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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