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Gems From B -17 Pilot M r. Hardy White

Quick index: [ Bits of information | 379th History | Mr. White's mission diary | Comments from readers | Credits]


Finnish Virtual Pilots Association

I had the pleasure of spending a few hours talking to Mr. Hardy White. He was a co-pilot in a B-17 named "FATSO". He flew out of "Kimbolton" in England, with the 379th BG(Heavy), from Nov.1943 to March-1944.

He flew 26 missions, including the first Berlin mission and 5 missions during "Big Week".

He is an amazing man, and has given me permission to pass on anything I want, including his diary he kept for each mission!

He recommends the book "The Wrong Stuff", if you want to know what it was really like, flying a B-17 in the 8th AF, in 1943-44.

He was a co-pilot, but on the first mission to Berlin he was assigned to the tail gunner position. A General took his spot since it was the first raid on Berlin. They used Hardy in the back to help keep the formation tight by relaying info to the Pilot.

He flew 5 missions during "Big Week", but nothing really stuck out in his mind, except how tired they were.

Frodo
aka
Ron Proffer


Bits of information

The B-17 pilots loved to fly with the Liberators. The B-17s could fly above the Liberators, and they took the brunt of the flak and fighters.

The lower diamond in a group of bombers would usually get hit the hardest, if they were attacked. The new crews started out there, and if they survived they moved higher up in the group.

BLOODY 100th

He saw on more than one occasion, enemy fighters pass his group by ,to get to the 100th BG. (They were not known as the "Bloody 100th" for nothing!)

Attacked by Cadets

They were attacked by a bunch of cadets in training near Dijon France on Feb.6.1944. He said a Me-109 led a bunch of armed trainers in passes on their formation. They didn't lose any B-17s in his group, and was a very strange sight. He said the planes resembled an AT6 Texan, but were armed. (What kind of planes might these have been?)

The Abbeville Kids

He saw more 109's than 190's and feared the 109 more. The German fighters liked to hide in the contrails made by the bombers. You could not see them until they were right on top of you.
Most fighters would come in and attack and then split-s out. They ran into the "Abbeville Kids" on one mission, and he was very impressed. He said they came in and attacked the whole group from one end to the other, and would not split-s out. They would just turn back in and attack. They were very good shots also, as he saw a lot of bombers hit.

Attacked by Stukas

They were attacked by Stukas dropping bombs and cables on them. Even saw 4 engined planes attacking by standing off and firing at them. (What could these have been?).

P-47 Thunderbolt

When the P-47 kicked in his water injection (wep) you could see white rings of smoke pour from the engine. On more than one occasion he saw a P-47 simply fly an ME-109 into the ground. They would follow the 109 down through the bomber formation, and use short bursts of machine guns to keep it from turning. When the fighters got to a certain point the P-47 would pull out, and the 109 could not pull out and crashed.
He saw a P-47 chase a 109 down this way, and they passed right in front of his plane going straight down. He said the roar of the P-47's engine completely drowned out the noise from all 4 of their engines!!!!!

Flak

The 88's would burst with a black color, and were effective to 25,000 ft. The 105's reached higher.


Misc.

His plane was named "Fatso", and was named after one of the crew's wife.

Bombed a train yard and bridge one day. Another plane was filming the run. Later they were all shown the film. It showed a train trying to get up steam and get out of the yard before it was bombed. They hit the bridge and destroyed it, just before the train made it to the bridge. They could see the train and cars go right into the river.

They got their radio antenna's shot off a lot. They had a wire with a weight they trailed behind the plane and this was the back up antenna.

Maximum range the bombers gunners would fire was at 600 yards.

His opinion as to what brought down the bombers the most often was structural failure, and then fire.

On takeoff one of them used instruments only, and the other used visual references only. They feared vertigo.

There was an island, Heligoland, they flew near on occasion, and it was the worst for flak and fighters. The Germans did not want them any where near this island. He said the rumor was that it was for atomic research.

Most feared target was Berlin.

Never saw any ME-262's or ME-163's.


379th History

The 379th led the 8th Air Force in bombing accuracy, flew more sorties than any other heavy Bomb Group and had a lower loss and abortive ratio than any unit in the 8th Air Force for an extended period of time. Some of its other accomplishments include: development of the 12-plane squadron formation and 36-plane integral Group; use of a straight-line approach on the entire bomb run.

In May 1944 it was announced that the 379th had made an unprecedented "8th Air Force Operational Grand Slam" during the preceding month. This meant that during April the 379th was first in every phase of bombing in which Bomb Groups of the 8th Air Force were graded. The 379th Bomb Group was the only unit ever awarded the 8th Air Force Grand Slam, a very unique honor that included recognition of the following achievements:
1 - Best Bombing results (greatest percent of bombs on target)
2 - Greatest tonnage of bombs dropped on target
3 - Largest number of aircraft attacking
4 - Lowest losses of aircraft
5 - Lowest abortive rate of aircraft dispatched.

The 379th received two Presidential Unit Citations for its accomplishments in combat. The Group flew its last combat mission on April 25, 1945. The 379th Bomb Group remained active for two years, seven months and 29 days. During this period approximately 6,000 personnel were assigned to the Kimbolton airfield. The Group was deactivated on July 25, 1945, at a Casablanca, Morocco, Africa.

Links for the 379th

http://379thbga.org
http://users.erinet.com/29562/ScrewballExpress/379th.htm


Mr. White's mission diary

1.
Dec.11,1943-Emden-6 hr. Mission.
Walsh failed to drop bombs, finally got them out in lake in Holland. Everyone mad at him. Made very "sad" landing. Returns show 1,000 Huns killed by raid, 12.000 made homeless, out of cities 30.000 population. No enemy fighters seen by us. Saw very heavy flak. We lost 17 Forts. 3 Fighters. Shot down 117 enemy fighters & our fighters got 20 for themselves. We had lots of fighter cover. No injury to plane or, crew.


2.
Dec.13,1943-Bremen-6 hr. Mission.
Well, finally dropped our bomb load. Oh happy day!!! Made swell landing. Heavy flak, saw few fighters(enemy). Had wonderful fighter cover. What a welcome sight! Saw one 109, with two P-47's hot on his tail. Saw one Fort shot down. Saw one Fort hit the deck off Dutch coast. Probably made it home ok. No returns as yet:

Fatso-before we knew her, she was then Fearless Fosdick.

(9718)

3.
Bremen-Once again. Dec.16,1943
"What a day!" The good lord, was with us on this one today. For sure I'll never be able to thank him enough.
Talk about flak, we really saw it today, thick as could be. We received three hits. One in # 2 engine cowling, hit rocker box, one in left wing,& one in right horz. stabilizer.Saw one Hun fighter.Ran low on gas today.Feathered # 3,lack gas.# 2 died upon landing.# 4 died while taxing.Had 10 gals on landing.Flaps had to be cranked down.Oxygen system went out over Germany.I had to go back to radio compartment & Smail was out cold! I finally got his mask on, & gave him oxygen.He was ok,we were, at 27,000 ft.then.
Overcast right on ground.Really a rough trip.Sure hope I never see another baby like this.
We finished # 3 in a blaze of glory. ha! One more & Sanda gets Air Medal. Two more & I get it myself.
Well it was worth it,had a letter waiting for me from of all persons " My Darling ".
Results: Smoke seen for 50 miles.Paper calls it worse flak ever seen in E.T.O.
Sanda put one engine in idle cut-off!
Big Bust- 048-What a wreck.

4.
Beauboir- Dec. 24, 1943 - 4 1/2 hr. Mission
Bombs out right on top target.Target completely destroyed.A beautiful job of bombing.Saw no enemy fighters,all kinds of ours.Sky was black with them, as well as our bombers.Didn't see any flak at all.
A nice Xmas gift from us to Hitler.

Dec.28, 1943 - George Schuemanne crashed at 6:30 in the morning.

5.
Jan. 5, 1944 - Kiel- 8 hr. Mission.
We paid a part of our debt, for George today.Blasted the hell out of the city.Did a swell job.Flak light but accurate.Saw fighters, & lots of them.Had fighter cover thank goodness.Saw four Forts. crash & burned at field! One man may live.One Fort. blown up over target,rocket hit right wing.Made Air Medal today & not posthumesthly. ha! Oh goodie! Bombs fell right in the city.Interphone out on "Fatso " & we had fighters.Saw Heinie plane towing bomb on cable.

6.
Jan. 7, 1944 - Ludwigshafen- 8 hr.Mission
No fighters.Saw flak over Frankfurt.B-24's (banana boats) were along & they got the fighters.We had P-38 & 47 escort.One P-38 flew formation with Forts.
# 3 Engine had run away prop.after we crossed English Coast.Came in with feathered engine.Had to change engine.

7.
Jan. 11, 1944 - Oserschleben- 7 1/2 hr. Raid
Our first really rough mission.We had 15 fighter attacks.Ball turret got one confirmed F.W.190.The pilot bailed out.Both tail guns went out.We jumped our plane all the way across Germany.We were under attack for 1 1/2 hrs.
Hit our target, & destroyed it.I flew for nearly 4 hrs. straight.Sure was tired.Landed at another field, due to bad weather.
Had no holes in our plane & no one hurt.Thank goodness.
I hope I never see another raid like this one.
President Unit Citation to 379 BG.
08.5- 25th ship

8.
Jan. 14, 44 - Gueschart - 3 hrs. 45 min.
Ran into heavy flak, # 2 was knocked out,one piece hit Sanda's windshield.Made nice landing on three engines.I'm afraid we missed target.One sqdn. did hit it.
Sanda was sorta scared, of course! He believes in flak suits now.

9.
Jan. 21, 44 - Le Mes Nil Allard - 5 1/2 hrs.
No flak & no fighters.Made about 10 runs, clouds over target.Finally we & lead ship - Major Parks 524 th C.O. dropped 10 bombs in target area.Saw some P-47's & P-38's.Quite a day.Plane - 718 was terribly wing heavy.

10.
Jan. 29, 1944 - Frankfurt - 7 1/2 hr. Raid
Had swell fighter support,had several attacks by Kraut fighters.P-47's & P-38's took em out.38's on one side & 47's on the other.They worked them over.Saw one crippled Fort. get 3 109's that attacked it.
Another boy missing,Jack Rhyner.Sure hope he shows up.
Good old cluster day.
Flak was light, thank goodness.
Bridewell & Talbot - Navigator shot through middle with U.S. .50 Cal.Lived 1 1/2 hrs.Gave Pilot course,home,10 minutes before he died.
Came home on the deck in the clouds!

11.
Jan. 30, 1944 - Brunswick - 6 3/4 hr.
Good fighter support.P-51's & P-47's.Low sqdn. of low gp. caught hell.Several Forts. went down.
Condensation trails very bad.Kraut fighters hid in them & came up!
Nelson put in damaged claim,hope he gets it.He is one good boy.
Lt. Davis & Fowler(Chuck) missing!
Lt. McCall came home crash landed plane all shot up.

12.
Feb. 3, 1944 - Wilhelmshaven - 6 3/4 hrs.
Wonderful fighter support.P-47's & P-38's.The 38's were right in our formation.Pretty easy raid.
We led the second element, of the high sqdn. high group.
Everything fine except that tonite, we lost our pilot. Sanda made Operations Officer.Sure hate it.Reduces our chances of finishing about 90 %.

13.
Feb. 4, 1944 - Frankfurt - 7 hrs.
Fighter support was fair.Flak was hell ! Flew through Ruhr valley going in & coming out.We got 8 holes.Two darn big ones.
It was Sanda's last one with crew.
The good lord was with all of us & there is no mistake about that.I'm certain he & he only decides who goes down & who returns.
Last raid with Sanda.He is new Operations Officer.
100% battle damage to ships.

14.
Di-Jon,France-Chateaudun - Feb. 6 - 7 3/4 hrs.
First mission with Ballou-New 1st Pilot.He flies wonderful formation.Saw very little flak & no enemy fighters.Lots of P-47 's & P-38's.One 38 flew formation with us for a good 1/2 hr.One Fort. went down & entire crew went out of it.
Hit our third target.Sure glad to be this far along.

15.
Frankfurt - Feb. 8, 1944 - 8 hrs.
One more in.Had head on fighter attack by F.W. 190's.They got our low diamond man.
Had lots of flak over target.Cpt. Brownlow had red ribbons on two of his bombs.
Fairly good fighter cover.We guarded fighter channel.
Had P-38's P-47's & P-51's.
Flew new G. Really a nice plane.

16.
Leipzig - 2-20-44 9 hrs.
Fair fighter support.Several enemy fighter attacks.Saw a couple good dog fighters.
Nearly burned Germany down today.Looked like a good job.
Really a deep job, over 5 hrs. over enemy territory.
Nine to go!
Everyone ok.

17.
Quakenbruck - 2-21-44 5 1/2 hrs.
Secondary target,primary one was in flames when we arrived,so we burned another one.
Perfect fighter cover.Didn't see single enemy fighter.Very little flak.
Everyone ok !

18.
Halberstadt - 2-22-44 8 1/2 hrs.
Fair fighter support, but not enough of them.Saw at least 200 fighters (enemy) .Flak was terribly accurate.We missed target.Others hit it.
Lost Simmon's crew, with " Earthquake " Jones.Lost Sgt. Fallon of Schumann's crew.
Lost Lt. Morse & crew.
Lost Lt. McCall & crew.
Lost Lt. Sloane & crew.
Also five other crews from 379th group.
Horrible sights,that no man will ever forget.
100% Battle damge to group.

19.
Schweinfurt - Feb. 24-44 7 1/2 hrs.
Raid that you dream about.Best fighter support yet.Had 47's - 51's & 38's.Very little flak & at target only.Saw a 4 tube battery of rockets at target.
Destroyed target ! See the smoke for miles.
All bombers went in together.I saw no enemy fighters today.Although the B-24's did get attacks.Which the 47's soon took care of !
Thank God for another mission finished !

20.
Vacqueriette - 2-28-44 - 4 1/2 hrs.
Good fighter support.Flak heavy as heck.Fatso was shot all to pieces.Bremer was hit by flak in left shoulder, his 21st.Not hurt too bad.
Our brakes were shot out, a battery was hit.
Fatso is grounded !

21.
Frankfurt - 3-2-44 8 hrs.
Good fighter cover.Even saw R.A.F. fighters.P-47's & 51's were with us all the way.
Missed the target I'm afraid. ha!
Smail dropped his chute harness out the bomb bay at the target.He was a nervous wreck by time we got home.We got more flak & a few hits.
Yocom had to call fighter cover & came in crippled.Landed short of field.Sure glad to hear he is in England.

22.
Croisette,France - 3-13-44 5 1/2 hrs.
Fair fighter support.P-47's.We got two big holes in radio room.
Hit some more damn bad flak.Lt. Soso was hit, but ten chutes came out.

23.
March 16, 1944 - Augsburg 9 1/2 hrs
Fair fighter support.Had about six enemy attacks.Had flak over target.It was very inaccurate.
Flew -024- Duvall's ship.We finished up Sgt. R.J. White today.Sure glad for him.

24.
March 18, 44 - Oberpfaffenhofen 9 1/2 hrs.
A very long hard trip.Good fighter support.Had an attack by a 109.I called it as a P-51.It passed so close, could see the Kraut markings.
Blowed hell out of a field full of planes.
I made 1st. Lt. today !

25.
" Finish "
Berlin - 3-22-44 9 hrs. 50 min.
Fair fighter escort.No enemy fighters.Heavy accurate flak.Flew tail on wing lead, Lt.Col.Rhor.Bombardier was hit in both feet.Had three control cables shot out.One more to go.Hope the Good Lord stays with me ! He sure was today !

26.
" Gratis "
Aheln,Ger. March 23, 44 7 hrs
Thanks to the Good Lord I finished my tour.Oh happy day ! Wonderful fighter escort.No enemy fighters,little flak.No hits.
Flew dear old "Fatso ".She is a wonderful ! Old plane & a wonderful ground crew.
A.M. Sterling M/Sgt.
" Johnson Sgt.
" Kelly Cpl.
Arm. Merlingo Sgt.
" Bodigan Cpl.
Thanks to God's Mercy !

Finis !!


Comments from readers

Heligoland

Heligoland is located 70 km from the German coast line, and actually consists of two islands: The populated 1.0 kme- main island (Hauptinsel) to the west and the Düne to the east, which is somewhat smaller at 0.7 kme-, as well as lower, and surrounded by sand beaches. They were connected until 1720, when the natural connection was destroyed by a storm flood. The highest point is on the main island, reaching 61 meters from sea level. The two islands are part of the district Pinneberg of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The main island has a good harbour and is frequented mostly by sailing yachts.

History of Heligoland

Under the German Empire 1914, the islands became a major naval base, and during the First World War the civil population was evacuated to the mainland. The first naval engagement of the war, the Battle of Heligoland Bight was fought nearby in the first month of the war. The islanders returned in 1918, but during the Nazi era the naval base was reactivated. During the Second World War the islanders remained on the main island, but on 18 April 1945 over a thousand allied bombers attacked the islands leaving nothing standing. The civil population was protected in rock shelters, most of the 128 people killed being anti-aircraft crews. The islands were evacuated the following night.

From 1945 to 1952 the uninhabited islands were used as a bombing range. On 18 April 1947, while destroying the military installations, the Royal Navy detonated 6800 tons of explosives in a concerted attempt to destroy the main island. In 1952 the islands were restored to the German authorities, who had to make a huge amount of munitions safe, landscape the main island, and rebuild the houses before it could be reinhabited.

It is now a holiday resort once again and enjoys a tax free status, so much of the economy is founded on sales of cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and perfumes to tourist that visit the islands. The islands are also outside the Schengen area. Its inhabitants are ethnic Frisians who speak a distinctive Heligoland variety of the North Frisian language(s).
Sailor

Armed trainers?

The armed trainers were possibly captured fighters used as advanced trainers.Likely Bloch MB151-152 or 155. They have radial engines. The Luftwaffe had captured NA-64 License built by the French. In my source it says they were used as "preliminary trainers", and nothing about armament.
Udet

Stukas attacking?

I asked him about the Stuka's,a couple of times after he told me that.I was very surprised.He was firm in what he saw,and did say they were wallowing pretty bad trying to stay in the air.I wonder if they had stripped the Stuka's before they tried these attacks? The condor part was my speculation,he just said they were 4 engined planes that stood off and fired at them.
Frodo


Credits

On this page you'll find the article "Gems from a B-17 pilot" written by Frodo aka Ron Proffer. Frodo had the honor of meeting Mr. Hardy White, who served in the 379th BG(Heavy) during World War II and received permission to post the discussions and his mission diary to the internet. Mr. Hardy very kindly also granted permission to Finnish Virtual Pilots Association to publish the diary. We are very thankful for that, mr. Hardy, and wish you all the best from the other side of the world.

Copyright VLeLv Icebreakers / Virtuaalilentäjät r.y. / Finnish Virtual Pilots Association 2003.

 

  

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