As in the landings of August 1944 in Southern France, the work of the Partisan Forces could not be fully appreciated until the mass German retreat began. It was then, and then only, that the tremendous importance of air supply behind the lines could be recognized. A well armed Partisan Force suddenly rose to disrupt the German retreat. The surrender of the entire German Army in Northern Italy without escape was the first mass surrender of an unencircled enemy. The work of the Partisans, who had been organized and supplied largely by the 2641st Group, was a vital factor in this victory.
OPERATIONS Operations during April comprised the usual night missions to Northeastern Italy in addition to numerous daylight flights in Northwestern Italy and the Genoa-Spezia Area with special flights to Austria, Moravia and Czechoslovakia. Some of the latter were staged at Dijon, France.
Eighteen sorties were flown to Czechoslovakia during the month. The Ely targets to which most of these flights went, were in the Brno, Prerov Area. As the Russian Armies advanced, these targets were either overrun or were only a short distance from the lines. The flights were not too long in comparison with previous operations but the weather throughout the month remained uncertain in the target area. Little opposition was encountered although one aircraft failed to return. It is unknown whether this was because of enemy action. At the end of the month an aircraft was sent to Dijon to fly to a Czechoslovakia target near Prague. This flight, like the ones to Moravia, was badly handicapped by weather and was never completed.
Seven sorties were flown to targets in Austria with fair success. One aircraft was lost on one of these flights, however, and it was later learned from the field that the plane had been shot down either by an enemy fighter or by ground fire after having dropped on the first of its targets. P.F.C. Walter Maass who had been conducting agent, managed to get out of the plane and as his account states (presented on a later page), he believes that two officers in the crew may also have survived though all three were taken prisoner.
The night flights to Northern Italy were almost without incident. The day missions, however, were more involved. For a period of nearly a week in the middle of the month, the Group flew to its regular targets and in addition serviced targets in the Genoa-Spezia Area that had formerly been taken care of by a Troop Carrier Group stationed at Rosignana. This entailed double flights for many of the aircraft and a consequent crisis in the loading section which was met with redoubled effort. Two aircraft were lost in flying to “Beet” near the Swiss Border. Lieutenant Hebinger's aircraft made one run over the target in which he dropped two agents and part of his load. He was unable however, to climb over the steep wall of mountains that blocked the end of the valley and crashed into the side of a mountain in an attempt to turn through a ravine. Later agents from the target found the plane all occupant of which had been killed.
885TH BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON (H) SPECIAL
OFFICE OF THE OPERATIONS OFFICER
APO 520 U.S. ARMY 16 April 1945
STATEMENT 1. B-24 J Number 42-94919 departed the base 0920 Hours, 13 April 1945, on an operational flight. Radio E/T contact was established with the aircraft at 1014 Hours, and 1057 Hours, while the aircraft was enroute to target. No further contact was made with the aircraft until it was in the target area.
2. Another B-24 aircraft, flown by Lt. Davis and visual and radio contact with subject aircraft in the target area at 1245; at which time the two pilots discussed the target and the best way to approach it. The aircraft flown by Lt. Davis completed its mission and headed for home without observing whether or 919 completed its mission. Aircraft 919 was not sighted nor heard from after that time.
3. When the aircraft was over due one hour, all available radio facilities were used to try to contact the subject aircraft. All attempts to contact the aircraft were unsuccessful.
4. Aircraft returning to the same area on 15 April 1945, sighted the wreckage of an aircraft believed to be 919 at 46 29 00 N, 10 06 20 E. The aircraft had apparently crashed into a mountain side and burned.
5. Personnel from the Office of Strategical Service were on the subject aircraft. The Office of Strategical Service Headquarters has been notified.
6. The names of the crew members of the mission aircraft are as follows:
1st Lt. Neil Hebinger - Pilot - ASN 0-825864
2nd Lt. Michael Depta - Co-Pilot - ASN 0-2061807
2nd Lt. Victor W. Carlson - Navigator - ASN 0-2001886 - 450th BG 1st Lt. Lewis J. Tucker - Bombardier - ASN 0-2066306
S/Sgt. Joseph L. Bouhl - Engineer - ASN 56481451
Edward E. Mulroy - Radio Operator - ASN 13115086
S/Sgt. Steve E. Moraska - Gunner - ASN 39134832
Sgt. James R. Kelly - Gunner - ASN 35773219
Sgt. James Allen - Gunner - ASN 18063721