Richard G. Miller Mission January 31, 1943

Jan. 31.

Up at 1:30 A,M. off at about 3:30 for Gambut (L.G. 139), then off to Messina, Sicily, with flight of 9 of our ships. To target without incident. Heavy Ak-Ak over target in fact, we were hit 12 different times. Then about four pursuit jumped over our last element and we lost our tail turret (jammed) because of freezing of residue in breech - I think! Pulled for center formation for protection, but things happened too rapidly to follow the entire set up. One man streaked out at about 275 mph (underrated) and five of our formation went after him to protect him. Pursuit continued to attack us and our top turret (with only one gun knocked one down). Saw we were near Maj. Toomey and that he was in sore need of protection for Ak-Ak had stopped Nos. 1 & 2 engines and blown the tire and wheel and rim off his left landing gear - the strut was panging down, giving an appearance of complete helplessness. Cnpt. Dwyer was on Toomey's other wing, and we covered No.3 position. Pursuit came in, but gave up to go after Lt. Stewart who had bolted from the formation with one engine smoking. Stayed with Toomey until he finally landed in Med. after staying up as long as possible on one good engine and one that was smoking. We circled the plane for some 30 minutes - tried to radio to Malta, but couldn't get in, then radioed to our own identity headquarters, the position~ had difficulty on No. 3 all the time while circling. Finally, Toomey and crew got 2 boats inflated and we dropped them food and water in canisters, and canteens on life preservers. Only five of his crew of eight got out.

The waist gunner must have been hit for the white star on the side of the ship was nearly obliterated by "holes (ak and pursuit); his vertical fin was feathered, it had been hit so much. The tail of the plane stayed up for 5 to 8 minutes, surprising all of us, We finally left when they waved us on and came back to Gambut. Got lost in heavy weather when the beacons were not functioning. Finally landed after one of the more harrowing trips. The six that went to Malta with Lt. Stewart had their troubles too. Stewart got attacked by 3 pursuit for quite some time, and was badly shot up (plane). When the five 24's caught him, they were attacked by about 5 pursuit, and Capt. Uhrich was also riddled Stewart had his tail gunner shot in both feet tendons and ligaments hanging loose. Urich had a waist gunner shot over the heart. Both men will recover and we hope sincerely that the tail gunner will not lose any appendages~ Stewart came in to land and had no brakes or flaps, and a flat - he ran off runway and was heading for a truckful of Limeys - they all started scattering. apparently too late, when the B 24's landing gear collapsed and plane skidded to a stop.

Urich came in and put his flaps down, only one came down and he nearly half-rolled went around and came in to discover he had a flat. When he stopped, his gear collapsed and he found on inspection, that he had only one strand left on the aileron cable, and that one vertical fin was almost shot off. The boys from Malta searched and searched for Toomey, but had to give it up - think the Ities picked them up for we were much closer to Sicily than we were to Malta. All in all, quite a jaunt - it shook even the most staunch and eager boys. (Bombing was with 2,000 lb jobs, and we did a good deal of damage).