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Subject: Mission 3: The "8" Ball rss

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Kevin Wells
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Our Green Country Gamers group is on mission 3. We are the 66th Bomb Group. I have two planes flying. The other one is the Wolfpack (replaced Tokyo-KO which was totaled, see previous session reports).

Mission Date: 5th of December, 1944


Jim "Buzz" Hoolihan - Pilot Wailin' Jenny
Mission report for The "8" Ball and her crew


Our Squad's mission was to bomb an aircraft factory in Nagoya, Japan. This was a day mission at high altitude with a night landing. Heavy fighter resistance expected but fighter escort was not available. Our Squadron was in the middle position and The "8" Ball was to lead the formation. The men of The "8" Ball were happy that command trusted them to lead the formation. After their failure on Mission One, the men figured that they would never be trusted to lead again.

The first time that we saw The "8" Ball during the mission, was in the Zone 3 Rally Point. We all got into formation without incident.

We ran into Poor Weather in Zone 4 and this cost the Squad some fuel.

Bad Weather encountered in Zone 5. We had to steer around a thunderhead and were experiencing fierce head winds. Our formation was disrupted and we lost contact with The "8" Ball.

In Zone 6 (Iwo Jima), contact with The "8" Ball was re-established. She crept up behind us and was now in the tail position. She reported over the radio that she had burned up a lot of fuel while maneuvering and running her engines hot to rejoin the Squad. We had good weather over Iwo and no enemy was encountered.

The radio was mostly silent for the rest of the flight to target.

We encountered Bad Weather over Nagoya and the Squad had to consume extra fuel to steer around the storm. The bad weather kept enemy fighters away, but our target was mostly obscured. The anti-aircraft guns must have heard us coming, because they fired off a huge barrage of shells. Our tail gunner reported seeing three shells burst in close proximity to The "8" Ball, but radio chatter was heavy and we had to concentrate on the bombing run. Next, we heard Bombardier: 1st Lt William "Biff" Bagley of The "8" Ball shout out "WE ARE ON TARGET...I REPEAT...WE ARE ON TARGET! BOMBS AWAY!!!

Once all of the excitement was over and the squadron was safely on it's way back home, all of the planes reported in. "8" Ball Pilot: Major Wetsel Daniel Wagner announced that he had some good news and some bad news. The good news was that The "8" Ball had 30% of her bombs hit target. The bad news was that she had been hit three times by flak. Twice in her Starboard Wing and once in her Tail. Most of the damage was manageable. However, Major Wagner reported that her Starboard Landing Gear had been hit and was inoperable. The radio went silent, as we all knew what this meant for The "8" Ball. Her chances of making it home OK, just went way down. In order to land safely, one of her crew would have to attempt to lower the landing gear manually. This was a 50/50 proposition and not a situation that any crew would want to be in.

As if things were not bad enough, The "8" Ball was attacked over Iwo Jima by a "Zeke" Zero at 9:00 High. We all watch as her Forward Upper Turret comes to life and blasts the Zero out of the sky! The "8" Ball's CFC: T/Sgt John J. Essex yells out "Kill! Kill! My First Kill!". This really raised the spirits of the whole Squadron and is a testament to the mettle of the men aboard The "8" Ball.

We ran into Bad Weather in Zone 2 and we all hoped that it would clear up before we had to land. Unfortunately, the Bad Weather persisted in Zone 1 and things were not looking good.

The last communication that we heard from The "8" Ball was that she was going to have lucky CFC: T/Sgt John J. Essex try to lower the landing gear manually.

Due to our position in the squadron, our plane landed before of The "8" Ball. As soon as our plane came to a halt, my whole crew bailed out in order to watch The "8" Ball come in. We couldn't see much in the darkness of night, with rain pouring down. However, a flash of lightning gave us a glimpse into the tragedy to follow. The "8" Ball had her landing gear up, and was coming in on her belly. We watched as the dark form of the plane crept closer to the ground, and then, all of the sudden, sparks lit up the runway. The screeching of the plane scraping across the tarmac was so loud that we had to cover our ears. Then, the sparks must have ignited the vapors in The "8" Ball's fuel tanks, and she burst into a ball of flame. She skidded sideways, and her wings gave way as she rolled down the runway. When she came to rest, we knew that it was over for her crew.

The "8" Ball was lost with her entire crew, but she and her crew will fight on in the hearts of the men that she inspired.

(Obviously, I failed the roll for manual landing gear deployment and I rolled a 4 on the landing with -8 in modifiers for landing gear, weather and nighttime.)
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Bob Hansen
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Couldn't the crew of eight-ball have bailed out near your base and ditch the plane in the ocean?
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Kevin Wells
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kixdsky wrote:
Couldn't the crew of eight-ball have bailed out near your base and ditch the plane in the ocean?

Hindsight is 20/20. At the time of the crash, I had one fuel box left. I rolled for the landing gear right before I rolled for the landing. I should have rolled for the landing gear in Zone 1 and if it deployed, I would have had enough fuel to compensate for the drag and make it into home base. If the landing gear did not deploy, I could have ditched or bailed out in rough seas (not a great alternative).

The roll of 4 on the landing is what killed me though. Even if my landing gear had deployed, my crew would still be dead.
 
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John O'Haver
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kixdsky wrote:
Couldn't the crew of eight-ball have bailed out near your base and ditch the plane in the ocean?



I can't but think that if given choice of bailing out over the ocean at night or taking a chance on riding the aircraft down to a wheels up landing at homebase, most crew would choose the latter in real life.

My father flew out of Tinian and Saipan in real life. He would have chosen to land in the ocean but bail out over land. But he flew seaplanes that had no landing gear at all.
 
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