817th Bomber Squadron, 800th Bombardment Group (H)
MISSION DATE: 16 JUNE 43
MISSION # 018 (4th mission this plane)
TARGET: Wilhelmshaven, Germany – Shipyards
Low Cell – Middle (Position 16)
AFTER ACTION REPORT:
ZONE 2: Heavy resistance against the formation, with three Jerries trying to end our trip within sight of England. The Spitfires ran off one ME-210, while the remaining fighters – a 109 and a 210 hit us with some superficial damage. They should have been content with that, because when they came back for a second pass we smacked them both. 2LT Lewisburg set the 210 on fire for a Confirmed Kill, while M/SGT Charles sent the 109 away smoking. Cletus was a mite put out when we only counted it as a Probable. He insisted there was no way that Kraut was going to make it across the North Sea back to Germany. Little did he know that he’d be worn slap out firing those guns by the time the sun set.
ZONE 3: A lone FW-190 made a Vertical Dive at us. Looks like the Top Turret did some damage, but he was past us so fast it must have been inconsequential.
ZONE 4: Nothing to report.
ZONE 5: We’ve left the RAF Spitfires behind and rendezvous with some American P-47s. Wish there were more, but we can’t complain as they drove away one of the two ME-210s that made a run at the Hillbilly. The other 210 was cut to pieces by our Ball Turret and Tail Guns. We don’t understand how the Review Board, in their infinite wisdom, denied that victory, instead assigning it to that Yankee over in… Sorry, sir. I’m just going to bat for my boys. There were also two FW-190s in a second wave, and we sent one limping back to Germany as a Probable.
ZONE 6: Three waves impacted the 800th Bombardment Group. Only one of those waves tried to mess with the Hillbilly. Our gunners damaged one, while the Ball Turret set a second one on fire. (Denied)
(One of those waves was the Random Event “Aggressive Little Friends”. I am convinced this Random Event made the difference in the eventual survival of the crew of the Hillbilly Hop.)
TARGET ZONE 7: As we approached the German coast, and were dealing with a couple 109s, we suddenly found our windshield full of the belly of Pandora’s Boxers. I put our bomber into a dive to avoid a collision, and the sudden steep dive ripped our bombs out of the racks and through the closed bay doors of the Hillbilly Hop. The wings were a swaying and rattling, but they stayed on. By the time we straightened out we were about 4000 feet below the formation, and falling behind fast. We immediately aborted the mission and turned for home, before the flak guns lining the German coast could get their sights on us. (Another Random Event, and it was a doozy.)
THE RETURN TRIP: (Based on the added drag caused by the bombs busting open the Bomb Bay Doors, I decided to apply the two turn per zone penalty noted on Table 5-13, A3, Note (a).)
ZONE 7A: As we turned back for England, everyone snuck a look at the wings. We knew they had taken a lot of stress, would they hold out. Fortunately the Germans were focused on the rest of the formation making the bomb run on Wilhelmshaven. (Rolled a 36. No attackers this turn.)
ZONE 7B: Still in Zone 7, dragging along, and the Krauts finally noticed us. We figured they were following the rest of the Group, passing two miles above us, and came down to finish us off. Three 109s must have thought we were a helpless target, as they came gliding in and got hammered. Two destroyed, and a Probable struggling back to Germany. (Another Random Event – Ace for a Day. Didn’t seem to help, but it definitely did not hurt. Seven waves would have rolls ending in a 6. Three Random Events, and the other four thankfully resulting in no attackers.)
ZONE 6A: Found! Two waves besieged us; seven bandits perforating the Hillbilly Hop. Providentially, a Little Friend noticed us too. A P-47 culled one out of the angry mob, and more importantly, called his buddies to come help. After the skies cleared our gunners had two more kills to their credit; both overeager Krauts who were making successive passes. But, we were hurting. Barely any aileron control, and the elevator control was in grave condition. If we wanted to try any evasive maneuvers it wasn’t going to happen anymore this trip. Also, the way we were sweating it out at 10,000 feet, the loss of out nose heat was a passing joke.
We were only half way through Zone 6…
ZONE 6B: Five more bandits . Two more kills for our gunners, yet our B-17 continued to take punishment. Both wing roots shuttered under the fire of a 210 piloted by an Ace. What may have been worse was one of the Tail Guns jamming on us - a jam that never got cleared. Our Little Friend stayed with us and chased off another bandit.
ZONE 5A: Here comes the cavalry! More P-47s to the rescue. (The earlier Aggressive Little Friends event means that the Fair coverage in the rest of the zones has been upgraded to Good.) Five more attackers, but all the damage we took was superficial, while the two E/A shot down by our gunners were those who greedily tried to make successive passes.
ZONE 5B: Three attackers, and all of them were stopped dead in their tracks by our escort. This gave us the chance to move ammunition to replenish our depleted Top Turret. SGT Ripley, our Radioman, took on the task, and it took a lot of guts on his part to cross over that rickety, and possibly damaged, catwalk spanning the open bomb bay, in order to complete the transfer.
ZONE 4A: No attackers. Just listening to the groaning of our wounded Fortress.
ZONE 4B: Three attackers, and the P-47s ran off two of them; leaving the remaining 109 to get dismantled by the frenetic wrath of three of our gunners.
ZONE 3A: Twelve total bandits, in three chaotic waves, tried to stop our crawl towards England. A third of them were driven away by our chaperones in the Thunderbolts. Three more were cut down by our gunners, and another three limped away with various degrees of serious damage. In exchange the Hillbilly Hop had a lot more ventilation in her hide, a Radio Set in a thousand pieces, and our first wound – only a light wound to our Tail Gunner’s leg.
ZONE 3B: Nothing to report.
ZONE 2A: Two more waves… Eight more E/A… a lot more holes in our B-17… three more kills for our gunners; all on successive passes. Them Germans just won’t learn to be satisfied with hitting us once. Again, our Little Friends accounted for three of the attackers. Top Turret out of Ammo again, and the Ball Turret has one burst left to its name.
ZONE 2B: England in sight, and two more bandits try to stop us, only to find a squadron of Spitfires running interference for our bomber.
Molesworth: A bouncy landing with ailerons, elevators, and one flap out. The crew survived with only one man needing a trip in the ambulance. On the other hand, our bomber has been declared CAT-E.
Peckham Points: 350
15 of the 16 Confirmed Kills were after Hillbilly Hop was Out of Formation.
10 of the Kills were against enemy fighters making successive passes.
Yet, with so many shared kills, only one man earned the Ace status.