Countdown to Invasion
While on their leave the Jones crew had seen a bit of England outside the narrow confines of Eighth Air Force bases. They saw that the Americans had, indeed, invaded England. Everywhere they looked among the people on the streets and highways, the color was U.S. Army O.D. The hordes of GI soldiers was one impressive feature but of perhaps greater significance were the vast quantities of war materiel of every kind, size, shape, quantity and description that filled every available space in southern England. Bradley had become impatient with the Supreme Commander--thinking he should have invaded the continent much before this time. Bradley looked for the time that the ground forces of the Allies could give the Air Forces of America and Britain some help. Having seen the preparations Ike had made, he had to admit a mighty force of arms was being tightly coiled and would soon unleash its power against the enemy on the occupied coast of Europe--against the Atlantic Wall that guarded Hitler's Festung Europa and the Nazi empire he had declared would stand for a thousand years. Clearly, the armed forces of America, Britain, Canada, the Free French, and all the Allies of the war in Europe were preparing for THE DAY--"The Longest Day," as the movie later called it!
As an aside, it may be well to note here that at this time this writer became one of the host of GIs in England. Leaving Boston Port of Embarkation on May 13, 1944 while Bradley was "living it up" on leave in London, George Lindsley made a ten-day sea voyage, disembarked at Glasgow, Scotland, and was transported by rail to southern England. Late in May, 1944 Bradley visited Lindsley--stayed overnight, met his CO and had a good visit. See photograph.
While Bradley was in England, he also visited other servicemen from his hometown. He visited Lyle Harris, Lynn Norris, Billy Eshelman, Robert Moffett, and his cousin, Neal Abner. Each in his own way was, like Bradley, a participant in the great cause to liberate Europe. None ever doubted the Allied nations' cause was right and would prevail. Bradley's friends finished out their service in the European Theater of Operations and when the war in Europe was over they returned to their homes. Lt Frank Mailander, another of his hometown friends, also served in the Eighth Air Force. He was a co-pilot in a heavy bomber group. His fate was like that of so many others-one morning on take-off his heavily-laden bomber crashed. All of the crew perished.
Upon their return from leave, Bradley, Jones and crew #29 found that the Eighth Air Force was stepping up the pace of its bombing missions. Actually, this had been the case since early April when all Air Force assets in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) received the call from General Eisenhower to give maximum effort to the pre-invasion objectives he had set From this time forward everything would be part of the count-down to OVERLORD--the invasion of the continent. While the men of the Mighty Eighth had no way of knowing Ike's time-table, they all sensed an increasing momentum of maximum-effort missions.
As stated in Chapter 15, the pre-invasion objectives included missions deep into Germany against the enemy air industry, with the dual purpose of
keeping the Luftwaffe in a reduced and weakened condition and at the same time, letting the Germans know they could not afford to deploy their fighter forces to France. Other missions were sent to inflict irreparable damage on nearly every usable airfield or other air installation in occupied France; to destroy or severely damage railroad marshalling yards and other railway facilities so that the enemy would have difficulty in transporting its assets of men and materiel to resist the landings and lodgment of Allied forces on the coast; to prevent activation of the V-weapon sites; and to begin the first oil campaign. The Eighth was to bomb as many synthetic oil plants in central Germany as possible. Finally then, General Eisenhower would call upon the Eighth to join the Navy in bombing the enemy coastal defenses.
Mission data gleaned from Freeman's Mighty Eighth War Diary1 demonstrates that the Eighth Air Force, both its VIII Bomber Command and VII Fighter Command, delivered in full measure. There were only seventeen days remaining from May 20, the date of Bradley's first mission following his leave, until D-Day--June 6, 1944. For the Eighth, only two days of the seventeen were "stand-down" days. On the other fifteen days, a total of 11,776 heavy bombers were dispatched on a variety of daily missions. On June 4, four missions were flown. Except on May 21 when 150 went, the daily dispatch of bombers ranged from 319 to 1,341 bombers--the average was 785 bombers. On these fifteen missions, 163 B-17 and B-24 aircraft were lost and, with them, 1,700 airmen were MIA. On May 24 when Berlin was the target of the 1st and 3rd Air Divisions, 33 aircraft were lost with 482 airmen MIA. A major effort was made against oil targets deep in Germany on May 28 with a loss of 32 ships and 274 crewmen. The next day 34 planes and 318 airmen were lost. For Bradley this was mission #22. Freeman wrote, "Visual attacks were made on aircraft plants and oil installations. For the second day running, strong enemy fighter formations opposed the bombers."2 It was apparent that the GAF was being forced to keep a major part of its fighter forces in Germany, rather than to deploy them to France to meet the Allied invasion forces.
The activities of the VIII Fighter Command during these seventeen days leading up to D-Day were also notable. Each day large numbers of P-38, P-47, or P-51 fighter planes were dispatched to escort the bombers. The XIX FC also participated. But the fighters were becoming more versatile and on May 21 a total of 617 fighters made a strafing mission to attack railroad equipment in Germany. Freeman wrote, "225 locomotives were attacked and 91 credited as destroyed. Airfields and other ground targets also were attacked, although the strategic value of one 352nd FG pilot's claim--25 cows killed--was considered dubious."3 Twenty-seven pilots and planes were lost. Fighter-bomber attacks were made on rail bridges in France. Freeman wrote that on June 5, 1944 fighter-bombers were sent out to strike various tactical targets in northern France. Numerous diversionary missions were flown to the North Sea and other areas in northern France far from those areas on the Cotentin peninsula where the D-Day landings were to be made. The intention was to keep Adolf Hitler off-guard as to the Allies' real intent. Clearly, the Mighty Eighth was making "maximum effort!"
May 13. 1944. Headquarters Eighth Air Force under General Orders No. 361 awarded an OAK LEAF CLUSTER to 2nd Lt. Herbert A. Bradley. This award was in addition to the AIR MEDAL previously awarded.
May 18, 1944. The second OAK LEAF CLUSTER to the AIR MEDAL was awarded by G.O. No. 382 on this date. The medal and each subsequent oak leaf cluster was for meritorious achievement in accomplishing with distinction five aerial operational missions over enemy-occupied Continental Europe. On May 1, 1944 Bradley had
completed fifteen missions.
May 19, 1944. BRUNSWICK again--but a different result! In the Unit History, Low wrote,
May 19 scheduled a return engagement with enemy fighters over the heart of Brunswick. As before, 150 to 200 enemy craft attacked, but unlike that tragic May 8 mission, Mustangs, Lightnings, and Thunderbolts were on hand in sufficient numbers to oblige them. As a result of the excellent fighter cover, all eighteen attacking Libs returned safely. Breaks in the clouds were few and far between, necessitating PFF bombing. A load of 216x500 lb. incendiary bombs were dropped. The target was the city's railroad marshalling yards.
* * * * * *
May 20, 1944--REIMS, FRANCE--8AF 359, 453rd 56, Bradley 18.
This was Bradley's first mission following his leave. It was a mission to bomb the railroad marshalling yards. Previously described. See Chapter 16.
Jones told of one of his pranks. When he dressed on the morning of May 20, he carefully tucked a paper into his pocket--not sharing its contents with his crewmates. Upon arrival at the Briefing Center, he surreptitiously tacked the paper on the bulletin board where it was certain to be seen. After the losses the 453rd had taken on the May 8 Brunswick mission, Jones thought its message, "MANY ARE BRIEFED BUT FEW ARE INTERROGATED", was quite accurate, but, needless to say, Group Operations didn't see the humor of it! Result--the message disappeared!
May 23, 1944--ORLEANS, FRANCE--8AF 364, 453rd 58, Bradley 19.
From Low's Unit History:
May 23 witnessed the take-off of 29 ships loaded with 348x500 lb. bombs for the airfield at Orleans, France. The Group flew in two squadrons. The first experienced interference by another Group on the bomb run, causing them to release their bombs too late and fell past the target. The second squadron, however, laid their eggs in the target area. It was a restful day as far as flak and enemy fighters were concerned and all ships returned safely.
Very easy mission, fair visibility over continent and target area. Would have had good bombing but just at bomb release point, 389th passed underneath us and we had to hold our bombs another 5 or 10 seconds, causing our bombs to overshoot and land in a field nearby. No fighters or flak encountered.
Freeman's data, Mighty Eighth War Diary, page 248:
8AF dispatched 1,045 B-24 and B-17 bombers. Marshalling yards and airfields in France were targeted. First mission of 34th Bomb Group flying B-24s with other B-24 Groups of the 3rd Air Division.
May 25, 1944--TROYES, FRANCE--8AF 370, 453rd 60, Bradley 20,
Previously described. See Chapter 16. Major Jimmy Stewart of movie fame led the 453rd in a bombing of railroad marshalling yards.
May 27, 1944--SAARBRACKEN, GERMANY--8AF 373, 453rd 61, Bradley 21.
Previously described in Chapter 16. Another railroad marshalling yard was targeted.
May 28, 1944.
S/Sgt. G. McCarty of the 734th Squadron and a member of Lt. Witzel's crew had the honor of being the first 453rd crew member to complete his tour of duty. He had two enemy planes to his credit.
May 29, 1944--POLITZ--STETTIN, GERMANY--8AF 379, 453rd 63, Bradley 22.
Oil was Nazi Germany's "Achilles Heel." When the war began in 1939, it had oil reserves for only six months operations. By conquest of nations with oil production capacity (Hungary, Rumania), by severe rationing and conservation measures at home, and by the development of synthetic oil production, the situation was improved. Nevertheless, reserves were always low. Hitler knew the seriousness of this situation and held many Luftwaffe units in Germany to defend the oil supply sources.
The British and American war planners knew it was vital that oil be made a priority target for their strategic bomber forces. The RAF Bomber Command, the U.S. Eighth Air Force, and the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force (Italy) were capable of striking these targets--though most were located deep in enemy territory. Other operations, especially POINTBLANK, CROSSBOW and the pre-invasion campaigns, simply had to come first.
Progress on other bombing priorities by early April 1944 enabled General Spaatz to turn his attention to his long-awaited and much-needed oil campaign. German oil, gasoline and petroleum production came from 54 facilities. Of these, 27 were concentrated about Ploesti, in Silesia and in the Ruhr. The destruction of these 27 plants would cut Hitler's gas supply in half.4 Spaatz insisted the 8th and 15th Air Forces could destroy these plants. He also predicted that the German Air Force would deploy major fighter forces in their defense. Spaatz's Fighter Commands would escort the bomber forces, engage and destroy large numbers of the enemy fighter planes and pilots.
The operation began April 5, 1944 when the 15th Air Force hit refineries in the vicinity of Ploesti, Rumania, and then struck again April 15 and 24. Meanwhile, General Spaatz prepared the Eighth Air Force for a campaign against 13 synthetic oil plants in Germany. General Doolittle's bombers were ready and on May 12, 1944 a huge bomber force flew a historic mission against several synthetic oil plants. The 453rd was with its 2nd Combat Wing and 14 other Combat Wings, comprising 265 B-24 Libs of the 2nd Air Division. Also, joining the bomber stream that day were 326 planes of the 1st Air Division and 295 planes of the 3rd Air Division--a total of 886 bombers dispatched. VIII FC dispatched 735 fighters and IX FC sent 245--total fighters dispatched--980! John Fagg wrote of this mission5 that the aircraft flew to a point south of the Ruhr, skirting highly defended areas around Hanover and Brunswick, then flew west and northeast toward the target area. Near Frankfurt the Luftwaffe rose to intercept the leading Combat Wings. Between 150 and 200 enemy aircraft attacked en masse, using saturation tactics. In some cases, 30 German fighters came in abreast, firing savagely and even ramming the bombers. One Combat Wing at once lost half its bombers. P-47s and P-51s came to its rescue and the bomber stream continued on to the targets. Anti-aircraft fire was moderate. More than 800 bombers visually bombed--1,718 tons of bombs fell on Zwickau, Brux, Merseburg, Lutzkendorf, Bohlen, Zeitz, and other cities having oil installations. On that mission the
Eighth lost 46 heavy bombers, 9 bombers Category E (beyond repair), and 412 bombers damaged. It also lost airmen--7 KIA, 21 WIA, and 430 MIA. There were the usual aborts for mechanical failures, collisions, ditchings in the Channel, and accidents on take-off and landing. General Spaatz termed it an excellent mission, despite the losses and said it provided him the proof he needed that he could hit oil targets and the Luftwaffe and force Hitler to pay a huge price. Bomber crews claimed 115 enemy planes destroyed, fighter pilots claimed 75. Germany was forced to pay a high price in fighter pilots, planes, and in oil resources.
Of the 453rd experience, Low wrote, "May 12 saw an even dozen Libs from this Group attack the synthetic oil plant at Zeitz, deep in central Germany. The day was perfect and 133×250 lb. bombs rained down on the target. S/Sgt McGinnis was quoted, 'The only thing I saw between us and the target was a lot of falling bombs.' The results were excellent and all planes returned safely." Yes, but the Eighth lost 46 bombers that day from other Groups.
Other commitments kept General Doolittle's Eighth occupied for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the 15th Air Force was hitting Ploesti (May 18 and 21) and other targets in that part of Europe. Ploesti was doomed--the 15th Air Force continued its attacks on Ploesti until August 1944 when the Russian armies occupied the ruins.
May 28 and 29, 1944 the Eighth Air Force again made oil its target. The 453rd made the call on both dates. Bradley drew the mission on the 29th as his 22nd mission. He had completed two-thirds of his required tour with his skin intact. By this time, he most often flew the right waist gun position. The "Battling Bastards of Brunswick" were not now the Luftwaffe Jagdeschwader that the B-24 Groups had to face, but the Germans had upwards of 300 FW 190, Me 109 and Me 410 fighters waiting for the leading wings of the American bomber formation that morning. Among them were Jaeger (fighter pilots) of Jagdgeschwader (JG) 3 "Udet," II Gruppe, 4 Staffel under the command of Oberleutnant (Oblt=1st/Lt.) Walter Bohatsch, an Austrian. It was one of Oblt. Bohatsch's pilots, Feldwebel (FW=Sgt) Horst Petzschler, who was among the force that had attacked the American bombers on the previous day, May 28. FW Petzschler had become an ace on May 12, 1944 when he shot down a B-17 and a P-51 near Frankfurt-am-Main. On May 28 Petzschler shot down another P-51 but was, in turn, shot down by his victim's wingman. Had he not met this fate he most certainly would have flown on the 29th and made attacks upon the formation of which Bradley was a part. The reader will have occasion to read again of Horst Petzschler in a subsequent chapter.
Turning now to Bradley's 22nd mission on May 29, 1944--Low wrote, "For a third time, Germany's synthetic oil plants were the target of the 453rd. On the 29th of May, 25 fully laden Libs dropped a cargo of 250x500 lb H.E. bombs on the plant at Politz--Stettin, approximately one hundred miles north of Berlin. The 453rd led the 2nd Air Division to the target."
That day the Eighth dispatched 443 Liberator bombers and some 4,430 of its airmen. On their way to the few minutes of action over the target they faced long tiresome hours, always cramped and cold, sometimes tense and fearful, and often bored. They remembered Brunswick. They knew the enemy fighters would again appear in large numbers. For some Combat Wings it would be like entering hell when the action began--some air crews would experience pure terror. Would it be those of the 453rd?
The planners of 8AF 379 sought a strategy for the day's mission that was intended to confuse the Luftwaffe. The B-17s of the 1st and 3rd Air Divisions (550 bombers) were to follow a route along the Zuider Zee--Hanover-Berlin line so as to appear they were to
attack the German capital. They were to be given the bulk of the fighter protection in the expectation the Luftwaffe would concentrate its forces to defend Berlin. At a point north of Magdeburg the B-17s were to turn southeast to the vicinity of Dessau where the 3rd Air Division bombers would go for the aircraft factories at Leipzig while the 1st Air Division would turn eastward to targets in the Posen area. The 2nd and 3rd Air Division's B-24s (443) were to head north across the North Sea to a point north of Heligoland, turn southeast to track between Kiel and Hamburg, then swing due east. Two Combat Wings would split off from the B-24 formation to bomb oil installations at Tutow. The remaining four wings, including the 2nd CW of which the 453rd was a part, would continue on to targets in the Stettin area. The route of the return flight was to be north over the Baltic, west across the Jutland peninsula to the North Sea--destination, Old Buckenham for the 453rd. The mission time was estimated at eight hours.
The 453rd was on time at take-off and assembly; on time at the wing assembly line. The wing took up the lead of the 2nd Air Division. This formation was free of accident and the 2nd Air Division formation departed the English coast at zero minus five, on course and climbing.
Meanwhile the top guns of the Luftwaffe, including Feldwebel Horst Petzschler's Jagdgeswader (JG) 3, were making preparations to intercept the bomber stream. They placed fighters in the Muritz See area--some 100 fighters. Around Leipzig were 50 or so; the same in the Stettin area (Bradley's destination). Several dozen were stationed at Magdeburg. FW 190s, Me 109s, and Me 410 fighters were ready for the approaching dicke autos (fat cars) piloted by the Ami. Among the Jagdflieger (fighter pilots) were their Experte (ace) motivated by einsatz freude (love of combat) who had flown nearly countless sorties against earlier RAF, American or Russian planes. They loved the alarmstart (the scramble), the abschuss (the "shootdown"--air victory.) Taking the word from St. Horridus, the patron saint of hunters and of fighter pilots, their war-cry was "Horridus! Horridus!" Their objective was to herausscbuss (shoot out--cull--to damage a bomber sufficiently to separate it from its formation), then to go for its final destruction--endgueltige Vernichtung. Among them, too were those who were willing to die for der Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler. These flew Himmelfahrtskommando (missions to heaven--suicide missions.) But then there were also those fighter pilots who had jaegerschreck--Goering's derogatory word for those with "fear of fighters."6
Of the use of the word "jaegerschreck", Caldwell wrote7 "Herman Goering used the term to excoriate the Jagdwaffe, as did the caustically outspoken Adolf Galland. The hapless pilots felt the insults of their leaders in Berlin to be totally unjustified. When intercepting a bomber formation their orders were to attack only the bombers. When the American fighter screen was too thick to penetrate, their only course of action was to avoid combat. After running before the enemy a few times, the young German pilots lost their natural aggressiveness . . . Berlin's response was to exhort its fighter pilots to fight more bravely . . ."
The Jagdwaffe performed well on May 29. While it appeared undecided at first whether to concentrate its fighters near Berlin or to stalk several places simultaneously, unfortunately for the 2nd Air Division, it chose not to place all of its resources at Berlin but to cover the approaches to several likely targets. The B-24s had two principal destinations--Tutow and Politz--Stettin. The Tutow force had the luck of the draw. It broke off from the formation near Parchim, veered northeast, and avoided the enemy fighters concentrated at Muritz See. That force did not see a single enemy plane.
For Bradley's Group and the others in the 224 bomber formation bound for Politz-Stettin, it was a quite different story. Some 100 enemy fighters were waiting for them as
they approached with only one Mustang group covering. Some 40 enemy pilots took on the P-51s, drawing them off close escort and "abschussed" two of them. The remaining 60 "jagdflieger" then looked for a vulnerable Combat Wing in the B-24 formation. Navigator Stein later wrote in his mission diary, "Our group flew a tight formation so they never came in close, but the group to our left caught hell!" Correct! The enemy attack was concentrated on the 14th Combat Wing (comprised of the 392nd--lead--up from Wendling, the 44th from Shipden, and the 491st from Metfield).
The 2nd Combat Wing was leading. It experienced strong tailwinds which caused it to run ahead of schedule. It kept trying to kill time by reducing airspeed. It did this to preserve the mission timing vital to the rendezvous with planned fighter escort. As a result, the trailing 14th CW kept creeping up on the lead 2nd CW. To maintain position, the lead of the 14th CW, the 392nd Bombardment Group, flew a zigzag course behind the 2nd CW. The ever-watchful enemy fighter formation found this weak spot in the formation. When the 14th CW was out at the apex of its swing, the enemy fighters hit. The 14th caught hell! FW 190s and then twin-engine Me 210s and 410s hit them. The German fighters bored in through their own flak. Seventeen B-24s were lost inbound and outbound from the target.8 The 14th CW had had the worst of an otherwise good day for the Eighth. Stein wrote,
Our fighter support was poor today and we were hit by enemy fighters twice. Our group flew a tight formation so they never came in close. Group to our left caught hell, though. Heavy flak over the target area which was a synthetic oil plant about 8 miles north of Stettin. Couldn't see where our bombs hit but could see a big black cloud of smoke 12 to 15,000 feet high in the target area when we left, so someone must have hit parts of the plant.
This was Bradley's only oil campaign mission but a good one. The Americans lost 34 bombers and 10 fighters that day, but took credit for releasing 2,054 tons of bombs on German oil installations and aircraft plants. In the process, the Luftwaffe suffered many losses--62 fighters shot down, 37 probable and 29 damaged by bombers. VIII FC pilots claimed 39--1--5 enemy in aerial combat and 16--0--15 enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged on the ground. For good measure, returning fighters were detailed to strafe rail targets after escort. The Mighty Eighth was on a roll!
May 31, 1944--LUMES, FRANCE--8AF 382, 453rd 65, Bradley 23.
Previously described. See Chapter 16. The target was one of those flown by Bradley when "working on the railroad," i.e., bombing railway marshalling yards.
That evening in the Officers Combat Mess Hall, the table was set with a large cake and a grand dinner was served in honor of Lt. Ward and his crew. They were the first crew in the 453rd to complete their tour of duty.
In the Unit History, Low wrote,
The month of May was by far the busiest in the history of the 453rd. All records were broken. A total of 20 missions were flown against all kinds of targets. Railways and airfields as well as aircraft plants and oil refineries, which Hitler had once believed safe from aerial blitz, were not so distant after all. A total of 1,271 tons of bombs were dropped at the average rale of more than 141 tons per minute. Of a total of 431 attacking planes, 9 were lost a loss of only 2%. The Group claimed 13 enemy planes destroyed and three probably destroyed.
As a further review of 453rd activities from February 5, 1944 (mission #1) to May 31, 1944 (mission #65), this writer found that in each of the four months, 23 was the average number of bombers dispatched by the Group on each mission. Twelve bombers was the least number dispatched, 32, the largest number dispatched on a single mission. The Group frequently flew three missions on three consecutive days; flew on four consecutive days on three occasions; flew on five consecutive days on two occasions; and six consecutive days on one occasion. It flew a mission each day except one in the ten days, May 22 through May 30. Maximum effort!
Summary of 453rd Losses, Mission #1 (Feb. 1, 1944) through #68 (June 4, 1944)
The 453rd Bombardment Group lost 33 planes, pilots and crews in its first 68 missions--February 1 through June 4, 1944.
It had arrived at Old Buckenham with 70 original crews. The distribution of these crews by squadron was: 732nd--18, 733rd--18, 734th--17, 735th--17. In the period February 1, 1944 through June 4, 1944, of these 70 original crews, 23 crews had been lost--33%. The 732nd had lost 5 original crews, 733rd--7, 734th--4, and 735th--6. The squadron assignment of one original crew lost is not known.
Replacement crews, including the Jones crew, immediately moved into the huts of the lost crews. The Jones crew is thought to have been the first replacement crew assigned to a squadron (733rd) for duty.
In the period February 1, 1944 through June 4, 1944, 23 replacement crews were assigned. Ten were lost--44%! Replacement crews were given no special consideration! There was little time or provision for orientation or training before they were placed on the mission call list
June 2, 1944--Award. Pursuant to General Orders No. 435, 2 June 1944, Hq. Eighth Air Force, by command of Lieutenant General Doolittle, 2nd Lt Herbert A. Bradley, 0752310, Monticello, Illinois was awarded the OAK LEAF CLUSTER additional to the Air Medal previously awarded "for meritorious achievement in accomplishing with distinction several aerial operational missions over enemy occupied Continental Europe . . ."
June 3, 1944--BRECK-SUR--MER, FRANCE--8AF 388, 453rd 67, Bradley 24.
It has been noted heretofore that General Eisenhower's preparations for the invasion of the Continent of Europe would, at some point in time, include calls upon the U.S. Eighth Air Force for its help in breaching the Atlantic Wall. Several sources provide information sufficient to tell of the time and place Bradley, Jones, and crew were part of the response of the Eighth to this call.
Fagg's chapter, Pre-invasion Operations, previously cited, states,
The Eighth Air Force contribution to the coastal--battery campaign began on 25 May when 54 heavy bombers attacked Fecamp at St. Valery . . . H2X radar blind bombing equipment was used . . . with discouraging results. More success attended the efforts of the Eighth in massive raids of 2, 3, and 4 June, when 4,700 tons were dumped on coastal batteries . . .
Freeman, page 257, The Mighty Eighth War Diary, reports,
In four raid formations on June 3, two B-17 and two B-24 flights, 568 bombers were dispatched to strike numerous coastal defense installations along the Pas--de--Calais. A total of 439 fighters went as escort on these raids. In the morning 23 tactical targets, in the afternoon 16 of the same targets were visited with delivery of 1,580 tons of bombs.
Low, in the 453rd Unit History, wrote,
On June 2, for the first time in history of the 453rd, the Group had as its target, not an airfield, marshalling yard, or manufacturing plant, but a gun position in the Pas--de--Calais area. The four--gun emplacement was situated near Breck--sur--Mer and was the first tactical target the Group ever attacked. The fact that it represented a switch from strategic to tactical bombing caused much speculation in the Group. Many believed that this target meant D-Day was finally around the comer. The Group dropped 92 tons of high explosives from 23 planes on this particular target. However, due to unfavorable weather, results were unobserved.
June 3 also witnessed an attack by the Group on its second tactical target in two days. The ten ships dispatched dropped 39 tons of bombs on another four--gun position, again in the Breck--sur--Mer district.
Navigator Stein completes the story of the June 3 mission,
Bombs 12×500 lb. GPs. Target was only about 1/4 mile inland--in fact, right on the coast Coastal defense guns. Poor bombing in general but our element hit M.P.I. on the head.(Mission Point of Impact--M.P.I.?) Some flak but we didn't get hit No fighters. Solid undercast all the way but open spot right at target for visual run. Easy mission.
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June 3, 1944--a day of promotions. Among the fortunate, wrote Low, were Major James M. Stewart Group Operations Officer; Major Frank Sullivan, CO of the 732nd Squadron, and Major Edward F. Hubbard, CO, 734th, who exchanged their gold leaves for the silver leaves of Lieutenant Colonel. And, not to be outdone by the top brass, 2nd Lieutenant Herbert A. Bradley was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant
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During America's war in Europe there were many offensives or battles. Each was identified by name, geographic location, and dates of commencement and conclusion. Participation in each entitled the soldier to add a bronze battle star to his European--African--Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon award. Air Offensive Europe 4 July 1942 to 5 June 1944 was one of these. Bradley earned and was awarded credit for his participation.
And then came THE DAY and another campaign began. Stay tuned!
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