Bradley and the others of the Jones crew completed their first mission on March 16. That night they and the Brady crew, their hutmates, and others of their squadron gathered at the Officers' Club. Finocchio, Mace, Westbrook, Goldberg, and other enlisted men met at the Aero Club. Some of them may have left the base for a short "liberty run" to the nearby village of Attleborough or to Norwich. It was time for some "hangar flying"--time to share stories of the day's events and to assess whatever was in the rumor mill. They had had a long day. They were tired, but felt they had proven they had the right stuff for the job they had to do. They were a replacement crew with only a brief indoctrination to mission procedures. Their squadron CO, Captain Kanaga, had warned them that there would be no selective privileges for them as first timers. They were allowed only one mission to "get it right" They felt good about their performance and were now combat ready. As time passed that evening they became confident there would be no mission call for them on the 17th.
Late in the evening of the 17th, word was passed to Jones that his crew was "on alert." They were to fly their second mission on the 18th. The mission target was not disclosed. A "milk run" to some target on the coast of France, Belgium or the Netherlands would be just fine! So, as before their first mission, it was a sleepless night for many airmen.
Bradley said of this mission, "At 0300 hours the Crew Caller banged on the door of our hut and stomped inside, shining his flashlight on us. He usually shouted something like, 'Uncle Sam needs you. It's time to fly', or some variation of that which would get our attention. Stein was known to throw his boots at the guy. At that early hour I could feel the dark cold airbase outside and the blacked-out countryside of Norfolk. It made me wish I were elsewhere. We dressed, made our way down 'Mudshoe Alley' to the Mess Hall. After a quick breakfast we were trucked to the Briefing Center."
The crews that were to fly that day gathered and expectantly awaited the arrival of the briefing staff. Bradley recalled that their CO, Colonel Joseph A. Miller, led the others into the room. He entered with firm steps and a set grim-faced jaw. Everyone sensed that something was up. "PINETREE"--Bomber Command headquarters--had cooked up something more than a "milk run." Bradley knew very little about bis Commanding Officer. Colonel Miller had been with the 453rd from the time in mid-1943 when it was activated in the States. A fledgling organization then, the Group was becoming a full-grown, hardhitting bombardment group. The CO had the respect of the airmen under his command.
Group Operations Officer, Major Frank Sullivan, and Captain Andrew S. Low, Jr., the Assistant Group Operations Officer, were among the briefing staff present When the curtain was drawn back from the map, the target for the mission was disclosed. There were some expressions of surprise--or was it disappointment? The target once again was Friedrichshafen!
The briefing officers gave an account of the results of the bombing on the previous mission. While 239 bombers of the 2nd Air Division had been dispatched against the
aircraft industry and related factories, 29 did not bomb for one reason or another. Thirteen planes bombed targets of opportunity. The remaining 197 planes had dropped nearly 300 tons of high explosive bombs, but, given the considerable undercast, the bombing had been directed by PFF aircraft using H2X Mickey radar sighting. It was clear from analysis of photos taken during the raid and those of reconnaissance planes taken on the 17th and the mission reports of the participants that not all targets had been destroyed. The important Dornier plant had suffered little damage. When a mission did not get the desired results, it was Pinetree's practice to go back. Bradley said, "I think the Germans knew the 8th AF would do this, so they would be prepared to give us a hot reception with intense accurate flak barrages and numerous determined fighters. And they did!"
At the briefing the air crews were told that their CO, Colonel Miller, would be flying the mission with them. He would fly lead of the 2nd Combat Wing--the planes of the three bombardment groups: the 389th out of Hethel, the 445th out of Tibenham and the 453rd from Old Buckenham. Captain Joseph O'Reilly, the newly-appointed Group Navigator, would fly as lead navigator. They were to fly with Captain Philip A. Stock, pilot of crew #26 of the 733rd Squadron. Captain Andrew S. Low, Jr. would also make this mission as Deputy Wing lead.
Planes from nine groups--three combat wings--were to make the mission for the 2nd Air Division. Each group was to send about 25 planes for a total of 227 bombers. Aircraft industry targets at Friedrichshafen were to be hit: Lowenthal, Manzell, Mabruch (Dornier). The bomb types were, as before, 1000 lb. GP, 500 lb. GP, 100 lb. Incendiary and 120 Frag. The planes also carried millions of leaflets--propaganda to "enlighten" the German people of the futility of their continuing the war.
As they had learned on the 16th, Friedrichshafen was a long distance from Old Buckenham--nearly 600 miles "as the crow flies" each way. The bombers would fly 300 or more miles over occupied France and then enter German airspace in southern Germany near Strasburg, about 100 miles from the target. From take-off until return would require about 8½ long, tiring and emotionally draining hours.
As the briefing continued, additional target details were given, including the magnetic courses out and back. The air-exec, added the formation details, the ASR radio frequencies, the RT call signs and channels. The Weather Officer assured the men that they should expect favorable weather going and returning, with a strong high pressure system building up over the target area. The areas where German anti-aircraft guns were concentrated were shown on a map.
The officers and men were rather subdued as they left the Briefing Center that morning. They had a lot to think about For some crews this would be their first mission. For the 8th AF, it was the 264th mission, for the 453rd, its 20th mission, for Bradley and the Jones crew, their 2nd mission. This could be a tough one!
Then they went to complete their preparations: Stein to the map room, Croft picked up the escape and evasion kits, and each airman obtained his flying gear, vest, oxygen mask, Mae West, and parachute before climbing aboard the army trucks for a cold ride to the hardstands. Finocchio shoved a few extra packs of cigarettes into his knee pocket. He had heard that cigarettes were better than money as a medium of exchange if one were shot down. Arriving at the hardstand the men did the usual things. They kept looking at the sky--there was always concern about British weather. Little light penetrated the all-too-typical morning overcast. Light snow flurries skittered across the airfield.
Of their plane, Bradley said, "As I recall, this was not the plane we had flown on
the 16th, although it was a B-24H model aircraft. There were only a few B-24Js operational at that time. We had flown a B-24J on our flight overseas. You can be sure I checked out the bomb-bay door controls as soon as I got to the plane. I didn't want a recurrence of the problem we had on the 16th. At 18,000 feet and 40° below zero, it is no fun having to kick bombs out of the plane."
Then, once again, it was time to go! WHAM BAM, the formation plane, had taken off earlier and was in place. The green flare was released from the Control Tower. The lead aircraft released its brakes and started its take-off run. Twenty bombers followed at 30-second intervals. Jones, like most pilots, always taxied and ran up the engines against the brakes for take-off with the bomb-bay doors open--open because in topping-off the gas tanks, it was very likely that raw gas would be slopped over and would run down inside the bomb-bay, where it could create dangerous explosive fumes. Any spark, and the plane would become an instant fireball, so the last thing they did was to close the bomb-bay doors.
In the clear at 12,000 feet, twin green identification flares were released from Colonel Miller's lead plane. WHAM BAM made its appearance. Captain Low, flying deputy lead, pulled over to a position on Miller's right. The Wing formed up at Buncher 6, moved over south Norfolk and joined the 2nd Air Division's other wings south of Great Yarmouth. Heading toward the continent at 18,000 feet, the formation penetrated enemy-occupied territory. The 2nd Air Division lead held firmly to the briefed course. To have done otherwise would almost certainly have carried the planes over German flak batteries at 18,000 feet, likely with disastrous results. At a ground speed of 235 mph, the formation proceeded on the briefed course toward the targets at Friedrichshafen. The steaming contrails behind each plane signalled their presence. Parallel to their course to the right and higher than the B-24s were the B-17 formations of the 1st and 3rd Air Divisions. They were bound for Munich and Oberpfaffenhofen. Their mission, too, was a part of Operation ARGUMENT. Aircraft plants and aircraft were their targets.
"Little Friends" were clearly needed for these missions deep into German territory. The P-51 Mustang was considered to be the answer. It was introduced in VIII Fighter Command in December 1943. With its arrival it became possible to establish a system of escort that allowed continuous coverage of the bomber formation from the Channel coast to the most distant targets in Germany and Poland. As the bombers proceeded toward their target, escort was provided first by the P-47 Thunderbolt which, with an added belly tank, had a range of 375 miles. Then the P-38 Lightnings appeared with a range of 520 miles. Finally, the P-51 Mustang took over. The P-51s had a top speed of 437 mph at 25,000 feet, a service ceiling of 42,000 feet and a range of 650 miles. At the main fighting altitude of 20,000 feet and above, it was more than 30 mph faster than either the FW 190A or Me 109G and could turn and out-dive both of them. (See Fig. 9).1
On March 18, 925 fighters were dispatched; 214 were P-51s, but 598 were P-47s and 113 were P-38s. The P-47 Thunderbolts and P-38 Lightnings were the most numerous fighters of VIII Fighter Command at the time. P-51 Mustangs had not yet been received in great numbers.
Whatever else is said, it is clear that the German fighters could no longer hold off their attacks upon the bombers until the American fighters had gone the limit of their range and had to turn back. Now they had to face the P-47s, P-38s, or P-51s all the way. Also, since General Doolittle had ordered the fighter pilots to go after the German wherever he could be found--in the air or on the ground--the German was certain soon to lose command of the air in daylight
The 2nd Air Division bomber stream of 227 B-24s in four combat wings continued its flight across occupied France. At any moment German anti-aircraft guns could open fire or Me 109s and FW 190s could make an attack. It often seemed mere coincidence which parts of the bomber formation would come under attack first. German fighter pilots were quick to spot a combat wing that was not at full strength or that was not maintaining a tight formation or one that was lacking fighter escort.
Such conditions invited attack and such was the fate of the 14th Combat Wing on this mission. The Wing had only two groups at the time--the 44th from Shipdham and the 392nd from Wendling. Hoseason related their experience.2 German flak batteries were keyed up for this raid, perhaps making up for their lesser performance two days earlier. They opened fire on the 14th Combat Wing with intense, concentrated and accurate flak. The wing formation became so scattered that a number of its planes crossed the Swiss border and took fire from Swiss guns. Then their problems were compounded by the failure of their escort fighters to arrive on schedule. German fighter pilots seized the opportunity and struck in great numbers--perhaps as many as 75 attackers. Their determined attacks continued when over the target, then on the turn of the planes to their Rally Point and all the way back to Strasbourg as the remaining B-24s made a run for it. German fighters attacked in line abreast, three and four at a time, followed by others. The lead ship of the formation had an engine shot out. The lead navigator was blinded by a 20mm. shell. P-38 Lightnings came to the rescue but did not deter the attacks. The 392nd lost 14 of its 28 bombers. The 44th lost eight bombers. Airmen totalling nearly 220 were killed, wounded or missing.
There were 26 bombers from the 453rd Bombardment Group on this mission, with Colonel Miller flying its lead. One of the airmen, Lt. Wendell D. Faulkner in PAPERDOLL of the 735th Squadron of the 453rd kept a diary of his missions.3 For this mission of March 18 to Friedrichshafen he recorded a diagram of the two sections of the 453rd flight. See Fig. 17. Jones flew as right wingman with Warrington and Williams in an element in trail of Colonel Miller's lead element. Take-off had been uneventful. Assembly was made at 12,000 feet The 2nd Air Division arrived over the coast of France ahead of the schedule set at briefing. A 360° turn was made to take up some flying time to adjust for this early arrival. The diarist reported that flak was encountered over France. The recall code word was "Maid", but recall was not necessary. Captain Low, flying deputy lead in the first section, said, "Out-bound toward the target, the mission proceeded pretty much according to plan." But then trouble began. He wrote, "As the formation approached the LP, Colonel Miller reported there was trouble aboard his aircraft. Shortly thereafter he directed me to take over the lead. I acknowledged and we moved into lead as the former lead (Miller) dropped out. As he went down, Colonel Miller waved to us and they were gone!"
Low had to make adjustments to the command situation promptly, as the formation was entering German airspace and would reach the IP in less than one-half hour. Meanwhile, the enemy was fully aware that Friedrichshafen was the target and was smoking the city and the target factories with smoke from generators moored in Lake Constance. As Low turned his force on the bomb run for a visual attack, he saw that the bombardiers would have difficulty sighting the target. He ordered a go--around--a maneuver that is often quite dangerous and costly because it extends the time the formation is exposed to flak and fighter attack. In this instance the wider circle carried the bombers close to or over the Swiss border beyond Lake Constance. Bradley said, "This was a no--no--to violate the airspace of neutral Switzerland, but Andy Low was determined that we would put our bombs on those aircraft factories this time. The maneuver permitted the planes to make their bomb runs down the smoke trails. The aim looked good when I called 'bombs away.' Bombing results were considered to be
'excellent.' Those factories were burning when we left. We hoped never to return to Friedrichshafen."4
There was still the matter of returning to their airbases in England. At the end of the mission, the 2nd Combat Wing counted its losses: 1 B-24 from the 453rd carrying its CO, Colonel Miller, along with the Group Navigator and Lieutenant Stock and crew, and two bombers from the 445th, one of which made it to neutral Switzerland. One bomber of the 453rd crash-landed at Goudhurst with four airmen killed.
Colonel Miller's fate later became known to Captain Low, who wrote, "When Colonel Miller parachuted into a French field, he was quickly rounded up and put in touch with the French partisans. With underground help, disguised as a priest, Colonel Miller made his way across France to the town of Perpignan near the Spanish border. As he awaited darkness to make his crossing, he was discovered by a German border patrol and captured."5
As for the Jones plane and crew, Stein wrote, "Flak was very heavy. We had about 20 flak holes in our ship. Bombing results were much better than the first time."
And thus ends the account of Bradley's second mission.
* * * * *
The next day, March 19, 1944, Lt. Colonel Ramsay D. Potts assumed command of the 453rd. Of him, Low later wrote, "Lt Col. Ramsay D. Potts assumed command of the Group. Colonel Potts had been a member of General Ted Timberlake's famous 'Flying Circus' and brought with him the experience gained from 32 missions. He had led a bomber formation in the spectacular raid against Ploesti and had participated in the bombing of Rome. Colonel Potts is one of the most decorated officers in the ETO. He holds the DSC, the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Clusters, the DFC and the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters. Before coming to the 453rd he had held several high positions in both the 2nd Combat Wing and 2nd Air Division."6
* * * * *
BERLIN (8 AF 273) March 22. Four days after their second Friedrichshafen mission, the Jones crew was tagged for a mission to Berlin. The 2nd Air Division dispatched 214 bombers that morning. The Jones crew was not among them. A test of the bomb bay doors of Jones' ship after assembly of the Combat Wing disclosed that they would not open properly. Jones aborted this flight.
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