Mon. 3/1/43 HOME BASE Soluch, Libya
TARGET Naples, Italy
COMBAT FLYING HOURS--this mission 9:45 total tour 362:55
BRIEFING 1030 TAKE OFF 1245 LANDING 2230
CREW Capt. T. D. Brown PLANE NO. 55
BOMB LOAD 6-1000 lb. TARGET TIME not shown (dusk) TARGET ALT. 23000'
NO. OF PLANES 9-B24's (ours) and 12 98th Group.
BOMBING RESULTS Good hits in the dock area.
ENEMY ACTION Headed northeast and then north, climbing to altitude.
Due to an unfortunate navigational error, we flew almost directly over Messina, Sicily, while still climbing (at 11500'). Anti aircraft fire was heavy and accurate. One German fighter attacked our formation, crippling two of the Liberators.
Capt. Martin Walsh had an engine shot out ... he and two other damaged planes turned back … the remaining 6 reformed and headed for Naples.
Over Mt. Vesuvius, now at 23000' and approaching our target, six German ME-109's suddenly attacked us and a formation from the 98th Group that we had just joined. Action was fast and furious ... tracer bullets filled the sky. One fighter came directly at our plane, from the back, high, guns blazing .... cannon shells hit alongside #1 engine, the left de-icer boot, the elevator and the right wing.
Next followed this big yellow flash and terrific explosion! It ripped a 12 inch hole along the side of the plexi-glass bubble, showering me with bits of glass. Fortunately, the shell hit low to my left as I was firing toward the back of our plane. Glass cut my face and neck, just missing my left eye ... I was saved from serious injury by the machine gun itself, acting as a shield ... the metal took the brunt of the explosion.
I was momentarily stunned, but remained in the turret, and fired again as the fighter made yet another pass (two fighters were reported downed by the formation).
We now were on the bomb run. After the fighters left, the anti-aircraft fire over the target area was one gigantic cloud of bursting shells! We dropped our bombs in clear weather with good results. One 98th plane was seen to go down in flames.
What a relief it was to peel off and head for home under cover of darkness! It was great to get the okay to come down out of the upper turret (which was freezing cold from the air rushing in). Fortunately, we had no serious injuries on board and the cannon shells had done no major damage. #1 engine showed a drop in oil pressure, but it kept functioning.
The landing strip sure looked good as we touched down safely at Soluch at 22:30 hrs. The medic patched up my wounds(deep scratches)at the Dispensary ... nothing serious ... once again, someone was watching over crew 17.
OTHER REMARKS Sequence of events before take off ... Up at 0600--briefing 1030--lunch 1100--pile into trucks to planes 1145. Didn't know it then, but this turned out to be my final mission of my first tour overseas. It's one that will never be forgotten ... a great way to end a tour.