Group Narrative

448th Bombardment Group (H)
APO 448
Group Narrative for August 1944

Bolded text indicates Jack's two missions

During the month of August, 20 missions were flown as compared with only 17 in July. This was the second highest number of missions flown by the Group in any one month, being exceeded only by the 30 missions flown in June, although only one greater than the 19 missions of April and May. The increased activity of August is reflected in many ways in the attached summary of operations table.

Following is a list of targets attacked during the month:

August

August 1944 was an outstanding month in the history of the Group's bombing accuracy. High percentages of hits by all squadrons was the general rule.

The first four missions did not result in a bombing of the briefed targets, but bombing accuracy was nevertheless excellent. Due to haze, clouds and navigation, targets of opportunity had to be selected by our lead bombardiers, and these targets were well hit despite adverse circumstances. The first completely successful mission was to a large aircraft factory at Fallersleben. All three squadrons scored solid hits on the MPI, but these could not be accurately appraised because of heavy smoke clouds, according to photographs. On August 11th, the Group destroyed an oil storage dump at St. Florentin. A late release hit a large gas storage warehouse near the target. According the an analysis by the Operational Research Section (of which an amendment to indicate more hits by this Group has been requested), the Group scored 9% within 500 feet, 58% within 1000 feet, and 85% within 2000 feet.

On August 12th, two squadrons completely covered the airfield at Laon/Couvron, postholing the field very well, and one squadron had 90% hits on Laon/Athies airfield. The strike photograph of this target was printed in the "Target Victory" publication of the 2nd Bombardment Division, a copy of which is enclosed. On August 13th, six flights bombed all the road intersections and small bridges west of the Seine River in order to cut off the German retreat across the Seine. The bombing of the Group was the best in the Division on this mission.

The mission to Dijon/Longvie airfield on August 14th was another highly successful affair. The lead squadron had 19% - 500 feet, 48% - 1000 feet, and 95% - 2000 feet, blanketing the MPI among the field's buildings The high squadron had 13%, 43% and 77% on their MPI buildings at the other end of the field. The low squadron covered the entire building area with incendiaries. The performance indicated excellent coordination of attack by all parts of the Group.

On August 15th, all three squadrons did excellent bombing on the buildings and surrounding area at Plantlunne airfield. The lead squadron had 30% - 74% - 99% on the MPI. Other squadrons dropped in the smoke on the MPI. Strike photos of bombing accomplished by the Group were again included in "Target Victory" for the Plantlunne mission, and 2nd Bombardment Division credited the 448th with 95% hits within 2000 feet.

In spite of determined anti-aircraft resistance, effective bombing was achieved on the mission of August 16th to the oil refinery at Magdeburg. A very thick smoke screen and heavy, accurate flak did not prevent the lead crews from dropping their bombs into the center of the refinery. The lead ship had been repeatedly hit by flak on the bomb run.

On August 18th, two squadrons completely smothered a small oil storage depot at Nancy. The low squadron had only a few hits on another such target just short of the main target. The mission to Brunswick on August 24th was fair. Heavy flak and other causes kept a couple of squadrons from doing a very good job.

On August 25th, the Group achieved highly satisfactory results on the mission to Rostock. 2nd Bombardment Division credited the Group with 100% - 95% - 85% hits for three squadrons within 2000 feet for a 93% average; and the Group was listed as runner-up for high score in bombing in that week's "Target Victory."

The mission to Ludwigshven of August 26th was not very successful. Due to heavy flak and a heavy smoke screen, few of the Groups participating in the mission, including the 448th, hit the MPI. Bombs were dropped in the city.

The consistent accuracy with which crews of the 448th attacked their assigned targets during August is outstanding if only by comparison to the more or less mediocre overall results obtained in the earlier months of the Group's operational activity. In order to account for the increased effectiveness of the Group's bombing, it is primarily necessary to consider the battle experience gained with each successive combat operation. The lessons learned in actual experience are manifested in every phase of activity, ground and air, connected with the achievement of an operational mission as the Group becomes more "battle wise."

In addition to the more efficient functioning of the combat crews themselves as they become increasingly skilled with the tools and familiar with the environment of their occupations, staff officers and their assistants also reap the benefit of perience in their work. For them, too, it is necessary to be gradually indoctrinated through the lessons of battles with the "why's and wherefores" of their particular duties until the performance of such duties is accomplished with perfection and a minimum of wasted time or effort.

In like manner, as the Group participates in more combat operations, an improvement in the quality of ground crew maintenance becomes noticeable. As this body of personnel gains skill at its work, there is more infrequent occurrence of malfunctions which cause aircraft to abort or which prevent accurate bombing.

Thus, it is seen that cumulative battle experience tends to yield more desirable bombing results as all personnel connected with the conception, planning, and organization and execution of an operational mission become increasingly expert at their work. It must be noted, however, that this factor alone is insufficient to insure an improved quality of operation. Combined with experience, a state of high morale among air and ground personnel is imperative in order that satisfactory results may be obtained from operational activity. The desire to succeed must be coupled with the ability to succeed in order to achieve the desired end, which in this case is the accurate bombing of enemy installations and their ultimate destruction through aerial attack.

A study of the operational success of the 448th Bomb Group during the month of August 1944, therefore, leads to the correct appraisal of an attitude of unprecedented high morale at this station concomitant with and in a measure dependent upon a justifiable pride in its achievements in the aerial phase of the European war.

The most important contributory factor to high morale has been the splendid progress of the war effort on the European Continent, considered in its direct relationship to the task assigned to and performed by this Group.

Recent targets attacked by the Group have been mainly airfields and oil refining and storage centers. Even to those personnel least instructed in the value to our total war effort of the destruction of German aircraft and oil, it was simple to see that their elimination from the German resources of war would be highly beneficial to the successful activity of our own ground and air forces. These particular targets were closely connected to the immediate battles at hand, as opposed to targets earlier in the Group's operation history which were strategic targets far removed from the actual field of battle. Hardly a day passed that newspaper and radio reports did not mention that the mobility of the German Army was greatly hampered by the lack of fuel oil and was thus subject to slow and cramped movement which provided excellent targets for Allied attack aircraft.

In addition, it was obvious that if Germany found it necessary to husband a fast dwindling air force, having its fields and planes in occupied countries destroyed, Allied ground forces would not be subject to attack from enemy aircraft and could therefore concentrate their full energy towards offensive measures. In other words, it needed no detailed and intricate explanation on the value of strategic bombing to convince our airmen that destruction of the day's assigned target would help to end the war sooner. Thus, in large measure, was provided the necessary desire to succeed which, combined with the ability to succeed, serves to explain the success of the Group's bombing during August.

As a further means of stimulating the crews to greater effort, strike photographs of both good and bad bombing results by members of the Group were posted in prominent places on the station with full details as to target, crew, and airplane number. A feeling of competition between crews was thus instituted to provide additional incentive for good bombing.

The number of airborne aircraft increased from the July figure of 585 to 667 in August. However, the figures for the number of aircraft airborne per mission are practically the same - July, 34.4 and August 34.3.

The number of aircraft attacking increased from 428 in July to 544 in August or from 73.2% to 79.2%, an increase of 6.0%. The August improvement is partially due to the fact that July figures include two missions in which no aircraft bombed because of weather and one mission in which 15 aircraft did not bomb because the section lead did not bomb. However, the August figures include one mission which was abandoned because of weather and one mission in which no bombing was done because of poor visibility.

The percentage of aircraft returning early remained about the same, increasing slightly from the 5.5% of July to 5.9% of August. The percentage of aircraft receiving sortie credit increased from 90.4% in July to 94.0% in August, reflecting the increase in the percentage of aircraft attacking.

Tonnage of bombs dropped, a prime index of activity, increased from 1183.5 to 1401.4 in August. The tactical use of aircraft - the number of sorties flown by each average on hand aircraft - increased from 8.8 in July to 10.4 in August despite an increase in the average number of aircraft from 60.4 to 62.4. Likewise, the tactical use of crews - the number of sorties flown by each average assigned crew - increased from 6.0 in July to 7.6 in August in spite of an increase in the average number of crews from 76.8 to 85.3, the largest number of crews yet to be assigned.

While the Group's section against the enemy in terms of aircraft attacking and bombs dropped increased, the number and percentage of losses also increased. The number of all operational losses which include aircraft lost in crash landings, aircraft lost to salvage as a result of battle damage, increased from 11 to 14, through remaining about the same on a percentage basis, 1.9% in July as against 2.0% in August. However, aircraft missing in action and crews lost doubled from 5 to 10 or from .94% to 1.3%. The 714th Squadron had by far the greatest number of losses, losing six crews and seven aircraft.

Combat battle damage for the month of August was of a moderate degree. Seven missions were completed with no combat damage. Total number of aircraft damaged was 41. There was one outstanding case of damage incurred by one of the Group's aircraft during the mission of August 24th to Brunswick. While over the target area, a burning Liberator passed over the 448th plane piloted by 1st Lt. William W. Gilbert of Detroit, Michigan. The stricken aircraft loosed its bombs directly overhead, and by clever maneuvering, Lt. Gilbert avoided seven bombs as they whizzed past his wings. One 500 lb. bomb, however, ripped a gash through the left wing destroying main wing supports, one of the gas tanks and damaging one landing wheel. Lt. Gilbert brought his ship back to Seething with a perfect belly landing, only three engines functioning, a 5 and 1/2 by 2 and 1/2 foot hole in his wing, twenty-five gallons of gas left, and an uninjured crew. An aircraft company representative examined the plane shortly after it landed and stated that one of the two main longitudinal spars had been severed and that the plane's return was a miracle.

After the mission of August 27th, the field was closed down until repairs could be effected on the main runway and perimeter strip. For the two days following, there was a complete absence of flying activity at Seething.

There were many awards to station personnel during the month: 15 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 113 Air Medals, 280 Oak Leaf Clusters to the Air Medal, 9 Bronze Stars and 4 Purple Hearts.

The most outstanding feature of station life during the month of August was the month-long Bond drive. The quota for this station in the Victory Squadron Drive of the Eighth Air Force was $87,720. The amount finally raised by all station units, excluding the 459th Sub Depot which is included in the Eighth Service Command, totaled $170,470 or 94% above the quota.

In the early part of the month the drive went slowly and did not meet expected partial quotas. It was finally determined that at least within the bombardment group squadrons, a concerted drive of personal contact between selected officers and each officer and enlisted man in the squadron would be made. At that time, approximately in the middle of August, less than half the station quota had been accumulated, i.e., approximately %35,000. In addition to the policy of super high pressure salesmanship, it was determined that certain incentives would be offered to spur the idle pound notes out of O.D. pockets into the Victory Squadron kitty. Following is a list of the rewards:

The results of this determined effort were truly amazing. In the short time of two and one-half weeks, approximately $135,000 were subscribed. Two bomb group squadrons exceeded their quotas by more than 100%. The 712th Squadron, assigned to collect $17,856.00, subscribed $39,025; and the 713th Squadron, assigned to collect $17,360, subscribed $41,655 - and won the prize of the case of scotch as the unit exceeding its quota by the greatest percentage. Individual winners were: Lt. Grenville K. Baker, 713th Squadron pilot with a $5100 purchase; Private Ernest G. Pilley, 715th Squadron radar technician with a $1325 purchase; and Lt. Baker's crew which purchased a total of $6025.

In connection with the Bond Drive, three major events of entertainment were staged at the base. On August 9th, Cpl. Billy Conn and an aggregation of Eighth Air Force boxing champions in all weights staged a boxing exhibition; on August 12th the Eighth Air Force All-Star baseball team, composed of soldiers who had played professional ball in civilian days, played the home team at Seething and won a close and interesting game by a 3 - 1 score; and on August 23rd, the Flying Yanks, a soldier-orchestra and show, was presented.

To round out the evening show of the boxing exhibitions, five preliminary bouts were staged between members of this station. Some of these men continued to appear with the Billy Conn show at other stations throughout the month.

The base was honored on August 23rd by the visit of Mr. B.P. Sullivan, British Consulate General at Boston. Mr. Sullivan visited the base while enroute from his former post as Consulate General for the Union of South Africa to his new position at Boston, Massachusetts.

Toward the end of August, a physical training program to include all base personnel was initiated. Athletic equipment was made readily available to all units through Special Service, and the training program was left to the supervision of the individual organizations.

A well-greeted innovation was the ventilating fan installed by the S-4 department under the supervision of Major John S. Laws in the station theater. In the short interval between the two evening shows given nightly at 1830 and 2030, the fan is turned on, and those individuals attending the second show are able to breathe relatively fresh air when they are seated. Much credit for this acquisition again goes to the indefatigable and devoted Special Services Officer, Captain Newton L. McLaughlin, whose efforts on behalf of the personnel at this station have yielded many installations which have materially aided in making life on the base as pleasant as possible. His recent promotion to Captain was heartily cheered by the thousands of men at this station for whom he has worked so tirelessly.

The baseball season at Seething ended on a sad note. After splendid showing throughout the regular season, in which the team won the first half championship of the Eastern League of the 2nd Bombardment Division and was runner-up for the second half title, they were roundly trounced in the playoffs for the League season championship losing two games to Hardwicke. Seething bowed out of the show with a dejected spirit but also with the defiant cry of "Wait till next year," except that everyone hoped that by next year at this time he could be seated at a stadium in the states dressed as a civilian with three bottles of pop in one hand, four non-G.I. hot dogs (with mustard and sauerkraut) in the other, and a score card between his teeth roundly jeering the umpire's latest decision or calling for a home un by his favorite big league team.