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.
LIMPS IN AT 170
One Motor Shot Out,
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.
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