November 30, 1944
"Bosch....Bosch!” they said it louder the second time, as I didn't respond promptly. I was still catching up mentally with the final moments of my descent; turning myself around with the parachute lines in order to land downwind, then somersaulting as I landed to break the impact. As I stood up and became aware of the two farmers coming closer with pitchforks aimed in my direction, I decided that it would be advisable to attempt to identify myself. When I said, "American", their frowns became smiles and the weapons dropped.
The day had started as many others. We were awakened in the pre-dawn hours of the morning for a briefing session that would lay the plans for my thirtieth combat mission. The briefing room, as usual, had a tense air, while we waited for the Operations Officer to enter and pull the curtain, which covered the map showing our routes and the target for the day. As the curtain parted and our target could be seen on the map, there was an audible groan throughout the room. LUTZKENDORF! The 486th Bomb Group had been there twice before. The first time two of our group's planes were shot down by flak, and later in the month the 8th Air Force had lost 40 heavy bombers over the same target. Thus, when the third mission to Lutzkendorf was announced, we had some idea of what lay ahead, and as one of the deeper penetrations into Germany we knew it was not going to be a picnic. Forty B-17s took-off from our base heading for assembly of formations and proceeding to the continent.
As feared, intense accurate tracking and barrage type flak was encountered on the bomb run and in the target area. The Lutzkendorf raid inflicted serious damage to the 486th force. A total of 27 B-17s were battle damaged with 16 of them in the major damage column. The Operations Report lists the report of my plane and crew as follows:
"Aircraft #302 was observed going down under control within Allied Lines. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the crew bailed out and are safe. "
The flak was well aimed and was bursting accurately at our altitude. The sky was full of the black puffs as it exploded. Occasionally a close explosion would cause our plane to feel as if it had hit a bump in the road. These close ones were audible to us as muffled thumps. The ball turret gunner, Lyle McKenzie, reported a gaping hole in number three engine, with gasoline pouring out and it immediately died. The radio operator, Matthew Caggiano, shut down all the radio equipment (except the intercom) so that sparks would not ignite the fumes. We were over the target at this time and the bombardier, Charlie Cashin, opened the bomb bay doors and dropped the bombs The co-pilot, John Fox, was feathering the propeller on number three, when Lyle reported fire in number four.
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