Herein is my recollection of the Styer Mission #216 of 2-23-44. The weather was fair. The trio to the area of the IP was as planned. The briefing information was that, we could expect no fighter opposition, as reconnaissance and intelligence information stated that no fighter groups had been observed in the area.
As we approached the area of the IP, "bandits at 3'o'clock"!
I was the bombardier, the plane #97, was a model with a nose turret and blisters on each side of the bombardier for better observation. I was preparing for the bomb run as the IP was approaching. The fighters ignored us and went with a vengeance for the white tailed group at our right. I could see them coming in high and head on - they seemed to coming right up against the white tailed planes -. A B24 slid down to the left and blew up, scattering debris, engines, wheels etc. under the formation. Another B24 was on fire falling back from the formation, the whole plane seemed to be blazing; our crew in the waste were yelling "jump! jump you guys! for Christ's sake hurry and jump!" Then the plane blew up - we could see no chutes. Another plane was ablaze and blew up immediately. Another white tail went tumbling out of sight to the right.
We came to the IP, I opened the bomb bay doors; then all hell broke loose, a sea of flak rocking the plane with fragments hitting the plane. Them the nose gunner, Sprentz yelled out "here they come at 1 o'clock. I was busy with the bomb run to release my bombs with the lead bombardier. Spentz from the nose turret was blasting away also Howard from the top turret. Bombs away, and we were under attack from all sides. I closed the bomb bay doors. Our formation was starting to loosen up, fighters were flashing past, waste and tail gunners firing a 20 MM came through the skin behind me and passed out the other side. The tail gunner, Turner was firing almost without ceasing, praying and swearing in turn. As I remember he put in for credit for downing two fighters. Finally Turner called out over the intercom "I am out of ammo and they are still coming"! Whaley our pilot said "keep tracking them with your guns so they can see them".
Then as if touched by the hand of God, there was a sudden quietness. The roar of the 50 calibers had been so deafening that now we could hardly hear the sound of the engines. Two enemy fighters passed by my right blister with a P38 in pursuit.
A shout went up, "P38s - God bless the P38s".
We gathered in elements and headed for home, landed and taxied to our ramp where our ground crew was waiting. Whaley gave the crew chief a brief report, then Mathews the copilot looked at the crew chief with a sly grin and said "be sure you check out the copilot's seat, I am sure my ass chewed it up".
With tribute and fond memories of my fallen comrades and crew members.
On 5-29-44, our plane was downed by flak over Wiener Nuestadt. In Stalag Luft III, I heard from a former group member that was shot down over Styer; that one of his crew members spoke Russian, and conversed with the Russian workers near Styer.
He was told that their job was to sweep snow. The side of the hill/mountain had been tunneled to form underground hangers. These workers kept the snow swept over the runways to hide them. When a raid came, they swept the snow off the runways for the fighters to take off. After the raid the fighters went back in the side of the hill, then they swept the snow back over the runways.