461st plaque

461st Bombardment Group (H)

April 1944 May 1944 June 1944 July 1944 August 1944 September 1944 October 1944 November 1944 December 1944 January 1945 February 1945 March 1945 April 1945 May 1945

December 1944

Mission #142

2 December 1944

Target: Blechhammer South Synthetic Oil II Refinery, Germany

Major Donovan led a six flight formation on 2 December in attacking the South Plant of the synthetic oil refinery at Blechhammer, Germany, by pathfinder method.  A very effective smoke screen with the smudge pots located considerable distances from the target seemed to have baffled the navigators, the bombardiers, and the mickey operators in the lead and deputy lead planes.  Upon returning to base they expressed undivided confidence that they had hit the target, but photographs of the mission revealed that the target was missed by approximately seven miles.  Of the twenty-six planes over the target two were severely damaged by flak and thirteen others were hit.  One man was wounded on this mission.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #143

3 December 1944

Target: Ali Pasin Most Marshalling Yard at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia

Canceled


Mission #143

3 December 1944

Target: Innsbruck Main Marshalling Yard, Austria

Two missions were briefed the morning of 3 December.  A four box formation assigned to bomb the Ali Pasin Most M/Y at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, was stood down, but the two pathfinder individual plane mission to Innsbruck Main Marshalling Yard, Austria, was flown.  Both planes bombed the target by pathfinder methods above a ten-tenths undercast with unobserved results. Flak at the target was negligible.

The plane flown by 2nd Lt. Robert R. Friedersdorf returned to the base without incident, but the one flown by 1st Lt. Bertrand J. Arents developed serious engine trouble on the return route and was compelled to land at Rimini.  All but three of the crew members hitch-hiked back to the base. Nineteen days elapsed before Lt. Arents returned to the base with the plane.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #144

6 December 1944

Target: Maribor South Marshalling Yard, Yugoslavia

Bad weather seriously hindered the mission of 6 December when Captain Mixson led a six flight formation against the South Marshalling Yard at Maribor, Yugoslavia.  Some of the planes in the formation became lost when attempting to get above a stratus layer based at 15,000 feet.  Some of these stray planes bombed individually and others bombed with different Groups in the Air Force.  The formation which was able to stay with Captain Mixson found poor visibility and nine-tenths cloud coverage at the target.  Pathfinder methods were used for navigational purposes and for the target approach, but the bombing was done visually with observed results.  Nine planes were hit by flak over the target.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #145

7 December 1944

Target: Innsbruck Main Station, Austria

Mission No. 145 was a two plane pathfinder mission against the Innsbruck Main Station, Austria, the night of 6-7 December 1944.  2nd Lt. Robert J. Louches and his crew were forced to return early when their number four engine caught on fire.  The plane piloted by 1st Lt. Robert A. Galvan hit the primary target.  Radio conversation which was overheard on this mission revealed that enemy night fighters were attacking bombers of the Fifteenth Air Force on this mission.


Mission #146

8 December 1944

Target: Moosbierbaum Oil Refinery, Austria

Mission No. 146 was another two plane pathfinder mission against the oil refinery at Moosbierbaum, Austria.  It was flown the night of 7-8 December.  The plane flown by 1st Lt. Hubert W. Souther could not get to its briefed altitude because of icing conditions.  When it finally reached the initial point the visibility was so good that lights in the target area could be seen in the distance.  With inadequate cloud protection, the crew abandoned the target, jettisoned their bombs in the Adriatic, and returned to the base.

The second plane, piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert R. Friedersdorf, encountered five enemy fighters after making landfall at the head of the Adriatic.  Three of the unidentified fighters stood off the wings of the bomber at a safe distance while two others attacked, making their passes low, one from each side.  The bomber crew jettisoned their bombs, fought off the attack, found cloud cover and returned to base.


Mission #147

11 December 1944

Target: Vienna Maitzlendorf Goods station, Austria

Pressing to complete his tour of duty, Colonel Hawes led a formation of thirty planes in attacking the Vienna Maitzlendorf Goods Station on 11 December 1944.  With only two-tenths cloud coverage at the target the enemy flak, which was intense, accurate, and heavy, was probably the worst ever experienced by this Group at Vienna. Fourteen of the twenty-four planes over the target were hit.

Several Groups in the Fifteenth Air Force had already hit targets in the South Vienna Area before this Group arrived at the target.  Despite good horizontal visibility the Group was compelled to bomb by pathfinder methods due to the smoke screen, the fires, and the haze in the target area.  The bomb pattern was a concentrated one but unfortunately most of the bombs fell just short of the target in an industrial area.

1st Lt. Jay M. Garner had his hydraulics shot out and his cables jammed on this mission.  He circled the field for nearly two hours using up his gasoline and waiting for his crew to find some way of letting down and locking the landing gear.  Finally, when nearly our of gas, he bailed out all but two other members of his crew and successfully crash landed the plane in the darkness on the non-serviceable East runway.  The co-pilot, Lt. Roger Nixon, and the engineer, Cpl. Charles Barnes, rode the plane down with him.  None of the three were injured and much of the plane was salvaged.

Major Joseph N. Donovan, the 767th Squadron Commander, led the second section on this mission and became the third squadron commander in the history of the Group to complete a tour of duty.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #148

12 December 1944

Target: Blechhammer South Synthetic Oil Refinery, Germany

For Mission No. 148 another feature was added to the ever changing tactics employed by the Fifteenth Air Force in its endless effort to keep pressure on German oil and rolling stock despite adverse weather conditions.  Six pathfinder planes were assigned to hit the Blechhammer South Oil Refinery during daylight hours.

Instead of flying individual missions with short intervals between each plane over the target, the planes for this mission were scheduled to fly and attack the target in three flights of two planes each.

Of the six planes scheduled for the mission, only five got off.  Two were early returns due to mechanical failures. Each of the three remaining planes bombed a different target.

While one of the planes was en route to the target it was discovered that the radar set was not working accurately.  Because of this, the town of Gattendorf, near Vienna, was picked as a target of opportunity and bombed by a combination of visual and pathfinder methods with unobserved results.  A second plane developed gasoline leaks en route to the target and so was compelled to bomb the second alternative target, the Privoz Oil Refinery at Moravska Ostrava, Czechoslovakia.  One plane hit the primary target with unobserved results.

Flying between two decks of clouds, 2nd Lt. Robert T. Barnes and his crew were jumped by enemy fighters north of Lake Balaton on their return from the Privoz Oil Refinery.  A formation of four ME-109's were led out of the clouds by an unidentified plane which might have possibly been a radar plane.  In the encounter which took place before Lt. Barnes could reach the protection of the clouds below him, two of his gunners were wounded and one enemy airplane was probably destroyed.

The plane which went to the primary target was compelled to land at Vis to refuel on the return route.  (Despite the fact that this is the first mention in this History of one of our planes having landed at Vis, there is nothing unusual in this incident.  On the 13th mission of the 461st Group on 23 April 1944, 1st Lt. Matias M. Torres Jr. had bailed his crew out over the Island of Vis.  Following that incident one or more planes in a Group formation which were running low on gasoline frequently stopped at the friendly Isle of Vis to refuel.)


Mission #149

13 December 1944

Target: Brux Synthetic Oil PIant Czechoslovakia

Canceled


Mission #149

13 December 1944

Target: Linz Main Marshalling Yard, Austria

Canceled


Mission #149

14 December 1944

Target: Brux Synthetic Oil Plant, Czechoslovakia

Canceled


Mission #149

14 December 1944

Target: Linz Main Marshalling Yard, Austria

Canceled


Mission #149

15 December 1944

Target: Rolling Stock at Linz Main Marshalling Yard, Austria

On 15 December the Group Commander, Colonel Hawes, completed his tour of duty in leading the Group and Wing formation in an attack on the Main Marshalling Yard at Linz, Austria.  After take-off the rendezvous was made above a ten-tenths layer of clouds with tops at 6,000 feet.  Horizontal visibility at the target was unlimited, but the solid undercast necessitated instrument bombing with unobserved results.  Over the target the Group experienced moderate, inaccurate, and heavy flak, but not 1 single plane which returned to the base was hit.  The plane flown by 2nd Lt. Clarence P. Marshall left the formation before the initial point and failed to return to the base.

It seemed a most fitting conclusion to Colonel Hawes' tour of duty that he took twenty-nine airplanes over the exceptionally well defended target area of Linz without having a plane hit by flak.  As a Group, Wing, and Air Force leader, he had repeatedly demonstrated his ability during his tour of duty to come off rough targets having suffered a minimum amount of damage.  When not leading the Air Force, he had habitually made it his practice to maneuver his formation in such a manner as to sit tight above the tail of a Group or Wing formation immediately ahead of him over the target.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #150

16 December 1944

Target: Brux Synthetic Oil Refinery, Czechoslovakia

On 16 December Major Rider lead a large formation against a far distant and heavily defended target, the synthetic oil refinery, at Brux, Czechoslovakia.  The formation flew between two decks of clouds over the Adriatic, but experienced fairly good weather over the Alps.  Over the target the tops of the solid undercast were up to 20,000 feet.  Taking advantage of the high solid undercast, Major Rider was able to almost completely avoid the intense flak.  The plane flown by 1st Lt. Lee P. Ward Jr., which failed to return from the mission, was the only plane over the target to be hit.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #151

17 December 1944

Target: Odertal Oil Refinery, Germany

Captain Mixson took off on 17 December with thirty-one airplanes to attack the synthetic oil refinery at Odertal, Germany.  There were five early returns.  Only fifteen of the twenty-six remaining airplanes reached the target, the bombs were dropped through a solid undercast with unobserved results.

To minimize drag and thus conserve gasoline for the long mission, the gunners had been briefed to stand by to lower the ball turrets but not to actually lower them until the IP, Zuckmantel, was reached. Near Muglitz, just south of the initial point, the Group was attacked by upward of fifty ME-109s and FW-190s.

The attack lasted approximately fifteen minutes during which the enemy used both rockets and 20mm cannon. Passes were made mostly in pairs from 5 to 7 o'clock low with break-aways also low.  The bombers which returned to the base claimed twenty-four of the attacking fighters destroyed and five probably destroyed.  Despite the fact that the ball turrets had the advantage of computing sights and the most favorable position against low attacks, they fired the fewest number of rounds and claimed the fewest enemy airplanes of any position on the bombers.  Of a total of 12,260 rounds of ammunition expended, the ball turrets expended but 1365 rounds.

As a result of the fighter attack, nine planes in the formation were shot down and a tenth one was lost to ditching while in the traffic pattern near the Island of Vis.  In all, ten planes were lost, five others were damaged, three individuals were killed, two were wound and ninety-three were missing in action.

On the way home from the mission, while North of Vienna, Captain Mixson was checking the number of planes left in his formation over the radio when a German voice, apparently using our radio frequency, broke in with the proper call sign to ask, "Where is the rest of your formation?", laughed, and signed off.

Killed in the ditching were 1st Lt. Eugene P. Ford, 1st Lt. Russell C. Landry and T. Sgt. Charles E. Priest.  The wounded were Sgt. Archie S. Russell and Sgt. Walter L. Franks. Missing in action were the crews of the following pilots: 1st Lt. Robert A. Galvan; 1st Lt. Charles V. Lang Jr.; 2nd Lt. Frederick B. Capalbo; 2nd Lt. Philip J. Crossman; 2nd Lt. Max M. Hailey; 2nd Lt. Nicholas Sidovar; 2nd Lt. Gerald R. Smith; 2nd Lt. Kenneth B. Smith; and 2nd Lt. Thomas J. West.


Mission #152

18 December 1944

Target: Blechhammer North Synthetic Oil Refinery, Germany

Mission No. 152 was a three flight formation led by Lt. Colonel Lawhon against the North Oil Refinery at Blechhammer, Germany.  Due to practically a solid cloud coverage the bombing, as usual, was done by pathfinder method.  The bomb strike pictures, however, show three small breaks in the clouds over the target.  A long and detailed study of these pictures, which was instigated by Colonel Hawes, revealed beyond a doubt that the target was exceptionally well hit by the fifteen planes in the formation.  Again a crew was lost on this mission when the plane piloted by 2nd Lt. Edward K. George dropped behind the formation after coming off the target.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #153

19 December 1944

Target: Blechhammer South Oil Refinery, Germany

Another three flight formation to Blechhammer, this time with the South Refinery as the target.  Of the eighteen airplanes off, two were early returns and six lost the formation in snowstorms.  These six planes, all in one flight, bombed Sternberg, Germany, as a target of opportunity.  The ten planes over the target dropped their bombs through a solid undercast with unobserved results.  Six of the ten planes over the primary target were hit by flak but there were no losses.

Mission bombing photo

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COMMENDATION

From: 49th Bomb Wing

To: 451st, 461st, 484th Bomb Groups. Attention: S-3 Officers.

Recent photographic coverage has proved that our relentless attacks have dealt crippling blows to the Hun and his most vulnerable spot - - his sources of oil.  Definite information verifying the effectiveness of the tremendous effort the combat and service units of this Air Force have been called upon to exert compensated in measure for the sacrifices entailed.  I realize that in ordering deep penetrations into enemy territory with favorable weather adding to the hazards of combat I have required the personnel of this command to exert a supreme effort.  It is heartening to know that such an effort has been crowned with success.  The devastated refinery of Blechhammer North bears witness to the valor, the outstanding flying proficiency and professional skill of our combat crews and to the determination of their combat leaders.  I commend the fighter pilots and their leaders on the brilliant performance of their escort assignments.  I congratulate the service units and the maintenance personnel of the tactical units on their excellent response to the arduous demands made upon them.  We know that our campaign is progressing favorably and that our successful attacks on the enemy in the recent months will hasten his complete and utter defeat."

(Signed)

TWINING


Mission #154

20 December 1944

Target: Villach Marshalling Yard, Austria

On 20 December a two flight formation led by Lt. Colonel Hardy took off with the synthetic oil refinery at Brux, Czechoslovakia, as the primary target.  The weather over Yugoslavia was so bad that it was impossible to keep even a two flight formation together.  As a result, one flight bombed Villach, Austria, and the other one bombed Linz, Austria, with the 484th Group.  The results were unobserved.  When the planes returned to the base the ceiling was 200 feet, but there were no landing accidents.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #155

22 December 1944

Target: Brux Synthetic Oil Refinery, Czechoslovakia

Canceled


Mission #155

23 December 1944

Target: Verona Locomotive Repair Depot, Italy

Canceled


Mission #155

24 December 1944

Target: Lechfeld Airdrome, Germany

Canceled


Mission #155

25 December 1944

Target: Wels Marshalling Yard, Austria

At 2200 hours on Christmas Eve the officers and men in transportation, armament and ordnance sections were ordered to the line in a cold, driving rain to change the bomb load from frag clusters to 500 pound RDX bombs.  These frag bombs had been left in the planes in anticipation of the possibility of flying the mission of the 24 December which had been stood down.

At 0744 hours on Christmas morning twenty-six airplanes took off to bomb the synthetic oil refinery at Brux, Czechoslovakia.  The planes were off in the rain which was accompanied by a visibility of two miles and a ceiling of less than 500 feet.  This was the poorest weather in which this Group had ever taken off for a combat mission.  The planes broke through the ten-tenths cumulus at 1500 feet and proceeded to the coast of Yugoslavia individually for assembly and rendezvous.  From the rendezvous area northward the weather steadily improved with the result that by the time the Alps were reached it was CAVU with haze.

Having been late in taking off and also having been late at the rendezvous, the Group did not have enough daylight hours left in which to complete a mission against the primary target.  As a result, the Group bombed the third alternate target, the marshalling yard at Wels, Austria.  The bombing was done visually but the target was missed.

It was long after dark that evening before the bad weather over the base moved out to sea.  Each of the pilots in the five planes which were early returns had difficulty landing because of the low hanging cumulus clouds.  Only one plane which was over the target returned to the base at the completion of the mission.  The pilot of this plane circled the field three times to get underneath a 200 foot ceiling. Most of the planes landed at Bari and at Gioia with a few at scattered fields in the Foggia area.  During the afternoon of 25 December a warning order for a mission on the following day was received by the Group.  This warning order was later canceled when it was learned by the Air Force that the Group would not have enough planes with which to fly a mission on 26 December.

During the day of the 26th the planes came straggling back to the base.  Having missed their target despite the good weather, having been away from the base for Christmas, and having slept in their clothes in a vain effort to keep warm the crews were a dejected lot.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #156

27 December 1944

Target: Venzone Viaduct, Italy

On 27 December Captain Roberts led a five flight formation to north Italy where the Venzone Viaduct was bombed visually. The planes carrying 1000 pound bombs, bombed by flights.  The main pattern of bombs fell on the west side of the viaduct where direct hits and near misses were scored.  The scattered patterns of the various boxes clearly demonstrated that practice bombing was sorely needed.

Mission bombing photo

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Mission #157

28 December 1944

Target: Venzone Viaduct, Italy

On the following day the Group and the Wing were back again in good weather to the Venzone Viaduct with 1000 pound bombs.  Again the formation led this time by Captain Phillips, bombed by boxes.  The best pattern started in the river west of the target and continued directly across the target.  The bombing on the whole, was much better than it had been on the previous day.

Photo reconnaissance on 28 December, after both attacks by the 49th Wing, revealed that the complete interdiction was achieved as a result of these two missions.  The structure, 2760 feet in length, 16 feet in width, and 32 feet in height, was completely cut in two different places.

Mission bombing photo

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COMMENDATION

From: CO 49th Bomb Wing, Command Section.

To: CO, 461st Bomb Gp.

The following message from General Twining is quoted for your information,

"My congratulations to the 49th Wing for superior bridge busting job at Venzone on the 27 and 28 of December.  Please pass to all Groups participating Well Done".

(Signed)

LEE


Mission #158

29 December 1944

Target: Rosenheim Marshalling Yard, Germany and Castelfranco Veneto Railroad Junction, Italy

The last mission of the month, flown on 29 December, was led by Lt. Colonel Hardy. The primary target was the Passau Marshalling Yard in Germany.  As had been the case earlier in December, Lt. Colonel Hardy drew especially bad weather assignment.  Scattered cirrus which extended up to 22,000 feet over the Adriatic, split the twenty-eight planes into two formations.  Two flights, above a solid undercast, bombed the marshalling yard at Rosenheim, Germany, with unobserved results.  The other two flights visually bombed the locomotive depot at Castelfranco Veneto where the weather was clear.  The photographs of the bombing of Castelfranco show a close concentrated pattern of hits on the large repair shop, the center of the marshalling yard, the west choke point, an industrial plant southeast of the locomotive depot, and the highway overpass.

On returning to the base three of the four flights found a hole south of the spur at Lake Lesina through which to let down for a return to the base.  The fourth flight failed to find a hole and was compelled to land at Iesi and Falconara where they remained until late afternoon of 31 December.  Captain Murphy, the Group Bombardier, completed his tour of duty on this mission.  With the exception of eighteen officers who returned to the Group on rotation to the United States, Captain Murphy was the last individual among the flying officers of the original Group and Squadron staffs and combat crew members to complete a tour of duty.  He was aboard one of the planes which landed at Iesi. When he returned to the base he learned of his promotion to Major.

Mission poop sheet

Mission bombing photo

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COMMENDATION

From: TWX A 00504

To: All Concerned

The following message received from General Twining is quoted for your information cite XVAF A230.

"The results of the bombing by the 461st Bomb Group against the alternate target, the locomotive depot at Castelfranco, were most excellent.  My highest commendations to the crews who turned in this splendid performance."


Messages and Commendations

From: Headquarters 49th Bomb Wing, 26 December 1944.

To: All Concerned :

The following teletype is quoted for your information, XVAF A 226. Herewith Christmas message from Spaatz: 'I extend my hearty wish for a joyous Christmas to every man in your command, both those flying the planes and those helping them in the air, and express to them my firm belief in their continuous effective use of air power in the year to come so ably displayed in the year 1944.'

(Signed) LEE