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Good morning all,
A key illustration in article involves an Italian island - still part of western Europe.
Note expression "post hoc thinking".
eastern Virginia, USA
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The tragic story of the bombing run:
source: 1, 2.HELL FROM HEAVEN
Mission 28 - A Tragic Day - April 13, 1945
By Leonard Streitfeld, Bombardier, 600th Squadron
It was Friday, April 13, 1945, a day I will never forget. Our crew had not flown for three days and the last mission I was on was with the crew that was shot down the following day. I couldn't get that off my mind.
However, my twenty-ninth mission was at hand. The lights being turned on again awakened us and the familiar, "You'se eat now and brief in 3/4 hour." It was 4:00 A.M.
When the lights went on, my radio also went on. It took about thirty seconds for the tubes to warm up and the first thing we heard was the announcer saying, "Word has just been received from the United States that President Roosevelt is dead." This was a shocking and demoralizing bit of news and no one was in the mood to fly after hearing it but we had no choice. The only thing that everyone was talking about was the news of his death.
We went through the usual breakfast and briefing. The target for the day was the marshalling yards in Neumunster and we were informed of a new type of highly explosive bomb called an RDX that all aircraft would be carrying. We were curious about this new bomb and I was hoping to see the bomb strike and get some pictures of the bombs when they exploded. Some of the bombs had markings on it like "To Adolph from FDR." These "greetings" were in his memory.
There was no charted flak on our maps and so we didn't expect a rough mission. This was fine with us.
The flight to the target went off smoothly. Soon we approached the target area, turned on the IP and went on the bomb run. Scanning the sky no flak was seen which always made me feel good and something less to worry about. We were flying in the low squadron and when we reached the target, the lead plane dropped its bombs and all others followed. The bombs in each plane were released at intervals making a train of bombs that streaked towards the marshalling yards making a direct hit.
Taking place in a plane in the lead squadron flown by Pilot Sam Palant and unbeknown to us, a drama was taking place. Palant asked for a bomb bay check to see if all the bombs were released. The Radio Operator, Sgt.Paul Brown took a look and immediately called back on the intercom that none of the bombs had left the plane.
The Bombardier, Lt. Nick Maraneas, who was flying his first mission with this crew, and Palant had a hasty discussion and it was decided to pick a "T.O." (target of opportunity) nearby and release the bombs.
The target picked was in the town of Bad Segegerg about 20 miles away from Neumunster. It would take five minutes to reach it. However, during this time the Pilot tried to reach the Bombardier to tell him to hold up on the drop. The message was never received and in a few minutes the bombs were salvoed.
Within seconds after the salvo, about 100 or 200 feet below the squadron there was a tremendous orange flash. This was followed almost simultaneously by the loudest explosion we had ever heard that sent shrapnel in every direction. I just couldn't believe it was flak since none of us had ever experienced anything like it before. The planes closest to the explosion sustained the most damage. Two of them with the engine and wings ablaze dropped out of the formation and started to go down. Many chutes were seen as the crews bailed out.
Four other planes were able to make it back closer to the front lines two landing in Germany. Two planes made it to France but one of them, whose pilot was Lt. Charles Merritt, had fires in the bomb bay, right wing and # 4 engine. He dove the plane down from 20,000 ft. to 8000 feet before he ordered everyone to bail out. Moments later the plane exploded.
In our plane a large piece of shrapnel came thru the Plexiglas window where I was sitting and landed past the cabin and near the catwalk. Another piece came in through the navigator's dome just over my head. Both pieces missed me by inches and how I didn't get hit is beyond me.
One more piece came in thru the pilot's window, narrowly missing Al and Hank, leaving a large hole for them to look through the rest of the mission. Not only were they both very lucky but so was the entire crew. Thank God they were not hit because flying without pilots could be hazardous to your health.