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Back to Mission 51 Mission 52 Tuesday, 18 Jul 44 Troarns Forward to Mission 53
Mission 52
It was another big day for the Mighty 8th, as they hit targets in Germany and France. The B-24s drew the French target designed to help Field Marshall Montgomery break through the German lines in the Caen - St Lo area also called Troarns.
The 14th Wing was assigned to hit the Wehrmacht forces opposing Mongomery's left flank. Its commander, General Leon Johnson, led this mission himself. The 492nd dispatched 36 ships into three squadrons under the command of Major Heaton, the 857th Sqaudron Commander. He flew with the Orthman Crew 806, now designated as Crew 701. There were no aborts.
Fighter Protection
The escort assignment went to the Royal Air Force and their Spitfires. They escorted the armada in and out of the protective umbrella over Normandy furnished by the 9th Air Force. Needless to say, the 2nd Air Division didn't see any Luftwaffe planes.
Enemy Resistance
German flak guns were plentiful, putting up a fairly thick barrage over themselves. Most groups reported the flak to be inaccurate, but that was not so with the 492nd. They lost one plane, two damaged planes had to land elsewhere and many others returned with extensive damage.
The target area was extremely clear for visual bombing. The air photos showed that the 14th Wing hit exactly where they were supposed to. According to the records, all 36 planes attacked their target. However, Lt Williams made a note on Sgt Heath's Diary that his plane returned with its bombs. They might have dropped a portion of their bombs.
Seger Crew R-31 of the 856th was on their second mission flying MOONSHINE EXPRESS, number 42-95215. They took a severe hit by flak. Lt Seger managed to get his plane over the Allied beachhead before giving the order to abandon ship. Sgt Craig's chute failed to open. Lt Dolaro was hospitalized for his wounds. The rest of the crew was soon returned to duty.
Damaged Planes
Vowinkel Crew R-35 of the 856th was on their first mission. The flak took out two of their engines and started a fire under their flight deck. They spotted an Allied controlled airstrip and decided to land there. While still on fire, they set down through the barrage balloons, with a blown tire and ten 100 pound bombs still hung up in the bomb bay. They all walked away from it and the pilot was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
White Crew R-34, also on their maiden mission with the 856th, was also shot up by flak. Three of the men, including the pilot, were wounded. They made it back across the Channel, but were forced to land at Thorney Island off southern England. The three men were hospitalized.
This milk run wasn't a piece of cake for the 492nd. The 2nd Air Division's sole loss of a B-24 and a crewman was accounted for by the misfortune dealt to the Seger Crew. They wouldn't have lost a man had his parachute opened. Other than a bad packing job, there are various reasons why a jump might fail.
Airmen didn't get extensive jump training like paratroopers did. They were given some basic instructions and theories on how to jump in case of emergency, but simply put, they were told to clear the plane and pull the string. This is well covered in James Mahoney's book The Reluctant Witness.
"No need to practice; you did it right the first time or, as the paratroopers said, you'd be jumping to a conclusion," writes Mahoney.
He does talk about delayed jump tactics where one pulls the rip cord after free falling about half way down. He points out that opening a chute too early could catch falling debris or gasoline which can either ruin or set the chute on fire. Also, one would want to get away faster from the flak field or the arena of German fighters. And it's better to pull the string at a lower altitude where the air is safer for breathing. Another reason he gives for delay jumping is that it would reduce the jolt by more than half.
War rumors, outside of the 492nd, had circulated that some chutes had failed because the silk had been stolen from them. Since silk was essential to the war effort, it was no longer available to the general public. It quickly became a high-dollar black market item, especially for making wedding dresses. It became common practice for airmen and paratroopers to always check their packs to verify that someone hadn't stolen it.
There are countless stories of airmen who had bailed out over occupied territory to find that the locals wouldn't help them unless they first gave them their parachute. Often this meant backtracking to where they had landed and buried it.
Mission Data
Mission: 52
Date: 18 Jul 44
City: Troarns, France
Target: Tactical
Bomb Load
Tons: 86
Type: 100 lb GPs
Result: Excellent
Enemy Action
Flak: Heavy
GAF: None
Counter Action
Kills: 0
492nd Casualties
More Info
This mission's impact
on the overall war
Prytulak Crew 907
Prytulak Crew 907
Seger Crew R-31
1 KIA, 1 WIA
Vowinkel Crew R-35
Flying Cross
White Crew R-34
Seger Crew R-31
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