Mission Number: 38
Date: 2 Apr ’44
Target: Steyr, Austria Ball Bearing Factory
449th A/C Over Target: 36
Tons of Bombs Dropped: 90 GP
Enemy A/C Destroyed: 12 (Des)
449th A/C Lost: 3
Thirty-nine B-24H’s took off at 0705 – 0754 hours Baker. One returned early due to supercharger trouble developing at 12,000 feet. Thirty-six dropped 90 tons of 500-lb GP bombs, with .1 and .01 fuses, at 1227 – 1232 hours from altitude of 20,740 – 22,000 feet. One dropped 2-1/2 tons at power installations in Hieflau and one dropped 2-1/2 tons at Knittelfeld. Thirty-four returned to base at 1500 hours. Three (3) were lost over target and one (1) crash-landed at a friendly field.
The 449th and 451st formed the first wave and rendezvoused over Manduria at 0806 Baker, at 3,000 feet on course to San Vito D’Normanni. The 98th formed the second wave and joined the formation near Fracafilla, at 0811 Baker, also at 3,000 feet and on course. The 450th and 376th formed the third wave. They rendezvoused over San Pancrazio at 0809, altitude 3,000 feet and also on course to San Vito D’Normanni. From this point the 449th took the lead to St Andrija Island, to Hieflau to IP and in to target. A sharp left rally was made from target to turn point of Volkermarkt and then direct to base.
It would appear from interrogation, substantiated by photos, that the target was well covered, but intense smoke makes it impossible to observe accurate details.
Fighters. Sixty (60) to seventy (70) enemy aircraft attacks were experienced. These attacks commenced about 20 minutes before the target, continued to and over the target, and about 20 minutes more after leaving the target. These were ME-109’s, JU-88’s, FW-190’s, and possibly some ME-210’s. They pressed a very heavy attack from all around the clock. In one instance ten (10) came in abreast from 6 o’clock and fired two rockets each from the left wing of their aircraft. All fighters either fell off to the left or went under our formation regardless of the angle from which they came in. The markings of these enemy fighters seemed to vary. Some were silver with red tails while others had a red nose and yellow tails. The main attack lasted about 20 minutes over the target. However, at 1059, two (2) FW-190’s and 4 ME-109’s attacked from 12 o’clock at 15,000 feet. All these ships were reported to have a red nose, or cowling and a yellow tail. Their attack was made at 4519N – 1522E. As late as 1325 at 4448N – 1522E, between Split and Sibenik, 15 fighters were observed attacking another formation. (Note: It appeared that the enemy fighters were reluctant to press home their attacks, rather standing off waiting to jump stragglers. When the fighters found a straggler they made most aggressive attacks.)
Flak. Over the target this Group experienced intense, heavy, and accurate flak from 12,000 to 28,000 feet, much of which was barrage type. One type was reported to be bursting high with a white flash and then to burn with a brilliant red color. It would appear that these anti-aircraft guns are radar controlled as they became inaccurate when window was thrown out. Aerial bombs and discs reported dropped while this formation was in the target area. Also, heavy, moderate and accurate flak was experienced at Hieflau (4736N – 1445E).
Observations. Two B-24’s collided over the target and a third was hit by debris from these craft. All three crashed. Seven chutes were seen to open. Another B-24, not of this Group, was seen to crash 12 miles east of Klagenfurt. Two parachutes were seen to open from this ship. Another crew reported seeing three chutes over Rattonmann, a town north of Klagenfurt. A chute was also reported at 4730N – 1423E. One B-17 was shot down over the target by a single engine fighter. One chute was observed and the plane was described as ‘butterflying down.’
[Total losses: Three (3), from collision over target. One damaged from fighters. Casualties from fighters: Five (5), one (1) seriously wounded. Victories: 12 enemy fighters destroyed.]
Five (5) additional victories (E/A destroyed) as result of crew of A/C # 28 which crash-landed at Foggia. Of these five E/A, 3 were ME-109’s, 1 ME-110, and 1 FW-190. This information obtained from late interrogation of above crew.