DATE Wed. 2/3 & Thurs. 2/4/43
COMBAT FLYING HRS 10:05 (Total tour 332:10)
TARGET Messina Harbor, Sicily HOME BASE Abu Sueir, Egypt
BRIEFING 0300 TAKE OFF 0615 (2/3) LANDING 0945 (LG 139)
N/A TAKE OFF 1245 (2/3) LANDING 2250 (LG 139)
TAKE OFF 1000 (2/4) LANDING 1230 (Abu Sueir)
CREW Cant. T. D. Brown (Nav. Capt. Gillespie, Tail Gunner Sgt. Zehrer) PLANE #55 to LG 139 and #33 (spare) on mission
BOMB LOAD 9- 500 lb TARGET TIME 1900 BOMBING ALT. 21000 '
NO. OF PLANES 9-B24's (ours) plus 12 each of 98th and 93rd Groups
BOMBING RESULTS Hit 10000 ton tanker, starting fires, also hit dock area and railroad.
ENEMY ACTION Very heavy anti aircraft fire. One ME-109 attacked formation after we dropped bombs, but he was driven off.
OTHER REMARKS Someone was watching over us during our landing at LG 139 Wed. morning at 0945. A strong cross wind hit our plane just before we touched down ... the right landing gear snapped and broke off ... Capt. Brown fought to keep the plane level and did for a while. Then, the left gear broke off ... we slid down the runway for what seemed like an eternity ............
When the plane jolted to a stop, the 9-500 lb bombs tore loose. Fortunately, all of the crew was on the flight deck and we scrambled out through the top hatch. The co-pilot, alertly, cut the master power switches and there was no fire.
The ground was all dug up where we'd slid ... bombs were scattered about, some with noses dug into the ground ... the plane's belly was crushed.
A quick check showed no serious injuries ... only cuts and bruises. An ambulance arrived and took us to operations for a check up by the doctor. Other crewmen, who witnessed the crash, told us we were extremely lucky to survive this incident ... #55 was a total wreck ... the twin tails were broken off ... the fuselage was ripped open at 2 places. The cockpit floor was tilted at a 60 degree angle ... the bomb bay was a twisted mass of metal. We couldn't help but wonder ... what if there had been a fire? what about those bombs?
After checking to see that everyone was okay, Capt. Brown made the wise decision to take the spare plane on the mission and we took off at 1245 hrs.
We slept that night at LG 139 in new tents set up for the 376th Group which was scheduled to move therein a day or two. Got up at 0730 Thurs. and took off for Abu Sueir, taking Capt. Sibert's crew as passengers.