Mission, 6th January

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

At an 08 00:hours briefing the group was informed that under field order 1496A they were to provide close support to the B-17`s of the 91st and 398th bomb groups of the 1st Air Division attacking targets in the Cologne area. The squadron made R/V at 10:25 over Namur south east of Brussels at 24,000 ft with the 91st bomb group, their planes flying in good formation. The 398th were then met near St With at 10:54 and at 24,000 ft, the bombers were then escorted over the target where they dropped their bomb loads between 11:34 and 11:36 through 9/10ths cloud cover. The bombers were escorted back out and to the enemy coast uneventfully and left at 12:43 at Ostend at 15,000 ft. No enemy aircraft were seen and the flak was heavy, moderate and accurate on the bombers when they were over the target area.

Line up

Capt Yannell Lt Barnhart (White)
Lt Corner Lt Jones
Capt Thomas Lt Urban
Lt Burwell Lt Quigley
Lt Borelli Capt Russell
Lt Rensch Lt Ragsdale
Lt Romine Lt Gleason
Lt Dunn Lt Paquet

Lt Carlson Capt Hockmeyer

Lt Ciocchi Lt Turner

Lt Crump Lt Switzer

Lt Gatlin Lt Hedrick

As Lieutenant Robert E. Barnhart leading White flight, comprising Lieutenants Jones, Urban and Quigley, approached Martlesham on their return, they had seen that the visibility was down to less than 300ft due to fog and decided to put down at Sutton Heath emergency strip commonly known as Woodbridge, Sutton Heath being equipped with F.I.D.O. a fog dispersal system. As his flight approached the airfield he could see the F.I.D.O. unit was on, and he made a normal 360 degree pattern approach around the lights. His landing was good, approximately 20 ft from the left edge of the runway and he commenced rolling down the runway. As he did so a strong wind from the right side of the runway started him sliding on the ice that covered the runway. He hit the gravel on the left hand side of the runway, which instantly stopped his sideward motion but also twisted the left landing gear. His aircraft continued to roll and he ran over one of the flare buckets denting the right flap, puncturing the coolant radiator and damaging the belly cowling of 44-15189 PI-B `Margie Darling`. As he climbed from the aircraft he had contemplated not only the explanation he would have to make to the Air Corp but also if deciding to change the name of his aircraft had indeed been lucky (Lieutenant Barnhart had felt his previous aircraft named ‘Squirt’ in which he had got shot up rather a lot, had not been particularly lucky aircraft and so when assigned a new P-51 had decided to use a different name, though both were named after his wife, ‘Squirt’ being the name his wife Margie was called by her brothers). Bill managed to get down at Martlesham, but other pilots from the Squadron to put down at Woodbridge due to the fog were Captain Thomas and Lieutenants Turner, Rensch, Corner, Barnhart, Ciocchi, Dunn, Carlson, Bill’s wingman Lieutenant Gatlin and also Ray.