In England, Verne writes of the day’s mission to Berlin . . . .
02-03-45 – 8th Mission BERLIN
Mission to Berlin Germany. Boy did we sweat this one out. Spent over 5 1/2 hours in the enemy territory. Sure, tired out and carrying a around the flak suit.1 Having troubles with the pilot. Are getting a royal screwing in this squadron. Today was our eighth mission. Intense and accurate flak. Rough mission.
On this mission to Berlin, Verne was a crew member on the The Deacon, Boeing-built B-17G #339032 flown by Maj. Linn E. Wilde.
This mission, as was one later in the month, was in direct cooperation with the great Russian offensive on the Eastern Front.2
The 390th Bombardment Group (H) aircraft departed the English coast at Southwald at 0920. At 1003 at 52⁰30’N 05⁰30’E (near Ijsselmeer) 12 vessels reported to resemble submarines were observed. At 1125, a terrific explosion was observed in the eastern section of Berlin. At Berlin, moderate to intense, accurate barrage and continuous pointed antiaircraft fire was received. No enemy aircraft were encountered. During the course of the mission, smoke screens were observed at Magdeburg, over the northeast section of Berlin and at 52⁰30’N 14⁰20’E (near Neuentempel east of Berlin). The mission aircraft began recovering at Station 153 at 1520.3
One B-17 dropped 10 containers of T-292 at Berlin.4 Friendly fighter support was reported to have been very good.
According to the Monday, February 5, 1945 London edition of The Stars and Stripes:
More than 1,000 Fortresses of the 8th Air force fashioned a flying wedge against Berlin Saturday to help the wedge of steel being driven from the East by the Red Army, when they rained 2,500 tons of bombs in the heaviest attack ever made on the German capital by the 8th. Among the targets was Tempelhof airdrome . . . pummeled by part of the great air fleet which stretched almost 300 miles across the Continent. It took 45 minutes for the bombers to cascade their loads on the city.5
The front page of the London edition of The Stars and Stripes also carried the following article:
8th’s Blow Sets Berlin Ablaze
While the heavy bombers of the 8th Air Force lay idle yesterday after Saturday’s devastating raid on Berlin, reports streamed in yesterday of a city left burning and staggering while the sound of Red Army gunfire rolled across the level eastern approaches to the German capital. And Berlin radio, blasted into disjointed activity all day Saturday, blared again yesterday to charges that the “terror attack” had ruined cultural and civic buildings and had rendered heavy damage in residential areas.
Photo interpretations of the raid by the 8th, however, revealed smashing blows dealt military and government offices, railroad yards and industrial objectives in the heart of the city. Pictures showed fire and smoke in almost unbroken mass over an area 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. Smoke was so dense during the raid that the last formations of bombers coming in for the run had to sight their targets by instrument.
The Air Ministry received eight direct hits and other government buildings surrounding the Ministry, including the Reich Chancellery, Ministry of Propaganda and Gestapo Headquarters were smothered under 18 concentrations of high explosives. Five railroad stations were hit and the Templehof marshaling yards and nearby Templehof Airdrome suffered some damage. The Deutsche Gas Works got a terrific blow.
Meanwhile, Liberators of the RAF Coastal Command hammered at the enemy shipping and Danzig harbor early yesterday.
Reports from Germany, through Stockholm, picture Berlin reeling under the 8th’s 15th and mightiest blow on the city. Reuter reported that 3,000,000 refugees fleeing the Red Army’s thrust had crammed the city, many of them becoming casualties because of lack of suitable shelter in a city whose pre-war population was 4,000,000.
T/Sgt. Clifford Whipple, radio operator from Syracuse, New York, reported this item about Saturday’s deluge of TNT: “Before we left Germany, I tuned in a propaganda broadcast from Berlin. The announcer said, ‘every man woman and child is out fighting the flames with the Russians only 70 kilometers away’.”
And 1st Lt. Marvin Berg, bombardier from Cleveland, said that “If the Germans in Berlin are nervous their antiaircraft gunners didn’t show any signs of it. They put up a barrage of the biggest stuff they’ve got.”
Figures released by the 8th last night showed that 19 bombers and five fighters failed to return from Saturday’s mission.6
The story of the 390th Bombardment Group (H), published in 1947, had this to say about the mission on 3 February 1945 to Berlin:
From the viewpoint of strategic bombing Berlin had lost its importance by the time the Group next went there. The war had developed to that stage where any bombing was tactical in nature. By 3 February 1945 hundreds of thousands of refugees were streaming into Berlin from Pomerania and Silesia, where the Russian Army was making rapid advances. The German General Staff was juggling its reserves from the eastern front to the western front, and back again. As most of this transport passed through Berlin the result was a chaotic administrative headache.
On 3 February over 1,000 heavy bombers were dispatched to attack the Berlin Tempelhof marshalling yard, one of the big communication bottlenecks in the city.
As the 390th approached the target the crews found it covered by smoke, and it was evident that other Groups had hit it well. Instead of wasting bombs on an already decimated target they chose an aiming point one and a half miles from their briefed MPI, and dropped on a canal bridge and barracks area in a built-up part of the city which had not been bombed before. Results were good. 7
Notes & Commentary
1 The flak suit was a three-piece vest constructed of 2” steel plates which covered the torso of the wearer. It weighed, in the aggregate, 26 lbs. This was worn over the wearer’s flight clothing.
“Flak Vests / Helmets / Miscellaneous”, Hell’s Angels, 303rd Bomb Group (H) (http://www.303rdbg.com/uniforms-gear6.html : accessed 30 January 2015)
2 “General Summary,” 390th Bombardment Group (H) History, February 1945, Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), 26 March 1945, microfilm B0426, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1184.
3 “Berlin Mission of 3 February 1945,” 390th Bomb Group Intelligence Report, Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), 26 March 1945, microfilm B0426, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1193.
4T-292 was the serial number of a psychological warfare leaflet. Such leaflets were dropped during most bomb raids by both the RAF and the Eighth Air Force. Eighth Air Force’s bombers alone dropped 1,594,000,000 psychological warfare leaflets, 1,176,000,000 from D-Day through May 7, 1945.
Division Historian. The Psychological Warfare Division, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force: An Account of its Operations in the Western European Campaign, 1944-1945 Bad Homburg, Ger.: 1945.
5,6 “8th’s Blow Sets Berlin Ablaze,” The Stars and Stripes, London, February 5, 1945, vol. 5, no. 80, page 1.
7 United States and Albert E. Milliken. The story of the 390th Bombardment Group (H). [New York]: Priv. Print., 1947. p. 74.