New Year’s Eve – Sunday
On New Year’s Eve while in the base hospital, Wayne finally wrote in his journal recapping the events since his last entry on December 22 . . . . .
[On December 23] bombed and strafed Koeroe supply dump, Halmaheras and Lolobato Airdrome. Two missions hit the supply on the way up, landed at Morotai, refueled the planes and bombs, and hit Lolobata on the return flight. Tough couple, 54th and 55th missions.1 Saw Lt. Tolhurst who was recently transferred to the 70th Squadron. Couple of their ships had taken a beating. In one, a 20 mm exploded the dome from top turret, two scratches for the gunner. Another plane hit a tree, left aileron torn to shreds and landing gear folded up on landing.2 Ended up a heap beside the runway. Damn nerve racking!
Back to Sansapor after smacking Lolobata. Nervous as hell, saw two Bettys. Poured a stream of lead at them. Tried to cover left wing ship, the lead ship, which was drawing lots of fire and had dropped behind. Could only until it was too far behind, then could only watch 3 Horace Cathers rode it with Lt. Brown.4
Lots of Christmas packages have come in this week from Mom, from Bonnie, Tommy, and Ray and Jean. We had a feast from Bonnie’s packages. Fried canned chicken and steak, potato chips and cheese crackers.
Went to high mass last night, all in Latin, understood nothing of it, but I knew that prayers were offered up for us. That was enough. Went to church yesterday and sang carols at the predated Christmas. Peace is with us.
Rested the rest of today. Showered and shaved; put on clean clothes. Was sorting laundry and laying it away when operations came by. We went up a search mission for Lt. Frank Hendrick and crew lost this morning due to weather while on a weather mission. Though break. Frank used to be the copilot on our crew. His 50th mission. Damn it anyhow. We took off, went to Halmehera, circled, searched through the Strait, on to Ceram. No luck.
We returned to base amidst a gorgeous sunset, all molten golden amber and cerise; lavender and pink. Beautiful, but gloom pervaded my being. Our eyes were bloodshot from hours of straining eyes through binoculars, in and out of sun glare. No sight of Frank. Damn it! Why do the nice guys take the beating? I can never understand it. I never shall be able to, perhaps because I am not yet of immortality.
Developed a cold in the air. Am grounded for a couple of days. On December 30th, developed a sudden fever. Rose to 101. I went to the hospital. Lt. Fincham over to see me we spoke a little of everything. In two hours, temperature down to 99. Today, temperature to 98.8 this morning. Down to 98 tonight.5
In England, Verne would write in his diary . . . .
12-31-44 — 2nd Mission HAMBURG
Up at 2:00 and ready for a raid on an oil refinery at Hamburg. Carried it out and demolished the target. We hit flak at the German shore and had it with us all the way in and out. Several 17s were knocked down in flames. Fighters were up but we were not hit. I was more afraid than in all my life and truly believe our safety to be one of God’s miracles. We had eight flak holes in our ship. Hood’s ship had engines three and four out and almost ditched in the North Sea. Am praising the Lord for his and our safety. Germany is quite a way from being licked.
This bombing mission was against the Rhenania refinery.
Anti-aircraft fire was accurate and intense again 31 December when 33 planes returned to the Rhenania refinery.
Just after bombs were away a plane was hit in the left wing and exploded, while a second plane peeled out of formation and headed for the coast. It was never reported again.
An overlapping bomb pattern caused an explosion in the blending plant of the Rhenania Company, and adjacent to the 390th MPI at least five direct hits were scored on an oil storage depot. South of the MPI a near miss landed on oil tanks of the Albrecht Company.
The 390th was not attacked, but a concentrated attack by 50 enemy fighters knocked down 12 planes from the 100th Group.6
Two B-17Gs from the 390th Bombardment Group were lost during this mission. B-17G #43-38247 (no nickname) flown by 2nd Lt. Walter (NMI) Monit was hit at 25,000’ at 1154 over the target area after bombs away. The left wind was on fire when the aircraft peeled off to the left out of formation and exploded. No chutes were seen.
B-17G #43-38632, Free Delivery, flown by 1st Lt. Ronald J. Nash, was hit by flak in the target area just after bombs away at 1154. The aircraft slid to the left and his wingman, aircraft #484, went with him a short distance before returning to the formation. Free Delivery was last seen by the wingman at 53° 22’N 09° 31’E . At that time, it was under attack by an ME 262. No damage was visible and the aircraft appeared under control. No chutes were reported seen.7
Flak was the main concern of the 390th Bombardment Group during the attack on the Rhenania refinery. The 100th Bombardment Group which also participated in the attack was the object of a concentrated attack by approximately 50 enemy aircraft of which the following were identified by type: Two ME 109s, fourteen FW 190s, and six ME 262s. The two ME 109s flew just out of gun range coming up from the southeast and pulling ahead to join the attack on the 100th Bombardment Group.8
Notes & Commentary
1 Wayne completed his 55th mission on December 23, 1944.
2 At approximately 500 yards north of the Lolobata River mouth along the west shore, Lt. Thompson’s ship #925 received either a heavy burst of tree top AA or the top of the tree exploded just ahead of his left wing. The explosion caused his aircraft to momentarily go out of control skidding to the right almost into his element leader’s. (Lt. Santos’ plane.) Both pilot and co-pilot pulled the wheel up and the aircraft lurched upward narrowly escaping running head on into a very large tree. The entire aircraft scraped the top of the tree and the tail was damaged most severely with the left vertical stabilizer torn away. The aircraft flew however and made a safe landing at Morotai. No personnel were injured.
Mission Report No. 289, 23 December 1944, 70th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 23 December 1944, microfilm A0560, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 872-873
3 No enemy aircraft interception is reported in the Finial Mission Report for this mission.
Final Mission Report, Mission No. 216, 23 December 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Intelligence Officer, 23 December 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1732-1733.
4 S/Sgt Horace Cathers flew board B-25J #105 piloted by 1st Lt. Tom J. Brown on Mission #216.
Operations Order No. 136, 23 December 1944, 100th Bombardment Squadron (M). Office of the Operations Officer, 23 December 1944, microfilm A0576, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 1735- 1736
5 It is interesting that during December, Wayne did not mention that Mar Airfield was subject to two enemy air raids.
Two red alerts occurred during December. On one, one enemy plane dropped three bombs in the 70th Squadron area resulting in the death of one officer and the demolition of the Group officer’s latrine by a direct hit. Several unkind and unprintable allusions were made about this latter occurrence.
On the second raid, an unidentified Jap plane was picked up by one of the lights over the harbor. There was considerable cheering when in the sight of everyone not properly hidden in hs foxhole the intruder was shot down in flames.
History December 1 to December 31, 1944, Inclusive, 70th Bombardment Squadron (M), 10 January 1945, Office of the Intelligence Officer, 23 December 1944, microfilm A0560, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1972, frames 801-813
6 United States and Albert E. Milliken. The story of the 390th Bombardment Group (H). [New York]: Priv. Print., 1947. p. 65.
7 Operations Narrative of Mission #235, 31 Dec 1944. Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), Office of the Operations Officer, 2 January 1945. microfilm B0426 Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 655-656.
Also see Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1942-1947 , digital image, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/image/30325856/ : accessed 29 December 2014), B-17G, Aircraft Serial Number #43-38632, “Missing Air Crew Report, #11245”.
Also see Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1942-1947 , digital image, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/image/30325942/ : accessed 29 December 2014), B-17G, Aircraft Serial Number #43-38247, “Missing Air Crew Report, #11246”.
8 390th Intelligence Narrative, Hamburg Mission of 31 December 1944. Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), microfilm B0426 Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 654.