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MISSION NO. 3

SCHWEINFURT, GERMANY

24 FEBRUARY 1944

Mission nr. 3 Schweinfurt

Departure time Glatton: 9.00

Weather at target: good

Landing time Glatton: 16.00

“Saw our first FLAK at the French coast. I was able to do pilotage all the way. Snow on the ground, as we approached I.P. we saw huge fires all around from targets bombed by other wings. Schweinfurt was burning when we got there. Almost at the target lead ship aborted because bomb doors wouldn’t open. This broke up the formation and after ‘bombs away’ things were rough. FLAK was in barrage box. Couldn’t see through it. Didn’t seem possible to get through it but we did with only one hole as a result. Never more frightened in my life than after bombs away going through that FLAK and dodging other planes for the next hour. Couldn’t work for fear. Never had a rougher ride. Combination of FLAK and fighters got Lt. Morrow on way home. From the diaries of navigator 2nd Lt. John O. Millham”

The Eighth Air Force spread its three Air Divisions to lessen the possibility of a massive air battle in a concentrated area. The ball bearing plants at Schweinfurt were the assigned targets forthe 1st AirDivision. Major Henty B. Wilson led the high box of the 94th Combat Wing and Lt. Albert L. Sikkenga was pilot.

Track Chart February 24th 1944

Track chart February 24th 1944

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Schweinfurt and its Ball Bearing Works, having been the target of previous Eighth Air Force missions, had become a familiar name to bomber crews.

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Schweinfurt on February 24th 1944

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B-17 bombers over Schweinfurt February 24th 1944

The 457th dispatched eighteen aircraft on the mission. As the Group neared the target area, the town could be seen burning in the distance. When the Initial Point (IP) was reached, with the 457th last over the target, the bomb bay doors of the lead ship would not open. The signal was given to the Deputy Lead to take over the formation. Engine trouble then developed in the lead ship, which veered sharply to the left, temporarily out of control, and the aircraft was followed by the formation, unaware that the Deputy Lead had taken over. The Group Lead managed to make a run on another part ofthe target area using a different aiming point. The bombs hit a widely scattered area around the arbitrary aiming point. As would be expected, Schweinfurt lived up to its reputation and enimy resistance was fierce, both by flak and by fighters.

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Ball Bearing plant of Schweinfurt in 1945

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Ball Bearing plant after an attack by the USAAF

The 457th lost one plane (A/C 42-38060), piloted by Lt. Max Morrow, over the target. The craft took a flak hit that disabled engines No. 1 and 2, and No. 3 and 4 engines ran away and could not be feathered. The navigator, Lt. Darren McIntyre, was seriously injured and the right waist gunner, Sgt. Italo Stella, was killed at his station. The decision was made to crash land the craft in an attempt to better afford the navigator the opportunity to receive medical aid and survive.

Lt. Max Morrow successfully crash landed the craft. In a matter of minutes the dead and wounded were removed from the airplane, and the crew completely surrounded by German civilians who had encircled the area. A short time later two German officers, presumably Gestapo, arrived, took charge, and transported the crew to an interrogation center. The survivors of the crew were prisoners of war until liberated in May 1945. Lt. McIntyre later succumbed to his wounds, MACR 2917.

Another plane returned with one dead crewman, Sgt. H. R. Pike, a victim of the enemy’s fire power.