PREPARATION FOR COMBAT MISSION
By Major Ralph Jones
446th Group Navigator

Usually, about midnight, Eighth Air Force in London would alert the Group to a mission to leave England the next morning for a bombing mission over the continent. Take-off time, or possibly a formation altitude at l2,000 or 15,000 feet above the channel might be given. Target, landfall point on the enemy coast would be given. Group navigator (squadron navigator at times) would figure wake-up times for ground crews and flight crews. Briefings would be prepared for crew navigators and lead navigator and alternates. Mess times were given for breakfast crews to prepare. Mission alerts for Group Commander and for lead crews were made. Lead and alternate lead crews were assigned by C.O.. Bomb loads and gas loads were put aboard by ground crews. Crews were woken up, fed and briefed in map rooms. Mission commanders, group and squadron navigators and bombariers would brief lead and alternate lead crews on missions. They usually were warned of anti-aircraft locations and likely enemy fighter opposition. Alternate targets were also listed in case of a weather-bound primary target. Group commander and squadron commanders were most often lead crews, although in later missions, most experienced lead crews might be assigned the duties. Take-offs were a prolonged effort with usually 40 to 60 B24's taking off in close positions to one another.

Most times, landfall over the enemy coast would vary, although in earlier missions, landfall was made at one location in France or Holland making anti-aircraft flak pretty heavy during coast penetration. Fighter (friendly) cover was at a minimum in earlier missions until wing tanks and belly tanks of extra fuel became the norm in later missions. Early fighter protection went just 50 to 80 miles into the enemy coast. With the arrival of belly and wing fuel tanks for the fighters, fighter cover became so complete that many of the friendly fighters strafed German airfields deep into enemy territory. That surely did make the B24 and B17 crews into happy campers.

The bombing run in itself was the "hairy" part of the mission. The run would usually be about 4 to 5 minutes in length. The lead bombardier would actually take over the plane, flying straight, no evasive run for the bombing. That was when it got "hairy" as that was where all the anti-aircraft guns were directed. Flak was all over the sky and pretty accurate as well. All just great for producing more gray hair. Just about alike for about 25 of 30 missions. Some four or five were missions were at buzz bomb sites right on the French coast. These were where the buzz bombs were launched at London and a few other choice targets for the Luftwaffe. These are just a few words to tell you of some of the "pleasures" of flights over scenic Germany during World War II.

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