Mission Number: 30
Date: 23 Feb ’44
Target: Steyr, Austria Ball Bearing Factory
449th A/C Over Target: 2527
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 67-1/2 GP
Enemy A/C Destroyed: 11(Des) 7(P
449th A/C Lost: 2
Thirty-one B-24H’s took off at 0749 to bomb the Steyrwaffen Walzergerwerke at Steyr, Austria. Three returned early. One returned because his nose turret was cracked from top to bottom by the shell casing from the plane (#22) in front of him; the second because two generators went out; and, the third because there were three leaks in the gasoline system. All three planes jettisoned their bombs in the Adriatic Sea, a total of 72 tons. One plane was completely destroyed and its entire crew of 10 killed when it crashed to the ground one mile north of Fragagnano, a town about 10 miles south of this base. Twenty-seven planes flew over the target and dropped 67.5 tons of 500-lb GP bombs with .1 and .025 fuses in the target area. Twenty-six returned to base at 1512 hours. One is missing. None at friendly fields.
Rendezvoused with the 98th Group. Proceeded to target. No evidence at target of anyone having been there before them, although two groups were supposed to constitute the 2nd wave. After bombing target at 1210 Able a rally was made to the right and formation returned to base along briefed route. Went sufficiently off course both on the way in and out near Klagenfurt as to experience flak from that city. P-38’s escorted them back from the target.
With few exceptions in the first attack unit of this group the crews of the returned bombers claimed direct hits on the factory buildings of the target. Corroboration of these claims appears in the report of the last ship in the formation. This report states that only one building appeared to be standing at the time of its bomb release and that few bombs were over the target. The building at the southeast corner of the area was specifically mentioned by numerous crews as being completely demolished, and after bomb hits, explosions inside the building occurred. Fires were observed with accompanying black smoke. At least one crew was certain that they bombed with good results the target of the 5th Wing, hits being observed in those factory buildings. One crew dropped their bombs on the town of Sierning, Austria, the town on the bomb run just west of Steyr. Very incomplete and inadequate photo coverage by a plane in the first flight of the first attack unit of this group showed ten hits in the target assigned the 5th Wing for the day.
Fighters: Apparently both attack units of this group were attacked by 30 to 40 ME-109, ME-110, and JU-88’s. The twin engine fighters attacked from the rear out of range with rockets at about 1500 yards and then closed with machine guns to 400 yards. Silver discs (reported as black by one crew) were dropped by some of them in front of our bombers. They attacked in line abreast (variously reported in groups of 6 to 9) slightly echeloned. The puffs were larger than flak puffs and blacker. They were not too aggressive. The JU-88’s were grey in color with mottled brown and green spots. The ME-109’s attacked singly from any angle. Their attacks were not very aggressive.
Flak: The general consensus of opinion was that over the target, flak was moderate to intense and accurate heavy. Batteries were located about 100 yards west of the large sweeping bend of the Enns River just above the city of Steyr. Heavy flak, slight and accurate, moderate and accurate, respectively, was also encountered both on the way out and on the return at Klagenfurt and Ljubijana. Near Graz the flak was heavy, slight, and accurate. The flak at Klagenfurt had black, grey and white bursts.
Total Losses: Two (2); One B-24, #37 crashed about 0805, soon after take-off, killing all 10 members of crew. The other, #31, was seen to wing over at the target and go into a steep dive; another observer, however, stated that this plane fell out of formation under control, but lost sight of it. Ten crew members were aboard.
Killed ———— 10
MIA ————— 10
Destroyed — 3 JU-88s; 6 ME-109s; 2 ME-109s
Probably Destroyed — 2 JU-88s
Damaged — 1 ME-110