B-26 Marauder 320th Bomb Group

 

Memories of My Time With the 320th B.G. During WW II
by Donald Wilson Round, 444th Bomb Squadron

 

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My Missions

 

 
 

Waiting for a Mission.

I flew my first mission on January 15, 1944 over south Orvieto, Italy. The mission was a bridge at on the northern railroad line from Florence to Rome. The group had lost some airplanes over Orvieto and the pilots who had been there before didn't want to go back. The Germans had a lot of guns there and we could see a lot of flak.

I flew co-pilot for a very nervous pilot who had lost some of his teeth. He kept calling the tower to see if the mission was cancelled. He must have had a hard time in North Africa. On landing after the mission he overshot the cross wind leg of the pattern and had to come in on an angle to line up with the runway. I never saw him again; I think they sent him home. If I had known how hard it had been for the pilots in North Africa, I would have been nervous too.

I flew missions to Anzio beachhead, Florence, Florence again, Rome three times, and Anzio three times, the Po River Valley almost to Germany a couple times, Pisa, and Elba. The rest of the missions were between the Po River Valley and Anzio in the south of Italy. I flew one mission to southern France, but a mistake was made on my mission papers and it is listed as Italy. In the first 34 missions I flew, my records show that 26 B-26ís were lost in our four squadrons for different reasons: some shot down, crash-landings, take offs, damaged from flak. Some fell in the ocean trying to get back to home base. I didn't count losses in the next 30 missions I was on. In going back and reading about the missions I had flown, I now see that most of them were more dangerous than I thought at the time.



Good formation Flying.

After returning from my 5th mission, I learned that one of my best friends, Lt. Demetree, had been in a very bad airplane accident on his birthday. On take off, Lt. Meyer was flying first pilot with Demetree as co-pilot. At 300 ft the engines started malfunctioning and before they knew it, the ground was coming up to meet them. They were going down. They were able to miss some big rocks and a ditch. The tail of the airplane broke off and the crew in back were able to get out. Lt. Meyers and Lt. Demetree were able to get out the top of the airplane through the pilot's exit, which was usually locked, but this time was open. They realized that the navigator and bombardier were still inside so they climbed back in and were able to get them out. Once on the ground they were not able to run much so they crawled and were about 100 feet from the airplane when the plane's four 1000-lbs. bombs and a load full of gas blew up. They were very lucky and they were flying again in a couple of missions.



On the bomb run.
Notice the lead ship's bombs are spaced further apart. This allowed for the split second recation time it took for the other planes to drop their load.

On my 63rd mission, I had a co-pilot that had just arrived in the squadron and this was his first mission. We had checked the airplane and taken our place on the runway for a three ship take off. We were going about 100 miles per hour when he pointed to the fuel pressure gauge. The needle on the right engine was jumping around pretty bad so I cut both engines off and the co-pilot really jumped in his seat. I applied full brakes, because our position was on the outside in the three ship take off and the runway was long I could do this. I had to get out of the way because there were three ships taking off right after us. I informed the tower of what was wrong and taxied to the take off position. We did a good check on the engines, but we could not find anything wrong so I asked the tower for permission to take off. After we were in air it took about 20 minutes before I could catch up to the formation which was about half way to Italy by that time.

On one of our missions we had bad flak and fighters after us. Because the flak and fighters had shot up so many of our planes, Col. Fletcher, the flight commander, decided to fly to Corsica on the return trip. It had been a long mission and the C.O. gave the rest of the squadron permission to go on to the home base (Decimo) if we had the fuel. Captain Johnson decided to go to Decimo, about 20 miles from the base the right engine quit so I feathered the propeller. We called the tower and they said they would be ready for us. Captain Johnson made a fine single engine landing and taxied to the pad without any trouble.



We had our fair share of flak.

On one mission as we were returning to the base we were in the mountains when we hit a down draft. I didn't have my safety belt fastened and my head hit the top of the airplane. I had hair then, but it still hurt. The Pilots in our house; Johnson, Burke and I, were set up to try out three airplanes that had new engines on them. Johnson was the lead pilot. I was flying formation on Johnson and Burke was flying a little above me on my wing. Johnson decided to buzz the squadron. The 444 squadron was located in an olive grove. I had my eyes on Johnson when all of a sudden I could not see him. I was boxed in with Burke flying above me, so I had no choice but to fly straight ahead. Johnsonís airplane was painted an olive color so as soon as we got through the olive grove I could see Johnson again but I was closer to him then I really wanted to be.(Continued)


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