USAAF raid the Marienburg Focke-Wulf plant

The claimed ability for 'Precision bombing' featured this attack by 100 B-17s on a Focke-Wulf plant at Marienburg on Oct. 9, 1943.

A Douglas-built B-17F-50-DL Flying Fortress, 42-3352, “Virgin’s Delight,” of the 410th Bomb Squadron, 94th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 8th Air Force, is over the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter factory, Marienburg, East Prussia, 9 October 1943. The aircraft commander was Lieutenant R.E. Le Pore. (U.S. Air Force)

B-17s of the 94th Bomb Group attacking the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory at Marienburg near Danzig, 9 October 1944.

While the fires were still burning in Hannover and Bremen from the RAF night time raids, the German air defences had to be ready for the USAAF attacking by day. The tempo of operations was steadily being increased and this week was to see a series of big raids by the 8th Air Force, and corresponding losses.

On the 9th October the principal target was Marienburg in eastern Germany, where Focke-Wulf production had been relocated, having previously been sited at Bremen. It was thought that it was now out of range of the bombers – but the USAAF were to prove that to be a mistake.

Three other ‘diversionary’ but still very significant raids took place at the same time, also to targets in eastern Germany and Poland. This was the Mission report of the Group that went to Anklam:

303BG Mission Report – Target: Aircraft Component Plant, Anklam, Germany. Crews Dispatched: 20 (358BS – 7, 359th – 5, 360th – 4, 427th – 4). Crews Lost: 2Lt B.J. Clifford – 10 KIA. Length of Mission: 7 hours, 55 minutes. Bomb Load: 3 x 1000 lb H.E. M-44 plus 5 x M47A1 incendiaries. Bombing Altitude: 13,600 ft. Ammo Fired: 52,280 rounds. Enemy Aircraft Claims: 3 Destroyed, 7 Probable, 2 Damaged.

Crews ate breakfast at an early 0320 hours to make the 1,190 nautical mile trip to Anklam. The 303rd BG(H) led eight combat wings to the target, flying at a relatively low altitude of 13,000 feet.

The conditions at the target were perfect for an attack. There was no flak and no fighters were encountered in the target area. The weather was superb with no clouds and unlimited visibility. Bomb results were clearly visible and results were excellent. The lead bombardier, 1Lt. Byron K. Butt reported, “A damn well-planned, well-executed mission by all concerned.” The 303rd BG(H) dropped 27 tons of 1,000-lb. bombs and incendiaries.

After bombing and leaving the target, the first flak was encountered at Rostock. It was intense and accurate. From the target to Rostock, enemy fighter attacks were spasmodic. They then became persistent until about 100 miles from the Kiel Peninsula. Gen. Travis reported 169 ME-110s and FW-190s, and some ME-210s and JU-88s in this area. The P-47 fighters that were supposed to meet the bombers failed to make their rendezvous.

Aircraft #42-5221 was seen to be hit by 20mm cannon fire from a formation of three FW-190s flying abreast. The approximate position was at the Danish coast. It was last seen at 8,000 feet, with its No. 3 engine on fire and feathered. It crashed in the Baltic Sea south of Lolland, Denmark.

“It is the best bombing we have had,” Gen. Travis reported. “Our bombs hit right on the target perfectly. We watched them go down and if there is any target left, I don’t believe it. I never saw so many fighters in my life. It was a very active day.”

Maj. Calhoun, flying on his 27th mission said, “The fighters were really rough. They started at the front of the formation and went right through. Our ship was hit a couple of times, but no one got hurt. We won’t have to go back there. That thing is finished.”

S/Sgt. Charles C. Baggs, waist gunner on Flak Wolf, said, “There wasn’t enough ammunition left to kill a tea bag. And even then we were waiting until we saw the whites of their eyes before we started shooting.”

T/Sgt. William T. Hembree, engineer of Charley Horse, claimed one enemy fighter. “I got one ME-210 that tried to cross over us,” Sgt. Hembree said. “I let him have a long burst and the plane started to break up. He went down out of control and I saw a ‘chute’ come out.”

Other gunners claimed one destroyed, two probables, and six damaged enemy aircraft.

More info on this mission at the 303BG website

This strike photo was taken from Boeing B-17F-100-BO Flying Fortress 42-30353 (“Ten Knights in a Bar Room”) of the 95th Bombardment Group (Heavy). (U.S. Air Force)

Post raid reconnaissance image of the target at Marienburg, supporting the claims for ‘precision bombing’. Photograph taken by a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR flown by Squadron Leader R.A. Lenton and Pilot Officer Heney of No. 540 Squadron, R.A.F., 10 October 1943, showing results of the previous day’s attack. (Royal Air Force)

The Marienburg Raid was featured in the 1944 documentary Target for Today, which is a comprehensive overview of the work of the Eighth Air Force in the bomber war against Germany. This movie was previously available on YouTube. The raids begins at 1:00 on the video, with footage of the B-17 gun crews in action on the approach to Anklam.

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