December 1943, the 446th's first month of combat
Training missions were held at the gunnery range in the North Sea, while the PX, barbershop and dry cleaner were opened on the base. Passes to London and Cambridge were issued and Norwich became a favorite for night life. On Christmas eve, a children’s party was held at the officer’s club, and a New Year’s party closed out 1943. The group received 2 commendations, including one from the Commanding General of the 8th Air Force on the success of the group’s Noball (buzz bomb launch sites) missions.
December 16: Bremen
December 20: Bremen
December 22: Osnabruck
December 24: Noball
December 30: Ludwigshaven
December 31: Chateau Bernard airfield; Cognac, France
The 446th flew it's first mission to Bremen, Germany. Over 1,500 tons of bombs were dropped through heavy clouds by 21 of the 24 planes that took off. Though the crews could not see their target, the bombs fell close to PFF marker trails and dense black smoke was seen rising through the clouds. 3 planes turned back due to malfunctions. Enemy fighter opposition was weak, flak was intense but inaccurate, and all planes returned to base.
26 planes took off for Bremen, but had to return when they failed to join Division. "Bumbs Away" (42-7494) strayed and was hit by flak. The pilot tried to return the damaged ship to base, but crashed in England. The entire crew of 10 was lost.
This mission saw the 446th shoot down it's first enemy fighter as S/Sgt. Lowell Duckworth received credit for downing an ME 109. That good news was tempered, however, by the loss of 2 more bombers. "Silver Dollar" (42-7611) was mortally damaged when hit from above by a bomb dropped by another bomber. 8 crewmen were killed and 2 taken prisoner. The second (42-7613) was hit by flak and crashed in Holland. 3 crewmen were killed and 7 were taken prisoner. "Henry's Pride" (42-7574) had 2 engines damaged by flak and enemy fighters. The pilot, 2/Lt Griesinger, played hide-and-seek in the clouds to avoid further attacks and managed to land his severely damaged plane with no injuries to the crew.
A Noball (buzz bomb launch site) target was bombed near Eclimeux, France with no losses.
The port of Ludwigshaven was bombed with the crews experiencing very little enemy opposition. Bombing occurred through heavy clouds, but blue-green smoke was seen rising from the target area. All planes returned.
This target was a secondary target for this mission; too much cloud cover over the airfield at La Rochelle, France, made this change necessary. Intense flak was experienced, and 2 planes were lost. "Buzz Buggy" (42-7577) crashed for an unknown reason and all 10 crewmen were killed. The second (42-7581) went down after experiencing engine trouble and enemy fighter damage near Montendre, France. One man was killed, 7 were taken prisoner, and 2 evaded capture.