The USAAF based in Britain were now a formidable force, mounting ever larger attacks in daylight raids on the continent of Europe. They were encountering growing numbers of Luftwaffe fighters. It had been hoped that the Flying Fortresses, bristling with gun ports, would be able to take on the fighters, especially when they were flying in formation and able to defend each other.
It was now evident that the armaments of the bombers alone were not sufficient to deter the German fighters and the Allies lacked long range fighters capable of accompanying the bombers on the long missions to Germany:
SUNDAY, 13 JUNE 1943
(Eighth Air Force)
VIII Bomber Command Mission Number 63:
151 B-17’s are dispatched against the Bremen, Germany U-boat yards; 122 hit the target claiming 2-2-1 Luftwaffe aircraft; we lose 4 and 31 are damaged; casualties are 8 WIA and 32 MIA.
A smaller force of 76 B-17’s is dispatched against the Kiel, Germany U-boat yards; 60 hit the target and claim 39-5-14 Luftwaffe aircraft; we lose 22, 1 is damaged beyond repair and 23 are damaged; casualties are 3 KIA, 20 WIA and 213 MIA.
Heaviest fighter attacks to date against Eighth Air Force accounts for 26 B-17’s, mostly of the force attacking Kiel.
The planes attacking Bremen had a relatively easy time compared with those attacking Kiel:
From the 303rd Bomber Group Combat Mission report:
Major Glenn E. Hagenbuch, 427BS Commanding Officer, flew as the lead pilot in Bad Check, #41-24587. Twenty-seven Fortresses left Molesworth to attack Bremen in northern Germany.
Four aircraft returned early because of mechanical or equipment problems:
#41-24539, Jersey Bounce, 358BS (O’Connor) #41-24565, Idaho Potato Peeler, 359BS (Smith) #42-5177, Fast Worker MK II, 359BS (Mattison) #42-3131, Flak Wolf, 427BS (Burch)
Maj. Glenn E. Hagenbuch
The main Group formation of 20 B-17s of the 358th, 359th, and 427th Squadrons was led by 359th BS(H) CO Maj. William Calhoun, pilot, and Lt. Col. Eugene Romig, Operations Officer, co-pilot, in The ‘8’ Ball MkII. Maj. Lewis Lyle, CO, 360th BS, led seven of the 360th’s B-17s as part of a composite Squadron with the 379th BG(H). The 303rd BG(H) dropped 57 1/2 tons of 500-lb. bombs from 26,000 feet on the target area. Flak was reported as moderate, but accurate.
Both Maj. Calhoun and Lt. Col. Romig reported their bombing as ineffective. Maj. Lyle, pilot, and Capt. Fredericks, co-pilot, of Snap! Crackle! Pop!, had completed their combat tours. They flew a separate bomb run and also reported that their bombs fell in the target area. Capt. Fredericks stated, “The target was obscured in a rather heavy smoke screen, but the sighting was good and our bombs went right into the spot they should have.” 1Lt. George T. Mackin, flying as an official observer on the same B-17, added, “I went along to watch the formations of one of our newer Groups. Both their bombing and ours looked pretty good.”
All crews expressed amazement at the lack of fighter opposition. Not more than four to six enemy fighters were observed and none were claimed as destroyed. Most of the gunners did little more than “test fire” their guns. They felt it was more of a sightseeing trip than a bombing raid over Germany.
The 76 planes that attacked Kiel were less fortunate, the plan to divide the attention of the Luftwaffe had failed and most of them concentrated on this force. Amongst those killed was Brigadier General Nathan B. Forrest III, Chief of Staff, flying as an observer.
Nathan Bedford Forrest III was the great-grandson of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was regarded as one of the best and youngest Air Force Generals of his day. He was declared dead and posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross. After World War II, his body was recovered from Germany and he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery – ironically on grounds once owned by his great-grandfather’s commanding officer, General Robert E. Lee. He was the first US General killed in Europe.
Andreas Zapf at Chronicles of the Luftwaffe 1939-1945 has made a detailed study of the raid using all the available post war information.