Wayne developed a sudden fever on December 30 and, after visiting the Flight Surgeon, was hospitalized. On New Year’s Eve, he brought his journal up to date. He was still in the hospital on New Year’s Day when he learned that three of his friends had been killed. Today, January 2, he made no entry in his journal.
On the other side of the world in England, his brother, Verne, made the following entry in his diary:
01-02-45 — 3rd Mission – KAISERSLAUTERN
Up at 2:30 a.m. and on a mission to bomb bridges at Kaiserslautern. Flak was moderate and accurate. One 17 down 5 men out. We were in the air 7 hours. Still no news from home. Had a swell turkey dinner with cranberry sauce. Am very tired and sleepy tonight.
This mission was targeted against a railroad bridge near Kaiserslautern. During the bomb run, moderate, continuously pointed antiaircraft fire was encountered.
Assigned a railway bridge over one of the highways leading into Kaiserlautern, 23 planes dropped 1,000-pounders all around the assigned MPI. There was one direct hit, and several near misses on the bridge, but the full weight of the bombs fell on nearby factories and railroad tracks, including switch points.
One plane was lost to flak.1
The 390th Bombardment Group’s 569th Bombardment Squadron lost one B-17G during this mission. At 1146, one minute after bombs away, aircraft #42-97846, Belle of the Brawl, was hit by flak between engines #3 and #4. The pilot was 2nd Lt. Roger Wells Drinkwalter. After being hit, Belle of the Brawl peeled out of formation to the right under what appeared to be complete control. Fire and smoke was trailing from its right wing and fuel could be seen running off the wing tip. The aircraft lost about 10,000’ and five chutes were observed to open. The right wing then blew off. The wing and the aircraft, both enveloped in flames, then fell.2
Although only five chutes were observed, all nine crewmen of Belle of the Brawl parachuted to safety. They were captured and held at Dulag Luft West.3
On January 2, 1945, Harry Nordman Gray, the youngest brother of Wayne and Verne, is somewhere at sea on his way to Europe. He shipped out the day after Christmas. When he arrives in the European Theater of Operations (ETO), he will be assigned to an infantry unit as a replacement for someone who has been killed or physically unable to serve any longer. He is 18 years old.
Notes & Commentary
1 United States and Albert E. Milliken. The story of the 390th Bombardment Group (H). [New York]: Priv. Print., 1947. p. 117.
2 Operations Narrative of Mission #236, 2 January 1945. Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), Office of the Operations Officer, 3 January 1945. microfilm B0426 Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frames 887-888.
3 Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1942-1947 , digital image, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com/image/30328841/ : accessed 29 December 2014), “Missing Air Crew Report, #11244”, B-17G, Aircraft Serial Number #42-97846, Belle of the Brawl.