The afternoon briefing continued, your target will be the Schiphol Airdrome, it is located four miles southwest of Amsterdam, Holland. Enemy flak batteries on the Dutch Coast will be able to fire at the formation, both going in and coming out. Heavy and accurate flak is to be expected on the bomb run, and in the target area.
This will be a multi group raid. The 323rd will lead, followed by the 387th, and 322nd Groups. Our 386th bunch will be the last formation to attack. Each group will supply eighteen planes plus two spares. Major Beaty will lead our effort, Captain Sands will head the high flight, with Captain Boyd White leading the low flight. All ships will carry four 1,000 pound general purpose demolition bombs.>You will rendezvous with the 322nd Group at 1407 hours over splasher beacon number seven. The 322nd will lead you to splasher beacon number six for a rendezvous with the 323rd formation, which will be accompanied by the 387th Bomb Group. The formation will proceed out over the North Sea to a point 52 degrees 10 minutes north, and 03 degrees 30 minutes east where you will rendezvous with your Spitfire fighter escort at 1445 hours.
All emergency airfields, air-sea rescue radio information remains the same as the earlier briefing with these exceptions. Bomber to fighters on VHF Channel A, bomber call sign is Northview Two. Fighter call sign is Beagle, and Ground Sector call sign is Marsbeam. Two to three squadrons of Spitfires will make strafing sweeps of the target area ahead of the bomber attack, with the hope the Jerries will be pinned down when you make your bomb run.
You will encounter cloud build up near the English Coast and extending to mid point over the North Sea with a base of 2,000 feet and tops to 4,000 feet. Visibility will be ten miles with patches of stratocumulus at 2,000 feet along the coast of Holland. The target will have ceiling unlimited, visibility six miles or better with a chance of light haze.
Flight crews left the briefing room at 1220 hours, within five minutes they arrived at their assigned aircraft. The Group started engines at 1255 hours. All eighteen ships were from the 555th Squadron, however they had came up one crew short prior to briefing time. At that point Captain Sandford and crew although not scheduled, volunteered to fill in the vacancy. Flight Officer R.C. Roberts would serve as co-pilot because regular co-pilot Lieutenant W.E. Ruple was grounded for the day with a cold.
Captain Sanford was in the process of running up his engines when his airplane was approached by a man from Group, he was waving a handful of papers. The pilot pulled his throttles back and slid open the side cockpit window to find out what this was all about! The man said, "These are your court-martial papers." The pilot waved the man away as he released his brakes—it was time to taxi out. The man shouted, "Just wait until you get back!"
Major Beaty was moving down the perimeter track with his ship "SON OF SATAN" 131613 YA-Y, followed by Lieutenant J.E. Miller in "Xterminator" 131618 YA-V, and Lieutenant Blackburn in "HELL’S BELLE" 131623 YA-T. Captain Sanford followed as deputy leader with his ship named "HELL’S FURY" 131625 YA-R.
Major Beaty was into the air at 1310 hours, the formation of eighteen planes plus two spares left over base at 1404 hours on a course of 93 degrees true, for rendezvous with the 322nd Group over splasher beacon number seven. They reached there exactly as scheduled at 1407 hours, but no other group was in sight! They set a course for splasher beacon number six; Major Beaty saw a formation far ahead, so he cut to the right in an effort to catch up with them. He was pulling thirty-eight inches of mercury and was indicating 205 m.p.h., but could not close the gap. The others left the rendezvous point fully two minutes ahead of schedule.
The English Coast was reached at 1424 hours over Southwold as the Group took up a heading of 98 degrees out over the North Sea. Captain Sanford had a few brief moments to reflect upon his predicament. The previous month an order came down requiring all flight personnel to turn in their American type parachute equipment. In return they would receive British quick release type harnesses with detachable chute packs. He had refused to obey that order, and was now the subject of court-martial action! A few other pilots had also retained their American back pack chutes—it was a fact the twenty-six foot diameter canopy parachute he was wearing at this very moment had been borrowed from Major Donald Weiss, while the Captain’s own twenty-eight footer was repacked.
Is this what is meant by the fortunes of war? Just nineteen days ago he was spirited away from base by a bird colonel and two M.P.’s—with an envelope marked "SECRET!" His destination was Buckingham Palace to meet the King and Queen who were honoring the three hundred top award airmen. Captain Sanford had previously received our nation’s third highest award, the "SILVER STAR MEDAL" for, "Gallantry in action!" Two squadrons of Spitfire escort met the bombers at the appointed time and place in the sky at 11,000 feet. The lead box of eighteen was approaching the Dutch Coast twelve miles south of landfall, a left dogleg was made and the coast followed for two miles south of Katwijk Aan Zee. A right turn was taken and landfall made at 1458 hours amid flak bursts. Evasive action was commenced and continued all the way to the Initial Point, (I. P.). A barrage balloon was seen, and a heavy flak gun position observed one half mile in from the coast at Noordwijk Aan Zee. A large rectangular excavation near Noordwijk was spotted, a large mound with a railroad track leading into the dunes from Katwijk.
Major Beaty’s formation reached the I. P. and took up a heading of 285 degrees, a huge gap of some four or five miles existed between him and the other groups ahead. His Bombardier Lieutenant William Leirevaag called for a five degree correction to the left, and the 280 degree bomb run was underway as he hunched over his Norden Bomb Sight! The 88mm flak was all about them, very intense and extremely accurate. It could be heard exploding nearby—Shoomp, Whooph, Whooph! Bomb bay doors were open, air speed 190 m.p.h. Captain Sanford pulled "HELL’S FURY" up close behind his leader so close he was looking straight up at Beaty’s tail gunner. Both of Sandford’s wingmen moved in closer. Lieutenant Albert Burger flying "YANKEE DOODLE DANDY" 131947 YA-D on right and Lieutenant Roy Voorhees flying "LADY FROM HADES" 131685 YA-J on the left. An unusual number of large persistent pink bursts preceded a heavy concentration of both white and black bursts. A piece of flak sheared off the pitot tube on "STAR DUST" 134937 YA-N in number two position of the low flight flown by Lieutenant R.D. Wilson.
Number four ship was hit—as noted by number six man Lieutenant Voorhees. Captain Sanford’s airplane sustained a direct hit which appeared to be on the left main fuel tank, the plane burst into flames immediately! Lieutenant Burger, number five man stated, Sanford ship had a direct hit on a wing, and lost wing when it folded over fuselage and burning. It went straight down and exploded. Staff Sergeant E.O. Stensrud was tail gunner on the lead ship and looking down on the Sanford plane. He related—direct hit, the plane nosed up and the left engine burst into flame. Then it nosed down with a half twist to the left, and headed straight to the deck!
The stricken aircraft made a Split-S and was on a reciprocal heading when aerial photographer Tech Sergeant Edward H. Lynch caught sight of it. He was flying in a plane named "MISS MURIEL" 131796 YA-H piloted by Flight Officer Wasowicz. They were in number six position of the low flight. With one wing off "HELL’S FURY" rolled over on its back just as the photographer got off a shot. He cocked the shutter and fired off another shot as the ship tucked its nose under and went into a dive!
Sanford, pilot of the doomed aircraft picks up the narration, "The ground gunners all concentrated on our box. They already had altitude and speed from the first boxes. The flak was so thick you could have walked on it! All I really remember was the hit and immediate loss of control. I think I radioed, "We’re going down, but I’m not sure, it all happened so fast.
I was knocked out apparently, so I don’t know if Jackson had time to hit the salvo button. We were so close to bomb release point, everyone was eager to get the hell out of there! I revived in mid air still strapped in my seat, with my right arm just floating free; I had no use of it. I didn’t know then but my right shoulder must have struck the airplane structure that separates the pilot and co-pilot hatches—my collarbone was broken.
Discipline is a strange thing, I wasn’t scared. The first thing I thought of was some jump instructor telling the class, if you turn your head you roll—put out your legs for control, etc. I was going to try it out until I could see the ground closing in. I tried to drop the seat left handed but my jacket was over the belt, so I had to pull the rip cord left handed, some trick! I leaned forward in the seat so the back pack would open, it did and the seat really put a jerk on my legs. While dropping I released the seat and I just seemed to hang there after the sudden loss of the extra 300 plus pounds of pilot seat and armor plate.
Some Dutch were outside the fence with a car, but I couldn’t control the chute with only the use of one hand. I landed on the target airdrome about 200 feet from the fence and about 150 feet in front of a German barracks, then the occupants in the Dutch car sped off! I became an instant POW. I wasn’t hit by flak but co-pilot Roberts must have been, my whole right side was flecked with white. I think we must have had two simultaneous flak hits—the left wing and also the fuselage under the waist or turret, but I am not sure. During the explosion the aircraft broke up into several large pieces.
I was taken to a Dutch hospital, after a time I was transferred to Dulag for interrogation, eighteen days of solitary and a lot of name rank and serial number. They showed me their intelligence book on the 386th Bomb Group. Everything was there except where we were stationed, which I never told them. All they wanted to do they said, "Was show me that I wasn’t so smart because they had all that information anyway!" They needed my cell so I was shipped off to Barth, Germany via the Berlin marshalling yards—during an air raid!
I heard later through the Geneva Representative that Lieutenant Charles Jackson came down in the wreckage of the nose section and had lived until December 23, 1943. Staff Sergeant Herbert King also lost his chute pack during the break up of the aircraft and rode down in the tail cone section. He died of injuries on Christmas Day 1943. Captain Sanford survived because he was wearing an illegal parachute when his aircraft, "HELL’S Fury" blew to pieces!
The Group was now in the final seconds of the bomb run when number two ship in the lead flight received a near burst of flak. "Xterminator" 131618 YA-V which was flown by Lieutenant John E. Miller was buoyed up by the blast, flak fragments short circuited bomb release wiring which in turn accidentally released the bomb load. Bombardiers in lead flight’s ships number five and six saw the bombs go, and released theirs as well. All the planes in the high flight released on that aircraft’s bombs think they came from the lead plane. Lead Bombardier Lieutenant Leirevaag saw his aiming point and it was bombs away at 1509 hours. Ships in the low flight dropped on his cue. Bomb hits were scored on the runway intersection and hangar area. A few landed in a nearby canal. In spite of the problems, bombing results were rated good.
Flak pounded the formation during a left turn off the target as Lead Navigator Lieutenant Edward O’Neill, Jr. gave Major Beaty a new course of 270 degrees. The lead aircraft had received flak hits in the nose, fuselage, tail assembly, in both wings including the right side fuel tank. In number three position of the lead flight. Lieutenant Blackburn flying "HELL’S BELLE" 131623 YA-T had taken many hits. The windshields of both pilot and co-pilot were cracked, flak holes in wings, right engine nacelle, fuselage and the horizontal stabilizer.
"INCENDIARY MARY" 131768 YA-W flown by Lieutenant Eldridge in number two spot of the high flight took ten major hits. Captain B.B. White leader of the low flight flying: "HELL’S ANGELS" 131615 YA-G received some twenty flak holes. Another ship flown by Lieutenant Aberson, "HELL’S-A-POPPIN II" 131987 YA-G in number four position low flight had his windshield struck, and one hit in the right propeller, dents in the right wing, two hits in the tail, and the lower left package gun was damaged.
More flak came up as the Group exited the enemy coast. It was identified as coming from Haarlem and Zandvoort. Lieutenant John E. Miller had to feather the right engine on "XTERMINATOR" directly over the coast. At 15517 hours Lieutenant C.A. Miller flying "SPAM BERGER" 131970 YA-F in number six position of the high flight was also forced to feather his right engine. A bank of seven-tenths stratocumulus running from northeast to southeast over Holland hid an undetermined number of enemy aircraft, perhaps as many as twenty to thirty reacting to the Marauder raid. The rear guard escort engaged them in a dogfight which was brief. Two FW-190’s were damaged and one of the Spitfires was shot down!
Major Beaty continued on his heading of 270 degrees across the North Sea, en route to landfall at Southwold. A flying boat was observed at low altitude heading toward the enemy coast. The formation crossed the English Coast at 1542 hours and took up a course for home base where they arrived at 1559 hours.
Emotionally drained flight crews filed into the briefing room for mission interrogation. Many crews reported seeing Captain Sanford go down on the bomb run. Captain White’s crew reported one chute in the air after the ship exploded. The Lieutenant Elling crew flying "LORETTA YOUNG" 131624 YA-S observed three B-26’s flying on single engine as Spits dropped back to cover them.
An airdrome location was noted two miles north of Leiden with five large buildings and having green camouflaged runways. Major Beaty stated, "The 322nd Group did not show at splasher beacon number seven. First eighteen too far ahead—all other eighteens left the rendezvous point too soon, all strung out! No more runs into the sun." Lieutenant Burger said, "Idea of sending third box of eighteen not very practical, but was very dangerous. Allows gun positions on ground to benefit by earlier mistakes in aiming and firing.
The 323rd Group had six men wounded, the 387th Group had three men wounded. The 386th Group had one man wounded and six men missing in action. Lieutenant C.A. Miller took "SPAM-BURGER" into Attlebridge on single engine. Captain James Wilson was number four in the high flight, he made a belly landing at Stansted with his ship "MAN-O-WAR" 131619 YA-U.
The following excerpts are taken from the mission diary of Pilot Roy Voorhees. His feelings echo the emotions of any airman who has ever flown through a heavy type flak barrage in a bomber. "This was by far our toughest raid, I’d never seen such flak before. Ray Sanford got hit and exploded. We were on his left wing, he almost cart wheeled into us. We had quite a few holes in our ship. I’ve never been so scared, and will always be able to see Sandford’s airplane. It was hell, only one got out! We were the last eighteen planes over the target, and tonight there is not one ship in this squadron in commission. A post flight inspection revealed that fire from Sandfords’s aircraft scorched paint on my right wing and the right side fuselage. I think this was the turning point, I’ll always be scared now and feel about half flak happy! I never want to go there again!"
Today Major Beaty was promoted to Lt. Colonel and transferred to 386th Headquarters. He had been the Squadron Commander of the 555th Squadron since it was activated. Major Charles V. Thornton became the new Commander of the 555th Squadron. He had been the Operations Officer in the 552nd Squadron. His aircraft, "CRESCENDO" 131644 RG-C along with his flight crew were transferred with him. The squadron letters on the fuselage of his aircraft were changed from RG to YA. He is twenty-four years old and came from Texas. One final word about the target name: "Schiphol" translated it means, "Ships Graveyard!"
Selected portions of Lt. Colonel Beaty’s talk on the role of the Martin B-26 in the ETO. "Even in 1943 softening up of the Germans for the invasion had begun, and the job of helping destroy the German Air Force, and driving fighter defenses back to Germany was given to the Marauders. Our job was to pound every German airfield from Cherbourg to Paris to Amsterdam. Proof of just how thorough a job the Marauders did lies in the fact that within three months the heavies did not begin to encounter any appreciable amount of enemy fighters until they crossed into Germany proper.
This job was not done without some loss to us, and before you get the impression that this was all a big picnic, I would like to give you as an example an account of the Amsterdam Schiphol mission on December 13, 1943.
This airdrome was (I say was because it hasn’t been completely repaired yet) the largest and most important airdrome in Europe. It had six runways, six to eight dispersal areas, and dozens of hangars and workshops. German bomber staffels as well as fighters were based there. Our plan was to use the 1,000 pounder with a short delay fuse to penetrate and destroy the elaborate tile drainage system which kept the field from being flooded in that marshy country. If we could destroy this drainage system, we believed the field would be of no use to the Germans for months.
Intelligence briefed us on the number of flak guns, believed to be approximately 128, the field was entirely surrounded by them. We had only one choice of attack and that was down-wind, which would give us a little extra speed. I was leading the last formation with eighteen planes from my Group. As I turned from the I.P. to the bomb run I could see a large black cloud over the airfield. Flak was being fired at the formation ahead of us, and I began to get a hard lumpy feeling in my stomach, my throat was dry as a piece of cotton, and my heart was pounding like a rabbit’s. We went on in, taking evasive action. About five miles from the field they put their sights on us and let go with just about everything they had. Of all the missions I have been on that is the only one in which I felt sure I was going to get it. The flak was coming so thick and fast we were bouncing around like a canoe at sea. Shells were exploding all around us with mighty woffs and so many pieces of shell fragments were hitting us it felt as though a giant were throwing handfuls of rocks against the sides of the ship.
My deputy leader received a direct hit and blew up right under me. The heat from the burning plane was so intense the controls and paint on his wing men’s ships were warped and blistered, even my gunners felt the heat on their backs. My Bombardier, Captain Willie Lieravaag from Chicago, incidentally one of the best in the business was blown back out of the nose by a close burst, but crawled back to his bomb sight in time to pick up our aiming point and release bombs on the target.
Flak was getting so thick you could hardly see through the big black puffs, but we had to continue on and hope we would make it out of there. Well, we did get out with the loss of only one ship, but we suffered quite a bit of damage to the other ships’ and several people were severely wounded. Of those eighteen ships from our Group that took off that day, we had five single engine landings, two crash landings, and the remaining eleven were out of commission for one week due to flak damage. All this entailed a flight of 125 miles over open sea back to our Home Base.
I honestly believe no other plane could have come through such a barrage of fire with such a low loss ratio as those Marauders. Personally I owe the lives of my crew and myself to the ability of the B-26 to take such terrific punishment and still keep flying. We did knock out the field, and we later learned that more than 100 officers were killed, including the Base Commander, so we felt pretty good about the job we did, in spite of all that flak!"