B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

 Crippled Plane Limps in at 170
by Kenneth G. Ross, 442nd Bomb Squadron

 

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Group mission #31, 10 June 1943: this was the date my airplane was severely damaged by enemy aircraft. Our mission was to bomb Pantelleria, an island off the coast of Africa. This mission was to be a “milk run,” a mission where the chance for any enemy opposition is very slight.

 

 

 

CRIPPLED PLANE
LIMPS IN AT 170
____
 
One Motor Shot Out,
Bomber Lands
at Base
____

By Associated Press.
   By Harold V. Boyle
  
ALLIED HEADQUARTERS IN NORTH AFRICA, June 18. - The crew of a Marauder bomber told today how they flew 60 miles on one engine, knocked down a Messerschmitt-109 on the way and made an emergency landing at 170 miles an hour at a fighter base.
   "Just after we opened our bomb bay doors on a run over Pantelleria I had trouble with the right engine and it started smoking," said Lieut. Kenneth G. Ross, pilot, of
1006 North La Fontaine street, Huntington, Ind.  "Our ship  fell slightly behind  formation,  and about then at least two Messerschmitts hit us.
   "I looked out of my window and saw a big bullet hole in the cowling above by left engine. Tracers were flying past the cockpit. Right then I forgot about the target and cut cross our course to catch up with the formation."
   But, although the German fliers shot up one engine and a wing, tip, the Marauder’s gunners dropped one foe and escorting Warhawk fighters got another.
   The Bombardier-navigator, Staff Sergt. Edward L. Baker, of
2121 Glay street, Murphysboro, Ill., was the first of the crew to see the enemy fighters.
   "Tracers went by my window and I looked into the sun and saw a Messerschmitt up there," he said "That must have been the one that got the engine.  I saw another making a pass at the tail."
   Protected by other Marauders and P-40’s, Lieut. Ross began his flight to get back to the African coast on one engine. He was losing altitude all the way, but was still at 2,000 feet when he saw the allied fighter field along the Cap Bon coast. He brought the plane down in what crew members said was the riskiest maneuver of the trip.
   "I had to make a hot landing," the pilot said.
   "When I tried to put the flaps down I could get them  only  a quarter of the way open."
   "It was a nice landing. There’s nothing wrong with that ship that a new engine and a little sheet metal won’t fix up."

 

 

As we were approaching the target, the right engine was not giving full power, and I was unable to keep up with the bombing formation.

Our fighter escort was with the main formation, and we were about five miles behind the main formation when two ME-109 German fighters began to attack us. I saw tracers coming by my window, on the left side of the plane. I yelled to my copilot to inform the crew and radio the escort that we were being attacked. I knew that my crew was unaware of the attack because I didn’t feel the vibration of the 50 caliber machine guns firing.

I could see holes in the left engine cowling, and as I was checking the engine readings the oil pressure dropped to zero. Quickly, I feathered the engine. Without oil pressure the engine would get hot and might damage the wing. We dropped our bombs to lighten the load, which would help maintain altitude, and headed back to the coast.

Our base at Monesquieu was about a hundred miles from the coast at an elevation of three thousand feet. The terrain from the coast to our base was very rough. As we neared the coast our altitude was 2500 ft. I told the crew I would make a belly landing on a smooth section of the beach, and asked if any one wanted to parachute out. They all decided to stay with the plane.

As I was looking for a smooth spot to land on the beach, I saw an airstrip and told the crew I would try to land on the strip even though the air speed indicator and flaps were not working.

I started my approach to the strip maintaining flying speed of about 170 miles per hour. Descending toward the strip, I cut the power as we crossed the end of the strip and landed. As soon as the nose wheel touched the ground I hit the brakes and we came to a complete stop at the end of the strip. This was a fighter strip.

It took several minutes before I was able to get out of my seat, and I was thankful we were on the ground and safe. We got out of the airplane and checked for damage. A 20-mm shell hit the left engine, the wings were damaged severely, but none of the crew was hurt. The plane had over 150 shell holes. And took about six weeks to repair the damage. All of the fuel tanks and both engines had to be replaced.

It was several days before we could get transportation back to our base. The men in our squadron were surprised to see us since they were unaware of what had happened .This was my 13th mission. The crew was:

Pilot - Kenneth G. Ross
Co-Pilot - Morris M. Thompson
Flight Engineer- Curtis H. Gandy
Bombardier- Edward L Baker
Top Turret - John K. Moberly
Tail Gunner- James R. Williams
 


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