B-17: SURPRISE ATTACK
240TH Bomber Squadron, 87th Bombardment Group
MISSION DATE: 30 DEC 1942 MISSION # 021
TARGET: Marsala, Sicily - Harbor Facilities
Squadron Position: High Bomber Position: Middle
AFTER ACTION REPORT:
The XO informed us the night before the mission that a team from the Spare Pool was taking Surprise Attack up the next day, and we were that crew. That was fine with everyone except the Navigator fresh from the states. Most of us were getting tired of losing money in the late night poker games and looked forward to getting another mission closer to home. When we learned the next morning that we were taking a long trip over the Med, outpacing our escort to hit Sicily, we didn’t have any doubts.
We formed up behind Blues in the Night, lead bomber for the day, and began the long journey over the alternating seas of blue and seas of clouds. About 300 miles into the trip (Zone 4B) we were spotted by Axis fighters. None got close to our bomber, yet we knew that the word was out – American bombers were running the gauntlet between Tunisia and Sardinia.
In Zone 5A, three Italian C.205s headed our way. At least our escort was still with us, and quickly ran off two of the attackers. The third one was chopped up by our Top Turret. More fighters from the Regia Aeronautica Italiana welcomed us to Zone 5B; this time five C.202s. The P-38s took care of one of them, and our defensive fire knocked down two more; but the remaining undergunned 202s pummeled us. After that pass, our Starboard Waist Gunner, SGT Hanrahan, was decapitated, and we lost heat for the bombardier and Radio Room. On their second pass the Top Turret and Ball Turret combined to clip the wings off one of those 202s. Then a second wave arrived – five more C.202s! This time their aim wasn’t as good and we only took superficial damage while the Ball Turret and Port Waist Gunner sent another 202 into the Med. We might have destroyed more but the Tail Guns jammed on us.
Sir, I need to advocate for my boys for a moment. Our count was five kills for the gunners on Surprise Attack over this 100-mile stretch of sky. I’ve learned that the Aerial Victory Board assigned ALL these victories to other gunners in other bombers. It seems that because we didn’t return to Masion Blache for interrogation, my gunners were denied the credit they deserved.
Back to the mission. Leaving the formation was not an option in spite of the heat being out. As we watched our escort return to Algeria, I moved the Navigator to the jump seat in the cockpit, so our Bombardier could hook into his heat connection. The Radio Operator took over the heater connection vacated by our dead Waist Gunner, and after 20-minutes of quiet the Tail Guns were repaired.
Zone 7A; Sicily was on the horizon, and here came the Luftwaffe. Three waves of E/A were between us and the harbor facilities at Marsala. A total of seven Bf-109s and five FW-190s slammed into our bomber. When the dust settled we were still flying, which could not be said for three attackers that we shot down. (Three other bandits limped away smoking, but as we were so close to their base we can only call them Probables.) In exchange our Engineer had lost his oxygen, and was on an A2 cylinder, and our elevator controls were out. This is also where I lost the top of my right ear. Then we noticed the fuel gauges – the Fuel Transfer Pump was scrap!
But first the bomb run… the flak was heavy and accurate, and we were buffeted by a couple bursts, one which twisted the bomb controls into an inoperable mess. By the time we released our bombs, we were past the target. Now to the rally point, and the ominous words from MSG Judd, “We’ve got 200 miles of fuel before we ditch.”
I realized that would get us as far as a Nazi air strip at Tunis, and I thought that I preferred crash landing in Sicily to ditching in the midst of Fascist waters or bailing out over Tunisia. Then our Navigator piped up, “The Brits on Malta are about 175 miles away. They fly Wellingtons out of there so we should have enough real estate to land.” I practically shouted at him, “Plot a course to Malta!”, as I left the formation and headed down to 10,000 feet.
The Germans were after us like bees attracted to honey. In 7B we had six FW-190s swarming around us. They may multiple passes. We were able to swat two of them out of the air, but on their first pass they perforated Surprise Attack. The key damage inflicted on us was an oxygen fire in the cockpit and the destruction of the Port Waist Gun. The second pass was murder: this is when SGT Peters seemed to take multiple shells to his abdomen, killing him instantly; when MSG Judd was seriously wounded when his skull was cracked and the Top Turret was destroyed; and when 2LT Devereux lost his right foot. On their third pass our starboard wing took a beating, yet we were still flying. 2LT Ottesen was able the apply a tourniquet to the Navigator’s leg which saved his life.
In Zone 8A, five Bf-109s caught up to us. Three more passes of hell, and with our diminished firepower we were content to send all five away with just some type of damage to their fighters. Other that light wounds to both my Copilot and I, most of the damage we took was trivial. Holes in the bomb bay and additional damage to the bomb controls didn’t faze us.
Zone 8B and it is eerily quiet. No bandits. Shortly we spot Malta off to port. We’re a little off course, due to the unconscious Navigator, but not lost. Soon a couple Spitfires came up to check us out, and they led us to RAF Hal Far. Surprise Attack made a beautiful landing, but it was obvious she wouldn’t fly again.
The rest of the story is anti-climatic. After two weeks they Brits ferried all of the survivors , except Devereux who had developed a fever, to Alexandria. Once there, we were taken to the headquarters of the 9th Air Force, USAAF, in Cairo; and we were informed that we had been transferred to the Eastern Med. They told us that after the Axis were kicked out of Africa we might be able to get our personal belongings back from Algeria.
1LT Ford Harrison, USAAF, Commanding
240TH Bomber Squadron, 87th Bombardment Group
This mission was part of the Play-by-Forum campaign Bombers Over the Desert. http://bombersinthedesert.freeforums.net/
Position – Rank (Current Mission) [Previous Kills]
Pilot: 1LT Ford Harrison (02) LW, LW
Copilots: 2LT Hercules Treadway (03) LW
Navigator: 2LT Jonathan Devereux (01) SW-IH
Bombardier: 2LT Herbert Ottesen (12)  LC, AM +, DFC+
Engineer: MSG Elmer Judd (05)[5.5] ½ SW-IH
Radio Operator: SGT Lance Wilkins (03)
Ball Gunner: SGT Sam Slaughter - (03) *
P. Waist Gunner: SGT Scott Peters (03) PH KIA
S. Waist Gunner: SGT Clay Hanrahan (02)[0.5] PH KIA
Tail Gunner: SGT Phil Teague (02) *½
* = 1 kill
½ or ⅓ = Shared Kill
Bomb Run: Off Target 0%
Pilot: 1LT Ford Harrison - LW, LW – 6 days in hospital
Copilots: 2LT Hercules Treadway – LW – 2 days in hospital
Navigator: 2LT Jonathan Devereux - SW-IH – 21 days, then evacuated to Alexandria, then to States
Engineer: MSG Elmer Judd - SW-IH – 10 days, then evacuated to Alexandria, then to States
P. Waist Gunner: SGT Scott Peters - KIA
S. Waist Gunner: SGT Clay Hanrahan - KIA
Superficial x24 (24)
Light Wound x3 (6)
Serious Wound x2 (10)
KIA x2 (20)
Heat out: Bombardier x2 (15)
Heat out: Radio Room (10)
Heat out: SWG (10)
Oxygen: Pilot – FIRE & out (25)
Oxygen: Engineer –out (10)
P.Flaps inop x2 (15)
Control Cables (10)
Bomb Bay n/e x3 (15)
Fuel Transfer Pump out (10)
Ins. Elevator out (10)
S. Tail Root (25)
S. Wing Root (25)
Top Turret inop (20)
Rubber Rafts destroyed (10)
S. Aileron out x2 (15)
Interphone inop (10)
Bomb Controls out x2 (15)
Peckham Points: 310 – CAT-E irreparable on Malta
Landing: Beautiful landing on the shorter runway (rolled a 12)
Excellent AAR! Thank you for sharing this.
Hey, Stinky Cheese! Excellent AAR! The added graphics made a nice touch. Very cool! What a mess though. The 'Surprise Attack' got shot to pieces! Hope you put up another plane.
When I was hit the results were 4 zones of gas remaining. The original zones in Queen of the Skies were 50 miles (same in Target For Today) so I had 200 miles to go. Originally I hoped to make the Allied front lines which were approximately at the Algerian-Tunisian border. No luck, but I saw Malta was in range, and the narrative wrote itself.
(The map came with a Bombing the Med variant, published in The Boardgamer fanzine, but the bands were drawn at a different scale. I could not find the edition containing the Med variant online, but I did find this issue containing a QOTS article http://www.wargamevault.com/product/116874/The-Boardgamer-Ma... )
- Last edited Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:15 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:51 pm
You know, with all the bells and whistles this classic game sports now, it is no wonder that it is still so popular. My hat's off to you guys who can add so much realism to your AARs with all the maps, charts and additional graphics. Thanks a bunch, Stinky Cheese!