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8 October 1943 Mission #4 Target: Vegesack
Crewmen were briefed that the target was the submarine and shipbuilding yards at Vegesack, on the east bank of the Weser River three miles northwest of Bremen. It was the second largest seaport in Germany and one of the most important for construction of the larger submarines, destroyers and other vessels. It was equipped to build warships (all kinds except battleships). It was the only yard for building 1200 ton subs. At one time, the U-boat shipbuilding yard had the capacity to build over one U-boat per month.
It was last bombed on 3 March 1943 when 7 of the 15 U-boat slips were severely damaged and six slightly damaged. Estimates at that time were that the damage from the raid would result in neutralizing this yard for at least a year.
The target was 3150 feet long and 900 feet wide. Heavy opposition "can be expected and should be from before landfall to the target and return to the coast." This included both single engine and twin engine fighters: ME-109s and 110s, FW-190s, JU-87s and JU-88s.
Seventeen 17 aircraft took off for this mission over the heavily defended target and 15 succeeded in bombing. The 576th squadron led the attack and (432) 100# bombs were released through clouds which obscured the primary and observation of results. Two aircraft were forced to turn back prior to target because of mechanical problems.
About 40 enemy fighters were encountered: single and twin-engine aircraft, principally FW-190s, ME-109s, and JU-88s in about equal numbers (6 to 10); also occasional ME-110s, ME-210s, Me-401s and one JU-87. Combat started at 1540 hours and continued until 1635 at 21,000 feet. E/A attached from 4 to 7 o'clock but mainly from 6 o'clock, singly, in pairs, or in threes, attacking from 500-600 yards and breaking at 300 yards, peeling off to right, showing belly. E/A did not press attacks aggressively in general but waited for stragglers. They attacked low, but there was one nose attack.
Gunners of the 392nd claimed six enemy planes while the Group suffered the loss of two B-24s, both to fighter attacks. S/Sgt Wando Newberry, 579th, was killed by flak. Twelve aircraft suffered battle damage due to flak and fighters but managed to return safely. The mission flight time was 6:00 hours back to Wendling.
MISSING AIR CREW REPORT SECTION
8 OCTOBER 1943 TARGET: VEGESACK
MISSING AIRCREW REPORT: #00879 AIRCRAFT: #42-7470 "EXTERMINATOR" "F-BAR" 4th Mission
AIRCREW: CLIFFORD * SQUADRON: 579th
CREW POSITIONS AND STATUS:
P l/LT Clifford, William W. KIA
CP 2/LT Schroeder, Harold R. KIA
N 2/LT McLemore, Paul L. KIA B 2/LT Whitnah, Joseph C. KIA
R/O T/S Willhite, Max R. KIA
EnG T/S Tynes, David D. Jr KIA
NG T/S Zschiesche, Charles E. KIA WG S/S Cavell, Dominick F. KIA
WG S/S Stevens, Hirschall M. KIA
TG S/S Tweten, Ernest A. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The only very brief remarks that were associated with this aircrew’s loss was that the aircraft was attacked by enemy fighters in the vicinity of coast out, north of the target at Vegesack after the Group attacked this target. No German reports were available on the final situation regarding this crew and the Liberator. It could be concluded only that this aircrew went down just off shore into the North Sea waters, and never recovered.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: None are available in the MACR account.
BURIAL RECORDS: No German reports exist. U.S. National Cemetery reports listing these crew members are as noted: At CAMBRIDGE, England on the WALL OF THE MISSING are the names of: Whitnah; Zschiesche; Willhite; Tynes; and Cavell.On the WALL at the NETHERLANDS (Margraten) Cemetery are: Clifford; McLemore; Schroeder; Stevens and Tweten. All members are noted to have been awarded Air Medals and the Purple Heart.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: The listing records these relatives: Clifford (Mother, Mrs. Frank Clifford of Louisville, Kentucky); Schroeder (Mother, Mrs Buelah Schroeder of Westphalia, Missouri); McLemore (Father, Mumford McLemore of Salem, Indiana); Whitnah (Mother, Beatrice Whitnah of Berkeley, California); Willhite (Father, Ralph Willhite of Fredonia, Kansas); Tymes (Father, David Tymes of Bluefield, West Virginia); Cavell (Mother, Frances of Bayside, Long Island, New York); Stevens (Wife, Gwendolyn of Mansfield, Ohio); and Tweten (Mother, Sarah Tweten of Bamburg, North Dakota.
MISSING AIRCREW REPORT: #00880 AIRCRAFT: #42-7488 "HELLZADROPPIN" "S-Bar" 6th Mission
AIRCREW: BUSCHMAN * SQUADRON: 578th
CREW POSITIONS AND STATUS:
P Capt Buschman, John G. POW
CP 2/LT Waller, Clarence R. POW
N 2/LT Donlon, Maurice A. POW
B 2/LT Green, Robert J. POW
R/O T/S Hoover, J.T KIA
G T/S Coe, Jacque D. POW
EnG S/S Adams, Richard S. POW
G SGT Davis, Ray W. POW G S/S Hanrahan, Daniel J. POW
G S/S Bernard, Leo E. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: According to the surviving crew member reports, their aircraft was attacked by twin-engine enemy fighters at about 23,000 feet right after target in the vicinity of Belmanhorst, Germany. The German reports indicate the crash site of the aircraft was at Oerdingen near Sullingen, Germany, after the crew bailed out of their badly crippled ship. As a summation of all survivor testimony taken by U.S. authorities long after this event, the following individual accounts were given at the time on the entire crew: Waller bailed out through the bomb bay; Coe also exited that way; Donlon went out through the nose wheel door; Hanrahan bailed out of the right waist window; Adams also went out the right waist window; Bernard exited through the same opening but one crewman's report noted a great amount of smoke in the waist of the aircraft and felt that Bernard's parachute may not have opened; Davis left the ship through the right waist window; Buschman exited through the bomb bay; and Hoover, very badly wounded in the stomach and chest, fell from the bomb bay without a parachute. The latter crew man was later observed by another survivor lying about 500 yards from where this survivor was taken POW. The German reports noted the following: The bodies of Sgts. Hoover and Bernard were positively identified from their respective dog-tags, however, there was one "unknown" person found. No identifying tags were found on this body.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: A summation of such accounts and testimonies of surviving crew members is given above.
BURIAL RECORDS: The German report KU-245 reported the aircraft crash site at Oerdingen at 1400 hours on the mission date and that three dead were recovered at or very near this location. The three crewmen, Sgts. Hoover, Bernard and the "unknown" body were buried on 10 October in the Cemetery identified as Werga/Weser, Station V in Graves B-32 (Hoover); B-33 (Bernard); and Grave C-15 for the remaining deceased. Now buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery are Sgt Hoover inGrave C-15-1 and Sgt Bernard in Grave B-33-2.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWll: No such information was found to be filed with this aircrew’s MACR, except the home States of Sgt. Hoover (Florida) and Sgt. Bernard (Massachusetts). An Air Medal and the Purple Heart were awarded to Sgt. Hoover; and Sgt. Bernard was given a Purple Heart Citation.
This period of late Fall into early Winter of 1943 has been regarded widely by eminent historians on the air war over Germany’s Third Reich as being the darkest and grimly one of any time for the entire Eighth Air Force in all bomber operations during the Second World War. For clearly indeed, as history bears out, it was.
While the case for daylight precision bombing by visionary U.S. air leaders at the very outset of WWII (beginning with the first daylight mission ever flown by the Eighth on 17 August 1942 against the railroad marshalling yards at Rouen, France, by (12) planes of the 97th Bomb Group with the lead B-17 Flying Fortress piloted by Major Paul Tibbetts and Colonel Frank Armstrong (in "BUTCHER SHOP") and the Eighth’s Bomber Command’s first pioneer leader, Lt. General Ira C. Eaker also flying on this initial raid in another B-17 nicknamed ("YANKEE DOODLE") had been strongly embraced and correctly so as it later proved throughout for those past fourteen months, the manner now of just how to pursue this strategic doctrine was creating serious concerns at the highest levels in view of mounting heavy bomber losses. The formidable successes being pressed by the German Luftwaffe fighter forces against the Eighth’s bomber streams - successes against the bombers which up to this time had to fly their mission generally "unescorted" with no friendly fighter protection enroute - were ones which now could only be partially repulsed by the heroic accomplishments of the Eighth AF’s gunners.
The near-devastating losses by the Eighth on the two missions against the German armaments ball-bearing works at Schweinfurt on 17 August and 14 October 1943 were stark testimony to this latter fact. On these two raids alone, a total of (96) B-17s had been shot down by the Luftwaffe with a direct casualty count of (1,006) U.S. crewmen lost as a result. These stark consequences were regarded without doubt by all senior air leaders involved from Washington to England as unacceptable. Something had to be done, and soon. The nakedly unescorted heavies having to go deep to attack key targets in the heartland of Germany against Hitler’s so-called ‘Fortress Europe’, though fiercely determined, were taking a merciless pounding by the German air forces. And now, the tide of this air war seemed most clearly to be swinging to: Advantage, Luftwaffe.
Earlier at the Casablanca high level summit meeting in January 1943, where top leaders both national and military had conferred on Allied war plans, Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s war time Prime Minister, had embraced fully the American strategic air doctrine of precision daylight bombing operations by the Eighth. This concept boded well in his views on the proposed idea of ‘around the clock bombing of Nazi Germany’ despite the earlier strong objections in certain Royal Air Force military circles against the U.S. bomber operations concept. This latter opposition had stemmed primarily as being diametrically wrong in doctrine from the British one being followed from the beginning (and continued throughout the war) - that of, all night time heavy bomber, mass-area concentrated attacks in bringing Germany to its knees.
But now, here in October '43 and some nine months after Casablanca, the Eighth AF's daylight bombing applications were showing definite signs of strain in view of the pending plans for an invasion of German occupied Europe by Allied land armies- plans known only to a few top level leaders and planners at this time.
The main problem to solve, and soon, was held apparent at these highest levels of leadership: The absolute necessity to defeat the German Air Force by air superiority and subsequently gain uncontested air supremacy over the entire continental land mass. As President Roosevelt had related in a speech to Congress during September '43 to the effect..."Hitler built his Fortress Europe, but he forget to put a roof on it", the task of the air leaders was clearly evident to all. One of the vital needs among others, including refinements of bomber tactics and certain organizational changes within the war time theater of operations, was to provide the much-needed, long-range fighter support and protection of the Eighth's heavies in order to ensure the precision destruction of prime enemy targets of highest priority. Up to this time in the air war, the U.S. P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter along with the P- 38 "Lightning" and the British-built "Spitfire" had taken the battle to the Luftwaffe with most creditable results. But, even with the recently installed and innovative fuel "drop" tanks (with a 108 gallon capacity and made of paper), the P-47 with the modest increase in flying range thus gained could only provide bomber escort protection to about the Rhine River reaching on a line generally from the Ruhr Valley basin target complexes to Frankfurt, Germany.
The answer was the urgent need for a more 'long-legged' U.S. fighter plane which at this late time in '43 was already developed and ready to go operational. And even as early at then, it was realized this fighter was one that could take the bomber streams aggressively in escort all the way to and out of deep German targets such as Politz, Berlin, Magdeburg and Brunswick to name but few. In so doing, it had the superior capability to inflict telling losses on the Luftwaffe along the bomber corridors, only to return the next day to do the same job.. This decisive air fighter was the North American P-51 "Mustang" - which arguably, was the best all-around and superior fighter aircraft of its time ever deployed, and certainly during the Second World War.
This small but incredibly formidable U.S. fighter would quickly prove its worth in the eyes of all air leaders despite some early 're-engineering' needs, and would contribute immeasurably to changing the tide of the air war offensively against the Germans. The latter fact was also clearly attested by many at the time and later, including the head Luftwaffe Fighter Command General, Adolf Galland, in his memoirs.
But in late October '43, the above developments were still a few months away for the bomber forces in particular, whose air war as the 392nd's had to continue on despite mounting and heavy aircrew and aircraft losses in order to attack assigned key targets through the intervening months of 1943.
CASUALTIES NOT LISTED IN MACR
S/SGT Newberry, Wando D. 579th KIA
S/Sgt Newberry was the radio operator on 2/Lt Joseph A. Higgins Jr.'s crew. In his memoirs, bombardier 2/Lt Chester Broyles later wrote, "On our second mission we reached our target. I opened the bomb bays and dropped the bombs. It was the job of our radio operator, Newberry, to verify the strike by taking pictures of the drop. He leaned out the bomb bay to do this and was hit with a piece of "ack-ack", shell from an antiaircraft gun. It went right through his steel helmet and into his head. He was out on the catwalk and I couldn't close the bomb bay, so I went out and pulled him back in. I put him on oxygen and held him while we returned to base. There was significant damage to our plane and we had to crash land. He died in my arms just as we came in."
He is buried in Cambridge American Cemetery in Grave B-2-33 and was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously. His home of record was Arkansas.
8 Oct 1943 576th Sqdn.|
A/C 492 (aborted,
no mission credit)
P Gray, C.T. Maj.
P Lowell, C.L. 2nd Lt.
P Harris, J.D. Jr. 1st Lt.
P Becker, J.R. 1st Lt.
P Clover, D.K. 2nd Lt.
P Champion, A.S. 2nd Lt.
577th had 3 planes ready|
but did not dispatch any.
8 Oct 1943 578th Sqdn.|
P Fletcher, R.E. 1st Lt.
CA Schoolmaster, C.F. Capt.
P Dudziak, T. 2nd Lt.
P Edwards, C.E. 1st Lt.
P Buschman, J.G. 1st Lt.
P Steinmetz, D.R. 1st Lt.
8 Oct 1943 579th Sqdn.|
P Clifford, W.W. 2nd Lt.
P Baumgart, V.A. 2nd Lt.
P Goff, J.F. 1st Lt.
P Nicholson, W.P. 2nd Lt.
P Kubale, E.W. F/O
P Higgins, J.A. 2nd Lt.