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Back to Mission 45 Mission 46 Friday, 07 Jul 44 Bernburg Forward to Mission 47
Mission 46
The 8th Air Force planned a major strike on Germany for all three of its divisions. The 2nd Air Division drew targets around the Bernburg area. The 14th Wing was to hit an aircraft manufacturing facility in Bernburg.
The 392nd led the Wing with a three-squadron formation. Off to their right and back a bit was where the 492nd lined up. The three squadrons of the 44th lined up behind and to the left of the 492nd, putting them directly in line behind the 392nd.
Durng assembly, 2 of the Group's 23 dispatched planes had to abort due to engine failures. The remaining 21 ships were led by Major Heaton, the 857th Squadron Commander. He flew with the Konstand Crew 711. Since the Group could only put up two squadrons, the 392nd put up a fourth squadron to fly with the 492nd, acting as their third squadron.
Fighter Protection
There weren't enough fighters assigned to protect the 2nd Air Division. The mission planners felt that the routes to be flown by the B-17s would attract the Luftwaffe, so they scheduled the escorts accordingly. But the timetable wasn't kept by the slower flying B-17s and the 2nd Air Division became the Luftwaffe's primary focus instead.
Enemy Resistance
Estimates claim that the Luftwaffe attacked the 14th Wing with about 175 single-engine fighters and 125 twin-engine planes. They found the 492nd and 392nd completely unprotected by escorts. German radio transmissions were intercepted that told their pilots to go after the 492nd.
We don't know how many German planes the Group shot down. The bomber crews of the 2nd Air Division were credited with destroying 39 enemy planes. We did find in the 857th records that their crews were credited with 4 of those kills. Their sister group, the 392nd, got credit for knocking down 14 enemy fighters.
Flak was reported as being heavy and accurate over Bernburg.
Initial Point (IP)
Since the timing of the events during this battle was never logged, we'll cover them in order of squadron losses, beginning with the 856th.
Most of the losses occurred while the Group was flying from the IP to the target. The IP is the point where the actual bomb run begins. This is when they line up to attack, open the bomb bay doors and turn the controls over to the bombardier.
After the 14th Wing made its turn at the IP and were heading to target, they found themselves on a collision course with another B-24 wing that was returning from their target at Halle. There were a couple of things wrong. First, the other wing was off their designated path for returning. Second, both wings were running a little off schedule.
Seeing this, the 44th BG decided to swing wide right to completely avoid the oncoming wing. The escorts followed them, thus leaving the 392nd and 492nd without any fighter protection.
When Major Heaton saw the oncoming wing, he pointed it out to Lt Konstand, his pilot. Konstand said, "They're empty and we're full. Let them move over." His statement complied with the rules of bomber pilots as to whom belongs the right-of-way. But to complicate matters, the Luftwaffe picked that time to attack. This was one of the few battles in which the Luftwaffe attacked from the rear. They did so because it happened to the better approach that day.
As the two wings got closer, the deputy lead ship of the 453rd BG in the other wing was shot up by the Luftwaffe. Assumption is that the pilots were immediately killed, since the plane began flying aimlessly by itself. It veered into the path of the 492nd. Lt O'Sullivan of Crew 713 saw it coming and missed getting hit by putting his plane into a deep dive.
Cary Crew R-16 wasn't as fortunate as the O'Sullivan Crew. Either Lt Cary didn't see it coming or he couldn't react to it. The wandering ship collided into his, shearing off his wing. The plane remained aloft for a minute, then broke up into many pieces. Cary's navigator was the only man of the two crews that was able to bail out in time.
Pelkey Crew 815 is belived to be the first plane shot down. They were flying in LAURA JO, 44-40086, for the 856th Bomb Squadron. Accounts say that right after their plane was hit, it spun and exploded. None of the 10 survived.
McMurray Crew 801 was flying for the 856th. Since their reassignment, they were called "the tough luck crew, of the tough luck squadron, of the tough luck group, of the tough luck wing." The war seemed to be tougher on them than on most crews. Somehow they had managed to survive some really bad luck, but not on this day. Their luck ran out. Very little is known about their fate, except that they were shot down flying 44-40145 and that there were no survivors.
Haag Crew 611 was flying 42-95230 when they were shot up. Four of the men were killed on the spot. With the plane on fire, the remaining 6 men were able to bail out before the plane exploded. One of them had to strap on his chute while he was free-falling from the plane. Luckily for him, he had it in his hand when he was blown out.
Watson Crew R-19 was with the 856th and flying their third mission. They were flying DREAMER, 42-95005. They went down about the same time as the others. Only the radio operator was able to bail out to safety. The other 8 were killed.
Harding Crew 902 was flying as lead for the section and had 12 men on board. All of the men were able to jump out in time. Once they reached the ground, their troubles began. A group of German civilians caught them and began beating them severely. One of the airmen had already been beaten to death when a German soldier was able to come in and rescue the rest of the crew.
Smiley Crew 910 was flying in their own plane SUPER WOLF. They were without their navigator, who was flying with the Harding Crew. They took a shot that started a fire in the bomb bay. Only two of the men were able to get out before the plane exploded.
Newman Crew 913 had flown and survived the Group's other two high-casualty missions. But lady luck wasn't with them for this third one. Their plane BO II, 42-95117, exploded after it was hit in the belly. Of the 10-man crew, only 4 were able to get out in time.
Jacks Crew 918 was shot up, but 8 of the men were able to escape. The tail gunner was already dead, but the nose gunner was trapped. He had no way out. Witnesses say that they saw him shooting at the Luftwaffe as the plane circled about before plunging down to the ground. It was like watching an heroic scene from a Hollywood movie.
Steneman Crew 809 was now flying with the 859th. At this time we don't have many details concerning thier fate. We've learned that 3 of the crew were killed and that the other 7 became POWs.
Kilpatrick Crew R-06 (915) made it to the target. Shortly afterwards they were attacked by FW-190s. Their plane I'LL BE AROUND, 44-40132, wasn't around much longer. The initial hit by cannon fire killed at least two of the crewmen instantly. As the plane began spinning out of control, 5 of the remaining 8 men were able to get out. As they parachuted to safty, German soldiers below began shooting at them. Lt Kilpatrick was killed before he touched the ground.
Bocksburger Crew R-15 (901) was on their third mission. They were flying 42-50370. We don't much on their fate. Two of the crewmen were killed before the plane went down near Ohrsleben, Germany. The other 8 men were taken POW.
It's hard to imagine, but the records say that the 492nd attacked the target with 20 of their 21 planes. The only one that wasn't given credit as attacking was the Cary Crew R-16 that collided with the runaway bomber from the other wing. It's doubtful that all of the other planes made it to target to drop their bombs.
The Group lost 12 ships that day. They lost 67 men killed in action and 52 more to the German POW camps. None of them were able to make a run to Sweden. This was their third and final mission in which they lost planes in double digit numbers. The three bloodbath days would account for two-thirds of their overall losses.
The 859th had lost planes before, but never in such wholesale numbers. So far they had been luckier than the other two squadrons. Their combined losses on the other two black days was one ship. But this time the fickle finger of fate pointed to them, as none of their 7 crews returned.
The 856th lost the other 5 crews. For no logical reason, this squadron always seemed to be on the short end of the stick.
Somehow the 857th was able to get through this mission without a single loss. Their bad luck could be described as a close second to the 856th. But on this day they were the lucky ones.
The 392nd had a squadron flying as the right wing of 492nd's group formation. One could say that they lent the squadron to the 492nd for the day. They also had three other squadrons flying in their group formation. They, too, had shared the jinx of the 492nd. They ended up losing 5 ships during the battle and another one that crashlanded back in England.
Mission Data
Mission: 46
Date: 07 Jul 44
City: Bernburg, Germany
Target: Aircraft
Bomb Load
Tons: 60
Type: n/a
Result: n/a
Enemy Action
Flak: Heavy
GAF: 300 fighters
Counter Action
492nd Casualties
More Info
Group burials
of 12 men from
Watson Crew R-19
Newman Crew 913
Smiley Crew 910
Jacks Crew 918
Groeningen, Germany
This mission's impact
on the overall war
O'Sullivan Crew 713
Hamilton Crew 604
German article about
the events of
that day near the
town of Egeln
Missing Allied Air
Crew Research Team
(with photos)
28 Dec 2007
(with 13 photos)
12 Jun 2008
Arlington Nat'l
(30 photos)
(Flash Player 9 req'd)
F Haag Crew 611
4 KIA, 6 POW
McMurray Crew 801
Pelkey Crew 815
10 KIA
Cary Crew R-16
9 KIA, 1 POW
Watson Crew R-19
8 KIA, 1 POW
Harding Crew 902
1 KIA, 11 POW
Smiley Crew 910
7 KIA, 2 POW
Newman Crew 913
6 KIA, 4 POW
Jacks Crew 918
2 KIA, 8 POW
Steneman Crew 809
3 KIA, 7 POW
Kilpatrick Crew R-06
6 KIA, 4 POW
Bocksberger Crew R-15
2 KIA, 8 POW
F Haag Crew 611
McMurray Crew 801
Pelkey Crew 815
Cary Crew R-16
Watson Crew R-19
Harding Crew 902
Smiley Crew 910
Newman Crew 913
Jacks Crew 918
Steneman Crew 809
Kilpatrick Crew R-06
Bocksberger Crew R-15
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