* By LTC USA (Ret) T.J. FEENEY|
66th Squadron, 44th Bomb Group (Staff Sgt. Tail Gunner)
Don't Come Back
The Mission to Cologne: The primary target was the Deutz Bridge over the Rhine River. The bridge was about 200 yards away from the famed Cologne Cathedral. Both the British and one of our 8th AF Groups had previously damaged the northwest corner of the cathedral. The picture in the March 1994 issue of the National Geographic magazine was made by our bombsight camera at 22,000'. The bridge knocked out on that mission was a primary artery for the German supply lines. My pilot, Lt. A. P. Kleinschmidt was flying lead on this most successful mission and provided most of the information for this article. I can confirm that at the briefing the morning of the mission we were told, "If you hit the cathedral don't bother to come back." We didn't! We took out the bridge and came back!
On one of our missions we were forced to abort just short of our target and return to England. On the return flight we had no fighter cover. I spotted a single fighter above us directly approaching our tail. I fired above him so he could see my tracers. He continued and I fired below him. Since he continued in I zeroed in on him and forced him to turn off. The Martin Turret also fired on him. He radioed our craft and pulled parallel to us but out of range. He identified himself as a P-51 fighter and wanted to know why we were firing on him. Needless to say we kept him well covered and he eventually pulled off and disappeared.
The matter was the subject of much discussion among our crew. When we were debriefed we were told it may well have been a P-51 but it was not one of ours. We were also told that we had no aircraft in the area and the markings were unknown to our intelligence people. We were told we did the right thing in firing on the craft.
In June 1994 the USAF Historical Agency at Maxwell AFB, AL advised me that they had no record of downed P-51's being rebuilt by the Germans. Then in July 1994 I learned from LTC Maury Dyer USAF (Ret) that when he flew with the 44th he was informed that the Germans did use cannibalized parts from aircraft that crashed or were forced to land in Germany. He said that "what got our peoples attention was that we could be shot down by one of them".
They were called 'Mavericks.' (Incl.)
Gasoline Drop in Hourglass Containers:
Toward the end of WWII, Patton's Third Army broke through enemy defenses so forcefully that they were running short of gasoline for their tanks. The 44th was one of the groups that supplied them. What was so unusual about this mission was it was a real low-level drop. We dropped 50-gallon drums of gasoline at tree top level. I did not see any of them spill or shatter. The reason they did not was the wooden construction shaped like an hourglass with rounded wooden tops and bottoms that permitted the drums to roll when dropped. I do not recall the location of this mission. Unfortunately, I did see a sight I've never forgotten, one of our people hung up with his chute draped over the rudder of another B-24. We did not encounter flak on this mission but we did contend with small arms fire.
What the Pilot Didn't See-
Pilot's Report: "On one mission we had dropped our bombs and realized we had a bomb hung in the bomb bay. The bombs were attached to a shackle by a cable, which activated the bomb as it left the bomb bay. This one didn't leave. The engineer crawled out with a pair of pliers and seven minutes of oxygen at 22,000' to cut the wire. He had to crawl out on the catwalk in the bottom of the ship over the open bomb doors. He did it! If he hadn't the bomb could have detonated and blown us out of the sky."
What the Tail Gunner saw: As we moved away from the release point the bomb left a trail of smoke till it hit the middle of a large, solitary farm house in the middle of a huge German field --unable to assess damage we inflicted on this 'no choice target'.
* Worst Mission: (By Pilot A.P. Kleinschmidt)
I guess the worst situation I was ever in was when I lost two engines in a snowstorm over Germany.
"We were flying blind on a mission to the interior of Germany when I got hit by flak and lost an engine. The rest of the squadron flew off and left me. We could see the black shells exploding all around us and we were losing altitude. I got out of the main flight pattern and tried to restart the engine," he said. "When I tried the engine, I lost oil pressure in another engine and saw the prop of the second engine fly off past the window into space.
"Now we were down to two engines. we were out of the Frankfurt flak area and I called in code for fighter help. We were losing 200 feet per minute and I had only a 17-mile corridor to fly through to try to make it to a safe landing place. We got our fighter
escort and he took us across the bomb line where the ground fighting was taking place in France and then broke radio code by saying, 'Sweetheart, I'm home. You can make it now.' That was a big no-no.
"Sure enough, the Germans heard him. I told the crew to watch for them and here he came, while we headed for the overcast 9,000' below. As the nose gunner turned his turret to fire, the door flew off the turret and struck the wing between the two engines and ripped a gash in the wing. I could see the latex liner swell out of the gas tank on the right wing. If it broke, that was it. We were in a high-speed stall and almost shaking apart. But I dropped the nose and we were okay again.
"I was trying to contact the British to get permission to land on the crash strip just across the Channel when we broke out of the overcast and I thought we had enough altitude to make it home. When we got there we were at 250 feet and the tower told us to go around," Kleinschmidt said, smiling. "We didn't go around and that liner held."
What the Pilot Did Not Tell:
As we continued back across the Channel and losing altitude rapidly was that he ordered the crew to ditch everything including our machine guns, ammo and our A-3 bags. The crew really cried when he mentioned A-3 bags. They contained our escape kits - they held mainly cigarettes and silk stockings.
* Excerpts from information and correspondence provided by my friend and pilot Capt. A.P. Kleinschmidt (deceased) and LTC Maury Dyer another friend who served in the 66th Squadron - 44th Bomb Group (deceased).
Thomas J. "Joe" FEENEY
Born: Newton, MA 26 August 1921; Graduated Sacred Heart High School, Newton, MA 1939. Attended Northeastern University, Boston, MA 1939-1942. Enlisted in U.S. Army Aviation Cadet Program. Depth perception problem precluded finishing program.
I volunteered for Aerial Gunnery School and received training as a tail gunner at Tyndall Field, FL. Next came assignments to Lincoln, NB to join my crew and then to OTU at Gowan Field, Boise, ID. My next assignment was to the 66th Squadron, 44th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force.
Some of the unusual and more memorable events I recall while serving in the 44th are contained in the enclosure hereto. Following discharge from the army in 1945 I returned to Northeastern
University where I received a B.S. in Business Administration. Shortly thereafter I re-enlisted in the army in CIC. After training at Ft. Holabird, MD and duty as an agent in Washington, D.C. I received a direct commission in the Finance Corps. I served with the Army Audit Agency and held a number of General Staff assignments in Alaska, the U.S. and Korea.
The army then decided I needed more education so I was sent to the University of Colorado where I received my MBA in 1962, My last foreign duty was as Comptroller Advisor to the Iranian Forces and their SCS (DOD equivalent). I was stationed with ARMISH MAAG Hqs. in Tehran, Iran.
My last assignment was as Chief Pay Systeins, Office Chief of Finance, D.A. I also served as chairman of the DOD Military Pay Conference Committee and proposed the adoption of SSN's to replace military service numbers. The consent of each of the services was obtained and the program completed prior to my retirement for disability in November 1968.
Following retirement I was employed by Fairfax County, VA as Deputy Director of Assessments until 1976.
Thereafter I pursued my interest in political activities in Virginia.
After moving to Pennsylvania I joined the Keystone Capital Chapter of The Retired Officers' Association and continue to serve as its Treasurer. This permits me to assist in fund drives to help the Hospice Unit of the Lebanon, PA Veterans Administration Medical Center.