Zwickau - 445BG

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Zwickau

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April 12, 1944

Target for today:  Aircraft Production Plant and any German aircraft on the ajoining airdrome.
Force dispatched:  25 aircraft from the 445th Bomb Group trailing the 389th BG (2nd CBW Lead); 453rd BG unable to form up with the Wing due to weather.

Tactical Situation:
2nd Bomb Division Field Order 259 directed a force of 122 B-24's (2nd and 14th CBWs) to bomb Zwickau and a second force of 146 B-24's (20th & 96th CBWs) to bomb Oschersleben.

Zwickau force:
2nd CBW - 389BG (lead), 445BG (trail), 453BG (rear)
14th CBW - 44th BG (lead), 392BG (trail)

Oschersleben force:
20th CBW - 93BG (lead), 446BG (trail), 448BG (rear)
96th CBW - 458BG (lead), 466BG (trail), 467BG (rear)

Synopsis of events for the Zwickau force:

Aircraft of the 2nd CBW experienced difficulty in assembly over England.  Dense cloud cover made Group and Wing assemblies almost impossible.  The 389BG and 445BG were able to assemble after much difficulty.  The 453BG was unable to complete their Group assembly and aborted the mission with all aircraft returning to base.

The inbound flight was troubled with heavy contrails and large cloud formations towering over 30,000 ft high.  According to the 445BG Lead Navigator's report (1st Lt Hal La Vine), the formation had been flying in persistent contrails and clouds were scattering the formation.  Dog legs were flown to the left and right of the base course for the Wing to reassemble.  At 1307 hours, a recall was received and the Wing turned to the right to take the reciprical course back to base.  During the turn, the formation dropped 1,000 ft in altitude to avoid more contrails.  That descent caused the fighter cover to lose sight of the bombers and presented an opportunity for the German fighters in the area to strike.  The following is from
JG 26 - Top Guns of the Luftwaffe by Donald L. Caldwell:

"On April 12, 455 heavy bombers took off from England to bomb targets in southern Germany.  Clouds and dense contrails caused severe problems in assembly and rendezvous and ultimately forced the cancellation of the mission.  The B-24s of the 2nd Bomb Division did not turn back until they had reached the German border.  Over Luettich they encountered the Fw 190s of II/JG 26.  When a thin layer of stratus cloud interposed itself between the 445th Bomb Group and its fighter escort, the German fighters attacked from beneath, pumping 20 mm cannon shells into the Liberator's thin bellies.  Five bombers went down before the Thunderbolt escorts regained sight of their charges and dove to their defense.  The German pilots were credited with two outright victories, seven bombers separated from formation, and one destroyed after separation.  Many damaged bombers were able to reach the clouds and thus escaped destruction."

The following table lists the 5 aircraft lost that day:

Pilot's Name

Tail Number

MACR #

Comments

1st Lt Samuel G. Schleichkorn

41-29118

3829

2 KIA, 3 POW, 5 EVD (evaded capture)

1st Lt Joseph (nmi) Pavelka

42-7601

3828

0 KIA, 6 POW, 4 EVD

2nd Lt Benjamin L. Love

42-100203

3831

9 KIA, 0 POW, 1 EVD

1st Lt John B. Anderson

42-109807

3833

1 KIA, 5 POW, 4 EVD

1st Lt Herbert W. Schultz

42-110021

4057

0 KIA, 6 POW, 4 EVD


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