Bruce E. Schwark
United States
Manitowoc
Wisconsin
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AAR Message :
B-24D "Boxcar Willie"; William Shanks - commanding
900th (Heavy) Bombardment Group – 925th (Heavy) Bombardment Squadron
Based at: San Giovanni Airfield, Italy

14 January, 1944
Target: Mostar, Yugoslavia; Airfield
Mission: 3; This bomber: 3
Combat Box Formation; position 4 (high cell) 


Crew: (Missions Flown) Name [E/A Credited]
(2) Pilot: 1Lt. William Shanks

(2) Copilot: 2Lt. Hugh Bennick

(2) Bombardier: 2Lt. Frank Sherwood [⅓-109]

(2) Navigator: 1Lt. Clemens Fesmire [½-109]
(2) Engineer: MSgt. Tom Hughes [1-109]; [1-190]

(2) Radioman: TSgt. Ripley Andrews

(2) Ball Gunner: Cpl. Eugene “Shortcake” Hamill [½-109]; [½-190]

(2) Left Waist: Sgt. Stuart Balcombe [1-190]

(2) Right Waist: Sgt. Frank Ingram [½-190]

(2) Tail Gunner: Sgt. Oscar Shoup


Mission Results Summary
Bomb-run: did not bomb

Enemy flak: light/light

Enemy aircraft encountered: 5 Fw190; 4 Me109; 4 Me110; 2 Ju88C-6

E/A engaged by fighter escort: none

E/A credited destroyed by bomber crew:
Bombardier: 2Lt. Frank Sherwood
(⅓) Fw190
top turret: MSgt. Tom Hughes
(⅓) Fw190
ball gunner: Cpl. Eugene Hamill
(½) Me110 – (1) Ju88C-6
left waist: Sgt. Stuart Balcombe
(½) Me110
tail: Sgt. Oscar Shoup
(⅓) Fw190 - (1½) Me109 - (1) Me110

Ammunition expended: 30 rounds


Crew Casualties:
Sgt. Stuart Balcombe [light wound]


Damage to bomber:

Top Turret power outage
Cockpit window cracked
Navigator’s equipment destroyed
Nose oxygen out (fire)
1 Extinguisher used
Bomb bay doors inoperable
Control Cables hit
Suit heat system failed
Navigator’s heat out
#2 engine superficial
Superficial hits 12

NOTE: The pictures which follow are inspired by Stuka Joe's YouTube videos of B-17QotS. The Luftwaffe planes are those of Felipe Santamaría from the BGG file section and are not from TFT. Some props and homemade damage counters are also within the pictures

After Action Highlights

Zone 1 outbound – weather over base poor – takeoff without incident - moved to 20,000 feet and met with group at assembly point

Zone 2 outbound – cloudy; no contacts.
When the gunners fired off a few rounds to prep for battle, the electrical power to the top turret failed. MSgt. Hughes was unable to restore power.

Zone 3 outbound – cloudy;
The Luftwaffe came out early and in force to “greet” us. First, a lone Fw190 appeared from ahead high. The nose, top and tail guns all opened fire as in flew along our axis. Each claimed to have hit it. Sgt. Shoup watched it spin away violently minus its right wing; no parachute spotted.

E/A claimed destroyed by bomber crew:
(⅓) Fw190 - top turret: MSgt. Tom Hughes
(⅓) Fw190 – nose: 2Lt. Frank Sherwood
(⅓) Fw190 – tail: Sgt. Oscar Shoup
Almost immediately a pair of Me109s tried to jump us from astern.
The tail gunner zeroed in on the one coming straight at him. As the 109 came ever closer Sgt. Shoup shot away its left wing. The 109 it spin away violently; no parachute spotted. A momentary glimpse of its tail seemed to carry several emblems. The other 109 came in high astern. The tail guns already engaged, MSgt. Hughes fired from his perch in the top turret. He claims to have scored some hits. This 109 missed the Boxcar and left our area.
E/A claimed destroyed by bomber crew:
Me109 – tail: Sgt. Oscar Shoup
E/A claimed damaged by bomber crew:
Me109 - top turret: MSgt. Tom Hughes
The jerries would not let up! A trio of 190s appeared above,
launching a coordinated attack from ahead, port and starboard abeam. The ball turret and cheek guns could not get a firing angle, but everyone else directed their fire at an available target. Sgts. Balcombe and Shoup claim to have hit their targets. Two 190s inflicted no damage and flew off. The third, attacking from ahead and above struck the cockpit window and inflicted a light wound to Sgt. Balcombe. Sgt. Shoup watched as the 190 looped back to attack from behind. Our defensive fire must have given him second thoughts for he aborted the attack.
E/A claimed damaged by bomber crew:
(½) Fw190 – left waist: Sgt. Stuart Balcombe
(1½) Fw190 – tail: Sgt. Oscar Shoup

Zone 4 target zone – cloudy
A pair of Me109s and one Me110 made an attack from ahead and the front port quarter. Defensive fire against both 109s missed.
Cpl. Hamill and Sgt. Balcombe worked over the Me110 attacking from 10 o-clock low. Their combined fire ripped its control surfaces to pieces. It was last seen plummeting to earth; no parachutes. The 109 attacking from 10 o-clock level scored hits which would affect us the rest of the flight. Shells tore into the nose section causing a flash fire of the oxygen and, also destroying the navigator’s instruments. 2Lt. Sherwood quickly grabbed an extinguisher and put out the fire. Soon enough, we would learn another hit rendered the bomb bay doors inoperable. Sgt. Shoup claimed a piece of the 109 as it flew past and disappeared from sight.

E/A claimed destroyed by bomber crew:
(½) Me110 – ball gunner: Cpl. Eugene Hamill
(½) Me110 – left waist: Sgt. Stuart Balcombe
E/A claimed damaged by bomber crew:
(1) Me109 – tail: Sgt. Oscar Shoup
Next, a pair of Me110s moved in for an attack from astern and low port abeam. The time it took to close the gap enabled Sgt. Shoup to dismember the 110 astern. It spiraled away violently, its pilot trapped inside. The ball and waist gunners claimed to damage the 110 attacking from port abeam. This enemy pilot was persistent; it landed 4 hits on the Boxcar despite our defensive fire. Hits to the nose and tail were superficial, as was a hit to the #2 engine. The control cables in the waist section took a hit.

E/A claimed destroyed by bomber crew:
(1) Me110– tail: Sgt. Oscar Shoup
E/A claimed damaged by bomber crew:
(½) Me110 – ball gunner: Cpl. Eugene Hamill
(½) Me110 – left waist: Sgt. Stuart Balcombe


Zone 4 target approach – mostly obscured
Light flak hit us twice on approach to the target. Both hits proved superficial.
Did NOT BOMB!
Approaching the target bombardier 2Lt. Frank Sherwood reported the bomb bay doors would not open. A visual inspection by TSgt. Andrews found shrapnel had locked them into a ‘closed’ position. We could not loiter in area under enemy fire trying to repair them, with no guarantees we’d succeed.

Zone 4 target egress – We came about for our return to base. The flak failed to find the Boxcar this time. At this point the system to the gunners’ heat suits malfunctioned. This, coupled with the prior oxygen fire in the nose compartment forced the Boxcar to drop out of formation and dive to 10,000 feet.

Zone 4 return – cloudy.
Dropping away from the bomb group, being alone we drew the attention of 3 Me109s. Two attacked from astern; the other from dead ahead. The attack proved devastating — TO the GERMANS! Sgt. Shoup continued his accurate fire tearing away a wing on one Me109; it spun away out of control - no parachute. MSgt. Hughes clearly hit the other 109 coming in from astern. The plane exploded like a firecracker before it could do us any harm. The 109 attacking from ahead missed us and roared off in the opposite direction.

E/A claimed destroyed by bomber crew:
(1) Me109 – tail: Sgt. Oscar Shoup
(1) Me109 - top turret: MSgt. Tom Hughes

A bomb-laden B24 lumbering alone over Yugoslavia at 10,000 feet must have appeared to be an easy target. A pair of Ju88C-6s came in to finish us off. They attacked from abeam starboard and 1 o-clock low. Sighting them we took evasive action as best as we could. Our gunners took aim at those big targets. All missed, except Cpl. Hamill. He hit his mark, removing a wing from the Ju88 and saw it and its crew fall away in parachutes. The Ju88 from starboard hit our aircraft 4 times.
The heating system for the navigator took a hit. Other hits to the nose and flight deck were superficial. Adding insult to injury, the same Ju88C circled round and attack from the 1 o-clock low position where its wingman was shot down. Our “evasive” actions seemed to affect the aim of our own gunners - no one hit the enemy. He put 4 more rounds into the Boxcar. The good news is all the hits to the nose and wing proved superficial. Sgt. Shoup claimed to damage the Ju88 as it flew past and disappeared from sight.

E/A claimed destroyed by bomber crew:
(1) Ju88C-6 – ball gunner: Cpl. Eugene Hamill
E/A claimed damaged by bomber crew:
(1) Ju88C-6 – tail: Sgt. Oscar Shoup

Zone 3 return – cloudy - no contacts.
We continued on alone at 10,000 feet flying over the Adriatic. No fighters enemy or allied appeared.

Zone 3 return – cloudy - no contacts.
The enemy fire which destroyed the navigator’s instruments further delayed our return to base. With no instruments and no other allied aircraft to guide us over the Adriatic, the course we flew was our best guess.

Zone 2 return – cloudy -no contacts.
Crossing over the coast of Italy we continued to make the best of landmarks to return to base.

Zone 1 return – no contacts.

Zone 1 return – poor weather over base.
On approaching San Giovanni airfield I had TSgt. Andrews radio base to explain The Boxcar would be landing with bombs still aboard. The rotten weather made landing safely even more dangerous. With that in mind I ordered all but the copilot to evacuate the plane and parachute to safety. In my judgment this left the crew with a better chance at survival. 2Lt. Bennick and I were able to safely land 😅our aircraft, although, fully-loaded and in the overcast we used the entire runway [die roll ⚄⚃ and negative modifiers (-5) netted us a “4”].

As to the crew, all parachuted without injury. My recommendation, however, is we may need to review our parachute training. Five of eight came down too fast, or landed badly, nearly causing injury.

Sgt. Balcombe was taken to the hospital. A piece of shrapnel was removed from his buttocks and released to the barracks. He will be available for the next mission.

Respectfully submitted:
B-24D "Boxcar Willie"; 1Lt. William Shanks - commanding

P. S. [Meet the ball gunner]
Cpl. Eugene “Shortcake” Hamill
The crew call Cpl. Hamill “Shortcake” [23], because of his small stature and flair with the gals. At 5’2” and 122 pounds one might think he was a jockey. No one would ever guess he was a steel mill worker from Beaver Falls, PA. The army deemed him too slight for the infantry, so they trained him as a ball turret gunner. Eugene may be the most attractive of the crew with his blue eyes and brown curly hair. He makes friends very easily aided by his impish smile and open-mindedness. If asked, he’d tell you his secret with women, “being ‘5’2” and eyes of blue’ I can look the gals in the eye and none sees me as a threat.”
21 
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Bruce E. Schwark
United States
Manitowoc
Wisconsin
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One of the criticisms I've heard about TfT and B17QotS is the limited - to - no decisions one can make. "The die rolls dictate everything ..."

This mission gives an example of decisions that go beyond what gunner shoots at a particular enemy aircraft.
Damage forced us to return to base with our bombs still on board.
Landing in poor weather with said bombs aboard was very risky for a pilot on his 3rd mission. So do I land the plane with the whole crew aboard, or risk myself and copilot only?
 
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