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March 18, 1944. Clouds and haze filled the sky as 752 bombers headed for the target at Munich, Germany. Cirrocumulus clouds were solid at about 10,000 feet and we were briefed to stay just below the cloud deck until we were about 100 miles inside French air space. Briefing reports indicated the cloud formation would then thin out allowing the 8th Air Force Groups to climb visually to the bombing altitude of near 23,000 feet. 

We made landfall near Dieppe on the French coast. At that point, we began to receive heavy concentrations of flak. The flak bursts were quite accurate as though the gunners had been given our altitude and course prior to our arrival to the area. They were definitely on target and experts. 

Shortly after the flak barrage began, Sgt. Ross Frank in the tail gun turret was heard on intercom to say, “I’m hit - I’m hit.” I asked top turret gunner Sgt. Luquet to go back to the tail and see about Ross. Sgt. Luquet returned shortly and reported that Sgt. Frank had been on the receiving end of a bunch of 20 mm fire. The Plexiglas windows in the tail turret had been completely destroyed. The Plexiglas had shattered into small pieces and some of it had caused superficial scratches on Sgt. Frank’s face. His face was stinging causing him to rub his gloved hand over his face. When he saw blood on his glove, it was a natural reaction to become excited and want to know the extent of his injuries. 

Sgt. Ross Frank was extremely lucky to have survived the 20 mm attack, and he was indeed fortunate that his injuries were as minor as they were under the circumstances. 

Some unexploded 20 mm projectiles were found on the floor of the tail turret. There was some mystery involved in the 20 mm shelling of our plane. The possibility of the shelling coming from ground fire was not impossible, but it did seem improbable for it to have been so effective at the 10,000 foot level. 

Some enemy fighter aircraft were known to be equipped with radar for night operations against the British. There was a strong possibility that one of their night fighters might have fired on us while it was hidden from view in the clouds overhead. We saw no enemy aircraft at that time. The 88 mm. flak was intense and very accurate. 

At this point the cloud cover had begun to dissipate as was predicted and we were able to begin our visual climb to the bombing altitude of 23,000 feet. We had leveled off after the climb and were cruising in bright sunshine toward our target. I turned control of the aircraft over to Flannigan and unbuckled my seat belt in order to stand up and stretch leg muscles. I glanced out over the left wing surface to see if everything looked normal and then scanned the right side looking over Flannigan’s head. 

I was taken aback at something I saw on the right wing. I sat back down and asked Flannigan to take a look between engine nacelle’s 3 and 4. He took a look, sat back down and fastened his seat belt. I asked him if he saw anything unusual. His reply was “Only a hole all the way through the wing that is about a foot across it.” This unnerved the hell out of me. I asked Sgt. Curlee in the lower ball turret to check for gasoline leakage in or around that portion of the wing section. He reported a fine mist of fuel blowing back near the number 3 engine. That was enough for me. Thoughts of what might happen if the engine exhaust should ignite the mist of 100 octane fuel was sure cause for concern. I was convinced that an 88 mm. flak projectile had gone completely through the wing and had ruptured a wing fuel tank. There was a strong probability of some damage to the wing structure. 

I activated the fuel shut off valve switch on the number 3 engine, turned the magneto switch off and feathered the prop. A check of the fuel gauge indicated we had lost about 225 gallons of fuel. With only 3 engines and short of fuel, I decided to turn back. 

A crew chiefs damage report after we arrived back at the base revealed that the main right wing strut was broken and the number 3 main fuel tank was split. The tail gun turret was severely damaged and a considerable amount of damage was done to the wing skin. The ball turret oxygen was out and the entire intercom was inoperable. 

On the 19th of March, we were assigned a No-ball site at Marquise/Memoyecques, near Boulogne. We were flying on the right of John Gibbons’ Fortress. Flak was intense and John’s plane took a direct bit that tore out the entire floor and right side of the radio room. We watched helplessly as radio operator Ed Walker held on to parts of the wreckage and finally plunged to earth before having time to attach his parachute chest pack.      (more missions in the book)

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