June 13 Well, we went. - Had as our target the most vital oil refineries and fuel storage that the Germans have - Ploesti. This town supplies one-third of the fuel oil for the German Army, and the majority of it for the Russian front. Since it is so important, and rather inaccessible, the place had elaborate camouflage and not much pursuit. We left here (Fayid) at 10:30 Thursday night (15 of us) and flew over part of Mediterranean over Turkey, over the Black Sea, then the coast and over the Danube and then we hit trouble. By the way each plane went as an individual trouble shooter - just 50 miles from the target, we had an overcast under us. We flew over, this hoping to find a break in it, but had no luck; decided to go down through the overcast, so let down gradually.
Before we could get down the engineer staggered up and said the waist gunner was "out'!, and since his own hands were frozen he couldn't go back to help him. I clambered back to find the airman at his gun but a dark purple color ~ worked over him and brought him to on my oxygen, fixed another mask for him and went back to the cabin to find the engineer out. Had to give artificial resuscitation for ten minutes or so, while I worked with just gulps of oxygen. When finally got engineer to, he was too sick to be of further use. We went down to 12,000 feet to find two M.E. 109.s waiting. Our waist gunner, just visibly alive, fired a good burst of tracer and incendiaries and scared them off. We looked about and found Bucharest Romania, which was south of our origina1 target. Ak-Ak opened up on us, and one shell burst so close we gained some 50 feet on its force. I sincerely believe this was one of the very few times I have ever been scared. We zoomed for cloud protection and headed for our target., Then our tail gunner called and said his turret was frozen and wouldn't operate. Since we now had no rear gun, and a sick engineer, we wondered what to attempt, but continued for our target.
When our top turret went out for lack of oxygen, we decided we had best drop our bombs and scram out. Found a cluster of 10 to 15 fuel storage tanks and blew them to hell - big billows, and rolls of black smoke rolled out - an intriguing sight. We hit for altitude when we ran Into more Ak-Ak and had one rear gunner go out because of lack of oxygen.
All this time, I had to work with only gasps of oxygen for I had to work on each of the men and give him my mask. I really believe I saved the lives of our engineer and
Armorer, for they could not have lasted but a few minutes longer, and we couldn't go down. All of our trouble was not helped by the fact that our wings and props iced up. The pilot had a tremendous jolt flying by himself and the navigator had all he could handle in locating us, and changing his bombsight so often - this time I can modestly say the officers truly came through. All the icing of oxygen came because the men did not take care of their equipment properly. I warned them no less than 20 times - to check for· ice, but the excitement was too much for them. On leaving enemy territory, I snoozed a bit _ nearly passed out from the extreme effort of working at high altitudes with very little oxygen _ awoke to find we were low on gas and had only one field to get to. Found a beautiful airport, started to land and discovered that it was closed with oil barrels stacked all over the runways. Flew blindly on and at the last second, found a runway at Aleppo, Syria - 'twas a grand sight for we had been debating what type of field to try and land in. We landed to find a British garrison of R.A.F. ground officers, probably was the first time I've been happy with the sight of the R.A.F. The Group Captain knew one of our Colonels therefore treated us royally. They had gas but we had to strain it through a chamois cloth and pump it in, gallon by gallon with a crude hand pump. We stayed in Aleppo overnight and had quite a time. The Armenian there had queer customs - many wore the traditional fez and- the majority wore black bloomers, very baggy affairs. The bagginess is for some belief of reincarnation. The women were veiled in black. The city was quite clean except for the bazaars. The buildings were many stories and built of an attractive local stone. The bazaar presented the usual filth of Mexican markets and one Sickening Sight was a small boy with a shaved head _ had sores (open) allover his face and hands, and one leg was half-eaten away with an open running sore, the flies nearly filled it and in all was a most gruesome sight. In searching the bazaar, bought a camel's hair-skin or piece of cloth. Had a good meal near the hotel - had our first good fresh fruit since the States. Left Aleppo (Alep) and flew back to Fayid today. On the way back, we flew over the seat of our Christian religion.
Flew over the Garden of Eden (wanted to bailout, but the Garden didn't appear to be bearing) over the Sea of Galilee, City of Damasous, City of Nazareth (where Christ was raised) and many famous Biblical spots. Landed here at Fayid at noon; got to land myself - great sport. Heard that we might get another mission tomorrow morning ~ hope so!!
Additional comments about June 12:
In writing up the action of our first raid, I failed to put in an incident that was very effective in calming us down so that we came thru with our minds clicking instead of blowing up. It was in the heat of the battle when our tail turret went out, Cpl. Fillipi, a young lad of 18 fresh from the Bronx, called most frantically in a voice that denoted complete despair, "Lt. Miller, Lt. Miller, my tail turret won't work” Guess it was the tone of his Voice and his accent that struck the humorous chord, but whatever it was, it relieved a lot of tension and let us settle down to the grim business of bringing men to dropping our bombs. After talking to most of the men who went on the mission; I am of firm conviction that we did more damage than any other snip and even more so considering our tribulations. Was a bit disappointed to learn that not one of our Senior Officers (over Captain) took the risk of going down under the overcast to try and find the target, instead they bombed on an E.T.A. (Estimated Time of Arrival) at 30,000 feet. Seems to me that in the business Of war a certain amount of guts and daring is essential or else we’ll soon hold the short straw. One of the ships got one M.E.109 and this same ship was saved at the crucial moment by German Ak-Ak ~ an M-E 109 dived in and was firing a burst at what appeared to be an impossible miss when he went up in one of the black puffs. Ak-Ak fire is an odd Sight. The first I saw was at the coast of Roumania at dawn; at first I thought it was a Signal light, then it began to burst in orange flames off to one side. Reminds one of a Roman Candle or sky rocket _ a pretty sight at a distance. During the day it looks like a dark puff - like a clay pigeon that is "powdered" by a good shoot in skeet; sometimes it is a similar puff only white.