Narrative - Official Air Force Mission Description
VIII Bomber Command Mission No. 45: 76 B-17s of the 1st Bombardment Wing and 27 B-24s of the 2d Bombardment Wing are dispatched against the submarine yards at Vegesack, Germany; 73 B-17s and 24 B-24s drop 268 tons of bombs on the target at 1531-1535 local. Seven U-boat hulls appear severely damaged. This mission marks the first successful combat use of automatic flight control linked with bombsights. Our claims are 52-20-23; we lose 1 B-17 and 1 B-24; 1 B-17 is damaged beyond repair; 9 B-17s and 14 B-24s are damaged; casualties are 1 KIA, 16 WIA and 20 MIA.
Source: THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, 1941-1945 by Carter / Mueller, the Office of Air Force History,
Bombing Altitude: 24,000 ft. Ammo Fired: 45,000 rounds. Enemy Aircraft Claims: 8 Destroyed, 5 Probables, 3 Damaged.
Twenty 303rd BG(H) B-17s took off. The take-off time had been advanced one hour. Crew members were unaware of the drama about to unfold and the fact that this mission would forever be one of the historic 8th Air Force missions.
This was the first time that the 8th Air Force was to use Automatic Flight Control Equipment (AFCE) linked with a Norden bombsight on a wide scale over Europe. The automatic pilot enabled the bombardier to guide the aircraft with his bombsight adjustments during the bombing approach. In earlier trials the AFCE equipment was not entirely satisfactory. After improvement modifications, AFCE equipment was installed in most Group lead bombers, even though its reliability was never assured.
All task force bombers were loaded with six 1,000 lb. H.E. M44 bombs. The 303rd BG(H) was at 24,000 feet with its entire force of 20 B-17s. No flights were aborted. There was 2/10-4/10 cloud cover with unlimited visibility. The task force still had 73 B-17s and 24 B-24s of the 103 originally dispatched.
The B-17s came under attack near Heligoland by 25-75 JU-88s, ME-109s, and FW- 190s. The 303rd BG(H) formation bore the brunt of most of the Luftwaffe attacks. During the bomb run, intense heavy, black, concentrated and accurate flak was encountered from the target area. There was also quite a bit of flak from the coast. At one point the 359th BS(H) was bracketed by bursts.
The lead B-17 of the 359 BS(H) was #41-24561, The Duchess, piloted by Capt. Harold Stouse. On 31 March 1944, it was the oldest operational B-17 in the 8th Air Force.
The Group bombing was highly accurate and Vegesack was described as "extremely heavily damaged." Later photographic reconnaissance revealed that the 268 tons of bombs on the target had severely damaged seven U-boats and two-thirds of the shipyards had been destroyed. The shipyards would not operate again for several months.
Seventeen of the 303rd BG(H) aircraft landed at Molesworth following the mission. Seven of the surviving men were wounded due to flak and frostbite. There was a considerable amount of battle damage to most of the aircraft and many landed with one engine out. The pilot commended on the mission was Lt. Morales of the 358th BS(H), who landed his B-17 with the starboard engine out and a flat tire. A high price was paid for this significant mission.
source: 303rd Bomb Group web page http://www.303rdbg.com/
306th Bomb Group Mission Report MISSION
VIII BC 44
Vegesack, Germany submarine yards
INFORMATION IN DETAIL
Bombing: 1533, 27900 ft
RESULTS OF BOMBING
Very good; direct hits observed
Light flak near Bremerhaven; Heavy accurate flak at target; Heavy inaccurate flak at Emden on way out.
ENCOUNTERS AND CLAIMS
20-25 E/A near Heligoland; nose attacks
Attacks from German coast to target and back out to sea.
Ball turrets on two A/C failed
11 guns on various A/C not operational due to freezing
Inferior ammunition lead to misfires, jams
source: 306th Bombardment Group website www.306bg.org/
44BG Mission Report - Our three remaining aircraft joined with three each of the other two squadrons and participated in a mission to Vegesack, Germany. Our formation was attacked before the target by almost every type of enemy aircraft, and raging air battles ensued. The 68th Squadron recorded their tally of six enemy aircraft destroyed, (FW-190s, Me 109s & Me 110s), probably destroyed 2 and damaged one, Again, the 67th and 66th did not record theirs. Though experiencing so many attacks, no planes were lost from the 44th, but we had many damaged. The official claims were: 13-6-8 - (Destroyed, probably destroyed, damaged).
source: 44th Bomb Group web page http://www.8thairforce.com/44thbg
91st BG / 323nd BS Mission Report - Five ships from our squadron, piloted by Capt. Dwyer and Clancy; Lt. Giauque, Rand and Walker took part in the extremely successful bombing of the submarine building yards at Vegasack, Germany. Approaching from a northeasterly direction and flying across the narrow direction of the target. The bombing was well directed and concentrated, securing praise from all high commands, including Winston Churchill. Seven nearly completed submarines on the ways are believed destroyed. This was the largest effort of US bombers so far, with ninety-seven ships over the target. Three tons of
bombs were carried for the first time on a big mission.
91st BG / 322nd BS Mission Report - Group dispatched 16 A/C to attack the sub pens at Vegesack, Germany at 1530 hours with 5 x 1000 bombs. Three of these were from 322nd. Lt. W. D. Beasley #545, Lt. Don C. Bader #178, Lt. Wm. Genheimer #497. The attack was quite successful, the bombing excellent. 60 E/A attacked and 14 destroyed. We lost no A/C and suffered no casualties. Following 322nd E/A destroyed: Lt. Don C. Bader #178; S/Sgt. W. C. Budcisz R.W.G. dest. FW 190 T/Sgt. R.F. Dale (') T.T.G. dest. FW 190 Sgt. A. E. Berkowitz L.W.G. dest. FW 190 Last two were __'__ #497 Lt. Wm. Genheimer
91st BG / 324th BS Mission Report - Target: Vegesack power house at Sub. - building yards - Bombing results reported as very good. Large fires and billowing smoke were seen to rise from the target area. Crews report that nearly all our bombs were seen to burst squarely within assigned target area. E/A opposition was intense and considerable but we were lucky.
91BG / 401BS Mission Report - Very good - many hits on the entire target area. One oil storage plant blown up and heavy fires started. Medium and intense flak was encountered at or about the target area. 50-60 E/A being ME109, ME110. FW190 and Ju88 were encountered north-west of Frisian Islands at or about 1453 hours to German Coast at 1515 hours and from 1527 to 1555 hours. Final attacks were from 1555 to 1620 hours just off Juist Island to 75 miles out to sea. Most attacks were on the nose.