak – None

This mission was the same as the last one only this time we went up by a different route. Takeoff time was twelve thirty P.M. & target time was for twenty three P.M. Briefing was originally at six thirty A.M. but in the middle of briefing they called it off. Why, we never found out. At ten fifteen they put a notice on the bulletin board saying the mission was on again. Briefing was at eleven A.M. Being we had nothing to eat since five thirty the cooks made up our favorite sandwiches to take with us – Spam (YUK). We sure did plaster the target. Bomb load was ten five hundred pound bombs. Temperature was twenty two degrees below zero & bombing altitude was 21,000 ft. On the way up we passed over Rome again & I saw the Coliseum & Vatican City through powerful binoculars. In fact I saw all of Rome. Coming back we didn't go way out on the Mediterranean as we were supposed to, it would have taken too long. We took a straight course back.  Our escort was twenty P-51's. We saw no enemy fighters today thank God.

 

# 17 – Target – Avisio, Italy – Bridge – Brenner Pass

            Date – Thursday April 19, 1945

            Flak – Medium – Moderate – Accurate

Takeoff time was seven fifteen A.M., target time was eleven forty five A.M., bombing altitude was 24,000 ft, bomb load was eight five hundred pound bombs, temperature was thirty degrees below zero. The route up took us over the fifth Army front but I couldn't see any ground fighting. Saw a lot of bridges over the Po River that were destroyed. When we got to the target it was all covered with smoke from the bomb hits of the 449th B.G. who hit it before us. Our bombs dropped into the smoke. We didn't get any flak until about a minute after bombs away & they really put it up there. Most of it was below us but it was too close for comfort. I could hear it bursting. We got a few bursts out on our left wing but it wasn't close enough to do any damage. One of the tail gunners in my box got a hole in his turret right above his head big enough to put two fists through. A Navigator got hit in the stomach by a big piece of flak but its power was spent & it didn't hurt him. He didn't have a flak suit on either. (I'll bet he wore one every mission after that). On the way back three ME-109's were reported in the area but we didn't see them. Our escort was thirty P-38's. We saw no enemy fighters today thank God.

 

# 18 – Target – Northern Italy – Legnago Road Bridge

            Date – Friday April 20, 1945

            Flak – None

Takeoff time was seven forty five A.M., landed at three forty P.M., bombing altitude was 17,000 ft., bomb load was five one thousand pound bombs, bombs away was at twelve twenty four P.M., temperature was only fifteen below zero. (I had my Bermuda shorts on). The trip up was uneventful. Again I saw a lot of Bridges that were destroyed & a Railroad Martialing Yard that was really plastered. At briefing we were told there would be no flak over the target but we played it safe by gearing up. My Squadron lead the Group & we sure did plaster that Bridge, there was no smoke from other ships bombs to impede our vision. At bombs away I looked down & saw the bombs strike the bridge at both ends & a lot of the bombs were near misses which can do a lot of damage. The box that came in after us missed it by a wide margin. When we were on the bomb run I saw two ME-262's (Jet propelled fighters), I only got a glimpse of them though because they were going like a bat out of hell. They didn't bother us though. The trip back was uneventful also. We were supposed to have an escort of thirty P-51's but all we saw was four of them. We were twenty minutes late in getting to the target because of strong head winds so we missed our rendezvous with the escort. That was a good mission we should have more like that one.

 

# 19 – Target – Marirhof, Austria – Railroad Bridge

            Date – Monday April 23, 1945

            Flak – None

This was another one of those missions that I didn't fly with my crew & again I sweated out the flying of the pilot. This was a different crew than the last time. I don't care what anyone says, no one can fly tight formation better than Lt Raab. They are short of Radio Operators so I guess I'll be doing a lot of sweating. Takeoff time was eight A.M., landing was at two fifty six P.M., bombing altitude was twenty thousand five hundred ft., temperature was twenty eight degrees below zero. Bomb load was five one thousand pound bombs. There was two forces today, Red & Blue. The 720th & 722nd Sqdns was the Red Force & my Sqdn & the 723rd was the Blue Force. Red force took off at seven thirty A.M. & they hit a bridge in the same area we did. At briefing they told us we would get no flak & sure enough we didn't. We passed between flak areas going up & back but the lead navigator did a swell job of guiding us through. We lead the Blue force & once again we chalked up another direct hit for the 721st. Our bombs fell directly on the bridge but through no fault of ours some of the bombs hit the town right near the bridge. In the target area we could see P-38's strafing ground targets & boy they certainly went to town, I saw many fires burning & at one instance I saw what looked like oil storage tanks blow up. We also saw artillery fire from both sides. It seemed strange to look down & see two armies in a death struggle. The trip back was uneventful. Our escort was an undisclosed number of P-28's. We saw no enemy fighters today thank God.

            NOTE: My son, Ray, was born today.

 

# 20 – Target – St. Ambrogio, Northern Italy – Railroad Martialing Yard right next to Lake Garda.

            Date – Tuesday April 24, 1945

            Flak – None

Bombing altitude was twenty six thousand feet, temperature was thirty one degrees below zero, bomb load was ten five hundred pound bombs, takeoff time was seven A.M. & landing was two fifty P.M., bombs away was at twelve thirty six. The trip up was interesting because P-28's once again put on a show for us by strafing ground targets. We had to make a three sixty because another group was just going over the target when we got there. We were told at briefing that we might get some flak but not a burst was seen. I saw those other ships really plaster the target. When we finally dropped our bombs we all craned our necks to see the bombs hit. We saw them O.K. but you know what, we missed the target. Boy, were we mad, having to make a three sixty then missing the target is no buono. The trip back was uneventful. Our escort was supposed to be twenty four P-51's but we only saw eleven. We were late getting to the target due to strong headwinds. We saw no enemy fighters today thank God.

 

# 21 – Target – Linz, Austria – Main Railroad Martialing Yard

            Date – Wednesday April 25, 1945

            Flak – Heavy – Intense – Accurate

Takeoff time was eight A.M., landing was at three thirty five. Bombing altitude was twenty four thousand feet, temperature was thirty four degrees below zero, bomb load was eight five hundred pound bombs. Boy, this was a rough one. They had things screwed up, at least we thought so. The Navigator was told just before takeoff that we were going to hit our first alternate target & not Linz. When we got up in the Munich area I called the Navigator & asked him if we actually were going to hit the first alternate & he said he didn't know, but we were flying the course for the primary. When we got on the I.P. he knew we were going to hit Linz but he couldn't tell us  - the interphone may leak over into the V.H.F. When he told us to put on our flak suits we knew we were hitting Linz. They started throwing up flak about two minutes before bombs away & one minute from bombs away they put it up there thick & fast. Boy, you could almost walk on it. Outside of that last Vienna raid this was the toughest target. Most of them was right under us. I could hear them burst, see the flame in them, & smell them through the oxygen regulator. When they do all this they're close. Every time one would burst the ship would bounce. When I heard, "Bombs Away", all the fear left me because the one fear I have is getting hit in the bomb bay with a full bomb load. Crazy eh? A direct hit in the bomb bay when empty would finish us but that's how I feel. Our breakaway was really something, we broke to the left & then went into a steep dive. For a moment I thought we were hit. It worked swell because we got out of the flak, they couldn't put the fuses in the shells fast enough. We got flak for about one minute after bombs away. The target was covered with smoke so we couldn't observe the results. On the way up I saw a wonderful thing. I saw a bunch of P-51's bombing a martialing yard. Moore was in his ball turret & saw it first & he had a good view. We changed course & then I could see it. I saw a P-51 go over the target in a glide, then he pulled up & about ten seconds later there was a huge orange flame & lots of smoke right in the middle of the target. The other 51's would wait until the smoke cleared then another would go in. After they finished dive bombing they went in & strafed the ground setting many fires. We got a lot of holes in our ship including one right where I usually stand up head high. (Whew) The ship on our right had his radio shot out & a big hole in one of his engines. The ship on our left had his hydraulic system hit. They mixed in some new kind of flak with the regular. The puff it made was white instead of black & when it bursted it threw out hundreds of little phosphorus pellets. The purpose of it is if one of those pellets gets on a gas tank it will burn through &  - - - enough said?? I guess they're getting desperate. The trip back was uneventful. We saw no enemy fighters today thank God.

 

# 21 – Target – Casarsa, Italy – Ammunition Dump

            Date – Thursday April 26, 1945

            Flak – None

Takeoff time was eight A.M., landing was two ten P.M., bombing altitude was twenty one thousand five hundred feet. Bomb load was ten five hundred pound bombs. The trip up was uneventful. When we got to the target there was a thick undercast so we didn't drop our bombs. They say we flew over the target but I don't think we went directly over it because at briefing they told us they had eight to twelve flak guns at the target & we didn't get a burst. They knew we weren't going to drop our bombs but they went into the target area so we would get credit for the mission which we didn't. Our escort was twelve P-51's which flew all around us. One of them scared Ewing in the nose turret. He came in at us with his nose pointing at us. They aren't supposed to do that because a fighter is only a threat to you if he points his nose at you & he might have been a Nazis in that plane. Ewing was just about ready to open fire when he pulled up. The trip back was uneventful. We saw no enemy fighters today thank God.





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