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Old 04-30-2010, 04:31 PM
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B17 stuff

Account of Maneuvers: B-17 (42-39957) Halberstadt, Germany on 11 JANUARY
1944.

1st Lt. JOHN W. RAEDEKE US Army Air Corp sends.....

Took off at 0745 o'clock with a load of 2300 gallons of gasoline, 6000
pounds of bombs, full load of ammunition, and the usual weight of men and
equipment. Everything on plane was in perfect working order. Joined the
group formation at 1010 and flew into target without incident but was forced
to use 2400 R.P.M. and 40" HG at times. Dropped our bombs at 11:52 o'clock,
everything still in good shape.

At 1200 o'clock we were hit by fighters which stayed with us for one hour
and fifty minutes. They attacked us from 5-7 o'clock position at first and
gradually as more enemy fighters joined they attacked us from 3-9 o'clock
positions. We were flying "Tail End Charlie", #7 position. The fighters
created much excitement among the squadron, resulting in more power being
applied to the engines. We were forced to use 2500 R.P.M. and 40"-46" almost
continuously.

About 1245 o'clock more enemy fighters joined the attack and finally we
were
being attacked from all positions on the clock, high and low. The plane was
vibrating and pitching unbelievably as a result of all guns firing, fighting
prop-wash, and evading collision with our own as well as enemy planes. Enemy
fighters would come through our formation from 1200 o'clock position, level
in groups of 20-40 at one time all shooting. The sky in front. of us was a
solid mass of exploding 20 M.M. shells, flak, rockets, burning aircraft, and
more enemy fighters. B-17's were going down in flames every 15 minutes and
enemy fighters seemed to explode or go down in smoke like flies dropping out
of the sky.

The "Luftwaffe" attacked us in ME 109's, ME 210's, FW 190's, JU 88's, and
some we couldn't identify. The enemy fighters made suicidal attacks at us
continuously, coming into about fifty feet before turning away. It seemed
that the greater part of the attack was aimed at our ship, perhaps for the
following reason. Our ship was the only one in the group that was not firing
tracer bullets and they apparently thought we had no guns or were out of
ammunition.

The heaviest assault and the one that damaged us happened as follows. At
approximately 1330 o'clock we were attacked by another group of enemy
fighters numbering about forty which came at us again from 1200 o'clock
position, level in formation pattern. Again, we saw that solid wall of
exploding shells and fighters. This time we were flying #3 position in the
second element of the lead squadron. As they came in the top turret gunner
of our ship nailed a FW 190 which burst into flames, nosed up and to its
left, thus colliding with the B-17 flying #2 position of the second element
on our right. Immediately upon colliding this B-17 burst into flames,
started into a loop but fell off on its left wing and across our tail. We
were really hit and we had "Had It". At the time we were thus stricken we
were using a full power setting of 2500 R.P.M. and 40"-46" Hg. Our I.A.S.
was approximately 165 M.P.H. and our altitude was 19,000 feet.

Immediately upon being hit by the falling B-17 we were nosed up and went
into a loop. Confusion, no less, and embarrassment. Pilot called crew at
once and ordered them to prepare to bail out. Response was instantaneous and
miraculously proficient. Not one crew member grew frantic or lost his head,
so to speak. All stood ready at their stations to abandon the ship. The
action of the Pilot regarding the handling of the ship was as follows. As
quickly as we were hit we engaged the A.F.C.E. which was set up for level
flying. Full power was applied with throttle and both Pilot and Co-Pilot
began the struggle with the manual controls.

It was noted at once that the rudder control was out because the rudder
pedals could not be moved. In only a fraction of a second the ship had
completed a beautiful loop and was now merrily spinning toward the ground,
with five enemy fighters following on the tail. Although the spin seemed
flat and rather slow it was vicious and we were losing altitude fast. As
soon as we had completed the loop and had fallen into a spin the Pilot,
having full confidence in a prayer, recalled the crew members and ordered
them to stand by for a little while longer.

"Guts" discipline, and confidence in their Pilot was certainly displayed by
the crew by the fact that they stayed with the ship. To return to the spin
and its final recovery. When the ship fell into a spin the Pilot after
determining its direction applied full inside throttle, retarded the other
two, used only aileron A.F.C.E. control, and applied it in full opposite
position, rolled elevator trim-tab fully forward, and in addition both
pilots applied full forward position on control column, plus full opposite
aileron. After making at least two or three complete 360-degree turns, the
ship finally swept into a clean dive at an angle of approximately 45 degrees
from level.

The I.A.S. at this time was approximately 280 M.P.H. The altitude was
approximately 12,000 feet. Power setting was reduced to about 2/3. At this
point it was noted that one enemy fighter was still following on our tail,
therefore seeing a solid undercast below we nosed the ship down and applied
additional power. We were heading for cloud cover at an angle of
approximately 75 degrees to 80 degrees from the level at a speed of about
400 M.P.H. indicated. All this while the aileron was clutched into A.F.C.E.
and was holding wings level. The elevators were controlled entirely by the
trim tab.

At 6000 feet we began easing back the elevator trim tab and slowly started
to level out. Finally leveled off in the clouds at 4000 feet, trimmed the
ship, and engaged elevator clutch of A.F.C.E. Disengaged this every few
seconds to re-trim ship, kept it perfectly level and flying smoothly. The
I.A.S. after leveling off in the clouds was still around 340 M.P.H. but was
dropping off quite rapidly until it reached 200 M.P.H. Maintained an I.A.S.
of 190-200 M.P.H. from then on with a power setting of 2100 R.P.M. and 31"
Hg.

Checked all engine instruments immediately after leveling off and found
everything functioning normally, except the Pilot's directional gyro which
apparently had tumbled. Flew in the cloud cover for about ten (10) minutes
then came out above to check for more enemy fighters. Saw one fighter after
several minutes at five (5) O'clock position high so we ducked back into the
clouds for about ten minutes longer. Came out again and found everything
clear.

Rode the top of the clouds all the way back across the North Sea. The point
where we first entered the cloud cover was about thirty (30) minutes flying
time (at our speed) from the enemy sea coast. An interesting point which
occurred was that we came out of our spin and dive on a heading of 270
degrees which fortunately was our heading home. Immediately after we had
leveled off in the clouds each crew member reported into the Co-Pilot that
he was back at his station and manning his guns. No particular excitement or
scare was apparent for the crew members started a merry chatter over the
interphone.

During the violent maneuvers of the loop the left waist gunner, S/Sgt.
Warren Carson, was thrown about in the waist of the ship resulting in a
fractured leg. However, he did remain at his guns until the chances of more
enemy attacks was nil. After we were well out over the North Sea the injured
waist gunner was moved to the radio room where he was treated and made
comfortable by the Bombardier who went back to assist.

At this time also the Co-Pilot went to the rear of the ship to examine the
Control cables and make a general survey of the damage to the tail section.
He reported that about 1/3 of the left horizontal stabilizer and elevator
were off and that almost the entire vertical stabilizer and rudder had been
sheared off but that all control cables were O.K. However, the ship was
functioning quite normally except for the fact that we had to make turns
with aileron only. It also seemed to fly quite smoothly in spite of the
missing vertical stabilizer and rudder. It was therefore decided by the
pilot that a normal landing could be attempted.

Reaching the English coast we headed for our home field but the weather had
closed in and the ceiling was getting lower as we neared our field.
'Finally, we were forced to fly at tree-top heights in order to stay out of
the clouds, thus getting lost. All radio equipment was out and we were not
sure where the field was. Finally it began to rain, besides our other
trouble, so we decided to land at the first field we found. Pilot ordered
all crew members to radio room to prepare for crash landing. However, the
Navigator volunteered to remain in the nose of the ship to direct the Pilot
and Co-Pilot in their approach to the field and a final landing.

The landing was accomplished in the normal manner, taking advantage of a
slightly longer approach. Picked the longest runway which suited the wind
direction but still had to contend with a cross wind. With the aid of the
Navigator's directions we made a low approach to the runway, correcting for
draft by holding the windward wing low and holding it straight by jockeying
the throttles. "No, your wrong", we greased it on.

Made a perfect landing. After setting it on the ground it was noted that
the
right tire was flat However, this did not trouble us because the ship was
stalled out at low speed and slowed down immediately by use of brakes. It
was noted that the ship was almost dry of fuel. Positively no stress was
placed on the ship in landing. It was a landing as any normal landing would
be.

We now know from experience that a B-17 will loop, spin, pull out of a dive
when indicating 400 M.P.H., fly without a rudder and very little horizontal
stabilizer, and will land normally without a rudder and a flat tire added.
The "guts", courage, and confidence displayed by the crew of this mission is
highly commendable. The navigator displayed extreme courage when he
volunteered to remain in the nose to direct the Pilot in landing in almost
zero weather. The Co-Pilot deserves special commendation for his capable
assistance in maneuvering this ship, guarding the engine, his careful survey
of the damage, his assistance in determining the possibility of a safe
landing and finally his reassuring words to the crew over the interphone
during the homeward journey.

The gunners shot down nine (9) enemy aircraft and claimed to have damaged
at
least ten (10) more.

PILOT 1st Lt. JOHN W. RAEDEKE CO-PILOT 2nd Lt. JOHN E. URBAN
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