Mission, 21st February

Excerpts from the manuscript  “Wild Bill Crump”, written by S.E Crump and (c) J.W.CRUMP & S.E.CRUMP.

For what seemed like the first time in a long hard winter, the day dawned bright and clear. No wet clammy fog that shrouded everything it touched blanketing the base. No bitter winds biting and cutting into you no matter how well you wrapped, no snow, no sleet , no freezing rain. At last the Boffins appeared to have got it right, the weathermen had predicted a change in the weather but no one had predicted how suddenly it would come. Yesterday had been winter, but the 21st despite its chill, with its clear blue skies, where from the ground contrails could clearly be seen for miles, seemed at last to give a clue that spring may just be around the corner. The improved weather would allow the 8th Air Force to fly eight days of continuous missions, and once again the banter in the pilots ready room would be of how they could get at the Luftwaffe and not the usual gripes about the “Goddam British weather”.

Under Field order 1647A the Group took off to provide penetration, target and withdrawal support to the 1st Division B-17`s of the 92nd, 305th and 306th Bomb Groups attacking transportation targets in Nuremburg. The squadron made R/V at 10 00 thirty miles south east of Brussels at 14,000 ft with the 92nd and 305th Bomb Groups, being later joined by the 306th, all flying in poor formation. The bombers were escorted to the target and out uneventfully, the flak over Nuremburg being heavy though no bombers were seen to go down. The bombers were left at 13:15, twenty miles south east of Givet at 15,000 ft. The Red flight and the Green flight, the latter commanded by Bill and comprising Lieutenants Paquet, Ceraolo and Hendrick then took off to look for some action.

Bill took his flight down to look for any targets of opportunity on the deck. At 5,500 ft they were met by a solid overcast. Bill ordered his second element to head out and try to find a break in the cloud. Bill continued with Lieutenant Paquet on his wing. Finally, through a tiny break in the cloud he detected an airdrome. Ordering Paquet to stick close to him they dropped through the cloud level at 6,000 ft and on to the deck. There were in fact two airdromes, approximately a mile apart on a north south heading. They had caught the first airdrome completely by surprise, the German gunners being unable to put up any defensive flak in time. Keeping low they started their pass. Bill drew a bead on a group of aircraft, but as his bullets hit he could see they were in fact dummies. Cursing, he rapidly scanned the field locating a well camouflaged FW-190 Bill kicked his rudder bringing the FW square in his sights, spraying it as he passed.

Lieutenant Paquet following had already put in a short burst at an oil tank just outside the airdrome. As he turned on to the field he sighted in the centre what he believed was a Junkers W-34, just having time to get a short burst on it before he followed Bill out the other side heading for the second airdrome. The German gunners were now fully alerted, ready and waiting and as Bill hit the airdrome a tremendous barrage of flak met him. Puffs of black and white smoke exploded all around him and tracer arced towards him. Forced to take evasive action he was unable to turn on the aircraft dispersal. Instinctively crouching in his cockpit Bill hurtled out, PI-W travelling in excess of 400 M.P.H. The German gunners having concentrated their fire on Bill, had given Lieutenant Paquet a vital few seconds to get his sights on an FW-190. Squeezing the trigger he gave the FW a long burst, scoring 30-40 hits all over the fuselage and wing roots. Bill by now had cleared the field, and as Lieutenant Paquet continued to hit the FW the gunners trained their sights on him. Straight away he was hit by 20mm flak once again in the horizontal stabiliser, as he had been previously in the month, forcing him as Bill before him to take immediate evasive action. As he did so he could see that his FW had caught fire. Zooming out at high speed he saw a flak position on the outer edge of the field, managing to get in a sustained burst before exiting. Both Bill and Lieutenant Paquet kept low until they were well out of the range of the flak gunners, then zoomed up in to the low cloud avoiding any further fire. As they climbed Lieutenant Paquet could already feel that the flak damage was affecting the control of his aircraft. Levelling out in to clear skies Bill dropped behind Paquet’s aircraft to try and assess the damage. There was a huge hole through the stabilizer and parts of the leading edge torn away. It was difficult to judge if there might be any other internal damage not immediately visible. Bill advised Paquet to put down on one of the Allied fields on the Continent and get the damage evaluated and if required, repaired. There was little point in risking the Channel in an aircraft that was awkward to control and one that could possibly fail at any time. Paquet made it to a strip in Belgium without any further problems, where he let down. Bill having seen him down safely headed home back to the Heath where Lieutenant Paquet would join him the following day after a night in Belgium while his aircraft was repaired. The Squadron’s Red flight had also managed to locate and strafe an airfield despite the solid overcast. Led by Captain William G. Thomas, Red flight comprising Lieutenants Turner, Weller and Ragsdale located an airfield south of Nuremburg, subsequently identified as Ottingen. Captain Thomas claiming a damaged HE-111, and Lieutenants Joel P. Weller and Raleigh S. Ragsdale sharing a second damaged HE-111. The mission had been the first for Lieutenant Bob Schmidt, who flew radio relay with Lieutenant Quigley. He recalled it as two very boring hours spent flying in large circles, with the ever present possibility that these two lone aircraft would provide a good target for any enemy aircraft.

Line up

Capt Thomas (Red) Lt Easley
Lt Weller Lt Pidwell
Lt Ragsdale Lt Ciocchi
Lt Turner Lt Jones
Lt Crump (Green) Capt Yannell
Lt Paquet Lt Nelson
Lt Ceraolo Lt Gleason
Lt Hedrick Lt Seanor

Lt Schmidt (Radio relay) Lt Burwell (Spare)

Lt Quigley (Radio Relay) Lt Corner (Spare)

Combat Report 21st February 1945

John W Crump, 1st Lt. ASN 0711961 VORTEX 81

A Ground Strafing

B 21 February 1945

C 360th Fighter Squadron, 356th Fighter Group

D 12:30 hours.

E 2 U/I airdromes 15-20 miles M/of Crailsheim

F 7/10 cloud in area, 10/10 covering airdrome.

G FW-190

H Damaged

I I was leading Vortex Green flight on a ramrod mission to Southern Germany. After breaking escort I noticed an airdrome through a small break in the clouds. My second element having already headed out, I took my wingman down. We made our attack through 10/10 clouds at 5000 feet. When I broke out I noticed that there were two dromes about one mile apart, lined up north to south. We hit the southerly A/D first. There were many dummies and many well camouflaged FW-190’s on the field. The first group of planes at which I opened fire were dummies. As soon as I realised this I located one well camouflaged FW-190 and sprayed it as I passed. We had completely surprised the first drome and no fire was returned, but the second drome (a mile to the north) was waiting. Forced to take evasive action, I was not able to turn on to the E/A dispersed on this A/D. We were travelling 400 M.P.H. plus. Upon clearing this A/D we zoomed through decks of low clouds, receiving no further fire.

I claim one FW-190 damaged.

Rounds fired: 339 API

Combat Report 21st February 1945


A Ground Strafing

B 21 February 1945

C 360th Fighter Squadron, 356th Fighter Group

D 12:30 hours

E 2 U/I airdromes 1530 miles W of Crailsheim

F 7/10 cloud in area, 10/10 covering airdrome.

G One FW-190 and one Junkers W-34

H FW 190 destroyed, Junkers W-54 damaged

I I was flying Vortex Green 2 on an escort mission to Germany. After breaking off escort, Green leader and I were in search of a suitable strafing target. W of Crailsheim – Green leader called in a field detected through a break in the almost solid overcast. We went down on it through the clouds and hit the deck. I took a short burst at an oil tank on the outside of the first airdrome scoring many hits. I then turned my attention to what I believe was a Junkers V-34 marked in the centre of the field. I gave it a short burst and sprinkled hits all over it. It did not catch fire, however. On leaving this A./D I found a FW-190 squarely in my sights on a field adjoining the first one. I was hit by flak in the horizontal stabilizer just as I gave the FW a long burst, scoring many hits (30-40) all over the fuselage and wing roots. As I left I saw that it had caught fire. Since I was devoting my attention to evading the flak I did not see this A/C explode or become engulfed completely in flames. However, it had been well clobbered and had started to burn. I am certain that this AC has ‘had it.’ I finished the pass with a long burst at flak positions on the outer edge of the second A/D

I claim one FW-190 destroyed and one Junkers W-34 damaged.

Rounds fired: 752 API

By the third week of the month Montgomery’s 1st Canadian army had spent the previous two weeks in fierce and bloody fighting on the Maas-Waal front, and although reinforced by the British 52nd and 11th Armoured divisions his advance had almost come to a halt less than 15 miles from their start point. In an effort to counter this advance two infantry and one panzer Division had been moved up from the south to reinforce the German forces barring Montgomery’s way. Though his advance came almost to a stop, it could not be considered a failure. It had forced the Germans to concentrate their forces against him thereby reducing the resistance to the planned American operation postponed from the 10th.

Neither Bill or Ray flew on the next mission, when 20 of the Squadron’s aircraft commanded by Captain Yannell took part in a group operation, the first mission of operation `Clarion` the Allied Air Commands all out assault on German communication centres, the 8th having been assigned targets in north and central Germany. The operation started with a massive bombing operation undertaken by all three Air Divisions attacking a total of 33 targets. This had been a prelude to delayed U.S. 9th army’s attack across the Roer and advance on the Rhine codename `Grenade`.