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November 2

Inside This Site
WWII: Saving the World
The Face of Adversity
Bail Out over Brummen
Mission #266
Death of The 8 Ball
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Bail Out Over Brummen

November 2

The main effort of the Eighth Air Force that day was directed to the Merseburg/Leuna oil refineries. No fewer than 683 B17s were dispatched to attack this highly important target. 208 B-24 "Liberators" were to attack Bielefeld, its marshalling yards and bridges. Another 146 Liberators were scheduled to fly to the Castrop/Rauxel oil installations in the Ruhr. Last, but not least, the three Bomb Groups in the 41st Combat Wing, the 303rd, 379th and 384th, were to attack the oil refineries at Sterkrade, also in the Ruhr, with 137 B-17s.

The 303rd Bomb Group responded to this challenge and put up four combat formations, three of twelve and one of thirteen B-17s. These were named Lead, Low, High and Number four Squadrons and would eventually fly in one large Group formation. To keep planning and execution simple the four Bomb Squadrons of the 303rd Bomb Groups were each tasked to provide such a combat formation. The 359th Bomb Squadron had to fill the High Squadron from their allotment of planes and crews. At the Squadron's Operations Office details were finally filled in. The Squadron was going to be led by 1/Lt Charles O. Mainwaring and his crew. As deputy leader of the Squadron 1/Lt Jack T. Davis was assigned, aboard "the 8 Ball". Ten other crews of the 359th Bomb Squadrons would also bomb Sterkrade. Something special was in store for the Davis crew that day. A tenth crew member was added. His name was T/Sgt Alvin G. Bader and he was a specially trained radio-operator, known as 'S"-operator. These '"Y"-operators were German-speaking radio operators, trained to monitor the Luftwaffe radio control network. Some were also trained to broadcast bogus messages to the Germans. This was all very secret and the crews that flew with the "Y"-operators had very little knowledge of what they were doing and were instructed not to ask questions. After missions debriefing of the "Y"-operators was conducted separately from the rest of the crew. Administratively they were assigned to the headquarters of the Bomb Group and sent out to fly on combat missions with the various Bomb Squadrons. Unfortunately, very little is known about T/Sgt Bader. We know that he was married and lived in St Paul, Minnesota. He had flown between twenty and twenty-five combat missions before this November 2 mission.

Briefing for the combat crews at Molesworth was conducted in the early morning hours and afler transportation to the planes, engines were started. At 0801 hours the twelve planes of the Lead Squadron took off, with 30-second intervals. At 0808 hours the High Squadron followed, including "the 8 Ball" with Jack Davis and the now nine others of his crew.

Formation of the entire Group did not go smooth, but all planes arrived over Sterkrade in good order. Squadron Leader 1/Lt Charles O. Mainwaring wrote in his report later that day:

"Our Squadron assembly went as planned. As we were leaving the Harrington Buncher the 379th Bomb Group cut between us and the Lead Squadron, forcing us to pull off to the left and put us in trail of the Lead Squadron. We cut points short in an attempt to catch up but we never did get into close formation until close to the Initial Point. We were notified five minutes before the l.P. that bombing would be done by instruments. We took interval and made the l.P. good. Bombs were away at 1158 hours from 29,000 feet, on a magnetic heading of 130 degrees. We made a very sharp left turn off the target. No enemy fighters were seen. Moderate to intense and fair/y accurate flak was encountered in the target area. "

After an uneventful return flight the 303rd Bomb Group landed at Molesworth between 1345 and 1436 hours. In all, out of the 49 dispatched B-17s 48 landed safely. One had to be reported 'Missing In Action'. This was B-17G 42-97781 the "8 Ball".


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