The following pages of my "Personal Memories" include my account of the missions flown by Lt. Zanoni's crew. Most of my information was gained from observations made during each mission while fllying as Co-Pilot on the crew.|
Mission # 1, 17 March 1945
Our fIrst mission was flown on Saturday, 17 March 1945. The target was the railroad marshalling yards at Munster, Germany, a relatively short mission to the northern rim of the Ruhr industrial area. Our bomb load consisted of 44 X 100 General purpose bombs and 2 X 500 incendiaries. (I saved a pin and tag ITom a bomb from each mission we flew). The weather was clear except for patches of scattered clouds as shown in the attached photo from our ftrst mission. The photo was apparently taken by an Air Force photographer. I do not recall seeing flak on the mission. Total flying time was 5 hours and 50 minutes. We flew a B.24 H. I will mention here that the older B-24's had a round glass gas gauge hanging down, exposed, just forward of the bomb bay and in back of the pilot's position. The breaking of this gauge and the possibility of gas igniting inside the craft appeared to be an accident waiting to happen. One advantage of the gauge being located in this area was that it was convenient to fIll my cigarette lighter with 100 octane from the valve on the bottom of the gauge.
Mission #2, 18 March 1945
On Sunday, 18 March 1945, there was an early morning briefmg for our second mission. The Rheinmetal Borsig Plant near Berlin was the target. This plant manufactured guns, bombs and torpedos. We carried 52 X 100 M47 incendiary bombs. There was much flak over the target
area. The waist gunners, Jim Hornsby and Howard Stalnaker were throwing chaff (the chaff
carried in the waist area of the bombers consisted of fInely cut strips of metal foil that were dropped to confuse enemy radar). This was the longest mission that we flew over Germany. Flying time was 7 hours and 40 minutes. An accounting of the mission in the "Stars and Stripes" daily newspaper for Monday, 19 March 1945 states that "Berlin took its soundest daylight pasting of the war yesterday when more than 1,300 8th Air Force heavies winged over the Nazi capital to shower railroad and industrial targets with more than 3,000 tons of high explosives and incendiaries." The aircraft fpr our fIrst two missions was named "Mi Akin Ass", a B-24 H that had been on many missions.o The aircraft had been well maintained and served us well on these two missions.
Mission #3, 21 March 1945
Wednesday, 21 March 1945 was the date of the third mission for our crew. The "Missouri Belle", a B-24 M was our aircraft and the Essen Airfteld was the target. This was an afternoon mission and we carried 32 X 250 fragmentation bombs. The weather was clear. There was much flak over the target and our lead plane was hit. I did not keep a record of our altitude over the target, but I believe the high altitude bomb runs were generally made at an altitude of 20,000 feet or above. We generally put the oxygen masks on at 10 to 14 thousand feet. My records show 4 hours and 20 minutes flying time for the day. The following account was taken from the March 22 "Stars and Stripes": "US heavy bombers and fIghters yesterday thundered out to hammer 11 airfIelds, many of them bases for jet propelled fIghters and fIghter-bombers, in northwest Germany, the Ruhr and southern Germany. In the greatest blow of the whole operation, approximately 1,100 bombers of the 8th and most of its 800 fIghters zoomed in over nine ftelds in northwest Germany to wield a three ply blow."
Mission #4, 23 March 1945
On Friday, 23 March 1945 the Zanoni crew flew its fourth combat mission. Our aircraft was the "Hit Parade," a B-24H and the target was the railroad marshalling yards at Rheine, Germany. This was our third short mission to this industrial region. We carried 44 X 100 GP and 2 X 500 M17 bombs. The weather was clear. The area was well-defended as we saw considerable flak. The waist gunners were busy throwing chaff. Eight aircraft were hit by flak but all were able to return to Shipdham. Flying time for the mission was 5 hours and 15 minutes. Following are excerpts from the 24 March 1945 "Stars and Stripes": "The giant Allied air onslaught on the Ruhr roared into another day yesterday as 2,500 heavy bombers and fighters joined continental forces in blistering marshalling yards and railroad bridges in the Reich's industrial area. The 8th Air Force led the attack with a salient of 2,500 heavies and 350 fighters which battled through intense flak to pound at ten marshalling yards and junctions in and around the Ruhr. The Fortresses and Liberators struck at yards in Osnabruck, Rheine, Munster and Coesfeld, on the northern fringe of the Ruhr."
Mission #5, 24 March 1945
Our fifth mission was flown on the afternoon of Saturday, 24 March 1945. Our aircraft was "Old Iron Corset", a B-24H. The target was the landing strip at Stormede, Germany. The bomb load was 52 X 200 GP bombs. The weather was clear at the target. After the bombing run and on our way out, our aircraft was hit by flak on the right side in back of the navigator's position, resulting in an eight inch jagged hole in the fuselage. The valve on top of the oxygen tank in this position was hit, releasing a loud gush of oxygen. Part of the valve struck our navigator, Bill Kiselyak, but he was not injured. The electrical conduit that contained the electrical circuits for controlling the #4 engine was severed and the engine shut down. We were' unable to feather the prop but we were able to return to Shipdham under the guidance of our good pilot, Ray Zanoni. Flying time was 6 hours. We made good use of the Old Crow and Jack Daniels in the debriefmg room after the mission.
Mission #6, 4 April 1945
This mission was flown on Wednesday, 4 April 1945 and was our sixth mission. There was an early morning briefing for this mission to Barmstedt, Germany, which was about 20 miles north of Hamburg. We flew a B-24J today. On a tag attached to a pin from one of the bombs, I had made these notes: "Mission #6, Barmstedt, Germany, 4 April 1945, didn't drop". In view of the fact that the pins had been removed from the bombs, there apparently were expectations to release them on the target, but the bombs were not dropped. Possibly there was some sort of malfunction or the bombardier in the lead could have been unable to drop or decided not to drop. There was probably an explanation but I was not aware of it. Also, I am not aware of an official Air Force accounting of this mission. On the way in on this mission there was some flak. The flying time today was 6 hours 40 minutes. On one mission over Germany, we saw a scarecrow (a scarecrow was a shell loaded with debris that the Germans put up to explode near our formations to resemble one of our aircraft blowing up). This was apparently German psychological warfare but it did not appear to be too effective.
Mission #7, 5 April 1945
There was another early morning briefing as the target was Plauen, in east central Germany, not far west of the Czech border. This was our 7th mission and was flown on Thursday, 5 April 1945. It was one of the two longest missions we flew over Germany. Our aircraft was a B-24H. The mission was similar to yesterday in that we did not drop the bombs. We had pulled the pins from the bombs but the bombs were not dropped. I had made these notes on a tag from one of the bombs:
"Mission #7, Piau en, Germany, AprilS, 1945, didn't drop." I logged 7 hours and 30 minutes for this mission. I will mention here, that before each mission, one of the base Chaplains would be found standing near the end of the taxi way, waving his arms in wishing the crews well as each aircraft moved on to the runway for takeoff. The Chaplain would always be there waving his blessings regardless of an early morning mission or cold, wet weather.
Mission #8, 9 April 1945
There was an early morning briefmg as this would be a long mission to the south central region of Germany. This was our eighth mission and was flown on Monday, 9 April 1945. Our aircraft was a B-24J. The target was an airfield at Leipheim, about three miles west of Gunzburg. Our bomb load was 18 X 500 GP bombs. The weather was clear and I do not recall seeing flak near our formation. Flying time was 7 hours and 20 minutes.
Mission #9, 10 April 1945
This was our ninth mission and was flown on Tuesday, 10 April 1945. It was a relatively short mission to the northeast region of Germany. Our aircraft was a B-24J. The target was Parchim Airfield. The bomb load was 10 X 500 GP bombs. Weather was clear. Flying time was 3 hours and 55 minutes. While flying these missions our crew saw very few fighter aircraft, either friend or foe. On one occasion, a little German ME. 163 rocket fighter flew through our formation at a very high rate of speed but did not appear to be making an aggressive pass.
Mission #10, 15 April 1945
This was our 10th mission ansl the only one we flew where the target was in France. The mission was flown on Sunday, 15 April 1945. Our aircraft was a B-24M. The waist gunners, Jim Hornsby and Howard Stalnaker were not with us on this mission. Apparently fighter resistance was not expected to be as great over France. The target was German troops at Royan, France, on the west coast about 60 miles north of Bordeaux. The German troops at Fort-De-Royan had apparently been bypassed during the allied drive in the liberation of France. Our bomb cargo was 8 X 500 napalm tanks. The napalm was flammable jelly and was contained in P51 auxiliary gas tanks. After we reached elevation on the way in, the jelly began to ooze out of some of the tanks so we were glad when the tanks were dropped over the target. Our flying time was 8 hours and 10 minutes.
Mission #11, 20 April 1945
Mission # 11 was flown on Friday, 20 April 1945 and was to be our last combat mission. Our aircraft was "Miss Marion", a B-24J. The target was the Schwandorf-Irlaching railroad junction in the southeast region of Germany . We carried lOX 500 RDX bombs to the target. Visibility was good. George Paik, our engineer, took a picture with my Kodak box camera as the bombs dropped from the bomb bay. George took several other pictures on board on our way out. There was no flak near our element that day. Flying time was 7 hours 30 minutes. In completing our tour, I will comment on the type of aircraft that we flew on our missions. The B-24 Liberator accomplished the task for which it was designed and it played an important part in saving the free world. When fully loaded with bombs and fuel, the Liberator had a total weight of around 33 tons. This loaded weight made the aircraft difficult to fly in tight formation during bomb runs at high altitude in thin, turbulent air. Finally, our crew found the B-24 aircraft to be very dependable.
The Shipdham Air Base was located in a pleasant rural farming area about 17 miles west of the city of Norwich, England. The base was probably farm land prior to the war. Farms were still in operation around the perimeter of the base. I can remember farmers working in the field across the fence from where our barracks were located.
Life at the base was fairly quiet except when bombers were taking off on missions or returning from missions. In addition to the 44th Bomb Group ofthe US Air Force, the Shipdham Air Field was also the base of operations for a group of Royal Air Force night bombers. The B- 24 Liberators of the 44th BG generally took off on missions early in the day and returned to base by mid or late afternoon. The Lancasters, which were the night bombers of the RAF, would generally take off in the evening and return to the base early the next morning.
At the site where my barracks was located, a 50 caliber machine gun was mounted in front of
two or three of the barrac1}s. One evening, I saw a fighter plane making a slow pass near the edge of the base. Immediately, an airman dashed out of the nearest barracks and aimed the machine gun in the general direction of the fighter and got off a few rounds as the fighter disappeared behind some trees. The next morning, a directive came down warning personnel against shooting at RAF aircraft.
After being at the base for several weeks, I purchased a bicycle and rode in to Norwich several times. There was much evidence there of damage caused by German bomber raids, buzz bombs or by rockets. While at Shipdham, I also took the train to London for two days and visited some of the points of interest, including Piccadilly Circus.
Shortly before the bombing missions had been completed, we received news of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died on April 12, 1945. Fortunately he lived to see the defeat of Germany.
Page 9 - Personal Memories - Ctd.
The combat missions were completed in April of 1945. In May, skeleton crews flew two trolley missions over the industrial heart of Germany. All 8th Air Force personnel assigned to the Shipdham Air Force Base were given the opportunity to fly in a B-24 on a trolley mission. These were low level flights that gave the base personnel a close-up view of the destruction caused by the bomber raids. I do not have an accurate record of the dates of the missions but believe the fIrst mission was flown on May 7, 1945. The fIrst mission was flown down the Ruhr Valley - over Mannheim, Aschaffenburg, Frankfurt, Koblenz, Bonn, Cologne and Dusseldorf. The destruction caused by over two years of heavy bombardment was very evident. We flew at low level past the old cathedral in Cologne, which was left intact, while the city around it was reduced to rubble. The second trolley mission was flown, I believe, on May 9, 1945. This flight was over Essen, Hanover, Brunswick, Hamburg, Bremen and Munster. The picturesque German countryside was in sharp contrast to the destruction of the cities. The enclosed booklet, "The Destruction of Germany," tells the story of these trolley missions. An instruction sheet for "Trolley Mission Number Two" is also enclosed.
Our crew was among the fIrst to leave England. It seemed to be general knowledge that when we returned to the states we would be starting training on B-29s for duty in the PacifIc. However, in view of allied advances in the PacifIc and the dropping ofthe atomic bomb on Japan on 6 August
1945, further training of our crew was not necessary.