34th Bomb Group Mission Summary: May-August 1944
May 23 – Target: Etampes, Mondesir, France. This mission marked the beginning of the 34th Bomb Group’s combat role in the 8th Air Force against Axis targets in Europe. Thirty-six aircraft took off in the early morning hours to bomb the Luftwaffe airfield at Etampes. Twenty-four aircraft were successful in making a bombing run on the primary target, dropping two hundred eighty-eight 500lb bombs. No enemy fighter opposition was encountered; however, flak was moderate to severe along the route of flight in France. Flak damaged ten of the Group’s aircraft. There were no personnel lost or wounded on this mission and results were graded “fair to good”. The Simpson crew in Hells Belle flew in the lead squadron carrying twelve 500lb bombs. They dropped on the primary target at 0859 hours from an altitude of 14,500 feet, with heavy smoke obscuring the target area. Hells Belle returned safely from its first mission over Europe, landing at 1154 hours and sustaining only minor damage from enemy anti-aircraft fire.
May 24 – Target: Poix Airfield, France. Although thirty-six aircraft were dispatched, only twenty-one were able to attack the secondary target due to weather in the target area. There was no enemy opposition and little flack encountered. A total of two hundred sixty-one 500lb bombs were dropped. Hells Belle, piloted by Lt. Simpson, took off at 0838 hours carrying ten 500lb bombs and flew as part of the high squadron on this raid. They dropped on the secondary target at 1356 hours from 21,900 feet.
May 25 – Target: Montignies Sur Sambre, France. Out of thirty-six aircraft dispatched, twenty-three made the attack resulting in direct hits on locomotive sheds and an adjacent blast furnace. A total of two hundred sixty-six 500lb bombs were released on the target with good results. No enemy flak was reported; however, a Luftwaffe jet propelled fighter was observed and rockets were fired at the attacking aircraft near Brussels at about 0934 hours. Hells Belle flown by the Simpson crew took off at 0511 hours and flew as part of the low squadron. Hells Belle was unable to drop their bombs and returned to Mendlesham at 1049 hours with all twelve 500lb bombs.
May 27 – Target: Metz and Woippy, France. Only eleven aircraft made the attack on this target. The primary target was not bombed due to smoke and dust from the previous bombing done by the 92nd Wing. The secondary target got only medium treatment because so many of the group planes were off course. A few JU-88s and ME-109s were sighted but did not engage. A total of ninety 500lb bombs were dropped on the engine factory at Woippy with a rating of “fair to good”.
May 28 – Target: Lutzkendorf, Germany. Out of thirty-six aircraft dispatched, thirty-five were able to drop a total of 87 tons of bombs on the primary target and another couple tons on “targets of opportunity”. Ten aircraft received minor battle damage from flak. Hells Belle, piloted by Lt. Simpson, took off at 1037 hours with ten 500lb bombs and flew as part of the lead squadron. They were successful in dropping on the primary target at 1458 hours from 21,800 feet. Hells Belle sustained minor flak damage during the mission; however, none of the crew was wounded.
May 29 – Target: Politz, Germany. This was the toughest target to date for the 34th Bomb Group. A total of thirty-six aircraft took off from Mendlesham carrying three hundred sixty 500lb bombs. The primary target was the synthetic oil refinery at Politz. Three aircraft were lost due to flak and three crewmen were wounded. The three B-24s lost were The Dutchess (#42-94861), Salutation Rose (#42-94770) and Me Worry? (#42-94796). In addition to the three lost aircraft, 23 others were damaged from the heavy flak encountered in the target area. Eighteen aircrew members became prisoners, one was killed and nine were interned when B-24 Me Worry? crashed in Sweden.
May 30 – Target: Diepholz, Germany. The target was a crucial Luftwaffe airfield.A total of twenty-four aircraft took off; however, one returned due to mechanical problems. Two-thirds of the target sustained hits by Group bombs, including runway and airfield buildings. One B-24 was lost to enemy flak and four other bombers received battle damage. B-24H Smoky (#41-28840) from the 18th Bomb Squadron was the bomber lost to anti-aircraft fire over Rotterdam. Eight of the crew were taken prisoner and one crewmember was successful in evading capture. Hells Belle, flown by Lt. Simpson’s crew, took off at 0705 hours carrying six 1000lb bombs flying in the high squadron. All bombs were released on the target at 1108 hours from 23,000 feet. The Hells Belle landed at Mendlesham at 1306 hours with no reported battle damage.
May 31 – Target: Belgian Targets. Twenty-four aircraft took off from Mendlesham on this mission carrying 75 tons of bombs; however, the mission was recalled due to overcast cloud cover in the target area. Hells Belle participated in this mission being flown by a crew from the 7th Bomb Squadron.
June 4 – Target: Bretigny,France. Twelve aircraft flew this mission against a Luftwaffe airfield. Although considerable flak was encountered the B-24s were successful in dropping 36 tons of bombs on the primary target and all returned with no battle damage.
June 6 – Target: Caen and Lisieux, France. This was D-Day. The mission was to soften and disrupt the German coastal defenses and cut off resupply routes just prior to the Allied invasion. Unfortunately, 10/10 cloud cover totally obscured assigned bridges and highway choke points and forced the Group’s planes to return to base with full bomb loads. One aircraft from the 7th Bomb Squadron, Misery Agent (#41-28838), was lost when fuel ran out as it approached the English coast. All nine of the crew were killed in the crash. Although the assigned targets were relatively close the flight duration was exceptionally long to avoid the Normandy invasion area. A second mission on the same day targeting the area around Lisieux netted similar results due to target weather conditions. However, a third mission of the day on Lisieux was successful in dropping 56 tons of bombs on the target with no losses.
June 7 – Target: Tours, France. This was an “Intruder” mission. Twenty-six planes were scheduled for this evening mission; however, two were forced to abort. It was dark when the mission returned to the Mendlesham traffic pattern for landing. Apparently the returning formation was shadowed by several German JU-88s and ME-410s that attacked the approaching B-24s as they attempted to land. In the process four B-24s were lost to the enemy fighters. B-24 number 42-52738(Wilson) from the 391st Bomb Squadron was shot down over the field and crashed into the personal equipment building, completely destroying the structure along with a significant amount of flight support equipment. Nine of the ten crew members on this aircraft were killed. A second bomber, Scotty (#41-29572) from the 18th Bomb Squadron crashed near Ipswich killing three crew members, while a third badly damaged B-24, Sweet Souix (#42-94911) from the 4th Bomb Squadron, was crashed at Wethering Stell killing two crew. The fourth bomber, Cookie’s Wailing Wall (#42-52696) crashed landed near Eye. In all, twelve aircrew members were killed and nine wounded or injured as a result of the German fighter attack. Hells Belle, piloted by Lt. Simpson and his crew, participated in this mission flying with the lead squadron and carrying twelve 500lb bombs to the target area. On return to Mendlesham they barely averted falling victim to the German fighters and successfully diverted to nearby Little Walden airfield.
June 11 – Target: Fleurs, France. Forty-one aircraft were scheduled on this mission to bomb the airfield at Fleurs; however, only thirty-nine bombers actually took off early on the morning of June 11th. Poor weather prevented an attack on the target and the aircraft returned without dropping their bombs. Lt. Simpson and his crew took off from Mendlesham in Hells Belle at 0449 hours loaded with twenty-four 250lb general purpose bombs.
June 12 - Target: Beauvais and Tille, France. Thirty-seven B-24s from the 34th Bomb Group took off on this early morning mission carrying 60 tons of bombs. All bombs were successfully released on the primary targets and the formation returned to base without incident. Lt. Simpson and his crew flew Hells Belle on this mission as a part of the low squadron carrying twenty-four 250lb bombs and a K-24 camera to record strike information. Bombs from Hells Belle were dropped on the target at 0911 hours from 22,500 feet with “good” results.
June 14 – Target: Cambrai-Epinoy, France. The 34th Bomb Group led the 93rd Wing on this mission to attack the Luftwaffe airfield at Cambrai-Epinoy. Thirty-nine bombers were scheduled for the mission; however, two were forced to abort. Thirty-seven B-24s made the bomb run on the primary target with nearly 70 tons of bombs, but due to poor weather conditions the results were rated as “poor”. The entire formation ran into heavy concentrations of flak over Antwerp, Belgium and twelve B-24s were damaged. One B-24 from the 18th Bomb Squadron, Mean Kid (#44-40468), was damaged so severely that it crash landed at Manston airfield with a badly wounded pilot. Lt. Laskin, the aircraft commander on Mean Kid, was awarded a Silver Star for his actions to successfully recover the damaged aircraft and crew on this mission. A crew from the 7th Bomb Squadron was scheduled to fly Hells Belle on this mission; however, the crew aborted due to engine problems.
June 17 – Target: Laval, France. Thirty-nine aircraft arrived over the target and all but two were able to discharge 110 tons of bombs on the Luftwaffe airfield at Laval. Nineteen of the Group’s bombers received flak damage on this mission; however, none were shot down and there were no wounded. Lt. Simpson and his crew flew their Hells Belle on this mission, taking off at 1642 and dropping their twelve 100lb bombs at 2030 hours from an altitude of 17,500 feet. Hells Belle sustained minor battle damage on this mission landing at 2315 hours.
June 20 – Target: Misburg, Germany. This was the first of two missions flown by B-24s of the 34th Bomb Group on this date. The first mission launched early in the morning against the oil refinery at Misburg. Thirty-five B-24s dropped a total of four hundred fifteen 500lb bombs on the refinery complex. Fifteen of the attacking bombers were damaged by flak and one crewmember was wounded. Mission results were rated as “good to very good”. Hells Belle took off at 0451 hours with Lt. Simpson at the controls carrying twelve 500lb bombs. The Hells Belle was part of the lead squadron on this attack and dropped their bombs at 0916 hours from an altitude of 23,000 feet. Hells Belle sustained minor damage from flak and returned to Mendlesham at 1133 hours.
June 23 – Target: Coulommiers, France. This was a relatively small mission composed of twelve B-24s from the 7th Bomb Squadron. The target was an airfield at Coulommiers. The mission made their bomb run on the Luftwaffe occupied airfield at 2011 hours, dropping five hundred forty-two 100lb bombs. Unfortunately the bombing results were poor due to marginal weather conditions in the target area.
June 24 – Target: Chateaudun, France. This was the first of two missions flown by 34th Bomb Group aircraft on June 24th. Twenty-six aircraft participated in the first attack on the Luftwaffe airfield at Chateaudun. Eleven hundred 100lb bombs were dropped achieving “very good” results. One of the attacking B-24s was damaged so severely by German flak that it was unable to return to base and made a forced landing in the English Channel. Lt. Simpson and his crew flew the Hells Belle on this mission, taking off from Mendlesham at 0425 hours. Hells Belle carried fifty-two 100lb bombs to the target, releasing at 0825 from an altitude of 19,500 feet. The Hells Belle successfully returned to the field at 1039 hours with no reported damage.
June 24 – Target: Beaumetz le Aires, France. Twenty-six B-24s from the Group were launched on the second mission of the day against an airfield at Beaumetz le Aires. However, only twelve of the aircraft were able to drop their bombs. Hells Belle flew on this mission with a 7th Bomb Squadron crew. One B-24 did not return from this mission, crashing in the English Channel. This was War Eagle (#41-29566) which was being flown by a 7th Bomb Squadron crew. All the bombs were jettisoned when the plane encountered engine trouble. The entire crew successfully bailed out over the English coast and the plane crashed at East Lydd, England.
June 25 – Target: St. Avord, France. This was again a double mission day for the 34th Bomb Group. The first mission launched during the early morning hours was composed of thirteen aircraft which dropped twenty-six tons of bombs on the primary target with “Excellent” results. Hells Belle, flown by Lt. Simpson and crew, carried fifty-two 100lb bombs on this mission, releasing their bombs at 0825 hours from 19,500 feet. There was no battle damage reported during this mission.
June 25 – Target: Esternay and Etampes Mondesir. Twenty-four aircraft carrying 12 tons of bombs were launched on this mission with twelve B-24s bombing the target at Esternay and twelve aircraft releasing their bombs on Etampes. Eleven of the attacking bombers were damaged by flak. One plane, Maid of Fury (#42-94849), was forced to ditch in the English Channel with four of its crew members being killed. Hells Belle took off on this mission with a 7th Bomb Squadron crew flying the aircraft. Shortly after takeoff the plane experienced mechanical problems and was forced to return to Mendlesham.
June 27 – Target: Beauvoir, France. Twelve aircraft from the Group were dispatched on this mission; however, due to extensive cloud cover in the target area the bombing results were rated as “poor”. 22 tons of bombs were dropped; however, three of the attacking aircraft were unable to release their bombs due to mechanical problems.
June 28 – Target: Coulommiers, France. Twelve B-24s from the 4th Bomb Squadron were dispatched on this combined mission with aircraft of the 92nd Bomb Wing mission against the airfield at Coulommiers. However, due to poor weather in the target area the entire mission was cancelled after the aircraft had formed-up and were headed toward the French coast. Lt. Simpson and crew flew Captain John Silver (#42-94818) on this mission due to mechanical repairs being undertaken on Hells Belle.
June 29 – Target: Fallersleben, Germany. Thirty-eight B-24s from the 34th Bomb Group led this early morning mission composed of aircraft from the 93rd Wing. The primary target was an aircraft engine factory at Fallersleben. Although only thirty-one of the Group’s B-24s successfully released 76 tons of bombs, results of this mission were scored as “good” with numerous hits on machine shops and assembly areas. Lt. Simpson and crew flew B-24 number 44-40208 on this mission.
July 2 – Target: Haute de Cote and Monte Luis Ferme, France. Thirty-six aircraft from the 34th Bomb Group participated in this mission; however, two bombers were forced to abort and only twenty-three of the Group’s B-24s released their bombs. Bombing was done with a new radar bombing system which provided the opportunity to bomb above a cloud cover. Three specially equipped planes from the 486th Bomb Group led this mission. July would prove to be uncooperative in respect to weather with nineteen days out of the month being classified as unfavorable due to weather and target area cloud cover.
July 6 – Target: Fressin, Crepieul, and Crepy, France. There were actually two missions flown on this date against tactical targets in France that had been identified as possible V-1 Buzz Bomb Launch sites. The early morning mission launched at approximately 0530 and was composed of thirty-nine aircraft. However, three bombers were forced to abort and only thirty-four B-24s dropped their 81.8 tons of bombs on the primary target. Hells Belle was back in action on this mission with Lt. Simpson and crew aboard. Hells Belle carried twenty 250-pound bombs releasing on the target at 0910 hours from an altitude of 23,800 feet. No battle damage was reported and the Group returned to Mendlesham at approximately 1000 hours.
July 6 – Target: L’Isle Adam and Bois de Cassan, France. This was the second mission of the day for the Group and was composed of twelve B-24s from the 18th Bomb Squadron. The formation successfully dropped 33.3 tons of bombs on two V-1 sites .
July 8 – Target: Bois du Grand Marche, France. This was the first of two scheduled missions for the Group with strikes against confirmed V-1 launch sites. Twenty-six bombers from the Group were launched; however one aborted. Twenty-three aircraft succeeded in dropping 53.8 tons of bombs on the targets. Results on this mission were graded “good” with a number of hits in the immediate target area as well as in adjacent support facilities. Hells Belle participated on this mission flown by a crew from the 7th Bomb Squadron. The scheduled afternoon mission for July 8th was scrubbed due to weather.
July 9 – Target: Foret de St. Saens, La Grande Vallee and St. Sylvestre, France. Thirty-nine planes from the Group were launched on this mission against assorted targets; however, two aircraft aborted. Thirteen aircraft were successful in dropping their bombs on the primary target and one aircraft dropped on the secondary target. One aircraft, Captain John Silver (#42-94818), was lost on this mission due to flak and ditched in the English Channel. Seven crewmembers, including the pilot and co-pilot were killed. Lt. Simpson and crew flew Hells Belle on this mission as part of the high squadron.
July 12 – Target: Bois De Grande Marche, Bertreville, and St. Oun, France. Twenty-six aircraft were scheduled for this mission; however, one of the bombers was forced to abort. Adverse weather over the target area forced the Group’s aircraft to return to base without dropping their bombs. Lt. Simpson piloted Hells Belle on this mission, taking off at Mendlesham at 0459 hours carrying twenty 250lb bombs.
July 14 – Target: Montdidiers, France. Twenty-four bombers from the 7th and 18th Bomb Squadrons were scheduled for this mission targeting the airfield at Montdidiers. Three bombers aborted and twenty-one successfully dropped their 50.5 tons of bombs on the primary target. None of the mission aircraft reported battle damage.
July 17 – Target: Neuvy sur Loire, France. The primary target for this mission was a bridge at Neuvy sur Loire. Thirty-seven bombers from the 34th Bomb Group participated in this mission; however, two were forced to abort and thirty-three actually were successful in dropping their 82.5 tons of bombs on the primary. There were no losses on this mission and no reported damage.
July 18 – Target: Prenouville, France. Forty-three B-24s from the Group were launched on this mission to participate in bombing tactical targets in and around Prenouville. Thirty-one aircraft released 88.5 tons of bombs in the primary target area and twelve planes dropped 33.6 tons of bombs on targets of opportunity. Once again, there were no losses and no reported damage to participating aircraft.
July 19 – Target: Saarbrucken and Konz Karthaus, Germany. Thirty-eight aircraft from the 34th Bomb Group were dispatched on this mission but four were forced to abort. The mission was composed of nearly 200 bombers from different units targeting the railroad marshalling yards at Saarbrucken. Twenty of the Group’s aircraft released 55.8 tons of bombs on the primary and eleven 34th Bomb Group B-24’s dropped 31.5 tons on the secondary target. Hells Belle was lost on this mission while being flown by a crew from the 18th Bomb Squadron. This was the twenty-fourth combat mission for the Hells Belle. It was reported that the aircraft was destroyed when it collided with another B-24 enroute from the IP to target. However, years later, German AAA records and a diary recovered in 1990 revealed that the Hells Belle was probably hit by German flak and it collided with a B-24 from the 18th Bomb Squadron (Ann, # 42-51190) as it tumbled out of control. Combat records indicate that nineteen aircrew members died as a result of the crash and two members of the Ann survived and were taken prisoner.
Additionally, the Tondelayo (#44-40284) from the 391st Bomb Squadron was hit by flak about one minute after releasing its bombs. Although all the controls were damaged, the pilot managed to fly the aircraft westward toward the coast of France where three crew members parachuted from the damaged bomber over Dieppe. The remaining crew managed to get the aircraft back to England where they bailed out before the bomber crashed near Lympne Airfield. Unfortunately the three aircrew members that bailed out over Dieppe were reported as Killed in Action (KIA).
July 24 – Target: St. Lo, France. This mission was primarily tactical to support Allied troops. Thirty-eight of the Group’s B-24s were launched on this mission; however, none of the bombers were able to drop their bombs. A B-24 from the 18th Bomb Squadron, The Dugan Wagon (#42-94757), was lost as a result of German flak in the area of St. Lo. Flak hits tore one engine from the aircraft and one engine caught fire sending the bomber spinning to the ground. The entire crew of nine were killed.
July 25 – Target: St. Lo, France. Again the Group went after tactical targets in support of Allied ground forces. Thirty-six bombers were dispatched with all thirty-six dropping 95.9 tons of bombs on the primary target. All bombers returned with no reported damage.
July 27 – Target: Wissant, Belgium. Two missions were launched on this date that included aircraft from the 34th Bomb Group. The first mission was composed exclusively of aircraft from the 18th Bomb Squadron who were dispatched to targets in the vicinity of Wissant. Twelve aircraft were launched; however, two were forced to abort and the remaining ten aircraft were unable to drop their bombs on the designated target.
July 27 – Brussels and Ghent, Belgium. This early morning mission included thirty-six B-24s from the 34th Bomb Group. Twenty-one aircraft dropped 58 tons of bombs on the primary target and twelve aircraft released their 36 tons on the secondary target with three bombers unable to drop their bombs. The Kisco Kid (#42-94930) was hit by flak on the bomb run causing considerable damage to the fuselage and wings. Immediately after releasing bombs another flak burst cut the rudder control cables and damaged the #1 engine. The crew was able to get the aircraft back to England and bail out prior to the plane exploding and crashing at West Malling. Five members of this crew were wounded as a result of German flak. This was the first mission for Lt. Simpson’s crew since returning from leave. They flew B-24 #44-40438 on the mission, taking off from Mendlesham at 0525 hours and flying as part of the high squadron. They carried six 1000lb bombs dropping on the secondary target at 0859 hours from 21,000. They also carried a camera on this mission for target assessment. No battle damage was reported.
July 28 – Target: Vilvorde, France. The 34th Bomb Group joined other 8th Air Force bombers in an aerial attack on tactical targets in the vicinity of Vilvorde, France. Thirty-six aircraft from the Group were slated for the mission; however, one aborted and none of the remaining thirty-five aircraft were able to drop their bombs. Lt. Simpson and crew took off in SET ‘EM UP (#42-94787) at 0502 hours carrying a bomb load of twelve 250lb bombs. They were unable to bomb due to weather conditions in the target area and returned to Mendlesham at 0930 hours.
July 29 – Target: Juvincourt, France. Aircraft from the 34th Bomb Group were again slated against tactical targets in support of Allied ground forces. Twenty-three aircraft participated in this effort dropping 64 tons of bombs on the primary target. Lt. Simpson and crew flew this mission in Cokey Flo (#44-40486) taking off at 0455 hours carrying twelve 500lb bombs. The Cokey Flo flew as the #2 aircraft in the lead element of the lead squadron and dropped its bombs on the primary target at 0848 hours from an altitude of 20,600 feet.
July 31 – Target: Laon, France. Thirty-five bombers from the Group participated in this mission against tactical targets around Laon, France. Three of the Group’s B-24s were forced to abort due to mechanical problems; however thirty-two of the aircraft successfully released their 76.6 tons of bombs on the primary target. Lt. Simpson piloted Weary Willie (#42-94755) on this mission with a load of twenty 250lb bombs. Once again Lt. Simpson flew as number two in the lead element of the lead squadron, dropping their bombs at 1309 hours from an altitude of 22,600 feet. There was no reported battle damage on this mission and Weary Willie landed at 1543 hours.
August 1 – Target: Betreville, St. Oun, Foret de St. Saens, Val des Joues, France. This mission primarily focused on possible V-1 launch locations. Thirty-nine B-24s from the Group participated in this raid against German “Buzz Bomb” launchers, but only twenty-four aircraft expended their 54 tons of bombs on the primary targets. Lt. Simpson and his crew flew B-24 number 44-40463 on this mission. No damage to the aircraft was reported.
August 2 - Target: Foret de St. Saens, Betreville, and St. Jean du Cordonnay,France. Once again the Group sent thirty-nine aircraft against reported Buzz Bomb launch locations in France. However, due to weather over the target, only eleven planes were able to drop their 30 tons of bombs on the primary target. Lt. Simpson and crew participated on this mission flying Me Worry II (#42-94942). This was a late afternoon/evening mission with a take-off at 1605 hours and a landing shortly after 2100 hours.
August 3 – Target: Brussels, Belgium. On this day the Group shifted back to targets to interdict the movement of supplies and materials to the battle areas. The primary targets on August 3rd were railway marshalling yards and support facilities around Brussels. All thirty-six aircraft that were launched on the mission successfully dropped their 87 tons of bombs on the primary targets. Lt. Simpson piloted a B-24 from the 18th Bomb Squadron on this mission (#42-52755) and successfully returned with no battle damage.
August 4 – Target: Hulsum, Germany. This mission targeted the Luftwaffe airfield at Hulsum. Twenty-six B-24s from the Group participated in this 8th Air Force mission, successfully expending 75 tons of bombs on a secondary target. A 4th Bomb Squadron B-24 number 44-40049 was piloted by Lt. Simpson and his crew on this mission. No battle damage was reported.
August 5 – Target: Halberstadt, Germany. The Luftwaffe was targeted again on this day with attacks on the large airfield at Halberstadt. Thirty-six bombers from the Group took off from Mendlesham, and thirty-five of the B-24s successfully dropped 100 tons of bombs on the primary target. Mission results were graded as “good”. One of the attacking bombers, Shadrach (#41-29557) from the 7th Bomb Squadron was shot down by German AAA over Vagdeburg. The radio operator was killed and the eight remaining crew members successfully bailed outbut were captured and became POWs. Lt. Simpson and his crew flew in a B-24 named Male Call (#42-94869) and after dispatching their bombs on the primary target returned without damage.
August 18 – Target: Roye Amy, France. This mission targeted a Luftwaffe airfield north of Paris. Twenty-nine B-24s from the 391st and 7th Bomb Squadrons participated in this effort, dropping 59.5 tons of bombs on the primary target. Eight of the attacking aircraft suffered major damage from German AAA and one B-24, The Bold Sea Rover (#42-94745), took a direct hit from flak. The tail was blown off the aircraft and no chutes were observed. All twelve of the bomber’s crew were killed. Ten crewmembers in the damaged aircraft were wounded, some severely.
August 24 – Target: Kiel and Hemmingstadt, Germany. This was the final mission of the 34th Bomb Group flying the B-24 Liberator. Thirty-nine aircraft were dispatched in the “maximum effort” mission, with all the aircraft expending their 100 tons of bombs on either the primary or secondary targets. This was probably one of the toughest missions to date for the Group with three aircraft being lost and virtually every returning bomber being damaged. In all, sixteen crew members were killed, six were wounded, one became a POW and ten were interned in Sweden.
August 6 – Target: La Briqueterie, Val des Joncs, and Foret de St. Saens, France. This was another mission by the Group targeting Buzz bomb launch sites in France. Although thirty-nine bombers from the Group got airborne to participate on this mission, none were able to drop their bombs due to poor weather in the target area.
August 7 – Target: Remilly, France. Twenty-six bombers from the Group participated in this mission against tactical targets in France. Nine of the aircraft were able to drop their 22.5 tons of bombs on the primary target; however, seventeen bombers were unsuccessful in reaching the target area. One Group’s lead B-24 from the 391st Bomb Squadron, Sunshine Rose (#44-40323), was shot down by German flak near Nanteuill, France. The bomber took a direct hit in the bomb bay, falling out of formation and going into a 45 degree dive, crashing in the vicinity of Malmmedy. The Group Operations Officer, Lt. Col. Eaton was killed along with five other crew members. Five crewmembers were able to bail out and became POWs.
August 8 – Target: Monte Gournay, France. Twenty-six bombers from the 4th and 7th Bomb Squadrons were dispatched to participate in an attack on tactical targets in the vicinity of Monte Gournay, France. Only seventeen of the Group’s aircraft were able to release their 36.2 tons of bombs on the primary target and nine aircraft failed to release their bombs. Rough House Kate (#41-29542) was flown on this mission by Lt. Simpson and his crew. No reported damage was received and they successfully expended their bomb load.
August 10 – Target: Sens, France. Targets for this mission included a fuel storage depot and railway bridges. Twenty-six B-24s from the 391st and 18th Bomb Squadrons made up the bombers from the 34th Bomb Group that participated in this raid. All twenty-six aircraft released their 75 tons of bombs on the primary target. Good results were reported on the fuel storage tanks, the railroad system was cut with twelve bomb hits and a large factory building was damaged with one direct hit. No aircraft were damaged during this mission.
August 11 – Target: Tousus Lenobles and Orleans, France. Thirty-nine bombers from the Group participated in this action with twenty-three aircraft dropping 55.2 tons of bombs on the primary target and nine aircraft dropping 22.3 tons of bombs on the secondary target. Seven bombers failed to release their bombs. One B-24, Belchin’ Bessie (#41-29559), crashed on take-off; however, the crew survived and only two crewmembers sustained minor injuries. Lt. Simpson and his crew flew Umbriago (#42-94869) on this mission.
August 13 – Target: Ronen, France. The Group’s primary target on this date was suspected V-1 Buzz Bomb launch sites in the vicinity of Ronen, France. Thirty-nine B-24s were once again dispatched to six different targets in 6-plane groups. Thirty-one aircraft dropped 76.8 tons of bombs on the primary targets while seven of the attacking aircraft expended their 18.2 tons of bombs on targets of opportunity in the general area. One of the attacking B-24s was unable to drop.
August 14 – Target: Saintes, France. Thirty-eight B-24s from the 34th Bomb Group participated in this mission with other 8AF bomber units against tactical and interdiction targets in the vicinity of Saintes. Thirty-seven of the attacking bombers released their 111 tons of bombs on the primary target. Lt. Simpson and his crew flew in the lead squadron on this mission in Male Call (#42-94869). None of the attacking planes were lost or reported damaged on this mission.
August 15 – Target: Florennes Juzaine, France. The primary target for this mission was an airfield complex at Florennes Juzaine. Of the thirty-six B-24s launched on the mission, thirty-six were able to successfully release their 85.5 ton of bombs on the primary target. Lt. Simpson piloted aircraft number 44-40421 on this mission and after successfully dropping his bombs returned to Mendlesham with no battle damage. One of the bombers, Bad Penny (#44-40267), was forced to abort due to an engine problem and crashed during landing. Fortunately none of the crew was injured.
August 16 – Target: Halberstadt, Germany. The primary target for this mission included the airfield at Halberstadt, Germany. Thirty-nine aircraft were launched on this mission and all successfully dropped, expending 87 tons of bombs on the primary target. Lt. Simpson and his crew flew Picadilly Tilly (#44-40458) on this mission.
The lead aircraft from the 4th Bomb Squadron, Jerks Berserk (#44-40443), was hit by flak but managed to make it back to England before crashing; however, all but one of the crew was killed. Jerks Berserk was piloted by Lt. Bill Mackey and the Squadron Commander, Major Joe Garrett occupied the co-pilot seat during the mission. The bomber took a direct hit by flak while on the bomb run to target; however, the crew managed to get the damaged aircraft back to the English Channel when it was decided that the crew should bail out. Lt. Mackey and eight members of the crew bailed out over the Channel while Major Garrett stayed with the aircraft until shortly before it crashed. The nine crewmembers that bailed out over the channel were reported safe in their rafts; however, they disappeared in the North Sea and were not rescued. The body of one of the crewmembers later washed up on Danish coast with bullet wounds. It is now thought that the surviving crewmembers were killed by machinegun fire from a U-boat or German aircraft.
A B-24 from the 7th Bomb Squadron, Smitty (#42-94780), was hit by flak near Misburg, Germany, and fire was seen spreading over the entire aircraft. The left wing disintegrated as the plane went down and only one crewmember survived and became a POW. Another bomber from the 7th Bomb Squadron, The Near Sighted Robin (#41-28851) suffered damage to one of its engines and was last seen headed for Sweden. The aircraft and crew wereinterned after landing at Sovde, Sweden. This was the final combat mission for Lt. Simpson and crew. They flew in Male Call (#42-94869) and sustained minor battle damage during the mission.
By the end of August, 1944, the 34th Bomb Group was in a transitional phase. Many of the original crew members had completed their tours and were being shipped back to the United States. After the August 24th mission operations were suspended so training could be conducted for the Group’s transition to the B-17 Flying Fortress. The Group would continue to operate in the ETO through the end of the war and would distinguish itself in strategic bombing operations flying the B-17.
History of the Hells Belle
In the early morning hours of July 19, 1944 on crowded runways in south and southeast England (East Anglia), 1242 heavy bombers of the 8th US Army Air Force were fueled and loaded with bombs and ammunition. With a dozen target areas assigned, target priorities included airports and aircraft industry factories as well as chemical plants and train stations.
The Bomber Group flew out over the southeast coast of England and then over the Dutch islands towards their target. A “War Diary” (Freeman, 1990) describes the detail of the attack: The first formation consisting of 353, B-17 bombers had target objectives of Hollriegelsdreuth (chemical plant) and then onto Augsburg (Messerschmitt factory) and then the airfield at Lechfeld as well as several smaller targets in Daun and Ulm. Targets for the second formation consisting of 291, B24 bombers were airfields in Boblingen, Laupheim and Leiphelm, a Messerschmitt factory in Kempten, a railroad marshalling yard in Strassburg-Hausbergen and individual targets in Koblenz and Baden-Baden. The third formation consisting of 260, B-17’s targets bearing factories in Schweinfurt and Ebelsbach and smaller targets in Duren and Darmstadt. The fourth and final formation was made-up of 196, B-24’s with targets in Saarbrucken, Neunkirchen, Koblenz and one target along the Rhein. In Saarbrucken the bombing would shut down the marshalling yard, which is considered as an important supply center for the front in the west. It was a highly regarded target by the allies because of the high through put of 6000 rail cars per day and because it housed extensive repair facilities for locomotives. In Neunkichen the railway station and parts of the iron works are the prime targets.
In all, 1100 bombers including 611, B-17’s and 489, B-24’s would reach their targets escorted by 670 fighters including the Lighting class, the Thunderbolt class and the Mustang class.
In Mendleshem, at the 8th USAAF air base at 02:45 the crew briefing began. The briefing addressed the targets, the flight paths, defense positions and the probability that the weather would not turn bad along the flight path. At 05:50 all 51 planes of the 34th Bomb Group had taken-off successfully. Each plane carried 10 to 12, 500 pound bombs in their bomb bays and they were to meet up with the entire formation over the North Sea. The weather forecast for the target area was good. The targets would be able to be seen from high altitudes. B-24 “ANNE” (serial number 42-51190) piloted by 2nd Lt. J.W. Little, was in the front, high formation and behind and below was B-24 “HELL’S BELLE” (serial number 42-94893) piloted by 2nd Lt. I.E. Dematio. When the two bombers started into formation, the 21 crew members had no idea that their fate would be a terrible disaster and this would be the last day of their lives. During the approach on the target area in Saarbrucken, German fighter planes emerge and close on the bombers but there was not an attack, most likely because of the close proximity of flack.
In Saarbrucken the German Flack Battery 1. - 6/631 of the 169. Flack Regiment, Saar/Lorraine had the formation as their target and had as their objective to shoot over 300 deadly flack projectiles into the B-24 formation.
At 09.31 the Liberator, the “HELL’S BELLE” flying at an altitude of 6500 meters is hit by flack which caused the “HELL’S BELLE” to stray in the formation and hit the “ANNE”, another bomber in the formation flying above her. The two planes were connected for about 1000 meters before they came apart and hit the ground. The details of this event in the air were released many years after the war. According to statements of German eye-witnesses on the ground and of crew members of the other B-24’s in the formation, the Dematio B-24, which was flying in the lower formation, received a hit with flack and Demato made a steering correction or lost control. The “HELL’S BELLE”, after receiving a flack hit, started changing course and collided with Little’s B-24 which was flying in the high formation. The report from the German Flack Regiment 1 - 6/631 from Saarbrucken describes the event:
“During the bomber formation target approach the No. 6 airplane (42-94893) flying in the lower formation, apparently takes a direct flack hit and probably because of injury to the pilot the plane moved close to and hit the plane flying above it (42-51190). From the airplane in the high formation it is observed that two crew members jumped from the burning plane (Blevins and Hart from the ANNE). No one was observed jumping from the plane from the low formation (HELL’S BELLE).”
Following the crash of the Dematio B-24, the following report about the crash was submitted to German Air Force Headquarters, Metz. This report indicated one crew member of the “HELL’S BELLE” was still alive after the crash.
“The airplane exploded in air and was 99% destroyed. The registration number and marks were no longer recognizable. Eight persons were found dead and it is thought however that one person was also dead under the wreckage. One person was taken prisoner and turned over at the next military station.”
Note: This information was extracted from an article in German publication entitled “Kollision uber dem Sutzbachtal”. It was translated and compiled by Alan Simpson.
Collision over the Sulzbachtal:
Last Mission of the Hells Belle
Officers of Hells Belle L-R: Jack Jones (Bombardier), Bob Simpson (Pilot), Jimmy Byrd (Co-Pilot) Tom Hogan (Navigator)
Enlisted Crew-Members of the Hells Belle. Standing L-R:
Charles VanKirk (Radio), Volney Snyder (Ball Turret Gunner),
Clyde Collier (Engineer/Waist Gunner)
Front Row L-R: Marion Baker (Top Turret Gunner), Joe Starzec (Tail Gunner), Henry Tobiason (Nose Turret Gunner)
4th Bomb Squadron B-24H 41-29562 “Tommy Thumper”One of the original B-24s in the Group. Was damaged and salvaged after a hard landing on arrival in England.
“Hells Belle” with 20 Combat Missions Painted below the Pilot position
42-94796 “Me Worry” Damaged and made emergency landing in Sweden on May 29, 1944. Crew and aircraft were interned in Sweden
“Mean Kid” after crash landing at Manston on June 14th
4th Bomb Squadron B-24H #42-94811
“Tommy Thumper II” accompanied “Hells Belle”
on many of the 4th Squadron Combat Missions
June 20 – Target: Blanchemont and Haute de Cote, France. All four squadrons from the 34th Bomb Group participated in second sortie of the day. Forty-seven B-24s were dispatched with thirty-two dropping their bombs on the primary target (Blanchemont) and ten bombers dropping on Haute de Cote. Five of the attacking bombers failed to drop their bombs. Nearly 108 tons of bombs were dropped on this mission; however, seventeen of the Group’s aircraft were damaged by defending flak. One of the returning B-24s from the 7th Bomb Squadron (#44-40470) was forced to crash land at Woodchurch airfield with two crew fatalities. Hells Belle participated on this mission with Lt. Simpson piloting. Lt. Simpson’s aircraft carried fifty-two 100lb bombs on this sortie, releasing the bombs on the primary target from 22,900 feet at 2059 hours. The Hells Belle landed at 2226 hours with minor flak damage but none of the crew were wounded.
June 22 – Target: Touman-en-Brie, France. This mission targeted railroad marshalling yards and rolling stock. Thirty-nine B-24s were launched on this mission with 19,780 pounds of bombs being released on the target. However, twenty of the attacking bombers received flak damage, four of which received major damage. One of the damaged aircraft, Off Limits (#42-94782), crash landed on the English coast with minor injuries to four of the crew. A second B-24, Turgo Joe (#44-40303) was severely damaged by flak while flying in the lead squadron at 20,000 feet over Le Harve. It was reported that the entire nose of the aircraft was blown off and two engines were hit. Practically the entire front portion of the plane was destroyed with the exception of the nose turret and back of the pilot’s seat. The pilot was injured and bombardier was killed. Three crew members successfully bailed out while the aircraft was still over France. All controls were gone except the ailerons, the hydraulic systems failed, oxygen system was non-functional, and the aircraft was running out of fuel. The injured pilot elected to attempt a crash landing on the English coast and was aided by the flight engineer in getting the aircraft across the English Channel. All the remaining crew successfully bailed out before Turgo Joe crashed. Hells Belle flew in the low squadron on this mission with Lt. Simpson and his crew aboard. They carried forty-six 100lb bombs to the target and successfully released their bombs at 1918 hours from an altitude of 19,500 feet. Hells Belle sustained minor flak damage on this mission but none of the crew was injured.