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Hudson Branham
722nd Squadron

Covering the first 25 missions.
18 September 1944 to 31 December 1944

18 September 1944 Target - Budapest 1 Mission Credit

This day shall live in my mind because it was my first combat mission. I could hardly sleep the night before, got up early, had coffee but was shaking so I could hardly hold the cup. Took off early and everything went fine; it was as usual cold. Our raid was on Budapest, Hungary, target a railroad bridge. I was tense but held my composure when the flak came up intense but inaccurate. Our mission was accomplished successfully. Budapest RR bridge on the Danube river. We dropped three bombs weighing 2,000 lbs. Each, hitting and taking out the middle span. The weather was very good, a clear day, sun shining, very bright, and we had a great view of a beautiful city from about 21,000 feet. Buda seemed to be on a hill northwest of the Blue Danube (muddy) and Pest seemed lower on the southeast of the river.
Our B-24 crew on this first combat mission was piloted by Lieutenant-Colonel McWharter (later lost in a crash of a B-50 in the Bermuda Triangle). Our crew commander and pilot was Lt. Harold B. hall, who flew Co-Pilot. Lt. William R. Fisher, our co-pilot, stood down. He was later KIA in 1950 over Korea, flying a B-29. He was shot down by MIG 15's. Lt. John R. Keil was Bombardier, F/O Elihu Mitchenoff was our Navigator, Sgt. Earl W. Coons, Engineer, Sgt. Jerome Schwartzman, Radio Operator, Sgt. Duane T. Hill, Armorer and Sperry Ball Turret Gunner, Frank Heselton, Assistant Engineer and Carrer Gunner, Sgt. Taylor, Assistant Armorer and Tail Gunner replacing Cpl. Herbert C. Healey who was left in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada with a broken leg caused by a jeep accident and Sgt. Hudson Branham (me), Assistant Radio Operator and Emerson Nose Turret Gunner. Lt. Keil created McGruff, crime dog.
Colonel McWharter did a great job of evading the heavy flak. He would turn sharply, dive and climb, slow the plane with flaps and speed up with full throttle avoiding the heavy bursts of 88mm flak. Later we learned that he had been hit in his ass by flak over Yugoslavia and developed an excellent way of evasion of flak as a result of his painful wound that cured his hemorrhoids.

Take Off 0625 hours

Land 1325 hours

7 hours flying time

20 September 1944 Target - Malacky Airfield 2 Mission Credits

We flew over Germany for the first time today. It was a long and tiring flight, no fighters encountered, but we saw five way-out-of-range fighters. Bombing results good. Flak was light and inaccurate, raid was near Vienna, Austria. 500 liberators attacked Malacky Airdrome and other area targets.

Take Off 0740 hours

Land 1520 hours

7 hours 40 minutes flying time

22 September 1944 Target - Salinakia, Greece 1 Mission Credit

Restless all night and didn't sleep much, got up for briefing and turned pale at the name, Munich, but because of weather we were sent near Athens instead.
It was raining before takeoff and after some time, our planes got in formation; our target was marshalling yards at Salinakia, Greece, but our group did not release bombs due to a storm above the target and for fear of hitting Greek patriots. Flak was moderate and inaccurate, all planes returned.

Take Off 0820 hours

Land 1320 hours

5 hours flying time

7 October 1944 Target - Oil Refinery, Vienna 2 Mission Credits

I had not been on a mission for over two weeks due to very obstinate weather. We briefed at 0745. It was tense when the word Vienna was mentioned, but I shook when the flak report was "heavy, intense and accurate!!"
Our formations climbed though overcast and set out for target. I sat in the nose turret and wondered if I would still be in existence by late afternoon, but by the good grace of god, I was.
We were flying at 25,000 feet and started in on the target. Just before we turned we got a few bursts of flak but it was way off, then it started towering. I watched, my heart pounding furiously, as great blakc puffs of flak made a stairway to our altitude, then we came into its midst and I felt that this was the end. I prayed on the way in, but was amazed so that I could not even think of anything. I looked at the planes in front but lost vision of them because of flak. I could not even see the bombs away because the flak had obscured them; the explosions on every side and extremely near - - each bursts overlapped another until a solid wall was built up and it looked very impossible that any man or plane could survive such a hail of flak. I could hear the whine and whoops of shells and could almost hear the steel tearing through our liberator. We were hit many times. Someone yelled over the intercom that we were hit, and the ship lurched and tossed wildly. I was out away from my headphones and turned to the bombardier, and he said it was OK; then I got my interphone working. The co-pilot said, "Number 4 is going out, and number 1 is acting up," but we made it up and maintained altitude and at least we were out of the flak area but our formation had scattered like geese. I saw two hit and drop away but didn't see any go down.
There were two flak holes in my nose turret and many more scattered all over the plane but none of our crew was wounded.
Our squadron suffered heavy losses, eight planes came through, five lost. Reports were rougher raid than Ploesti Oil Fields. Our target was Oil Refinery, results not so good. My knees knocked and my hands trembled for an hour after.

Take Off 0855 hours

Land 1640 hours

7 hours 45 minutes flying time

10 October 1944 Target - Padua, Italy 1 Mission Credit

The weather report wasn't so hot for flying but the rain let up and we got the green flare and took off. Everything was OK except there was a lot of turbulance. I got in the nose turret, smoked a couple of cigarettes before going on oxygen. At 12,000 feet I put on my mask and after a few minutes my regulator stuck and a two leaks started and our oxygen went down rapidly on the Nose, Pilot, Bombardier and Tail, but we had enough to get over the target. I went into the Martin turret and almost fell out due to lack of oygen, and my flak helmet did fall through the bomb bay.
Our target was hidden by heavy overcast and we didn't get rid of our bombs. Then a fire started under the flight deck and everyone was ordered to put on chutes, but I didn't know it since I was on command then it was all over. Coons and Keil put out the fire. The air was cold because of the high humidity. All planes returned.

Take Off 0715 hours

Land 1300 hours

5 hours 25 minutes flying time

11 October 1944 Target - Vienna 1 Mission Credit

I was really shaking at briefing and lit one cigarette after another when I heard the word Vienna, for how well I knew what that place was like from a previous experience.
I composed myself, checked my turret, and we were off again and I was concerned about the mission.
The weather was bad and the nearer the target it was more adverse. We went through one overcast OK, but we hit another over Hungary forty minutes from target and at 25,000 feet, tried to go through but it was an exciting episode for planes were going in every direction. At times you could see all the formation then you could see nothing except snow driving into your turret; the vapor trailswere the most beautiful I had ever seen, and it was one of my all time favorite scenes. We received one credit and had some flak but returned to base.

Take Off 0715 hours

Land 1350 hours

6 hours 55 minutes flying time

12 October 1944

Target - Troop Concentrations

1 Mission Credit

We briefed at 0800 and our mission today was of vital importance. It also had a personal significance for me since we were bombing in conjunction with the Fifth Army's drive on Bologna, Italy. This was my first participation in this type of mission.
At briefing the major told us to do a good job, for the eyes of the infantry and the ground forces are upon you. It was a cloudy day and there was lots of overcasts all the way, but our target was clear when we flew out into the Po Valley. We flew #3 in the box formation and we went up the coast so I saw Rome for the first time, and it was a beautiful view. Also I could see Vatican City and St. Peters Cathedral.
Our target was to be a barracks area and troop concentration just south of the city and our results were good. The flak came up after we left our target, and our box didn't get hit very much, but the boxes following got heavy flak. Our ship had four small holes but it was a very successful mission.
We watched one plane out of formation get tracked for a good distance with shells going off near his tail but he got out without any trouble.
Our evasive action was good and soon we were out over the Adriatic where a naval battle was raging on the 8th Army front. Also saw many landing craft coming to shore. The entire front was aflame from Bologna to the Adriatic; the mountains snow-capped, and the Po River gave very beautiful scenes.

Take Off 0830 hours

Land 1435 hours

6 hours 05 minutes flying time

14 October 1944

Target - Marshalling Yards

1 Mission Credit

We briefed at 0630 and took off at 0715. We were to be the blue forces for a diversion on Vienna at Lake Ballentine. We rallied left and struck at the Maribor Bridge near the Hungarian-Yugo border. This was to cut the Nazi retreat from the Red Army and Marshall Tito's partisians who were closing in to a trap the Krauts and our results were very good especially on the rail yards where we observed oil storage cars had been hit and palls of black smoke towered to above 10,000'.
The flak was heavy and accurate, and we were hit several times, five times in #3 engine and we were in trouble for a time. It smoked and oil poured from it but our pilot, Lt. Hall, cut down the R.P.M.'s and we didn't have to feather the prop and he was able to get power from it. We came back all alone and sweated out the gas situation.
We were disgusted because British Gliders were landing, and we had to circle the field many times. Two planes had to be crash landed because of running out of gas, but none were seriously injured.
We came in to land, hit the prop wash and what a scare I had. I was thrown from side of the waist to the other. Then we hit the runway and #3 laid down a smoke screen. It seemed on fire - - we had the escape hatch ready to pile out, the fire trucks chased us down the field, but we walked away, so our mission was a success.

Take Off 0700 hours

Land 1400 hours

7 hours flying time

17 October 1944

Target - Tank Factory

2 Mission Credits

Well, this was it again, another ride down "Flak Alley" and the middle of it too! We briefed at 0630 and took off at 0745. The Chaplain prayed for us and I was helping him to myself, for how well we needed prayer for this ride.
I was scared plenty but held myself together. We hit weather about 1230, there was lots of overcast and it wasn't very good for bombing but we had success for there were breaks in the overcast.
The flak was intense and accurate but our squadron leader did beautiful evasive action and we only had three or four holes in our plane. I had one in my nose turret.
Our escorts were P-38's and the Jerries really dreaded those boys, it was ideal weather for fighters to hit us but none came in but they would appear behind a cloud and dash away; when we first saw the flak four or five enemy fighters were in it as my guns were bearing on them but they were out of range and got out of the area.
Coon's oxygen was shot out over the target and he had to come to the nose but after having an argument with the navigator he finally got oxygen before passing out; I noticed the lead ship and called bombs away!
I saw the most sickening sight of my life, it was the first time I ever saw a B-24 get shot down!
A flak shell scored a direct hit and blew off the wing from #1 engine on out and the plane went down in a flat spin top the right. I watched closely but sick, and almost at once one chute popped then none came oout until the plane had fallen about 15,000 feet then two more chutes opened and the plane went out of my view and three chutes in all that I saw but possibly more got out, I'm hoping they did.
We came back out of formation and our gas was low. We got some flak on the Yugo-Coast and I was tempted to straff the bastards!

Take Off 0745 hours

Land 1540 hours

7 hours 55 minutes flying time

4 November 1944

Target - Marshalling Yards

2 Mission Credits

This was the first raid I had been on two weeks due primarily to the adverse weather conditions.
Being off naturally worked on your nerves, and I was a bit tense at briefing when I heard the heavy flak report. We were off at 0645 and flew #3 in Y-1 box, once in formation we started climbing on course over the Adriatic and over Northern Italy. Our escort picked us up consisting of 120 P-38's that provided close cover over the target and our withdrawal.
There was scattered and broken cumulus cloud formations all over our route and the target was aboyt seven tenths covered, but we bombed with radar. A new plan was used. The 38's went in ahead to jam the radar flak guns and results seemed very good for there was heavy and intense flak thrown up, but it was off and very inaccurate for a change. We didn't get a hole in our plane.
It was my first visit to the "fatherland," and I'm sure a hot one for the Nazi's. This was by far my longest ride in a plane and it sure was plenty cold going over - - thirty below zero; however, my heated suit kept me warm even by catching fire once.
I crossed the Alps and this was sure a beautiful scene to see the huge peaks soaring upwards majestically and invariably covered with great blankets of snow stretching for miles . . sure was a scene I have seldom seen the equal. A bit of dread got you when you thought of bailing out there for the peaks appeared to be almost vertical for a thousand feet. Occasionally a small valley and a few scattered lakes with mountains surrounding would appear. The mission was good; one box hit by a ME-109, no results.

Take Off 0645 hours

Land 1515 hours

8 hours 30 minutes flying time

8 November 1944

Target - Troop Concentrations

1 Mission Credit

A great day; Tuskegee Redtails P-51 Mustang our escort. Squadron came to 100 feet of us, who never lost a B-24 in escort duty.
This was a very early briefing in fact it was quite alarming, but we breathed easier when we heard Yugo. We were off early and it was a short mission. The weather was not so good, and our target was fully obscured by an overcast and we were unable to bomb. However, one box did hit the town.
Our group was sent out to strike four towns along the main escape route of about 200,000 Nazis trying desperately to pull out before the Red Army and partisans and the winter would seal their doom. On the radio we listened to some very hot bands, also, got the election results and was glad that our people had great confidence in the gallant leadership of Roosevelt.
The flak today was scant but highly accurate. Only a few bursts came up, but the great black puffs clearly indicated that they were close - - I over confident, was caught without a flak suit on but no ships were damaged and no one was wounded.

Take Off 0615 hours

Land 1105 hours

4 hours 50 minutes flying time

17 November 1944

Target - Oil Refinery

2 Mission Credit

We were briefed early this morning and off at break of day. The Chaplain said the prayer for us and we were quivering at the flak report - - intense, accurate and heavy.
The weather was very bad most all the way, and the target was obscured by an undercast so we had to bomb by instrument which we did highly successfully as was indicated by the huge balls of black smoke towering upwards of 15,000' and was visible for over a hundred and fifty miles away from target.
The box of planes that went in before us got the most accurate of the flak but none went down. There was lots of flak but they could not attain the accuracy since they were unable to sight visually.
I was in the nose and called bombs away when we went in. There was one great cloud of smoke and when we turned off after our bombs had left, another great cloud of smoke rose even greater in intensity and higher than the previous one we noticed before we hit the I.P.
I saw one twin engine Nazi aircraft in a steep dive at about 15,000' but never was in range of my guns. The flak was more of the phosphorus type, high above our formation but in the barrage type. This was a long, cold ride. The temperature soared to minus 46 C due to high density. Our escort was P-38's and we made no encounters with the Nazi Fighters.

Take Off 0635 hours

Land 1440 hours

8 hours 5 minutes flying time

19 November 1944

Target - Oil Refinery

2 Mission Credit

Vienna. Vienna! The name has almost become a nightmare. Can't we get on a mission that's not going to this flak hole. Seems like they send us there always.
The weather conditions were adverse, but we made it by using P.F.F. On the way up it seemed clear but in Austria we hit cloud formations and the crew was pleased for that meant the flak wouldn't be so accurate and it wasn't. There was lots of flak but it was way off, only a few guns tracked us as we rallied sharply to the left.
The 449th was hit by fighters but no losses were reported and we didn't encounter any, our escort being heavy.
On the way back my heated suit caught fire but wasn't serious. Also saw P-47's dive bombing a harbor in Northern Yugoslavia, used to supply the Nazi's.

Take Off 0810 hours

Land 1525 hours

7 hours 15 minutes flying time

2 December 1944

Target - Oil Refinery

2 Mission Credit

Oh No. Not again, but yes, it was so, back again. Why can't we get just one milk run where there's very little flak, but off we go flying "Tailend Charlie" in the 15th Air Force on our group, the last over target.
We were flying #3 in X-Ray, one box led by Major Legg, our squadron commander. Everything was going fine and there had only been a few early but the air and slip stream was rough, and we tossed about very much. There were lots of enemy fighters in the sky concentrating on stragglers. I saw two ME-109's overtaking a lone B-24 and one rolled through and went in on a pursuit curve. The B-24 raced for cloud cover and our P-51's went after the 109's.
As we were about to approach the I.P. the Major's plane lost three superchargers and one engine was going out so he called for us to take over lead, and we did, but our navigator wasn't given any reference point but got a fix of bearings.
Our bombsight froze so we couldn't drop our bombs but did bomb a small railyard in Southern Austria on our way back. The other boxes hit the oil as was indicated by the smoke. A few of our men received slight wounds froom flak. There was lots of flak but it was not accurate. We finished Sgt. Taylor on this raid, his 35th sortie.

Take Off 0730 hours

Land 1545 hours

8 hours 15 minutes flying time

8 December 1944

Target - Marshalling Yards

2 Mission Credit

This account of my diary was written after the mission because of the trauma and events.
The 15AAF out of Italy had a policy of sending single bombers on night missions to disrupt Nazi production. On this day we briefed after midnight and took off alone, 1 12 RD x 500 lb bombs in the belly of our B-24. Our crew was excited because it was our first and only night mission. Our target was Oil Refinery at Vienna, Austria (Moosbierbaum).
We had an alternate target, a rail yard at Klagenfurt, Austria. Our flight from the heel of the boot (Italy), North on the Adriatic Sea was uneventful until passing the Isle of Vis, the 15th Homing Radio Station, but after turning into Yugoslavia toward Vienna at about 20,000 feet altitude, we hit a huge ice storm. I had for the first time got to see in the radar scope showing the Northern landscape of Yugoslavia, thanks to a nice "Mickey Man". This amazing instrument did permit bombing of targets not visually, but accurate radar. This young man was afterwards shot down in another raid. His name I do not know.
A nightmare of terror was awaiting us. I was flying in the nose turret of our liberator, as I did not fly as a radio operator until January of 1945 with several other air crews. I only flew 25 missions with my original crew of 10 commanded by Lt. Harold B. Hall of Spenceport, N.Y.
In to the storm we flew and stark terror ensued. The plane iced up. Nothing the Nazis could ever do equaled this dangerous condition, 3 episodes of wings with ice. Ice came through the nacel of my twin 50 guns. We all put on parachutes. The plane shuddered ready to stall and spin in, but the de-icers worked. In the clear night 30 FW-190's awaited us. We turned South and bombed Klagfurt. I had to go back into the nose turret to await the Luftwaffe.

Take Off 0145 hours

Land 0725 hours

5 hours 40 minutes flying time

18 December 1944

Target - Oil Refinery

2 Mission Credit

Vienna awaits the 450th "Cottontail" Bomb Group for about the tenth time for our crew. We always knew the night before because our radio station always played the Viennease Waltz's, and Axix Sally broadcast our target and our bomb group. "Come on boys, Jerry is waiting for you". Then she would play "Lillie Marlene" which was popular with Germans and Americans.
25th Mission - - what a milepost, half-way of my tour! This target was protected as was the entire Vienna area, the hub of transportation of Central Europe with 2,000 88mm flak guns. Always, intense, accurate and heavy flak. Visual Ack Ack was more accurate than the German radar - - every 30 seconds over target we would throw out chaff, strings of aluminum foil that jammed their radar guns.
25th mission and happy ten days our crew to Rome, 10 days of R & R at the "Holy City" - - rest camp at 5th Army headquarters was great. Pope Pius 12 held Christmas Mass - - bad news: Battle of the Bulge started 12-16-44.

Take Off 0800 hours

Land 1520 hours

7 hours 20 minutes flying time

Link To Crew Picture

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