44th Bomb Group Mission Number 14

Date City Country Target
2/26/1943 Wilhelmshaven Germany Port & Docks

Unofficial Mission Summary 

The mission for today was Wilhelmshaven with three planes from each squadron attacking the dock installations. Cloud cover was extensive but the planes of the 68th Sq. claim hits in the city as well as on slips in the north-west corner of the harbor.
On the return trip the three 68th ships had considerable difficulty. A/C #41-23811, "Facinatin Witch" was crippled and fell out of formation and the pilots of 41-23813 and 41-23699 dropped down to protect it although they knew they would have plenty of fighter attacks.
For a considerable time all three aircraft were attacked by FW 190s and Me 110s, with several claims of E/A destroyed and damaged, but all three returned safely.
The 66th's planes were not so fortunate as Captain Adams and crew as well as Lt. McPhillamey and crew were missing in action. The 66th had sent up six planes on this mission, three aborted, and only one returned (1st Lt. Miller`s) from the mission. Lt. McPhillamey recalls that they were flying "tail-end Charlies", the lowest three in the groups of B-24s and hit the prop wash of the B-17s ahead of them, and immediately dropped out of the formation. The three of us were instantly under attack by ME's and FW's - about 20 or more - who constantly bored in from straight ahead. I had two engines shot out and on fire, the oxygen was shot out and there was a fire in the bomb bays - and controls lost. I gave orders to "bail out". Shortly thereafter Capt. Adams was shot down. Lt. Miller was able to dive down and fly home with a group of B-17s. The Co-pilot, Lt. Wockenfuss, recently transferred in from the 93 BG, states that on the first pass our Navigator (Lt. Rexford Lippert) was killed. We could see the coast of Sweden and opt to try for it. It soon became apparent to all that it was hopeless, and the order to bail out was given. After the crew was out I started out. Our engineer had passed out from lack of oxygen and was blocking the exit. I must have beaten and abused him very badly trying to get passed him. I finally made it and was about to jump when something stopped me. I thought 'My God I can't leave the Engineer.' I then grabbed him by the collar of his fur flying jacket and backed toward the bomb bay - falling out dragging his limp
form with me. I saw him later on the ground and it looked like he had been through a meat grinder. I never did tell him that I almost had beaten him to death. I reasoned that he must have regained consciousness on the way down and had pulled the rip cord.
I landed about 100 yards from the main gate of a German Army Camp. The other 66th plane piloted by Captain Howard F. Adams, A/C # 41-23777 went down at about the same time. Only two men managed to survive out of the 11 men aboard - S/Sgt. James Mifflin and 2nd Lt. Wayne H. Gotke. Also aboard the ship was Robert B. Post, a New York Times correspondent. He was the only one of seven journalists - the "writing 69th" who chose to fly with the 44th on this mission. The others chose to fly on the Fortresses and all returned safely. It is probably this unfortunate loss of the first and perhaps, last, correspondent that led to the almost complete exclusion of news of B-24 operations for many months to come.
Lt. Gotke had been blown completely out of the nose section by a terrific explosion - either a flak hit or .20 mm shell. The explosion knocked him out and the cold air brought him back to consciousness. Though badly wounded he managed to pull his rip cord and parachuted on down where he landed between some trees.
He stated that the plane had exploded, pieces of it fell around him after his parachute opened, and the Germans told him that the largest piece to fall intact was the rudder assembly.
Immediately after-the return of the planes to the base, Lt. Kahl and two other aircraft took off to search for the two missing planes, thinking they could spot them ditched, but nothing was found - as they never reached the North Sea. Lt. Gotke said he landed about 3 miles south and west of Oldenburg, Germany.
The gunners of the 67th planes piloted by "Pappy" Moore, Bucky Warne and George Phillip's crews were credited with several enemy aircraft destroyed. However, due to the thick cloud cover, bombing results were unobserved; and, although the bombs fell on the city it is surmised that they fell at scattered points.
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