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View Full Version : First successful daylight bombing of Berlin



XyZspineZyX
07-23-2003, 12:24 AM
(Written by Captain William R. "OBee" O'Brien, 363rd FS)

http://www.cebudanderson.com/images/obstang.jpg


<font size="+0">On March 6, 1944, a field order was received directing the 357th Fighter Group to stand target area support for the Eighth Bomber Command during the bombing of Berlin, Germany. Forty-eight P-51B's were manned and took off in compliance with the order. These planes were the full combat strength of the Group. The Group was composed of three fighter Squadrons. Although we were the first Mustang equipped fighter group assigned to the Eighth Air Force, our experience was meager. Our group had only been on combat operations for about three weeks.

While the group had performed well during the "Big Week" (February 20 to 26), it had not had a "Big Day." A "Big Day" was when a group tallied twenty or more victories. In truth our losses had been severe, involving the loss of Group, Squadron and Flight leaders. All things considered, we were not yet setting the world on fire. In fact the previous day, we lost our Group Commander, Col. Russ Spicer.

On March 6, 1944, things started off with a bang. The new Group Commander had to abort the Berlin mission shortly after take-off. He was leading with my squadron, the 363rd. Old "lucky Pierre", OBee O'Brien, was now the Squadron Leader. On top of that I was leading it with Capt. C. E. "Bud" Anderson's flight and not my regular flight. It could and probably would have been worse for me if Major Tommy Hayes, Commandiing Officer of the 364rd Squadron, had not been present. He assumed command and led the Group. I thank God every day for Tom Hayes.

Weather at take off was good, which was unique for England. The penetration was flown over low scattered clouds which prevented me and other leaders from being able to navigate with precision. In fact, I hadn't seen a recognizable landmark since the Zuyder Zee, in Holland. By now the under-cast had increased in cloud density to about eight-tenth solid.

It was time for the rendezvous with the bombers when Tommy Hayes broke radio silence to ask me, "Where is Berlin, OBee?" This was the first, and only time, during an operation that I was ever consulted during an on-going mission. I told Tommy, "I think Berlin is behind us." Tommy said we would hold course for two more minutes. We did just that, then we made the well known 180 degree turn which had us flying into the Berlin target area from the East. And guess what? There twenty to thirty miles away was a wonderful sight, the Eighth Bomber stream. About this same time, we had more company, in the form of forty plus enemy aircraft on a convergent course with the bombers and us.

At this point, on the ruler of war scale, leadership had done its job. The enemy was in our vicinity and we immediately attack. Fortunately for us, the Germans had committed their twin engine night fighters, the Me.110, to defend Berlin.

We headed for a group of enemy aircraft attacking the bombers. The Me.110 that I latched on to was easy pickings, which was O.K. with me. I got him burning in his left engine area and we were in a very steep diving right turn, when my machine guns started jamming. I had four functioning 0.50 cal. machine guns when the air fight started, but now I don't know how many are working.

I found myself going too fast and pulling quite a bit of "G". The Me.110 is heading vertically into the deck. I pulled up rolled a bit and watched the enemy crash into a large structure resembling a factory. You never saw such a fine explosion! It was plainly visible above 20,000 ft.

I tested my guns, with negative results. None were working. Having no wingman, I headed for England, knowing its not smart poker to hang out by one's self in the area of a firefight.

When I had climbed to about twenty thousand ft., I saw a P-51 approaching me from about a 4 o'clock position. I observed the plane to be a "Yoxford" Mustang from the 357th group. It took a position on my wing and radioed, "Who are you?" The pilot was from a sister squadron and identified himself as Leroy Ruder. I told Leroy to hang on and I'd get us back to England.

A few minutes later Leroy called "Bogey at 2 o'clock". Sure enough it was a Me.110, so I told Leroy to take the enemy aircraft. He did and I had a first class seat to watch Leroy destroy the Me.110. We made it back to base in Leiston, England, in good shape. I never did tell Leroy that my guns were not working. I guess he just went on thinking that old OBee was a real nice guy.

The crowning glory came in Leiston, when we recognized that thirty-three planes made it to Berlin. "Teething" problems with new aircraft caused the high abortion rate (15 aircraft). We had shot down over twenty German aircraft, without loss of a single plane in the fight. This was the group's first "Big Day."

It could not have come at a better time. The next day General Woodbury, Commanding General of the 66 Fighter Wing flew into Leiston. He said he came to congratulate us for our work at Berlin, but I always thought he came down to find out what happened to his friend and former chief of staff, Col. Russ Spicer (whom we had lost on the previous day's mission).

Why were we so fortunate? I think there were a number of factors. First, was that we trained together for over two years as a unit. Next getting a new long range fighter, the Mustang, and finally Major Tommy Hayes leading us into battle from the East of Berlin, all combined to make the Berlin mission a great success.

To my knowledge the Germans never again employed their Me.110's in daylight against Eighth's Bomber Command.</font>

<CENTER>http://home1.gte.net/vze23gyt/files/p51_jaws.jpg</CENTER><CENTER><font size="+1"><div style="width:500;color:#FF2211;fontsize:11pt;filter:shado w Blur[color=red,strength=2)">73h /\/\u$7@/\/6 |*\/\//\/-/_ j00</div></center></font><FONT color="#59626B">[b]

Message Edited on 07/22/0307:33PM by TaZ_Attack

XyZspineZyX
07-23-2003, 12:24 AM
(Written by Captain William R. "OBee" O'Brien, 363rd FS)

http://www.cebudanderson.com/images/obstang.jpg


<font size="+0">On March 6, 1944, a field order was received directing the 357th Fighter Group to stand target area support for the Eighth Bomber Command during the bombing of Berlin, Germany. Forty-eight P-51B's were manned and took off in compliance with the order. These planes were the full combat strength of the Group. The Group was composed of three fighter Squadrons. Although we were the first Mustang equipped fighter group assigned to the Eighth Air Force, our experience was meager. Our group had only been on combat operations for about three weeks.

While the group had performed well during the "Big Week" (February 20 to 26), it had not had a "Big Day." A "Big Day" was when a group tallied twenty or more victories. In truth our losses had been severe, involving the loss of Group, Squadron and Flight leaders. All things considered, we were not yet setting the world on fire. In fact the previous day, we lost our Group Commander, Col. Russ Spicer.

On March 6, 1944, things started off with a bang. The new Group Commander had to abort the Berlin mission shortly after take-off. He was leading with my squadron, the 363rd. Old "lucky Pierre", OBee O'Brien, was now the Squadron Leader. On top of that I was leading it with Capt. C. E. "Bud" Anderson's flight and not my regular flight. It could and probably would have been worse for me if Major Tommy Hayes, Commandiing Officer of the 364rd Squadron, had not been present. He assumed command and led the Group. I thank God every day for Tom Hayes.

Weather at take off was good, which was unique for England. The penetration was flown over low scattered clouds which prevented me and other leaders from being able to navigate with precision. In fact, I hadn't seen a recognizable landmark since the Zuyder Zee, in Holland. By now the under-cast had increased in cloud density to about eight-tenth solid.

It was time for the rendezvous with the bombers when Tommy Hayes broke radio silence to ask me, "Where is Berlin, OBee?" This was the first, and only time, during an operation that I was ever consulted during an on-going mission. I told Tommy, "I think Berlin is behind us." Tommy said we would hold course for two more minutes. We did just that, then we made the well known 180 degree turn which had us flying into the Berlin target area from the East. And guess what? There twenty to thirty miles away was a wonderful sight, the Eighth Bomber stream. About this same time, we had more company, in the form of forty plus enemy aircraft on a convergent course with the bombers and us.

At this point, on the ruler of war scale, leadership had done its job. The enemy was in our vicinity and we immediately attack. Fortunately for us, the Germans had committed their twin engine night fighters, the Me.110, to defend Berlin.

We headed for a group of enemy aircraft attacking the bombers. The Me.110 that I latched on to was easy pickings, which was O.K. with me. I got him burning in his left engine area and we were in a very steep diving right turn, when my machine guns started jamming. I had four functioning 0.50 cal. machine guns when the air fight started, but now I don't know how many are working.

I found myself going too fast and pulling quite a bit of "G". The Me.110 is heading vertically into the deck. I pulled up rolled a bit and watched the enemy crash into a large structure resembling a factory. You never saw such a fine explosion! It was plainly visible above 20,000 ft.

I tested my guns, with negative results. None were working. Having no wingman, I headed for England, knowing its not smart poker to hang out by one's self in the area of a firefight.

When I had climbed to about twenty thousand ft., I saw a P-51 approaching me from about a 4 o'clock position. I observed the plane to be a "Yoxford" Mustang from the 357th group. It took a position on my wing and radioed, "Who are you?" The pilot was from a sister squadron and identified himself as Leroy Ruder. I told Leroy to hang on and I'd get us back to England.

A few minutes later Leroy called "Bogey at 2 o'clock". Sure enough it was a Me.110, so I told Leroy to take the enemy aircraft. He did and I had a first class seat to watch Leroy destroy the Me.110. We made it back to base in Leiston, England, in good shape. I never did tell Leroy that my guns were not working. I guess he just went on thinking that old OBee was a real nice guy.

The crowning glory came in Leiston, when we recognized that thirty-three planes made it to Berlin. "Teething" problems with new aircraft caused the high abortion rate (15 aircraft). We had shot down over twenty German aircraft, without loss of a single plane in the fight. This was the group's first "Big Day."

It could not have come at a better time. The next day General Woodbury, Commanding General of the 66 Fighter Wing flew into Leiston. He said he came to congratulate us for our work at Berlin, but I always thought he came down to find out what happened to his friend and former chief of staff, Col. Russ Spicer (whom we had lost on the previous day's mission).

Why were we so fortunate? I think there were a number of factors. First, was that we trained together for over two years as a unit. Next getting a new long range fighter, the Mustang, and finally Major Tommy Hayes leading us into battle from the East of Berlin, all combined to make the Berlin mission a great success.

To my knowledge the Germans never again employed their Me.110's in daylight against Eighth's Bomber Command.</font>

<CENTER>http://home1.gte.net/vze23gyt/files/p51_jaws.jpg</CENTER><CENTER><font size="+1"><div style="width:500;color:#FF2211;fontsize:11pt;filter:shado w Blur[color=red,strength=2)">73h /\/\u$7@/\/6 |*\/\//\/-/_ j00</div></center></font><FONT color="#59626B">[b]

Message Edited on 07/22/0307:33PM by TaZ_Attack

XyZspineZyX
07-23-2003, 12:37 AM
Weather at take off was good, which was unique for England.

Tell it like it is! /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-tongue.gif /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-happy.gif /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

Good read, shame he didn't see any of the actual bombing, might have made a good read, if sobering /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-indifferent.gif

XyZspineZyX
07-23-2003, 09:50 AM
It wasn't the first daylight raid on Berlin, though.
That was on 30th January 1943, and a number occured
in 1943 in daylight, by Mosquitos. The one in 1944
might have been the first one to be successful, though.

XyZspineZyX
07-23-2003, 07:29 PM
AaronGT wrote:
- It wasn't the first daylight raid on Berlin, though.
- That was on 30th January 1943, and a number occured
- in 1943 in daylight, by Mosquitos. The one in 1944
- might have been the first one to be successful,
- though.


or the first American one perhaps?

cheers,
Tony
(flying as "wombat" on HL)


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oh yeah, and I'm a Whirlwind whiner too /i/smilies/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

XyZspineZyX
07-23-2003, 11:36 PM
(Written by Captain William R. "OBee" O'Brien, 363rd FS)

DOGFIGHT OVER BORDEAUX, FRANCE (aka as the DF where Chuck Yeager got shot down)

http://www.cebudanderson.com/images/obeepic.jpg


<font size="+0">On march 05, 1944, the 357th Fighter Group, led by Col. Russell Spicer, escorted B-24s of the Eighth Bomber Command on a raid to Bordeaux, France. The specific targets of the raid were submarines and their protection pens. The sub-pens were where the German "Wolf Packs" were based when not operating against Allied shipping.

I remember the weather conditions as being normal for Western Europe. Bombing would be guided by visual target selection, as lower clouds were scattered over the target area.

Upon rendezvous with the B-24 bombers, Col. Spicer (call named "Dryden") requested that the 363rd Squadron ("Cement" Squadron) furnish fighter support for a box of straggling B-24's. My flight went back to pick up the stragglers.

I was leading the flight and my wingman was Lt. Bob Moore. The second element was led by Lt. William McGinley, with Flight Officer C.E. "Chuck" Yeager on his wing. Yeager was filling in for Lt. L.D. Wood on this particular flight. Wood had been forced to abort shortly after take off and return to our base at Leiston, England, due to mechanical problems.

As we approached the stragglers, I'd searched the skies for enemy aircraft, but none were seen. We took up a flight position about 3:00 o'clock to the bombers, at their altitude (but out of range of their 50 cal. machine guns). This was where Bomber Command wanted the fighter escort to stay. While the bomber boys liked our position "nice and close", it was all wrong for proper fighter coverage. We should have been about 5,000 ft. above and a couple of miles ahead of the bombers. At this time, General Jimmy Doolittle, was not commanding the Eighth, so we flew as ordered. Our primary mission was to protect the bombers not to destroy enemy aircraft. Wrong, but true.

We'd been with the stragglers less than a minute when I spotted an Me 109 attacking the bomber box from their 6:00 o'clock position. I'd just started to drop my left wing to attack the 109 when a call came from Yeager..."Break, Break"... we broke to the left. Yeager's call saved us!

About 180 degrees through the break I latched on to a Fw 190 who was in a diving turn. I opened fire at a fairly close range, which resulted in some pieces coming off the 190. Both of us were now diving near vertical, when something large went flying past my cockpit.** I did not recognize what the object was at the time, however, I did see that I was fast approaching a solid undercast. It was time to start pulling up, as I had no idea how thick the cloud layer was and I figured the 190 was going straight down. I started to pull out and at this point, I did something really stupid; I let the P-51 go straight till it's airspeed dropped well below 200 mph, when I broke into a left turn. And there was old Jerry, a Me 109 on my and Moore's tail. After a tight circle, I couldn't see him anymore and Moore and I headed back to England.

The longer we flew toward England, the worse the weather became. Moore and I could not communicate with each other because of radio failure. Ceiling and visibility were becoming more restrictive and luckily for us we made it into the RAF base at Ford, England.

As we spent the night at Ford, neither Moore nor I knew the group had lost both Russ Spicer and Chuck Yeager on the Bordeaux mission. I telephoned a claim for a "damaged" Fw 190 and our location. At first light we flew back to our base at Leiston. The next day, March 06, 1944, I got on the ground at Leiston just in time to Lead Cement Squadron on the first successful daylight bombing mission over Berlin, Germany.

Years later, at a 357th Fighter Group Association reunion, I told Chuck that I'd shot some pieces bigger that him off the enemy aircraft that shot him down. Yeager did know that a Fw 190 crashed near where he landed in his chute. I had often wondered why the Eighth Air Force had taken the unusual step to upgrade my "damaged" claim to the status of "probable destroyed." At one of our reunions, I was kind of ribbing Yeager about being shot down by one of the greenest pilots in the German Luftwaffe. Little did I know how close I was to the truth.

Chuck had been after me for a long time to fly with him during one of our reunions. For personal reasons I had declined his invitations. However, on one occasion at a dinner party, he said, "OBee, I have a letter from a contact in France about that fight at Bordeaux. I'll give you a copy after we make a flight together."

I was delighted to fly with Chuck at our Louisville, Kentucky reunion. He had kindly given me a copy of the letter from Dr. Fuentes written in 1996 and mailed from France. The information showed that I had indeed shot down the Fw 190. While my official victory list maybe incorrect, I'm just happy to have made it into the Fighter Aces Association.

**Later learned, this German's (22 year old Irmfred Klotz) parachute did not open. Letter from Dr. Fuentes in 1996

Obee O'Brien finished the war with 6 official victories. Chuck Yeager after parachuting into France, escaped into Spain and returned to the 357th to finish his combat tour. Chuck was credited with 11 official victories and after the war became the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound in the X-1.</font>

<CENTER>http://home1.gte.net/vze23gyt/files/p51_jaws.jpg</CENTER><CENTER><font size="+1"><div style="width:500;color:#FF2211;fontsize:11pt;filter:shado w Blur[color=red,strength=2)">73h /\/\u$7@/\/6 |*\/\//\/-/_ j00</div></center></font><FONT color="#59626B">[b]

Message Edited on 07/23/0306:36PM by TaZ_Attack