442nd Bomb Squadron
Dear mother and Dad,
I thought you might be
interested in hearing about how our missions are planned and executed. We get news of an alert the day before a
mission. A schedule is made up of about ten crews from each squadron. Our
preparation for the mission is called “briefing” - which comes one hour before
the raid. The evening before, our intelligence men go into a huddle and in the
planning room formulate all the information and data. One is delegated to location of antiaircraft
fire (flack), another to enemy fighter activity, another to weather conditions.
Prisoner of war lectures are given, plus escape kits containing emergency
rations and some Italian money. All this is done the evening before the raid.
On the morning of the
mission, the officers and enlisted men are awakened and driven to the group
briefing room. Here all the information gathered and formulated the evening before
is presented in systematic order. The
objective is discussed, the target shown on a screen, the axis of attack
pointed out, and the various other details worked out. The most important job is timing, and
everything is worked out to a split second. The weather report, a brief
discussion of the strategic advantage of hitting our particular target, and finally
we are ready.
We eat a hurried breakfast
and go out to our planes. We check them
over quickly, see if the bombs are loaded correctly, test the engines for mag
drop, and get ourselves set and then start out to the line-up at our scheduled
time. We have two runways and after lining up quickly, we are flagged off at
thirty-second intervals. The join-up into formation after we are airborne is
another ticklish proposition, but that is soon over and we are on our way to
Our target lies roughly four
hundred miles away and we must hit a pinpoint island exactly two hours and ten
minutes later, where we make our turn into the bombing run. The critical moment is now at hand - hands
tense on the throttles, sweat filters out and we are now only five minutes from
the actual dropping point. Suddenly our ship is thrown sideways by a burst of
flack and pieces of shrapnel miss us by inches.
Quickly we ease back into close formation, open our bomb-bays and wait
for the signal to drop our bombs.
Below us we can see the
warm, lazy Italian countryside and it is bard to realize that war could be
raging so terrifically down there. We
know that further down the coast our troops are fighting savagely to
consolidate a bridgehead. We also know that the road junction we are bombing is
one of the last open supply lines furnishing troops and supplies to the
enemy. If our bombs are accurate, the
road will be blocked. It will be filled
with craters and covered with debris.
At last we are ready, the
lead bombardier has set up his bombing angle, cranked in his bombsight and
corrected for deflection. The target
slowly comes up to the hair-line - an instant which seems a year - and he
flicks his toggle switch. The wing men drop simultaneously and in the rear,
other flight leaders are dropping their bombs. A few bursts of flack again come
uncomfortably close and we start a sharp breakaway. Turning and losing altitude at the same time
(this is called evasive action) and is the only thing besides luck that saves us.
Already we can feel the concussion of our 500 and 1,000 pound bombs. Our
gunners are alert watching the skies for enemy pursuit.
At last our bombardier
reports direct hits on the road junction and surrounding buildings. A car was observed turning into the junction
a second before the bombs hit. Smoke billows up a few thousand feet and debris
are seen falling over an area a couple of miles wide. But then, suddenly, our
interphone crackles, "enemy pursuit coming in at three
o’clock high!" A split second later a silver shape flashes by, missing our nose by a few
hundred feet. Some of his shells have hit the plane ahead us, but not in a
vital spot. Our escort of P-38’s engage the fifty or seventy enemy ships
fiercely and many planes are observed to be spinning down trailing smoke. I spot a German ME-1O9 which filtered through
the outnumbered fighters covering us. He was coming in at nine
o’clock high. Our turret gunner opens up and
streaking red tracers seem to go right into the ship. Suddenly the German pilot feels that perhaps
he would rather not attack a ship with the possible sacrifice of his own life.
He turns off and our tracers follow him.
Meanwhile, four more ships
are attacking our formation they dive, turn, and climb in fast devilish
circles. More ships go down smoking. Finally, after about twenty or thirty
minutes, the enemy fighters turn off to leave us. They only have a limited
amount of gas left and must return to their bases. We give a huge sigh of relief
and check our ship for bullet or flack holes. Our engineer reports, "all O.K.,
Sir!", and he then transfers the rest of our fuel and we have to decide quickly
if we have enough gas to return to Africa, or to drop off at Sicily for refueling.
A ship in front of us is in
trouble his right engine is smoking and then suddenly it catches fire. He drops
back from the formation, cutting off the bad engine and feathering the prop. We
drop back also and cover him. He loses altitude and knows he cannot get back to
land, so he has decided to ditch at sea. We cover him all the way down and he makes
a crash landing on the water. The ship sinks
almost immediately, about forty-five seconds after it hits the water. These
forty-five seconds are sufficient for all the crew members to crawl out. They
release the single emergency three-man raft, but leave three pairs of hands
still holding on in the water. We already have reported their position to Air Sea
Rescue, and they are sending a cutter out as soon as they can. We circle low
about fifty feet and drop them our three-man life raft plus an emergency radio.
As our gas supply is getting low, we wave the survivors au revoir and head
An hour later we are safely back
to our airfield and go immediately up to Group for interrogation. Here all the
things observed are reported - transports on the roads, weather conditions
encountered, and ships and trains sighted. Our bomb hits are also related, plus
the intensity and accuracy of the flack, plus number and technique of opposing
After that, two Red Gross
girls give us coffee and doughnuts and we talk over the more exciting moments among
ourselves. Our gunners have put in claims for three planes and we all call it a
day and hit the sack (bed).
I hope I don’t sound too dramatic,
but lately this is what we are running into. The raid actually happened a few
days ago and I hope it gives you as much of a thrill as it gave me.