14 May 1943 [legacy, John Reed]|
[not sure what these are from, but look like medal awards, use for legacy]
John Young Reed, 0-660004, 1st Lieutenant, 44th Bombardment Group (H), Army Air Forces, United States Army. For extraordinary achievement while serving as pilot of a B-24 airplane on a bombardment mission over Germany, 14 May 1943.
On reaching the German Coast, the formation was attacked by one of the largest enemy fighter plane forces encountered to date. During the bombing run, Lieutenant Reed's airplane suffered severe damage and on leaving the target enemy fighter planes attacked in force disabling three engines. Displaying great courage and skillful airmanship, Lieutenant Reed with only one engine of his airplane functioning properly dove into a cloud bank and by so doing evaded the attacking fighter planes. On reaching his home base, Lieutenant Reed ordered all members of the crew to bail out as the airplane was in such a condition that it could not be landed or crash landed. He and the copilot then flew their airplane to the coast where it could crash into the water without harm to anyone. On arriving at the coast, Lieutenant Reed set a seaward course for he airplane and then he and the copilot bailed out.
The actions of Lieutenant Reed on this occasion were directly responsible for the safe return of all members of his crew and reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.
14 May 1943 [legacy, John Reed]
John Y. Reed
100 First Street
Matamoras, PA 18336
11 April, 1985
As I indicated in my preliminary reply, I am the pilot that flew the B-24-D "Scrappy" on what proved to be its final flight, namely the raid on Kiel, Germany on 14 May 1943, and Sgt. Adam Wygonic was my flight engineer/top turret gunner.
As previously reported, Sgt. Wygonic survived the ordeal, though seriously wounded, primarily due to the quick thinking and selfless action of our Sgt. Alan Perry, radio operator, and I'm happy to report that Sgt. Perry was awarded the Silver Star for his exemplary conduct.
I have tried to recall the fast moving events of that day, and will give you a factual chronology of the mission as we experienced it.
The 44th Bomb Group was assigned to fly in a secondary slot in the bomber train as it approached the target area of Kiel. The lead positions were assigned to groups of B-17s carrying full loads of high explosive (HE) bombs, while the 44th was carrying (mostly) clusters of incendiary stick-type bombs.
The strategic plan of this sequence was to first blow up the structures in the target area, and then to ignite and burn everything flammable.
The plan of mixing B-24s and B-17s in the same formation was not good news to us in the 44th, because once before it had been tried, with the 44th sandwiched between groups of B-17s and the results had not been satisfactory, due to all aircraft assigned to fly at the same altitude.
At 18,000-20,000 feet, the B-24s were faster than the B-17s and in order to maintain our position between the B-17 groups, we had to drop partial flaps and zigzag back and forth. On the Kiel mission, however, the lead B-17s were assigned to fly at a higher altitude than the B-24s to balance out the relative speeds.
The particular incendiaries that we carried were packaged in strapped clusters as they hung in the bomb bay, but as soon as they were dropped, the clusters broke open, filling the sky with a myriad of individual, random attitude, sticks.
Having had experience with the problems of this type bomb before, we flew a relatively loose formation so that the rear aircraft could avoid running into the masses of sticks from the lead planes.
The bombing run was further complicated when one of the B-17 outfits got out of position on the bomb run and ended up directly over the 44th. It dropped its loads of HEs right through the 44th formation, which was scary as hell, but fortunately, to my knowledge, none of the 44th planes suffered any damage from the errant bombs.
I have an authentic original aerial photo, captioned with the date and identifying the target as Kiel, that was taken from approximately 4,000 to 5,000 feet above the 44th BG showing six B-24 aircraft still directly over the smoking target area.
I've assumed that the photo was taken from the B-17 outfit that overran us, but I have no positive confirmation of this [No. Lundy] nor can I recall how I came into possession of this photo.
We came under very heavy fighter attack in the target area, and were quite vulnerable because of our spread-out bombing formation.
Just prior to dropping our bombs, I saw an FW 190 peel off at us from about 1 o'clock and slightly high, and as the puffs of bursting 20mm self destroying ammo came toward us it became apparent that the line of fire would put the successive bursts right in our cockpit.
Purely reflex action alone caused me to hit the wheel in a dive to try to get below the line of fire, but, unfortunately the bursts did not clear the plane, but hit the top turret directly behind the cockpit.
The resulting explosion tore the top turret canopy completely off, and the shrapnel severely wounded Sgt. Wygonic about his head and upper body. The inside of the turret and the gun barrels were pitted from the force of the shrapnel.
Sgt. Wygonic must have reflexively dumped his seat lever, and thus fell onto the flight deck.
Sgt. Alan Perry, radio operator, immediately sized up the situation, left his own oxygen supply, and attempted some first aid to Sgt. Wygonic, who was bleeding profusely from head and body wounds.
Sgt. Perry snapped Wygonic's chest chute onto his harness, and put his hand around the ripcord ring, inasmuch as Perry intuitively concluded that Sgt. Wygonic would die before we got back to England, and therefore, intended to roll Wygonic out of the ship over the target area.
At this point, however, Perry was suffering from serious lack of oxygen, and he had returned to his oxygen supply to keep from passing out, and, when he was able to turn back to Wygonic, Adam was gone, having intentionally or otherwise, rolled off the flight deck onto the catwalk (the bomb bay doors were still open) and subsequently rolled out of the plane. No one could say for sure that Adam's chute opened, since all attention was on fighting off the attacking fighters.
We had no way of knowing whether Adam reached the ground dead or alive, though to us the odds seemed stacked against his survival due to the severity of his wounds with resultant loss of blood, and also the fact that he was without oxygen even longer than Sgt. Perry.
The plane, as we came away from the target, was severely damaged, with one engine smoldering, loss of top portions of one vertical stabilizer and rudder, and multiple hits from 20mm fire, including blown away turret canopy.
Unable to maintain position in our formation, I dove toward a group of B-17s that were ahead and below us in a shallow dive toward the coast, and managed holding a position behind and below their rear flight, which protected our top with their bottom and rear turrets.
We crossed the coast in this mode, and headed out over the North Sea, and after the fighter attacks broke off, we flew pretty much alone back to England.
When back over Shipdham, we circled and attempted to lower our landing gear using manually operated crank down procedure, due to the fact that the hydraulic line had suffered hits.
The gear started down, but locked at about 45 degrees at which point it could be neither lowered further nor raised again.
Couldn't attempt an emergency landing on the runway due to other activity there, and felt that an attempt to land in the grass would result in the partially down gear snagging and catapulting the plane.
Told the tower of the dilemma, and of my decision, and I bailed the crew out over the field, except for my copilot, George Winger. We flew the plane back out toward the coast, where I set it on automatic pilot. George bailed out first and I was close behind.
After "Scrappy" crossed the coast, it was show down by a flight of Sptifires piloted by Polish escapees.
George landed in a freshly plowed field and I came down in the midst of a searchlight/anti-aircraft battery right on the coast.
Most of the rest of our crew finished combat together, including a series of missions from North Africa, at which time I finished my combat requirements, and the crew was split up, some finished, some reassigned to other crews, and some returning to the States.
I returned to England with the group, and then went on General Staff with General Johnson, when the 14th Combat Wing was formed.
I returned to the States at my request in April of 1944.
Ultimately, after General Staff duty with 1st Air Force, I was assigned as Commanding Officer of Radar Training Squadrons at Langley Field, VA. It was there that I learned that Sgt. Adam Wygonic had survived.
I returned to my line office one day after a facility inspection, and was given a verbal message by a maintenance service officer - the message being from Sgt. Wygonic. How he knew that I was at Langley Field, I will probably never know.
Adam, it seems, was enroute as a passenger on a plane that stopped off at Langley to refuel, and continued on immediately thereafter.
The message indicated that Adam was well, though scarred, and had lost the sight of one of his eyes as the result of his wounds suffered over Kiel. After he had landed in the near target area, he was picked up by German troops and taken at once to a hospital where he was well treated and confined as a patient for a lengthy time, after which he was a POW, and later repatriated.
It was almost unbelievable that he had survived against those incredible odds, the real credit going to Sgt. Perry's role in the total scenario.
I am enclosing some pertinent data from my files that may prove of interest to you.
The write up for my DFC for the Kiel raid was a real comedy of errors, which no one in headquarters ever wanted to take credit for. To my recollection, there were no clouds in the area and, though I'd like to believe that I was a reasonably good pilot, neither I nor anyone else I know would ever claim that "with three disabled engines," a B-24 was flown from Germany to England. All's well that ends well!
I was never in the 506th, Will, having remained with the 66th for my entire assignment with the 44th.
Hope my letter has served to clarify some vague areas.
If there are any questions of any nature that you feel I can answer, please feel free to contact me.
Very truly yours,
John Y. Reed