96th Bomb Group Museum UK

96th Bomb Group Museum UK Museum dedicated to all servicemen and women who served with the 96th Bomb Group. Located at the former base hospital for Snetterton Heath.
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 # 69 JAN.7.1944: LUDWIGSHAVEN, GERMANY Today's casualty was the  337th's 42-30130, Klap Trap II, piloted by 2/Lt. Rolan...
07/01/2024

# 69 JAN.7.1944: LUDWIGSHAVEN, GERMANY

Today's casualty was the 337th's 42-30130, Klap Trap II, piloted by 2/Lt. Roland Peterson. Witnesses last saw this Fortress leaving formation near Eindhoven- apparently under control although one engine was smoking. According to the post war testimony of a Klap Trap survivor, tail gunner Sergeant Andy Weiss, the plane exploded. Weiss regained consciousness in the severed tail assembly, from which he miraculously bailed out. Later on the Germans showed him a list of 8 crewmen all reportedly dead. Unknown to Weiss, the tenth man, waist gunner W. Roberts, had also been taken prisoner.

A heavy overcast on the continent forced this to be a PFF mission. Strike photos showed only clouds, and bombing results were only fair. Some of our fighter es**rt engaged in some foolish tactics today. They pointed their noses at the bomber formations and received a fiery response to their carelessness.

Then rookie crew 1/Lt. Paul Harring began inching into the air war today when their navigator, 2/Lt. John Wilson, was called upon to make his first mission with LT. R.G. Ford's 339th veterans. Herring, co-pilot Beard, Bombardier Bill Wood and the rest of Wilson's crew greeted him with relief, humor and respect after LT. Ford taxied his plane to the hardstand.

According to combat diarist T/S Bob Doherty, there was a slight conflict about naming of their aircraft, 42-39988. Herring wanted to name his crew "laces Aces", and the resultant nose art would be centered around the gorgeous lace from the comic strip "MALE CALL" by Milton Caniff. But the crew had other ideas.
Herring came to Snetterton already a 1st Lieutenant. Fortunately for the crew their pilot had been an instructor in four engined aircraft. And co-pilot Charlie Beard was a pre- Pearl Harbour veteran who had come up through the enlisted ranks. From the very beginning when the crew formed back at Pe**te, Herring had run a tight ship. Moreover, the flight crew chief, T/S George Goetz, was a second generation German American. He too was a disciplinarian. Whilst the crew held these men in high respect, they also had a sense of humor to which they'd already converted Goetz. Their conception of nose-art was a donkey dressed in knight's armor drop kicking a bomb. Their selected name was The Iron Ass. Meanwhile though the plane remained unpainted. Goetz kept handling out lame excuses to his pilot's queries about the availability of an artist.

Rear L-R T/S Geo Goetz TT, T/S Bob Woherty R/O, S/S Luigi Iacovello LWG, S/S Roy Johnson BTO, S/S Everett Johnson RWG S/S, Charles A Haywood TG. Front L-R 1/LT Paul Herring P, F/O Charles Beard CP, 2/LT John Wilson N, 2/LT William Wood.'

We are glad to announce our opening times for the coming year.All openings are 10am till 4pm with the main open day on 1...
06/01/2024

We are glad to announce our opening times for the coming year.
All openings are 10am till 4pm with the main open day on 18th August.
Those wishing to book in a display or stall for the 18th August main open day please email
[email protected] or DM us on here.

 #68 JAN. 5. 1944: BORDEAUX-MERIGNAC FRANCENormally crews preferred to bomb targets in the occupied countries rather tha...
05/01/2024

#68 JAN. 5. 1944: BORDEAUX-MERIGNAC FRANCE

Normally crews preferred to bomb targets in the occupied countries rather than pe*****te the Reich itself. This was simply because French, Dutch and Belgian targets were closer and not so frantically defended. But one French target that was dreaded was the Luftwaffe Installations at the airfield of Bordeaux- Merignac. This was because it was so far over the waters of the Bay of Biscay! All concerns, worries and apprehensions about today's mission materialized into frightful reality right from the start. Take-off was executed in darkness at 0700. The darkness caused many problems in assembly. It caused spreadouts and delays. These symptoms usually portend disaster, especially for missions which require 8 hours of flying time or more.

It was just after 0700 when Lt. J.H. Marshall released the brakes and accelerated the 413th's A/C 42-3268, Carol Jane, down runway 23 in a southwesterly direction. Due to pre-dawn conditions visibility was restricted to the length of the runway. And it was covered with heavy frost. Marshall successfully hauled the heavily laden Carol Jane into the air to a height of 500 feet. Then onlookers down on the flight line and in the control tower gasped as Carol Jane banked steeply at Low Farm near Larling. There was an immediate explosion as the bomb load and the fuel ignited in one chilling WHOOSH. The ceiling collapsed and a door blew in at a nearby farmhouse. All but one of Mar- shall's crew perished in the crash, the tail gunner S/Sgt. Close. But even he died the next day in the base hospital.

Those who kept plodding on to the target were attacked by 40-50 E/A just after the IP and again over the Brest Peninsula. During the first attacks, the fighters came head-on. The second attacks were mostly against stragglers. Five more Fortresses were lost

At 1040 the first loss occurred as Lt. Stakes had to crashland the 337th's 42-31164. Nine crew members were forced to abandon waist gunner S/Sgt. Charles Robinson, who had been mortally wounded in the stomach and was bleeding from the mouth. After making him as comfortable as possible and after administering first-aid, the crew split in an attempt to evade As best they could tell, their burning plane had crashed near a small lake west of Bordeaux, about 40 miles from the coast.

Six crew members successfully evaded. The other three, taken prisoner, heard that the French had gotten to Sgt. Robinson before the Germans and tried to comfort him. When they offered him his gloves, it is reported that Robinson indicated the offerer keep them. "I won't need them anymore," the dying gunner smiled.

The next four casualties came from the 339th. The first happened about 1100 when all crewmen had to bail out of Lt. Gilford Pierce's 42-39816. They landed in the frigid waters of the Bay of Biscay, and except for waist gunner S/Sgt. Gerald Norman, they all drowned.

This is Sgt Norman's testimony. " Iwas picked up by French fishermen January 6 and stayed on the boat with them three days. There were eight men who treated me very well. If I remember correctly, one man was named Claude LeBode. We came into the port of Lorient. German soldiers searched the boat, found me and took me POW.

Around 1130 two more 339ers were downed. Flying their 7th mission in 42-3541. Little Girls, the crew of 2/Lt. Edwin Davidson had been trying to ward off E/A attacks for some time. Already 2/Lt. Clarence Trubey, the co-pilot, had been killed by 20mm while calling off enemy fighters. At one point the defensive batte became so rough that Little Girls momentarily spun out of control. That's when some crewmen bailed out into the Bay. Eventually 2/Lt. Davidson succeeded in ditching. It was then that he realized that four aft gunners (the tail, two waist and the BTO) had bailed out earlier. The tail gunner, S/Sgt. Jim Radcliffe, had shot down the German who had dealt Little Girls the final blow. Davidson learned this in the hospital from that very Luftwaffe pilot. Although German boats searched for the four parachutists, they were unsuccessful Imagine Davidson's relief when, after liberation, he met his ball turret gunner in England!

1/Lt. Merideth Reuff's 42-37808 was shot down just before noon. E/A had destroyed the #4 engine. The Intercom was inoperable and so was the oxygen system. Everyone bailed out from about 8000 feet and landed safely some 20 miles northwest of Bordeaux Four evaded. And although the others were taken prisoner, they all survived the war

At noon the sixth group casually took place. Captain Don Cole's 42-30665 had already been hit twice by flak over the target. Although Cole tried his best to get home, the #3 engine went out. Spotting hun as a cripple, the Luftwaffe attacked repeatedly. Finally another engine started burning. The plane had already descended to 4000 feet when an ME-109 delivered the coup de grace by shooting off Cole's right stabilizer. Although Captain Cole was killed, the rest of the crew bailed out and survived. In fact, five of them evaded.

These six Fortresses were not the end of the 96th's casualties. Because fighter support failed to rendezvous with the returning bombers, one ball turret gunner, S/S John Lindborg was killed, and 1/L H.S. Corley was wounded. Both were from the crew of 2/Lt. Meacham.

Flight Surgeon Sam Hartman's diary entry for this night reflects the day's horror and snafu in bare, stark. simple words: "Jan. 5: Mission #68 Bordeaux. Marshall crashed on take-off; Stokes, Cole, Pierce, Davidson and Reuff lost to fighters. Meacham landed with one dead and one wounded. Total of four take-off explosions in the 3AD today."

Newly arrived replacement crews, especially those of the 339th, were beginning to think less gloriously of the "wild blue yonder" as dusk came and the last straggler landed. Radio man Bob Doherty had just returned to base from flying a practice mission over The Wash with pilot Paul Herring and co-pilot F/O Charles Beard.

"We flew in Daisy June IV, Doherty's diary reports. "This plane has made 24 missions, and if I read the swastikas right, her gunners have claimed eight enemy aircraft. GOOD! Because the enemy tore us apart today. Group went to Bordeaux and lost 6 Fortresses. Four from this squadron! I wonder when we'll make our first?"

The caption for the attached photo is as follows
"96th drops stick of bombs on Bordeaux-Merignac 5 Jan '44"

 #67 JAN. 4, 1944: MUNSTER GERMANYWhile other 3AD groups attacked Kiel, the combined strength of the 96th and 388th conc...
04/01/2024

#67 JAN. 4, 1944: MUNSTER GERMANY

While other 3AD groups attacked Kiel, the combined strength of the 96th and 388th concentrated on Munster. The 96th force was weakened appreciably when mechanical failures resulted in 6 early aborts. Although both flak and fighters were light, the planned route to Munster was such that as soon as the attacking formations doglegged to start the IP, they were momentarily blinded as they faced directly into the sun. This phenomenon was responsible for the day's casualties. A/C 42-30518, the 413th's famous Short Stride IV piloted by 1/Lt. Jim McLean, collided in mid air with the 338th's 42-5953, Skin and Bones by 2/Lt. George Davis. Witnesses timed the collision around 1030. Although no chutes were reported during the post-mission briefing, the fact is that gunner Jerry Waldon, Lyall Taubert, and Johnny Young, all of LT. McLean's crew bailed out and survived. There were no survivors from Lt. Davis' crew.

GETTING BLOODIEDJANUARY-MAY 1944"The 96th was almost wiped out in the spring of 1944. When I was on my way back in about...
03/01/2024

GETTING BLOODIED
JANUARY-MAY 1944

"The 96th was almost wiped out in the spring of 1944. When I was on my way back in about September 1944, I ran into a guy in the chowline at some replacement depot who was from the 100th. I was commiserating with him about the 100th's misfortune, and then he asked me what group I was from. I told him the 96th and was astonished to hear that the people in the 100th sustained themselves by feeling sorry for the 96th! (You know the old bit: I had no shoes and complained until i met a man with no feet.)"
Letter from Lew Warden, Navigator, 338th

Happy New Year from everyone at the Museum.  Here is hoping you all have a fantastic 2024 and keep an eye out over the c...
31/12/2023

Happy New Year from everyone at the Museum. Here is hoping you all have a fantastic 2024 and keep an eye out over the coming days for more information on our 2024 opening dates.

 #66 DEC,31, '43: PARIS, FRANCE Bad weather impeded good bombing on the ball-bearing factories outside Paris and the 338...
31/12/2023

#66 DEC,31, '43: PARIS, FRANCE

Bad weather impeded good bombing on the ball-bearing factories outside Paris and the 338th squadron suffered the loss of Lt. Ralph Woodward's crew in 42-31121.

Thus 1943 ended. Since the sad accidental death of Capt. Rogers on May13th, sixty-six missions had been flown. The Group had lost 57 Aircraft. The 96th had been blooded. It was a reputable outfit and a definite challenge to Germany.

English weather had limited the Americans' ability to wage a bombing offensive in 1943. Frustrated? Yes. Discouraged? No. Already there were Bendix chin turret and PFF equipment was getting better. Best of all, there were Mustangs at their bits in Boxted.
Luftwaffe Generals faced terrible prospects on New Year's Eve, 1943.

 #65 Dec. 30, '43: Ludwigshaven, GermanyIt was with relative ease that the 96th bombed the I.G. Farben Industry Chemical...
30/12/2023

#65 Dec. 30, '43: Ludwigshaven, Germany

It was with relative ease that the 96th bombed the I.G. Farben Industry Chemical Works. The 45CBW was last in the 3BD to fly over the Target. Ludwigshaven was cloud-covered and although bombing was made by PFF, The results could not be observed. There were no losses.

Everyone here at the museum hopes that all our friends and visitors have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.        ...
25/12/2023

Everyone here at the museum hopes that all our friends and visitors have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

24/12/2023

#64 DEC. 24, '43: PAS DE CALAIS AREA, FRANCE

It was Christmas Eve when Sergeant Bob Woods finally completed his tour. He would have wished to have flown with his own crew so that they might all have finished at the same time and could come into Snetterton firing all kinds of flares and buzzing the field. But he had flown with the veteran crew of Lt. O'Dell and at heart Sergeant Woods was thankful. Never mind the grand finale scenario. Just to finish 25 and be in one piece was plenty to be thankful for. There had been hardly any action at all over the V-Weapon sites. Indeed, Woods' last mission had been a veritable milk
run. "It was such a relief to go to bed that night," Woods recalls, "and not to worry about where the group might go tomorrow."
Another to complete 25 today was charter member Major Garey Lambert of the four Daisy June bombers. It was a long time since he had had to bail out over Idaho when St. Elmo's Fire engulfed his aircraft. Lambert would transfer to the 94BG as Ops Officer. But flying a desk was not for him. Eventually he would cajole his new C.O. Colonel Fred Castle into letting him fly com- bat again. He made 9 missions with the 94th before get-
ting shot down. He survived as a POW. There was something of a scare for the crews at the end of today's mission though. Planes came back to a thick, thick ground mist. It made landings extremely difficult. On the good side, it stayed for a day, thus making Christmas truly peaceful.
When he walked into Picadilly Circus' famous Rainbow Room today, a BBC announcer spotted the beribboned chest of T/S. Clifford Byrd. Upon learning that Byrd had just completed his tour of duty on the 11th, the announcer convinced Byrd to return later. And so it was that this top-turret gunner of the original Shack Rabbit crew was interviewed over BBC on Christmas Eve 1943.
Christmas Day, 1943. No mission. Peace! Christmas trees were abundant. True, their decorations weren't classy or expensively ornate. Still, the spirit was there. Christmas dinner began being served at 1100. Turkey and the works! The American Red Cross Club, or Aero Club as it was more popularly expressed, had held a party Christmas Eve. The main room had been quite well decorated and one Gl, dressed as Santa, dispensed presents to all.
The unsung heroes of this Christmas at Snetterton were the men of the quartermaster detail. There were some fifty men in this section and thanks to their improvisation and scrounging, Christmas decorations were available. Their principle task was not easy to keep everyone supplied with every item that was categorized General Issue (GI). One particular problem they had to overcome was to order clothing in British sizes. Also, the unpleasant task of processing the personal effects of those listed MIA fell to these good men.

22/12/2023

#63 DEC. 22, '43: MUNSTER, GERMANY

The target, although hidden by clouds and a thousand smoke pots, was laid waste with a combination of 500 pound heavy explosives and smaller British-made incendiaries. And there was applause at the debriefing for the PFF equipment which functioned without the usual hitch.

 #62 DEC. 20, '43: BREMEN, GERMANYGroans of dismay greeted the disclosure of the target. The city of Bremen had been cla...
20/12/2023

#62 DEC. 20, '43: BREMEN, GERMANY

Groans of dismay greeted the disclosure of the target. The city of Bremen had been claiming too many 96ers lately. Bremen was anathema on the base. Thirty-one planes took off to form the Lead group of the 45CBW. But true to its erratic form, the PFF aircraft had to turn back before even reaching the English coast due to mechanical difficulties with the Pathfinder equipment. The subsequent reforming of the group was so confus- ing that 8 planes, failing to spot the Square C amid heavy cloud formations and contrails, aborted. Two others aborted due to mechanical failures. That left the A Group ten planes which went on to bomb the Mastredt Fock Wulf factories with good results.

However, the B Group lost two planes. According to the MACRs, nobody saw them disappear Both were from the 338th. The first, 42-30368, with the crew of 2/Lt. Martin Fuller simply vanished. And if it were not for the recent testimony of co-pilot, Herbert Schlicker, the crew's fate would still be a mystery. Almost from the very beginning, Schlicker reports, he and pilot Ful- ler had trouble with #3. Even before the target, this engine lost oil to the point that they couldn't feather it. And even with the other three engines throttled to max, they couldn't keep up. However, they plodded on to bomb the target and then tried to keep up with a small formation of straggling Fortresses. But they couldn't even keep up with these cripples. Exploiting the situation, the Luftwaffe badgered them until they had no choice but to bail out.
The second loss was Green Fury II, 42-3288, which had been assigned to the crew of 1/Lt. Stan Budleski. Today they were flying The Purple Heart Corner. This was Budleski's first mission as pilot with this crew. Most of the others were on their 13th. Green Fury got hit just before the target. It bombed and made a gallant effort to get back. But E/A besieged the crippled For- tress; especially over the Friesian Islands. Two ME- 109s made concerted attacks. Top turret gunner, T/S. Jim Thompson, was killed instantly in a spray of .20mm and tail gunner, S/S. Gordon Smith, was wounded in the arms. In spite of his wounds, Smith crawled out of the tail into the waist where the left waist gunner, Joe MacDonald, attempted to apply first aid. Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe pressed home more devastating hits. Pilot Budleski gave the bail-out order just as more enemy shells exploded an engine. Navigator Jack Coyle and bombardier Don Spanier were blown out of the nose compartment. Others were blown out of the fuselage. They were the ones to survive.
Green Fury II crashed on the Friesian Island of Nord- erney. Except for those trapped in the plane, the others parachuted into the North Sea. Troops from the Coastal Radio Station at Norderney and civilians had witnessed part of the pursuit and the explosion. Now, as the two victorious ME-109s circled the survivors in the sea, Germans and Dutchmen set out in E-Boats to rescue them.
Somehow S/S. Smith had managed to bail out too, but a German officer who had followed Smith's descent through his field glasses reported that the gunner had drowned. Because he was wounded in both arms, it probably took every bit of grit Smith could muster just to pull his ripcord. But swimming was out of the question.
The survivors were the bombardier and navigator, Joe MacDonald and his fellow waist gunner, Don Totz. Both were wounded and burned to some degree. Helped by the island's natives, the Germans buried Lt. Budleski and his five comrades with military honors. Lt. Spanier and Sergeant Totz helped carry the coffins.

The attached photo is of Vern Siebels and two motor-pool buddies.

16/12/2023

Todays Missions recap from 80 years ago is a long one so get comfy.

#61 DEC. 16. 43: BREMEN, GERMANY

This was a bad day for the 96th. Thirty-six aircraft took off in the morning. Thirty-three went all the way to bomb Bremen, but of these, seven went MIA. In addition to that one crashed and three others were forced into emergency landings at strange bases.

Of B Group's low squadron, all but one bomber was destroyed. Of the 631 planes dispatched by the 8th, 10 never came back. That's not a bad percentage horrible when one realizes that 7 of the 10 came Snetterton!

The A Group fared the better because the fighter es**rt kept the Germans at bay. But even so, there chaos in the skies.

2/Lt. Ewing LeBlanc was at the controls of 42-3265 Holy Mackerel and taking evasive action from the flack Installations of the Friesian Islands. From the same squadron, the 337th. 2/Lt. Merle Schroeder was doing the same thing in 42-30860.

Both planes collided. The time was 1408 and witnesses fixed the positions at 5303N-0440E which over the North Sea. All of Schroeder's crew were killed. Fortunately some of Lt. LeBlanc's crew had that precious split second to bail out. And although German salvage parties found many of LeBlanc's men dead at their stations in the wreckage, two men survived. Both the navigator. Lt. Ken Wales and the bombardier Lt. Lowell Rogers lasted out the war as POWS.

Because he did not fly with them today. T/Sgt Tex Shields, Lieutenant Schroeder's regular radio mat became the only survivor of that crew. His story not only illustrates the vicissitudes of war which crulley dictate who shall die and who shall live, but it epitomizes that set of circumstances which were accepted throughout the air-war as a crewman's nightmare.

T/Sgt Shield's nightmare began three days ago on the 13th when four men died as Lt. George Fabian's crew crashed on the base.

Ever since training days back in Dyersburg, the crews of Lieutenants Fabian and Schroeder were close. Here at Snetterton they shared huts. Especial were two Texans: Fabian's BTO, Sergeant Mabry Schroeder's radio-man. T/Sgt. William E. "TEX" Shields.

After Mabry died in the crash. Shields requested and received permission to es**rt his friend's body to the cemetery on the 16th.

Returning to base from having just buried his Sergeant Shields was told that his own crew bad lost in mid-air.

Thus Sergeant Tex Shields confronted a crewman's nightmare. He had begged to be excused from the war only for a few hours to bury a friend and in that brief time his grief was multiplied mercilessly. Running the emotional gamut, from the traumatic realization that nine-man vacuum exists to the determination to get on with your own life, defies description.

Tex Shields remembers: "That was the most heart sick I have ever been in my life. I actually cried for three solid days and nights. I couldn't eat. I didn't go to the Club or do anything except pack up the personal things of the crew for shipment home... I felt the whole world had caved in on me and I've never quite forgiven myself for not being on the mission. That was the first time Schroeder had been off the ground without me, and i have always felt that maybe i was a good luck charm. At any rate, i was so shook up that Co. grounded me for several days."

Most orphaned crewmen faced the task of continuing their tours as "spares". They signed out of a replacement pool. There would be one mission with this crew, another with that crew and so on.

Fortunately the T/Sgt Shields, his crewman's nightmare did not send him into the pool of spare gunners. Lt. Fabian was more than happy to take him as his Radio Gunner.

Fighter attacks on the B group were much more intense. 5 B-17's went down in short order. 15 FW-190s came roaring out of the sun and scattered B group momentarily like a hysterical gaggle of geese.

Suddenly, there was another collison. This one was witnessed by Lt. Jim. Attaway who was flying lead in the high squadron. Below him, enemy fighters literally shot an engine off Captain Harold Mott's 339th 42-31113. Having been severed from the wing Mott's engine plowed down onto the wing of 1st/Lt. Lewis Kerrick's 42-30872. Blonde Bomber of the 337th. Blonde Bomber ascended sharply. On the other hand, Mott's descended. Both planes tangled wings and plunged into the sea. The toll was extracted in full. Twenty men!

Enemy action soon wore down 3 more 96ers. First to go was 1st/Lt. Carl Greer in the 413th 42-3429. fighters ganged up on him over the Zuiderzee.

Then there were the double death throws of two 337th planes. Both were done in by enemy aircraft near the Dutch coast. One carried the crew of 1st/Lt Edwin R Smith in 42-31086 and the other, 42-37739, carried the crew of 1st/Lt Maynard Freemole. In one of these strange twerks of war, both planes were made inoperable simultaneously. They plunged down upon the Friesian Islands out of control. According to German and Dutch witnesses one plane exploded at low altitude while other kept burning till it crashed.

Bodies from both crews were rounded up for the next 2 days by Dutch civilians and Luftwaffe burial details from the nearby airfield at Leeuwarden. The bodies were buried in the protestant cemetery of Poppingswier in row 30, grave 1. They were buried with military honours. Services were conducted by Pieter Bornstar and Jonker in the presence of the local burgomeister and Luftwaffe delegates from the area headquarters at Amsterdam.
Although not shot down in the technical sense, one of the most popular and dignified ladies of the 96th, Fertile Myrtle III was destroyed today. Was struggling home from Bremen under the control of her pilot, Captain Tom Kenny, old Myrtle gave it all she had. It wasn't enough. Bill Thorns wrote in his diary of the grand dame: " she was badly shot up with all control services damaged and several cables severed. The fin was slashed nearly in two and there were huge holes in the wings and the fuselage. The crew got her back to England, but she was to unstable to land. They bailed out after setting on auto pilot on a heading out to sea."
But Myrtle never made it to the sea. She went out of control and crashed at Silver Fox Farm, Taverham. She caused no damage or injuries.

Thus ended the career of a classic lead ship. She Rengensburg shuttle mission with the LeMay and later, Archie Old, she led the 3rd AD in the second Schwienfurt raid.

Its was significant now that many of the older planes were falling by the wayside. Many had seen their original crews finish their tours. They had begun carrying their second or third crews. They were wonderful planes, those charter members. They were sentimental objects now. They were loved now. But they were war weary. When the rate of survival was calculated, (a fortress, just like a crewman, had a 7 mission life expectancy in 1943) it was amazing how long some of them lasted.

 #60 DEC. 13. 43: KIEL. GERMANYThis third mission of the month claimed casualties The 96th put up 54 A/C in three groups...
13/12/2023

#60 DEC. 13. 43: KIEL. GERMANY

This third mission of the month claimed casualties The 96th put up 54 A/C in three groups. Two planes were lost from the A Group 2/Lt Emory Chesnore's 338th crew was hit by flak over the Friesian Islands They were flying Dry Run IV and were going down under control when last observed, although they were still being chased by two JU-88s From the 413th the crew of 2/Lt George Parker were flying Short Stride IV. Hit by tlak, the bomber blew up. Although Lt. Parker, his co-pilot. 2/Lt. Rosario Bilodeau and bombardier 2/Lt. Gordon Ladd were killed, several members of the crew survived

Although fighter attacks were relatively light over the target, the Luftwaffe continued to harrass the bombers all the way back over the North Sea. This highlighted a real gripe on the part of the gunners Recently, for some unknown reason, someone, only God knows who because no one would admit to it had dictated that there be a reduction of tracer bullets in the ammunition belts. Normally, a gunner could rely on every fifth shell leaving an illuminated trajectory. This not only gave him a sense of bearing, but getting a windshield full of tractors caused Luftwaffe pilots to break off prematurely many times.

Returning in distress today was the 337th crew of Lt. George Fabien in A/C 42-30160. Dottie J II Bombardier Bob Hughes takes up the story.

"We had bombed Kiel and had taken quite a beating over the target Westruck out alone for the base on only two engines. We were losing speed and altitude In fact, we were getting ready to ditch when one of the silent engines roared to life again And although this helped get us to base. we were only at 300 feet. The tower made usfly a right hand pattern instead of the customary left hand one because the two shot-out engines were on the left wing. And you can't bank into dead engines

It was while she was making this approach that Dottie J was forced out of the pattern by another plane. She stalled and then literally cartwheeled into the ground just over the main road to the western side of the field. It was amazing that all were not killed. As it was, only six of the crew survived. Bob Hughes was thrown through a hole in the top of the aircraft. Along with five others he was taken to the base hospital. All six recovered and went on to fly other missions

One of the dead was navigator 2/L John Boyd. Both pilot George Fabian and co-pilot Tom Scanian wrote to the next of kin.

"I am at a loss as to what to say.... "wrote Fabian to Boyd's parents." knowing that he cannot be brought back, I still hope to ease your sorrow by telling you that John and our deceased radio operator. Sergeant Truman P. Starr, were the two to whom the survivors are indebted for our extended lease on life."

Lt. Fabian goes on to explain how Boyd and Starr cooperated in bringing the crippled Fortress back to base. Co-pilot Scanlan's letter also praised Boyd's navigational skills on that last journey and concludes:

"It may help a little to know that he died immediately and did not suffer I feel that John's spirit will still be up there on future missions guiding us. He gave his life for something he believed in and it will not have been in vain. I cannot bring John back, but l'assure you that every time our crew flies many of the enemy will make a partial payment for John's life.....

Today was another early milestone in the history of the P-51. Soon it would develop into the most famous prop-job of WWil Today the 354FG used external gas tanks which gave them 6 hours airtime or 650 miles! It wouldn't be long now! Berlin was 600 miles from England The P-51s were an unmistakable threat to Germany.

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