Sunday, January 26, 2020

Snoopy and the Red Baron

A little fun was had at Col Campbell's Barracks this weekend.  I found a rubber toy of Snoopy as a WW1 pilot sitting on top of his doghouse on eBay.  That plus a standard flight base and several flight pegs from Aerodrome Accessories and an airplane card courtesy of the Wings of War Forum made ---

Snoopy pursues his nemesis!

Will the Red Baron get away?

The Snoopy airplane card
We'll see how well this "slightly" oversized characture does in actual combat sometime in the future.

Hope you enjoyed my silliness!

Friday, January 10, 2020

"What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?" - Part 3-B

This is the continuation of my father's WW2 flight diary.  For Part 3-A, see link.

As in the first post, the information in [ ] are my insertions.  The information in quotation marks (" ") are from the Mighty Eighth Air Force Calendar web site.

Mission 11:  February 20, 1945.  Target: Nurnburg, Gr.  A 9-hour mission against marshalling yards.  We lost the group in clouds and flew with six different groups till back to the lines [presumably the front lines between Allied and German armies].  The we took off alone for home.  A "milk run" but sorta long.  We flew ship #807 with 20 - 250's [250 pound general purpose bombs].
[Note:  "Mission 836.  1,264 bombers and 726 fighters are dispatched to hit the main station and marshalling yard at Nurnburg, Germany; the target is bombed visually and using H2X radar."]

Mission 12:  February 23, 1945.  Target: Ansbach, Gr.  A 9-hour visual mission against marshalling yards.   A beautiful job of bombing from 14,000 feet.  No flak whatever.  A cook's tour of central Germany.  Went in over Belgium and came out through southern Germany, saw Alps and Switzerland.  We flew ship #917 with 12 500's.
[Note:  "Mission 843-1.  As a follow-up to the yesterday's attacks on transportation facilities as part of Operation CLARION, 1,274 bombers and 705 fighters are dispatched to hit marshalling yards in Germany.  ... B17s are dispatched to hit marshalling yards at ...Ansbach (109) ... ."]

Mission 13:  February 25, 1945.  Target: Munich, Gr.  A 9-hour and 30-minute visual mission against marshalling yards.  Flak was extra heavy, barrage and tracking, but we got thru without a hole.  Good bombing, column of smoke visual for over hour after we left target.  25,000' [presumably altitude of bomb release].  We flew ship #807 with 6 RDX 500's and 6 M-17 incendiaries.
[Note:  "Mission 847-1 or -2.  1,197 bombers and 755 fighters are dispatched to hit tank factories, airfields associated with jet aircraft, oil depots and tail target visually.  1-- B-17s are sent to hit ... the station and marshalling yard (73) and oil storage tanks and marshalling yard (174) at Munich ... 2-- B-17s are dispatched to hit the marshalling yard at Munich (315) ... ."]  [I'm not sure which of these sub-missions my father was on.]

Mission 14:  March 3, 1945.  Target: Edmison, Gr.  A 7-hour and 30 minute P.F.F. [Pathfinder Force led] mission against oil refinery and depot.  No flak near us.  Passed Hamburg.  Missed target, one bomb hit railroad, others messed up Ludwig's potato patch.  Good weather but prop-wash was terrific.
Saw my first Jerry jetfighter.  An Me-262 with two dozen P-51's on it's tail.  Two of them made a head-on pass at our low squadron.
We flew ship #807 with 12 - 500's.
[Note:  "Mission 861.  1,102 bombers and 743 fighters are dispatched to bomb oil refineries, oil plant works, motor transport factory, tank plant, and rail bridge in NC [north central] and E[ast] Germany."]  [I cannot identify the town of Edmison so I do not know exactly which sub-mission was involved.  There were many targets struck during the overall mission.]

Mission 15:  March 4, 1945.  Target: Nurnburg, Gr.  We flew 7 hours and 30 minutes before division was re-called.  Just over bomb-line.  Bad weather.  Flew ship #868 with 6 - 500's and 6 - M-17 incendiaries.  Formed over France.  [This is first instance of him remarking about formation occurring over France.]
[Note:  "Mission 863.  1,028 bombers and 522 fighters are dispatched to bomb targets in SW Germany; bad weather causes 300+ aborts."]

Mission 16:  March 5, 1945.  Target: Chemnitz, Gr.  A 9-hour P.F.F. mission against synthetic oil depot and marshalling yard.  Formed over France.  Saw a few bursts of flak but none over target.  Weather bad.  We left group on way home and come back with #3 ship.  Rumored that jets were around but I didn't see them.  We flew ship #807 with 10 - 500# R.D.X.'s.
[Note:  "Mission 865.  429 bombers and 689 fighters are dispatched to hit oil targets in Germany; the primary target for the B-17s is the synthetic oil plant at Ruhland but weather forces them to hit the secondary target; all bombing is with H2X radar; ... 233 of 303 B-17s hit the secondary target, the marshalling yard at Chemnitz."  Note:  This diversion may explain the lack of flak over the target.]

Mission 17:  March 8, 1945.  Target: Langendrier [sic, actually Langendreer], Gr.  An 8-hour and 35-minute PFF mission against synthetic oil plant.  Flak light.  Lost our hydraulic pressure and landed at Woodbridge [Note:  RAF Woodbridge is in Suffolk, England; constructed in 1943 to assist damaged aircraft to land on their returms from raids over Germany.].  Came back here [to Deopham Green] the same night.  We flew ship #807 with 14 - 500's.
[Note:  This may be the mission that my father had to manually hand-crank the landing gear into its down position, similar to what was depicted in the movie "Memphis Belle."  He told this story a couple of times.]
[Note:  Mission 872.  1,353 bombers and 326 fighters are dispatched to hit benzol plants, an oil plant and rail targets in Germany using PFF; NO AIRCRAFT ARE LOST AND THERE ARE NO CASUALTIES! [Capitalized in original document.]  ...  B-17s are dispatched to hit the Robert Muser (99) and Bruchstrasse (63) benzol plants at Langendreer ... bombing is with H2X radar."

Mission 18:  March 15, 1945.  Target: Oranienburg (Berlin area).  An 8-hour and 15-minute mission against marshalling yard in town 15 miles from Berlin.  Flak heavy, but inaccurate.  I flew tail today [I think this means he was in the tail gunner position.]  We flew ship #807 with 12 - 500's.
[Note:  Mission 889.  1,353 bombers and 833 fighters are dispatched to hit German Army HQ [at Zossen, which later became the headquarters of the Group of Soviet Forces, Germany] and a marshalling yard at Oranienburg.  ...  612 of 675 B-17s attack the marshalling yard at Oranienburg visually."]

Mission 19:  March 17, 1945.  Target: Plaun [sic - Plauen], Gr.  An 8-hour mission against marshalling yards.  P.F.F. from 27,800 feet.  Briefed for Ruhland.  Flew over but didn't bomb.  Ship #807 with 12 - 500's.
[Note:  Mission 892.  1,328 bombers and 820 P-51s are dispatched to hit oil, industrial, and rail targets in Germany; clouds extend from 1,000 to 15,000 feet (305 to 4,572 m) and over targets there is 9/10 and 10/10 cloud cover [Note: Totally overcast.] necessitating PFF methods for bombing. ... 527 B-17s are sent to hit the oil refinery at Ruhland (214) ... targets of opportunity are the Vomag munitions factory at Plauen (125) ... ."

Vomag Munitions Factory, Plauen, Germany, before the war
Mission 20:  March 19, 1945.  Target: Ruhland, Gr.  A 9-hour and 45-minute P.F.F. mission against synthetic oil plant.  I flew with LT. Tennant's crew.  Three ME 262's jumped us just before "bombs away."  made one pass at our formation but did no damage.  Other jets hit rest of group and knocked down eight.  Flew ship #356.
[Note:  Mission 896.  1,273 bombers and 675 fighters are dispatched to hit airfields and industrial targets in Germany visually and with H2X radar; clouds force 2 [both B-17] of the 3 forces to hit secondaries; 100+ Luftwaffe fighters including 36 Me 262s in formation (largest number of jets seen as a unit) are encountered."  I'm not sure in which of the two B-17 forces my father was a member.  Neither description list Ruhland as the target.]

And on March 20, 1945, my father indicates that he "went to Walhampton House in Lymington for flak-leave."  [Note:  From the Imperial War Museum's American Air Museum in Britain web site, the Walhampton House was "one of sixteen country houses or 'flak-homes' which housed airmen for Rest and Recuperation away from the stress of flying missions ... for a week away from the horrors of war.  Each serviceman was entitled to at least one rest period during their 25-30 mission tour.  ...  It was set up to accommodate 50 enlisted men and was allocated to the 3rd Bomb Division."  More details are at the link, above.]

Walhampton House as it stands in 2020, a boarding preparatory school.
Today's view over the Solent to the Isle of Wight
And as this ends another ten missions and my father is resting at Walhampton, this is a good place for us to take a break.  Part 3-C, the final missions and return to the States is forthcoming.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

"What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?" - Part 3-A

It has been a long time since I made any posts in this series about what my father, Leslie Pelham Pitts, did during WW2.  The two previous posts, Part 1 and Part 2, were made in December 2011 and January 2012, respectively.

These three posts (3-A, 3-B, and 3-C) will list the missions in which my father participated as a crew member of a B-17 in the 731st Bombardment Squadron, 452nd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, flying out of Deopham Green Air Base in the United Kingdom.  They are copied verbatim from his flight diary which is in my possession.  At the time he was a Tech Sergeant and was top turret gunner and flight engineer for all of the missions.

Aerial image of RAF Deopham Green, Norfolk, England, Jul 1946
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
His first ship, #702, was named "Sweet Sue" and the second, #807, was named "Dream Gal."  I think the first name was after his sweetheart, my soon to be mother, Sue.

Note:  Any notes or comments made by me are in square brackets [ ] .  I've also used an on-line 8th Air Force mission calendar to verify his recollections.  Quotations are from the mission calendar.

Mission 1:  November 24, 1944.  Target: Lutzendort.  A 9-hour P.F.F. [Pathfinder Force led] mission against synthetic oil plant.  Flak very heavy.  Looked like a thick black cloud.  We got hit in #1 [fuel] tank.  No ships lost.  We flew ship # 745 with 12 500# G.P.'s [500 pound general purpose bombs].  Our ship was late taking-off so we went to war all by ourselves.  Later we fell in with a 1st Division group but left them after the target.  [The 452nd Group was in the 3rd Air Division.]
[Note:  The mission calendar has no missions on the 24th, stating that all were cancelled because of weather.  There was a small mission on the 23rd against the Norstern benzoil plant near Gelsenkirchen and a large mission on the 25th against a synthetic oil plant at Merseburg.  I believe that latter mission is the one on which my father flew his first mission, since it was apparently postponed from the 24th.]
[Note:  "Mission 723.  1,043 bombers and 965 fighters are dispatched to hit synthetic oil plant at Merseburg, Germany using H2X ... .  671 of 766 B-17s hit the Leuna oil plant at Merseburg."]

Mission 2:  November 25, 1944.  Target: Hamm, Gr [Germany].  A 6-hour P.F.F. mission against railroad installations and marshaling yards.  Flak very light (milk-run).  We flew ship #726 with 12 500# G.P.'s.
[Note:  No mission to Hamm on this date, see above.  The marshalling yard at Hamm was hit on the 26th, which was probably his second mission.]
[Note:  "Mission 725.  1.137 bombers and 732 fighters are dispatched to make attacks on rail viaducts,marshalling yards and oil installations in W Germany.  ...  381 B-17s are sent to hit the marshalling yard at Hamm (266)."]

Mission 3:  December 4, 1944.  Target: Giessen, Gr. An 8-hour visual mission against marshaling yards.  Flak heavy in spots.  Jerry tracked us and got two hits in our left wing and Haas [one of the crew] got his tail feathers singed in ball [turret].   There was [sic] three changes in lead, the third navigator screwed up and took us over Frankfurt - lost two ships.  We flew #702 with 10 - 500# G.P.'s and 2 M-17 500# incendiaries.
[Note:  "Mission 736.  1,191 bombers and 977 fighters are dispatched to make PFF attacks on rail targets in Germany.  ...  457 B-17s are sent to hit marshalling yards at ... Giessen (62 aircraft).]

Mission 4:  December 5, 1944.  Target: Berlin (Big "B").  An 8-hour visual mission against tank and mobile gun factory.  Flak heavy - but none near us.  Jerry hit groups behind us with fighters.  Our lead-ship went down with 3 engines out.  But for us - another milk-run. We flew ship #702 with 20 250# G.P.'s.  Big "B" ain't so big any more.
[Note:  "Mission 738.  589 bombers and 884 fighters are dispatched to make attacks on Germany.  ...  451 B-17s are dispatched to make PFF attacks on munitions and tank plants at Berllin (404 aircraft)"]

Mission 5:  December 18, 1944.  Target: Mainz, Gr.  We flew a 7-hour and 15-minute raid as chaff ship against marshaling yards.  We took-off in fog so thick that the birds were sitting along the edge of the runway looking at us in wonder.  They weren't even walking.  Our ship was #934 - an ole war-weary job.  It couldn't stay with the others - so again we went off to war all by our lonesome.  Jerry fighters hit the group right behind us.  And there we were "flubbin-th-dub" all over the Jerry sky.  A P-51 named "Lady Ovella" picked us up and escorted us to France.  We hit the deck and came back over Dover.  Those white cliffs so looked good!
[Note:  "Mission 754.  985 bombers and 773 fighters are dispatched to hit communication and tactical targets in Germany using PFF.  ...  157 of 220 B-17s hit the marshalling yard at Mainz.]

Mission 6:  December 24, 1944.  Target: Darmstadt, Gr.  An 8-hour and 15-minute visual mission against Jerry airfield.  It was a max effort with 7,000 Allied planes in the air.
[Note:  "Mission 760.  A high pressure front across W Europe brings clear weather and the Eighth AF launches a maximum effort against airfields and communications in W Germany; this was the largest air strike of WWII; 2,034 bombers and 853 fighters are dispatched; they claim 92-6-21 Luftwaffe aircraft; 12 bombers and 10 fighters are lost.]
Jerry was also up in force.  He hit the group right ahead of us.  I saw two ships fall in flames.  We ran into heavy flak over the front lines.  The lead fell and we got several bad jolts.  We stayed with the group altho No's 1 and 2 engines were hit.  The primary was knocked out and also the secondary.  So we hit the last resort target.  Murad [the bombardier] really did a job on a bridge and both sides of the river [not further identified]. (Marshaling yards)  [Note:  26 targets of opportunity are hit by 37 B-17s.]
Then "we had it."  Had to feather #1 and #2 was windmilling.  We lost altitude and fell behind the formation.  Fuel was getting low so we landed at Laon, France on Christmas eve.  Stayed there till the 27th when we got a ride back on a C-47.  The nite before, ole Jerry strafed the field and shot-up a B-24 and a C-64.  Didn't touch our ole ship.  But, she was a wreck anyway.  Over 70 holes, 2 engines out and the other two almost as bad, and the main spar in the right wing almost shot in two.
That was ship #702 ["Sweet Sue"] with 12 500# Mk. II incendiaries.
[Note:  Calendar states 11 B-17s were damaged beyond repair.  Evidently "Sweet Sue" was one of them.]

B-17s dropping bombs on Dec. 24, 1944
Photo courtesy of  the Imperial War Museum's American Air Museum
Mission 7:  January 5, 1945.  Hanau, Gr.  An 8-hour & 15-minute visual mission against marshalling yards.  Flak was high and to the right - big stuff - 155 mm.  Gave the place a good plastering.  They gave us 9 hours worth of gas for a 10 hour mission.  So we landed at Laon again.  Had a good time there and came back on the 7th.  We flew ship #318 with 8 250's and 2 M-17 incendiaries.  (Koerber [original pilot] made command pilot so we checked out with Lewis [former co-pilot] as pilot.)
[Note:  Mission 871.  "1,032 bombers and 584 fighters are dispatched to hit rail targets and airfelds in C Germany. ... 370 B-17s are dispatched to hit marshalling yards at Hanau (57) ... .]

Mission 8:  February 6, 1945.  Target: Chemnitz (Leipzig area).  A 9-hour P.F.F. mission against synthetic oil plant.  We were the first group over the target.  Must have taken them by surprise 'cause the flak came up after we left.  On the way in we got flak over the Frisian Islands and coming home lead screwed-up and took us over Frankfort and Weisbaden.  Saw one ship go down in flames.  We flew ship #700 with 6 500's.  Gas was very low so we came home alone.
[Note:  "Mission 821.  1,383 bombers and 904 fighters are dispatched to attack oil targets in Germany; the expected clear weather does not materialize and the bombers attack secondary targets and targets of opportunity using H2X radar. ... 474 of 494 B-17s hit the secondary target in 2 forces, the marshalling yard at Chemnitz ... .]

B-17s from 3rd Air Division bombing Chemnitz marshalling yard on Feb. 6, 1945
Photo courtesy of  the Imperial War Museum's American Air Museum
Mission 9:  February 9, 1945.  Target: Fulda, Gr.  A 7-hour and 35-minute mission to the Leipzig area.  Chemnitz was primary target but we couldn't hit it because of weather.  Missed secondary and last resort.  So we dropped on target of opportunity.  We flew ship #807 with 10 500's.
[Note:  "Mission 824.  1,296 bombers and 871 fighters in 6 forces hit oil targets in Germany; except where noted, attacks were made with PFF; ... targets of opportunity are ... the munitions industry at ... Fulda (24)"]

Mission 10:  February 19, 1945.  Target: Osnabrueck, Gr.  A 6-hour and 30-minute mission against marshalling yards.  A milk-run.  We flew ship #143 with 10 500's.
[Note:  Part of Mission 835, "196 B-17s are sent to hit the marshalling yard at Osnabruck (155)"]

This ends the first part of my father's mission log.  Parts 3-B and 3-C will be along later.