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Back to Mission 33 Mission 34 Tuesday, 20 Jun 44 Politz Forward to Mission 35
Mission 34
A maximum effort was called for by the Supreme Command. The 492nd was to participate in the two missions planned for the day. On the morning mission they dispatched 35 planes for the attack on the oil reineries at Politz. The Group was led by Major Losee, the 856th Squadron Commander. The Group formed in three squadrons. The lead squadron was led by the J Harris Crew 707, with Major Losse aboard. The Kehoe Crew 613 led the low left section, while the Johnson Crew 903 led the high right.
The 14th Wing led the 2nd Air Division. The 44th BG led with the 392nd BG on their right and the 492nd BG on their left.
The Group didn't have any aborts until they crossed over the Danish Peninsula, well over the Baltic Sea. The plane flown by the Velarde Crew 615 blew an engine. The hardest part of their return trip was flying back across the peninsula, but they were able to get back without incident. What seemed to be bad luck turned out to be good luck. Of the 12 ships and crews sent out by the 856th Squadron that day, they were the only crew to return.
Fighter Protection
The 2nd Air Division was assigned 271 escort fighters. This was enough to do the job, but the timing during the mission got off a beat. The 14th Wing was running 6 minutes ahead of schedule while the 2nd Wing, which was bringing up the rear, was running 2 minutes behind. On top of that, the 355th Fighter Group was running behind and hadn't caught up with the division yet. For a brief moment, perhaps for only 4 minutes, the 2nd Air Division was being covered by just the 339th FG. The earlier escorts had already reached their maximum point and were headed home. The division had become too stretched out for the 339th FG to effectively cover everybody.
Enemy Resistance
The Luftwaffe took advantage of the situation. They used some of their planes to distract and lure the escorts away so they could attack the unescorted portions of the armada. There wasn't anything that the 492nd did or didn't do that made themselves the focal point of the Luftwaffe. It was simply the turn of an unlucky card. The German fighters' swooped in for the attack, randomly targeting the left side of the Group flown by the 856th Sqaudron.
Some questions come to mind. Why was the Luftwaffe out to meet the 2nd Air Division over the Baltic Sea? Why was it that when that small window of opportunity opened, the Luftwaffe was already in position to attack? We don't have any confirmed answers, but perhaps the unidentified B-24, as seen in prior missions, had tagged along again, this time reporting to the Luftwaffe pilots. One thing's for sure, the Luftwaffe knew what it was doing and they knew what the 2nd Air Division was doing.
The 856th BS lost all of their planes while en route to their target. How many of them made an attempt to reach Sweden is unknown. Although Sweden was a mere 20 minutes from the air battle, only two of the shot-up Liberators made it there. Some of the crewmen bailed out into the Baltic Sea, others went down in their planes, many bodies were never recovered.
Reports are that the Luftwaffe attacked with Me-109s, Me-110s, Ju-88s and Me-410s. They fired rockets, 20mm canon and machine guns. They orchestrated their attacks at such a performance level that they had to be some of Germany's best pilots.
Abbott Crew 609 was shot down. They were flying B-24 44-40128. There were no suvivors of their ten-man crew.
Curtis Crew 610 suffered the same fate, as none of their ten men were recovered. They flew the MARY ELLEN, 44-40143. This was their second mission to Politz.
Hadden Crew 608 was another without any survivors. We aren't sure how many men were on their plane, as reports conflict. Some say nine while others say ten. They were flying LITTLE LULU, 42-110143.
Kaufman Crew R-05 was the last of the planes to go down without any survivors. They were flying as a nine-man crew in TROUBLEHUNTER, 44-40161.
Goodridge Crew 812 had been reassigned to the 856th BS when the 858th Staff was transferred. They too had survived the Group's first mission to Politz and knew this one was going to be rough. Flying in BOTTLE BABY, 44-40169, Lt Goodridge said they were hit by rockets. He hit the bailout bell and his crew began to jump. Just as he unbuckled his seat belt the plane exploded and threw him out of the plane. The next thing he knew was falling through the air. He opened his chute and went into the ice cold sea. He passed out but was picked up by a German patrol boat. He woke up in a German hospital, the sole survivor of his crew. The other eight men were claimed by the sea.
R Harris Crew 612 was seen blowing up in mid-air shortly after three of the men were able to jump out. They were taken prisoner while the other seven were never found. They were flying in aircraft 44-40227.
Val Preda Crew 601 was also knocked down on the way to target while flying B-24 44-40163. They lost four of their crewmen. The other six became POWs.
McKoy Crew R-09 flew RUPTURED DUCK, 44-40150. Although badly burned, Bob Cash was the only one of their nine-man crew able to survive to become a POW; the other eight KIA. Before being taken to the Germans hospital, Milton Goodridge (pilot, Crew 812) tells of saying goodbye to the badly burned Bob Cash that day, privately sure that "the kid would never make it." This made their reunion some 50 years later all the more poignant.
Faucher Crew R-12 was a little luckier than the previous crews, as seven of their ten-man crew were captured. They were flying B-24, 42-110152.
Seitzinger Crew 616 was hit hard yet still remained in the air. Wisely, Lt Seitzinger made a beeline to Sweden. Their plane SKNAPPY, 44-40142, barely got the ten-man crew across the Baltic.
Kehoe Crew 613, the squadron leader for the 856th, was also severely damaged in the attack. A fire broke out on their ship FLAK HAPPY, 44-40112. Some of the men immeditately bailed out. Lt Kehoe decided to try and make it back to England. While heading west across the Baltic the rest of men jumped leaving only the two pilots onboard. Prior to reaching Denmark, Kehoe knew his ship could not reach England and turned north to Sweden. The fire continued to burn and the decision was made to jump. He held the plane while his co-pilot jumped then put the plane on autopilot to take his turn. As he went back to the bomb bay he discovered the plane wasn't in as bad as shape as he was told. He put the fire out and then flew on to Sweden alone. Of the 10 men who bailed, only 2 were picked up by German patrol boats. According to the Germans, the other 8 bodies were found washed up onshore about two weeks later.
Losing an entire squadron on the way to target was devastating, but it wasn't a one sided massacre. The 856th BS shot down a bunch of enemy fighters but the dead weren't able to file their claims. The Luftwaffe attacked the rest of the Group but could not bring any of them down. The other 492nd crews were credited for destroying 6 enemy fighters, 1 probable and 1 damaged. Their unescorted time was brief. Soon the escort fighters arrived and destroyed another 28 German fighters.
By the time the Group reached the target, the 856th was completely gone. The German pilots hadn't completely abandoned the 2nd Air Division and radioed to their anti-aircraft batteries everything that they needed to know to provide heavy and accurate flak.
Smoke pots had been set off in an effort to screen off visual sightings of the refineries. But with the way the wind was blowing and the direction the Liberators were coming, they were ineffective. The 2nd Air Division had no problems finding and hitting their targets.
J Harris Crew 707, who had been leading the Group, got hit by flak just as they were dropping their bombs. They lost an engine which caused the plane to drop down underneath the deputy lead ship as they were dropping their bombs. Somehow they weren't hit. But their ship SILVER WITCH, 44-40136 was crippled. Their navigator bailed out. The rest of the crew and Major Losee stayed on and went to Sweden. They barely made it!
Konstand Crew 711, flying as deputy lead, took over the Group. For his actions on this rough mission Lt Konstand was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Liggett Crew 701 was crippled from flak. After bombing the target they, too, had to drop out of formation. They nursed B-24 44-40106 all the way to Sweden where the ten men were interned.
Heber Crew 705 was flying SAY WHEN, 44-40103. They were severely crippled by flak which caused their plane to slide underneath the others at bombs away. The raining bombs took off part of their nose and destroyed their Number Four engine. They went to Sweden, as well. They were flying as a nine-man crew.
This mission would become the Group's highest casualty day of the war. They had lost 14 crews. The 856th was completely wiped out, as eleven of the lost crews were theirs. They had also lost their Squadron Commander, Major Losee.
This black day came just one day after the Group had been reorganized into a three-squadron group. Now the Group was forced to reorganize again. Many of the former 858th crews that had been sent to the 857th and 859th squadrons were quickly reassigned to the 856th. Trying to follow some of the crew assignments to squadrons over the next few days is difficult, as squadron rosters were jockeyed around.
Earlier in the month, six highly experienced Captains and their crews had been transferred for Pathfinder Training. Between transfers and battle losses, the Group was now running short on experienced lead crews too. But thanks to five weeks of combat, some of the lesser experienced pilots had proven themselves to be good leaders.
Major John Losee was replaced by Major Thomas Schepis, who had been the Group Assistant Operations Officer. In the coming days, more personnel changes would be made within the Group's command structure and its squadrons. Despite all of its hardships, the Group remained intact and functional. The next morning they were out there bombing Germany again.
Mission Data
Mission: 34
Date: 20 Jun 44
City: Politz, Poland
Target: Oil Refinery
Bomb Load
Tons: 69
Type: 100 lb GPS
500 lb GPs
Result: Excellent
Enemy Action
Flak: Heavy
GAF: Me-109s
Counter Action
492nd Casualties
More Info
1 picture
1 picture
4 pictures
2 pictures
2 scans
2 scans
This mission's impact
on the overall war
Part 1: Accounts
Part 2: Formation
Part 3: Luftwaffe
Part 4: Politz
20 June 1944
Prytulak Crew 907
Prytulak Crew 907
Taylor Crew R-04
Val Preda Crew 601
4 KIA, 6 POW
Hadden Crew 608
10 KIA
Abbott Crew 609
10 KIA
Curtis Crew 610
10 KIA
R Harris Crew 612
10 KIA, 3 POW
Kehoe Crew 613
8 KIA, 2 POW, 1 INT
Velarde Crew 615
Aborted deep into
enemy territory
Seitzinger Crew 616
10 INT
Goodridge Crew 812
8 KIA, 1 POW
Kaufman Crew R-05
McKoy Crew R-09
7 KIA, 2 POW
Faucher Crew R-12
3 KIA, 7 POW
Liggett Crew 701
10 INT
Heber Crew 705
J Harris Crew 707
1 POW, 11 INT
Konstand Crew 711
Flying Cross
Val Preda 601
Hadden 608
Abbott 609
Curtis 610
R Harris 612
Kehoe 613
Velarde 615
Seitzinger 616
Goodridge 812
Kaufman R-05
McKoy R-09
Faucher R-12
Liggett 701
Heber 705
J Harris 707
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