In England, Verne attended Sunday services at Westminster Abbey, and later in the day when back at Station 153, he noted this in his diary . . . .
Finally attended church at Westminster. The preacher gave a nice sermon. Enjoyed my first time in church for 10 years. Returned camp to find Jerries had been over strafing.
During the early morning hours of March 4, 1945, 200 German intruder aircraft were active over East Anglia in an attack which the Luftwaffe called Operation Gisela:
. . . . . some 200 Junkers JU 88 night fighters1 of the Luftwaffe Nachtjagdeschwader Gruppen (Night Fighter Destroyer Group) . . . deployed to intercept allied bombers returning to base at their most vulnerable point, just before landing. The marauding aircraft crossed the North Sea at points stretching between the Thames Estuary and up the east coast to the North Yorkshire moors. The fact that these intruders were able to cross the North Sea coast without being picked up by English radar operators would seem to have been the result of a degree of complacency that had set in amongst Bomber Command, as the Luftwaffe appeared to be subdued.
The attack . . . lasted just two-and-a-half hours . . . 13 Halifaxes, 9 Lancasters, one Fortress and a Mosquito were shot down.2
Verne’s brother-in-law, 1st Lt. Kenneth E. Cline, returned to the air on March 4th. Pforzheim was the target of the 392nd Bombardment Group (H). 1st Lt. Cline flew the mission as the co-pilot of B-24J #42-51238, Little Joe. There was no flak and enemy aircraft were unobserved. The target was obscured and bombing was by H2X.3
The mission aircraft began departing Station 118, Wendling, at 0550 after crew briefing between 0245 and 0400. Bad weather in the assembly area over the North Sea scattered the 2nd Air Division’s mission aircraft which then attempted to assemble east of Paris. Eventually, squadrons of the 392nd Bombardment Group (H) bombed Pforzheim, an industrial center between Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. Several mission aircraft mistakenly bombed Switzerland.4
Notes & Commentary
1 For a discussion of the JU 88 see: William Green. Warplanes of the Third Reich, “Junkers JU 88.” New York: Galahad Books, 1990. pp 448 – 482
2 “Night of the Intruders – Unternehmen Gisela.“ 49 Squadron Association. (http://www.49squadron.co.uk/assets/pdf/night_of_the_intruder.pdf : accessed 26 January 2015)
3 “History of the 577th Bombardment Squadron (H), Month of March 1945”. 392th Bombardment Group (H) History, March 1945, Headquarters 392th Bombardment Group (H), [N.D.], microfilm B0445, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1818.
4 “Mission #251, Target: Pforzheim.” WWW.B24.NET (http://b24.net/missions/MM030445.htm : accessed 26 January 2015).