Lou Prucha WWII Service

Overseas Tour of Duty

Orders finally arrived on August 17 and 21, 1944 transferring Lou and the two gunners he trained with, Sgt. Leland C. Ferguson and T. Sgt. Glenn C. Wilson to an overseas destination for a permanent change of station. They ferried their Douglas A-20 Havoc oversees from August 21, 1944 to September 7, 1944 via the following route:

From

To

Date

Time

Hunter Field, Savannah, GA

Dow Field, Bangor, ME

Aug 21, 1944

5:25

Dow Field, Bangor, ME

Goose Bay, Labrador

Aug 26, 1944

3:45

Goose Bay, Labrador

Bluie West-One (BW-1) Field, Narsarssuak, Greenland

Aug 29, 1944

3:40

Bluie West-One (BW-1) Field, Narsarssuak, Greenland

Meeks Airfield, Reykjavik, Iceland

Aug 31, 1944

2:40

Meeks Airfield, Reykjavik, Iceland

Stornoway, Scotland

Sep 4, 1944

3:30

Stornoway, Scotland

Prestwick, Scotland

Sep 7, 1944

1:25

On September 19, 1944 Lou and Lee were relieved from assignment at Squadron C, 16th Replacement Control Depot (Avn) per paragraph 22, Special Orders (SO) No. 263, Hq 70th Replacement Depot (AAF), AAF Station 594 (located at Jefferson Hall, Stone, Staffordshire, England) and assigned a permanent change of station to the 416th Bomb Gp., AAF Station 170 (Wethersfield, Essex, England).

Two days later on 21 September, Lou, Leland and Glenn were all three assigned to the 668th Bomb Squadron (L) per SO 159, Hq 416th Bombardment Group (L). At the time of Lous assignment, the 416th was in the process of moving from Wethersfield to base A-55 at Melun-Villaroche Aerodrome, about 5 miles north of the city of Melun, Alsace Region, France (Melun is about 15 miles SE from Paris); the move taking place from September 15 to 27, 1944. (Maurer, 1983) (Johnson and USAF, 1988) (Conte, 2001) The group made the move to France to be able to provide better support for the advancing Allied army ground troops.

During his overseas tour of duty, Lt. Lumir J. Prucha was a Bomber Pilot in the Army Air Corps 668th Bombardment Squadron (L). This squadron was in the following structure, largest to smallest:

Ninth Army Air Force (Composed of numerous Divisions / Commands)

IX (9th) Bombardment Division / Command (M = Medium) (Composed of the 97th, 98th and 99th Combat Wings)

97th Combat Bomb Wing (Composed of the 409th, 410th and 416th Bomb Groups)

416th Bombardment Group (L = Light) (Composed of the 668th, 669th, 670th and 671st Bomb Squadrons; Aircraft Fuselage Squadron Marking Codes were 5H, 2A, F6 and 5C respectively) (Web-Birds.Com, 416th BG)

668th Bombardment Squadron (L)

The Ninth Air Force was primarily responsible for air-ground support of the Allied troops and tactical attacks against Germany, vs. the strategic missions of the Eighth Air Force (AF). According to The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces, (U.S. Army, 1944, p255)

Strategic operations, based on long range planning, are designed to prevent the enemy from obtaining the weapons he must have to make war, and to destroy his will to fight. Main objectives of AAF tactical operations are to achieve and maintain air supremacy, to destroy or disrupt enemy supply and communications lines, and to participate in a combined effort of the air, ground and sea forces on the immediate battlefront or adjacent to it.

The Ninth AF bombers were mostly the light to medium, twin-engine aircraft like the A-20 Havoc, A-26 Invader (the two main types of planes Lou flew A-20 during his training, A-26 in combat), B-25 Mitchell and B-26 Marauder. The Eighth AF primarily used the heavy bombers like the four-engine B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator.

The A- aircraft type designation indicates an attack-bomber, sometimes called fighter-bombers. These planes were designed to fly typical formation bombing missions, but were fast, agile and heavily armed enough to also be used to strafe targets, using their forward nose and wing mounted machine guns.

Preparing for Combat

September November, 1944

Shortly after Lous arrival at the 668th Bomb Sq., he began flying again on October 4, 1944, and had two passenger flights in B-17F and seven flights piloting A-20G and A-20K aircraft between his base A-55 (Melun, France); Grove, England; Langford Lodge, Ireland and Chipping Ongar Airfield, Chelmsford, Essex, England during the month of October.

The 416th Bombardment Group began the transition from A-20s to the new A-26 Invader aircraft in November, 1944 and was the first group to fly A-26s in combat in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO). (Maurer, 1983) (Conte, 2001) According to entries in his Pilot Flight Log book and Individual Flight Records (IFR), Lou had only six training flights (14 hours, 15 minutes total pilot flying time) in the new A-26B before his first combat mission.

Lou flew 37 combat missions between December 6, 1944 and April 26, 1945; primarily against German railroad, communications and marshalling yard targets from air bases in France. While the majority of his training was performed flying Douglas A-20 Havoc twin-engine light bombers, he piloted most of his combat missions in Sugar Baby (plane 5H-S, serial number 41-39274, tail number 139274) the new Douglas A-26B Invader. He advanced his formation flight position throughout his missions and was designated as flight leader for his last three missions.

In his unpublished book Pillars In The Sky World War II From The Air, Jim Phillips describes a typical combat mission: (Phillips, 1982, p69-70)

We were awakened very early in the morning (assignment to a mission was made the previous afternoon), dressed, and went to a healthy breakfast. This was in a very old, stone and mortar farm building where it was reasonably warm. Following breakfast was a mission briefing in an adjoining barn, which had a raised stage. We sat on long benches, set on a concrete floor. Behind the stage was a wall about the size of a large movie screen. On this wall was a huge map of Germany, Austria, and the western-half of Czechoslovakia. A roll-down screen was available for overhead projection of photographs and drawings.

The briefing began with a comprehensive weather review, which included our base location, en route and over target. A forecast of conditions upon return home was included.

Intelligence officers then reviewed the target area, usually including recently taken photographs by P-38 photo-reconnaissance aircraft. This was done in great detail, including anticipated anti-aircraft emplacements. The importance of the target to the Allied war effort was always stressed. (Our 9th Air Force stressed tactical attacks on bridges, railroad marshalling yards, trains, and convoys as opposed to the strategic mission of the 8th Air Force, which stressed attacks on manufacturing plants, oil refineries, and airfields.)

The mission leader described the flight in detail, laying out the route, altitude, and airspeed. Almost all missions were composed of 36 aircraft, flying in six flights of six ships each. These six aircraft flew in tight formation, three in a V, followed by three more, flying just below and slightly behind the lead V. At the target, each flight of six aircraft bombed it independently. The lead ship of each flight had a bombardier-navigator.

Each mission was flown with several legs, changing headings every half-hour or so, in order to mask the final destination. Every trip included an Initial Point (I.P.), where the flights broke up from the main group, turning to their final target heading. From that point on, the bombardier was in control. When he opened his bomb bay doors, we opened ours. When he dropped his bombs, we dropped ours. By aiming just short of the target, he ensured that the six ships would saturate the target area.

We would be joined near the German border by our little brothers, the fighter cover group, which flew above us, crisscrossing all of the time.

The last item at the briefing came with the hacking of our watches, setting them precisely with that of the leader. In that way, any significant changes in plan would be perfectly timed by everyone.

After the briefing, we went to our planes where we would wait for engine startup time. This wait could vary greatly, depending on weather conditions. I used this time to preflight check the aircraft and talk to the ground crews and my gunner, Bill Miller.


Combat

December, 1944

Lous Pilots Flight Log book included the following combat mission entries for the month of December, 1944.

Date

Mission #

Target / Target Type / Result / Comment /
From / To / Aircraft / Duration / Gunner / Position

12/6/1944

#166

Erklenz / (Defended Village) / Undet. PFF / /
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 3:30 / Ferguson / #5

12/9/1944

#168

Saarwellington / (Defended locality) / Undet. P.F.F. / /
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 3:10 / Ferguson / #5

12/23/1944

#174

Waxweiler / (Com. Center) / P.N.B. / /
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 4:00 / Ferguson / #5

12/25/1944

#176

Munstereifel / (Com. Center) / Superior / Miracle - Burg (M.I.A) /
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 3:30 / Wilson / #5

December 6th, 1944 was Lous first combat mission and he teamed with Lee Ferguson as his gunner. Both his first and second missions were against defended towns in western Germany to help pave the way for the advancing Allied armies. Due to the cloud cover, bomb release was determined by lead PathFinder Force (PFF) B-26 aircraft and bombing results were undetermined. (Conte, 2001, p174-176), (USAF Archives, 670th BS) (Russell and Kerns)

Wayne Williams wrote the following entry for this mission in his Operational History 668th Bomb Squadron (416th Bomb Group (L) WWII: (Williams, Schier and Wysocki, 1945)

Todays mission is very near identical to yesterdays mission. This was Group Mission #166, with six crews from this squadron. Leading our flight in an A-20K was Lt. Stanley, with F/O Blount as Bombardier, and Gunners Collier and Brzezinski manning the .50 cals. Flying in formation with them were; Lts Meredith, Kenny, Annin, Prucha. The Group wheels were along too, with Capt. Shaefer, Col. Aylesworth, and Capt. Fontaine in A-26B # 218.

Erkelenz, Germany, another defended village was the picture seen through the bombsight. Again this was a PFF mission, and bombing was don thru the clouds. The bombing was done by boxes from 13,000, and 154 x 500 lb. GPs hurtled thru the clouds to fall on the target. There was little flak, and no fighter action present, and the formation returned to the base for the day.

Jim Kerns, in his 671st Bomb Squadron (L) Unit History, describes the reasons for missions against defended towns and villages: (Russell and Kerns, p162)

General Vandenberg, Commanding General of the Ninth Air Force, recently disclosed the reason for so many missions against small defended towns and villages to the rear of the actual battle line. Speaking to crews at a briefing, General Anderson, Ninth Bomb Division head, voiced the views of both Vandenberg and himself in commanding the 416th for the job it has done, and told them yet of the job they had to do.

The numerous towns that the 416th went to the past month were not actually front line strong points, but many were highly important areas in which the front line Germans would retreat for rest after a long period of actual battle. To knock out these positions would leave the battle weary Nazis without a place to recuperate and many of the bombing attacks would catch thousands of Germans in these towns. General Anderson said that this was a very strong factor in the advance of the allied troops. Destruction of these towns would also remove a possible carrier to our troops when they reached these positions.

Bad weather grounded the 416th Bomb Group and no missions were flown from December 16-22, 1944. December 16th was the day the Germans began their famous Ardennes-Alsace Offensive surprise attack against St. Vith, Malmedy and Bastogne, commonly referred to as the Battle of the Bulge. During this time, reports warning of potential attacks by German paratroopers against the A-55 air base caused a doubling of the guards, all personnel to be armed and the base to be on extreme alert. (Conte, 2001)

The weather cleared on the 23rd of December and missions to disrupt the German offensive began in earnest, with two missions per day when possible. Lou flew the afternoon mission on the 23rd and the morning one on Christmas day, December 25, 1944.

The first Box of aircraft on the December 23rd mission took off in the wrong direction from the Initial Point and some of the planes bombed an Allied supply depot for General Pattons troops. Box II navigator Ralph Conte recognized that Box I had picked the wrong target and tried to contact them to change. The Box I lead did not respond, so Box II turned correctly and bombed the assigned target.

The Christmas morning mission to Munstereifel, Germany scored superior rating for Lous flight, but the lead A-20K-10 plane (lead plane of second flight of the second box) with her 668th Bomb Sq. crew of 4 (Capt. Richard V. Miracle, Pilot (on his 65th and final mission); 1st Lt. Jack J. Burg, B/N; S/Sgt. Arthur F. Galloway AM-Gun; and S/Sgt. John R. Simmonds, Arm-Gun) was lost due to anti-aircraft fire. Witnesses reported that Capt. Miracles plane took direct hits on the bomb bay and left engine, was last seen going down and that one parachute was seen to open. (Conte, 2001) (Williams, Schier and Wysocki, 1945)

Life at the airbase between missions wasnt always easy, as noted in the following story related by Ralph Conte in his book Attack Bombers We Need You!:

Early in the morning of 27 December, at 0100 an air raid alert sounded. Everybody who could hear, or awaken, jumped in the fox holes. After thirty minutes with no action, all returned to their sacks. About five minutes later, machine gun fire and cannon shots were heard, and everybody jumped back into the foxholes, in their underwear, covering themselves up as a strafing job by German fighters, raked the field for about ten minutes. No casualties nor damage was reported. It was determined that someone had lit a flare near one runway, luring the planes toward our field, and the strafing began.


Plans were drawn up in the event of an emergency evacuation. The group stands on strict alert, with doubling of the guards. Also, foxholes were manicured and cleaned out, just in case. All personnel were confined to base for a two week period.


January, 1945

Lous combat missions for this month included:

Date

Mission #

Target / Target Type / Result / Comment /
From / To / Aircraft / Duration / Gunner / Position

1/2/1945

#181

Simmern / (R.R. Bridge) / Ex. / /
A55 / A40 / A-26B / 5:00 / Ferguson / #5

1/11/1945

#183

Simmern / (R.R. Bridge) / (PNB) (PFF) / /
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 3:30 / Wilson / #6

1/14/1945

#185

Schleiden / (Com. Center) / (PFF) Ex. / /
A55 / A58 / A-26B / 3:00 / Ferguson / #5

1/21/1945

#188

Euskirchen / (R.R. Bridge) / Sup. / Released early in Mar. yards. on Russell
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 4:00 / Wilson / #5

1/25/1945

#194

Kall / (Com. Center) / P.N.B. / Capt McN. Early Release /
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 3:30 / Ferguson / #6

January 2nd, 1944 was Lous fifth combat mission, his fourth with Lee Ferguson manning the guns. Due to the ice and snow, some aircraft could not get to the runway and three planes crashed on takeoff because of icing on the wings and possibly in the carburetors, killing one crew when the bombs exploded. The remaining 27 aircraft completed the mission, with excellent to superior scores, although the bridge was not destroyed. German fighters attempted to attack the formation, but were held off by the Allied P-51 fighter escorts. Lou landed at an alternate airfield, A-40 (Chartres, France), but the reason is unknown. Lou and Lee flew their aircraft from A-40 back to A-55 the following day. (Johnson and USAF, 1988) (Conte, 2001) (USAF Archives, 670th BS) (Russell and Kerns)

The History of 670th Bomb Squadron (L) mentions that: (Russell and Kerns, p53)

Poor weather in the beginning of January slowed down the training of new crews and also worked a hardship on the entire squadron. Heavy snowfalls made almost constant effort necessary to keep the taxiways and runways clear for operations. A serious shortage of coal and wood had its effect on our living conditions and evenings found us huddled around stoves, which had small and usually very inadequate fires burning in them. The solution to the problem was getting into bed early.

Lous second mission of 1945 on Jan, 11th was again aimed at the Simmern RailRoad Bridge, but due to PFF equipment failures, the primary target was not bombed (PNB) and GEE navigation was used to bomb secondary targets (railroad tracks, marshalling yard and major highway) at Alsey (or Alzey?), Germany, instead. The temperature at bombing level was 27 degrees below zero. (Conte, 2001) (USAF Archives, 670th BS) (Russell and Kerns)

The January 14th mission was against Schleiden, Germany and was scheduled to be lead by a PFF Pathfinder B-26s. When the target was reached, it was determined that bombing could be performed visually and the group received and excellent status for their results of 85% of the bombs landing within a 1,000 foot radius, blocking all north-south roads with bomb craters and severing a railroad line in four places. Upon returning, base A-55 was closed in due to weather so many planes landed at alternate fields. Lou and most of the other crews landed at A-58 (Coulommiers, France) because weather made landing back at A-55 too dangerous. At dusk that evening, they made the 45 minute return flight to Melun (A-55). (Johnson and USAF, 1988) (Conte, 2001) (Russell and Kerns) (Williams, Schier and Wysocki, 1945)

2nd Lt. Lumir J. Prucha received his Air Medal Award January 16, 1945. A Ninth Air Force Bomber Base, France press release account states:

An Air Medal has been awarded to Second Lieutenant Lumir J. Prucha of Omaha, Nebraska, at a Ninth Air Force A-26 Invader airfield.

Flying his 9th mission as an Invader pilot on January 25th Lieutenant Prucha participated in the attack on the road and rail junction at Kall, Germany. The bombs hit their mark, disrupting much needed communications lines going east from the Malmedy sector of the Ardennes salient.

Lieutenant Prucha is a member of the 416th Bomb Group which introduced the Invader, the Army's fastest and most heavily armed bomber, into combat. His wife, Mrs. Mary M. Prucha, and son, Edward, reside at

4155 Cuming Street
. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Prucha of
3309 North 59th Street, Omaha
.

Lou flew in the first 416th group mission on January 21st after a five day lull due to bad weather. The target was the EuskirchkenRailRoadBridge and the flight received a superior bombing rating. Wayne Williams described the mission in his Operational History 668th Bomb Squadron (416th Bomb Group (L) WWII: (Williams, Schier and Wysocki, 1945)

A break in weather gave us group Mission # 188 today. Filling out the loading list from our squadron were; B/N Team of Stanley & Blount, Lts Jacobsen, Harris, Prucha, Russell, McCready, and Hale. Flying window for the formation was the B/N Team of Mish & Shaft. Lt. Stanley led our crews in the second flight of the first box.

The target bombed was the railroad bridge at Euskirchen. The bridge was an important target on the supply route form Cologne to the German front. Marauders had hit it before, but the Jerries had repaired the damage and run a track across it again.

Moderate accurate heavy flak was encountered just before the target was reached, damaging the planes in formation. None were hit seriously, and the bombs were dropped with precision. The bombing was done by flights from/on Group lead from 11,000 and 12,000 feet. The return journey was made without any interference of any kind, and the formation landed after a journey of four hours.

Photos taken and later developed gave the results of the mission. Of the six flights, two scored superior, one excellent, two undetermined, and one A.P.N.B. F/O Blount, who guided our flights bombs, brought back a superior to the squadron. he is rapidly making himself a name as a bombardier. This mission ended the days activities.

The January 25th mission was against the Kall, Germany communications center. Ralph Conte notes On the bomb run, Captain McNultys bombs fell out of the plane when the bomb bay doors opened, causing the bombs to fall way short of the target. (Conte, 2001) (Williams, Schier and Wysocki, 1945)


February, 1945

Lous combat mission Pilots Flight Log entries for February are:

Date

Mission #

Target / Target Type / Result / Comment /
From / To / Aircraft / Duration / Gunner / Position

2/2/1945

#197

Euskirchen / (Com. Center) / Ex. / /
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 3:00 / Wilson / #5

2/8/1945

#200

Nutterden / (Defended Area) / PBN / E.T.A.Town of Elton bombed /
A55 / A55 / A-26B / 3:30 / Heitell / #6

2/14/1945

#204

Mechernich / (Prime Mover Depot) / (Und. P.F.F.) / Chalmers (M.I.A.) /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 3:15 / Ferguson / #5

2/19/1945

#207

Wiesbaden / (Ord. Depot) / (Und P.F.F) / /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 4:00 / Ferguson / #3

2/22/1945

#211

Hochost / (Sidings & Bridges) / Ex. / Strafed Target after bombing. /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 4:00 / Wilson / #5

2/24/1945

#213

Vierson / (Com Cen) / Undet. Gee / /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 2:45 / Ferguson / #2

2/25/1945

#215

Norvenich / (Com Cen) / Undet PFF / /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 2:30 / Wilson / #3

2/28/1945

#217

Unna / (Ord. Depot) / Undet. P.FF / /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 4:00 / Wilson / #4

Lou flew two missions at the beginning of the month prior to moving bases. The mission of February 8th boasted two major milestones. It was the 200th flown since 416th Bomb Group was constituted on January 25, 1943 and in less than a year since the 416th began bombing missions on March 3rd, 1944. Additionally, it was the first mission composed entirely of A-26 Invaders. (Russell and Kerns) (USAF Archives, 416th BG)

Lou was promoted to 1st Lieutenant (temporary grade) February 9, 1945 and the next day the 668th and 670th Bomb Squadrons moved from Station A-55, Villaroche, Melun, France to Laon/Athies, France, Station A-69, located about 3 miles east of the city of Laon, in order to be closer to the rapidly advancing front lines. (Conte, 2001)

The USAAF 416th Bomb Group Historical Summary discusses the new field and move: (USAF Archives, 416th BG, p16-18)

The field was in very poor condition. Only one of the three runways was fit for operational use. One runway and 110 bomb craters in it which ad never been repaired. The other runway had been partially repaired. These two runways were tobe used as parking areas.

Of the five hangers still comparatively undamaged, four were assigned to the Squadron for use as mess halls. The fifth was to house the photo Laboratory and gunnery and bomb training equipment.

Taxi strips were full of holes and generally unserviceable. The Group had occupied the base for a matter of only a few days, however, before French Laborers were hired to begin repairing the damaged roadways. Before the month had passed, work had progress beyond expectations. Captain Bailey, Station 5-4, had succeeded in securing the equipment and labor that was so gravely needed.

Getting back to the movement, on the 9th, the 668th and 670th Bomb Squadrons left Station A-55 by train and truck for Station A-69. The 40/8 cars that had been part of every story of the First World War were used to carry our men and equipment. The trip was long and uncomfortable. The one redeeming feature was the comparatively mild weather. The snow had stopped falling and a few days of clear weather and dried the ground. The tents were taken down and set up again without too much difficulty. On the 14th, the 669th and 671st Bomb Squadrons departed for the new base. They were the last units to leave and cleared the field thoroughly. It was to be occupied by a troop carrier group. An inspection by the office of the Inspector General of the 9th Bombardment Division found the base in excellent condition when the 416th departed. Our rating was later change to "Superior".

The advantage to the new base was immediately apparent. In the first place, it was only about 100 miles from the Front. In the second place, the field had frequently been used as a diversionary field because the weather usually permitted flying. With this good weather upon us the nearness to the Front lines, our planes would be able to complete more missions than at any time previous. As far as living conditions were concerned and office space on the new Base, it offered many opportunities. We continued to live in tents, except the headquarters personnel who occupied a small group of barracks buildings still useable. The Group, which had occupied the Base before us, left quite a bit of usable lumber and a few shacks.

Lous missions picked up frequency after to move to Laon, flying six missions in the two weeks between February 14 and the end of the month. The February 22nd mission to Hochost was unusual in that the planes strafed their targets after the bomb run. The book Condensed Analysis of the Ninth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations describes this mission: (Department of the Air Force, 1984, p44)

One of the most remarkable phases of the general interdiction campaign came on 22 February 1945, when all available Allied aircraft combined in Operation CLARION, a series of simultaneous attacks designed to paralyze the entire railway system in western Germany, with particular emphasis on the areas east of the Ruhr, east of Coblenz, and in the Palatine. The planning and execution of the Ninth Air Force part of this massive assault were superb and resulted in one of its most successful days of operations during the entire war. As its share in the total operation 9th Bombardment Division divided its bombers into small formations, which struck at 61 bridges, junctions, sidings, and railway yards. Forty-one of these formations dropped to low levels after the bombing, to strafe German targets of opportunity on the roads and railway lines. This operation and subsequent operations insured that the German railway system in the Ninth Air Force sector of responsibility was of little use to the Wehrmacht.

The USAAF 416th Bomb Group Historical Summary further describes the mission: (USAF Archives, 416th BG, p21)

The bombing attacks on the first two targets and the last were to be made at about 10,000 feet. Peeling off by elements of two planes, the planes were to dive to the deck and strafe targets only of military importance. We had flown four experimental missions, bombing and strafing before. This, however, was the first time that we had made such an attack on a Group scale.

Most of the planes carried wing guns, which gave them 14 forward firing machine guns in addition to the four guns in the two turrets. The speed of the planes was the keynote of their success. The speed over the targets ranged from 400 500 miles per hour.

March, 1945

March combat mission list:

Date

Mission #

Target / Target Type / Result / Comment /
From / To / Aircraft / Duration / Gunner / Position

3/2/1945

#219

Iserlohn / (Motor Trans Depot) / Undet PFF / /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 3:45 / Wilson / #4

3/5/1945

#222

Marburg / (Marshalling yard) / Undet PFF / /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 3:15 / Ferguson / #2

3/18/1945

#239

Worms / (Com. Center) / Unsat. / Kenny - Vars (M.I.A.) /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 3:00 / Ferguson / #4

3/19/1945

#242

Lage / (RailBridge) / Sup. / /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 3:30 / Wilson / #2

3/21/1945

#246

Vreden / (Com. Center) / Undet. / Anderson (Mid-air Collision) /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 3:00 / Ferguson / #4

3/22/1945

#248

Borken / (Com. Center) / NAO - Gee / /
A69 / A69 / A-26B / 3:30 / Wilson / #5

Date

Mission #

Target / Target Type / Result / Comment /
Aircraft / Duration / Gunner / Position

3/23/1945

#250

Dinslaken / (ComCenter) / Undet - Ex / /
A-26B / 3:00 / Wilson / #2

3/24/1945

#251

Bochelt / Flak Position / / /
A-26B / 3:00 / Lamonds / #3

3/25/1945

#253

Altenkirchen / (ComCenter) / Undet. / /
A-26B / 3:10 / Metzler / #4

3/26/1945

#255

Gemunden / (Mar. yards) / Ex / /
A-26B / 4:00 / Wilson / #3

3/28/1945

#256

Ebrach / (oil Depot) / PFF - Gee / /
A-26B / 3:45 / Kochan / #2

3/31/1945

#258

Wurzburg / (Storage Depot) / PFF undet / /
A-26B / 3:15 / Singleton / #3

Lou flew a third of all his missions in this one month, even though he did not fly any missions for nearly two weeks between March 6 and 17, in part because he was granted a 7-day leave on or about March 8, 1945 to visit the RivieraRecreationalCenter, Marinez Hotel in Cannes, France.

The first mission Lou flew after returning from leave was on March 18th against the town of Worms, Germany, a mission that turned out to be very deadly for the 416th. Four aircraft were lost from flak hits on this mission, including two A-26B planes from the 668th Bomb Sq. - aircraft S/N 41-39361 flown by 1st Lt. James P. Kenny and his gunner S/Sgt. John "Jack" J. Sittarich, and aircraft S/N 41-39213 manned by 2nd Lt. Clifford J. Vars and gunner Sgt. John J. Griffith, Jr. S/Sgt. Sittarich survived, was taken prisoner and was repatriated when Patton caught up with the Germans. Lt. Vars also survived, was taken prisoner, and later escaped, making his way back to U.S. lines. (Conte, 2001; MACR; McEvoy, 2010, Sayles, 2010)

The 21st also turned into a deadly mission, but not resulting from flak. After bombing, two flights were attempting to reform in the box formation to return back to base and were heading west into the sun making it difficult to see. Capt. Charles J. Anderson of the 668th Bomb Sq. was leading flight B and collided with Capt. Robert J. Rooney, the leader of another flight from the 670th squadron. Both planes crashed and all crew members perished, except 1st Lt. Robert L. Kirk who was able to escape and parachute to safety from Capt. Rooneys plane. Flying with Captain Anderson were 2nd Lt. Westmoreland Babbage (B/N), 2nd Lt. Leo J. Roman (B/N), and S/Sgt. Stanley L. Heitell (Gunner). Captain Rooney had Sgt. Robert J. Kamischke (Gunner) and Capt. Chester C. Slaughter of the Infantry as a passenger flying with him. (Conte, 2001; USAF Archives, 416th BG; Sayles, 2010)

On March 22, 1945, the day of his 23rd combat mission, Lou was awarded both his 1st and 2nd Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters to his Air Medal. Only one of each type of medal or decoration was allowed to be worn on the uniform. To indicate multiple awards of the same decoration, a 5/16th inch bronze oak leaf cluster device was attached to the metal ribbon. All of the small metal devices attached to the ribbon were called appurtenances. (Gawne, 2006)

For over a week near the end of March, Lou flew missions almost every day because the group was able to fly two combat sorties per day for most of the last half of the month. The groups efforts are described in the USAAF 416th Bomb Group Historical Summary: (USAF Archives, 416th BG, p25-26)

The real offensive east of the Rhine began on the 24th when airborne troops crossed the river north of the Ruhr in an area, which had been saturated by our bombing. At the time, our Third Army pushed off near Frankfurt. Once the crossing had been made, our troops and armor began to run rampant over enemy territory, taking thousands of prisoners, either too weary to continue fighting or too well beaten to fight back. The RuhrValley was the one stumbling block in our advances. If supplies and reinforcements could be kept from the Ruhr, soon our troops would be able to strangle it with attacks from all sides; the Ninth Air Force was assigned the task of isolating the Ruhr. In a series of well concentrated and effective blows, against marshalling yards, bridges, and communications and supply centers, the troops in the Ruhr were soon isolated. Our troops encircled the area from the east to make the isolation complete. From that moment on, it was just a matter of time before the famous Ruhr garrison fell.


April, 1945

Lous last 8 combat missions include the following:

Date

Mission #

Target / Target Type / Result / Comment /
Aircraft / Duration / Gunner / Position

4/3/1945

#260

Hameln / (Mar. yards) / Und. PFF / /
A-26B / 4:00 / Windish / #3

4/8/1945

#262

Munchen-Berndorf / oil storage / N.A.O. / Smoke Expl. fire /
A-26C / 4:10 / Wilson / #5

4/15/1945

#272

Ulm / Mar. yds / Und PFF (F) / /
A-26C / 3:45 / Ferguson / #2 Lead

4/16/1945

#274

Wittenburgh / Mar. yds / Und. (F) / /
A-26C / 4:00 Day, 1:00 Night / Ferguson / #2

4/17/1945

#275

Medelburg / flak positions / / /
A-26C / 4:30 / Ferguson / #3 Lead

4/19/1945

#277

Neu Ulm / Mar. yds / Ex. / /
A-26C / 3:40 / Ferguson / #1 Lead

4/20/1945

#279

Annaburg / Fuel depot / N.A.O. / /
A-26C / 5:00 / Wilson / #1 Lead

4/26/1945

#283

Platting / Airfield / Ex. / /
A-26C / 5:00 / Ferguson / #1 Lead

Most of Lous April missions were flown in a glass nosed Invader (A-26C model) because he flew more of his missions in a leadership role, requiring a Bombardier/Navigator. Lou was flight leader on his last three missions, and on the mission of April 20th to Annaburg, Germany, he was the leader of one of the three boxes to attack this fuel depot. (USAF Archives, 416th BG)

Lous 37th and last mission took place on April 26, 1945. The target was an airfield at Plattling, Germany and the results are described in the USAAF 416th Bomb Group Historical Summary: (USAF Archives, 416th BG, p42)

That afternoon, the 26th, 44 aircraft filled a landing ground at Platting, in the lower part of what remained of Germany, with bombs and bomb craters. A total of 968x100-lb. fragmentation bombs fell on the landing ground; 66x100 fragmentation bombs kept gun positions silent while the main attack went on. There was no flak.

May-September, 1945 Wars End

The 416th Bomb Group only flew two combat missions in May, the last one on the 3rd, but Lou did not fly any more combat missions after April 26th. Throughout the early days of May, German forces in various locations continued to surrender. German officers finally signed the unconditional surrender to the Western Allies and Russia on May 7, 1945 with the 8th officially designated V-E day. (USAF Archives, 416th BG)

After the European war was officially over, Lou remained stationed in France until September. The 416th Bomb Group moved to Station A-59 at Cormeilles-en-Vexin, about four miles northwest of Pontoise during May. Training continued to prepare for assignment to the Pacific Theatre of Operations. (USAF Archives, 416th BG)

Special Orders (S.O.) Numbers 80, dated 15 July 1945 and 71 (20 July 1945) relieved Lou from assignment to the 416th Bomb Group (L), transferred him to the 344th Bomb Group (M) and ordered him to air Assembly Area, Station A-74 (Cambrai, France) on or about 16 July 1945 for the purpose of ferrying aircraft.

On August 12, 1945 Lou was issued orders to ferry surplus A-26 aircraft, via ATC routes, from Strip A-75, Cambrai France to Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia thence to Charleston POE Staging Area. With the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945, these orders were cancelled on August 28th by Special Orders # 105 which relieved a group of officers and enlisted men, including Lou, from assignment to the 344th Bomb Group (M) and transferred the group to Casual Pool, AAF/ETO Reinforcement Depot (Prov), AAF Sta 385 on or about 30 August 1945 for return to the Zone of Interior. AAF-385 was formerly known as A-54 and is located at Le Bourget, France. (Johnson and USAF, 1988)