MUNICH IS THE TARGET
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)
Next..The Aphrodite Program