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

August 1944

Mission #74

2 August 1944

Target: Avignon Railroad Bridge, France

As had been the case in certain previous months, superior bombing marked the first mission of a new month.  Lt. Colonel Knapp led a four-flight formation against a railroad bridge across the Durance River south of Avignon.  Lt. King became the first bombardier in this group to really hit a bridge hard when 73.1 percent, almost all the bombs of three flights, cut the railroad bridge in two different places near the south end.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #75

3 August 1944

Target: Zahnradfabrik Aircraft Factory, Friedrichshafen, Germany

The Primary Target for this mission was the Raderach Chemical Works at Friedrichshafen, Germany.  Because of nine-tenths cloud coverage in the target area, the Group was forced to bomb by the pathfinder method.  Being unable to satisfactorily pick up the Primary Target on his instruments, Lt. Marangelo selected the First Alternate Target which was the Zahnradfabrik Aircraft Factory at Friedrichshafen.  The target was hit, but many of the bombs fell short into the water.  2nd Lt. Robert E. Schweisberger and his crew became the first of the many new flight personnel who failed to return from a mission during the month of August.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #76

6 August 1944

Target: Miramas Marshalling Yard, France

For this mission the strategy of the Fifteenth Air Force, which at the time was not being revealed to Group personnel, continued to anticipate the invasion of southern France.  The target was a large Marshalling Yard in the comparatively small town of Miramas, France.  With excellent weather, no fighter opposition, and not much flak at the target, Major Goree and Lt. Cran turned in an excellent mission with a score of 52.7 percent.  This was the first five box formation flown during the month.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #77

7 August 1944

Target: Blechhammer South Oil Refinery, Germany

The mission for 7 August was the south plant of the Synthetic Oil Refinery at Blechhammer, Germany.  Although weather was CAVU over the target, it was necessary to bomb by instruments because of the very effective smoke screen put up by the enemy.  Photographs of the bomb strikes were taken, but it is impossible to plot coverage.  No fighters were seen or encountered, but twelve of the nineteen bombers over the target were holed by flak.  The plane piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert E. Sterrett was last seen in the target area with two engines feathered.  He and his crew became the second new crew to be lost during the month.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #78

9 August 1944

Target: Almasfuzito Oil Refinery, Hungary

The veteran team of Lt. Colonel Knapp, Captain Strong, Lt. King, Lt. Coles, and Lt. Sullivan came through with their second superior mission of the young month when they scored 62 percent on the oil refinery at Almasfuzito, Hungary. Conditions for the attack were ideal -- CAVU weather, no fighters, and not too much flak. Although Captain Strong and Lt. Sullivan did not know it at the time, this mission marked the end of their tour of duty with the Fifteenth Air Force.  This made the nineteenth mission which they and Lt. King had flown in the lead plane of an Air Force, Wing, Group, or Second Section Formation.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #79

10 August 1944

Target: Ploesti Xenia Oil Refinery, Roumania

Back again to the guns out in the fields at the old familiar target, the Xenia Oil Refinery, Ploesti.  Back again to the smoke screens, high towering black clouds from the burning oil, and to pathfinder bombing.  The results: no score: photographs which show nothing but smoke; thirteen planes with holes in them.  Crew members who had become accustomed to results like those at Blechhammer and at Ploesti frequently wondered how much or how little damage they were really inflicting on these targets.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #80

12 August 1944

Target: Genoa Gun Positions, Italy

For weeks members of the group who visited Rome had been returning with rumors of another invasion of the continent of Europe.  When the Group was suddenly swung from it's oil targets to fly a tactical mission against coastal gun positions south of Genoa, Italy, on the 12th of August, many believed that the time had come for the fulfillment of these rumors.  The weather for this mission was ideal, there were no enemy fighters, and not a great deal of flak.  The target, however, which was approached over land was most difficult to identify.  Only 6.4 percent of the bombs were dropped on the target.  The plane flown by F/O James H. Cain blew up over the target and several pieces from the destroyed plane were brought back to base lodged in the wings and fuselages of other planes in the formation.  It is believed that the plane suffered a direct hit on the fuse of a bomb.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #81

13 August 1944

Target: Genoa Gun Positions, Italy

Having failed to knock out its target on the 12th of the month, the Group tried again on the 13th with even poorer results.  It seemed impossible for the Group to identify the assigned gun positions.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #82

14 August 1944

Target: Genoa Gun Positions near Frejus, France

When the Group was assigned its third consecutive tactical mission against coastal gun positions, speculation ran rampant as to when the invasion would start and as to whether or not it would be aimed at the Genoa area of Italy or at the Marseilles area of France.  Lt. Colonel Knapp, flying this mission with a new flight leader crew, turned in his third consecutive superior mission of the month when 64.5 percent of the bombs were dropped within 1,000 feet of the assigned coastal gun positions on the beach near Frejus, France.  Conditions for this mission were ideal.

A few weeks after this mission, a member of this Group who visited the scene of this target returned from France with the information that where the coastal guns had once been located there was nothing but the biggest crater he had ever seen.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #83

15 August 1944

Target: Frejus Beach, France

During the afternoon of the 14th, the "hot information" on the big push came down through channels.  "H" Hour of "D" Day was to be the break of dawn the morning of 15 August.  The invasion was to be aimed at the southern coast of France. Missions of the Fifteenth Air Force in the support of the invasion were four in number: (1) To cause maximum destruction to enemy coast and beach defenses within the assault area; (2) To isolate the battlefield by destruction of remaining rail and road bridges across the Rhone River up to its junction with the Iser River as well as those across the Iser and Durance Rivers; (3) To block defiles and rail lines running through the Alps from Iser River Southward; and (4) To drop propaganda leaflets from the water's edge to about 30 miles inland.

The field order for the mission revealed that many of the Groups were to hit their targets at the break of dawn.  This was the explanation of why the planes of the Groups of the 304th Wing had been for weeks disturbing the sleep of the 461st Group with their constant night takeoffs, formation flying, and landings.  Target time assigned to the 461st was 1210 o'clock.  The target was a section of beach in front of the town of Frejus and just to the left of a concentration of friendly troops which were scheduled to be ashore.

As soon as Colonel Glantzberg saw the field order and the annexes which accompanied it, he made his decisions rapidly.  The Group would attack its target with five boxes staggered to the left.  The Colonel would lead the first box and a squadron commander would lead one of each of the other four boxes.  All Group and Squadron Operations Officers, Navigators, and Bombardiers would fly.  Lt. Colonel Hawes, the Deputy Group Commander, would be the only flying officer of the Group or Squadron Staffs not to fly.  Captain John Specht, probably the most outstanding original flight leader left in the group, would be the Lead Pilot; Major Marian Pruitt, long believed to be without equal in the Fifteenth Air Force, would be the Lead Navigator; 1st Lt. Jack H. King, formerly the Bombardier on Captain Strong's outstanding crew and currently the hottest Bombardier in the Group as well as acting Group Bombardier, would be the Lead Bombardier; 1st Lt. John W. Coles, a Squadron Navigator and a veteran of many missions on which he had done pilotage from the nose turret of the lead plane, would be the Pilotage Navigator; 1st Lt. Leonard C. Gizelba, the prima-donna of the Mickey operators, would fly in the Lead Pathfinder plane.

The decision of the Commanding officer to permit all but one of his flying staff officers to participate in this mission was an outstanding example of the methods he continually used in making every deserving officer and man feel that he was an important personage in this Group.  Special Briefing was held in the afternoon which was attended by all flying staff officers as well as by all of the Flight Leader crews who were to participate in the mission.

Conditions for the mission could not have been better.  In the complete absence of enemy fighters and flak, with CAVU weather, with all flights in formation, with many friendly vessels in the water near the target, and with many friendly troops on the ground near the target, the Group did an excellent job of spraying the assigned section of landing beach with 100 pound general purpose bombs.  On the top rack of each plane were two bombs which carried propaganda leaflets addressed to the enemy personnel.  All crews returned to the base without incident.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #84

17 August 1944

Target: Ploesti Romana Americana Oil Refinery, Roumania

With the invasion of southern France from the Mediterranean now successfully under way, the Fifteenth Air Force swung back for targets to sources of German oil.  The target assigned to the 461st Group was the Romana Americana Oil Refinery at Ploesti, Roumania.  This target was the largest and most important of all the vital oil installations at Ploesti.  This was the target that the Group had failed to reach on 22 July when the formation was stopped short of its objective by flak.

This mission was the seventh to be flown by this Group to Ploesti.  Although no one knew it at the time, this was destined to be the last mission to be flown by this Group against this first priority target which had long since been recognized by all United Nations as one of the most important and well defended target areas possessed by the enemy.  On 30 August 1944 what was left of the Ploesti oil supply and industry was captured by the Russian Army.

Despite the fact that it took a lot of explaining on the part of some of the twelve crews who were early returns from this mission, in many ways the mission was the most successful ever flown by this Group against a Ploesti target.  The 19 Planes that made it over the target dropped 45.6 percent of their 146 five hundred pound RDX bombs within 100 feet of the briefed aiming point.  Numerous hits were scored in the tank farm at the northwest corner of the refinery; one string of bombs fell across the center of the refinery with four direct hits on the storage tanks in that area which resulted in large fires; and the distillation units, the boiler house, and some of the administration buildings were also hit.

No fighters were encountered.  With CAVU weather at the target, the master anti-aircraft gunners, who had been getting plenty of practice all summer, were up to par with their effort.  As a result, fourteen of the nineteen planes over the target were hit and the one flown by 2nd Lt. Thomas C. Moore failed to return from this mission.

Most of the twelve planes which returned early from the mission were those which had been flying in the rear positions of the various flights.  When Lt. Colonel Hawes was compelled by mechanical failure to abandon the lead position in the formation, the lead was taken over by the Deputy Leader, Captain Ryder.  This was the first mission that Captain Ryder had led.  Due to his inexperience plus the fact that his plane was not accurately calibrated, he maintained too high an air speed en route to the target.  As a result, the "tail end Charlie" planes were unable to climb and maintain position in the formation.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #85

18 August 1944

Target: Alibunar Airdrome, Yugoslavia

The mission of 18 August was the first of four missions destined to be flown against German held airdromes during the last half of August.  The target was the airdrome at Alibunar, Yugoslavia.  Most of the fragmentation bombs dropped on this mission covered a wide area across the north end of the airdrome, while others fell in the southwest area and continued northwest to the center of the landing ground.  Nine enemy aircraft received direct hits and three others received near misses.  A total of five enemy aircraft were counted from the photographs taken by this Group.  With good weather and neither enemy planes nor anti-aircraft defenses, all planes in the Group formation returned safely to the base without damage or casualties.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #86

20 August 1944

Target: Szolnok Airdrome, Hungary

On the frag mission of 20 August against the airdrome at Szolnok, Hungary, Lt. Colonel Knapp turned in his fourth consecutive highly successful mission of the month as Group leader.  The bomb pattern started at the center of the south dispersal area and continued southeast across the target with an even pattern of strikes.  Seven enemy aircraft received direct hits and near misses were scored on three others.  The weather was good except for haze; the flak was light, inaccurate, and heavy; and there was no enemy fighter opposition.  Only one plane was damaged.  All returned safely from the mission.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #87

22 August 1944

Target: Lobau Underground Oil Storage, Vienna, Austria

Still hammering away at vital enemy installations.  This time the target was the underground oil installations at the Lobau Refinery near Vienna, Austria.  Flying second in the Wing Formation, the Group dropped its 1000 pound general purpose bombs through the smoke from fires started by the lead group, the 451st.  Because of this smoke it was impossible to observe the full extent of the damage done by this Group. A close concentration of hits, however, fell through the center of the target and on underground storage facilities.

A long running fight was had with thirty-four enemy fighters, eleven of which were destroyed.  Sixteen of the twenty-three bombers over the target were damaged by the exceptionally intense, accurate, and heavy flak which the enemy was able to aim under CAVU conditions.  The plane piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert G. Swinehart, one of the more experienced pilots in the Group, suffered a bad fuel leak and was lost over Yugoslavia returning to base.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #88

23 August 1944

Target: Markersdorf Airdrome, St. Polten, Austria

The third frag job of the month against enemy airdromes.  The target was the Markersdorf Airdrome at St. Polen, Austria.  The first string of frags started at the Southwest corner of the airdrome and continued northeast to the service apron, the second string fell across the western half of the airdrome.  Seven enemy aircraft were hit and three others received near misses.  Forty-two enemy aircraft parked on the airdrome can be counted in the Group pictures.

Again enemy fighter opposition was encountered.  Upward of seventy ME-109's and FW-190's were seen between Lake Balaton and the target.  As a result of repeated attacks, five of these were destroyed, six probably destroyed, and one damaged.  The cover provided this Group by the P-51s on this mission was exceptionally good.  There was no flak at the target.  The plane piloted by 2nd Lt. Gordon W Rosecrans, Jr. was set on fire by enemy fighters.  More than half the crew members were seen to bail out from the plane.

For the second time since the Group had been operating in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, a strange airplane joined the bomber formation on this mission.  At 46 deg., 25' North and 15 deg., 52' East a black B-17 with white vertical stabilizer and elevators joined the formation and flew a wing position for approximately thirty minutes.  At the end of that time it fired upon the formation and then turned away when fire was returned.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #89

24 August 1944

Target: Ferrara Railroad Bridge, Italy

For its 89th mission the Group returned to the target area of its first really great mission.  Not since good Friday, 7 April 1944, had the Group been back to Ferrara, Italy.  The target for the mission of 24 August 1944 was a railroad bridge north of the city.  The bridge was missed but considerable damage was done in the immediate target area.  Some of the bombs fell in a small industrial area south of the bridge, others started large fires, probably in a power house in the industrial area southwest of the bridge, and still others hit the south elevated railroad bridge cutting the tracks in several places.

Ferrara flak lived up to its highly respected reputation.  Nineteen of the twenty-five aircraft over the target were hit by flak, one man was injured, and 2nd Lt. John R. Wren was compelled to bail his crew out a few miles North of the bomb line at Rimini.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #90

26 August 1944

Target: Bucharest, Otopeni Airdrome, Roumania

By the 26th of August, Roumania had requested an armistice with Russia and Roumanian soldiers were fighting the Germans in the city of Bucharest.  North of that city at the Otopeni Airdrome, the Germans were using the landing strips for two purposes: (1) As a place to set down large transports bringing in reinforcements; (2) As a place from which to launch aerial attacks against the city of Bucharest.  The mission of the 461st Bombardment Group for the day was that of post holing the two landing strips on the Otopeni Airdrome with 500 pound general purpose bombs.

First reports of the results of this mission clearly indicated that Lt. Colonel Knapp had failed miserably in his effort to lead five consecutive exceptionally successful missions during the month of August.  With CAVU weather and in the absence of both anti-aircraft and enemy fighter opposition only 4.6 percent of the bombs were dropped on the briefed aiming point.  Photographs of the mission reveal that two enemy airplanes, one of which was a six engine transport, were destroyed on the ground, but most of the bombs fell across barracks, the administration buildings, and the main highway leading from the airdrome to Ploesti.  Only two airplanes were damaged on this mission, but still another crew was lost when 2nd Lt. Howard G.  Wilson, who was flying one of the two damaged planes, was forced to bail his crew out over Yugoslavia when returning from the mission.

A few days after this mission, the city of Bucharest was completely cleared of German resistance by the Roumanians and the Russians.  Shortly thereafter approximately 1,100 United Nations' Flying Officers and men were released from prisons in Bucharest and returned to the Headquarters of the Fifteenth Air Force.  Among these were part or all of the personnel of four different crews lost by the 461st over Roumania.  When these individuals returned to the Group, they enthusiastically reported that our Group had broken the backbone of German resistance in Bucharest on the 26th of August.  The bombs from our planes had practically missed their target, but they had destroyed the headquarters, the transportation equipment, the heavy guns, and a great deal of the personnel and munitions concentrated by the enemy in the area covered by our bombs.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #91

27 August 1944

Target: Venzone Viaduct, Italy

On the 27th of the month, Lt. Colonel Applegate, in leading a mission against the Venzone Viaduct, Italy, proved that Lt. Colonel Knapp's accomplishment leading a formation in really hitting a bridge at Avignon, France, on the first mission of the month was not a fluke.  The score on the Avignon Bridge had been 73.1 percent; the score on the Venzone Viaduct was 73.9 percent.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #92

28 August 1944

Target: Szolnok/Szajol Railroad Bridge, Hungary

On the 28th of August, Colonel Glantzberg took his turn at leading the Group on an excellent mission against a railroad bridge.  The target was the Szajol Railroad bridge at Szalnok, Hungary.  The Group Bombardier, now Captain King, continued to demonstrate his ability to knock down bridges.  The score on this mission was 55.1 percent.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #93

29 August 1944

Target: Szeged Marshalling Yard, Hungary

Group Operations Officer Donovan, leading the Group formation for the first time after his promotion to Major, finished off the twentieth and last mission for the month in an excellent manner when 49.5 percent of the bombs were dropped within the prescribed area on the Marshalling Yards at Szeged, Hungary.  After the formation had begun its bomb run a malfunction was discovered in the bombsight of the lead airplane.  This required the Group to make a 360 degree circle during which the lead was taken over by the Deputy Lead airplane.  Six of the planes in the formation did not circle the target but left the formation to bomb the First Alternate Target, the Marshalling Yard at Subotica, Yugoslavia.

Mission bombing photo

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