Twenty one planes attacked the aerodrome at Landsberg, Germany. Bombing results were good. The formation was led by CPT Harris and LT Brooksby, with LT Pullen as navigator and CPT Baird as bombardier. Enemy fighters started to attack just before the target, and continued until about twenty minutes after "bombs-away". There was considerable flak at the target. Four planes failed to return from this mission.
The plane piloted by LT Neuberg fell out of the formation with the right wing and number three engine on fire. The aircraft flown by LT Illies had most of its vertical stabilizer shot away before exploding in mid-air. LT Martin's plane had just turned after bombing the target and was heading west when it was attacked head-on by about twelve FW190's. The oxygen tanks were hit causing fires to break out. The right wing was knocked off by cannon fire. In addition, the pilot was hit in the right side of the face by a 20mm. With the loss of the wing the plane immediately went into a tight spin, throwing the crew members to the roof of the plane.
The co-pilot, LT Sinnott, tried to control the ship for some time but then decided it was time to abandon the plane. At about 2,000 ft. he managed to get out the forward hatch but unfortunately his parachute did not open. The only other crew member that was able to escape from the plane was LT DeRoever, the bombardier, who bailed out so low that he hit a tree as soon as he pulled the rip-cord.
LT Mears headed the badly damaged 42-37825 towards Switzerland. The story is told by T/Sgt. Richard Hobt.
"My last mission, number 23 for me, and number 22 for the rest of the crew, started on the morning of 18 March 1944, with the usual early call at 0200 hours in the morning. After the briefing we were delayed by weather and did not take off, as I recall, until about 1000 hours.
We thought due to the long wait that, as in many other circumstances, the mission would be canceled. The target was the airfield at Landsberg, Germany, which is approximately 20 miles due east of Munich, Germany. The reason for the raid was to disrupt the training of Aircrews on the Me410's and to destroy the facility. I do not recall any special problems or encounters with the enemy as we proceeded to the target area. The weather was very good, only about 4/10 cloud cover. My main concern was our bombing altitude, as we were the lead aircraft, a B-17G of the low squadron at approximately 18,000 feet. Our bomb run was good, and we could observe our bombs hitting the hangers and runways.
Almost immediately after the bomb run, the tail gunner called out "enemy fighters at six o'clock low, and climbing to our altitude". The six aircraft were identified as FW190's, and upon gaining our altitude they proceeded from the six o'clock position level to ahead of our formation, turned and made a level head on pass at 12 o'clock.
The three aircraft in the lead element were hit with a heavy concentration of machine gun and 20mm cannon fire, and were heavily damaged. As for our condition, we were struck in the nose, a 20mm shell exploding in the navigator's compartment, another 20mm shell exploded at the base of the pilot's control column. A large hole was blown in the fuselage on the left side just below the top turret, numbers one and two engines were shot out and an oil fire started in number three. The pilot, stunned by the above mentioned shell, lost control of the aircraft and we started a steep dive, passing under our left wingman as he exploded. We fell from 18,000 ft. to about 5,000 ft. before the co-pilot and the pilot regained control (LT Mears had to switch seats with the copilot, as his steering column was completely severed by the shell).
An assessment of our damage and loss of fuel made the return to England out of the question, and we headed West towards the Swiss Border. I was attempting to notify the base of our condition when crossed Lake Constance. As we crossed the border we were intercepted by four Swiss fighters, later identified as Moranes, and they escorted us to Dubendorf airfield outside of Zurich. Due to our damage we felt we could only attempt one pass; there were three other B-17's and 12 B-24's all trying to land at about the same time. We came in downwind, and on contacting the ground the landing gear collapsed. As luck would have it we all escaped injury (LT Mears had only minor lacerations on his hands) and were very glad to be in Switzerland and not Germany."
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