Mission#66 January 21, 1944 – Target: Crossbow Area Patrol Albert. Major Beckham and Lt. Thistlethwaite claims and Group’s First Airfield Strafing.

Date: Jan 21, 44

Dispatched: 59 Aborts: 2

Mission: Plan Eye Que – Patrol Area ‘E’ Field Order: 221

Time Up/Down: 12:50 hrs     16:12 hrs Leader: Lt Col. Duncan

Targets: Crossbow targets

Claims Air: 03-00-00 Claims Ground: 01-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 00-00

Group crossed the enemy coast at Gravelines 13:38 hrs, 24,000ft. Patrolled area ‘E’ from Albert at 13:55 hrs until 15:15 hrs. North of St. Quentin four Me109s engaged by White flight of 351st Squadron. Three destroyed. White flight of 352nd pursuing S/E E/A passed over airdrome vicinity of Albert. Destroyed T/E E/A probably a Do217 on ground. 60 to 75 small boats off Dunkirk heading south. Out enemy coast Berck sur Mer 15:28 hrs, 10,000ft. Lt Col. Duncan, Capt. Stafford, Capt Rose, Lt. Thistlethwaite, Lt. Herfurth of Group HQ participated.

2 Me109s destroyed Major Beckham

1 Me109 destroyed Lt. Thistlethwaite

1 T/E/A/C believed Do217 shared by Lt Col. Duncan, Lt. Johnson and Lt. Sperry.

350th: Capt Newhart. T/U 12:55 hrs. T/D 16:15 hrs. Total flight time 3:20 hrs. L/F Gravelines 13:38 hrs, 24,000ft. P-38s & P-47s, Left area 15:05 hrs, left coast Cape Gris Nez 15:35 hrs, 17,000ft. Flak St. Omer, Calais, Amiens Heavy. R/T Good.

Capt Dewey E. Newhart (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt Francis T. Walsh
Capt Charles W. Dinse
2nd Lt John H. Winder
Capt Stanley R. Pidduck (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Chauncey Rowan
Capt John B. Rose
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
Capt Wilford F. Hurst (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Richard A. Stearns
2nd Lt William F. Tanner
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood
Capt Robert E. Fortier (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Charles O. Durant
1st Lt Roland N. McKean
2nd Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt John L. Devane (flew 352nd) LH-Z
1st Lt Tom Lorance (flew 352nd) LH-K

351st: Major Beckham. T/U 12:45 hrs. T/D 15:55 hrs Total flying time 3:10 hrs. Route: Landfall in over Dunkerque and proceeded to assigned area. Crossed out of enemy territory over Cape Griz Nez. SW of Dunkirk at 13:37 hrs, 25,000ft. Very good formation, close. 56A and 55th. Four Me109s headed SW, bounced by White flight just north of San Quentin at 12,000ft, Left area 13:40 hrs. Cape Griz Nez at 15:26 hrs, 23,000ft. Much medium heavy flak along coast. Very accurate flak at St. Omer fired at Yellow flight. 60-75 small boats off Dunkirk, headed south. One B-17, smoking, seen to jettison bombs 4-5 miles off coast at Cape Griz Nez and then ditch in the water. No chutes seen. P-47 seen circling spot.

Major Walter C. Beckham (Sqdn Ldr) YJ-X
2nd Lt Hassell D. Stump YJ-K
2nd Lt William T. Thistlethwaite YJ-A
2nd Lt Lloyd A. Thornell YJ-M
1st Lt Vernon A. Leatherman (Flt Ldr) YJ-N
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt YJ-H
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton YJ-O
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-W
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Flt Ldr) YJ-L
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-R
1st Lt William R. Burkett YJ-Y
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-Z
1st Lt Frank N. Emory (Flt Ldr) YJ-E
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards YJ-T
1st Lt Harry F. Hunter YJ-H 42-8379
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-G 42-22483
Capt Charles L. Stafford (Flt Ldr) YJ-V
F/O Cletus Peterson YJ-P
2nd Lt Herbert K. Field YJ-F
F/O Joseph E. Wood YJ-S
2nd Lt Edgar J. Albert (Spare) YJ-U

At 14:40 hrs, whilst flying at 17,000ft, west of St. Quentin, 4 Me109’s were seen flying south east, just above the cloud tops. Major Beckham was able to destroy two:

We opened out throttles and nosed down, closing easily. I fired from less than 200 yards astern of one, getting many strikes. Lt Stump, the #2 man and Lt Thornell, the #4, saw the pilot bail out.

I opened fire on another 109 to the right as he was breaking left. Range was so short that hits resulted in spite of the deflection. I followed this 109 down in a series of manoeuvres, with throttle full back and turning so sharply that I was stalling most of the time. I think he was also stalling. The electrical sight went out after the first burst at the second 109. Each time he straightened out, I gave him a burst, using the mechanical gunsight. His canopy and miscellaneous pieces came off, but I don’t think the pilot got out. The plane broke apart. I watched one of his wings with a piece of fuselage attached, spiralling down flaming. When it struck the ground it started a large circular area burning.

Beckham’s wing man, 1st Lt. Hassell D. Stump, was close behind but failed to score:

As we closed from astern they continued to fly in a line abreast formation, evidently not seeing us. I started to line up on the number 4 man, but saw Major Beckham was going after him, so I took the number 3 man.

Just as I started to fire he saw me and took violent evasive action down, forcing me to shove the stick forward hard. When I did this, dirt from the floor of the cockpit came up and blinded me so that I could not see the results of my shooting. Range was about 200 yards with 50 degrees deflection. When I got my eyes cleared I looked for the e/a, but could not see him.

1st Lt. William Thistlethwaite, flying White #3, had better luck and was credited with a 109 destroyed:

I concentrated on the e/a directly ahead of me, taking a one second burst at about 15 degrees of deflection from 400 yards. At first there were no strikes, the e/a flicked to the left and I observed a strike on his left wing. I was then closing, and at about 200 yards I gave another long burst, seeing strikes on both wings and fuselage. The e/a was upside down in a flat inverted spin. I pulled back up to 17000ft and joined a flight of six P-47’s. My wing man, Lt. Thornell, observed this e/a to go down smoking.

352nd: Lt Col. Duncan with Major Bailey leading B*stard Squadron (6 352nd ships, 2 350th and 4 351st). T/U 12:49 hrs. T/D 16:10 hrs. Total flight time 3:21 hrs. Course: Gravelines, Albert, withdraw, L/F out Cayeux, Home. Gravelines 13:38 hrs, 26,000ft. 1 flight of 4 P-38s observed on the way out. White flight of Wakeford Squadron down on deck on the way out passed over airdrome at Albert and strafed an E/A believed to be a Do217 destroying it on the ground. Wakeford and B*stard Squadrons [Bailey’s flight and Poindexter/Herfurth with Devane and Lorance from 350th and Stafford’s flight from the 351st] left French coast by elements and flights at various points from Pointe Haut-Bade to St. Inglevert. Time ranging from 15:20 to 15:30 hrs and altitudes from the deck to 12,000 ft. Moderate medium and heavy flak accurate from Boullens. Many gun emplacements along the beach between Berck-s-Mer to Le Touquet firing light flak. 5 to 8/10 low clouds over course flown, instead of 3-4/10 as briefed.

Lt Col Glenn E. Duncan (Gp & Sqdn Ldr) LH-X
2nd Lt Wilton W. Johnson SX-C
1st Lt Clinton H. Sperry SX-E
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger SX-J
Capt Thomas J. Forkin (Flt Ldr) SX-W
1st Lt William J. Jordan SX-T
1st Lt Robert A. Newman SX-N
2nd Lt William S. Marchant SX-Y 42-22465
Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Flt Ldr) SX-S
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-I
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty SX-A
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer SX-Q
Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr) SX-K
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-G
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame SX-M
2nd Lt Maurice Morrison SX-R
Major William B. Bailey (Flt Ldr) SX-B
2nd Lt Harry H. Dustin SX-Z
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam SX-U
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits SX-X
1st Lt James N. Poindexter (Flt Ldr) SX-H
1st Lt Herman Herfurth SX-V

White flight of Wakeford Squadron went down to low level on the way out and completed perhaps the first “official” strafing run by P-47’s on a German airfield at Albert. The raid resulted in Lt Col. Duncan, Lt. Sperry and Lt. Johnson sharing a Do217 destroyed as

1st Lt. Clinton H. Sperry reported:

We were in an ideal position to investigate the field. Col Duncan went down through the hole and fired on an aircraft parked in a revetment. I could see a cloud of dust and smoke and many flashes from strikes, but could not identify the aircraft from my position. Lt Johnson followed Col Duncan on to the same target and again there was a spray of debris and a belch of flame for a second. In order to avoid possible gun fire from the airdrome and prop wash from the other two ships I went down onto the taxi ramp which was a long straight one. I guess I was about five feet off the ground because I could see people running on my right out of the corner of my eye. With a quick look around the field, I could see no other target; so pulled up and pushed my nose down enough to fire into what was left of the aircraft Col Duncan and Lt Johnson had fired on. There was still so much smoke, dust and debris around that I could not possibly recognise the aircraft

Group Aborts/Did Not Take Off (DNTO):

42-22465 DNTO right magneto SX-Y Lt. Marchant
42-8379 ABT radio failure YJ-H Lt. Hunter flying
42-22483 ERTN escort 8379 YJ-G Lt. Perpente flying





Filed under Missions

2 responses to “Mission#66 January 21, 1944 – Target: Crossbow Area Patrol Albert. Major Beckham and Lt. Thistlethwaite claims and Group’s First Airfield Strafing.

  1. Dear Sir or Madam, I am interested in strafing missions of U.S air forces in then Czechoslovakia. Could you please let me know whether there is any note on the mission on February 15, 1945 in your files? I keep a copy of a short mission report saying the group strafed rail traffic north of Prague, Czechoslovakia (in the vicinity of Ceska Lipa/Bohmisch Leipa in German). Thank you. Kind regards, Filip Vojtasek

    • Hi
      I do have some info, but don’t do individual research requests due to the small amount of time I have available – I will be covering this mission, but at a future date when I reach it in the mission chronology.
      Thanks for your interest and patience

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