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Combat Mission Diary of Cpt James F. Grey

The following is an account of my assignment to the 381st Bomb Group from June 22, 1944 through December 28, 1944.

Training for the B-17 program began for me in March of 1944. After graduating from the Hondo AAF, Texas Navigation School, I was commissioned a 2nd Lt. on January 15, 1944. After some leave time at my home in Wisconsin, I was assigned to B-17 crew training at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida. Our crew was formed with Lt. Floyd Metts as our pilot and Lt. Lingenfelter as Co-pilot. We picked up our brand new B-17 at the factory in Marietta, Georgia in May of 1944, and headed for England. We stopped at Gander, Newfoundland on May 28, 1944 and arrived at Nutts Corner, Ireland on May 30, 1944. After two days rest, we went to Stone, England on June 1, 1944 and trained there and at Hanley Hampstead, England, through June 21, 1944. Our crew arrived at the 381st Bomb Group on June 22, 1944. After a 2-hour training mission on June 27, 1944, our combat missions began on June 28, 1944.

The following is an account of my 30 Missions as recorded in my diary the day each mission was flown.

Mission 1: 28 June 1944
Plane: Touch the Button Nell II
Target: Reims, France (oil dumps and marshalling yards)

Very light flak about 10 minutes inside enemy coast, also light flak around Leon, France. One ship feathered #1 and aborted about 5 minutes from enemy coast. Bomb load consisted of two 2,000 lb. G.P. bombs. On the return trip we had to land at Ashfield due to weather closed in at our base. When we landed the hydraulic system in left wheel went out and we called our base for a plane to come and pick us up. Yates came one got us in “Stage Door Canteen”. Flying time for Mission #1 was 5 hours.

June 29, 1944

Took off at 0500, couldn’t find our formation. Flew over the Wash at 28,000 for about 3 hours in a mix-up of about 800 Forts and Libs. Flying time – 4 hours.

Mission 2: 4 July 1944
Plane: The Tomahawk Warrior
Target: Tours, France (bridge)

Took off at 0430 to bomb a bridge at Tours, France. Continent covered by complete overcast. Couldn’t find target so brought back our two 2,000 lb. bombs. On oxygen 6 hours. First mission that our whole crew flew together. Bond and Godfrey sick. One engine almost went out. Bobrof feathered #4 and left formation. Salvoed his bombs. Flying time 5 hours.

July 8, 1944

Bobrof reported missing in action by Squadron commander.

Mission 3: 6 July 1944
Plane: The Feather merchant
Target: Novall, France (buzz bomb launching)

The target was a buzz bomb launching outfit. Our bomb load was eighteen 250-H.G.P.s. Ship was “The Feather merchant.” Flying time was 4 hours.

Mission 4: 8 July 1944
Plane: Me and My Gal
Target: Calais, France (buzz bomb emplacements)

Eighteen 250’s! Target was buzz bomb emplacements in the Calais area. Very heavy flak. Flying time for #4, four hours.

Mission 5: 13 July 1944
Plane: Hell’s Angel
Target: Munich, Germany

Ship 265. Target at Munich, Germany, city rail yards. Heaviest flak I have seen yet. One piece hit our ship in the nose – scattered glass around but didn’t hurt Mac or I. Fighter hit the 24’s behind us. We had P38’s, P51’s, and P47’s for escort flying way out. Flying time, 9 hours.

Mission 6: 16 July 1944
Plane: Hell’s Angel
Target: Munich, Germany.

Airplane motor factory seven miles northwest of Munich. Light flak. Bombed from 28,000. Very cold. P51’s escort all the way to target and out. Came back with 2 new flak holes in the wing.

Flying time, 9 hours.

Mission 7: 18 July 1944
Plane: Hell’s Angel
Target: Peenamunda, Germany near Keil (experimentation center)

Took off in our ship (Hell’s Angel) and blew an exhaust stack on take-off so had to feather #2 and land and take #6115. Happened to be the ship we flew over from Maine. Target was Peenamunda, Germany near Keil. An experimentation center and hydrogen peroxide factory. Excellent results, smoke from fires up to 15,000 feet. Very intense flak. Bomb loads was 38 100 lb. incends. Flying time, 8 hours.

Mission 8: 19 July 1944
Plane: Me and My Gal
Target: Augsberg, Germany

Our own ship still being repaired. Target was Augsberg, Germany, 30 miles from Munich. An airfield and factory where they manufacture jet propelled aircraft. First day that we could see the target plainly. Leon said our bombs (10 500 lb. G.P.) hit dead center. Very accurate flak; shook us up a bit. Flying time, 9 hours.

Mission 9: 24 July 1944
Plane: Hell’s Angel
Target: Help invasion at St. Lo

Target was helping the invasion at St. Lo area. Consisted of gun and tank stores. Bomb load 38 100 lb. G.P. frag bombs. Light flak. Ship was our “Hell’s Angel (265-P). Flying time, 5 hours, 20 minutes.

Mission 10: 25 July 1944
Plane: Hell’s Angel
Target: Help invasion at St. Lo

This time we could see the ground and some of the heavy artillery fire. Bombed from 13,000 feet (lowest yet). Really got shook around. Target was destroyed. Jerry radio called to try and get us to bomb over our target. Flying time, 6 Hours.

Mission 11: 31 July 1944
Plane: Buffaloe Buf (Ship 060)
Target: Munich, Germany

They really threw up everything but their gun barrels at us. Bomb load 10 500’s. Flying time, 8 hours 30 minutes.

Mission 12: 3 August 1944
Plane: In Like Errol
Target: Mulhouse, France

Bomb load was twelve 500 lb. No Flak until coast near Antwerp. Real big and accurate. Flying time, 8 hours.

Mission 13: 4 August 1944
Plane: Hell’s Angel
Target: Peenamunda, Germany

Bomb load was five 1,000 lb. One ship caught fire and went down over the field area just after takeoff. We counter nine chutes and then watched the plane hit and blow up. After landing we found that there had been ten men in the ship and tail gunner had gotten killed. Don’t know who it was yet. Pretty disheartening to start a mission with. Flak heavy at target and also Danish coast. Our own ship “Hell’s Angel.” Very good bombing due to CAVU weather. Flying time, 9 hours.

Mission 14: 7 August 1944
Plane: Hell’s Angel
Target: Hamburg, Germany (depot)

Target was a depot halfway between Hamburg, Bremen and Hanover. Bomb load eight 1,000 lb. bombs. Heaviest load and very good results due to CAVU weather. Flying time, 7 hours.

Mission 15: 9 August 1944
Plane: In Like Errol (590 M)
Target: Paris, France (fuel dump)

Bomb load twenty 250’s. Target was a fuel dump 85 miles south of Paris. We got flak holes all over the ship, several in wing and tail. One just missed Mclaren and I got one in the nose almost under my table. Worst Flak yet; came from Cain area. Good bombing results; fires with smoke up to 15,000 feet. Flying time, 7 Hours.

Mission 16: 11 August 1944
Plane: Ship#267 X
Target: Paris, France (ammo supply)

Target and ammo supply 85 miles southeast of Paris. Bomb load eight 1,000 lb. Good results. Flying time, 6 hours.

Mission 17: 13 August 1944
Plane: Egg Haid
Target: Rouson, France

Bomb load thirty-eight 100’s. Target was road junction at Rouson, France. Blocked retreating. Germans very accurate flak. We had quite a few holes. Flying time, 5 hours 30 minutes.

Mission 18: 24 august 1944
Plane: Hell’s Angel
Target: Leipzig, Germany (Buzz Bomb Plant)

Bomb load five 1,000. Target, Buzz bomb plant south of Leipzig. We led a squadron. High Sqdn. Of group. The flak over Leipzig is the worst I’ve seen. Weather was good and we got a clear view of Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin, Hanover, Leipzig and Madeburg. Saw one fighter blow up over Leipzig. Our objective playing around there was to draw out the new German jet propelled fighter. We saw none. But passed over an airfield off from which 20 unidentified fighters took off to attack from. They got the “wing” behind us. One waist gunner wounded by flak. We had no damage. Results – fair overshot. Flying time, 9 hours, 30 minutes.

Mission 19: 26 August 1944
Plane: Pair of Queens
Target: Essen, Germany (Oil Plant)

Load thirty-eight 100’s. Target was a synthetic oil plant six miles north of Essen, Germany, and thirty miles southwest of Hanover, Germany. My first trip as wing lead navigator. Pilots were Yates and Col. Halsey. Lots of fun for a change, but somewhat more work. Good results. Made 1st Lt. Today. Flying time five hours, 30 minutes.

Mission 20: 27 August 1944
Plane: Minnie the Mermaid (Ship 614)
Target: Berlin, Germany (airstrip)

Bomb load ten 500 incendiaries. Target was an airstrip six miles south of the center of Berlin. When we got halfway there we got ordered to take a target of opportunity due to weather and so bombed Enden Harbor, Germany. Just as the bombays opened the Bombay motor caught fire and we had quite a time putting it out. The VHF radio caught fire and the #1 engine started throwing oil. We had to drop out of formation and almost hit the lead ship’s bombs. The worst luck we’ve had so far. A piece of flak came through the nose and made a hole the size of a baseball. Luckily it missed Mac and I. Flying time, seven hours 30 minutes.

Mission 21: 8 September 1944
Plane: Ship PFF 010
Target: Ludwigshaven

Another wing lead. Target Ludwigshaven. Bomb load five 1,000 lb. Not so good results. Altitude 30,000 feet. My 20th birthday too. Flying time, 8 hours.

Mission 22: 12 September 1944
Plane: Ship 990 PFF
Target: Brux, Czechoslovakia

Wing Lead. Target, Brux in Czechoslovakia. Our toughest mission to lead with so far. Also my first encounter with enemy fighters. ME-109’s; four of them flew so close that I could see the pilots plainly (a very good looking plane). No chance to shoot. Encountered them 10 miles north of Berlin. Total distance 1,300 miles. Altitude 28,000 feet. Flying time, 9 hours 30 minutes.

Mission 23: 19 September 1944
Plane: Ship #127
Target: Hamm, Germany

Flew group lead with Demegalaski and Maj. Taylor. Target was Hamm, Germany in the Ruhr Valley. Bomb load two 2,000 lb. Flak very accurate. Our tail gunner got hit in the back but his flak suit stopped it. The piece went through two cans of ammunition before it hit him. Some stuff. Flying time 7 hours.

Mission 24: 22 September 1944
Plane: Ship PFF 036
Target: Kassel, Germany

My first Wing Lead and it turned out to be a division lead. Flew with Col. Leber and Capt. Yates. The Col. Chewed and chewed about a turn I made near Wiesbaden and Frankfurt. We encountered no flak at target Kassel, Germany, but plenty from the Rhine and Moselle rivers. Ship PFF 036. Flying time 6 hours 10 minutes.

Mission 25: 28 September 1944
Plane: Ship PFF 090
Target: Magdeburg, Germany

Target was Magdeburg, Germany, 50 miles S.W. of Berlin. My second wing lead as Sqdn. Navigator. Capt. Yates (one of my best friends and the best pilot I know) finished. Wing Comdr. Was Capt. Tyson (new opp. off. [Good boy]). Very good mission. Flak not so bad. Bomb load six 500 G.P. F-500 incendiary and smoke. Flying time 8 hours 15 minutes.

Mission 26: 8 October 1944
Plane: Ship 010 PFF
Target: Brux, Czechoslovakia

My third wing lead and that turned out to be a division lead. So about 128 B-17’s were to follow where I took them. We couldn’t see Brux so bombed Zwichaus, Germany. That was our secondary. About 30 miles south of Leipzig. Lt. Col. Kunkel was commander and Deme the pilot. We made a couple 360’s at the target – almost got screwed up. O’cohners tail gunner bailed out over Osnabruk in the flak, and Mitchell was wounded in the arm. Now it’s evening and four buzz bombs just lit in our area. Pone flew up only one mile away. Cripes, flak all day. Buzz bombs at night, oh well. Flying time, 8 hours 30 minutes.

Mission 27: 17 October 1944
Plane: Ship 990 PFF
Target: Cologne (Koln) Germany

Deme – pilot with Maj. Taylor as Grp. Commander. My 4th wing lead. Target was cologne, Germany. The first time I’ve seen red flak, but it was all inaccurate. Mission went very good. Flying time 6 hours.

Mission 28: 28 October 1944
Ship 196 PFF
Target: Munster, Germany

Deme pilot. Major Taylor was Group Commander. Target was Munster, Germany. Marshalling yards. Mission went quite well. Route in over Zuider Zee. Flak very accurate. Weather very bad. Contrails and clouds and haze. My 5th wing lead and 10th or 9th credit lead. Flying time 5 hours, 30 minutes.

6 November 1944

Our most disastrous day since 4 July when Bobrof went down over France. Levitoff and his crew went down over Hamburg today and we lost three other ships from the Group. A burst of flak over the astrodome and shattered the nose of #3 engine. Newsome said he saw the co-pilot slump down in his seat. Later he counted six chutes.

Mission 29: 21 November 1944
Plane: The Alamo
Target: Merseburg, Germany

Target was a synthetic oil plant at Merseburg, Germany, 30 miles south of Leipzig. Bomb load was 10 500’s and 4 incendiaries. Mission went well until we got to the target and then rode into a front. Contrails were very heavy. We dropped the incendiaries on an airfield just north of Frankfurt. 398th got hit by fighters. Johnny Wallace was leading the 91st. It was my 6th wing lead and 10th lead altogether. Flak very accurate. Pilot – Deme; Co-pilot – Maj. Taylor. Flying time 8 hours.

Mission 30: 28 November 1944
Plane: ship 196 PFF
Target: Rhine (bridge)

Bomb load: two 2,000 lb; two 1,000; 2 smoke markers. Target was a bridge across the Rhine halfway between Coblenz and Cologne, Germany. The mission was almost 100% perfect. My assembly timing was perfect and I’m happy about it. We bombed G.H. due to 10/10 cloud. Weather was clear at 22,000 feet. The crew was Capt. Demegalaski (P); Lt. Col. Briggs (CP); Capt. Angevine (VN); Capt. Grey (N); Maj. Fullick (B); 1lt. Newsome (TG); 1Lt. Walker (NO) Very nice mission to finish up on. No flak, no fighters. Flying time, 6 hours.

One combat tour complete – now home for a while.

This is the end of the notes in my diary. Along about the 19th mission, I was made Squadron Navigator of the 535th. Lt. Bud Tabor took my place as Squadron Navigator when I left to come home. Gene Demegalaski and I spent an enjoyable Christmas of 1944 in Edinburg, Scotland on vacation. I came home via the Azores and Bermuda to Miami, Florida, in a C-54, and arrived in Miami on January 16th, 1945.

I decided to stay in the service, and I attended pilot school in 1951-52. I was in SAC until I retired on September 30, 1964. I had 22 years of active duty and during that time I flew B-25’s, B-29’s, B-47’s and T-33’s.

In looking back on the 22 years of service, I think I have the fondest service memories from that year in the 381st Bomb Group.

James F. “Jim” Grey
Lt. Colonel USAF
Retired