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B-17: Queen of the Skies» Forums » Sessions

Subject: On the Wrong Side of the Alps rss

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Lou Correia
United States
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B-17: I’ll Get By - Interned in Switzerland
80th Bomber Squadron, 509th Bombardment Group
Middle Squadron - Middle
Spare Bomber manned by members of the Spare Pool
MISSION # 160 (1st and Only mission this bomber)
TARGET: Munich, Germany - West Marshalling Yard

Position – Rank (Current Mission) [Previous Kills]

Pilot: 1LT Robert Townsend (1) LW
Co-Pilot: 2LT Leon Lucas (2) SW
Bombardier: 2LT Joey DiMinealli (1)
Navigator: 2LT Earnest Peterson (3) [1]
Engineer: MSG Roger Rose (3)
Ball Gunner: SGT Raymond Audley (1) [1]
Radio Operator: SGT Seth Sandoval (2)
Waist Gunner: SGT Michael Salazar (3)
Waist Gunner: SGT Daniel Poole (1)
Tail Gunner: SGT Josh Courtnay (1)

* = 1 kill

Bomb Run: DNB

1LT Robert Townsend – LW – right leg grazed
2LT Leon Lucas – SW – shattered right hand required amputation

B-17 Damage:
#3 Supercharger Failure (10) Mechanical Failure
Superficial x12 (12)
N/E hits x2 (10)
SW (5)
LW (2)
#2 Engine out (25)
#4 Engine oil leak (15) (had to shutdown)
Port Tail Root x2 (50)
Port Wing Root x2 (50)
Port Flap inop (10)
S. Inboard Fuel Tank Leak (10)
Radio Room Oxygen (10)
Tail Heat Out (10)
SWG Heat Out (10)
Control Cables x1 (10)
S. Wing Flap destroyed (10)

Peckham Points: 249

Landing: Safe landing at Dubendorf, Switzerland – CAT-E  see

Attackers: 6
1x Bf-109: 1 Destroyed, 1 Damaged, 1 Driven Off
3x FW-190: 1 Damaged

Claims: Kills = 1(1 Credited) , Probables = 0, Damaged = 2, Driven Off by Escort = 1

Award/Promotion Requests:
Purple Heart: 1LT Robert Townsend, 2LT Leon Lucas


Our brand new bomber was purring like a kitten as we flew north up the Adriatic. Approaching Venice we spotted our first enemy aircraft. A Bf-109 tried to make a run at us just south of Venice, but was run off by our escort. Crossing the Alps the weather was 8/10 cumulus, and skirting the thunderheads was disruptive, but we kept our eyes glued to the Pathfinder. We noticed that not all the bombers that started the mission were with the formation on the down slope side of the Alps , and were congratulating ourselves on making it over the mountains when IT happened! The Turbocharger on the #3 engine broke apart.

It quickly became impossible to stay in formation, even after jettisoning our bombs. Now the pride we felt crossing the Alps became a millstone around our necks. We were on the wrong side! As we lost altitude, and the 509th continued its march towards Munich, we wondered about lightening our load to gain enough altitude to get home; but almost immediately German fighters showed up and gave us a good reason to keep our guns and ammo aboard. As four bandits came barreling in towards us my Navigator called out, “100 miles to the Swiss border!” We made a left turn towards sanctuary and started defending ourselves.

That first wave consisted of a FW-190 and three Bf-109s. On their first pass they pounded us. Multiple hits to the tail root, plus the heat knocked out to the tail and waist. Their second pass is when I was wounded; but much worse, the #2 engine was knocked out, taking with it the glycol compartment heating for the nose , cockpit, and radio room. Even down at 10,000 feet it was getting cold up there in a hurry. There were reports that the #4 engine was leaking oil, plus the starboard wing was leaking fuel.

Third pass and we finally hit them back. The 190 seemed to shrug off its damage, but the Chin Turret took a 109 apart. In exchange they put a shell through the right hand of my co-pilot, put an ugly shudder in the port wing, and added more ventilation to the fuselage. As the Radioman didn’t care for the view out of his new window, he was quick to come forward to help the Engineer administer first aid to my co-pilot. Then the Radioman stayed to take over the Top Turret as the Engineer settled into the right seat.

We were playing hide-and-seek in the clouds, and were thankful that the bad weather seemed to result in no additional waves of Jerries. We were afraid that the turbulence would further damage our weakened port wing and stabilizer; yet we feared the Germans more. I asked our Navigator about losing more altitude, but he told me that the peaks in this direction neared 8000 feet and he wouldn’t recommend it. Of course if we wanted to spend more time over Germany he could get us down to 6000 feet. We all voted to shiver at angels 10.

About 15 minutes after our encounter with the Germans we had to shut down engine #4. The oil leak had taken its toll. At least #3 was running fine without the Turbocharger. About ten minutes after that three E/A found us between clouds – two Butcher Birds and a 109. Three passes later and we were perforated throughout, but still flying. It was too quiet, when suddenly my radio man in the Top Turret screams out, “109s at 1 o’clock high!!!” As we prepare to fight for our lives, my Bombardier yells out, “Don’t shoot! Those planes have white crosses.” We had made it to Switzerland.

Even with Swiss markings, it was uncomfortable seeing those Messerschmitts up that close, as we followed them to Dubendorf airdrome outside of Zurich. There was quite a collection of American aircraft on the ground there, many already sporting Swiss insignias. I was informed that my co-pilot’s hand could not be saved and he would stay in a hospital in Zurich until stable. The officers were being shipped to a hotel in Davos, while the enlisted men would be interned at Adelboden. I did get to say goodbye to the men before we we separated, and MSG Roger Rose told me it looked like they were already stripping our bomber for parts. He believes that the boys back in Foggia could have repaired her, to the Swiss she was CAT-E.

1LT Robert Townsend, USAAF, commanding
I’ll Get By: B17G -65-44-D6836
80th Bomber Squadron, 509th (H) Bombardment Group
as reported to the US military attaché stationed in Zurich
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