Lou Prucha WWII Service
Pilot's Flight Log
12th Army Group Situation Map
Group, Unit and Historical Extracts for Mission 176
"416th Bombardment Group (L) - Group History 1944"
Transcribed from USAF Archives
Christmas Day arrived, and, although the holiday feeling prevailed, the 416th vowed that there would be no "Peace on Earth" for the enemy on this Christmas Day. We flew two missions on the 25th.
Taking off early Christmas morning, we continued to tie up the German supply routes to their Ardennes' salient by striking at the road junction and the town of Munstereifel itself. Only one flight of the formation was able to pick up the target, but they achieved superior results, hitting buildings and cutting the roads in the center of the town. Gee equipment failed in one flight, but it went on to bomb the town of Krimm, severely damaging and cutting the marshalling yard and highway. Another flight severely damaged the town of Kronenburgerhutte. Two other flights were unable to identify the target because of the haze and snow. The sixth flight lost its leader to flak going in on the target and did not bomb. Although the primary target was bombed by one flight only, its results and the results achieved on the two casual targets considerably impeded the progress of the counter-offensive. The flight leader's plane was hit by moderate to intense, heavy accurate flak that followed the formation from the bombline to the target. The plane, an A-20 Havoc, exploded in mid-air. One chute was seen to emerge and open. The crew consisted of Captain R.V. Miracle, Lt J.J. Burg, Staff Sergeants A.F. Galloway and J.R. Simmonds. An A-26 Invader was also hit going in to the target. Although the planes was burning, he continued on over the target and dropped his bombs with his flight. It broke way from the formation and went down burning, crashing just across the bombline. No chutes were seen. Lt K.W. Kehoe was the pilot; Corporal R.F. Graham, the gunner. Both crews are listed as MIA. The formation was badly hit by flak, with 14 planes suffering category "A" damage, 8 category "AC" damage, and one category "B" damage. This last mentioned plane, piloted by Lt William J. Greene, on his 65th mission, was hit in the right engine on the bomb run. He stayed with the formation, dropping his bombs on the target. By superior flying, despite injuries to his face caused by shattered glass from a broken windshield, he brought the plane back to one of our bases for a successful crash-landing. The plane was washed out. His observer, Lt J.L. Britt, was also wounded in the face by glass. Lt Col Willetts, Lt Royalty, B-N, and Lt Pair, Lt Corum, B-N, led the boxes.
"Attack Bombers, We Need You! A History of the 416th Bomb Group"
Pages 181 - 182
Mission #176 - 25 December - MERRY CHRISTMAS - AM - Munstereifel, Germany. A real sad day for such a joyous celebration. At 0900, the formation took off to bomb an important communication center. As the planes neared Malmedy and Munstereifel, heavy flak greeted them. Colonel Willetts and Lt. Royalty, BN led Box I. Other flights led by Captain Miracle, Lt. Burg, BN - Captain Prentiss, Lt. Burseil, BN, - and Lts. Pair and Corum, BN. On the straight and narrow bomb run, direct hits downed Captain Miracle's plane, he on his 65th mission. Lt. Kehoe of the 669th squadron took another hit, causing his plane to catch fire and go down. One chute was seen to open. In all, the main target was not rendered useless, since flak bursts obscured visibility. Bombardiers selected targets nearby, bridges, and roads, with effect. One plane piloted by Lt. Mooney lost his flight in the clouds, so he tacked on to another flight going in to bomb. Of the seven planes in that flight, only three were still together. Mooney's ship caught 74 flak holes in it. Lt. Greene of the 669th, on his 65th mission, was hit, but he did manage to get back. Mooney landed with a flat tire, but came out okay. Bombing scored one superior. Two did not bomb the primary and one - no attack.
"Operational History 668th Bomb Squadron (416th Bomb Group (L)) WWII"
Wayne Williams, et.al.
Merry Christmas; -- in peacetime those words would carry a wonderful feeling. Here, it marked the end of the trail for some of our best boys. Men, who came all the way with us, were lost today, one of the blackest days in the squadron’s history. They gave their lives on the very day that signified "peace on earth". Their sacrifices must never be forgotten, and never have to occur in the future generations to come.
Those who won’t answer the roll tonite are; Captain Richard B. Prentiss, Captain Richard V. Miracle, 1st Lt. Robert R. Svenson, 1st Lt. Jack J. Burg, 1st Lt. Francis H. Bursiel, S/Sgt. D.M. Brown, S/Sgt. P.G. Fild, Sgt. A.O. Wylie, S/Sgt. John H. Simmons, and S/Sgt. A.F. Galloway. The status of these men is unknown; they may be dead or alive. In many cases, witnesses doubt their chances of being alive. Time will tell, whom fate smiled on.
Very early on this Xmas morning, the formation took off to secure peace and happiness for the future world. Thirty-five aircraft were sent out, six of them containing crews from this squadron. The B/N Team of Miracle & Burg, with Gunners Simmons and Galloway led the second flight of the second box. Flying with them were; Lt’s Chalmers, Prucha, Montrose, Jacobsen, and Lackner?.
The trip over was mild until nearing the target. Again it was a communications center target, this time at Munstereifel, Germany. Heavy accurate flak came up, and took its toll. Just before the point of releasing bombs, a burst caught Capt. Miracle directly in the bomb-bay. The plane was seen t explode in mid-air, and that was all there was to it. Thus ended the career of four of the best men to have ever entered the squadron. Capt. Miracle was a West Point graduate, with a very promising future in the air. He had over 55 missions. Fate was against Lt. Burg, as he almost was lost on Capt. Meagher’s last flight. S/Sgt. Simmons, young and curly haired, had twenty missions to his credit. S/Sgt. Galloway was on the sure par with Simmons. This was one of the smoothest B/N Teams in operation. Several pilots on the mission claim to have seen one chute come from the plane. A dim ray of hope still shines for one of these men.
Another plane and crew was lost of another squadron. The rest of the formation returned intact to the base, badly riddled. Enemy planes were seen, but didn’t attack due to our perfect fighter cover. This mission was of 3:30 duration. Needless to say, everyone felt pretty bad when learning of the news. Xmas had ceased to exist for many. The results were good, with one "superior", two P.N.P., and one "no attack".
"668th Bombardment Squadron (L) History"
Transcription from USAF Archives
Christmas 1944 proved, ironically enough, the most disastrous day in the Squadron's history. Through cloudless skies, our aircraft participated in two highly successful missions against supply points behind the Ardennes salient. Intense accurate hostile ground fire was encountered on both sorties. The following personnel failed to return and are missing in action Capt. Richard V. Miracle, Capt. Richard B. Prentiss, 1st Lt. Jack J. Burg, 1st Lt. Francis H. Bursiel, 1st Lt. Robert R. Svenson, S/Sgt. Daniel M. Brown, S/Sgt. Arthur F. Galloway, S/Sgt. Phillip G. Fild, S/Sgt. John R. Simmonds and Sgt. Alvin C. Wylie.
Captains Miracle and Prentiss were original combat pilots of the Squadron. Captain Miracle, West Point graduate of the class of '42, was an able and respected officer on the threshold of a promising military career. Captain Prentiss, veteran of many hours of antisubmarine patrol in the Caribbean, and was a Flight Commander whose professional skill and wide experience will be sorely missed. Lieutenants Burg and Bursiel had both outstanding records as bombardiers, and they, as well as Lt. Svenson, were nearing the completion of their operational tours. S/Sgt. Fild was on the last mission of his combat tour.
"History of 670th Bombardment Squadron (L)"
Transcription from USAF Archives
Christmas Day of 1944 was different from others we had spent. There was the Christmas tree in the mess hall brightly decorated. There was the fine turkey dinner, which S/Sgt Payton’s men prepared so well. There was candy and fruitcake from home. There was even the radio blaring out with "White Christmas" and "Silent Night". But it was not like other Christmases we had spent. Thoughts were thousands of miles from Army Air Force Station A-55 that day. Two missions on Christmas Day kept everyone busy. The first was an attack on the Munsteriefel communications center and the town itself. Only one flight was able to pick up the target and achieved superior results. Another flight picked up another target and bombed it. This was the town of Krimm with its important marshalling yard and highway, which were severely damaged. A third flight hit the town of Kronen-burgerhutte. Moderate to intense, heavy accurate flak followed the formation from the bomb-line to the target area and knocked down one of the planes of the 668th Squadron. The formation suffered heavy flak damage on this mission. The afternoon mission was an attack on the defended village of Hillsheim, in which six of our crews took part. Although the primary target could not be picked up, heavy damage was scored on three secondary targets. They were the towns of Pelm, Fousdork, and Gereisten in Germany. Again the formation was subjected to intense accurate heavy flak from the bomb-line to the target and returning to the bomb-line.
"671st Bomb Squadron (L) Unit History"
Gordon Russell and Jim Kerns
Christmas day 1944 is one which will not be forgotten for quite some time… not only by the 416th, but the Germans who had the full Allied aerial might thrown at them from dawn to dusk and then some. Running two missions against heavily defended targets was a costly on indeed for the 416th Bomb Group. Toll for the day were four ships and crews lost and 39 aircraft battle damaged.
Colonel Willetts led the formation on the morning mission, taking to the air at 0900. The Group was briefed to hit the Communication center at Munstereifel being used as a key point in the German counter-offensive. Moderate to intense accurate heavy flak was encountered from near Malmedy to Blankensheim to the target. Lt. Royalty was unable to pick up the primary in the flak fury, but picked a railroad and highway near the town o Krimm and dropped his bombs with accuracy, severely damaging both. The second flight dropped their bombs on the primary with superior results, while Flight 111 picked a highway near the primary and bombed it with good results. Lt. Pair out the primary and failed to drop. Captain Miracle and Lt. Burg of the 669th Squadron led the second flight of this box and it was No. 65 for Miracle. However, fate stepped in and a flak burst caught his A-20, and the plane blew up in mid-air. Lt.Kehoe, also of the 669th, was shot down at the same time, his plane burning on the way down. One chute was seen to have opened, Lt. Mooney of this Squadron lost his own flight when it went through a cloud and joined in Captain Miracle’s as he was one plane short at the time. The other plane joined them and the seven-ship flight went on the bomb run, but when the flak had cleared only three of the seven ships were still together. Lt. Mooney’s ship, A-26B, 291 had 74 holes in it , but it made the jaunt back to the base and the pilot brought it down with a flat tire. Lt. Greene also of the 669th was on his 65th and almost didn’t make it. A burst of flak hit his plane and he made a crash landing, but he came out of it OK.
TACTICAL OPERATIONS (Ninth Air Force): Nearly 650 B-26, A-20s and A-26s hit rail and road bridges, communications centers and targets of opportunity in W Germany and the breakthrough area; fighters, including an Eighth AF group loaned to the Ninth AF, escort the 9th Bombardment Division, fly patrols and armed reconnaissance, and support the US III, VIII, and XII Corps along the S battleline of the enemy salient from Echternach, Luxembourg to NW of Neufchateau, Belgium.