Mission 199

 July 20th 1944

At Lincoln Nebraska I received Secret orders to board a new B-17G along with the air-crew I had been training with for the past 4 months and proceed to the 8th Air Force in England for assignment as a replacement Combat Crew. After some delay I was assigned to the 379th Bomb Group, 526th squadron and flew my first combat mission on the 8th of September 1944  

Flight crew for the mission  

Personnel Rank Duties
Miller, Elmonte R Lieutenant Pilot
Nowacki, Jack W Lieutenant Co-Pilot
Hodgkiss, Bernard V Lieutenant Navigator
Katsiginis, Spiris T Lieutenant Bombardier
Lohr, John F  Cpl Radio Op/Gunner
Weese, Jackson D  Cpl Engr./Top Turret
Cunningham, Charles L  Cpl Ball Turret gunner
Whiting, Edward H  Sergeant Waist Gunner
Johnson, Marvin J  Cpl Tail Gunner

The Mission# 199

A/C name Patches Country   Germany Target   Synthetic Oil Plant
A/C number   42-39800   Squadron Position Low Squadron
A/C Pos Low Element  Left Wing   City  Ludwigshafen

At 0400 we received our mission briefing to strike a synthetic oil plant in Ludwigshafen, A city located in southern Germany along the Rhine river. The mission lasted 7 hours and 35 min. We managed to hold our position in the formation all the way to the target and back to our base. We encountered no fighter aircraft and only took one hit from enemy flack. Patches was a venerable old aircraft which had already taken hundreds of hits. That is how she acquired her name. 
 I remember vividly my baptism to fire. As we turned on our IP I could clearly see the area directly over the target off to my left. The characteristic mushroom shaped explosions from the German 88 anti aircraft shells were so thick I could hardly see through the smoke .I was awestruck and unable to move while my mind fully grasped what I was about to experience. I called Lt. Katsignus on the intercom and he assured me that I was not dreaming and told me not to worry. Rest assured I was worried. I could not believe that a jack rabbit would survive that barrage let alone an aircraft the size of a B-17 

The bomb run seemed to take forever, then suddenly we were clear of the target area and on our way home. Finally my hands stopped shaking and my heart settled back to a normal rate. I looked around and noted that there was still 11 planes remaining from our 12 plane formation. I have no idea what happened to the other plane. I turned my attention to my radio and transmitted the strike message in bomber code as it had been relayed to me from the Bombardier. As I looked at my normally neat log I noted that the entries were more scrawled and less neat as we approached the target then settled back to my normal writing as we departed. I thought, ”I’ll never cover that up” The next thing that came to mind was “And they expect me to do this 25 times”??    


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