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Back to Mission 30 Mission 31 Sunday, 18 June 44 Luneburg Forward to Mission 32
Mission 31
With the weather clearing up over Germany, the Mighty 8th was ordered to resume its offense. The 14th Wing drew an oil refinery at Luneburg, located a little southeast of Hamburg. Of the 33 planes dispatched by the 492nd only one had to abort due to an oil leak. The Group flew under the command of Captain Orthman, the pilot of Crew 806.
This was a Pathfinder-led mission, but we're not sure if any Pathfinders were actually flying with the 492nd. Our assumption is that the Pathfinders were used to lead the 14th Wing.
Fighter Protection
Only 585 fighters were dispatched to protect the 1,378 bombers sent out by the 8th Air force. The rest of their fighters were given tactical targets needed in France. Cloudy skies over Germany made the light escort cover even less effective, as groups and squadrons became seperated while flying in and out of the clouds. Yet there were no losses to the Luftwaffe.
Enemy Resistance
Heavy flak was encountered over Germany. An unidentified olive-drab B-24 with no markings joined the formation at Hamburg and flew with them to Bremerhaven and Wilhelmshaven. It flew level with the Group, but about 2,000 yards off to the right side of them. After the plane left the Group, heavy and accurate flak was thrown at them. It quickly became obvious that the B-24 was a captured ship, used to send the German anti-aircraft batteries information as to the Group's altitude, speed, position and direction.
We haven't found much to say what was encountered with the Luftwaffe, except that the Roads Crew 915 was damaged by an Me-109 over Bremerhaven.
Something new (at least for us) was seen. Rockets were fired up reaching 20,000 feet. Each rocket was dragging a very long cable beneath it to which were attached burning thermite bombs about every 20 feet or so.
Cloud cover prevented the Pathfinder-led 14th Wing from locating their target at Luneburg. The Wing moved over to their secondary target, an airfield at Bremerhaven. Along the way and into the clouds, the Group had become seperated from the Wing.
From this point on, the 492nd planes began looking for targets of opportunity. They used 8 of their planes to hit targets found at Nordenham and Wesermunde. Other planes hit naval destroyers found sitting in the Bremerhaven harbor. Unfortunately, we don't know all of the targets attacked that day by the 492nd. It's doubtful if any of their planes attacked the airfield as called for in the mission plan. But still, most records will say this Group's mission was an airfield in Bremerhaven.
It was after the Group had dropped its bombs and was returning home when the mysterious B-24 left and the Group was pounded by flak over Wilhelmshaven. The Group suffered 1 KIA and 5 WIAs, not counting the casualties on the two planes they lost. So far we can only report that one of the wounded men was Sgt Webb of the Heber Crew 705. He was lightly wounded in both of his legs.
Returning Home
Miller Crew 810 took an excessive amount of flak. They were flying the BATTLING BOOP number 44-40159, a borrowed plane from the Platinsky Crew 816. Lt Miller determined that he couldn't make it back to England and went to Goteborg, Sweden, instead.
Roads Crew 915 should have joined them. They were flying "SWEAT'ER GAL" number 44-40053, formerly flown by the Earleywine Crew 901 before they were transferred out. Roads' aircraft had already been hit by Me-109s and was limping home when his plane was hit again by flak. Still he pressed on to England. His crew was forced to do a sea ditch just 12 miles short of land, but only 2 men were rescued.
Munson Crew 814 was crippled from heavy flak over Wilhelmshaven. They were flying their assigned plane, "BOULDER BUFF" number 44-40195. With leaking gas tanks, they had to drop out of formation just in case their plane blew up. By some miracle, they made it back to North Pickenham with over a hundred holes in their plane.
It was the last day for the 858th Bomb Squadron to fly combat. The staff received their official transfer orders the next day to become the 8th Air Force Composite Command at Cheddington, England. Their new assignment had them working with propaganda leaflet dropping. As for the squadron's flyboys, ground crews and planes, they were reassigned to the other three squadrons.
The 492nd was now a three squadron group, but instead of having 18 crews per squadron they were allowed to have 24, supposedly giving the Group the same combat strength as before. However, most of the squadrons would never have 24 crews.
Since by now the Group had lost slightly more than a full squadron's worth of crews and planes, it had become a misconception that the 858th BS was cut for that reason. That is not at all true, as all war losses were replaced. The reason for losing a squadron command structure was because the 492nd had more experienced pre-war officers than any other group in the 8th Air Force. They could afford it better, as their remaining command staffs could easily handle the extra duty of maintaining larger squadrons.
This plan had been in the works for quite sometime. Col Snavely and his staff had been given advanced notice in order to efficiently reorganize his group beforehand. He reassigned some of his officers so he could keep those he needed and still give the 8th Air Force the quality of officers they needed. Now with D-Day over and a solid foothold in France established, it was right time to do it.
Mission Data
Mission: 31
Date: 18 Jun 44
City: Luneburg,
Target: Airfield
Bomb Load
Tons: 79
Type: GPs
Result: n/a
Enemy Action
Flak: Heavy
GAF: Some
Counter Action
Kills: 0
492nd Casualties
More Info
This mission's impact
on the overall war
O'Sullivan Crew 713
Hamilton Crew 604
(book excerpt)
Orthman Crew 806
D Miller Crew 810
Roads Crew 915
Munson Crew 814
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