461st plaque

461st Bombardment Group (H)

April 1944 May 1944 June 1944 July 1944 August 1944 September 1944 October 1944 November 1944 December 1944 January 1945 February 1945 March 1945 April 1945 May 1945

April 1944

Mission #01

2 April 1944

Target: Bihac Marshalling Yard, Bihac, Yugoslavia

The first mission flown by the Group was flown to the Bihac Marshalling Yard in Yugoslavia.  This mission was led, of course, by Col. Glantzberg.  Flight leader 1st Lt. Joseph Donovan was the lead pilot with Col. Glantzberg flying as his co-pilot.  Capt. Marion Pruitt, Group Navigator, was on the lead aircraft with 1st Lt. George V. Leffler, Group Bombardier as the bombardier.  The Deputy Group Commander Lt. Col. Philip F. Hawes, the Group Operations Officer Maj. William Burke and four Squadron Commanders: Maj. James E. Knapp, Maj. Robert E. Applegate, Capt. James C. Dooley and Capt. Edwin T. Goree flew the mission either leading a flight or as Deputy leader in the No. 2 position in "A" Flight of each Section.  Two of the Squadron Operations Officers, Capt. William Franklin and 1st Lt. William H. Tallant, also flew on this mission.

The weather was excellent; the bomb load was fragmentation bombs.  All members of the crews were intensely interested in watching their first bombs hit a target.  As a result two aircraft collided over the target and were lost.  One of the planes was piloted by 1st Lt. William H. Zumsteg, the other by 2nd Lt. Sidney S. Wilson.

Intops Summary No. 255, 2 April 1944. "35 B-24s of the 461st Bomb Group off on their freshman mission dropped 61.5 tons of 20 lb. frags between 1131/11:37 hours from 19,000 - 20,000 ft. 5 A/C jettisoned 9.5 tons, while 1 A/C dropped 1.8 tons on Pianosa Island. Six other A/C returned early.  4 E/A were seen in the target area but there were no encounters and no claims.  2 B-24's were lost due to a collision at the rally point.  Results reported by crew observations claim 40 to 60% of bombs hit target area with heavy smoke in the south part of the M/Y. Bomb strike photos give incomplete coverage of bursts."


Mission #02

3 April 1944

Target: Drnis Marshalling Yard, Drnis, Yugoslavia

The next day the Group was back to Yugoslavia again on another of its freshman missions.  This time the target was the marshalling yard at Drnis.  Lt. Colonel Hawes was the formation leader while Colonel Glantzberg flew as a Second Section Leader.  Flying in the lead plane with Lt. Colonel Hawes were the pilot, Flight Leader 1st Lt. Floyd W. Woodard; Captain Pruitt; and Lt. Leffler.  Again Major Burke, the four Squadron Commanders, and the two Squadron Operations Officers who had not flown the previous day: Captain William J. Bock and Captain David P. McQuillan also flew this mission.  The air speed flown by the lead plane was too slow with the result that the formation was badly spread.

The day was hazy and Group leaders had difficulty in identifying the target against the tan background of early spring.  The mission was not as successful as had been the first one, and the crew members began to realize that targets were not easy to identify and hit.


Mission #03

5 April 1944

Target: Nis Marshalling Yard, Nis, Yugoslavia

This mission was led by Major Robert E. Applegate, 765th Squadron Commander.  Colonel Glantzberg flew the deputy lead position.  The Deputy Group Commander, the Group Operations Officer, and all the Squadron Commanders also flew this mission.

To the haze that had been experienced on the second mission was added 8/10 undercast for this third mission.  As a result of the haze, the undercast, and the tan background on the ground, the target was missed completely.  For the first and only time during the month no pictures of the bombing were obtained.

The formation was the best thus far flown by the Group.  Several mistakes, however, were made.  The Group failed a 360º circle and let down to bomb below the overcast; it failed to get on the step before the bomb run; it failed to cover a cripple on the way home; and it also failed to get under the overcast for the return trip home across the Adriatic.


Mission #04

6 April 1944

Target: Zagreb Airdrome, Zagreb, Yugoslavia

The 764th Squadron Commander, Captain Edwin T. Goree, did an outstanding job in leading this mission.  The lead pilot, 2nd Lt. James O. Bean, his bombardier; 2nd Lt. George B. Cran; and the Squadron Navigator, 1st Lt. Earl M. DeWitt were the officers on the lead plane.  For the fourth day in succession the freshman mission took the Group to Yugoslavia.

The mission was another fragmentation mission; this time to the north end of the airdrome at Zagreb.  Nine-tenths cloud coverage obscured the target and only fifteen of the thirty-one planes over the target dropped their bombs.  This was the first mission on which the Group had fighter escort and was its first encounter with enemy fighters.  The attack was made by six ME-109s and by nine FW-190s.  One enemy plane was shot down.  This fighter was claimed by S/Sgt. Melborn Dale Williamson the top turret gunner on a plane in the 765th Squadron.

The plane flown by 2nd Lt. John K. Specht and Major Robert E. Applegate, which did not drop its bombs on the target, developed a fire in the bomb bay that led to an explosion when the bombs were jettisoned over the Adriatic returning from the target.  Three members of the crew left the plane and were lost.  They were: the bombardier, 2nd Lt. William S. Sullivan; the navigator, 2nd Lt. Harold E. Milne; and the nose turret gunner, Sgt. John J. Marszalkiewics.  Near the base the seven remaining members of the crew abandoned the plane and parachuted safely to earth.  Crew members were rapidly learning that combat missions are dangerous.  As a result of this mission all crew members developed a deep-seated and persistent dislike for fragmentation bombs.

The Commanding Officer, the Deputy Group Commander, the Group Operations Officer, the four Squadron Commanders and two of the Squadron Operations Officers flew on this mission.


Mission #05

7 April 1944

Target: Ferrara Marshalling Yard South, Ferrara, Italy

Freshman mission days were now behind.  Instead of flying individual missions, the Group was assigned for the first time to fly Wing formation.  This was the first of several missions to be flown with the Groups with the 55th Wing.

Beginning with this mission the Group began to curtail on the number of executive pilots flying every mission.  As a result of the experiences gained in the former missions, Colonel Glantzberg ordered that an exceptionally competent bombardier or navigator should ride in the nose turret of the lead ship to assist in pilotage.  1st Lt. Stiles, 766th Squadron Bombardier, flew this mission in that capacity.

Although the crews did not sense it when they were briefed for their fifth mission on Good Friday morning, their missions were getting tougher.  Their target was the first one which the Group had been assigned in Italy, that of the South Marshalling Yard, Ferrara.  Colonel Glantzberg, Lt. Donovan, Captain Pruitt, and Lt. Leffler, who had led the first mission, were back again in the lead.  Again enemy aircraft were seen but not encountered.  The pilots all did a superior job of formation flying on this mission.  Over the target the Group experienced intense, aimed, and extremely accurate heavy flak for the first time.  Despite this new shocking experience the crews did an outstanding job.  Having seen enemy fighters for the second time, having been hit hard over the target by enemy anti-aircraft guns, and having really covered the target with a beautiful pattern of bombing, the crew members began to believe they were veterans.  There was no stopping this Group after confidence built in all personnel by the success of this mission.

Intops Summary No. 260, 7 April 1944. “33 B-24’s of the 461st Bomb Group were dispatched.  There were no early returns and all bombed primary dropping 66 tons of 500 lb GP bombs at 1310 hours from 21,000 feet.  5 S/E aircraft and 4 JU-88s were seen in the distance 15 miles S.E. of target.  Flak at the target was intense, accurate, heavy, aimed type.  There were no losses.  Photo reconnaissance photos show bombing exceedingly well concentrated on the target area, and in addition to hits which have totally blocked the yards and inflicted much damage on rolling stock, several damaging hits have been scored on industrial buildings, including the reported ball-bearing plant West of the yard.  The main weight of the bombs fell on South end of the M/Y and the loco depot, damaging many of the approximately 200 cars present and at least two locos.  Hits were scored on the immediate approach to the South end of the river railroad bridge which completely blocks the yard; on the sugar refinery, flour mill, goods shed West of the main line tracks; and two large buildings just to the East of the yard.  Observation of other evidenced damage is hampered by the smoke from fires started in the area.”

Mission bombing photo

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As a result of this highly successful mission, a commendation, in the form of a TWX, was received from Major General Nathan F. Twining, Commanding General of the Fifteenth Air Force.

From: Twining, CG 15AF

To: CO 461 BG

"For the excellent bombing pattern on attack of Ferrara, Italy, Marshalling Yards as evidenced by strike photos, I desire to send 'well done' to the 461 Group."


Mission #06

12 April 1944

Target: Zagreb Marshalling Yard, Zagreb, Yugoslavia

On the 8th of April and again on the 9th, missions were briefed for the Marshalling Yard at Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Both missions stood down.  On 11 April still another mission stood down.  The target for that day was to have been the Marshalling Yard at Bologna, Italy.

After four days of inactivity, mission #6 was flown on 12 April.  The target was the Marshalling Yard at Zagreb.  Despite a four-tenths undercast and much flak, the crews did an excellent job.


Mission #07

13 April 1944

Target: Duna Tokol Aircraft Components Factory, Budapest, Hungary

For the seventh mission, which was against the Duna Tokol Aircraft Components Factory at Budapest, RDX bombs were used for the first time by this Group.  Major Burke flew as Group leader for the first time.  On this mission a total of 58 enemy aircraft were seen.  Several encounters were experienced, three enemy planes were destroyed and three more claimed as probable.  Twin-engine enemy airplanes fired rockets at the formation.  Single engine enemy airplanes flew parallel with the Group at a safe distance and radioed headings, altitude, and air speed to their ground installations.  Flak over the target was intense, accurate, and heavy.  Two bombers were lost over the target.  1st Lt. Charles W. Bauman, flying the deputy lead position in “A” Flight of the second Section, had part of a wing shot off by flak.  His plane fell into the plane in the number 4 position of the same flight, which was piloted by 2nd Lt. Paul S. Mowery.  A third plane flown by 2nd Lt. Kay B. Steele, which had come off the target with the formation, failed to return to the base.  Colonel Glantzberg, who was flying as co-pilot in a plane in the second Section, led a small formation of planes in chasing attacking JU-88s away from this damaged plane.  He was unable, however, to stay with the plane because of an undercast.  Fifteen planes were damaged over this target.

Again the Group turned in an excellent mission by dropping 45 percent of its bombs within 1,000 feet of the briefed aiming point on a comparatively rectangular building well hidden in woods.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #08

15 April 1944

Target: Chitila Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, Roumania

With Mission No. 8 the Group was off on its first mission to Roumania.  Bad weather built up over Yugoslavia and there was nine-tenths cloud coverage in the target area.  Bombs were dropped, but the results were unobserved.  Twenty enemy aircraft were seen but there were no encounters.


Mission #09

16 April 1944

Target: Belgrade Zemun Airdrome, Yugoslavia

The primary target for this mission was the Brasov Airdrome in Roumania.  Bad weather experienced the day previous on the Bucharest Mission had moved westward and built up to over 20,000 feet. Nineteen of the thirty-four planes to take off lost the formation in the clouds over Yugoslavia and returned to the base.  Fourteen others individually worked their way to the top of cloud formations and reformed on Colonel Glantzberg who chose the last resort target, Belgrade Zemun A/D in Yugoslavia, as his target.

Fragmentation bombs were dropped with unobserved results through haze and six-tenths cloud coverage.  Again twenty enemy aircraft were seen without any encounters.  Half of the planes over the target were hit by flak and one was lost through flak over the target.  On this plane, piloted by 1st Lt. Floyd W. Woodard, were the members of one of the four original “model crews”.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #10

17 April 1944

Target: Belgrade Zemun Airdrome, Yugoslavia

The primary target for this mission was the last resort target of yesterday.  This time the target was completely obscured by clouds and no fragmentation bombs were dropped.  This was Major Knapp’s first mission as Group leader.


Mission #11

20 April 1944

Target: Tagliamento Casarsa Railroad Bridge, Italy

Reconnaissance photography having revealed that the enemy had partially repaired the damage this Group had done to the South Marshalling Yard at Ferrara, Italy on April 7th, the Group was reassigned to hit another section of the same target.  Because of bad weather over the primary target the Group went on to bomb the first alternative, the Tagliamento Casarsa Railroad Bridge at the head of the Adriatic in Italy.  This was the first attempt of the Group to bomb a bridge.  The cloud coverage was seven-tenths.  Coming down the river and hitting the target at right angles, the Group scored several hits on both the railroad bridge and the highway bridge beyond it.  Fifteen percent of the bombs dropped were plotted within a 1,000 feet of the briefed aiming point.  Thirteen enemy aircraft seen by the Group made no passes at the formation.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #12

21 April 1944

Target: Chitila Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, Roumania

Again the target was the Chitila Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, and again the weather was bad.  A solid undercast prevented bombing with the result that all bombs were jettisoned in the Adriatic.  Forty enemy aircraft were seen, several were encountered and one was shot down.  A nose gunner, Sgt. W. G. Rollins, became the first casualty on a crew when his face was cut by shell casings from another plane.


Mission #13

23 April 1944

Target: Bad Voslau Airdrome, Austria

When the crew members learned at briefing that they were to attack their first target in the Vienna Area, they fully realized that they were now in the big time.  Before our Group hit its target the 304th Wing had performed an outstanding job in practically demolishing the buildings at the Airdrome.  Uncovering the three flights of each Section in approaching the target, the Group, led for the first time by Captain Dooley, completely sprayed the landing field with fragmentation bombs.  The bombing pattern was one of perfection.  The returning crews doubted if it would ever be necessary to return again to that target.  Several encounters were had with twenty-three enemy fighters, two of which were claimed as probably destroyed.  Fourteen planes over the target were hard hit by flak.

There were two casualties as a result of this mission: Bombardier, F/O R.B. Stewart, and a ball turret gunner, Sgt. P.N. Godino, both on 2nd Lt. G. Fulks’ crew.  Each was hit in the foot by flak.

Mission bombing photo

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304th Bomb Wing bombing photo

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Commendation

From: Operations Office, 49th Bomb Wing

To: Commanding Officers, 451st, 461st and 484th Bomb Groups -

The bombing of Bad Voslau, 23 April, by the 49th Wing was excellent.  Please pass to all participating my commendation for a job well done. Col. Lee desires to express appreciation for a job well done.


Mission #14

24 April 1944

Target: Chitila Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, Roumania

For the third time during the month the Group went to Chitila Marshalling Yard at Bucharest, Roumania.  This time the weather was CAVU with haze.  The target was picked up by the lead plane, but unfortunately a bomb rack malfunction temporarily held up the bombs in the lead plane, which overshot the target.  This was also true of most of the planes in the first attack unit who were dropping on the section leader.  The second Section saved the day for the Group by getting 11 percent of all the bombs dropped by the Group on the briefed aiming point.  The flak was intense and heavy, but inaccurate.  Of the twenty-five enemy fighters seen, several were encountered, one was destroyed, and one was damaged.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #15

29 April 1944

Target: Submarine Pens, Toulon Harbor, France

This mission took the Group on its first trip to France and to a target in the sixth country of Europe which the group bombed during the month of April.  This was the first mission on which the 451st, 461st and the 484th flew as the groups of the 49th Bombardment Wing.  The mission provided another new experience for the Group in that the target had been previously obscured by a perfect smoke screen from smudge pots located both on land and on ships in the harbor.  For the first time the Group used 1,000 pound bombs.  Results were unobserved, but no bombs were believed to have hit the target.  The Group Bombardier, Captain Leffler, who was the lead bombardier and who had already turned in five successful missions during the month, both laughed at and cursed the clever Krauts.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #16

30 April 1944

Target: Alessandria Marshalling Yard, Italy

For the last mission of the month the Group was back in Italy and to its Marshalling Yard targets.  The target, a large one, was hard hit, but the bombs were scattered across a long area.  Colonel Glantzberg was most unhappy when the pictures showed that only 17 percent of the bombs had hit the aiming point of this easily identified target, especially since the weather was CAVU, and there were neither flak nor fighters to interfere with the bombing.

Mission bombing photo

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