|4 October 1943||Mission #3||Target: Diversion Frisian Islands|
This mission was one of the most notable and successful efforts executed by the 392nd during its early operations. The mission was a planned feint by higher headquarters to de-concentrate the German defenses, primarily fighter forces, from the main bomber waves assigned targets over the continent with the 392nd’s track up over the North Sea approaches. Thirty-two (32) aircraft were dispatched with (28) flying the entire route. Four aircraft returned early for mechanical and personnel reasons. For the first time in combat, the unit encountered enemy aircraft and heavy flak defenses.
Approximately 30-50 single and twin-engine fighters attacked with the unit gunners claiming (21) enemy. Of the (3) aircraft lost that day, all were due to fighter attacks with (15) others damaged by 20MM cannon. The unit suffered the first casualties in combat on this mission; a total of (31) crewmembers MIA with an additional (6) injured. The 579th led the mission with a total flight time of 5:30 hours.
In the December 1975 issue of the Second Air Division Association News Letter, Myron H. Keilman and Harrison S. Cassell, Jr. provided detailed information about this mission: "The 8th Air Force operations order of 4 October called for the 392nd to lead two formations of eighteen airplanes each across the North Sea with feigning attacks toward Wilhelmshaven and toward Emden. The purpose was to draw German fighters from the B-17 formations on their big attack on the factory complexes of Frankfurt, Germany. If we sighted a shipping convoy we were to bomb it.
The 392nd would be alone on this effort, except for one flight (three airplanes) each from the 44th and 93rd Bomb Groups. The 44th, 93rd and 389th were recovering and re-equipping from their long combat tour in North Africa, including the famous Ploesti raid.
I remember that it was a pretty October morning as we inspected our airplane and prepared for the mission. Lancaster and Halifax bombers of the RAF were "coasting" home from their night bombing missions of German cities.
It was my squadron's turn to lead the group and furnished the lead crew and nine airplanes. Our deputy group commander, Loren Johnson, flew as command pilot of the lead formation and I flew as his deputy on his right wing. My squadron commander, Don Appert, led the high squadron of the second eighteen ship formation.
Take-off began at 0730 and the assembly went as scheduled. Our climb to 20,000 feet eastward over the North Sea was on time. The gunners test fired their guns and we were ready for action. I could watch our second formation flying at 1,000 feet above and to our right about 500 yards. They looked real pretty - and formidable. I thought to myself, "Man, am I glad I'm not a German fighter pilot assigned to attack that formation."
Each B-24H had four turrets of twin 50 caliber guns plus a flexible "50" at each waist window. Thus, a formation of eighteen airplanes in good formation could fire as many as seventy-two guns at an intruder from nearly every angle of attack.
Flying eastward in the clear sky we passed to the north of the Frisian Islands and on toward "Flak Island" of Heligoland. Remember? From there we made about a 15 minute run toward Wilhelmshaven; had turned "outbound" and were in the process of making our feint toward Emden when our nose gunner alerted the crew of enemy fighters ahead of us. The rate of closure was so fast, I remember, that I hardly had a chance to spot them before I saw their guns blinking fire. They dove below our formation and circled for another pass. Then there was a second wave of five or six of them, and another - and another. I lost track of how many. I am sure that they were surprised at having our new nose turrets returning their fire, but it didn't seem to deter them.
Sitting there, I was dismayed for something useful to do. After the third attack or so I couldn't sit there any longer so I slapped the airplane commander on the arm and hastily took over flying the airplane. That lasted only a relatively few minutes because he couldn't stand watching those fighters attacking either; he slapped my arm and took back control of the airplane. This exchange continued for the duration of the battle.
For at least thirty minutes some of our guns were firing. Each turret or waist gun vibrated the airplane in a different tempo by which I could tell which was firing and where the attacks were coming. Of course, the gunners were calling out the attacks in their sectors too.
Beside the 13mm and 20mm guns of the Messerschmitt 109s and Focke-Wulf 190s there were occasional large single flashes of fire from some of them. I didn't know at that moment but they turned out to be the Germans' newly perfected 210 mm (8 and 3/8 inches in diameter) rocket. Each packed the wallop of a large anti-aircraft artillery shell and could readily blow up a B-24. Their exploding fragments of steel could be very destructive to men and airplanes as they ripped through the thin skin of an airplane. We were lucky though. Being time-fused, the time and distance of launching the rockets was very critical for them to explode among the airplanes of our formation. With closing speeds of 700 miles an hour or more - this wasn't easy. The use of them in head-on attacks was relatively ineffective, but it was real scary at the moment.
The thirty minute attack seemed like hours. Other than being "holed" with some crewmen being wounded my formation sustained no losses; however, it was a different story for our high formation. Harrison Cassell leading the second element of the lead squadron remembers this: "I remember this diversion mission from several aspects. First, it was our indoctrination into combat with fighter aircraft. Second, I recall that our formations were tight and almost perfect for the entire mission. Third, the weather was good - which was unusual in the ETO. Fourth, I was leading the second element of the lead squadron and flying another crew for their indoctrination. And fifth, our group experienced its first losses in combat.
As I recall, the take-off and climb were routine and everyone was flying a good tight formation. In the lead of the second element there was not a great deal of visibility but when the formation made a turn we could catch glimpses of the formation. It began to look like we had another milk-run until the gunners called out "fighters at twelve o'clock."
I remember 109s heading straight at the lead squadron and the cone of tracer bullets from our formation's nose turrets ripping off pieces of the German fighters. They passed below our formation and we were waiting for the next pass. I recall looking out the right window and saw a string of 109s flying at our airspeed off to the side of our formation. They increased their speed and went out ahead of us for another nose attack. In they came, one after the other. Again our cone of fire zeroed in on each of them as they closed in on us. After the first three had gone through our cone of fire and disappeared below, the rest pulled up toward the high squadron. The first one pulling up passed us on the right, the pilot was slumped over as he went by. Then the tail gunner called out that a German fighter had rammed into one of the lead planes in the high squadron and that plane in turn collided with another B-24 and all three, "went down."
Through all of this, I was concentrating on keeping the plane in a good tight formation position, just under the tail of the lead plane. As I recall, the fighters then concentrated on the high squadron keeping their distance from us and lobbing their rockets into the formation. I don't remember how long the fight lasted but it seemed like a long time to me. Our low squadron was made up of both the 44th and the 93rd Groups. I recall the fighters worked them over good because they didn't have nose turrets.
We relaxed on the letdown of the return trip. I remember thinking that this mission must have been a success since we got what we were after - the fighters. I also felt the crew performed admirably and were well trained for combat which I complimented them on after we landed.
At interrogation I remember that 19 fighters were declared destroyed and three of our planes lost. I felt rather helpless and empty at the loss of our three crews and the squadron commander who we had been training with since Alamogordo.
This is how I remember the Great Division Mission that gave us our first encounter with fighter combat."
Our battle weary group returned to its Wendling Air Station at 1300 hours. Despondence reigned at the loss of a fine squadron commander and three highly trained and skilled combat crews - the first of 184 losses in twenty months of operations.
Was the effort worth the loss? Was it successful? We took heart from what the Stars and Stripes reported:"The Eighth Air Force announced yesterday that the Forts blow at Frankfurt - aimed principally at the Germans' largest metal aircraft propeller plant, in a suburb of the city - had been carried out with the lowest loss ratio to date, on a deep penetration of Germany. Fifteen heavy bombers were lost in the day's operations, which included Fortress blows at other targets in the city and in western Germany and a diversionary feint of Liberators over the North Sea to lure Nazi fighters away from the Frankfurt raiders. The Libs were successful, headquarters said, in raising a swarm of enemy fighter, a number of which were destroyed in "repeated and reckless" attacks on the Libs. So furious were the battles over the North Sea that one Me109 rammed a Liberator, both planes going down. In the day's operations, the heavies shot down 56 Nazi fighters and escorting Thunderbolts got 19."
MISSING AIR CREW REPORT SECTION
4 OCTOBER 1943 TARGET: NORTH SEA DIVERSION
MISSING AIRCREW REPORT: #00890 AIRCRAFT: #42-7471 "FILTHY ANNIE" "G-Bar" 3rd Mission
AIRCREW: MORPHEW * SQUADRON: 579thCREW POSITIONS AND STATUS:P l/LT Morphew, Orval S. KIA
CP 2/LT Purdy, Robert F. KIA
N 2/LT Shearer, Martin G. KIA
B l/LT Moore, Lawrence R. KIA
EnG T/S Thrall, Leo C. KIA
R/O T/S Moriarty, Maurice R. KIA
NG S/S Derrick, Pete E. KIA
WG S/S Wells, Virgil W. KIA
WG S/S Wilson, James C. KIA TG S/S Woller, Christian S. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The 392nd BG letter, dated 6 October 43 and forwarded to the War Department through channels, detailed the following eyewitness accounts: Lt. Morphew’s B-24 was last seen falling in a mild spin at about 10,000 feet followed closely by four enemy fighters. One or two parachutes were reported seen from this aircraft. A wing tip and the tail assembly had been damaged and partially torn off as a result of a mid-air collision with one of the other Group aircraft, believed to be B-24 # 42-7481 (Lt. Fuerstacke’s ship) - as the Morphew ship spun out of the formation at about 1026 hours. No other reports were available on this crew and aircraft loss.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: None available in this MACR and no German reports of enemy sightings involving any ground activity of this crew or aircraft were appended.
BURIAL RECORDS: No German reports were available on any initial recovery or interments of any aircrew members. U.S. National Cemetery records do reflect the following about all crewmen: All (10) men are recorded on the WALL OF THE MISSING in the following overseas cemeteries. At CAMBRIDGE, England: Morphew; Thrall; Moriarty; Wilson and Woller. At NETHERLANDS (Margraten), Netherlands: Moore; Schearer; Purdy; Derrick and Wells. All men were awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: No record exists, however, the home States of the crew members were: Morphew (Minnesota); Purdy (Alabama); Moore (West Virginia);Thrall (Kansas); Shearer (Kentucky); Moriarty (Massachusetts); Derrick (Oklahoma);Wilson (N. Carolina); Wells (Kentucky); and Woller (Texas).
MISSING AIR CREW REPORT: #00891 AIRCRAFT: #42-7474 "SATAN’S FLAME" "M-Bar" 3rd MissionAIRCREW: SMITH * SQUADRON: 579th
CREW POSITIONS AND STATUS:P l/LT Smith, Brian T. KIA
CP 2/LT Sederquist, Donald L. KIA
N 2/LT Wasserstein, Hyman (NMI) KIA
B 2/LT Irvine, John S. Jr KIA
R/O T/S Gott, Edwin J. KIA
NG S/S Tucker, Herbert L. KIA
EnG T/S Kuziora, Walter F. KIA
WG S/S Weiner, Harry D. KIA
WG S/S Shiffer, James L. KIA
TG S/S Senk, John J. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: The 392nd BG letter of 6 October summarizing the Morphew crew loss noted this crew’s loss circumstance as reported by other formation ships: Pilot Smith’s ship was last seen losing altitude with one or more engines on fire. At around 9,000 feet, combat with enemy fighters was still in progress. Three to four parachutes were reported seen at 1018 hours. No other combat reports were available on this aircraft and aircrew.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: As in the case of the Morphew crew, none were available including any possible German reports.
BURIAL RECORDS: No German reports of interment were available probably because no crew member, as in the case of the Morphew crew, was ever recovered later on land or from the North Sea waters. U.S. National Cemetery records do reflect the following remembrances: At NETHERLANDS (Margraten), Netherlands on the WALL OF THE MISSING: Smith; Sederquist; Wasserstein; Irvine; Gott; Shiffer; and Senk. At CAMBRIDGE, England: Tucker; Kuziora and Weiner on the WALL OF THE MISSING. All Members were awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart, except Sgts. Gott and Shiffer in this record.
NEXT OF KIN DATA IN WWII: No record exists. However, the home State of each crew member was as follows: Smith (California); Sederquist (California); Wasserstein (New York); Irvine (Tennessee); Gott (Pennsylvania); Tucker (New York); Kuziora (Pennsylvania); Weiner (New Jersey); Shiffer (Pennsylvania); and Senk (New Jersey).
MISSING AIRCREW REPORT: #00892 AIRCRAFT: #42-7481 "WHISKERS" "J-Bar" 5th Mission
AIRCREW: FUERSTACKE (APPERT as CA) * SQUADRON: 579th
CREW POSITIONS AND STATUS:
P(CA) Maj. Appert, Donald A. (579th Cdr) KIA
P 1/LT Feurstacke, James A. KIA
CP 2/LT Kvorjak, Michael B. KIA
N 2/LT Bratcher, Carey E. KIA
B 2/LT Smittle, Floyd D. KIA
R/O T/S Rooney, George W. KIA
EnG T/S Rorer, Frank H. KIA
NG S/S Giles, Harold R. KIA
AEnG S/S Buchheit, Edward L. KIA
WG S/S Gray, Roy G. KIA
TG S/S Seifert, Robert B. KIA
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: As the case in the two crews above, the 392nd BG letter cited outlined in brief the loss of this aircrew and ship from eye-witness accounts: The Feurstacke aircraft was last observed falling with at least one and possibly both wings torn off after collision with an enemy fighter which had been badly damaged by our own aircraft and knocked out of control into #42-7481. The collision was followed by a violent explosion at about 10,000 feet of the Feurstacke. B-24. No parachutes were observed as the aircraft disappeared into clouds at 1026 hours. Lt. Morphew’s ship also fell into #42-7481.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: No records available as in the cases of the other two aircrews above.
BURIAL RECORDS: No enemy records are available. U.S. National Cemetery records reflect the following on the WALL OF THE MISSING at each: At NETHERLANDS, (Margraten), Netherlands: Appert; Feuerstacke; Smittle; Rooney; Giles; Rorer; Bucheit; Gray; and Seifert. At CAMBRIDGE, England: The names of Kvorjak and Bratcher are inscribed on the WALL. All men were awarded the Air Medal and Purple Heart, however, no medals are shown as posthumous awards for T/Sgt. Rorer.
NEXT OF KIN DATA WORLD WAR II: No record in the MACR file exists. However, the home States of the crew men were noted as follows: Appert (California); Feuerstacke (Tennessee); Kvorjak (Ohio); Bratcher (Texas); Smittle (Ohio); Rooney (New York); Giles (Maine); Rorer (Pennsylvania); Bucheit (Oregon); Gray (West Virginia); and Seifert (Pennsylvania).
4 Oct 1943 576th Sqdn.|
A/C 527 (aborted,
no mission credit)
P Lowell, C.L. 2nd Lt.
P Clover, D.K. 2nd Lt.
P Barnes, L.J. 1st Lt.
P Becker, J.R. 1st Lt.
P LoPresto, H.C. 2nd Lt.
P Scarlata, A. 1st Lt.
P Champion, A.S. 2nd Lt.
4 Oct 1943 577th Sqdn.|
P Layton, S.H. 1st Lt.
P Breckenridge, L.G. 2nd Lt.
P Lambert, R.P. 2nd Lt.
P Egan, R.L. 2nd Lt.
P McNichol, T.F. 2nd Lt.
P Copp, R.D. 1st Lt.
P Taylor, J.N. 2nd Lt.
P Gonseth, F. Jr. 1st Lt.
P Graper, M.H. 1st Lt.
4 Oct 1943 578th Sqdn.|
P Dudziak, T. 2nd Lt.
P Kirksmith, J.B. 1st Lt.
P Lishka, A. 1st Lt.
P Stauder, J.B. 1st Lt.
P Carnine, G.D. 1st Lt.
P McKee, T.R. 1st Lt.
P Buschman, J.G. 1st Lt.
P Reade, J.J. 1st Lt.
4 Oct 1943 579th Sqdn.|
P Smith, B.T. 1st Lt.
P McGregor, J.A. 2nd Lt.
Appert, D.A. Maj.
P Morphew, O.S. 1st Lt.
P Kielman, M.H. Capt.
P Rogillio, D.S. Jr. 2nd Lt.
P Baumgart, V.A. 2nd Lt.
P Cassell, H.S. 1st Lt.
P D'Aoust, W.W. 2nd Lt.