2 July 1944
Squadron took off on time at 0700 hours and rendezvoused with the rest of the group at 4000 feet. The 318th drew high squadron in the group for today's mission. Once in place the 399th lead the group to 23000 feet and out to San Marco for rendezvous with the 301st and 463rd.
Once the three groups formed up, the formation turned northeast out over the Adriatic Sea. While over the Adriatic the crew reported no boggies. The P-51 who were flying escort appeared high and at 12'oclock.
As Lt. Banks informed me we had made Yugoslavia I was thinking that we had caught the Germans unaware of our incursion, but then all hell broke loose. The formation's whereabouts hadn't fooled anyone. The German fighters were waiting for us, using the morning sun to the east as cover. The interceptors pounced hard and fast and came from all directions. The intercom was busy with bandit calls as the crew fired their guns to defend us. The crew counted over 9 separate attacks made on Lickity-Split alone during this initial assault. Sgt. Fowler's waist machine gun malfunctioned as he shot at a ME109 but the rest of our aircraft appeared not to take any major damage. However, the crew wasn't so lucky. Tsgt. James didn't answer the comm check-in and I sent Sgt. Fowler to check up on him. Sgt. Fowler found Tsgt. James sitting on the floor of the aircraft bleeding from a chest wound. Sgt. Fowler reported that he was able to stop the flow, but James was hurt bad. I told Sgt. Fowler to secure him with heat and oxygen and return to his station and try and repair his machinegun.
As the formation continued through Yugoslavia, the German fighters just kept coming at us. "Where the hell is our escorts?!" I said to no one in particular. Mark, in the right seat, glanced my way at the remark and replied "Tail is reporting that the bulk of the German attack is against the 301st, so that is where the P-51's are." Three more German fighters zoomed past us firing away at me, or so it seemed.
Suddenly our Bombardier, Lt. Banks was on the comms and exclaiming "I got a piece of that Jerry, can anyone confirm?".
"Engineer to Bombardier", "Looks like you only nicked him Sir, he's still flying."
I jumped on the comm and jokingly said "Jim, it will take more than your ugly face and a few cuss words to knock these boys down, but by all means, keep trying."
Things quieted down a bit for Lickity-Split and everyone reported in. Sgt. Fowler reported that his machinegun was a mess and he hadn't been able to repair it. I ordered him to move Tsgt. James to the waist and get him plugged in to heat and oxygen and then return to the radio room and man that machinegun. Just then Sgt. Burns in the top turret reported another cluster of bandits coming our way. However, he also noted that the P-51's were moving to intercept them. Fortunately our Little Friends were johnny-on-the-spot and drove the German fighters away from the formation. Sgt. Fowler reported that Tsgt. James was secured in the waist compartment and that he was on station and manning the radio room machinegun.
Lt. Banks reported that we were approaching the run-in point. Suddenly Sgt. Fowler called out a bandit, and to use his words, "the son-of-a-bitch is coming straight down on us!" Sgt. Burns wheeled his top turret and pointed his guns upwards and tried to get a shot, but to no avail. However, Sgt. Fowler in his newfound position was laying down a solid but well timed series of short bursts at the diving bandit.
"I got him! I got him! can anyone confirm?" Fowler was excitedly speaking over the comm.
"Ball to Radio, scratch one bandit, good shooting Fowler!"
As we began the run-in I turned on autopilot and gave control to Lt. Smith for the bomb drop. Flak was popping all around us, but not came close enough to hurt us, just close enough to jangle our nerves a bit. Lt. Smith reported "Bombs Away" and I turned off the autopilot and banked us away with the squadron. Sgt. Gibson, in the ball turret later reported a good drop for the squadron.
As we turned for home, our return escorts, P-38s from the 82nd FG, appeared just in time to drive off the cluster of Me109s that were showing a interest in the 318th. Only one German fighter got through the screen, and he only made one pass before diving for the deck. "Now that's how escort should work!" I thought to myself.
Lt. Smith was on the comm again. "I think I got another one can anyone confirm?"
"Ball to Bombardier, sorry Sir. He's still flying, but at least Sir, he's flying away from us. You musta scared him somewhat crazy....... Sir!"
I looked over at Mark and even under his mask I could see his big ole grin as he could probably see mine.
We continued on back to Italy and home. As we crossed back over Yugoslavia the Germans were still out there, still shooting at us and still just as deadly. However, our P-38 escorts combined with the squadron's firepower either kept the Jerries at bay or gave them enough to think about as they attacked us. Their attacks seemed loose and unorganized and had no serious effects.
Lt. Smith made yet another appeal. "I'm sure I hit that last 109 that attacked us, can anyone confirm?" I heard nothing over the comms. Apparently none of the enlisted wanted to tell Jim the bad news. I squeezed my throat mick and announced "Jim, I'm pretty sure I speak for the crew when I say that was sure some 'ugly' shooting you did there." The comms remained silence but I'm sure every man on this plane was laughing or grinning behind their masks. Jim, probably the loudest.
Once the group crossed back over the Adriatic, the attacks stopped. The ride over the sea was quiet and we made it back to Italy without any more incidents.
I radioed lead for permission to land ASAP due to TSgt. James wounds, was granted permission and landed without incident. The medics removed TSgt. James and think he's gonna survive. But his war is probably over, a Million Dollar wound. The rest of the crew is gathering their kits and disembarking. I catch up with Lt. Smith, my bombardier and grab him around the shoulder and say "Ya know ole Jimmy, I don't care what the rest of the crew says, you're not really that ugly!"
He growls some cuss words back in my direction, we laugh and head off to the debriefing huts. My second mission is over and I've lost another member of my crew to this accursed war. Fortunately TSgt. James will survive his wounds, go home and hopefully live to a ripe old age with grandchildren at his feet. I look around at the rest of us, those whose fate have yet to be determined and wonder "Will we be so lucky?"
2nd Lieutenant William Hernandez
Pilot, Lickity-Split, 318th Squadron, 88th Bomber Group (H)
- Last edited Sun May 9, 2010 3:55 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat May 8, 2010 7:49 pm