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

May 1944

Mission #17

2 May 1944

Target: La Spezia Harbor, Italy

The Primary Target was Parma Marshalling Yard, Italy.  Alternate targets were any active Marshalling Yard in north Italy except Florence and Rimini.  Colonel Glantzberg led the Wing.  The formation ran into overcast at 21,000 ft. short of the target.  After dropping to 18,000 ft. to get under the overcast, the Colonel lost part of his own Group formation and the remainder of the Wing formation in making a 360° turn at l5,000 ft.  The Colonel reassembled the eighteen planes left in his formation and bombed La Spezia with fair results.

Twenty other planes of the Group bombed a total of eight other targets in northern Italy.  Despite the fact that this was the second mission within a month on which the Colonel had lost his formation in weather, had reassembled above the weather and had gone on to bomb an alternate target, he was worried as to what the Fifteenth Air Force would think of the Group and Wing accomplishments for the day.

All was forgiven and forgotten when later reports showed that F/O Keith L. Fuller and his co-pilot, F/O Mac L. Lucas, making a single plane attack, had sunk their target of opportunity, a warship in the harbor of La Spezia.  The navigator on the plane was 2nd Lt. Thomas E. Daly, Jr., and the bombardier was 2nd Lt. Roque Gonzales.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #18

5 May 1944

Target: Ploesti Marshalling Yard, Ploesti Roumania

Major Knapp led the formation on the first mission this Group ever flew to Ploesti.  About 30 enemy planes were seen, and a few were encountered.  There were no claims.  Flak at the target was intense, accurate and heavy.  Crew members were surprised at the amount of flak coming from guns placed in open fields outside the city limits.

Seeing that his target had been hard hit and was completely obscured by smoke, the lead bombardier, Lt. King, swung from his briefed target to the large South Marshalling Yard which was hit with fair results.  The decision by Lt. King brought repercussions from the Group Commander, the 49th Wing, and the Air Force.

On the return route, the formation passed over the defended Bor Mines area and was shot up badly by flak.  As a result of this flak, the Group brought back with its first man killed in action, 2nd Lt. Joseph F. Meyers, a bombardier.  Two other men were wounded and every airplane in the formation was hit.

Poop Sheet

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #19

6 May 1944

Target: Pitesti Marshalling Yard, Roumania

When Major Applegate, the Group Leader, aborted, his Squadron Operations Officer, Captain Hoermann took over the lead.  This was the first time that a leader of this Group had aborted.  The field order for this mission called for an axis of attack different than that for any other mission previously flown by this Group.  Instead of hitting the marshalling yard at an angle, the formation dropped its bombs while flying along the tracks.  With an intervalometer setting of 325 feet the bomb strikes began at the briefed aiming point at one end of the marshalling yard and walked straight down the rows of tracks, a distance of 5,500 feet.  Because of the intervalometer setting, it was mechanically impossible to drop a large concentration of bombs within 1,000 ft. of the briefed aiming point.  This mission, nevertheless, was considered highly successful because of the many hits the whole length of the target.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #20

7 May 1944

Target: Marshalling Yard, Bucharest, Roumania

Back to the familiar target area of the Chitila Marshalling Yard of Bucharest, the Group employed practically the same procedure in attacking this target as had been used the previous visit at Pitesti.  The briefed aiming point was in front of a plot of rectangular buildings located near the round house near the northwest end of the marshalling yard.  The mission was well led by Captain Goree but the bombs of the first section were somewhat scattered and many of them were to the right of the target.  Lt. Faherty, lead bombardier of the second Section, however, rang the bell with a beautiful pattern on the briefed aiming point.  Reconnaissance pictures showed the target was hard hit by concentration of 39 percent of our bombs within 1,000 feet of the briefed aiming point.  Only a few enemy airplanes were seen and only three of our bombers were damaged by flak.

Poop Sheet

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #21

10 May 1944

Target: Wiener Neustadt, Nord Airdrome

Failure to recognize and hit the target on the Group's first mission to the "hot" target of Wiener Neustadt robbed Lt. Col. Hawes, Wing and Group Leader, of rare distinction.  The formation flew through showers over the Adriatic and ran into a front in Yugoslavia.  Colonel Hawes led the Wing through this front and continued on course.  At the initial point, part of the formation was hit by enemy fighters.  1st. Lt. W.C. Wallace, flight leader of "B" flight in the second section, was shot down and his flight was attacked aggressively by enemy fighters.  This was the first Group airplane ever lost to fighters.  The attack cost the enemy seven planes destroyed, seven probables and three damaged.  The long bomb run, made into a strong headwind, kept the formation in the flak for eleven minutes.  As a result of the mission, Lt. Wallace and his crew were missing; S/Sgt. Joseph Nobile, the ball turret gunner, was killed; six other men were injured and twenty-six aircraft were damaged.  All the crew members returning from this mission agreed that Wiener Neustadt was as "hot" as it had been reported.

Mission #22

12 May 1944

Target: Marina DiCarrara Marshalling Yard, Italy

In anticipation of this mission, Colonel Glantzberg, Lt. Colonel Hawes, Major Lott and Major Burke attended a special conference held by Colonel Lee at Wing Headquarters on 11 May 1944.  There they learned the following facts:

1. "H" hour for the Italian front had been set for 2300 o'clock 11 May 1944.

2. All heavy bomb groups in the Fifteenth Air Force were assigned to fly two missions against marshalling yards in the Po River Valley area, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, on 12 May 1944.

3. The route out for these missions was planned in such a way as to take nineteen Groups over south-central Italy to within sight of the bomb line, then west along the bomb line, and then north on the Anzio beachhead.

In executing this mission, many of the Groups including the 461st did not fly the afternoon missions because of bad weather.

The target of the morning mission for our Group was the Castel Maggiore Marshalling Yard. Alternate targets were any active marshalling yard in north Italy except Florence and Rimini.  For the third time since the Group became operational, Colonel Glantzberg, leading the group, was forced to hit an alternate target because of bad weather at the primary.  He made five 360° turns in an effort to find the target.  Finally a run was made on the marshalling yard at Marina di Carrara.  Not much damage was done to the target, but an aluminum plant near the target was hard hit with a beautiful pattern by a flight led by Captain Goree. Even more important, a concentration of enemy munitions stores nearby was squarely hit with considerable damage resulting.

Mission #23

13 May 1944

TARGET: Imola Marshalling Yard, Italy

Missions of the Fifteenth Air Force on this day followed the general pattern of those for the 12th of May.  The target assigned to this Group was the marshalling yard at Faenza.  From the initial point at Marradi the lead bombardier, Lt. Murphy, picked up the wrong target.  As a result, the Group bombed the marshalling yard at Imola, which is but a short distance northwest of Faenza on the Rimini-Florence Railway Line.  A beautiful bombing pattern covered the target with 28 percent of the bombs within a 1,000 feet of the briefed aiming point.  As was the case on the previous day, no enemy airplanes were seen.  This was the first mission the Group had flown without one or more early returns.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #24

14 May 1944

Target: Padua Marshalling Yard, Italy

The whole Air Force was still hammering away at the marshalling yards in northern Italy.  The target for this mission was a marshalling yard at Padua that was heavily defended by anti-aircraft guns.  The lead bombardier, Captain Leffler, turned in a superior job with 60 percent of the bombs dropped falling within a 1,000 feet of the briefed aiming point.  Again no enemy aircraft were seen, but thirty-two of the thirty-six planes over the target were hit by flak and one man was injured.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #25

17 May 1944

Target: Porto Ferrajo Steel Mill and Harbor (Elba Island)

Continued good weather and good bombing marked this mission.  From a coordinate in the Tyrrhenian sea as an initial point, the bomb run resulted in a splendid pattern and a score of 29 percent.  The steel mill and some of the harbor installations were hard hit.  Lt. Stiles was the Lead Bombardier.

Poop Sheet

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #26

18 May 1944

Target: Belgrade Zemun Airdrome,Yugoslavia

Strategy of the Fifteenth suddenly switched the Bomb Groups on this date from marshalling yards in northern Italy to the oil refineries at Ploesti.  Bad weather prevented the group from getting to their primary target, Xenia Oil Refinery at Ploesti, Roumania.  The target selected for bombing was the now familiar alternate and last resort target, the Belgrade Zemun Airdrome in Yugoslavia, above a solid undercast. Colonel Glantzberg led the group in such a way as to make it possible to drop the bombs on the center of the most concentrated flak area.  Results were unobserved.

Poop Sheet

Mission #27

19 May 1944

Target: Recco Viaduct, Italy

The Recco Viaduct, on the main railroad line from Genoa to Rome, was the first bridge attacked by the group as a primary target.  Part of the bomb load for this mission was 2,000 pound general purpose bombs.  This was the first time bombs this large had been used by the Group.

Crews were briefed to hit this target by flights.  When they arrived at the target area, they found the viaduct obscured by a 9/10 undercast.  No flak at the target permitted the flights to circle and make repeated bomb runs on the target.  Lt. Colonel Hawes, who led the formation, made eight passes at the target, the last from 3,000 feet. some flights abandoned the target in search of targets of opportunity.  No hits were scored on the bridge. Enemy fighters in northern Italy were still conspicuous by their absence.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #28

22 May 1944

Target: Piombino Harbor Area, Italy

Against the supply dumps and harbor installations at Piombino the Group carried incendiary clusters for the first time.  The weather over the target was CAVU.  Major Burke, the formation leader, maintained his record of leading highly successful missions when the crews laid down a superior formation pattern directly on the target.  Only two enemy airplanes were seen on this mission.  For the second time this month there were no early returns.

1st Lt. James T. Bennett, who was being checked out as a flight leader by 1st Lt. Edward W. Peterson and his crew, were lost on this mission.  The plane left the formation near the initial point in the Tyrrhenian sea and was not seen again.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #29

23 May 1944

Target: Subiaco Road Junction, Italy

The Group was assigned on a tactical mission in support of the ground forces in Italy who were pushing the enemy northward.  The target was a highway junction at the foot of steep hill in a deep narrow valley.  Ground maps had to be used instead of target charts.  Crossing over a series of mountain ridges, the Group found its target despite an eight-tenths undercast.  Sixty-seven percent of the bombs dropped on this target were within 1,000 feet of the center of impact.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #30

24 May 1944

Target: Wiener Neustadt Wollersdorf Airdrome, Austria

Another mission to Wiener Neustadt, this time with Colonel Glantzberg leading the wing.  The possible success of this mission was ruined by excessive cloud coverage of the target plus the fact that oil, which had leaked from a line on the nose turret guns, froze and obscured the vision of Captain Leffler, lead bombardier.  Overshooting the target on the first run, the Group made a 360° circle, lost the other groups in the formation and made another run.  Because of crippled planes in the formation, the lead ship dropped its bombs rather than make a third run on the target.

Again, there was fighter opposition and intense flak.  Thirty enemy planes were encountered and the following claims were scored: two destroyed, one probable and three damaged.  Twenty-three of our planes were hit by flak, and two were lost.  Flight Leader 1st Lt. Robert S. Bigelow, with the 766th Squadron Operations Officer Captain John W. Dickenson as co-pilot, was lost to flak over the target.  2nd Lt. William R. Diggs lost an engine over the target, dropped out of formation and was not seen again.  The Wiener-Neustadt target was rough!

Poop Sheet

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #31

25 May 1944

Target: Carnoules Marshalling Yard, France

The Fifteenth Air Force suddenly swung to France for targets.  In the absence of both flak and fighters with CAVU weather, the Group got 35 percent of its bombs within 1,000 feet of the briefed aiming point on the marshalling yard and roundhouse at Carnoules, France.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #32

26 May 1944

Target: Lyon-Vaise Marshalling Yard, France

Back again to France, this time to the Lyon-Vaise Marshalling Yard.  Again the weather was CAVU, there was no flak, and only two enemy aircraft were seen.  Major Burke turned in another excellent mission when the Group dropped 54 percent of its bombs within a 1,000 foot circle.

On this mission, Flight Leader 1st Lt. Marion C. Mixon furnished a splendid example of the determined aggressiveness with which this group was handing out damage to the enemy.  Flying as co-pilot while checking out 2nd Lt. Robert G. Wester as a first pilot, Lt. Mixon was forced to turn back from the mission when he lost an engine over the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Instead of dropping his bombs in the water or returning them to base, he went looking for a target of opportunity.  After passing up two targets, the navigator, 2nd Lt. Paul Dietrick, saw a long convoy of enemy vehicles.  The bombardier, 2nd Lt. James Colavito, Jr., threw a road block in front of the convoy which was then strafed by RAF Spitfires.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #33

27 May 1944

Target: Salon De Provence Airdrome, France

This mission to France was different from the previous two in that extremely accurate heavy flak greeted the group at landfall on the French Coast.  This time the target was the airdrome at Salon de Provence, a nest of JU-88 aircraft had been raiding shipping in the Mediterranean.

The score for the mission was 24 percent.  2nd Lt. Gerald Maroney's plane was damaged by flak and left the formation.  When last seen, the plane was heading north over France.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #34

29 May 1944

Target: Wiener Neustadt Werke 1, Austria

Wiener Neustadt again.  This was Lt. Colonel Hawes's second trip to this target as Group Leader, and Lt. Strong's second trip as lead pilot.  The field order dispatched thirteen Groups of the Air Force to the airplane manufacturing and servicing installations on both the Nord and Wollersdorf Airdromes.  Our target was Werke 1 on the Nord Field.  The 461st Group was one of the last Groups to arrive over the target.  After the Group was on its bomb run, it was necessary to change course because of the possibility of being dropped through by another group flying directly overhead.  As Lt. Strong pulled the formation to the right, the lead bombardier, Lt. King, released his bombs on the four large buildings nearest the line on Wollersdorf Field.

As a result of the bombing done by the thirteen Groups, Wiener Neustadt really burned.  As combat crew members looked back when leaving the target area, they were convinced it would be a long time before they would have to return to the target they disliked more than any other target to which they had been assigned.  Again flak was intense, accurate, and heavy over a large area, and the enemy fighters were aggressive.  Our gunners claimed three enemy airplanes destroyed without any losses to our Group.  The combat crews flying the mission were enthusiastic about the coverage given by our fighter escort.

Poop Sheet

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #35

30 May 1944

Target: Wels Aircraft Factory, Austria

At Wels, Austria, the Group had the new and pleasant experience of attacking an aircraft factory at which there was no flak.  Neither were fighters seen on this mission.  The lead navigator, Lt. Dusenberry, carefully kept the Group out of range of the heavily defended areas close to the target.  The lead bombardier, Lt. Murphy, completely sprayed the target with incendiaries to give the lead pilots, Major Applegate and Lt. Specht, a superior mission.

Mission bombing photo

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From: Lee, CO, 49th Bomb ~ (H), AP0520.

To: Commanding Officer, 451st, 461st, 484th Bomb Group (H), APO 520.

The following Teletype is quoted for your information.

"Cite FAF Baker 27 the terrific destruction inflicted on the enemy by units of the Fifteenth Air Force on 29 and 30 May is a record without precedence anywhere.  Let us keep this high standard of attainment as our goal.  The Hun can't take it."

Mission #36

31 May 1944

Target: Concordia Vega Oil Refinery, Ploesti, Roumania

On the last day of the month the Group made its second trip of the month to Ploesti.  In defense of the target, the enemy added smoke screens to his aggressive fighter resistance and flak concentration.  Despite this resistance Captain Leffler got a score of 27 percent for the mission.

2nd Lt. Samuel N. Norris got his damaged plane back to the Island of Brac, where he and his crew were forced to bail out.  2nd Lt. George N. Ryder Jr. attempted to bail his crew out on the Island of Vis, but they missed the Island.  The crew members landed in the water and all of them are believed to be lost.

Poop Sheet

Mission bombing photo

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From: Lee, CO, 49th Bomb Wing (H), APO 520 .70

To: Commanding Officers; 451st, 461st, 484th Bomb Group (H), APO 520.

The following teletype is quoted for your information:

"Recognition of your accomplishment by the Commander in Chief of the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe, Lieutenant General Spaatz, is passed to you with my most sincere congratulations added thereto.  Weight and effectiveness of your attacks during the past month represent full exploitation of the power within your force.  These attacks have not only continued the excellent operations of previous months in wearing down the German air strength, which stands guard over their war machine, but have struck heavily at its heart.  Particularly successful have been the attacks on the enemy's limited oil resources, both against Ploesti refineries and the synthetic oil plants in Germany.  Please extend my commendations to the air crews and all others of your command responsible for these operations."