Normally a combat crew only learns intelligence briefing in the early
morning hours just prior to a mission.
For me, the BREISACH Bridge across
the Rhine River was an unwanted exception. As the 443rd
Squadron Commanding Officer, I had been sent to 42nd Wing Headquarters for
several days. General Doyle greeted me and specifically asked what problems
concerned the men in the squadron. I answered honestly that they were
primarily concerned as to when replacements might arrive enabling those
approaching 65 combat missions could rotate to the sates. The tour of duty
before rotation had been periodically increased from 40 to the point that
one wondered if the magic number could ever be achieved.
My answer was not the response the response the General wanted or expected
and he was very cool to me thereafter!
While at wing Headquarters, I came down with influenza and during my
recovery I spent a lot of time with the intelligence section. They were
very concerned with a very troublesome target, the heavily defended 1000
foot bridge at BREISACH. The Germans needed that bridge to supply that
sector and as an
escape for their retreating armies.
Some weeks before, the French B-26 group a Lyon had endeavored to knock out
the target when it was protected by 27 known anti-aircraft batteries. They
lost four bombers. The weather had been poor afterward. My group, the
320th, would be next to try and take out this target.
Only now, photo reconnaissance showed as many as 160 guns protected the
approaches to the target. Intelligence section placed red pins into the war
map on the wall designating where each gun was last known to exist. Seeing
this pin-infested map, one wondered who in their “cotton picking minds”
would fly into that hornet’s nest at our bombing altitude of around 12,000
feet. This was definitely a “heavy bomber target” as they could fly twice
high as us. At their elevation flak batteries were not nearly as accurate,
whereas at ours, they were really looking down our throats so to speak.
Apparently wing had endeavored to get this target reassigned, but could get
We would just have to do the best we could with a very bad situation. At
least from our angle of approach being perpendicular to the bridge we need
contend with only 117 flak batteries. Aren’t we lucky! They would be
tracking every move we make anticipating just where our formations would be
in space when their antiaircraft shells would explode showering red hot
shrapnel in all directions. That is a very sobering actuality to look
It was common practice for the Squadron C.O.s to be assigned on all the
rougher missions. I was sure it would be the same with this once the
cleared. I crossed my fingers and watched the clouds and waited for days. I
wrote a few letters home to family and my wife with carefully chosen words
that spoke of distant times to come to ease the pain of realities should
they come to be. Of course I prayed a lot. This was the Christmas Season
minus the usual ornaments & festivities. This was WAR.