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Back to Mission 4 Mission 5 Friday, 19 May 44 Brunswick Forward to Mission 6
Mission 5
With D-Day rescheduled to June and the weather clearing, the 8th Air Force resumed its deep air raids into Germany. The 2nd Air Division was ordered to hit the Waggum airdrome and its attached aircraft assembly plant at Brunswick. The Allied weathermen had forecast heavy cloud cover over all of Germany, so the day's missions were led by Pathfinders.
The 492nd dispatched 26 of its planes to be led by the Group's Deputy Commander, Major Adams. He flew in one of the two Pathfinders furnished by the 44th BG. They assembled into 2 sections of 14 ships with Capt Lewis leading the 2nd section. There were no aborts.
After all of the planes of the 8th Air force were assmebled in the air, there were 45 minutes worth of delays before sending the armada across the channel. The reasons for the delays are not known, but their affect on the day invited disaster. See the Bigger Picture.
Fighter Protection
The 8th Air Force sent out 700 fighters, plus another 264 borrowed from the 9th Air Force, to protect their 888 bombers. In terms of numbers, the protection was excellent.
Enemy Resistance
The Group didn't get their normal welcoming flak when they crossed the Dutch coast. Perhaps they had found a weak spot of anti-aircraft guns. Heavy flak wouldn't be encountered until they got to Germany.
One hundred miles into enemy territory the Frantz Crew 803 had troubles aboard their ship when a fire broke out from a leak in their oxygen system. The fire was quickly put out, but the damages were serious enough to send them home. As crazy as it may seem, a German fighter picked up on them and escorted them to the coast.
The Luftwaffe was up in full force as the 8th Air Force's path to target crossed dangerously close to many German Air Bases. As the Group made its way towards Brunswick many of the airmen witnessed dogfights off in the distance. Every once in a while a lone enemy fighter would make a teasing run at the Group. The Germans were using decoys to lure the Allied protection away from the bomber groups. This was easily accomplished because the fighter pilots had their orders to leave the bombers and destroy the Luftwaffe at all cost.
Accounts of the day are varied and details of the air battles are rather foggy. The Luftwaffe did catch the 492nd twice without fighter protection. The first time was when the Group had reached its IP (Initial Point), the point where the bombers make their turn toward the target and begin their bombing run. The scenario was set for a massacre as the Luftwaffe hit the 492nd with about 40 fighters firing cannons and machine guns. Although the battle was short, the Group was able to hold their own by knocking down several of the enemy planes. By the day's end, the Group had lost 8 ships while getting credit for destroying 10 enemy fighters.
The target area had become an arena of confusion. Because of the Luftwaffe attacks, half of the 2nd Air Division were approaching Brunswick from a direction different from the briefed route. The primary target wasn't accessible from that angle, so the 20th and 14th Wings passed over the flak filled skies without dropping their bombs (the 492nd is in the 14th Wing). They circled around for another shot at it only to find themselves on a collision course with the 96th Wing who were coming in on schedule. And the 96th would be followed by the 2nd Wing. The 20th circled around for a third attempt. The 14th decided it had enough of the comedy so they flew to the southwest corner of the city and took out a railroad marshalling yard instead.
Over Brunswick the 2nd Air Division had become divided into three separate forces with only one fighter group of P-47s to defend them. The fighters stayed with the scheduled 96th Wing. The other two Wings would have to fend for themselves until another group of P-38s made it over to help out.
Despite all of the confusion, the 2nd Air Division achieved "fair" results.
We don't know the order each plane was hit. The Lewis Crew 813 was leading the High Right section so we'll start with them. They were hit by cannon fire after the other two planes in their element were hit. Witnesses say they saw it go straight down, dropping like a rock. Several chutes were seen coming out of it. Some accounts say the ship exploded in the air while others recall it going to the ground.
Both the Herbert Crew 802 and the Fisher Crew 805 were damaged and were seen dropping out of the formation and heading for home. These two were flying on Lewis' wings, thus the lead element was completely eliminated.
The last of the 4 ships lost in the 858th Squadron was the Pratt Crew 818. They took a 20 mm shell in the nose, which instantly killed the nose gunner. Even though their ship had caught fire, the pilot told the crew, "We are going to bomb their target come hell or high water." But before they could reach their target Pratt ordered the men to abandon ship. Only 3 men made it out before the plane exploded.
The only loss suffered by the 859th that day was the Brantley Crew 905. They were also the only plane lost flying in the first section. Their left wing had caught on fire, either as a result of enemy fighter fire or from flak. The order to bail out was quick, but still only 4 men were able to get out before the ship exploded into a fireball. One died before he reached the ground.
The entire right element of the second section was also knocked out. The element leader, the Arnett Crew 717, had two engines quit and another damaged. They were seen going down in a slow spiral.
Brague Crew 718 on Arnett's right was hit in the frontal assult, killing the pilot and 2 gunners. A couple of the men were able to bail before the ship exploded. The other survivors were blown out. Only 4 of the 10 men survived.
The Bridges Crew 702 on Arnett's left suffered heavy damage and had 3 men wounded, but still moved up to take the lead of the second section. Then an Me-109 clipped their tail with his wing. The wing of the German fighter came off and down he went. Bridges' ship was barely flying, forcing them, too, to drop out and attempt to limp their way back home.
The final loss for the 857th was the Murray Crew 709. We're not sure if they were hit before, during or after the target. Accounts say that the attacks killed 2 men and wounded another. The crew got their wounded man out before jumping themselves. Only 3 more men made it out before the ship exploded.
Returning Home
The return trip for what was left of the bruised Group was long, but without further trouble. For four of the crippled ships, however, it was a different story. During battle each one had to drop out of the formation and attempt to make it back to England on their own.
Fisher Crew 805 got back as far as Holland before their plane gave out. They were forced to bail out. 1 KIA, 8 POW, MACR 5243.
Arnett Crew 717 made it to the channel on two engines before losing a third. They had to swing back around and crashland in Holland. 1 KIA, 8 POW, MACR 5242.
Herbert Crew 802 wouldn't be seen again until 58 years later when their remains were discovered in Germany. 10 KIA, MACR 5240.
Bridges Crew 702 had the good fortune to limp all the way back to North Pick despite that their tail had been clipped by the wing of a German fighter. Three of the men received Purple Hearts for their wounds in battle and Lt Bridges was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The Group was battle tested. They proved themselves as they rose to the challenges they faced. They proved that they could dish it out as well as take it. But the loss of 8 ships and crews was a grim reality that they were in a war.
Each man reflected the events of the day wondering what could they have done different. The question would gnaw at them for the rest of their lives. The answer is that there was nothing they could do. Not individually, nor as a crew, an element, a squadron, nor as a group. They did the best they could with the cards they were dealt. The circumstances they encountered were simply of the "hard luck" kind.
Mission Data
Mission: 5
Date: 19 May 44
City: Brunswick, Germany
Target: Aircraft Assembly Plant
Bomb Load
Tons: 49
Type: IB
Result: Fair
Enemy Action
Flak: Light
GAF: 40
Counter Action
492nd Casualties
More Info
Arnett Crew 717
Pratt Crew 818
Brantley Crew 905
for Mission 5
for Mission 5
This mission's impact
on the overall war
By the 492nd
War Rains Down On
Lutter & Mandelsloh
A B-24 and several
airmen drop onto two
German villages
Missing Allied Air
Crew Research Team
(with photos)
Arnett Crew 717
Brague Crew 718
Brantley Crew 905
Bridges Crew 702
Fisher Crew 805
Herbert Crew 802
Lewis Crew 813
Murray Crew 709
Pratt Crew 818
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