9th AF Patch

416th Bombardment Group (L)

Mission # 191 -- January 23, 1945, Tuesday AM

near Arzfeld, Germany

Troop Concentrations and Motor Transport



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Summary of Operations

Field Order        : 138-718
OpRep #            : 295
Nature of Mission  : Bombing and Strafing
Mission Status     : Attacked
Bombing Altitude   : 3,000 feet
Take-off Time      : 1129
Time Over Target   : 1230
Landing Time       : 1600
Duration (Hrs:Min) : 4:31

Place of Take-Off  : A-55 Melun/Villaroche, France
A/C Dispatched     : 6 Total -- 6 A-26's
Modified British System Reference: P-955660
Summary of Results : Bombing and Strafing mission, Unobserved results.

Primary Target Latitude/Longitude: 50.08469,6.27589 (50° 5' 5" N, 6° 16' 33" E)
(Latitude/Longitude based on The "Coordinates Translator", (NGZ) vP955660)
(See Latitude/Longitude Coordinates and Target Identifiers for more information.)

Scanned original Mission 191 documents (multipage PDF files)

      Reports Folder       OpRep # 295       Additional Documents

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These Public Domain, Declassified Mission documents were graciously provided to the 416th BG Archive by the dedicated staff of the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA).
An on-line index of records held by AFHRA up to 2001 is available at Air Force History Index.org.
Most of these PDF files are unaltered originals provided by the AFHRA, a few have been re-organized.
Pages may be out of sequence; files may contain scanned blank pages and/or pages scanned upside-down; some pages may be included in more than one file.
The "Mission Folder" usually contains the majority of documents for a Mission, including Field Orders, Status Reports, Pilot Interrogations, Photos (if available), etc.

Loading List 1

Loading List 1, Box I

Missing Air Crew Reports, Aircraft Accident Reports, and other incidents

         Date          Report

Serial #
Location Personnel (Status when available)
Jan 23, 1945
No_Report   41-39235
191 670 Weltz, Luxembourg Atkinson, Paul G. Jr. (SWA, RTD)
Ackerson, Dale G. (SWA, EUS)
Collier, Jasper L. (MIA,POW, RMC)
Friday, L. R. (Not Injured)
Jan 23, 1945
No_Report   41-39259
191 668 A-68 Merritt, Theron S. (Not Injured)
Gatti, Raymond Joseph (Not Injured)
Jan 23, 1945
191 668 Station A-53 Turman, Alton Roy (Not Injured)
Corey, Francis Eugene (Not Injured)

To view more information regarding an Incident/Report, click on the Report hyperlink.
( = Entries having actual Reports available for review.   = Entries having additional Images or Photos.)
To view an individual's Memorial page, click on the "Name" hyperlink.

Mission Loading Lists Transcription

Mission # 191 -- January 23, 1945, Tuesday AM
near Arzfeld, Germany -- Troop Concentrations and Motor Transport

Included are Box, Flight and Position; Bomb Squadron; Aircraft Serial Number, Fuselage Code and Model; and Crew Members
transcribed from individual mission Loading List documents by Chris and Mary Adams and Carl Sgamboti.
Some information, such as Squadron, Serial Number, etc. has been expanded from other documents.

Box I -- Flight I
  1  670th                   
  41-39235  F6-M  A-26B
  Capt Atkinson, P.G.
  Lt Ackerson, D.G.
  Sgt Collier, J.L.
  Sgt Friday, L.R.
  [Crashed at Weltz, Luxembourg]
  2  670th                   
  41-39222  F6-S  A-26B
  Lt Errotabere, M.
  Sgt Lynch, P.R.
  [Landed A-69]
  3  670th                   
  41-39223  F6-B  A-26B
  Lt Popeney, H.
  Sgt Candler, H.C.S.
  [Landed A-68]
  4  668th                   
  41-39259  5H-H  A-26B
  Lt Merritt, T.S.
  S/Sgt Gatti, R.J.
  [Landed A-68]
  5  668th                   
  41-39188  5H-R  A-26B
  Lt Sewell, J.C.
  S/Sgt Hummer, J.A.
  [Landed A-69]
  6  668th                   
  41-39219  5H-E  A-26B
  Lt Turman, A.R.
  Cpl Corey, F.E.
  [Crashed at B-58 No Sortie]

Group and Unit Histories

Mission # 191 -- January 23, 1945, Tuesday AM
near Arzfeld, Germany -- Troop Concentrations and Motor Transport

"416th Bombardment Group (L) - Group History 1945"
Transcribed from USAF Archives

The 23rd was a day of history in our Group. Two flights of six aircraft took off on bombing and strafing attacks on motor transport near Arzfeld and troop concentrations at Blankenheim. The first flight was led by Capt P.G. Atkinson with Lt Ackerson, B-N. The second flight on the second installation was led by Capt Tutt, with Lt T.J. Beck, B-N. The weather was adverse and the planes had difficulty joining up. Flight Officer H.J. Wilson, in the second flight, was unable to join up and went in to attack alone behind the 410th Bomb Group. He said, "I missed the formation but rather than turn back I continued on course to the target. When I got to the target, there were A-20s strafing the road, so I circled about until they pulled away, then peeled off, dropped frags at 500 feet, and went down on the deck." Spotting four trucks on the highway, F/O Wilson roared down on them with guns blazing. "One truck veered off the road and piled into a ditch with black smoke pouring from it." Ground fire damaged the right wing and put a hole in the oil line of his left engine, but did not injure the crew.

Captain Atkinson picked up two planes of his flight and headed for the target at Arzfeld. Intense, accurate flak knocked out his left engine, hit his bombardier in one leg, and injured himself. Smoke entered the cockpit so that he had to jettison the hatch, but he continued on to bomb, in the vicinity of Dasburg. He peeled off and went down to strafe. After strafing with telling results, he attempted to get a homing. When he failed to contact any station and when Lt Ackerson was hit in the other leg, he began to look for a field in which to make a forced landing. In the meantime, his gunner, Sergeant J.L. Collier, bailed out. Information is still sketchy as to the exact spot where he jumped so that he is still unaccounted for. Afraid that Lt Ackerson might bleed to death, Captain Atkinson brought the plane down on a gentle slope that he found. The momentum of the plane carried it over the crest into a gulley on the other side. Lt Ackerson was thrown clear of the plane and into the snow. Fortunately, the plane did not burn because Captain Atkinson was unable to get out unassisted. Some Army personnel hurried to the scene and pulled him out of the wreckage. Lt Ackerson's legs were both almost shot off below the knees and his shoulder dislocated. His present condition is unknown. Captain Atkinson suffered a fractured ankle and hand, but is expected to return soon.

Captain L.C. Nielsen, in the second flight, was hit shortly after the flight broke up into two-ship elements to attack. A flak burst blew out the storm window, damaged the bullet-proof windshield, wounded the pilot severely about the face with plexiglass splinters, and knocked him unconscious. The plane careened out of control and fell to an altitude of 1,000 feet, where Captain Neilsen regained his senses and pulled the plane out of the dive. Although his gun sight was shot out, he continued on in, despite his painful injuries and pieces of glass in his eyes, through intermittent flak fields until he caught sight of a column of vehicles in the town of Berk, where he dropped his bombs. He landed his plane at A-68 without further injury to himself or his crew.

A fourth plane, piloted by Lt Theron S. Merritt, in the first flight, also attacked. Unable to stay with the planes of his flight in the bad weather, he dove down from 8,000 to about 1,000 feet to strafe vehicles that he found hidden in a town in the target area. Speeding by, he came over a second town where he noticed several vehicles and released his bombs. Guns hidden in the houses sprayed their steel at him and his gunner, Staff Sergeant R.J. Gatti, strafed gun emplacements with his lower turret. Lt Merritt's plane received only two holes due to the violent manuevers that he executed. Unable to locate his flight, he turned around and headed for A-68 where he landed without further injury to the crew or the plane.

The landing gear of the plane flown by Lt J.C. Gary would not retract after the take-off. When he attempted to land the plane, the gear collapsed with a full load of bombs and ammunition in the plane. However, both he and his gunner, Staff Sergeant R.W. Cheuvront, escaped injury when the bombs did not explode.

The other seven planes that took off made no attack. All the aircraft received battle damage and Lt Beck was injured in the foot. The weather, which was exceedingly bad, prevented these planes from eighter joining up or spotting a target. The ceiling over our field varied from 200 feet to 1,000 feet and improved very little across the lines. All the men who went on these two attacks had volunteered for the job.

"Attack Bombers, We Need You! A History of the 416th Bomb Group"
Ralph Conte
Pages 197 - 198

Mission #191 - 23 January AM - Dasburg Area. This was a six plane flight designed to bomb at a lower level than usual and then drop down to ground level and strafe targets of opportunity. They selected a target near Arzfeld in the vicinity of Dasburg. Captain Paul Atkinson with Lt. Dale Ackerson, BN led a formation of six planes, they being an A-20 leading five A-26 gun ships. Weather was bad, cloudy, cold, and the six planes did not form up as a flight, not able to get together. They were in touch with each other by radio. The rendezvous with fighter escort was made and Atkinson proceeded to the target.

Extreme heavy flak peppered his plane. The bombardier, Ackerson, sitting in the glass nose took a bad hit, causing his left leg to be practically severed above the ankle. Pilot Atkinson was hit in the face, The plane was on fire and one engine was shot out of commission. With a smoke filled cockpit, Atkinson jettisoned his over-head hatch, but continued on the bomb run and peeled off to strafe. The elevator controls were unusable so Atkinson relied on the elevator trim tabs. They dropped their bombs in the target area, went down and strafed. Paul felt the plane vibrating and assumed his gunner was firing his guns. The gunner saw the red light flash, which meant jettisoning or bailing out. It was determined that the gunner who saw the pilot's hatch blow away thought it was time for him to go, and he did, probably landing in German held territory.

After strafing, Atkinson searched for a homing beam. At about this time he knew he had to get the plane and his BN to friendly territory. Ackerson, in all his misery, called Atkinson, giving his position and telling Atkinson to correct direction toward friendly lines. Ackerson was trying to stem the excessive bleeding.

They were flying on one engine, doing about 260 MPH with Atkinson anxiously seeking a landing spot, somewhere in friendly territory. As they crossed the bomb line, Atkinson was wounded in the leg. He was flying without aid from his air speed indicator. Ackerson, interphoned back to Atkinson that they were now in friendly territory. Atkinson tried to contact fighter control for protection, but was unable to get them to respond. He found a relatively flat spot and crash landed, knowing he had to do something before his bombardier bled to death. With a wheels up landing, flaps down, the plane skidded into a tree, stopping in a gully after cresting a hill. Ackerson was thrown out of his harness and struggled for about five minutes when some infantrymen came running up and helped him leave the plane, which fortunately was not afire. First aid was administered at the site, and both crewmembers were rushed to a field hospital. Atkinson suffered a broken ankle and hand. They were transferred to a General Hospital.

Gunner J. L. Collier was listed as MIA, no one knew where he bailed out, but he did so, following instructions dictating that the last resort signal in the event the electrical signal went out, was for him to hit the silk.

Ackerson's both legs were almost shot off below the knees. He survived.

The other five planes in Atkinson's flight did get down to strafe without being in formation. They dropped their bombs on a town where a large group of vehicles were moving. One tunnel gunner, S/Sgt. Raymond J. Gatti, strafed gun emplacements. The pilot landed at A-68, with a few hits on his plane.

"669th Bombardment Squadron (L) History"
Transcription from USAF Archives

None of our crews flew on the two special missions that were flown on the 23rd.

"670th Bombardment Squadron (L) History"
Transcription from USAF Archives

Two flights of six aircraft each took off on the 23rd to bomb and strafe motor and troop concentrations at Blankenheim and at Dasburg. Six crews from our squadron were assigned the Dasburg area. Captain Paul Atkinson with Lt Dale Ackerson as bombardier led this attack. They took off in extremely poor weather and never did join up, although they were in contact with each other by radio. They arrived at the fighter rendezvous and proceeded on to the target. At the target they met heavy accurate flak and Captain Atkinson's ship was hit badly. Lt Ackerson's left leg was almost severed at the ankle, Capt Atkinson was hit in the face, and the aircraft was burning. One engine was knocked out and Captain Atkinson feathered the propeller. The cockpit was soon filled with smoke so they jettisoned the canopy in case the plane was burning. The elevator trim was used to control the plane, because the elevator controls were useless. He then dropped the bombs on the target area. They noticed the plane vibrating and think it was S/Sgt Collier, the gunner, using his guns. After the smoke cleared out of the cockpit, Captain Atkinson depressed the nose of the airplane with the trim tab and strafed with his forward guns. Despite his wounds, Lt Ackerson kept on the alert and continued to check the aircraft's position. He was losing blood rapidly. They went on about a minute heading further into Germany and Captain Atkinson turned back, firing his nose guns once again on the way out. About that time Captain Atkinson noticed the red jettison light burning, which could have been S/Sgt Collier bailing out. Lt Ackerson checked their position while holding his leg in an effort to stop the blood, and gave a correction. Captain Atkinson called fighter ground control three times but could get no response. They were on single engine going about 260 miles per hour. The right engine was "wide open". When they got back to about the bomb line they were again hit hard by flak and Lt Ackerson was struck severely in the right leg just above the ankle. The airspeed indicator went out but Captain Atkinson was still able to fly the airplane. Lt Ackerson indicated that they were back over in friendly territory. Captain Atkinson saw that his Bombardier- Navigator would probably bleed to death if he wasn't given help soon, so he decided to crash land. He picked out a small field and landed wheels up, flaps down and going up hill. They slid by a tree on the crest and hit in a deep gully on the other side. Lt Ackerson was thrown out and landed in the snow beyond the plane, dislocating his right shoulder. Fortunately the plane did not burn because Captain Atkinson had his shoulder harness locked and was pinned in the seat for four or five minutes. Some infantry men came along and helped him out of the wreckage. They were given first aid and rushed off to a field hospital. Captain Atkinson suffered a fractured ankle and hand. S/Sgt Collier must have bailed out over Germany when he saw the canopy go. This was the "last resort" signal to abandon ship in case interphone, emergency bell and gunner's call light were out. He is carried on reports as Missing in Action. Captain Atkinson and Lt Ackerson were transferred to a General Hospital.

Lt Theron S. Merritt, who was also in Captain Atkinson's flight was unable to stay in formation due to bad weather. He dove down from 3,000 feet to about 1,000 feet to strafe some vehicles he found hidden in a town in the area. At a second town he released his bombs on another concentration of vehicles. Light flak was thrown up at his plane and S/Sgt Raymond J. Gatti strafed the gun emplacements with his lower turret. Lt Merritt's plane received only two holes. He then headed back and landed at Station A-68.

Eleven Pilots who flew on this mission volunteered for the job, knowing that it would be "A Rough One".

"671st Bomb Squadron (L) Unit History"
Gordon Russell and Jim Kerns

January 23rd, 1945

Two waves of swift-striking Invaders lashed out at the remainder of the German motor column in the Dasburg and Blankenheim area on the afternoon of January 23rd, 1945. Not only was it the first strafing operation for Major General Samuel E.Anderson's Ninth Bombardment Division, it also was the first time a low level attack has been attempted by U.S.bombers in the ETO since May 17th, 1943, when a formation of ten B-26 Marauders was wiped out in an attack on Imuiden, Holland.

The 670th Bomb Squadron sent the first six A-26s out just before noon. One plane dropped its frags from 3000 feet and then strafed on the deck. The other five planes failed to attack because of intense flak, battle damage and failure to pick up a target. Two of the ships crash landed and none of the ships returned to A-55.

Taking off just a few minutes after noon, the 671st dispatched six crews for their combined bomb-strafe mission. The weather here was very poor and the ships had trouble in joining up. Captain Tutt and Lt. Beck led the formation in an A-26, but met a heavy flak barrage coming into the target area. Flak knocked out their VHF set and the hydraulic system. One piece of flak caught Lt. Beck, who was riding along side of the pilot, in the thigh. Captain Tutt was unable to bomb and strafe and landed at Laon. Lt. Beck's wound was taken care of and he is back on the firing line again.

F/O Wilson, who had crash-landed on his first combat mission just a little more than a week ago, made quite a name for himself. He lost the formation after take-off, but went on in to the target area by himself. He spotted a rail road junction near Blankenheimerdorf and dropped his load of 20x260 lb. frags. He then peeled off from 3000 feet and strafed the concentration of vehicles. His record was one large truck set on fire and three others severely damaged. His ship received considerable flak damage, but he landed it safely at Juvincourt.

Captain Nielson, who volunteered for a low-level job and in fact put himself on the loading list for this purpose considered himself a lucky man to be alive today. He dropped his frags near Berk amidst heavy flak. A burst of flak broke the storm window, cutting his face and the concussion temporarily knocked Captain Nielson out. When he regained consciousness he had about a 1000-foot altitude and his ship was diving to the earth. He pulled out in time and landed his ship safely at Juvincourt. The face injuries were treated and were not termed serious. Captain Nielson had planned to strafe, but his gun sight was out.

Lt. Murray and Lt. Herman lost the fighter lead early and could not find a suitable target. Lt. Murray landed a Leon/Couvron, and Lt. Herman at Juvincourt. Lt. Gary was the sixth member of the flight, but he had trouble right over the field and did not go in. His landing gear would not retract and upon stalling out just above the runway the gears collapsed. No one was injured, but the danger of the bombs exploding was great. All the ships were flying with an overload.

The crews returned on January 25th when the weather took a turn for the better. It was learned that the slug in Lt.Beck's hip was inbedded inches deep.

[January 23, 1945], HQ Twelfth Army Group situation map

Map showing Western Allies and Axis troop position details in Western Europe
as of approximately 1200 hours, January 23, 1945
World War II Military Situation Maps Collection
Library of Congress

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