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HISTORICAL RECORD - January 1944




HEADQUARTERS, 720TH BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON (H)
APO 520                                         U.S. ARMY

24 March 1944



SUBJECT           :   Historical Records:

TO                      :   Commanding General, Fifteenth Air Force

ATTENTION   :     Historian (through channels)

                                1.   Unit history of the 720th Bombardment Squadron (H) for the period January 1 to January 31, 1944.

                                                a.       The present designation of the unit is 720th Squadron, 450th Bombardment Group (H), 47th Wing, 15th Air Force, United States Army.

                                                b.       No changes in organization.

                                                c.       Strength, commissioned and enlisted

                                                                (1) Month of January 1944.

                                                                                (a)        At beginning: 486

                                                                                (b)       Increase:               6

                                                                                (c)       Decrease:             26

                                                                                (d)       At end:                 466

                                                d.       Manduria, Italy, #25, Army Air Base. Departed Alamogordo, New Mexico, Army Air Base, 26 November 1943; Arrived Manduria, Italy #25, 2 January 1944.

                                                e.       No movement of organization in January.

                                                f.       Campaigns

                                                                (1)        Italian

                                                                (2)        Duration:        From 2 January 1944, still in progress.

                                                g.       Operations

                                                                (1)        Nineteen (19) missions were flown for one hundred and twenty-five (125) sorties.

                                                                (2)        Operations were directed against marshalling yards in Italy and Yugoslavia; and airdromes in Italy and France.

                                                                (3)        Our mission of 27 January 1944 was highly commended as a "Courageoous and well executed mission. " The target was an enemy airdrome at Istres Le Tube, France. The objective was to smash installations on that airdrome, servicing enemy long range bomber aircraft. The bomb load was 12 x 500 general purppose bombs. Six of our planes were over the target. The target was well covered.

                                                                (4)        The squadron was subjected to heavy, intense, accurate anti-aircraft fire at Pisa, Italy, 18 January 1944. One aircraft was damaged and landed in Corsica. The same type flak was encountered at Istres Le Tube, France on 27 January 1944. Captain Clark J. Wicks was fatally wounded when his plane was badly damaged by heavy, intense, accurate flak at Udine, Italy airdrome on 30 January 1944. No tactics to avoid this flak were reported. Enemy single engine fighter aircraft attacked our squadron during a mission to Skoplje, Yugoslavia, marshalling yards, 24 January 1944. The enemy planes came from high at eleven to one o'clock. The attack was fast and of short duration and a few of our planes fired on them. One enemy plane went down when he sheered off his right wing and the right vertical stabilizer, and rudder of 2nd Lt. Gerald M. French's liberator. Lt. French brought his aircraft and crew, safely back to the base.

                                                h.       Captain Clark J. Wicks led the squadron in the raid on Istres Le Tube, France, airdrome, 27 January. The target was bombed successfully with airdrome installations being well covered.

                                                i.       Losses in Action

                                                                (1)        Raid on airdrome at Udine, Italy, 30 January 1944. Captain Clark J. Wicks, Squadron Commander, killed in action.

                                                                (2)        Raid on marshalling yards, Skoplje, Yugoslavia, 24 January 1944. Missing in action: 2nd Lt. Roland R. Whitehead, 2nd Lt. Gordon S. Taylor, 2nd Lt. Joseph W. Brown, 2nd Lt. Tomas K. Lowen, S/Sgt Joseph L. Goodman, Sgt John M. Sternberg, Sgt Chester J. Kraska, Sgt Paul G. Young, Sgt Jack W. Means and Sgt Donald R. Amundson.

                                                j.       Captain Clark J. Wicks awarded "Order of the Purple Heart," having been wounded in action over enemy airdrome at Udine Italy, 30 January, 1944.

                                                2.      Enclosed is the war diary of this unit from the period 1 January to 31 January 1944.

                                                       For the commanding officer

WALTER T. MALCOLM

1st Lt., Air Corps

Ass't Squadron S-2



1 Incl.

        War Diary.



This diary of the 720th Bomb Squadron (H) will cover our overseas operations from 2 January 1944. On that date, the squadron ground echelon arrived at, #25 Manduria, Italy. This airdrome was our first overseas station. The flying echelon was arriving at intervals, over a month's period around that date.
The ground echelon moved into pyramidal and pup tents upon arrival here. The kitchen was temporarily set up in a wall tent and served mess, on schedule, on the evening of 2 January. Kitchen and barracks space was scarce because many Italian military personnel were still quartered here. The flight echelon had moved into available barracks space.
From 2 January to 9 January our personnel were principally interested in procuring more comfortable quarters and setting up various sections. During this period the group operated on one short mission but our squadron did not participate.
Our first combat mission was against harbor installations at Zara, Yugoslavia. The bomb load was 12x500 general purpose bombs. We had 12 planes scheduled; one did not get off because it stuck on a muddy taxi strip, one returned early and brought back the bombs, and ten planes jettisoned in the Adriatic Sea. This was flown on 9 January.
On 10 January five of our planes jettisoned a 12x500 G.P. bomb load in the Adriatic Sea. Two planes dropped bombs on the marshalling yard at Skoplje, Yugoslavia, the primary target. One plane dropped twelve bombs on the town of Bize, Yugoslavia.
The airdrome at Perugia, Italy, was the target on 13 January. Only two planes dropped on the primary target. The bomb load was 12x500 G.P. bombs Another plane jettisoned in an early return. Six jettisoned in the Tyrhennian Sea.
This jettisoning has been a policy of safety because of the bad condition of our runway.
On 14 January, ten of our planes took part in a successful raid on a marshalling yard at Mostar, Yugoslavia. The load was 12x500 G.P. bombs. Seven of these dropped on the primary target and one on an alternate target. Two jettisoned because of malfunctions, one in an early return. on the primary target and one on an alternate target. Two jettisoned because of malfunctions, one in an early return.
Prato, Italy, marshalling yards was the target for 15 January. Two planes jettisoned in an early return. Capt. Clark J. Wicks, Squadron Commander, jettisoned when his bombs could not be gotten away over the target. Six planes dropped bomb loads on the primary target. The bomb load was again 12x500 G.P.'s.
On 16 January we again took a 12x500 G.P. load to Zara, Yugoslavia, to wreck harbor installations and shipping. Six of our planes got over the target to drop their bombs. Lt. Dalton V. Smith dropped bombs on the tip of the Zara Peninsula, and one jettisoned in an early return.
All bombs were jettisoned in the Tyrhennian in a mission attempted against Arezzo, Italy, marshalling yard on 17 January. Ten planes jettisoned 10x500 G.P.'s one in an early return.
We had our first taste of "Missing in Action" on 18 January. 2nd Lt. Dalton V. Smith's aircraft was damaged by flak over the marshalling yard at Pisa, Italy. That was the target for a 10 x500 G.P. bomb load. Eight such loads had been put on the primary target, and one jettisoned in an early return. Lt. Smith and his crew were safe in Corsica, and contacted this base, after difficulties occasioned a two day delay. He had also dropped on the primary target.
We attempted to reach the airdrome at Perugia, Italy on 19 January. Five planes dropped on an alternate target: Iesi, Italy, airdrome, one jettisoned in the Adriatic and one dropped on a railroad in Matelica, Italy. The load was 10x500 G.P. bombs.
January 20 was a fine day. Six planes took 12x500 G.P.'s each to an airdrome at Guidonia, Italy. Squadron personnel were paid for the month of December. Personnel were quick to make use of the Finance Department "PTA" plan for dispatching money home.
Lt. William Cranston crashed his plane on take off on 21 January. The crash was caused by runaway props on engines three and four. 2nd Lt. Louis Amster was hospitalized because of an injured back. Three planes dropped 30x500 G.P.'s on the yards at Prato, Italy.
The mission for 22 January sent seven planes carrying 70x500 G.P.'s against the marshalling yards at Arezzo, Italy. All bombs were dropped on the primary target. On this date, the squadron opened a barber shop with two Italian barbers. Prices were 10 lire for a shave and 15 for a haircut. Laundry and dry cleaning service was also provided on this date. Before this, laundry had been sent to the Q.M. laundry in Manduria, ten pieces weekly at no charge.
An enemy landing strip approximately twelve miles East of Rome was the target for 23 January. The bomb load was 12x500 G.P.'s and eight planes put bombs in the target area.
The first plan for 24 January was to bomb marshalling yards at Sofia, Bulgaria. That plan was "Scrubbed" however, and six planes took off for the Skolpje, Yugoslavia, yards. One plane dropped 12x500 G.P.'s on the primary target, three dropped on an alternate target, one jettisoned bombs in the Adriatic, and one crew is missing in action. Missing with 2nd Lt. Roland R. Whitehead, pilot are: 2nd Lt. Gordon S. Taylor, co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Joseph W. Brown, Navigator, 2nd Lt. Thomas K. Lowen, bombardier; and the following enlisted men, S/Sgt. G. L. Goodman, Sgt.'s J. M. Sternberg, C. J. Kraska, Paul G. Young, Jack W. Means and Donald R. Amundson. This plane was last seen in the Skolpje area, from which place it was observed to have taken a heading for base. The plane was observed in good condition seeking cloud cover and there were no enemy fighter aircraft in the vicinity. The first squadron victory over an enemy aircraft was scored on this raid. This was accomplished, without firing, when an ME 109 suddenly dived on 2nd Lt. Gerald M. French's "Liberal Lady." The enemy plane sheered off its right wing and "Liberal Lady's" right vertical stabilizer and rudder. Lt. French and his crew brought their damaged plane back to base.
Because of bad weather no missions were run on 25 and 26 January. Special Services Division entertained group personnel with a stage show in the Oria theater. The show featured Italian talent and pulled a capacity house who enjoyed the show very much. This entertainment is supplemented by moving pictures staged three times weekly in the group area. The movies are shown in our large outdoor, "bring your own seat" amphitheater.
The best job of the month was highly commended by higher headquarters. The group was led by Lt. Col. Robert Gideon, Deputy Group Commander, on a "courageous and well-executed mission" against an important target. This important target was the enemy airdrome at Istres Le Tube, France; attacked 27 January. Six planes dropped 72x500 G.P.'s on airdrome installations and two jettisoned in early returns. The target so successfully attacked was important because it based enemy heavies operating against the Anzio Beachhead.
On 28 January we came back to marshalling yards again. The bomb load on this date was 12x500 general purpose bombs and the target for them was the yards at Ferrara, Italy. Six planes were observed to hit the target with their loads, two hit the town, and one jettisoned in an early return. Sienna, Italy, marshalling yard came in for the same kind of attack on 29 January; when eight planes dropped "five hundred pounders" on the yards and vicinity.
Capt. Clark J. Wicks, squadron commander was fatally wounded over the airdrome at Udine, Italy, on 30 January. Capt. Wicks was wounded by flak and his plane badly damaged. 2nd Lt. Bechtel, co-pilot, brought the plane into Foggia, Italy and the Captain was hospitalized there. Our target was parked aircraft on the airdrome, attacked with six clusters of twenty "frag" bombs in each plane. Eight planes dropped on the airdrome and one jettisoned in an early return.
Capt. Clark J. Wicks died of his wounds at 1300 hours on 31 Januarye squadron operated eight aircraft against installations on an airdrome at Aviano, Italy. Seven got over the target to drop bombs and one brought back bombs in an early return. The load was 12x500 general purpose bombs. Lt. William Cranston landed at Foggia because of gasoline shortage, but continued back after servicing. Squadron and group personnel enjoyed a show in Oria featuring "Joe E. Brown." There was a matinee and evening performance and both drew full houses of very enthusiastic "first nighters."


A very special thanks to Jim Ciborski, son of John C. Ciborski, 720th Squadron, for supplying this information




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