HAROLD C. MORRISON|
June 6, 1944 - Bombs Away - 0554
Yes, this was a day of days in the lives of everyone in the ETO and it started for me at 10:00 p.m. the previous evening. I was called out to the briefing room and by midnight we were informed of our target and told that This was It!
We have waited long for this day and now that it was here. We couldn't believe it! For me, I was deputy leader of the first section of our group and was flying right wing to Armstrong. We took off in the dark and got into formation during the dark hours. There was about 8,000 feet of clouds to climb through and we assembled on top. To most pilots flying instruments is no job at all, but when there are thousands of other planes in the air with you and going all over the sky, you never know who you will bump into, and once you hit someone, you have had it! Well, Gayman, my roommate, hit a fellow and both recovered and flew on the mission.
We were nearing the enemy coast as it became daylight and a sight to see it was! Never before have I seen so much activity. We bombed our target and did a good job. God was riding with us. Something I will always remember is that I was flying the second ship of the Eighth Air Force that hit the invasion coast on D-Day. I wish I could tell it to he world.
The fellows to really remember on this day, are the thousands who hit the beaches. We, of the Air Corps, will go to the end of the earth to assist those brave fellows. It is their shoulders that bear the weight of our country. We can help, but they must do it. As for us, we figured on being the six ships to be hit the hardest. I thought the Hun would throw everything he had at the head of the attack, which was us, but we didn't have any trouble at all and the boys missed chance of shooting down some more fighters. If God is with us and I know he is, we should win out, and peace will, again, some day rule the world.
Note: The briefed bombing windows for the 44th BG first strike mission was 0600-0630 at FL 16,000'' at the aircraft debriefing or 68th squadron area I ask Francis G. Wholley, our crew navigator, what our bomb release time was. He responded that we were six minutes early, which placed release time at 0554. I then entered that in my diary. The avalanche of aircraft following made our leader's effort to slow down, to meet the 0600 time, ineffective.
Years later I still remember...
With the documents we have to date concerning the initial (first) mission on D-Day, June 6, 1944, I remember the following very clearly:
At briefing (General briefing all crews) and being informed of overall mission plan, we received details of the launch sequence. All aircraft were lined up on the north and south side taxi strips of the main east-west runway. Takeoff was to the west at 30 to 45-second intervals. Reference altitude was 8,000 feet. Near the end of the general briefing, the all-important and dramatic "time hack" was given. I seem to recall a short delay in actual takeoff time planned (0230) for some reason.
After takeoff to the west, a turn to the W-NW and climb to 5,000 feet (half reference altitude + 1,000 feet) they left turn back to our radio fix. We usually got on top prior to returning to he radio fix. On this occasion, just as I got on top, some aircraft below us fired a red-green flare and I immediately thought it was wing tip lights heading directly at us. I Pulled back on the controls and stalled the aircraft back down into the overcast. Thank God Charley Murphy helped me regain control again and we got on top again. Charlie pointed to the lead aircraft (Capt. Armstrong). The tail gunner was flashing the code letter we were briefed on and expecting (all six lead PFF aircraft would be flashing the letter "A" according to document recently received from Tony Mastradone). After several circles, we were all in position and on our way to first control point.
During assembly, Charlie Murphy drew my attention to large flashes in the sky (to the east). The debris falling to earth appeared to be from aircraft. It was pointed out to me on five occasions, so I thought five mid-air's. I see the record reflects only two aircraft lost on the first mission to mid-air.
The flight down to southern England was uneventful except to see so much activity below when we could see the ground and water on occasion. I seem to recall that our six-ship formation seemed to "S" enroute, probably to slow down to meet he 0600 planned drop time. The crew, and most probably tail gunner (Tyrus J. Shanley), reported an avalanche of aircraft behind us on all sides. After bomb release, we flew straight ahead for some time then a right turn to the west and out over the Cherbourg Peninsula to a point over water, then north to southern England and home.
After debriefing, it was time for the noon meal. After the meal, I returned to my room to write two letters - v-mail. One to my wife and one to my parents. I then made the entry into my diary about the first day mission, June 6, 1944. Later in the afternoon, I was up and about in he 68th Squadron area and up near the Squadron Pickett Post. I met our crew navigator (Francis G. Wholley). During the conversation, I asked him what time did we drop our bombs. He said we were about six minutes early, but he would have to check his navigator's log (which he had turned in) for the exact time. I asked him to check it out when he had time.
When I returned to my room (and diary), I made the entry "Bombs away 0554 hours." As it turned out, Frank never did check his log for the entry again. We had missions again on June 7, 11, 12, 15, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 29, and July 4, 1944 (my last mission). July l7, 1944, "Patsy Anne II" and eight members of my crew were shot down over Bernberg (9 POW's and 1 KIA - radio operator T/Sgt. Dominick P. Yocco). I have maintained contact with all crewmembers over the years and with T/Sgt. Yocco's sister since Christmas of 1944. Four of our crewmembers are deceased. Dominic P. Yocco, KIA; Allen P. Schneider, Ball/nose gunner; Charles B. Murphy, copilot; and William H. Rausch, flight engineer.
Now to discuss the conflict of who was first on D-Day. We may never know for absolute sure but the evidence points to Flight 1, 44th BG Captain Armstrong and Major (OR) Kahl. Tony Mastradone sent me the interrogation forms for five (5) of the six crews (PFF) on mission No. 1. He also sent mine as deputy leader of Flight One. (Mission No. 259)
I have no idea of who gave the data to the interrogator. We were tight on Charlie Armstrong's right wing during the entire mission. The fuel use record on that mission, as I recall, had Charlie's flight time as 6:12 and mine as 6:13. We were logged off and on the runway by someone - perhaps Chris Sands may remember what was going on in that respect. I believe the interrogator took some figures out of the air and put them on the form. Target data is one mile inside coast seems like someone was not on the ball.
The D-Day targets covered an east-west line from Cherbourg to LeHarve. Our target appears to have been on the east end (NE of Caen). We saw no one in front of us or to the left or right as far as the eye could see.
Charlie Murphy, our crew copilot, had the eyes of an eagle and he recalled at our reunions (Wright-Patterson and Fort Worth - B-24 50th Anniversary) that he saw no one ahead or to each side of us going over the target.
Now I can only speculate that Roger Freeman got his information as to who was designated to lead the 8th Air Force form the way sequence 2BO field order No. 328 was laid out. Item No. 2 first page: 20th CBW - 446th may have been designated to lead the wing and division??; 2nd CBW; 14th CBW; 96th CBW.
"The final smoking gun" maybe in the navigator's log entry for Armstrong's and Morrison's navigators. Perhaps the archives have these records. The 446th lead crew claiming first drop time should be checked. The records may be in the Kirtland AFB, New Mexico archive records (Albuquerque).
No matter how this search finally ends up, I will always believe that Charlie Armstrong's and Major (OR) Kahl led the way on First Mission D-Day, June 6, 1944. A proud accomplishment for all concerned. We helped win the great struggle.
Article taken from the Kankakee, Ill, The Daily Journal, June 6, 1994 - Souvenir edition
By Roy Bernard, Journal Writer
Harold Morrison's bombing raid on D-Day was one of his easiest, because he was one of the first to attack the unprepared Germans. His job - to drop about 12 500-lb. bombs into an area of big-gun emplacements on a cliff overlooking Normandy Beach - took 20 minutes. "They weren't ready," Morrison said of the Germans. "I couldn't believe it."
For Morrison, a Kankakee native, D-Day began at 10 p.m., June 5. In his diary of the attack, Morrison wrote, "I was called to the briefing room, and by midnight we were informed of our target and told by the general (Leon Johnson), "This is it."
After a general briefing at 1 a.m., Morrison and nine other crew members climbed into the "Patsy Ann II." The oldest of the crew was 27 and Morrison was 23.
Patsy Ann II was a B-24J in the 44th Bomb Group, 68th Bomb Squadron, 89th Air Force Command, based in Shipdham Air Base, England.
"All aircraft were lined up nose to tail on the taxiway. Each aircraft had been freshly painted with the invasion markings (to easily identify friendly from enemy aircraft). The 44th Bomb Group had 36 B-24 heavy bombers for the initial mission divided into six ship formations," Morrison wrote.
The planes took off and began climbing in he dark and assembling at 9,500 feet altitude, then climbed to 16,000 feet. "Some 4,000 aircraft were involved in the initial strike. All the aircraft involved were milling around in the dark and we observed five mid-air collisions during assembly."
"As we got near our target on the Normandy Coast, it became daylight but stormy at surface level. The water was covered with ships all heading for the beaches," Morrison recalled.
"We were flying in the forward wall of the air invasion force. I recall seeing no aircraft ahead of our bomb group. Other bomb groups were stretched out of sight to the left and right of us. We were later informed that the initial strike force was about 30 miles wide, with a bombing window of 20 minutes."
"I felt great pride knowing that we were in the forward wall, but expected to meet the entire German air force head on, but not a sign of enemy aircraft or flak (anti aircraft fire) was observed. We had caught the enemy by surprise," Morrison wrote.
As the Patsy Ann II headed for its target, Morrison recited "The Lord's Prayer," as he had done on all of his other attacks. "I'm sure God was riding with us on this day," he said. "The real heroes of this day were the brave soldiers who hit the beaches - our prayers were with them. They had the most hazardous mission of all."
At 5:54 a.m., Morrison bombed his target, which consisted of dozens of gun emplacements on the cliff overlooking the beaches at Normandy, then flew back to the base. "We bombed six minutes early because we couldn't slow down," he said. The squadron leader, Capt. Armstrong told the pilots to reduce speed to the minimum and Morrison said his aircraft stalled several times, "But the avalanche of aircraft coming behind us would have overtaken us for sure," he added.
Morrison had been flying combat missions for only three months when he was assigned to take part in D-Day. His first two bombing runs were daytime attacks on Berlin - the capital and heart of Nazi Germany. At the time he was with the 66th Bomb Squadron.
When he realized what his first assignment was, Morrison said, "My hair was standing straight up. Berlin was heavily defended by flak and planes. The attack was in the mid-morning," he said. "The Germans knew we were coming. The British bombed at night and we did during the day because we had specific targets. We took more casualties, but we were more successful in hitting our targets," Morrison added.
Each time Morrison returned, the plane would have numerous dents and holes from anti-aircraft and bullets. On the first flight, his plane had ten holes and dents. The second attack on Berlin resulted in 31 holes. A third attack on Berlin on March 22 caused 80 holes and dents.
On April 18, his fourth bombing of Berlin resulted in 150 holes and dents. By the time D-Day occurred, Morrison already had flown 24 combat missions. He completed 11 more missions, including the June 15 bombing of a bridge at Tours, France.
His Berlin attacks included the bombing of the Eckner Ball Bearing Works and the Daimler-Benz aircraft engine manufacturing plant.
Morrison's last attack was July 4 at Beaumont, France. Most pilots flew about 20 missions before being taken off combat duty. His 35 battles resulted in a total of 1,080 holes and dents on several different planes, nine of which lost their engines from internal failure or enemy action.
"I was very tired at the end," he added. "I was down to 155 pounds and I weighed 175 when I arrived in England. I was whipped and my ears were killing me. It was terribly noisy in the plane and there was no pressurization like they have now. We flew as high as 26,000 feet."
Morrison almost didn't make it to D-Day. He was flying a B-24 on March 7 over the Shipdham Air Base when a P-47 made a sharp left turn and sheared the right wing off of another B-24, which was flying on Morrison's right side. The B-24 flipped to the right, spun and exploded on impact. Seven men died in the B-24 and the pilot died in the P-47.
On the way home from the war, Morrison was a passenger on an aircraft that collided in midair with a Horsha Glider. Six of the 15 aboard died and Morrison parachuted to safety near Liverpool.
For his wartime piloting, Morrison received two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars, seven Air Medals, an Air Force Commendation Ribbon, two Distinguished Presidential Unit Citations and three Battle Stars for being involved in three major engagements.
Morrison, who said he was interested in flying since he was four when he saw planes landing and taking off at Koerner Airport, volunteered for the Air Force in 1941 and then underwent 11 months of intensive training. "I was fascinated by the air exploits of World War I, but after I got in, I wondered what the hell I was doing there. Every mission I was on there was the threat of being killed," Morrison said.
Even though he was tired of war, he entered the Korean conflict in 1950 for the Air-Sea Rescue Service. After that war, Morrison spent ten years in the Strategic Air Command, where he commanded an intercontinental ballistic missile sector.
During the height of the Cold War, Morrison flew a B-52, which carried a nuclear bomb. "There was no danger of it being detonated because there is a specific way to arm the device," he said. Morrison was in Vietnam, where he served as an Air Force combat engineer, constructing and repairing facilities damaged by enemy attack. He retired on May 1, 1970 as a lieutenant colonel.
Now 73, Morrison would love to take part in the D-Day ceremonies at Normandy. However, last July he suffered a heart attack, had to undergo two angioplasties and decided that the trip would be too risky for him. Morrison had a third angioplasty last February.