The following diary was donated to the 489th Bomb Group Museum in May 2009 by Pilot, Joe Woerner. The diary appears here by kind permission of Joe. All copyright on diary and photos remain with him.
Diary – Six months in 1944
On June 2nd, 1944 the Dutch Liner ‘ New Amsterdam ‘ set out from New York to brave the dangers of German Submarines and carry US Airmen and Ground Troops to War. The former luxury suite in which I was billeted had been converted to accommodate 24 hammocks and had one bathroom complete with one of the bowls for use of ladies. Each of the Air Officers were assigned a group of about 20 Infantry men and Lifeboat. The ground troops not having sufficient Officers. My group all made it to the Lifeboat on the day of the first drill, that was the last time. All or most of them were so seasick for the rest of the trip that they would have preferred to die in their sacks. We would be awakened at some ungodly hour to the sound of the ack-ack guns and an announcement “This is enemy attack, this is enemy attack; go to your stations.” Thank God it was never a real attack, just a Lifeboat Drill, but they felt it necessary to make it sound real.
After arriving in Scotland we were sent to Stone and then the west side of Lough Neagh in North Ireland for ten days. The June 6th Invasion of France and the subsequent days of uncertainty were in progress and our group were waiting a need. Black market beef and Irish Tailors that made Battle Jackets overnight. Went to visit one tailor shop, it was a room about 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. Two high windows, each like 3ftx2ft, supplied all the light for two elderly men sitting on the floor in lotus position and hand sewing in the dim light. One day I thought to try fishing in the lake so with a bent paper clip and a piece of string I set out. Caught a bug for bait and cast out the line. No sooner had the bug hit the water then an excited fellow ran to me and screamed, “Pull in your line, this is the Queen’s Lake, no fishing!” So much for Ireland.
Finally we were assigned to a Group and left Ireland for a train ride through England to our destination, Halesworth on the East coast. Along the way children would run up to the train whenever it stopped and call out, “Any gum Chum”. At Halesworth my crew was sent to the 846th Sqd’n; 489th Bomb Group; 95th Combat Wing; 2nd Air Division; 8th Air Force. Major Harper our Sqd’n CO and Col. Zeke Napier our Group CO. The crew now went through a period of indoctrination and training until ready for combat. It was during this time on the 7th July that I went down to the Flight Line to watch the planes returning from that days Mission to Aschersleben Germany. One of the first planes to land came in with Red Flares, signalling wounded aboard. The top turret had been shot off and blood coated the plane from there to the tail, the Gunner had been decapitated. The front turret had also taken a hit and both the Bombardier and Navigator were wounded. This was my first real introduction to the Air War, it was devastating. On that Mission we learned that 23 Liberators had been shot down by JG 3 German fighters. M-410s and FW-190s some 175 single-engine and 125 twin-engine aircraft tore into the Liberator formations. A group of P-38 Lightnings broke up the attack and downed 25 German aircraft. Two B-24s collided and went down in flames. I came to the realization that War was upon us, that it was going to be a horror the like of which we had never imagined.
The procedure was for the Pilot to first fly with a veteran crew as an Observer before taking off with his own crew. On July 12th Major Harper called me in and asked if I was ready to go. On the 13th I was to go as an Observer on a Mission to Saarbrucken to bomb the marshalling yards. We were woken at 1.30 or 2.00am, down to the mess hall for powdered eggs, then to the Briefing Room where first the Chaplain blessed us then the S-2 Intelligence gave their information regarding Escape routes should we bail out, the military importance of the target and the route to and from.
Next the Weather was briefed, S-2 again, then Communications to give us Radio and Radar poop. Traffic Control for making up the formation after takeoff (more than 1,000 B-24s were to assemble) and procedure of landing on return. Finally the CO or the one in charge gave us a “give them hell” speech, then to the drying room for clothing and other equipment, out to the ships and into the air.
489th Briefing Room - Halesworth
As it happened the mission did not amount to anything for us. Armament failed to load the bombs on time and we failed to catch the formation due to engine trouble over the Channel. The Pilot aborted. Another plane aborted and tried to land with three engines, a load of bombs and full of fuel. The landing was bad and in an attempt to go around he crashed, all but one Gunner were killed.
July 16th, We went as a crew on our first completed Mission back to the marshalling yards at Saarbrucken, a 7 hour flight. The load of twelve 500 lb Bombs was dropped through clouds by the use of Radar or PFF as it is called. On the way in we lost #3 supercharger and our #4 prop governor on reaching altitude. The new crews are given the oldest or the worst ships. If I had not been so green I would have aborted. Flak was heavy over the target but none of our Group were hit. Flak is impersonal; at first. You see it out there to the right, left or below you. Little black puffs moving along or new bursts breaking in front of the older puffs. Puff, puff, puff then a pause and puff, puff, puff. Puff is the word when its out in front but once it comes in close the bastardly stuff goes THRUMP, THRUMP, THRUMP. If you are not hit too bad it sounds like shot against tin, if you are hit bad, chances are you won’t remember anyway.
July 17, La Houssoye, France, 3.30 hours. We really went to War, had our Baptism of fire in this our 2nd Mission. The target was a Buzz Bomb (pilotless bomb plane) site that was helping to terrorize London. On the short run of six minutes, final approach into the target we encountered accurate flak. The lead Bombardier failed to release (the rest of the formation drop on his signal) and we circled for a second run. The flak gunners dream of this, a second run, same altitude, same air speed, they can really pin point us. Actually these gunners did not need the help, they were plenty hot without it. There is a story of a German ack ack Commander who demands a hit on #3 and not #4 engine.
Howard our Navigator, had a computer shot out of his hand. Meehan, the tail Gunner called out a JU88 at five o’clock and ‘second run Charlie’ turned West after Bombs Away. We were instructed to turn S then a sharp right and head for home. The 1,000 lb bombs were right on Target, no planes were lost but we came home looking like a strainer.
So much can happen on one Mission, so little on the next. We almost failed to get off in the first place. We had a run away prop and had to change planes. One hour after scheduled take off we finally made it. Then flew a direct line, alone, and contacted the formation about two minutes before the IP. (Initial Point then turn on the final) There were just 12 ships over the target, none lost but lots of holes, not in bodies.
I was VERY fortunate with the crew, All good men.
Crew photo - Back Row R-L: Lt A R Williams, Bombardier. Lt Howard W Kieffer, Navigator. Lt E T Davis, Co-Pilot. Lt J F Woerner, Pilot. Front Row R-L: AG Sgt W S House, Nose Genner. E Sgt R H Sanderford, Engineer. AE Sgt A P Meehan, Tail Gunner. G Sgt C lG Ellis, Waist Gunner. G Sgt A L Gaver, Waist Gunner. R Sgt A Schwartz, Radio Operator.
Looking at the crew photo, back row right to left:
Lt A R Williams, Bombardier. He did not fly the Missions with us because we were a replacement crew and dropped our bombs on the Lead Pilot. Later we were to become a Lead and we acquired a Bombardier, Lt. George Nokes. George flew the last seven of our Missions with us. George was from, Texas.
Lt Howard W Kieffer, Navigator. We would not have survived without Howard, he was always plotting our course and warning us if we were about to fly over an area where flak might come up. When we finally finished and were ready to come back to the States Howard chose to stay. He went to another Group and was shot down over Germany. We have word that he was buried in a small village in a Catholic Cemetery.
Lt E T Davis, Co-Pilot. We will learn all about Ernie and the rest of the crew as we go through our Missions.
Lt J F Woerner, Pilot
Front row right to left:
AG Sgt W S House, AZ, Nose Gunner – Deceased
E Sgt R H Sanderford, CA, Engineer – Deceased
AE Sgt A P Meehan, NY, Tail Gunner – Deceased
G Sgt C G Ellis, TX, Waist Gunner – Deceased
G Sgt A L Gaver, MD, Waist Gunner
R Sgt A Schwartz, PA, Radio Operator – Unknown
Not only the Air Crew but we were doubly fortunate to have a top Ground Crew. These boys were knowledgeable and diligent. They worked day or night or both until things were right. The Crew Chief of the Ground Crew started giving me a ‘thumbs up’ as we started to taxi out on a Mission. I got so superstitious about that signal that I would have found a reason to abort if he failed to do it. He never failed.
July 19th, Munich area 7.40 hours, 222 bombers from Italy, 1250 Bombers from the 8th Air Force, Lightnings and Mustangs provided cover. Seventeen Luftwaffe fighters shot down, Twenty nine Bombers failed to return. Some of these may have gone to Switzerland, it was convenient for a plane crippled over the Munich area.
We were briefed to hit Kempten, a small town forty miles SW of Munich. The target was an aircraft parts assembly plant. The Lead Navigator failed to find the Primary and the Secondary so we headed home. These things happened. We dropped back a little and determined that we would not carry the bombs home, started searching for a target of opportunity. Finally decided to salvo over a highway. Others had their salvo over a dam.
On making an instrument letdown over the home field we discovered that a bomb had failed to release and was hanging up. Sandy put a pin in the fuse and I sent Billy back to check the cocking lever to be sure it would not go away on landing. He leaned against the bomb to check it and she went away. Bill almost fell out, Sandy caught him. The bomb ripped off the doors and bomb and doors dropped on the coast East Anglia. We did not hear about it so it must not have done any damage.
They raised the number of Missions from 30 to 35, we have 3, Dear God.
July 20th, Erfurt, Germany. 7.00 hours. The target was an ME-109 assembly plant. It was a ‘milkrun’. May there be many more. No flak, no fighters, no trouble. We led the high element of the high squadron by accident. We had been briefed for a wing in the low element of the low squadron.
I want to talk about the crew members as I go along. We’ll start with Howard Kieffer the Navigator and catch the rest further on. Howard goes to main briefing with Ernie and myself, after our powdered eggs of course. Along about the middle of the briefing the Navigators are excused to go to a special meeting. We remain to listen to specifics that concern Pilots and Co-Pilots. The Bombardiers are also sent to their special brief. At the Navigators meeting Howard is given Charts and Data, then to the drying room to get dressed. He usually arrives at the ship after the rest of us and his duties begin after take off. Normally we assemble at 15 or 20 thousand feet over a designated area. The Radio Compass is useless for the Germans jam the frequency and it always points in the opposite direction. Howard comes into his own by leading us to the ‘buncher’. He utilizes the G box for this and for holding our headings while climbing a race track pattern.
After assembly, when we leave off on course, he notifies me of all turns five minutes before we get to them. Keeping a check on this and other duties is a full time job. He gives us our fighter reference points so if need be we could call for assistance. At the target he throws the salvo handle as soon as all indicator lights go out on the interlometer to insure the release of all bombs: hopefully. He gives us hours and minutes to the Channel on the way home. He is informed about all the flak guns on the European continent and does not let us fly over them without warning. He has repeatedly saved our lives.
July 21, Munich, 8.00 hours, Mission #5
The weather was not as briefed, encountered alto-stratus with tops at 25,000. Our altitude was 20,000 when we hit the clouds . . . In formation. This was dangerous. Should you turn, dive or climb? We climbed out on top with just a few others. Perhaps fifty percent of our original force finally got into formation again. The Luftwaffe missed a golden opportunity. Our ship was in the deputy lead of the group, or what was left of it. Off course and out of the divisional position.
When we reached the target we kept right on (the target had been an aircraft components factory). No one noticed the Secondary target although it was perfectly visible under our right wing. We have Radio silence so you can’t just call up the Lead and tell him “hey fellows there it is”. Now we were over Munich. The flak was murderous. For all of the mix up, bomb strikes were made on industrial sites and a factory on an island in the river.
On the way home Howard called up and said we’d be over Frankfurt in two minutes. The Lead ship was ignorant of our position. I eased out with my wing men somewhat further than permitted but we got hit anyway. A piece of flak hit the side window two inches from my eye and a splinter cracked the sunglasses. Howard and Gaver also had close calls. The lead ship, ‘Little Iodine’, with Lt Jim Haas took a direct hit in their #3 and it blew all over the sky. He peeled off and so did I, but the other way. Lt Haas going down in flames almost took us with him. Seven parachutes were seen. We later found out six of them were taken prisoner. We tacked on to another B-24 outfit about twenty minutes later.
July 24th, St Lo, France, 5.30 hours.
Our 6th Mission today won us all an Air Medal. This was to support the ‘breakout’ from the Normandy beaches. We were to bomb an area near St Lo on the Cherbourg peninsula preparing the way for an infantry advance. The bomb strike was only 1500 yards from our lines and called for a visual drop from 15,000 feet. Due to low stratus clouds the target was obscured and we carried our load of 8000 lbs. Home again. At the target flak or ground fire was heavy, we had 4 or 6 holes. Behind us Lt Floryck leading plane of the 846th (our Sqdn) had a direct hit and blew up. All but Sgt Trowbridge who was thrown out of the open bomb bay, wearing his back chute, were killed. The Sgt hid four days in a basement until the Yanks came up. He returned to the Group, then home. A B-26 outfit dropped on our own lines killing sixteen Americans including a four-star General.
Ernie Davis, our Co-Pilot has a full and completely active role on every Mission. The term Co-Pilot is ambiguous since Ernie does as much flying as I do. We go to briefing together, he takes notes of times and altitudes, etc. I listen and try to get an overall picture of the Mission. He is dismissed a few minutes prior to me and picks up our escape kits. The kits contain money, maps and candy bars. From the drying room he goes to the plane and checks up on our status, hustling the boys a little, getting the oxygen wagon, whatever it is that’s needed. In the air we change about a good deal but when we fly on the left of a lead he does two thirds while I do most of the flying if we are on the right. While one is flying the other monitors the air waves; of late we have been working it a little bit different, I usually stay on the interphone (in touch with the crew) the whole trip and he has the air waves. When flak comes up he indicates its position by motioning the other way. On a wing this doesn’t help much since we have to hold position. Lately we have been leading a flight of three and can take individual evasive action.
We seldom talk, having worked together so long that a flick of the wrist in an indication of what’s needed. It is necessary to develop this understanding for often we are on different radio receivers in the most critical circumstance. His other occupations are involved with the more technical side of flying so I’ll omit them. Sufficient to say that Ernie is busy every second we are in the air.
We get a 48 hour pass to London. The buzz bombs were active, they were frightening, they each sounded like you were the target. There are shelters everywhere and you get into one as quickly as you can. The British keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. I shopped a little, bought Ginny a riding crop and odds and ends. Sightseeing like a tourist.
July 29th, Oslebhausen, Germany, Mission #7, 6.20 hours
This Mission today was an oil refinery near Bremen. The results were exceptionally good. Wrecked an oil dump, a large ship, two smaller ships and generally smoked the area. The flak was heavy but inaccurate, our only damage occurred from one little piece in the nose, just under Billy’s feet.
Billy or William House is our Nose Gunner. He is also the acting Bombardier as he releases the bombs at the proper time. He supervises the armament, bombs, guns, turrets and ammunition. After briefing he goes to the ship and checks on the load, then installs his nose guns. He is just finishing when we arrive. In the air Billy calls out the position of the flak, enabling Ernie or I to turn away when we can. He is the only one who can see ahead and below us to any extent. His view helps me keep my proper position when I cross over the formation with my element, a flight of three. He is a competent Gunner and acting Bombardier. Just enough emotion to keep him tensed.
August 1st, Rouen, France, 5.10 hours, Mission #8
Today we had a better plane. Not new, just in better shape, #42-94920. It turns out that this will be our plane, we will call it Callipygia, but more of that later. We were briefed on a visual attack of oil storage tanks. Lt Col Jimmy Stewart with his group joined in the attack, the results were Very Good. Flak was moderate but one plane was hit. They stayed with it until they were over friendly territory, then all of the crew bailed out successfully.
Diagram from Joe Woerner's Diary
The formations are usually made up of three squadrons, a lead, a low and a high. Each squadron has four elements, a lead, a low, a high and a trail. From the rear and level it looks like the above sketch. In the lead squadron A is the leader of the lead element and also of the group or formation. B flies under and behind leading the trail element, C flies above to the right and behind and D flies low and to the left leading the low element. Each element is made up of three planes, one each side of the lead.
August 2nd, Bois-De-Queue Comtesse, France, 5.40 hours, Mission #9
Today we were to attack unmanned flying bomb or buzz bomb installations. Also named ‘No-Ball’ targets. It was about 30 miles NW of Paris and we could see the city well enough to pick out features. We were not so close that their flak guns could hit us, give thanks. Results were Fair to Good, several men wounded but no fatalities.
Allan Schwartz our Radio Operator extraordinary is the source of wit on this crew. He goes to briefing with the rest of the men and then attends a special Radio Brief. At the ship he loads the top turret with guns. This gives the Engineer who uses the turret freedom to inspect the rest of the plan. Al is efficient, carefully checking all radio equipment before take off. In the air he pounds away at his key and also amuses us by tuning in BBC and putting it on the interphone. Thus we learn from news broadcasts that we have just bombed such and such a place about five minutes after we pass it.
Other duties of Al include wrapping Ernie and I in our flak suits. He holds the bomb bay doors open over the target and after bombs away he kicks out some rocks that he has stored along the catwalk. These are his own personal weapons and he gives a ‘take that’ with each kick. Al receives weather reports on our return trip. They are vital for the fog socks in over England so unexpectedly that we have no previous knowledge of its presence. Sometimes we need to land at an alternate field.
August 8th, Romilly-sur-Seine, France, 6.00 hours, Mission #10
An airfield target that was well hit. The trip would have been uneventful had we not lost a supercharger on the way in and had to struggle over four hours with it. Col Napier our Group CO went on this one.
Our Engineer Richard Sanderford, or Sandy, has a wide scope of responsibilities. His first job after briefing is a pre-flight inspection that takes an hour or more. Sandy is very conscientious about the inspection and he does it with the ground Crew Chief. In the air he mans the top turret, stands by ready to transfer gas, adjust generators, change amplifiers check gear and many other items that he has been called on to do under fire. Sandy has a full time job that he performs in an admirable manner.
August 11th, Saarbrucken, Germany, 6.15 hours, Mission #11
While we were taxi-ing out for take off the Germans cut into our tower frequency and informed us that the Luftwaffe would be up to meet us today. They failed to materialize. They often pull sly little tricks. Not long ago they gave a recall signal and the entire 8th Air Force turned around and went home thinking they had received it from Headquarters. Wing Leader missed the IP and the target was passed before they located themselves. On a second run everyone except our squadron released OK. We carried our bombs back to Belgium where we bombed an airfield at Nivelles. We had #42-94920 again today for the third time and decided to lay claim to it.
Her name was added and bombs for Missions, this photo taken after 24.
489th - B-24 #42-94920 : Callipygia
Callipygian means well rounded buttocks and the B-24 with her well rounded twin tails falls quite naturally under that heading. It is derived from Aphrodite Callipygos meaning ‘Beautiful Buttocks’. Years before in College I had an old Chevvy named Calipygia. Here I am inspecting her tummy.
Joe Woerner's 'College' Chevvy also named Calipygia
August 12th, Laon, France, 7.00 hours, Mission #12
We bombed an airfield 50 miles NW of Paris. The bomb strikes were excellent. Flak was heavy but inaccurate. Passed fairly close to the great City going and returning. On the way back the formation got sandwiched in between two layers of clouds, we were forced to disperse. The threat of the Luftwaffe is tremendous when you do not have the comforting influence of other planes about.
It will have been noticed that we have not met with any fighters as yet, nor did we in the future. They were up there though. Time and time again we would come home to find that the Luftwaffe had hit a group or squadron just behind or to the side of us knocking down 10 to 40 planes each time they attacked. They lost many of their own. A good percentage of Bombers aborting over enemy territory never reached home due to this invisible enemy. They constantly patrol our formations, picking off stragglers or even a Group if it leaves the Division. We are always aware of the Luftwaffe.
August 24th, Waggum, Germany, 6.40 hours, Mission #13
The target was an airfield close to Brunswick, Little B (Berlin is Big B). A plane behind us went down, twisting, turning falling like a leaf. The 448th Squadron was beneath us at the time of release and one plane took a bomb through its left wing behind #2 engine. Despite the major damage the plane returned safely to base.
Arthur Meehan, Art, sees most of these disheartening sights. Art is our tail Gunner. He is taciturn and efficient; only talking to call Howard’s attention to a falling ship so that he can record it in his log, or perhaps breaking silence to give him bomb strikes. In addition to being the tail Gunner he is the assistant Engineer and helps Sandy on pre-flight checks.
August 26th, Ehrang, Germany, 6.40 hours, Mission #14
Ludwigshaven, the Hell of all targets, had been our Primary but Captain Pritchard in the lead saved our skins. The primary had been briefed for visual bombing but was obscured. The Group went ahead any way to lose four ships. Pritchard however realized the fallacy of following them and turned off to the Secondary, the marshalling yards at Ehrang, 40 miles W. The bomb strikes were Fair.
On the way out they caught us. Another ship went down and just about the same time the one in front of us was hit in the bomb bay. The underside of his ship seemed to disintegrate, one wheel knocked off and an engine out. He made it home for a safe emergency landing.
It wasn’t all blood and guts, here are the enlisted men in a lighter moment. Left to right, Artie Meehan (hidden) Al Schwartz, Bill House, Bud Ellis and Les Gaver. Sandy not shown.
L-R: Artie Meehan (hidden), Al Schwartz, Bill House, Bud Ellis and Les Gaver. (Sandy not shown)
Since our last Mission we have flown four of the most unique Flights we could hope for. We carried food to Orleans in France. This was just behind the advance of General Patton who was racing across France. (Flights not credited as Missions!)
9 / 3 / 44 Beaulieu, the airfield at Orleans 6006 lbs of flour
9 / 6 / 44 Beaulieu, the airfield at Orleans 5880 lbs of flour
9 / 8 / 44 Beaulieu, the airfield at Orleans 5880 lbs of flour
9 / 9 / 44 Beaulieu, the airfield at Orleans 6004 lbs of bacon
We flew alone at ground level, sometimes as close as 10 feet above the trees. This was for safety from pockets of German infantry who could not have time to react, we were there and gone before they knew it. Passing over the beach head at Cherbourg, the Falaise pocket and other recent battle grounds we witnessed the utter devastation. Hundreds of tanks, trucks, gliders and trains all blown asunder. Dead cattle and horses littered every field. Houses gutted, many towns where even the walls were down. It was a sight to see.
The airfield was German built, scores of damaged enemy planes were everywhere. The runway had several bomb craters, partially filled in. Two of our planes washed out their gear on landing the first time. After our landing French civilians rushed over while the cargo was being unloaded. We gave some young boys candy bars and they would all say ‘Merci’ which in our ignorance we understood to be ‘Mercy’. Lord they must be really bad off ! We gave them all the candy we had and gave the adults all of our K rations but they continued to call for ‘Merci’. They gave us gifts of wine and champagne. One elderly gentleman gave me a hand painted plate, on the back it was dated 1890, on the front a pig dressed in the uniform of a German Officer of that period. If memory serves me the Kaiser Maximillian (?) had declared war on France with some harsh statements about then.
On our third trip to Orleans a dozen British Commandoes drove up in a German Officers Duessenberg, they needed a ride back to England. “What will you do with the car?”, “Leave it here I guess!” Boy o Boy, I couldn’t hold the crew down. They could strip and dismantle it, load it in the plane in one hour flat! We would be the only crew on base with a private car. It was tempting. However we were sitting ducks on that runway and the rule was to get up as soon as possible, also the one hour job seemed far fetched. We gave it to the town Mayor.
September 10th, Ullm- Wasserburg, Germany, 8.40 hours, Mission #15
The Primary target was an airfield at Ulm but the weather forced us to divert and bomb the Secondary, the marshalling yards at Heilbronn. Good results, rolling stock, railroads, barges and docks were severely damaged. This was to be the longest Mission of our tour and an easy one; a ‘milk-run’.
September 21st, Koblenz, Germany, 6.00 hours, Mission #16
A marshalling yard at Koblenz was the target. The flak was accurate, everyone was hit but no ships were lost. A piece of flak passed right through the ship a few inches above Bud Ellis head.
Carlton Ellis, Bud, is our right waist Gunner. A fine chap, always ready to tell me when the wing men are a little too close so that I can shake the tail and loosen them up. A waist Gunner does not have too many duties on the ground so Bud has the responsibility of distributing and checking our flak suits and helmets. In the air he is also the ‘chaff’ thrower. This ‘chaff’ is thrown out over the target and at all the other localities where flak is expected. It blurs up the radar sighting instruments of the ack-ack guns.
On return to base he with the rest of the Gunners have to dismantle and clean all the guns. Bud also stands ready to give instant warning in case of trouble in the engines on his side of the ship. This happens more often than one would expect and enables us on the flight deck to take appropriate action.
September 22nd, Kassel, Germany, 6.40 hours, Mission #17
This and subsequent Missions to Kassel were in retaliation for the devastating bombing of Coventry and the Buzz bombing of London. All three divisions, 600 planes, went into the City proper for the announced intention of bombing the Henschel Locomotive Werks. The City received a good share of hits. 500 lb bomb incendiaries.
Our Group had trouble on the first run and Captain Pritchard took the lead for a second run. A group of B-17s were flying above us (they always flew higher) and we had to turn so as not to be bombed by them. We didn’t see the leads smoke markers and jettisoned our load too late. It must have been hell down below.
September 27th, Kassel, Germany, 6.45 hours, Mission #18
The Locomotive Werks again. Flak has changed color, its white. We were forced out of position at the IP. We trailed along and dropped where it seemed right. A Bombardier would have helped. After we returned we found out that the 445th ran into German fighters and lost 29 of 36 ships.
In the traffic pattern at home two ships collided right in front of us. Had we not immediately turned away we would have flown thru the flames and wreckage. Lt Culkin in ‘Special Delivery’ and Lt Fulks in ‘Paper Doll’ both old crews, no survivors.
September 28th, Kassel, Germany, 6.35 hours, Mission #19
The Locomotive Werks again. We were lucky with one small hole in the top turret. Others were hit worse but no planes were lost.
Austin Gaver, Les, our left waist Gunner is about due for his biography. He installs his guns and then checks the oxygen equipment. Each outlet is carefully gone over for leaks, condition and supply. In the air Les gives us oxygen checks ever 10 or 15 minutes. He reports engine trouble on his side of the plane and generally makes himself indispensable. He’s a quiet fellow and about the only one that doesn’t ‘cut’ up.
October 7th, Magdeburg/Rothensee, Germany, 7.10 hours, Mission #20
The Oil Refinery was the Primary target, we did it no harm. Weather reports were wrong; a smoke screen obscured the target. Our leader ran us through the lead squadron three times. Six ships in our squadron aborted and five including us tacked on to other squadrons. We bombed a Chemical Plant, it burned fiercely.
Lt Stanley Greenburg and crew were shot down by fighters. They had lost an engine and were returning alone. Greenburg went all through Cadets, Primary, Basic and Advanced training with me. We joined the Group together.
October 9th, Koblenz, Germany, 7.10 hours, Mission #21
A PFF Mission. We bombed the Secondary, a marshalling yard at Koblenz. Again there were Groups below, in front and behind us. We bombed thru these other planes, a wonder that none were hit by the bombs. A Radar, Radio Jamming Operator flew with us. He was supposed to gum up the flak guns and it looked from today’s bursts to be OK.
October 22nd, Hamm, Germany, 5.25 hours, Mission #22
Today we hit the marshalling yards at Hamm. They are a vital link in the German supply lines to the Achen front. It went well, no damage to our Group. Plenty of damage to the target.
We have an addition to the crew, Lt George Nokes, Bombardier. We will have to reschedule the duties of several crew members. This no doubt means that we will be flying Squadron lead. The lead ships are always the flak gunners main target, they know that the rest of the planes drop on them. Probably we will continue as element lead for a time and just be prepared to take over the Squadron lead if necessary.
It is heart rending and gruesome to see a plane hit and flaming down. Watch until the last minute for chutes but there is never enough of them.
November 1st, Buer Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 6.00 hours, Mission #23
The Mission today was to the dreaded Ruhr Valley. There was all the flak that they are known for but it was off to the side. I’m sure this was due to the Radar Jamming. This was also the 100th Mission for the Group. One crew spotted a Submarine in the Channel but could not identify it. Beginning tomorrow ‘Submarine Recognition Classes’ for all crews.
The boys saw a dog fight which started when a German jet plane shot down one of our escorting fighters. He was in turn shot down by the remaining fighters. I had always hoped for a fighter assignment when in training. The responsibility of crew members depending on your flying ability did not appeal to me. The fighter Pilots that I have talked to over there can’t believe anyone would willing fly a bomber into the black clouds of flak that we do.
November 4th, Misburg, Germany, 6.45 hours, Mission #24
The target was an Oil Refinery. We really earned our third Battle Cluster (the Clusters are for major battles and are attached to the Air Medal previously awarded. The ship had about 30 holes. Kieffer, House, Ernie and I all had narrow escapes. Ellis was hit in the back. In his own words; from his Diary “Right after we dropped our bombs they let us have it. Boy, can they shoot at that place! We lost an engine at the target and I got hit in the back with a piece of flak. My flak suit stopped (most of ) it, but a few pieces went through and into my parachute…. thought someone hit me in the back with a ball bat! …. When our engine conked out, Joe (Lt Woerner) ordered everyone out of the turrets and ready to bail out …. and me with holes in my chute ! Good ol’ Joe came through again though…”
When this happened Gaver got excited and called over the interphone that Bud was hit. As he was calling the prop hub on #1 was cut in half and we went peeling off through the formation. Kieffer was cursing, his hat was knocked off, George, because of his briefcase was in shreds and because I couldn’t get a word in and tell Ernie to feather No.1.
When we had first gotten Callipygia (or had first claimed her) I had taken her up to a field where there was a supply depot and had 1” thick windows installed around the cockpit. Also added ¼” steel plate on both sides of the cockpit. I think these precautions saved our lives this day.
Coming home on three engines we could not keep up with the formation. We were flying alone and too upset to be really watching out for danger. All of a sudden there was a Mustang sitting on our right wing. He gave us the ‘high’ sign and then took up position above and behind us. He escorted us back to the Channel. I wish I knew who he was to give him a heartfelt thanks.
We landed safely.
November 6th, Sterkrade, Germany, 6.00 hours, Mission #25
We had a Gill lead into the Ruhr to bomb oil refinery plants. The Gill ships drop on a junction of two controlled radio waves transmitted from stations in Belgium and Holland. Not exactly a ‘milk run’ all returned safely.
November 10th, Hanau, Germany, 7.30 hours, Mission #26
All of the 2nd Air Division took part in a run against an airfield. It’s November, there’s snow on the runways and it’s cold. However, at 20,000 feet it was minus 42 degrees. We were told at briefing that some good news awaited us on our return, fortunately we all returned.
The entire Group is going back to the States for a rest and then to the Pacific. We’ll be home for Christmas. This will be the end of my Diary of Missions. I have been credited with 26 and 172 combat hours. The four flights into Orleans were not counted nor was the Flight on September 18th, to Groesbeck, Holland. I however count that in my own mind as a Mission.
November 18th, we were to fly a low level, 250 to 400 feet, and drop ammunition, fuel, rations and other supplies to our troops. There was a general mix up going in and the 489th had to make three runs over the target before we dropped. We didn’t really ‘drop’, four crew men in the rear threw the stuff out the waist windows.
Two of our planes were lost to enemy ground fire, machine guns. Five received major damage and others received minor damage. One of the two, Lt Lovelace’s plane was hit hard at 200 feet and plowed into the ground. Four were killed but miraculously five survived. Of the other plane, Capt White, only the Radio Operator survived.
The troops were airborne and Gliders littered the fields. They were to clear out Holland and head for a very important Bridge across the Rhine. The motion picture ‘A Bridge too Far’ told the story. The ‘story’ at the actual scene was a bit more exciting.
Anyway all that’s in the past.
We left Halesworth on the 29th, for Liverpool and the Liberty ship USS Marine Robin. Arrived in Boston and had a train waiting for the trip home.
Post Script. Callipygia went to 446th Bomb Group where on February 1st 1945 Lt King of the 704th Squadron and four other men went on a non-operational flight. Lt King had a malfunction with the aileron controls and decided he could not land the plane. All five bailed out safely. Lt Ed Shea the Navigator landed in a British military camp for women, the luck of the Irish.
Fifty years later Tony Kerrison of Halesworth found the crash site thru an East Suffolk Police report and recovered many parts. Some I have, others are in a Museum at Parham. (also in the 489th BG Museum)
489th Bomb Group