Lou Prucha WWII Service
Pilot's Flight Log
12th Army Group Situation Map
Group, Unit and Historical Extracts for Mission 174
"416th Bombardment Group (L) - Group History 1944"
Transcribed from USAF Archives
That afternoon a mission that seemed doomed for failure from the first took off to attack the defended village of Waxweiler. The morning mission was just returning when word of the afternoon mission was received. Some of the crews were unable to eat dinner because the briefing for the second mission had started before the interrogation of the first mission was completed. There were no pictures of the target available so that 1:100,000 maps had to be used. Briefing was still going on when, according to the time schedule, the engines should have been started. It was also the first time that Capt. Morton and Lt. Moore had led a formation on a visual bombing mission. Their inexperience as formation leaders plus the lack of time for sufficient preparation and study caused a grave error to be committed. When Lt. Moore's Gee equipment failed, he fell back on D/R. He mistook the town of Arlon, inside our own lines, for the target. His bombs fell on a marshalling yard on the edge of town. The other five flights realized the error and located themselves for an attack on the proper target. Snow that covered the ground further handicapped the navigation. The second flight bombed the town of Seffer near the target area. Lt Conte, Captain Hulse's bombardier in the lead plane of the second box, located the primary target and scored excellent results on it. The two flights in Captain Hulse's box followed him in and bombed targets in the vicinity of the primary.
"Attack Bombers, We Need You! A History of the 416th Bomb Group"
Pages 178 - 181
Mission #174 - 23 December - PM - Waxweiler Marshalling Yard. Captain Morton and Lt. Moore, BN of the 669th squadron were assigned to lead Box I, with Captain Hulse and Lt. Conte, BN to lead Box II. Moore was being indoctrinated to become a box leader and the assignment was for Lt. Conte to take over in the event Lt. Moore got in trouble. Other flight leaders were Lts. Miracle and Burg, BN, Lts. Greeley and Basnett, BN, Lts. Brown and Kerns, BN, Lts. Lackovich and Muir, BN, and Lts. Estes and Hlivko, BN
When Box I approached the Initial Point, they took off in the wrong direction, toward a marshalling yard being held by allied forces. Conte tried to contact Moore to have him bring his box behind Box II but Moore kept going, dropping his bombs on our equipment and gasoline supply. It happened to be some of General Patton's gas for his tanks.
Conte turned his box toward the assigned target, blanketing it. He then got Box I to fall in behind his, and they returned to base.
On the way to de-briefing, Major Napier summoned Conte and Hulse into his tent. Napier was on the phone with General Backus of the IX Bomber Command and said that Backus wanted to talk to Conte. Backus wanted to know what happened up there. Conte explained he saw Moore going off- target, so turned his box toward the assigned one and dropped. Backus tore a little into Conte for breaking formation, but then congratulated him for doing the right thing. General Backus told Conte he was coming to our squadron in a few days and wanted Conte to navigate a mission with him. This was done on 27 December.
The more experienced bombardiers on other flights were aware that the first box was heading in the wrong direction, so they did not drop. Lt. Claude Brown, with Lt. Jim Kerns as BN, relates this story:
Jim and I were assigned to fly flight 2 on the first box, this is the flight to the right of the leader. At the IP, we broke off into flights to do our individual bombing.
At the IP, I didn't hear anything from my bombardier
I said, 'Jim, they called the IP.'
Jim said, 'I'm sorry Brownie, I don't see a damn thing I recognize.'
So I'm following the leader down the trail maybe thirty seconds or a minute, and they open their bomb doors. Again, there is silence. 'Jim, they opened their bomb bay doors.'
'Brownie, I'm sorry, just don't see anything I recognize.' said Jim.
Another few seconds go by and the leader announced, 'Bombs Away' I said with considerable emotion, 'they dropped their bombs.'
So we closed the bomb doors. As we left the target it was customary to put the aircraft into a slight dive to pick up about 300 MPH and scoot out of area as quickly as possible. On this occasion, I called the leader and asked him for permission to re-attack the target. That request was denied and I was told to take the bombs home.
I got on poor Jim's back all the way home. Said a lot of ugly things to him for the next two hundred miles. 'Jim, we practiced all winter, and the first time we have an opportunity to make a name for ourselves you screwed up.' I felt we were going to be in big trouble.
We landed without incident with our four thousand pound bomb load. We taxied to our area and our hardstand. Who should be waiting for us but the Squadron Commander. Oh brother, I thought, here it comes. I was sure a courts martial was coming our way. As I climbed out of the airplane he was all smiles, approached us and put an arm around me and said, 'Great job, Brownie'
I said, 'Sir, you don't understand, we've still got our bombs.' He said, 'Yeah, we know' then went and shook Jim's hand. By this time, the crew truck has come around to take us to debriefing. I'm in a quandry. I don't know what's happening. When we get to debriefing, there was a lot of hell raising going on. The leader's navigator mistook the city he was supposed to bomb, and he bombed on our side of the bomb line. The bombs struck a jump off point that General Patton was establishing. It contained a large reserve of fuel and supplies. As I understood it, he lost most of his gasoline reserves. The lead bombardier was court martialed.
First Lieutenant "Punchy" Moore was demoted.
"Operational History 668th Bomb Squadron (416th Bomb Group (L)) WWII"
Wayne Williams, et.al.
It was our day, today, as the sun came up with a clear sky and a heavy frost on the ground. This was our chance to hammer the enemy drive and bomb his supplies and communications. Both the 8th and 9th Air Force went all out today.
No sooner had the planes returned to their hardstands, when the ground crews were swarming around, refueling, re-loading, and preparing for the next mission. They hadnít long to wait, as the crews were briefed and out to the planes at 1430.
The roar of planes taking off soon filled the air, as thirty-seven aircraft left the base. This was the afternoon mission, Group Mission # 174. we furnished six crews this time, with the B/N Team of Miracle & Burg leading our flight.
This time Communications Center at Waxweiler, Germany was singled out by headquarters. The trip was uneventful, but for light inaccurate flak over the target. Out of the whole formation, only one flight bombed the primary target. Other flights developed difficulties, and bombed casual targets. There was no scoring on the bombings, and the planes returned to the base after a journey of 3:15. Out of the formation, five aircraft were damaged by flak, none of which were damaged seriously.
Thus ended the dayís operational flying. Now that the cold clear weather is here, the future holds promises of being very busy. Xmas draws near, but no one has much time to think about it.
"History of 670th Bombardment Squadron (L)"
Transcription from USAF Archives
With the enemy advance came a high priority job of destroying his vital supply lines. On the 23rd of December a mission took off to destroy the bridge at Sarrburg over which enemy materials were flowing. Twelve 670th crews took part in this attack behind the Ardennes salient. In spite of intense accurate flak over the target the planes dropped their 1,000-pound bombs with deadly accuracy and completely destroyed the bridge. Before this mission returned to base another was on fire. This was to attack the defended village of Waxwieler.
Ninth Air Force: In Germany, around 500 B-26s and A-20s attack rail bridges, communications targets, villages, a rail junction and targets of opportunity losing 31 bombers; fighters fly bomber escort, armed reconnaissance, and patrols (claiming 100+ aircraft downed and 3 airfields bombed), and support ground forces between Werbomont, Belgium and Butgenbach, Germany along the N battleline of Bulge and the US III, VIII, and XII Corps forces along the S battleline of the Bulge. In Belgium, the L-5s of the 153d Liaison Squadron, IX Tactical Air Command (attached to Twelfth Army Group), cease operating from Liege and return to base at Tongres; the 161st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group, based at Le Culot begins operating from Conflans, France with F-6s and P-51s.