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The FReeper Foxhole Remembers "Black Thursday" Schweinfurt, 1943 - Jan. 17th, 2003 ^ | Tech. Sgt. Gary W. Boyd

Posted on 01/17/2003 5:34:18 AM PST by SAMWolf

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Black Thursday
Schweinfurt Oct. 14, 1943

Imagine if a squadron-sized unit simply failed to return to duty after taking part in a contingency.

That's precisely what confronted in the 305th Bombardment Group 59 years ago, following what is perhaps the greatest air battle in history.

Rightly called "Black Thursday" by veterans, the Oct. 14, 1943 mission to Schweinfurt, Germany, was the most arduous of the war. Incredibly, of the 15 group aircraft able to participate in the mission, the Luftwaffe claimed 13, and 130 crewmembers.

Of the downed airmen, 40 died and 20 were wounded, while another 79 became prisoners of war. Four airmen evaded capture and eventually returned to duty, while the remaining crewmen spent the war interned in Switzerland.

It took many months for the "Can Do" group to recover from the raid, and the wounds of that day are still felt by the group's veterans. The 305th BG had raided Schweinfurt before, on Aug. 17, 1943. The experience had been chilling, with much aerial opposition and flak, but the group held together and lost no aircraft.

The "Black Thursday" Schweinfurt raid was completely different. Mistakes up and down the chain of command -- from security lapses to poor weather briefings -- led to unmitigated disaster for the Eighth Air Force and nearly halted the combined bombing offensive.

Departing from the disciplined model of Col. Curtis LeMay, the group struggled with one problem after another in the bad weather that blanketed England. The group missed its assigned rendezvous with its element leader and every other subsequent navigational waypoint over England. Eventually, the 305th formed up on the wrong combat wing -- the 1st Combat Wing rather than the 40th -- becoming the "low group" in a very unconventional four-group alignment.

Unlike England, the weather over occupied Europe was generally excellent for the defending fighters, only adding more misery to the 305th's longest day, as flak, fighters and coast watchers had no trouble plotting their course.

Rocket-firing German Messerschmitt-110s and Messerschmitt-210s destroyed most of the 305th BG before they even reached the Rhein River -- some 115 miles short of the target. Only three of the group's B-17s made it to the target area -- one of those crews released its bomb load while the aircraft burned.

Only two 305th BG B-17s left Schweinfurt that day, and their crews managed to survive the long trip back to England by tucking into the 92nd Bomb Group's protective formation. Many tales of bravery transpired that day, such that unbelievable courage was the rule rather than the exception.

Unfortunately, there weren't enough survivors to write many decoration packages.

Since only two moderately damaged "Flying Fortresses" had taxied to the maintenance area, Lt. Col. Thomas McGehee, commander of the 305th, asked a returning crewman where the rest of the group's B-17s were. He received the most chilling reply in 305 AMW history.

"Sir, there are no more ships," the crewman said. "We are the only ones left." The ground crews of the missing 13 aircraft refused to give up hope and desperately milled about the hardstands for hours until ordered to stand down.

Leadership sometimes requires that higher headquarters be disappointed. Given the abysmal weather over England, the lack of coordination in the air, and the known, strong aerial opposition ahead, the Schweinfurt mission should have been scrubbed.

Despite the odds, the Eighth Air Force had not turned back, had hit its intended target, and suffered the loss of more than 600 crewmen that day. As a result, the face of the bomber offensive changed almost immediately. Never again would the Eighth Air Force commit so many lives to deep penetrations of occupied Europe without adequate fighter protection. No group ever again suffered the horrendous 87-percent attrition rate the "Can Do" group did that October day.

When the 42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division liberated Schweinfurt in 1945, they sent the Nazi flag flying over the town hall to the men of the 305th Bombardment Group. Now housed at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, the flag is inscribed with the simple words, "The Rainbow has avenged your losses at Schweinfurt."

KEYWORDS: 8thairforce; b17; daylightbombing; freeperfoxnole; schweinfurt; wwii
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To: SAMWolf
The thousand-plane raids were launched from many bases; the 600 J57s were all in one spot; the sound was thin and all-pervasive at the same time; just... strange. Imagine muscular mosquitos, bothering someone else.
61 posted on 01/17/2003 2:36:22 PM PST by Grut
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To: Grut
Oh yeah... they didn't take down the Christmas decorations in the briefing room, either.
62 posted on 01/17/2003 2:38:21 PM PST by Grut
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To: SAMWolf

Today's classic warship, USS Dixie (AD-1)

Dixie class destroyer tender
Displacement: 6,114 t.
Length: 405’10”
Beam: 48’3”
Draft: 19’11”
Speed: 14 k.
Complement: 224
Armament: 10 3”

The USS DIXIE, a steam brig, was built in 1893 as EL RIO by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va.; purchased by the Navy 15 April 1898; converted to an auxiliary cruiser by her builder; and commissioned 19 April 1898, Commander C. H. Davis in command.

DIXIE stood out of Hampton Roads, Va., 11 June 1898, and arrived at Santiago de Cuba on 19 June. Attached to Eastern Squadron, North Atlantic Fleet, she cruised in the West Indies during the Spanish-American War on blockade duty and convoying Army transports. During 27 and 28 July, she participated in the capture of Ponce, Puerto Rico, landing an armed force which received the surrender of the towns of Ponce and La Playa. She sailed from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 24 August and arrived at Philadelphia 22 September, where she was placed out of commission 7 March 1899. Between 15 March and 15 July she was on loan to the War Department for use as a transport.

Recommissioned 15 November 1899, DIXIE began service as a training ship for recruits. From 17 December 1899 to 8 August 1900, she sailed to the West Indies, the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal to the Philippines, where she transferred men to the base at Cavite, returning to the United States by the same route. Another training cruise was made from 29 September 1900 to 28 February 1901, during which she visited the Azores, Madeira, Gibraltar, and Mediterranean ports returning by way of the West Indies and La Guaira, Venezuela, to Norfolk. She transferred men and stores to the South Atlantic Station between 7 May and 3 July 1901, then made another training cruise to northern European waters and the Mediterranean between 24 July 1901 and 7 May 1902. From 14 May to 6 June 1902 she was on special duty, transporting provisions and supplies for the relief of victims of the volcanic eruptions on Martinique and St. Vincent in the West Indies. She went out of commission at New York Navy Yard 21 July 1902.

DIXIE was recommissioned 1 October 1903 and joined the Caribbean Squadron, North Atlantic Fleet. She served principally as a transport on the east coast, in the Caribbean, and Canal Zone, carrying Marines, recruits for training, and drafts of men for other vessels as well as engaging in target practice for her crew and Reserves. Assigned to the Special Service Squadron she steamed from Philadelphia 26 June 1905 to carry a party of scientists to the Mediterranean to observe the solar eclipse of 30 August. She arrived at Bone, Algeria, 21 July, and established Eclipse Station No. 2 for these observations. Returning to Philadelphia 13 October, she was returned to a noncommissioned status 10 days later.

In commission again from 2 June 1906 to 1 November 1907, she transported Marines and stores to the Caribbean and cruised in that area to protect American interests. She remained out of commission until 2 February 1909 when she was assigned as tender to Atlantic Torpedo Flotilla and Destroyer Squadron, Atlantic Fleet. She cruised on the east coast, in the Caribbean, and in the Gulf of Mexico in this service. In addition to her tender duty, she towed submarines; transported Marines and crews for other ships; carried the Nicaraguan expeditionary force to Colon, C.Z., and took part in the operations off Mexico during April and May of 1914, transporting supplies and refugees. She returned to Philadelphia 16 December 1915.

From 18 June 1916 to 6 May 1917, DIXIE served as tender for Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet; engaged in gunnery exercises with destroyers and maneuvers with the fleet; delivered stores and mail; transported refugees from Mexico to Galveston, Tex., and served as tender to Squadron 4, Patrol Force, at Key West.

With American entry into World War I, DIXIE departed Philadelphia 31 May 1917 to join U.S. naval forces operating in European waters. Arriving at Queenstown, Ireland, 12 June, she served as tender for American destroyers based at that port until 15 December 1918, except for a period of similar duty at Berehaven (21 June-27 August 1917). Returning to Philadelphia 22 February 1919, DIXIE served as tender to destroyer flotillas operating on the east coast, and in the Caribbean. Classified AD-1 on 17 July 1920 she arrived at Philadelphia 16 July to tend the destroyers in reserve at Philadelphia Navy Yard. From 6 April 1921 to 17 May 1922 she was again tender to Destroyer Squadrons Atlantic Fleet, cruising along the east coast from New York to Charleston, S.C. DIXIE was decommissioned 30 June 1922 and sold 25 September of the same year.

63 posted on 01/17/2003 2:40:28 PM PST by aomagrat (IYAOYAS)
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To: AntiJen
I was stationed at a little Messerschmitt base west of Schwienfurt after the war. They had the landing mat strips about a quarter of a mile long. At the time of the raid on Black Thursday, the fighters were operated on coal oil for the most part. Schweinfurt was almost entirely leveled but for the city hall. The ball bearing factories were never rebuilt and was one of the main reasons for the attack and one of the deciding factors in the Germans losing the war. War without bearings is impossible.
64 posted on 01/17/2003 2:52:14 PM PST by meenie
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To: Grut
That had to make your brain rattle.
65 posted on 01/17/2003 3:04:29 PM PST by SAMWolf (To look into the eyes of the wolf is to see your soul)
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To: WhiskeyPapa
I guess I did mean Black Thursday...

My fingers must not quite have been awake! ;^)
66 posted on 01/17/2003 3:22:37 PM PST by HiJinx
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To: HiJinx
"Hey, MUD Can Do Clueless Hippy!!"

"Sheeple Gotzta Be FRee"
(To be sung to The Rascals' "People Got To Be Free")

All the World over, it's so easy to see...
Sheeple ev'rywhere just wanna be FRee!
Listen here, listen 'bout Ol' Slick's TYRANNY...
DETHRONE THE TYRANT...Sheeple gotzta be FRee!!

Folks must see-ee...what a lovely, lovely World this could be...
If everyone learned to FReep Slick Willie! Unh hunh...
Seems that he...sold us out, sold our Security!!
Ohh, how can you and me really ever trust Ol' Bubba?! me now!!
All the World over, good folks yearn to be FRee...
People in this Country don't need squat from DemFreaks!!
We must now demand it...screw the folks in DeeCee...
People really must believe me!!

"If there's a Man, whose down and needs a helpin' hand...
All it takes is YOU to understand and pull him thru. Ahh ah ah...
Seems to me...we gotta solve it individually...
And I'll do unto you what you do fer me!!"

I'll be shoutin' from the Mountains or out to Sea...
Don't you worry 'bout it...Sheeple gotzta be FRee!!
Ask me my opinion...'bout impris'nin Willie...
Folks, Slick's a Vile Bastard, don't deserve to be FRee!!

Get RIGHT on board, now...
Oh, what a feelin'...won'tcha come on and FReep!!
Gonna move some mountains...make'em hear in DeeCee!
All patriots say come on and go see...
Sheeple are awakening...Good Folks, MARCH ON DEECEE!!

See that train over there...
That's the Train of FReedom!!
Slick'll soon take a dive...any minute now...
You know it's been a long...long overdue!
Look Out, US FReepers're comin' right on thru...

Mudboy Slim

3 Posted on 09/02/1999 23:58:33 PDT by Mudboy Slim

Heh heh heh...MUD

67 posted on 01/17/2003 3:52:37 PM PST by Mudboy Slim (Liberate Iraq....NOW!!)
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To: SAMWolf
68 posted on 01/17/2003 3:54:10 PM PST by Red Jones
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To: SAMWolf
Thanks for todays history lessson.Would it have been acceptable to scrub the mission with so many screw ups right from the start? Those men going into such hellfire after all that are heroes.

I look forward to the Ploesti account, Sam.
69 posted on 01/17/2003 4:45:04 PM PST by habs4ever
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To: MistyCA; AntiJen; Victoria Delsoul
Have to go out and do some shopping be back in a while

Current Military News
Adopt A Village

Air Force Capt. Nathan Schalles, commander of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, poses with local children after handing out school supplies in the village of Bakhshi Kyhal, Afghanistan. Members of Air Force Village at Bagram Air Base delivered clothes, food and school supplies to the village under an “Adopt-A-Village” civil affairs program. The trip was the first of monthly visits planned to the village three miles northeast of Bagram Air Base. Schalles is normally assigned as the operations officer of the 824th Security Forces Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Adam Johnston

Army 1st Sgt. Steve Casaceci, assigned to D Company, 403rd Civil Affairs Battalion, talks to village elders in the village of Bakhshi Kyhal, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Milton H. Robinson

Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group pass out candy to children in the village of Bakhshi Kyhal, Afghanistan. The unit is participating in a program called Adopt-A-Village, in which the unit helps to improve the way of life in a village of their choice by providing such items as clothing, shoes, food and school supplies. When involved in the Adopt-A-Village Program the unit is required to visit the village at a minimum of once a month to provide assistance. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Milton H. Robinson

Air Force Staff Sgts. Todd Weingeroff (left) and Reggie Bunting, both of the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group, are preparing to unload boxes of humanitarian rations in the village of Bakhshi Kyhal, Afghanistan, Jan. 11, 2003. The unit is participating in a program called Adopt-A-Village, in which the unit helps to improve the way of life in a village of their choice by providing such items as clothing, shoes, food and school supplies. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Milton H. Robinson

Air Force Staff Sgts. Todd Weingeroff (left) and Reggie Bunting, both of the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group, pass out boxes of humanitarian rations to an Afghan man in the village of Bakhshi Kyhal, Afghanistan.

70 posted on 01/17/2003 4:56:55 PM PST by SAMWolf (To look into the eyes of the wolf is to see your soul)
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To: SAMWolf
I had the opportunity to go inside a B-17 at the old Republic Airpot Museum on Long Island. The plane had been widened by about two feet so people could tour it, but I was still shocked at how narrow an area these men had to work and fight in. The side gunners backs would touch as they fired, and the tail gunner would have to climb over about thirty feet of girders in order to bail out. These were truly brave men.
71 posted on 01/17/2003 5:10:21 PM PST by 4.1O dana super trac pak
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To: AntiJen; SAMWolf
Excellent as usual.
72 posted on 01/17/2003 5:55:20 PM PST by sistergoldenhair (One poor correspondent)
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To: AntiJen; SAMWolf; MistyCA
A samll link to follow, since I already posted the comic elsewhere and I don't really want to hog bandwidth for the sillyness..

It's Castle Nerf....
73 posted on 01/17/2003 6:00:40 PM PST by Darksheare (This Tagline has been deleted by the Americans for Social Septicemia, All hail Brak!)
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To: SAMWolf; AntiJen
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

But the Eighth continued grimly on, throughout 1943, next targeting ball-bearing production, considered a vital weak point in aviation manufcturing. On the 17th of August, a large force of 376 bombers raided Schweinfurt and Regensburg. Sixty bombers, with six hundred aircrew, didn't come back. 16 percent losses. At that rate, the Eighth Air Force could not continue. When B-17G's began to arrive in August and September, the forward machine guns in their chin turrets helped a little. The appalling wastage continued:

September 6 - Over 400 bombers attacked the Stuttgart ball-bearing plant; 45 were lost.
October 14 - Schweinfurt again. 291 B-17's went out; 60 went down.
January 11, 1944 - German aircraft industry targets. 600 Flying Fortresses were sent out. Because of bad weather, only 238 reached Germany; 60 were shot down.

German industrial capacity proved remarkably resilient. Armaments Minister Albert Speer mobilized German (and captive) labor and decentralized critical production. In his Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs, Speer told of his efforts "After the second heavy raid on Schweinfurt on October 14, 1943, we again decided to decentralize. Some of the facilities were to be distributed among the surrounding villages, others placed in small, as yet unendangered towns in eastern Germany. This policy of dispersal was meant to provide for the future; but the plan encountered ... resistance on all side. The Gauleiters did not want new factories in their districts for fear that the peacetime quiet of their small towns would be disturbed."

In late 1943, P-38's and P-47's began to provide the long range escort that the 'Forts' needed. But the ultimate answer, the P-51 Mustang, which could reach Berlin, only appeared in March, 1944.


Here's to a rain of daisy-cutters on the Parade of Anacephalics tomorrow.

Godspeed Swift Victory and Safe Return to the Finest Fighting Force on Earth.

God Bless Our Troops, Our Veterans, and their Families.


74 posted on 01/17/2003 6:15:48 PM PST by PhilDragoo
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To: AntiJen
75 posted on 01/17/2003 6:50:05 PM PST by Dubya
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To: SAMWolf

What it's all about.

76 posted on 01/17/2003 7:26:31 PM PST by facedown (Armed in the Heartland)
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To: PhilDragoo
Evening Phildragoo
77 posted on 01/17/2003 8:42:55 PM PST by SAMWolf (To look into the eyes of the wolf is to see your soul)
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To: aomagrat
You gotta love a ship named Dixie!
78 posted on 01/17/2003 8:48:13 PM PST by SAMWolf (To look into the eyes of the wolf is to see your soul)
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To: 4.1O dana super trac pak
I've been in a couple of B-17's too. I'm with you I'm in awe of the men who crewed those bombers in WWII.
79 posted on 01/17/2003 8:49:56 PM PST by SAMWolf (To look into the eyes of the wolf is to see your soul)
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To: SAMWolf; All


80 posted on 01/17/2003 9:49:36 PM PST by Dubya
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