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2nd Lt. Dale F. Robertson
723rd Squadron



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



Enjoying R&R at an Italian rest Camp



Enjoying R&R at an Italian rest Camp

Summary Dale F. Robertson Missions Navigator of the Tung Hoy 723rd Squadron

 

1. 30 Flights made into enemy territory

2. 40 Missions credited

3. 14 German Fighters shot down by crew

4. 16 Good hits on targets

5. 9 Poor hits on targets

6. 5 Fish

7. 6 1000# Demolition bombs dropped

8. 282 500# Demolition bombs dropped

9. 48 100# Demolition bombs dropped

10. 480 Fragmentation bombs dropped

11. 100 hours 45 minutes, training flight hours in Alamogordo, New Mexico

12. 67 hours 15 minutes, flight time, Alamogordo to Manduria, Italy

13. 226 hours flight time from Manduria to missions and return

14. March 30, 1944, Sofia, Bulgaria our most precarious mission

15. Densest flak areas: Regensburg, Germany Vienna, Austria Ploesti & Bucharest, Rumania Sofia, Bulgaria Bolzano, Italy

 

** The notes in parenthesis were added by Pat Barbati, pilot of the Tung Hoy, after reading Dale Robertson's summary of their missions.

 

Pilots, Gunners, Radiomen, Bombardiers, Navigators and Ground Crew Personnel from their training schools et al, assembled in Alamogordo, New Mexico, September 18, 1943 and the 450th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was formed and in business. My training as Navigator had been accomplished at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas and San Marcos Air Force Base, Texas, with a commission of Second Lieutenant, Navigator. Our crew as assigned at Alamogordo was to the 723rd Squadron.

 

First Pilot, John Lane, 2nd Lt.

Co-pilot, Robert Zink, 2nd Lt.

Bombardier, Chris Dalgish, 2nd Lt.

Navigator, Dale Robertson, 2nd Lt.

Engineer, Top Gun, LeRoy Adams, Sgt.

Radio, Waist Gun, John Tierney, Sgt.

Waist Gunner, Jim Keleshain, Sgt.

Nose Gunner, Edward Macafee, Sgt.

Ball (Bottom) Gun, William Campbell, Sgt.

Tail Gunner, Vernon D. Hasley, Sgt.

 

This crew flew 100 hours, 45 minutes of practice time between September 22, 1943, and November 12, 1943. Of that time, two whole hours were devoted to Navigation. It was a night flight on October 16th, the assignment was for a triangular pattern from Alamogordo to Albuquerque, New Mexico to San Antonio, Texas to El Paso, Texas, and back up toward Albuquerque landing at Alamogordo. This was all well and good except at flight altitude over Alamogordo, one can see the city lights of all three points of the designated triangle. It was a joke for a mission. It appeared that the group and squadron commanders (all pilots) and pilots thought a Navigator's purpose aboard ship was ballast. Such opinion was held until the time that radio compasses became non-usable and expanses of jungle, water and sand became too large to see across.

(I did not feel that way. I depended on them on every flight we made together)!!!!!!!!

 

On November 21, 1943 the 450th left Alamogordo enroute to fly to the European Theater of War Operations. The crews were to fly individually according to schedule. The first leg was to Harrington, Kansas, where the B-24s were checked and serviced and all necessary equipment was replaced and/or issued to crew members. The weather was clear in New Mexico but turned to bad and stormy in Kansas. Herington was not a plush base to stay in however, later situations made it look pretty good. The flight was by pilot navigation via radio compass. Flight time was 4 hours. Kansas was a dry state so booze was an unknown there.

On November 25th we flew from Kansas to Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida. Take off weather was cold, snowy and windy. Planes ran off runways consequently much delay was experienced. Our trip down revealed a bug in a motor. On landing we took off again with a couple of engineers on board, flew around awhile and on landing they fixed that which was ailing. Total flight time 9 hours 15 minutes. All navigation by pilot radio compass. The weather in West Palm Beach was balmy and warm. The crews were restricted to base. Zink and I learned of a way to get into town so we did. We came back right through the front gate. The MP's raised a question or two but we just walked on in. It would have been a shame if we'd missed the evening.

On November 27th we flew to Borinquen Field, Porto Rico. Flight time was 5 hours and 30 minutes. It is a beautiful place. The trees, the base, the weather and the bluest ocean in the world. Zink and I learned the meaning of the term "Demon Rum" and were glad for the subsequent day's delay before continuing on our trek. As usual the navigation done was by pilot radio compass.

November 29th took us to South America. A 6 hour 45 minute flight landed us at Atkinson Field, Georgetown British Guiana. The flight was a new experience mostly over water, a bit scary but a thrill. The plane preformed fine. Lane navigated by radio compass. I "follow" navigated as usual and came out well on my calculations. The weather was great. I remember Georgetown for the new and different fruits at mess and for one huge smell of the area. Information was that "iron trees" were issuing the smell.

The next day, November 30th, found us airborne and enroute to Belem, Brazil. About two hours out of Georgetown, heading southeasterly, it dawned on Lane that there was no radio compass beaming out of Belem. The plane was on automatic pilot and no one in the cockpit had monitored the flight. For the first time since assembling the 450th, Lane asked me if I knew where we were. I had been reckoning tentatively because we were flying over terrain that rivaled "just water" for oneness. The ground below was generally flat and totally covered by green growth. There were no visible rivers or mountain features. It was most uninviting for landing. Inattention to business, and alien land, no recognizable features, and no radio compass, Lane was confused and excited. I told him we had left all recognizable landmarks so an exact location determination was questionable. He stewed around. He ordered the gunners to stations to sight on land features and they couldn't find any. In time we crossed the Amazon River as calculated and I suggested a new course of flight to Lane. Belem had a weak radio compass beam so I also suggested that Lane now try his luck with them. He turned it on, pick up signal right on course, and he was as happy as a lark. Best of all he got a hint of what the navigator does and is supposed to do. Flight time 5 hours 45 minutes.

December 1, 1943, found us enroute to Natal, Brazil, our last leg on the Americas side of the Atlantic. It took 6 hours 15 minutes across another stretch of pure green covered earth. There was no radio compass again except for the last hour of flight. The pilots kept checking with me on this leg to make sure I was still working. I pulled no "funnies" today. Lane took my suggestions today regarding course and preformed a lot better. We lay over in Natal. A few plane bugs were checked and corrected. In our individual ways the whole crew was sitting out the next leg across the Atlantic Ocean.

December 3, 1943 found us flying east with nothing except water showing for 360 degrees around us. It took 10 hours 30 minutes to cross the Atlantic from Natal, Brazil to Eknes Field Dakar, Senegal in Africa. On this leg I had them (crew) all the way and there was no other option. Radio beams were silent except the last 100 miles into Dakar. To assure correctness for calculation to know which side of the straight line between Natal and Dakar that we were flying, I started us off on a course two degrees off course to the right side. Concern was that winds over the Atlantic could push us either left or right (hard to read drift on water waves) and effect a margin of doubt as to where we were. By starting off course to the right I was assured that we would remain right. This proved true because at an estimated 100 miles out of Dakar we took a corrected course. The weak radio beam said we were right on course and we flew right in straight as a string. The landing in Dakar was an experience. The runway was flat, metal slats, bumps, noise, swerving all were there. The navigator is now a part of the crew. The natives, their huts, the Vichy French, the funny trees and shrubs, the wild town made this a memorable stay.

December 10th, we have been in Dakar for a week so we are ready for the 7 hour 45 minute flight to Casablanca, Morocco. The course is across the Sahara Desert and over the Atlas Mountains. After crossing the jungles of South America, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and now the desert and mountains of western Africa we each found his way to talk nicely to the plane's four engines. For certain they were to be our salvation for our life's longevity. We landed in Casablanca to find another plane back-up as there was in Dakar. Poor weather in England and Italy was hampering an even flow of planes into those areas; hence, places like Casablanca were jammed. After the 7 hour 45 minute flight it appeared that a considerable wait was again in order. It actually lasted one week. This was in the war zone so guards had to stay on the plane over night and day. The night watch carried a strict warning "don't get out of the plane." Adams and Tierney drew the first night watch and found out what the warning meant. They found a bottle of booze that had been stashed and in its after glow Tierney got out of the plane to cool off, stretch and wander a bit. He ran right into a big Senegal soldier big knife, red fez, barefoot and all. These guys were the field's outside guards and were looking for something to stick with those big knives. Tierney got off lucky although he lost his purloined booze buzz. For the rest of our visit there, the interior guards stayed on the inside. Casablanca was a good town for sights and fun. Bill Conklin and I tried to get into the Madina (pure Arab walled town) part of the city. The MP guards stopped us and said it's a "No No". Why was asked. "If you go in, you probably won't come out." Other things immediately became more attractive.

The next leg was from Casablanca to Chateau Dun De Rhumme, Algeria. It was a 6 hour flight on December 17th. What a place and we were to be stuck there for two more days. Primitive, cold, cloudy, rainy. We were in tents on the sands and the rations were broken out for the first time. No heat, no warm water, poor toilet facilities, dirty. This was the low point of the trip over. Someone coined the bright idea that a No.10 can filled with sand and then saturated with gasoline, would be a good source of heat for a tent. In two tents they blew up and burned everything. Ours didn't explode but everything came out black, soot covered. This included all humans there in. What a mess. We appropriated an English lorry and made a trip to Constantine. The lorry turned out to be lightless, we'd forgotten this war zone stuff. The trip at night back to our camp is memorable and one not to be copied.

On the evening of December 19th, Colonel Mills (450th C.O.) called a briefing of the crews. We were going into our permanent war base tomorrow, December 20th, 1943. The individual flights were over, from here on it was formation flying only. He announced that he wanted a perfect group formation with all four squadrons. He wanted to show those already at the base in Manduria, Italy how a formation should fly. The planes took off, crossed the Mediterranean Sea, slid past Sicily and flew onto the heel of Italy. Heading into Manduria everything was beautiful. The planes were in tight; the squadrons were correctly in place. We were the saviors coming to destroy the enemy. Then it happened. The 98th Group came home from a mission just as we flew over to salute the field. The 98th came in as ones, twos, threes. They landed crosswind, downwind & upwind. They shot flares and flew right through our beautiful formation. We scattered, cussed and finally landed. "What the hell is the matter with those clowns?" It wasn't too many days until we were to find out shot-up planes, crippled and dead crewmen, shortage of fuel. War. We were home. Flight time 5 hours 30 minutes.

Manduria, Italy Airbase is in a flat rocky area with a group of board barracks and buildings commingled with tents for facilities. The base is surrounded by small rocky farms, vineyards, olive groves, small rocky hills and much barren area. Forming in the area is very crude. These people are poor. Manduria at first was not particularly attractive but in later days it came to look wonderful.

On December 23rd and 28th practice formation flights of 2 hours 15 minutes and 3 hours 15 minutes were held. Captain Miller, 723rd Squadron C.O. was not too happy over these flights and chewed on the pilots. He personally met with Navigators and Bombardiers to assure each of them of the team work expected for mission successes. He made each feel that he was important. Miller was a great person and a good commanding officer.

 

Mission No. 1. Mostar, Yugoslavia. Target: Airfield

January 8, 1944 Flight Time: 4 hours Load: 10-500# Demolition

Pilot: Lane

 

On 1-8-44 the 450th Bomb Group (H) went to war. A mix up in the lead fowled the mission. We dropped on an airfield across the river and two miles away from the designated target. The flak was heavy. We had a good P-38 escort. The bombed target was hit only fair. Pilot Lane lost control of our plane over the drop site. Our bombs flew in every direction on release due to the plane's erratic movements. He issued intercom warning to be ready for bail-out. Plane control was regained and we flew home behind the group. There was no damage to our ship Tung Hoy, named by Adams, our artist. Zink stabilized the craft and kept it from stalling out.

 

(Not true Lt Benz, our 2nd Co-pilot named our plane)!!!!!!!

 

Mission No. 2. Perugia, Italy. Target: Airbase Personnel

January 13, 1944 Flight Time: 5 hours 55 Minutes Load: 120 Frag Bombs

Pilot Lane

 

The flak was light. We were jumped by ME-109's but they weren't serious. Visibility at target was poor so bomb results not too good our guns aren't all working. A turn off the target by lead crowded our squadron out of group's formation. Captain Miller was leading our squadron so he went on a sight seeing trip home. We flew around Italy and home without incident we were without escort. The C.O. relieved Lane as our pilot and assigned Lt. Tom Miller for a temporary term (Tom was in operations) until another pilot was permanently assigned.

 

Mission No. 3. Prato, Italy. Target: Airfield Load: 10-500# Demo

January 15, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 45 minutes

Pilot: Lt. Gernand (In operations, Miller out for today)

 

Lt. Gernand is a good pilot. He had crossed the ocean as a passenger on our ship. Colonel Mills lead the group and the mission was completely screwed up. First the lead flew too slow and then too fast. Erratic turning whipped the 723rd squadron clear out of formation. We never did get to the target. The 723rd came home alone and away from the other squadrons. We saw some JU-88's but they left us alone. The P-38 escort left us too. We didn't accomplish one damn thing. We dropped our bombs on the fish in the Tyrrhenian Sea and went sight seeing via Corsica, Rome, Naples, Mt. Vesuvius. One of these days a bunch of ME-109's will find us if we don't cut out this solo squadron crap.

 

January 25, 1944 2 hours flight time. Scheduled for trip to Toulon, France area. Called back due to weather.

 

January 26, 1944 2 hours 15 minutes. Scheduled for trip to southern France. Called back due to weather.

 

Mission No. 4. Istre LeTube, France. Target: Airfield

January 27, 1944 Flight Time: 9 hours 15 minutes. Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Lt. Tom Miller

 

Several groups of heavys made this trip. The 450th was escorted by P-28's. the route was over the Isle of Capri, to Corsica and over the sea to France. About an hour out from target our No. 4 engine stopped completely and we had to drop out of formation. We took a course back over the route that we had used up. We were all alone without escort in sight. Enroute home the fish caught our bombs. Reports of the mission was lots of flak and a good hit. One plane of 720th squadron lost. The Anzio landing is in progress, the sea is filled with boats.

 

Mission No. 5. Siena, Italy. Target: Railroad Marshalling Yard

January 29, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours Load: 10-500# Demolition

Pilot: Lt. Tom Miller

 

We took a circuitous route to target up the Adriatic Sea, crossed over Italy (westerly) and down Italy's west side. All guns of our plane worked for a change. Our escort of P-38's was thick in the sky but no German fighters showed. The target was generally covered by clouds but they shot up lotsa flak right through it. We dropped our load on an estimate basis through the clouds hoping to jar something. This was a better idea than fishing again. One of our planes was flak hit and the crew bailed out over Manduria and the pilot crashed her in a Lecce Field. Lecce has a surfaced runway. They walked away from it. Our trip home from target reversed our target in course. The P-38's hovered all the way. It appeared that the 450th was bait to get some action for our escort.

 

Mission No. 6. Udine Campformida, Italy Target: Airfield

January 30, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 45 minutes Load: 120 Fragmentation

 

Our route was up the Adriatic Sea to the target. The mission is really to hit hangers, planes, barracks and people. This route always carries the unknowns and knowns, the good and the bad. Over water there are no flak surprises. The English Air-Sea rescue boats are efficient and Tito-land is to the east should one get into trouble. But then the German fighters are always on the move. They can be thick or thin. It's never a sure thing. We had a good P-38 escort both in and out of target. The flak was heavy at target. The 450th formation was good and we hit the target with a very effective pattern. The ME-109's attack off the target was wild for awhile, but our guns held them at bay and the P-38's kept them off us. Three ME-109's were seen to go down. Our 720th Squadron C.O. was hit badly by flak and he died at home on January 31st. This is our best mission; the first one that our Group did what it flew clear over here to do bomb the hell out of targets.

 

February 2, 1944.

We took off for Budapest, Hungary. Over the Adriatic we were called back due to weather over the target area. No mission credit. Flight time logged was 3 hours.

 

Mission No. 7. Pantasieve, Italy. Target: Railroad Marshalling Yard

February 3, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 30 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Lt. Miller

 

We carry demolition because we are after the rail center. There is no escort for this one. The flak at target was not heavy. One lucky shot exploded just beneath our plane and the immediate effect was the loss of our generator. Consequently our warm suits weren't warm. Everyone was cold, cold, cold. The thermometer said -40F. The explosion also scared hell out of Campbell in the ball turret. We dropped on a factory (???) at Avezzano, Italy but hit the hill along side mostly. Chris was mad about mission. On landing at Manduria a tire blew; we ran off the runway and stopped. We walked away and left the tire for "AAA" to fix.

 

Mission No. 8. Toulon, France. Target: Submarine Pens

February 4, 1944 Flight Time: 5 hours 45 minutes. Load: 6-1000# Demolition

Pilot: Lt. Miller

 

We crossed the Italian coast in the Naples area and headed north toward Corsica enroute to south France. The Tyrrhenian Sea was solidly covered underneath us with clouds and report was received by Colonel Mills who was leading that the target was also covered with clouds. I always track the leader's course quite closely so as to know where we were should need occur that we had to head home. About of the way to Corsica the compass started moving and the Group turned 90 degrees east. A lot of planes in our Group were surprised when flak started coming at us through the clouds below. They thought we were still over water. Actually we were just north of Rome. We had no escort. The exploding flak had red smoke, the only time we ever saw other than black. The Group dropped on an estimated target (through clouds) at Celano, Italy. I bet those 1000 pounders loosened all the teeth fillings in the area. We crossed on over Italy to the Adriatic and south to home base. It's snowy, rainy, cold and wintry in "sunny" Italy.

 

Mission No. 9. Vitero, Italy. Target: Airfield

February 8, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 35 minutes Load: Fragmentation (120)

Pilot: Lt. Miller

 

We hate fragment and incendiary bombs. When they leave the bomb bay they fly around like a bunch of broom sticks. We are after buildings and people. We have no escort and we saw no enemy fighters. There was no flak. Our ship's guns are faulty on testing. I wish to hell they'd get 'em fixed. Winter showed to be all over Italy. At target lead turned too short at I.P., the 723rd was on the outside and was pushed completely off the target. The 723rd held its bombs and later dropped them on an airfield at Bolsena, Italy, with good coverage. Chris was excited over the pattern. The trip home was a ride in the park.

 

Mission No. 10. Verona, Italy. Target: Railroad Marshalling Yard

February 14, 1944 Flight Time: 8 hours Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Lt. Miller

 

Zink tells me that since Tom Miller was assigned to us as temporary pilot that he (Zink) has landed after each mission. Good man-Miller. After sitting around for days waiting for the weather to get better we took off thinking it might be just another alert or false start. It is cloudy and cold in Manduria. It was extremely cold at altitude (22,000') -60F. By the time we reached the target our warm suits barely did their job the guns were all iced. Planes were easily seen due to vapor trails. Our escort was P-38's. Some ME-109's prowled but the P-38's kept them at a distance. BLESS THE P-38'S! Enroute to target 16 of the 40 planes from our Group dropped out and returned home due to faulty plane functioning. Cold??? The target was partially covered by clouds and the barrage of flak was very heavy and accurately placed. The lead shoved us off target but we dropped on the RR station to the right of the marshalling yard. Chris was happy, claiming our bombs went right into the station. Off the target our Squadron lost the Ricky crew. None bailed out. This is a nasty game.

 

Mission No. 11. Pontessieve, Italy. Target: Railroad Marshalling Yard

February 16, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 30 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Lt. Tom Miller

 

The flight route was up the Adriatic, across Italy westerly and back down the Tyrrhenian to target. Most of the trip was just above a high, heavy cloud layer. It cleared over target and a good hit resulted. Our guns and turrets still act up. Lucky for us there were no enemy fighters. We had no escort. There was no flak. Off target our No. 1 engine acted up and leaked gas. Pilots feathered and we flew home on three. The flight leader told Miller to get out front of the Group and lead it home so they could keep an eye on their cripple. We set course and came in like a homing pigeon.

 

February 21, 1944.

The 450th headed for Regensburg, Germany but was called back due to weather at target. We had 1 hour 50 minutes flight time.

 

Mission 12 & 13. Regensburg, Germany Target: ME-109 Factory

February 22, 1944 Flight Time: 8 hours 30 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Lt. Tom Miller

 

This is our first trip over the Alps into Germany. The 723rd left Manduria with 9 ships. Of these 6 dropped out claming engine trouble, etal. This left only three to go over target and only two came back. Tung Hoy was lucky. There were eight Groups on this mission with lots of escort so the sky was filled with planes. Lt. Nillson led our squadron and we were on his right. It was very cold. The 450th missed rendezvous with escort so actually went into target alone. The flak was terrible fast, thick and accurate. Over target we actually flew through a black cloud. Nillson was hit coming off an accurate, effective bomb run.

Off the target ME-109's, FW-190's and JU-88's (shot rockets) attacked in force. It was a running fight. We thought we had it made; we crossed the Alps with Nillson still nursing his plane. Then here they came again for another 30 minute scrimmage. We were still on Nillson's right when he lost two engines. He fell out, lost altitude and the fighters got him. The 450th lost 5 planes and claimed 17 German fighters. Hasley and Campbell were credited with one each. That night Major Miller, 723rd C.O. held a meeting of the crews. Nillson was his close friend. Miller ate ass. He told the Squadron that we were going back up tomorrow. He was going to lead and if a plane had only three motors left, he expected that plane to stay in formation and go over the target. NO TURNING BACK. All guns of the formation are needed at Regensburg. He wasn't angry he was mad as hell. The 450th received a Presidential Citation for this double mission.

 

Mission 14 & 15. Steyr, Austria Target: Ball Bearing Factory

February 23, 1944 Flight Time: 7 hours 15 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Hello Lt. Pat Barbati

 

From here on you are ours "Tung Hoy" (name given to our plane). Hasley isn't flying today due to frost bite from yesterday's raid. I didn't note the name of his substitute. Barbati starts with us under a bad luck hazard. The plane took a beating yesterday and on take off he lost the supercharger of #2 engine. We therefore lagged behind our Group until I began to wonder. We certainly didn't want to go over this target alone and Major Miller's wrath still rang in our ears. Pat and Zink poured it on and we finally caught the Group over northern Yugoslavia and pulled into our position in the Squadron. The flak was even worse than yesterday; it was the heaviest we'd see. The German fighters were wild men. They attacked before, over and after target. This is the first time they attacked right through the flak cloud. The war had gotten serious. The 450th hit on target was a good one. Major Miller with the Whitney crew took a direct flak hit and they exploded. Not nice to watch. This was our worst raid to date. The 450th lost 7 bombers (723rd lost 2 in air and one on the ground). The ground loss was an explosion at landing. Off target the MEA-109's were vigorous. The 450th claimed 37 shot down by gunners. Finally on the return trip the P-38 escort arrived and engaged the German fighters. One crippled B-24 fell out of the 450th top squadron formation and was heading right down into Tung Hoy. Pat couldn't see it but Zink shoved the controls forward. The crippled swished right over the top of our heads. The cripple finally limped home. GOOD PILOTS. WELCOME PAT.

 

(I was co-pilot to Whitney for the previous 11 missions. This was my first with my own crew! This was one lucky day for me!! But for the grace of God, I would have been a goner!!)

 

Mission No. 16. Certaldo, Italy Target: Marshalling Yard

March 7, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 45 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

We fly a new plane today; old Tung Hoy is still getting repairs from the February 23rd shoot out at Steyr, Austria. We have a new co-pilot today; Zink was promoted to 1st Pilot of his own crew. Our new guy is Lt. Ralph Benz. The pilots and gunners are finding many bugs in this plane. The guns and turrets aren't good. The bomb rack has a broken rod. Lucky for us the mission is a milk run. No fighters, no flak, no escort. The Group slammed the target well. We couldn't drop because of the rod. Chris was peed. On our way home he toggled into the big fish pond. This beats hell out of going to Regensburg and Steyr.

 

March 8 -16, 1944 THE WHOLE CREW WENT TO REST CAMP AT SANTO CESARIO, ITALY.

 

Mission 17 & 18. Schwechat, Austria Target: Aircraft Parts Factory

March 17, 1944 Flight time: 7 hours 45 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Pat Barbati

Today Pat Barbati promoted to 1st Lt. Tung Hoy is back on line. Several Groups are going to the Vienna area. We have good P-38 escort. Completely undercast for the whole trip. No enemy fighters, no flak. We can't see the target. Other Groups turn back. The 450th goes on to Vienna. We dropped through the clouds on estimated target. Effects on what are unknown. This was a long oxygen trip and very cold. A bomber in another Squadron crashed on landing. Bad. I am surprised we received double mission credit for this trip; maybe one is for Pat's promotion.

 

Mission No. 19. Lavariana, Italy Target: New Airfield

March 18, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 15 minutes Load: Fragmentation Bombs

Pilot: Barbati

 

We are after planes, buildings and people. We have no escort. No enemy fighters show. Our pattern on target was perfect. They threw up a lot of flak but we escaped with little or no damage. Enroute we flew just south of Venice over Porto Tolle (at mouth of Po River). Several vessels were in port and they threw up some flak. It wasn't even close. On landing at home one bomber crashed. It was reported that the crew walked away.

 

March 23, 1944

We were scheduled to fly to Dresden, Germany. That is away to hell up there and we were briefed that we'd probably have to bail out over Yugoslavia on the way home. Maps were issued for our survival kits to show areas controlled by Tito. We were to head for those areas. Major Davis of the 721st Squadron was scheduled in his turn to lead the Group. Mills pulled rank to take his place. Best thing anyone could figure was that the "Big Generals" had a party, got to betting. Probably Twining said that the 450th could get to Dresden and back; and the bet was on. We got up over the Adriatic and they called us back. "Gee Whiz." Flight time 1 hour and 45 minutes.

 

Mission No. 20. Steyr, Austria Target: Plane Parts Factory

March 24, 1944 Flight Time: 5 hours 15 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

Here we go again. But before we crossed the Alps the weatherman called us back. The whole area under us was socked in solid with clouds. The formation was all fowled up so it's just as well that we didn't get Germany/Austria. The first Boo-Boo was missing rendezvous with escort. The lead flew us into a high cloud bank. Talk about fear. We couldn't see a plane up, down, left, right ahead or behind. Pat gave all engines the gun and pulled us up and out on top of the clouds. It seemed to take forever and we kept hoping we wouldn't hit anyone. Wonder is that the whole group didn't pile up. Planes scattered in all directions and we saw them popping up in wide array. Two 721st planes did ram and were lost. We were over north Yugoslavia. We took a course to the middle of the Adriatic, dropped our bombs on the fish and went home alone. The 722nd Squadron had regrouped once out of Yugoslavia and on their own flew over north Italy, unescorted, to find a target. They found one German Fighters - shot down three

B-24's. So much for these sight-seeing tours and unescorted Squadron flights. "Tung Hoy" had been reported missing. War is an odd game.

 

Mission No. 21 & 22. Bolzano, Italy Target: Marshalling Yard

March 29, 1944 Flight Time: 7 hours 15 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

This target is the main rail line between Germany & Italy, near the Brenner Pass and at a high elevation. There is a P-38 escort into target. We take a route to Capri, thence north up Tyrrhenian Sea and inland. We count for Bomb Groups in the area. The 450th is the second wave over target. Flak was heavy and accurate. Several burs are right in front of us. We found the I.P. but Chris is having trouble on bombsight. The flak is bouncing the plane around. The first wave hit the target and we dropped right on top of the smoke and fire already there. Pictures showed the yard was destroyed. No enemy fighters got to us. BLESSED ARE THE P-38, THE PRETTIEST AIRCRAFT EVER MADE. We came home full of holes but with no serious damage. Pictures showed a water line rupture with water spurting high into the air. Macafee was right on again today. I've checked him several times. How he knows altitude without instruments is a mystery. Always at about 10,000' off comes his oxygen mask and he lights a cigarette. The smell drifts clear back to Hasley. It's the crew's signal to go off oxygen.

 

Mission No. 23. Sofia, Bulgaria Target: Airfield and Marshalling Yard

March 30, 1944 Flight Time: 5 hours 25 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

This is a Multi-Group, 15th Air Force participation. The escort is P-38 in and off the target with P-51 over. The route in gave no trouble, the I.P. was sighted and the bomb run clearly showed the target. The 450th hit the target well. Flak was very intense, accurate and long lasting. We fly #3 in the 723rd today and our No. 6 plane was hit. It lost control and crashed. Our plane sustained three or four bursts (close, just below, in front) as we dropped. Our No. 2 engine was knocked out and all superchargers were damaged. Only one engine was operating close to satisfactory. The bomb sight and panel were badly hit. And Chris was hit in the left shoulder. His flight suit and heat suit showed a hole at his side. I thought he had taken one in the gut but it turned out to be a near miss. We had lost our hydraulics, radio, intercom and electric power. The bomb bay was damaged, wouldn't close, and three bombs were hung up. Hydraulic fluid was everywhere. It is a red color so my first thought was that everyone was bleeding. A fire broke out in the cockpit. Adams and Macafee were flak hit but in such a way as not to break skin.

It was a busy time on the old Tung Hoy. Barbati fought the engines to keep enough speed so that we wouldn't stall out. Benz helped Barbati and found time to put out their fire. Macafee said his guns still worked manually so he stayed in the nose. Hasley got out of the tail turret and manually cranked up Campbell out of the ball. Adams, Campbell and Hasley manually toggled out the three hung bombs and cranked the bomb bay doors shut. A slick mess in the hydraulic fluids. I patched up Chris and shot him full of morphine. It was a relief when it was evident that he wasn't gut shot. I checked my chart for a course home and in the process discovered that a big hunk of flak had entered the plane from below, had hit right between Chris's spread legs as he had kneeled over the bomb site and had knocked a big hole in my table where I normally worked. I must have been standing on the ammo boxes and looking out the top window at the time and before all the excitement started. It is to be noted that on all bomb runs thereafter, I sat on my war helmet instead of wearing it on my head. The "Jewels".

I crawled up to the pilots to give a course for Italy and crawled back down to the nose and to keep tab on Chris. Of course, through all this we had lost power and had dropped out of the formation. Pat and Benz had their hands full to keep us afloat. We lagged way back and way below the 450th formation. The FW-190's (3) jumped us. Our turrets were out but the gunners kept shooting manually. Hasley back in the tail shot down a bandit, but we all thought that our time had come. Communications in the plane was difficult and with hydraulic fluid everywhere, travel about the plane was a slick mess. Chris was resting, the gunners were fighting, the pilots were struggling. The job of messenger became mine. Barbati said, "Tell everyone to chute-up because with much more of this FW-190 stuff, we'll jump." A trip to the back, a trip to the front, a check on Chris and back to the cockpit.

Our Group was out of sight but the FW-190's weren't. Then the old Tom Mix melodrama occurred. Cartwright of our Squadron had called the escort and asked them to go back and check on us. Out of the blue came six P-38's and ran the bandits away. Talk about feelings of relief and gratitude we had them all. Pat and Benz kept nursing the engines, I found us on the maps and we set course for Manduria. Crossing the Adriatic caused a little sweat in concern that one more motor would konk out. The Italian soil was a happy sight.

Adams, Campbell and Hasley lowered the wheels manually. We have no flaps, and we couldn't tell if the tires were flat. Barbati said he'd make one pass over the field and anyone who wanted to jump could do it then; he was going to land afterward. All elected to ride it out. Adams shot some flares to alert the medics and fire trucks. Adams got up into the cockpit with the pilots to land and the rest of us got into the tail compartment. We were hoping a shift of our weight at landing would drag the tail on the ground. The plane hit the runway at full speed (no flaps) and our weight didn't put the tail down. In desperation Barbati gave a final and mighty shove on the brakes and enough fluid was there to catch and he and Benz got us stopped, about 50 feet from the end of the runway. We got out, loaded Chris on the meat wagon, kissed old Tung Hoy on its broken nose and thankfully walked away. Thanks to a damned good crew and six P-38's and Lt. Cartwright we had made it. Tung Hoy will be weeks in repair.

 

(We had dropped to 3,000 feet - Cartwright slowed his flight so that we could catch up we regained some altitude to about 7 or 8,000 feet, enough to clear the mountains of Yugoslavia)

 

Mission No. 24 & 25. Bucharest, Rumania Target: Marshalling Yard

April 4, 1944 Flight Time: 7 hours 45 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

We fly a new plane today with a new bombardier, a Captain Jefferson. Ol' Tung Hoy and Chris are in the hospital after that Sofia, Bulgaria fiasco. We had a delay in take off due to ground fog. There is a good P-38 escort into target. We crossed the Danube River and followed a railroad track to I.P. and on into the target. Visibility was good. Before the I.P. it was discovered that our new Bombardier had forgotten to remove the pins from our bombs so Tierney crawled into the bomb bay and did it for him. At I.P. we discovered that several 15th Groups were in the area. Smoke was thick from hits on targets. Flak was very heavy but not effective. Today bundles of shredded tinfoil (called window) was thrown out of B-24's from I.P. to target. It causes the radar firing flak bombs to explode early hence they never reach up to the Bombers. This is a first and a delight to see its effectiveness. We lost no ships and our escort kept the enemy fighters busy. The target was efficiently hit. On trip home a B-17 cuddled up to our formation. Stories of Germans flying U.S. planes immediately created concern. The P-38 shoved the B-17 out by itself. We didn't learn the particulars of its outcome. I've often wondered if that B-17 pilot realized just how many guns were trained on him.

Footnote: Pat received "Distinguished Flying Cross"!!!!

 

Mission No. 26 & 27. Ploesti, Rumania Target: Oil Refinery

April 5, 1944 Flight Time: 7 hours Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

Captain Jefferson is our Bombardier. On take off the Israel's ship of our Squadron blew up, no survivors. It was eerie to take off right over the top of a burning plane. Our escort to target did not show up. The course to I.P. was down a railroad track full of cars loaded with "88" rifles. We were under flak attack for about 30 minutes. We dumped "window". It was effective but not totally so. Much flak got through the window and reached our formation height. The FW-190's and ME-109's attacked in a very persistent and vicious manner. The running fight in, over and out of target lasted for about 40 minutes. Today's fight was a very tiring, scary, and seemingly non-ending experience. The FW-190's flew after us right into the flak. Damn good formation flying by the pilots saved lots of lives as did effective gunners.

The 723rd lost the lead ship and crew. Three ships from the other Squadrons were seen to go down. Our ships guns were somewhat faulty but the boys made 'em work and fought. Tierney, Macafee and Keleshian were each credited with a fighter kill. This now totals eleven for our crew. We took a hit in No. 3 engine and Pat feathered it. No complications set in on the trip home. This was Campbell's last mission. He has orders back to the U.S. of A. to be an instructor for replacement gunners.

 

Mission No. 28. Sofia, Bulgaria Target: Airfield

April 7, 1944 Flight Time: 5 hours 45 minutes Load: 48-100# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

Chris is back to the bombsight. He's jittery because Sofia wasn't too nice last time we ere there. We have a new waist gunner, Sgt. Barch. Hasley is in the ball, Keleshain is in the tail. At least five groups are on this mission to Sofia. We have a P-51 escort. From I.P. to target "window" was dropped with good results. The flak burst below us. Thank you "window" because they really pitched a bunch of stuff up our way. We didn't get one flak hole in the ship. The target was hit with a good pattern. There was no trouble with enemy fighters, saw some but P-51's can shoot any German out of the sky and do just that. No planes from our Group was lost.

 

 

April 18, 1944. Flight Time: 2 hours.

We were scheduled for a trip to north Italy but he weatherman called us back.

 

Mission No. 29. Treviso, Italy Target: Railroad Yard

April 19, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 15 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

The air was filled with B-24's going to north Italy. There is no escort for the 450th. We saw no fighters. The target area was covered by clouds and we never did see it. There was a lot of flak thrown up through the clouds not effectively. We dropped on Adriatic fish. This was a nice airplane ride.

 

April 21, 1944. Flight Time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

Scheduled to deliver some eggs in Vienna, Austria, but cancelled due to weather.

 

Mission No. 30 & 31. Schwechat, Austria Target: Aircraft Factory

April 23, 1944 Flight Time: 8 hours Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

The day was clear all the way up and back. The Alps are beautiful and are magnificent to see but they look horrible for one needing to land or bailout. Saw Blades. The escort was excellent by P-47's, P-38's and P-51's all the way up, over and back from target. We count five Groups attacking. The flak was very, very heavy. The escort fought lotsa enemy fighters off us. Enemy fighters made passes at us but not effectively. Escort wouldn't let 'em. Target was hit well with a good bomb pattern. We flew home in good formation. We did pick up a few flak holes at target. "Window" was used effectively. Manufacturing of German airplanes was slowed down today.

 

Mission No. 32 & 33. Ploesti, Rumania Target: Marshalling Yard

April 24, 1944 Flight Time: 7 hours Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

The 15th Air Force Groups are all in the Ploesti-Bucharest area today. Hundreds of B-24's fill the air. Escort is active P-51's over targets, with P-38's in, off and home. Our bombs hit the oil tanks at the yards causing big explosions and fires. Smoke from fires rose to our altitude 25,000 feet in just a few minutes. Flak was heavy and long running. It was widespread around the target area. There were many enemy fighters. The gunners fought off those that reached our Group. The P-51's generally routed the German fighters though. To see a P-51 climb and fight is really a show to see. Today "window" against flak was not effective the Germans have figured it out. The 723rd lost a new crew; this was only their second mission trip. The hit plane nearly crashed into us in mid-air scary. Barbati had to pull out of formation to keep the cripple from ramming us. We were lucky that the fighters either didn't see us or were busy and left us alone. Lucky. We were out of formation almost an hour. Pat finally caught up and we sailed on home. Our plane had about 40 flak holes for the ground crew's interest. I'm still sitting on my steel helmet over the target.

 

Mission No. 34. Varmo (Udine) Italy Target: MC-200 Factory

April 25, 1944 Flight Time: 5 hours Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

There is bad weather at take off and it carried to north Italy. We never reached target. History repeats itself. The lead flew the Group into a tall dense cloud bank again. We were at 21,000 feet over Ancona, Italy. Barbati was reading leads mind on this one. As lead was about to enter the clouds, Pat pulled up and out of formation but we still had moments of apprehension and blind flying. Our four motors at full thrust took us up timely and fast. We popped out on top and couldn't see a plane. The episode cost one pane stalled and crashed; two others stalled but recovered and flew home. The formation was scattered. We flew home down the Adriatic Coast. We dropped on the active Harbor at Ortona near Pescura. We probably didn't do too much damage except cause excitement. There was no escort. Mt. Vesuvius blew today. SOME SIGHT.

 

Mission No. 35. Orbetello, Italy Target: Supplies above Beach Head

April 28, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

The 450th is German fighter bait today. With heavy P-38 escort we flew right into areas known to base German fighters. The route was up the Adriatic, thence across Italy to the Tyrrhenian Sea thence down to target thence retrace back to home. It was a good run. A good day but lead screwed up on the bomb run and threw our plane wide of target. Our bombs lit in waters of the Harbor. Chris was upset. Flak was light compared to recent target experiences. It was accurate, however, and two planes of the 722nd Squadron were lost. One carried the new C.O. of 722nd. No German fighters rose to fight.

 

Mission No. 36. Alessandria, Italy Target: Marshalling Yard

April 30, 1944 Flight Time: 7 hours 30 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

It is a cold, cloudy day at take off but it cleared over north Italy. Our escort is P-38's; they met and ran off all German fighters. The bomb run was a good one and the target was well hit and badly damaged. There was no flak. Several 15th Air Force Groups worked the area and many targets smoked. A crippled P-38 (on one motor) flew under, over and inside our Squadron formation all the way home. A usual practice of crippled fighters is to seek shelter in the bomber Groups. WE INVITE LOTS OF THESE KINDS OF MISSIONS.

 

May 2 and 4, 1944. Flight Times of 3 hours 15 minutes and 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Attempts made to reach Ploesti, Rumania. Both recalls due to weather.

 

Mission No. 37 & 38. Ploesti, Rumania Target: Oil Refinery

May 5, 1944 Flight Time: 6 hours 45 minutes Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

Participation by 15th Air Force Groups was heavy in the area on many targets. The 450th lead the attack on the target. Our bomb run was as good as you can fly one. Our bombs hit in a good pattern. The Germans still make refineries to be tough targets to hit. They smoke 'em over. We had heavy escort of P-38's, P-47's and P-51's. The flak was very heavy. Many

FW-190's were trying, but the 450th gunners held them at bay and the escort drove them away. No planes of the 450th were lost. The 450th received its second Presidential Citation for the raid. Compared to previous visits to Ploesti, this was a milk run. Thanks Escort.

 

Mission No. 39 & 40. Brasov, Rumania Target: Marshalling Yard

May 12, 1944 Flight Time: 7 hours Load: 12-500# Demolition

Pilot: Barbati

 

The 450th is first over target again. There is a good P-38 escort. The flak was heavy. The run was good and target was well covered by a good bomb pattern. We lost no planes. FW-190's were active but the P-38's handled them. Our gunners fought well. This was my last mission. Enroute severe abdominal pains hit me full blast. I've never experienced such pain before or since. On landing, the flight surgeon checked me out and ordered a plane to fly me to the Hospital in Bari, Italy. Kidney stones were diagnosed. After days of trying to get them to pass, the Doctors cut them out. I was removed from flying status and shipped to Naples to await a boat ride home.

 

(Pat Barbati flew 11 more missions after Dale was sent home. His last was over Ploesti on

June 6, 1944 "D-Day")!!!!!!!



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