Narrative - Official Air Force Mission Description
Mission 494: 1,581 bombers and 500 fighters are dispatched to support a US First Army assault (Operation COBRA) with saturation bombing in the VII Corps area in the Marigny-Saint-Gilles region, just W of Saint-Lo; 5 bombers and 2 fighters are lost; 843 of 917 B-17s and 647 of 664 B-24s hit the Periers/St Lo area and 13 B-17s hit targets of opportunity; 1 B-17 and 4 B-24s are lost, 2 B-24s are damaged beyond repair and 41 B-17s and 132 B-24s are damaged; 9 airmen are WIA and 46 MIA. Escort is provided by 483 P-38s, P-47s and P-51s and also provide escort for Ninth Air Force B-26s; they claim 12-1-3 Luftwaffe aircraft in the air and 2-0-0 on the ground; 2 P-51s are lost (pilots are MIA) and 5 damaged. Due to a personnel error, bombs from 35 bombers fall within US lines; 102 US troops, including Lieutenant General Lesley J McNair, are killed and 380 wounded.
Mission 295: Late in the afternoon 106 B-24s are dispatched to bomb the Brussels/Melsbroek Airfield, Belgium but they are recalled because of heavy cloud formations. Escort for this mission is provided by 26 P-38s and 110 P-51s.
1 P-38 and 78 P-47s fly a fighter-bomber mission against the Fournival/Bois de Mont fuel dump; they claim 0-0-1 aircraft; 1 P-38 and 4 P-47s are damaged.
17 B-24s fly CARPETBAGGER missions during the night.
Source: THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, 1941-1945 by Carter / Mueller, the Office of Air Force History,
Operation COBRA continues - 11 B-26 and A-20 groups from 9th AF continue to bomb the rectangle adjacent to the Periers/St.Lo Road. 42 B-26s repeat the bombing errors of the pevious day and short-bomb the area again hitting the 30th Infantry Division. 9th AF fighters strafe German troop positions also. While killing many Germans these attacks tended to shroud the bombing zone with smoke and dust, thus, hampering the bombing barrage launched by 8th AF. Some of the 8th Air Force bomb drops were short also. The result was another tragic friendly-fire incident. 111 American soliders were killed and another 490 were wounded. Among the KIA casualties was Lt. Gen, Leslie J. McNair, who was conduting observation along the front lines. He was the highest ranking officer to be killed in the European theater in WWII. Despite the American losses the ground attack proceeded at exactly 1100 hours and First Army made an 800 yard advance though the bombed out zone.
483 of 500 Fighters (mix of P-47s, P-38s and P-51s) from 8th AF also particpate in the attack with strafing and bombing runs. German Lt. Gen. Fritz Bayerlein, commander of the Panzer Lehr Division commented in his memoirs "the bombers came as if on a conveyor belt. Back and forth the carpets were laid, artillery positions were wiped out, tanks overturned and buried, infantry positions flattened and all roads and track destroyed. By midday the entire area resembled a Mondlandschaft (moonscape), with bomb craters touching rim to rim. All signal communications had been cut and no command was possible. The shock effect on the troops was indescribable. Several of my men went mad and rushed round in the open until they were cut down by splinters. Simultaneously with the storm from the air, innumerable guns of American artillery pounded drumfire into our positions. Over 70 percent of my soldiers were either dead, wounded, crazed or dazed." Because of the friendly-fire casualties, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower forbids the use of heavy bombers in as a tactical support for ground troops for the remainder of the war.
Source: Notes from Lee Cunningham
303BG Mission Report - Target: "Operation Cobra" German Troop Centers and Concentrations west of St. Lo, France. Crews Dispatched: 39 (358BS - 9, 359th - 10, 360th - 10, 427th - 10). Length of Mission: 4 hours, 50 minutes. Bomb Load: 38 x 100 lb M1A1 Fragmentation bombs. Bombing Altitudes: 14,000 & 13,300 ft. Ammo Fired: 0 rounds.
A second tactical air strike to support the US 1st Army was flown by 37 303rd BG(H) B-17s forming the 41 CBW-A. No aircraft returned early.
In the target area there were 7/10 to 8/10 altostratus and altocumulus clouds with a 15,000 ft. base. Visibility was restricted to eight to ten miles in haze and smoke. The lead and low Groups dropped a total of 1,046 100-lb. M1A1 fragmentation bombs on their assigned targets. Photographs indicated poor results. The high Group did not bomb because it could not positively identify the target and because it was cut off by other Groups on the bomb run. No enemy aircraft were seen and anti-aircraft was only observed. Friendly fighter support was good. There were no casualties.
source: 306th Bombardment Group website www.306bg.org/
34th BG Mission Report - Mission #42 St. Lo area. Command Pilot: SIMPSON. 36 planes were dispatched and all 36 bombed the primary target, dropping 95.9 tons. 36 Credit Sorties.
source: 34th Bomb Group Mission List compiled by Gary L. Ferrell http://valortovictory.tripod.com
351BG Mission Report - 37 aircraft were sent on this mission.
source: 351st Bomb Group web page http://www.351st.org/ken.harbour
384BG Mission Report - 384th BG Mission Number 165. Primary Target: Tactical - Montreuil & La Chapelle, France
43 aircraft assigned to this mission: Completed Mission - 37. Scrubbed - 2. Ground Spare, Unused - 4
source: 384th Bomb Group web page http://384thBombGroup.com/
388BG Mission Report - For the second consecutive day the 8th Air Force sent its forces to a tactical target near St. Lo, France.
The 388th put up three Groups of 12 a/c for the 45th A Combat wing. No a/c aborted for the second day in a row. Formations were effected and the briefed route was followed to the target. Bombs were away at 1031 hours from 13,000 feet. Strike photos show a very tight pattern covering the target. Bombing was done from 3,000 feet lower than briefed because of clouds.
No enemy fighters were encountered. Flak in the target area was meager and inaccurate. One of our a/c in the C Group had self inflicted damage caused by the premature exploding of a fragmentation bomb at bombs away. There were no casualties.
Brigadier General Kissner, 3rd Air Division Chief of Staff, and members of his staff accompanied personnel of the 388th on this mission.
source: 388th Bomb Group web page http://www.388bg.info
source: 398th Bomb Group web page http://www.398th.org/
401BG / 613BS Mission Report - The mission was tactical support of ground forces in St. Lo sector. Fragmentation bombs were dropped instead of ground-cratering high explosives. Strike photos indicated MPI's were well covered. Crews participating were:- Mannix, Lippert, Kuta, Hanson, Fox, Lockhart, Etters, Thomason, Hammond, Irwin.
source: 613th Bombardment Squadron History
401BG / 612BS Mission Report - A return trip to bomb the same area near St. Lo was necessary on the 25th July because the bad weather the previous day had hindered proper support and more was needed on the Jerries. Again the 401 at furnished the three boxes of the 94th "A" CBW, each box consisting of 12 aircraft. This time the weather conditions were much better but previous bombing coupled with ground artillery smoke made bombing most difficult. For this reason the High Box was unable to release it's bombs although the Lead and Low Boxes did bomb with excellent results after a difficult time in locating the M.P.I. Flak was again encountered around the target area but only one aircraft sustained minor battle damage. No enemy aircraft were observed. All of our aircraft and crews returned unharmed.
source: 612th Bombardment Squadron History
401BG / 614BS Mission Report - This was a return to the St Lo area with bombing in support of the US 1st Army. Unfortunately, in spite of great care to ensure the bombs did not fall short, there were two incidents where bombs were dropped on the American positions, killing 102 troops and wounding 380 others. The 401st put up 39 aircraft with Major Stann as the Air Commander to make up three Boxes for the 94th "A" CBW. Fragmentation bombs were used on this mission instead of ground-cratering high explosives. The strike photos indicated that the 401st bombs were around the area of the MPI for the Lead and Low Boxes. The High box could not recognize its MPI and did not release its bombs. The formation met moderate and fairly accurate flak from the German ground positions in the battle area and six aircraft received minor battle damage. Crews: 43-37551 Lincoln, 42-97872 Risher, 42-97145 Harasym, 42-97602 La Fevor, 42-31863 Taylor, 42-107151 Kenney, 42-97780 Lerwick, 42-97869 Koons, 42-31369 Kovach, 42-102659 Mercer.
source: 614th Bombardment Squadron History www.401bg.org
401BG / 615BS Mission Report - Briefing was at 0415 hrs with 39 crews taking part. The weather ship, SC-B, Serial No. 42-31662, took off at 0645 hrs to be followed by the 39 operational aircraft that became airborne by 0811 hrs. Because of the tactical importance of the mission on 24th July, abandoned by order of the 1st Division, it was again assigned, but this time with excellent results. Each Box put their bombs on the MPI. The High Box did not drop due to smoke obscuring their assigned MPI. The 401st furnished the Lead, High and Low Boxes of 12 aircraft each for the 94th "A" CBW. Major L. Stann was again the Wing Leader. No fighters were encountered and only light flak was seen at the target. One aircraft received battle damage. The 615th put up the Low Squadron in the Lead Box, Lt. Gillespie leading. The 615th loading list was as follows: Ossiander, Melofchik, Wingard, Duckworth, Heenan, Gillespie, Konze, Dow, Haskett, Konze.
source: 615th Bombardment Squadron History www.401bg.org
44BG Mission Report - The same planned operation as for the 24th of July was carried out today, with excellent results. Again, Capt. Aldridge, 67th, led the Group with 14 ships of the 67th. The 44th with 36 aircraft led the Wing and the Division. The planes bombed from an altitude of 13,000 feet and thereby were the recipients of plenty of flak, but no enemy fighters were seen. Lt. Green, flying A/C #42-99997, sustained slight battle damage and the 68th had damage to 10 of their 12 ships. Later, results proved our bombing effected the breakthrough and now our troops are pouring through the gap with excellent gains. Capt. Middleton and S/Sgt. Bata returned from DS to duty. 1st Lt. Atkinson assigned and joined the 67th. Mission for today was a target at Basdorf, Germany. However, it was scrubbed due to weather, and another mission was to have been run to an airfield at Chateaudun, France but it, too, was scrubbed for the same reason.
source: 44th Bomb Group web page http://www.8thairforce.com/44thbg
446th Bomb Group Mission Report St. Lo, France
49 planes bombed in support of ground troops with fair results. A low altitude attack, 100 pounders were dropped from 10,600 to 13,300 feet.
source: 446th Bomb Group www.446bg.com
447BG Mission Report - Briefing was at 0530 hours. The same mission was scheduled as the day before. The weapons were 529-100 lb. fragmentation and 1,134-100 lb. GP bombs. Take off started at 0750 hours and the bombing altitude of 16,000 feet was reached as the Group crossed the coast and battle area. Before the heavies arrived, the fighter bombers started the bombing followed by the medium bombers. To improve visibility the heavies dropped to an altitude of 13,000 feet. Despite all the planning, some bombers dropped their short of the intended target. Approximately 200 ground forces and one correspondent were killed. The heavies were just not precise enough bombing from an altitude of 13,000 feet. Landing started at 1245 hours.
source: 447 Bomb Group Association http://www.447bg.com
source: 492 Bomb Group Mission Links http://www.492ndbombgroup.com
91st BG / 322nd BS Mission Report - St. Lo. The 322nd Squadron flew #4 group in the 48 A/C CBW put up by the 91st Bomb Group The mission was again in support 323rd ground troops in Normandy and the area to be attacked was the same as that of the previous day. The 8th AF was preceding by fighter bombers of the 9th AF and five minutes after the last 8th AF A/C finished bombing the assault troops of the 1st U.S. Army began their attack. During the bombing our artillery laid down shells along the northern boundary of the assigned area, and also shelled enemy AA positions.
91st BG / 324th BS Mission Report - Target: Enemy troop positions, N.W. St. Lo. Photos show good concentrations at assigned points. Following this terrific air offensive on huge scale, the American push began. Apparently, however, the bombing did not produce the desired effects as the enemy was found to be well dug in. According to reports some bombs dropped short of the bomb release line causing casualties among our own troops. Only one burst of flak was observed in the target area.