B-17
THUNDERBIRD
James S. Andrus
Mission Journal
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FIRST MISSION
"THE DUCHESS"
Date: December 13, 1943   Target: Bremen, Germany
Take off: 08:25 hours   I.P.: 11:59 hours
Target time: 12:04 hours   Altitude: 30,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

My first raid of the war and everything went like clock-work, until target time. The left waist gunner (Dick Baer), passed out from lack of oxygen, and I, myself also suffered from lack of oxygen. Baer was finally revived by right waist gunner (Tom Dickman).

We took off before dawn and reached altitude before leaving the coast. Flak was encountered shortly after leaving the Fresian Islands and was quite plentiful over the target. We had P-47 escorts and we were flying high squadron, high group. Number 3 engine was wind-milling and not even pulling it's own weight, so we went over the target on three engines. The oil cooler was also broken and it threw oil all over the bottom of the fuselage and on the ball turret gunner (Walter Hein). At target time the pilot salvoed the bombs due to bomb bay door failure. (Bob Rosier) Upper turret gunner tried to roll the bomb doors down but they were stuck.

No enemy fighters were seen by me, although eighteen were shot down on the raid. We went down from altitude just before leaving the coast and when we broke formation, P-47's were there to ward off enemy fighters.

Well, this is all for the first mission and boy aren't Flak suits heavy?

"24 more to go!"


SECOND MISSION
"WALLAROO"
Date: December 24, 1943    Target: Gun Emplacements near Calais
Take off: 10:45 Hours   I.P.: 13:25 Hours
Target time: 13:27 Hours   Altitude: 12,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal] [Chang Mission Notes]

Number two raid was what is commonly known in this theatre as a milk run. We were all set for the worst, because of the altitude. It was low because they wanted to knock out the emplacements on one raid.

It was the second time we've gone over the target on three engines. Number 4 engine went out and we lost altitude as well as speed. Lt. Moncur had the engines up to maximum, but we still couldn't keep up. Luckily, we managed to get home. We saw no flak or enemy fighters.

P-47s and P-38s were all around and an enemy fighter attack would have almost been impossible. The P-47s are now striped with white because of Fortress gunners itchy trigger fingers. The only thing that was wrong was that our squadron didn't drop its bombs. We missed the I.P. and was too late on our course to hit the target. All of the other squadrons dropped theirs and the target certainly took a beating. They were only 140 miles from London and they were believed to be used for rocket guns or pilot-less aircraft. I'm pretty sure it won't be used for anything from now on.

Oh well, only 23 more to go, and my moral is still pretty high even though it is Christmas Eve.

"23 more to go!"

(P.S. The Wallaroo went down over France with Dick Davis and his crew on board. Joe Fertitta was also in the crew. It went down February 1944.)

THIRD MISSION
"FLAK-WOLF"
Date: December 31, 1943   Target: Transport off the Coast of Bordeaux
Take off: 08:30 hours    Altitude: 16,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal] [Chang Mission Notes]

Well, the third one proved to be a milk run for us, although the formation was attacked. We went on a 1200 mile trip. We were within 150 miles from Spain. We were on oxygen almost all the time, although I took mine off for a smoke several times. Two JU.88's and three FW-190s were seen. Only eight puffs of flak were seen and they were from the Nazi U-boat base at Lorient, France.

We were in the air for eight hours and twenty minutes. It was awfully tiresome. I saw the squadron behind us being attacked by three FW-190s. One B-17 dove down a couple thousand feet, but came right back up fighting. The ball turret gunner came out of his turret over France. He had become sick and the turret was out.

It was a lovely day when we left, but when we came back the ceiling was almost zero. Lt. Moncur came through O.K. and for awhile I was worried about landing, because of the 12,500 pounds in the bomb-bay.

The target wasn't seen, because of the heavy cloud cover. Well, only 22 more to and then home.

"22 more to go!"

FOURTH MISSION
"306"
Date: January 7, 1944   Target: Ludwigshayen, Germany
Take off: 08:10 hours Altitude: 25,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

Number four has gone by. It was the best raid I was on. We had excellent fighter cover with P-38s and P-47s again. We only dropped three of our bombs. Lt. Moncur tried to salvo the bombs and so did Lt. Chang, but they wouldn't release. Lt. Chang got one released by the time we were over the channel by using a screwdriver. Sgt. Hein held onto him while he put the pins back in the bombs. The doors were open and wouldn't come shut so we had to land with our bomb bay doors open. The flak was rather heavy over the target and at a few different other places. One piece of flak hit the radio compartment just below the window but didn't do anything - but tear a hole in the fuselage. I would have been hit, if I would have been sitting down instead of standing.

I have a lot more respect for a flak suit now. It's a good show watching that flak burst. It was so darn close I could hear it bursting. I looked out the top hatch in the radio room and saw a sky full of black puffs of smoke where we had been.

Those Germans are fighting for keeps over here. That was about all there was that happened, so it wasn't bad. We had four whole engines going while we were over our target for a change.

"21 more to go!"

FIFTH MISSION
"WALLAROO"
Date: January 11, 1944   Target: Oschersleben, Germany
Take off: 08:10 hours   Altitude: 20,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

This raid was the worst raid of this theatre of operations. We were bombing the Foche-Wolf airplane factory and we sure made a mess of it. We had P-47 escorts at the beginning of the raid and we were supposed to have P-51 escorts near the target, but they didn't show up. As soon as our escorts left us we were hit by FW-190s, ME109s, JU.88s and JU.87s. The JU.87 is the Stuka dive-bomber. They appeared to be waiting on us, because when we saw them they were already coming into the attack. The whole German Luftwaffe must have been up there, because most of the B-17s didn't have a chance. I was looking out the hatch in the radio room and I saw the first attack on the group behind us. It's an amazing sight to see B-17s going down.

We were in the lead group, lead squadron. When we ended up we were riding on General Travis' left wing. All the other planes had been shot down that originally held that position.

Lt. Moncur and Lt. Cunningham saved the day with their evasive action. The evasive action was so violent, half the time we were off the floor and the next thing you knew you were on the flat of your back. Bob Rosier destroyed an FW-190 and so did Walter Hein. The guns were certainly hot that time. The flak didn't bother us much, but there was plenty of it. I saw a lot of enemy fighters go down and a lot of B-17s. We lost two out of our squadron and ten off the whole base. That was one raid that the General didn't look for. The next time he goes, I think I'll stay home. Those Jerries must have known he was coming because they were waiting for us. All together we lost 124 aircraft.

"20 more to go!"


SIXTH MISSION
"405"
Date: January 21, 1944   Target: Ab. Sortie, France Veavlien, France
Take off: 11:40 hours   I.P.: 13:20 hours
Target time: 13:40 hours   Altitude: 12,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

The ideal mission has finally come my way. It was a perfect milk run. No fighters, no flak and nothing to stop us. It was a swell day and we took the ship on its maiden voyage. There isn't much to tell about this raid, but I'd like to have 19 more just like it.

"19 more to go!"


SEVENTH MISSION
"050"
Date: January 29, 1944   Target: Frankfurt, Germany
Take off: 08:00 hours   I.P.: 11:30 hours
Target time: 11:34 hours    Altitude: 25,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

This mission was a pretty fair mission. All we got was two flak holes in the wing. It almost missed us. We were flying our own ship this time. It's the newest ship on the base. We only lost one plane that I know of.

We had this mission scheduled three times and we finally went. Our escort was pretty good and it wasn't bad at all. Our tail gunner, Wike, didn't go on this mission. We had a spare gunner along. We also had a camera-man along, but he was out on a toot the night before and he slept through the flak, so I took the pictures. On the way back he snapped pictures of planes in our formation. Hein had a little trouble. His electric shoes went out and he almost froze his feet. We got him wrapped in blankets and he was O.K. The temperature was 37* below. It was a pretty good mission.

"18 more to go!"


EIGHTH MISSION
"CONNECTICUT YANKEE"
Date: January 30, 1944    Target: Brunswick, Germany
Take off: 09:00 hours   I.P.: 12:00 hours
Target time: 12:04 hours    Altitude: 25,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

This mission was almost another Oschersleben. We lost 31 planes this trip. I never watch another ship going down anymore. Once I see they are in a bad way I don't look at them.

We had plenty of contrails on this trip and the Jerries kept coming up from under us. Hein got an FW-190 to his credit on this raid. There were plenty of fighters and as soon as we saw our P-51 escort coming we felt a lot better. Those Jerries are certainly afraid of P-47s, P-38s and P-51s. I don't blame them much either. I had to throw out chaff to deflect their radar screens to keep the flak from hitting us. I thought it was going to be another royal battle again, but it wasn't quite as bad as Oschersleben. The gunners on the ship almost got a mess of P-47s who were gaining upon our tail. You can't take any chances over there and they shoot at anything that points their noses our way.

Baer got a frost-bitten face this trip and will probably be grounded a few days. The ship was a darn good one but it can't beat ours. It was a B-17F, and they are certainly fast. It had 35 raids to its credit.

Well, that's one less more I'll have to go on.

"17 more to go!"


NINTH MISSION
"050"
Date: February 3, 1944   Target: Wilhemshaven, Germany
Take off: 08:30 hours    I.P.: 11:55 hours
Target time: 12:00 hours   Altitude: 28,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal] [Chang Mission Notes]

This was a fairly eventful raid. We were in heavy clouds and contrails and we were flying "Tail-end Charlie". It would have been tougher, but the Jerries couldn't get off the ground to intercept us. We hit the target and started back, when we were forced out of formation by another ship.

We were lost in heavy clouds, so we started in the general direction of home. The pilot got a heading from the navigator and started pouring on the heat. We were taking quite a chance coming home alone, but then we found out that we were the first ones home that hit the target.

It was the closest we've ever come to having a collision in the air. We passed up almost everything in the air coming home. The old B-17 was hitting around two hundred and twenty miles an hour and that was our cruising speed. Well, it was O.K.!

"16 more to go!"


TENTH MISSION
"050"
Date: February 4, 1944    Target: Frankfurt, Germany
Take off: 08:45 hours    Target time: 12:38 hours
Altitude: 25,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

Well, that's one I won't have to go on again! I guess Frankfurt is in ruins now. From what I read in the papers, it's just about done for. It was noted for its culture and industries. It also was the center for German transportation between the North and South. It ain't no more though!

We had the heaviest flak we've ever encountered on a raid. Lt. Cunningham's windshield was shattered and we got a hole in the wing. We've been lucky so far. We've been picking up flak in the wing tips.

Once you get through a barrage and look back, you wonder how in the hell you ever got through it. We got off course and went over Rhur Valley which has more flak guns than all the rest of Germany. We had flak almost all the time but we got through it. We had a good escort of P-51s and P-47s and P-38s. Boy, those guys are a wonderful sight over Germany. I felt like a knight in shining armour.

Those flak-suits are a healthy thing to be wearing when the Jerries put up a barrage. They are heavy as heck, but they feel like feathers when the flak starts bursting around you. It was an exciting raid, but I'm glad it's over.

"15 more to go!"


ELEVENTH MISSION
"405"
Date: February 8, 1944 Target: Frankfurt, Germany
Take off: 07:55 hours Target time: 11:55 hours
Altitude: 26,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

I guess I was wrong about not going to Frankfurt again. It seems they found something else to bomb over there. It was a fairly exciting mission. As soon as we hit the coast we were hit by enemy fighters. They knocked down three B-17s and we got three of them. It happened so fast that they caught us napping. We were the only ones in the squadron to keep our formation. Eight of us started and four aborted. The rest of them got mixed up in different squadrons in the formation.

The flak was pretty heavy. I didn't notice it so much, because I was busy throwing out chaff to distract the radio controlled guns of the Jerries. We only picked up one flak hole, but that was enough.

"14 more to go!"


TWELFTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: February 20, 1944    Target: Leipzieg, Germany
Take off: 08:45 hours    Target time: 13:20 hours
Altitude: 20,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

Well, this time we had a real ride. We practically went across Germany. Some of the Air Divisions went as far over as Poland. We flew our own ship this time.

The target was the city of Leipzieg. It was a ruin when we left it. It had been hit by the wing before us. The flak wasn't so bad and neither were the fighters. We were attacked several times. One JU-88 threw a couple of rockets at us, but he didn't have the correct range, Thank God.

We were in the air over nine hours and we covered as least 1500 miles. I was certainly worn out after that ride.

We had to breathe oxygen longer than we ever did before and it was almost gone when we started to let down from altitude. We only got two flak holes, but Rosier had a hole put in his turret by a 20mm. It was the longest raid I've been on and I certainly don't want another one that long.

"13 more to go!"


THIRTEENTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: February 21, 1944   Target: Werl, Germany
Take off: 10:50 hours   Target time: 14:02 hours
Altitude: 20,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

Well, we didn't do what we started out to do today, but it counted as a mission for me. We didn't drop our bombs, because the target had already been destroyed by the wing ahead of us. The fighter escort was beautiful and there was hardly any flak.

It was a fairly nice mission, but that snow is awful deep in Germany, so as soon as I get my 25 in, I'll be the happiest man in the world.

"12 more to go!"


FOURTEENTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: February 22, 1944   Target: Aschersleben, Germany
Take off: 09:00 hours   Target time: 13:20 hours
Altitude: 20,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

This one was a real exciting mission. Plenty of flak and fighters. As soon as we left our escort we were attacked by enemy fighters. They pressed their attack for about 30 minutes and that time seemed like 30 hours. As soon as we got the flak from the Rhur Valley, the fighters left us because they won't fly in their own flak. I don't know which is worse, the fighters or the flak. You can do something about fighters, but you can't fight back with flak. It was plenty accurate and plenty of it. We only got one flak hole in number one engine cowling. Lucky it didn't go too far in, or we would have lost an engine.

I saw two B-17s go down. One of them had a good friend of mine aboard. I only saw three chutes open up. Rosier knocked down another fighter. That makes two for him. I could have shot at some, but a turret is twice as good as a flexible gun. I just hope I never have to fire a gun. I don't want a fighter that close. It was a tough raid, but the target was destroyed.

I opened up the bomb door, I mean the door that leads from the bomb-bay into the radio room, and I followed the bombs down to the target. It was a Messerschmitt factory and airport - but it isn't anymore.

"11 more to go!"


FIFTEENTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 2, 1944   Target: Frankfurt, Germany
Take off: 08:30 hours    Target time: 12:04 hours
Altitude: 27,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

Well, I guess I can't go by what I see anymore. This makes the fourth time we've been to Frankfurt. This time is was a Piston ring factory which puts out a high percentage of rings for the Luftwaffe.

We were high group, high squadron, thank God. The flak was terrific but it was all centered on the lead group and low group. As soon as we hit enemy territory we were picked up by British P-51s. We had beautiful fighter cover the whole way in and out. We picked up P-47s and P-51s all along the target. The low and lead group was attacked by fifteen FW-190s, but before they did any damage, the P-51s went after them, and it was beautiful. Those Germans certainly don't care much for P-51s. The sky was filled with B-17s and American fighters.

It was a nice mission and I hope I have ten more just like that one.

"10 more to go!"


SIXTEENTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 3, 1944   Target: Berlin, Germany
Take off: 08:50 hours    Target time: 12:02 hours
Altitude: 27,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

This was the mission that I dreaded. In fact I hope I'm not on the Berlin raid. We got to within a half-hour's ride to Berlin and then turned around and came back. I heaved a big sigh of relief when we turned around.

The contrails were terrific and two B-17s blew up in the confusion. It certainly made a big explosion. They must have been loaded with demolition bombs. We were carrying incendaries.

The fighter escort was darn good and I don't think we had much to worry about except the flak. There are a lot of Flak guns in Berlin. We were going to bomb another target but things got mixed up, so we didn't.

"9 more to go!"


SEVENTEENTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 4, 1944    Target: Berlin, Germany
Take off: 08:30 hours    Target Time: 12:57 hours
Altitude 27,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

We tried again, but didn't make it. I'm glad we didn't. We had a different route in today and the fighter escort was just as good as before. The contrails were just as bad, but the temperature was just a little bit better than yesterday's. It was 57* below Centigrade yesterday, and 55* below today. We got about half way and they decided to turn back. We bombed a city on the way back, so it wasn't in vain. I believe the city was Cologne.

We got up and dressed in the dark this morning, because there was a red alert on. It sure was a mess in the barracks. The other two crews in the barracks aborted, but we went on. That makes seventeen raids without an abortion. The flak was plenty accurate at the target. We got hit in the cowling, but Dennis' ship got ten flak holes in it.

"8 more to go!"


EIGHTEENTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 6, 1944   Target: Berlin, Germany
Take off: 08:30 hours    Target time: 13:21 hours
Altitude: 20,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal] [Chang Mission Notes]

Well, we had the raid today that I had been trying to avoid. I certainly hope they don't make a habit of it. We had a wonderful fighter escort and that's all that saved us. The Germans had almost everything they had in the air, and the Forts, P-51s, and P-47s certainly took their share of them. One Fort on the field had three ships to its credit today.

The flak was terrific over Berlin. We were supposed to hit a ball-bearing factory sixteen miles from the city, but we had to hit the secondary target which was the center of Berlin. We came back with seven FLAK holes in the ship.

Germany has its best A.A. gunners at Berlin, but we waded right through all of it. The flak was plenty accurate and I guess we were just lucky. I imagine some of the wings had a tough time of it. I saw five Forts go down on the raid. It certainly isn't a pretty sight. We, I mean the Hell's Angels Group, went out with 29 planes and came back with 29. I hope we are always that lucky.

"7 more to go!"


NINTEENTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 19, 1944   Target: Lech, Germany
Take off: 09:33 hours    Target time: 14:02 hours
Altitude: 23,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

This one was a long haul. We were down next to the border of Switzerland. We could see the Alps good and we also saw Lake Constance. We bombed as airfield with fragmentation bombs. We only saw a couple of enemy fighters and they weren't bothering us.

Our escort was fairly good and the only Flak we had was at the target. It was fairly accurate and we got one small hole in the ship. I got so darned tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. I wouldn't mind finishing up on raids like that. Now I only have nine more to do, thanks to General Doolittle.

"9 more to go!"


TWENTIETH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 20, 1944   Target: Frankfurt, Germany
Take off: 09:40 hours    Target time: 13:48 hours
Altitude: 27,000 ft.
[Moncur Journal]

We went back to the four-times destroyed target today. Either the propaganda is bad or they rebuild in a heck of a hurry. We were to hit a piston-ring factory but the clouds were so thick we bombed the center of the city. We were in clouds most of the way back. Only at the target were the clouds broken. We were the only group to hit the main target today. All the other groups turned around and came back, because of the clouds.

I guess we are just damned lucky, or we have the right guys leading us. The flak wasn't too bad and we didn't see any enemy fighters. On the whole, is was a nice mission, except for the clouds.

"8 more to go!"


TWENTY-FIRST MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 22, 1944   Target: Berlin, Germany
Take off: 07:25 hours    Target time: 13:01 hours
Altitude: 26,000 ft.    Temperature: 46*
[Moncur Journal]

Well, this mission turned out different than I thought it would. We didn't see enemy fighters and our escort was perfect. Maybe that is why. We were to bomb the Heinkel 177 factory, 16 miles NE of Berlin, but we couldn't bomb it visually, so we hit the center of the city. We aimed for the Wilkelm-Strasse station and just dropped them all over the city.

There was plenty of Flak as usual, but we didn't get any holes this time. It was a long old haul but I didn't mind it too much. It's a thrilling feeling up there, but the good old earth feels good.

"7 more to go!"


TWENTY-SECOND MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 23, 1944   Target: Munster, Germany
Take off: 07:04 hours    Target time: 10:44 hours
Altitude: 20,000 ft.    Temperature: 37*
[Moncur Journal]

This was the best raid so far. Lately we have been going on long hauls, but today we got a short one. It was a perfect day until we neared the target, then our troubles began. I was throwing out chaff to disturb the radar guns, and watching Bob roll down the bomb bay doors, which were stuck. Then my heated suit caught on fire. I had on a Flak-suit, parachute harness, and you should have seen me getting them off. It wasn't bad, but I was a little worried about it. But it wasn't too cold, and I got along without any heat.

We couldn't bomb the airfield we were supposed to, so we bombed a town by the name of Hamm. I hope they did a good job. I saw one Fort go down and another one came back with the tail-gunners compartment shot off.

"6 more to go!"


TWENTY-THIRD MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 28, 1944    Target: Pas de Calais

ROUGH!!!

TWENTY-FOURTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 29, 1944

ROUGH!!!

TWENTY-FIFTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 30, 1944    Target: Dijon, France

ROUGH!!!

TWENTY-SIXTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: March 31, 1944   Target: Brunswick, Germany

ROUGH!!!

TWENTY-SEVENTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: April 9, 1944    Target: Marionburg, Germany

ROUGH!!!

TWENTY-EIGHTH MISSION
"THUNDER-BIRD"
Date: April 10, 1944   Target: Brussels, Belgium

ROUGH!!! DONE!!! DONE!!! DONE!!! DONE!!!