Mission#56 December 22, 1943 – Target: Osnabruck. The Loss of 1st Lt. Leroy W. Ista, 352nd Fighter Squadron.

Date: Dec 22, 43

Dispatched: 50 Aborts: 3

Mission: Target support to 240 B-17’s, 1st Div and 120 B-24’s, 2nd Div.

Field Order: 207 Target: Osnabruck

Time Up/Down: 12:30 hrs     15:28 hrs Leader: Major Rimerman

Claims Air: 01-01-00 Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 01-01

Group informed by Controller soon after takeoff that the bombers were 10 minutes late. Later informed only 3 minutes late. Bombers seen to the north and south of Group in Channel. R/V with the bombers believed to be in the vicinity of Bentheim, 13:45 hrs. 350th right, 351st left, 352nd top and rear. Proceeded with bombers over target leaving them at approximately 14.20 hrs after another P-47 group R/V’d with bombers. L/F in and out unknown due to overcast. What was believed to be vicinity of Rheine 10+ greenish gray Me109s came from 11 o’clock, thru 351st formation. Group leader turned on them immediately [and they] rolled over and went down. However, blue flight managed to engage and destroyed a Me109. One P-47 damaged in the engagement but managed to bring plane home category AC. Two B-24s were seen to go down just after the target. One caused by Me109 colliding with the B-24 clipping off 10 to 15 feet of its wing. One P-38 seen smoking in vicinity of Saerbeck. Just after R/SS [?], 3 B-17 seen circling with wheels down. Moderate flak over target and at coast on way out. Two boxes of B-17s, considerably ahead, 4 flying well back of 1st TF. Two trails of blue gray smoke burst at our altitude were seen in target area. Enemy tactics: Several mixed S/E A/C from IP to target attacking bombers from below, rolling over, firing, then going down. 8+ E/A seen making beam attacks on bombers, coming underneath wing and coming up on the other side. These E/A were attacked by 350th Squadron and driven off, but no claims resulted. Wakeford White flight was bounced while at 30,000ft by 3 Me109s. The e/a fired and continued down in a steep dive. Contact on “C” channel made with both fighters and bombers. Radio whine as usual but reception good. Lt. Ista 352nd MIA. Lt. Herfurth, Lt Thistlethwaite and Major Rimerman of Group participated.

1 Me109 destroyed Capt. Lefebre 351st Fighter Squadron.

1 Me109 probably destroyed 1st Lt Sperry 352nd Fighter Squadron.

350th: Capt Pidduck. T/U 12:39 hrs. T/D 15:25 hrs. Total flight time 2:46 hrs. Scheduled course: L/F at 13:23 hrs to Alt at 13:33 hrs to R/V (target Osnabruck) at 13:55 hrs to Alte Piccadie (withdrawal) at 14:11 hrs to home 15:14 hrs. R/V was made with bombers early about 13:37 hrs. Squadron took up escort position on right side of bombers. Approximately 10 Me109s and a few FW109s came out of cloud and started making attacks upon low box of bombers from underneath. By the time the Squadron got in position to break up attacks, the bombers started dropping bombs. The e/a came in again as soon as bomber left target, and Capt. Pidduck and Capt. Newhart wheeled their flights into the Me109s. Nobody could get e/a into position for burst. Capt. Newhart saw Me109 run into a B-24, cutting off his wing. No chutes were seen. Capt. Pidduck saw another B-24 go down as a result of e/a as no flak visible. Lt. Devane sustained battle damage on his ship probably as a result of .50 cal bullets from the B-24s when he followed an Me109 under the bombers. No rocket attacks were observed. One P-47 seen to dive vertically into cloud. The P-38s were seen in vicinity of target. Weather: 10/10 overcast over enemy territory. Cloud layers stacked up as high as 24,000ft. Flak: negligible. [Lt Mueller, flying the spare on the mission with Lt Stump of the 351st, was hit in wheel well by small arms fire while returning on the deck, both landed at Manston].

Capt Stanley R. Pidduck (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt John L. Devane LH-? 42-8392
1st Lt William W. Odom
1st Lt Tom Lorance
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff
2nd Lt Robert S. Hart
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
1st Lt Roland N. McKean
Capt Dewey E. Newhart (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Francis T. Walsh
1st Lt William J. Price
2nd Lt Richard A. Stearns
1st Lt Charles W. Dinse (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt John H. Winder
1st Lt Robert N. Ireland
2nd Lt Chauncey Rowan
2nd Lt William F. Tanner (Spare)
1st Lt Charles O. Durant (Spare)
2nd Lt Carl W. Mueller (Spotter) LH-? 42-8546

351st: Major Rimerman. T/U 12:20 hrs. T/D 15:28 hrs [Gp time as none available for 351st]. Total flight time 3:08 hrs.  Route: In Zandvoort to R/V target to Neuenkirchen, out Ijmuiden. Group led by Major Rimerman took off at Metfield at 12:30 hrs. Made landfall Zandvoort at 13:23 hrs, at 25,000ft. Ground check points problematical because of complete overcast. Proceeded on course, making R/V with rear box of bombers at 13:33 hrs. Passed on over these up to lead box, escorting them around the target, leaving bombers at 14:20 hrs. Crossed enemy coast out at Zandvoort area. Capt. Lefebre’s flight engaged 15 plus Me109s, which were making head on attacks on the bombers in Heerde area at 29,000ft, claiming one Me109 destroyed by Capt. Lefebre. Lt. Thornell, wing man to Capt. Lefebre, received a hit in the engine by an E/A, resulting in oil completely covering the canopy [it was shell cases from Lefebre’s guns that hit Thornell’s aircraft]. Pilot managed to bring plane home. One B-17 seen circling down, wheels down, just
after R/V. Many brilliantly colored E/A seen. Complete overcast over entire route. R/T usual. Flak on way out accurate for height, and closely trailing tail end of plane of Group leader. Lt. Stump, relay plane, down Manston.

Major Ben Rimerman (Gp & Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt Harry F. Hunter
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite
F/O Joseph E. Wood
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Lloyd A. Thornell YJ-K 42-8674
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley
1st Lt Vernon A. Leatherman (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt David C. Kenney
1st Lt Francis N. King
1st Lt William J. Maguire
Capt Vic L. Byers (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Jack Terzian
2nd Lt Edgar J. Albert
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan
1st Lt George N. Ahles
2nd Lt Hassell D. Stump

Capt. Lefebre reported:

At 29000ft 10 + Me109’s approached head on and passed to our right. I turned right into them. They broke down, but the first two pulled back up to the left. I closed to about 300 yards behind the second one and gave him a short burst from about 15 degrees astern.

He snapped violently to the right, as I saw strikes on the left wing. I gave a short burst as he rolled to the inverted position, and saw many strikes on the left wing root, fuselage and engine cowling. An instant later he burst into flames and trailed smoke as he disappeared in the clouds.

352nd: Capt Raynor Robertson. T/U 12:33 hrs. T/D 15:27 hrs. Total flight time 2:54 hrs. Target and withdrawal support to 1st Task Force. 1st Lt. Leroy W. Ista missing. Last heard calling for an emergency homing about 10 miles due east off the coast of Coltishall. Squadron led by Capt. Robertson believed to have made landfall as planned 13:23 hrs. Followed along the right side of the bombers and made actual R/V at 13:40 hrs, 10 minutes ahead of schedule. One of two unidentified S/E A/C seen to explode over 2nd box of B-24s of the 1st Task Force. Both boxes of B-24s were flying well back from the rest of the 1st Task Force, the trailing box being in a particularly spread out formation. We were flying over the bombers at about 30,000ft when the latter made a left turn over the target area. At this time three Me109s painted a mottled brown made a diving attack from an altitude of at least 5,000ft higher than ours. Lt. Sperry fired a short burst and the E/A broke down and away from the bombers [he made no claim though after assessment of his gun camera film he was awarded a probable destroyed]. Meager, inaccurate, heavy flak was fired at the bombers at the target area and two bursts of telephone pole flak rising to a height of about 30,000ft were also seen there. Immediately after the bombers made their second left turn after leaving Lt. Poindexter heard a call on “C” channel from the bombers who identified themselves as part of the 2nd Wing of B-24s. They said they were being attacked by E/A but we were then too low on gas to go to their aid. 2 B-24s were seen going down in a dive over the target area. About 10 minutes after leaving the target area two silver-black Me109s made one diving attack at a formation of B-17s but it is not believed that they inflicted any damage on the bombers. A solid overcast composed of low, middle and high clouds with tops up to 25,000ft prevailed over the entire area covered from the middle of the North Sea eastward.

Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt Herman Herfurth (Gp HQ)
1st Lt James N. Poindexter
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens
Major William B. Bailey (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Clifford F. Armstrong
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam Landed at West Malling
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits
Capt Charles J. Hoey (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Wilton W. Johnson Landed at West Malling
1st Lt Clinton H. Sperry
2nd Lt William S. Marchant
Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty (Spare)
1st Lt Leroy W. Ista (Spare) W46 SX-L 42-22458
1st Lt Leslie P. Cles (Spare)
2nd Lt Maurice Morrison (Spare)

Returning from the mission Lt. Ista was reported as missing in action 10 miles off the Norfolk coast. It remains a mystery what exactly happened to him, though mechanical failure or shortage of fuel was the likely cause of his bailing out. A full Air Sea Rescue search was unable to find any trace of him. The flight leader, 1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty reported [MACR1539]:

After rendezvous with the bombers I took up high rear cover. After the second orbit to the left, Lt. Ista who had fallen behind started to catch up. I gave him a call and asked if he was all right, he answered, “Yes.” By the time I had turned 180 degrees he was up even with me and in good supporting position. I was watching the bombers and presumed that he had gotten out of position again and had joined another flight. When I was circling the base waiting to land, I heard him call for a homing. There was quite a few calls at the time and I am not sure whether his request for a homing was answered.

1st Lt. Leroy W. Ista (0-728668) from Walcott, North Dakota lost while returning from the December 22, 1943 mission. Lt Ista's aircraft (SX-L 22458) was called "Stingeree" and had a wasp painted on the left side.

1st Lt. Leroy W. Ista (0-728668) from Walcott, North Dakota lost while returning from the December 22, 1943 mission. Lt Ista’s aircraft (SX-L 42-22458) was called “Stingeree” and had a wasp painted on the left side.

This plot from a good "fix" on Lt. Ista by Contollers shows how close he got to home.

This plot from a good “fix” on Lt. Ista by Contollers shows how close he got to home (click for larger image).

Lt. Ista from Walcott, North Dakota flew 31 missions in his career with the 352nd FS and was awarded an Me109 destroyed on November 5, 1943. He received the DFC, Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart. He is commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Military Cemetery, Madingley. You can see further details HERE.

Group Aborts/Early Returns/Lost/Damaged:

42-74706 ABT manifold pressure YJ-N
42-22781 ABT manifold pressure YJ-P Bar
42-8398 ABT radio out LH-?
42-8674 BD Cat A YJ-K
42-8392 FFBD Cat A LH-? Lt. Devane
42-8546 BD Cat A wheel well LH-? Lt. Mueller
42-22458 MIA SX-L Lt. Ista “Stingeree”




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