by Kenneth T. Brown

from Chapter 17: The Ordeal of Flak by Flight 4

Our flight from the primary to the secondary target must have taken much longer than normal because of the constant evasive action. What with that and the flak, it seemed like an eternity before Wegenek spotted a bridge that looked like the one I had chosen. He couldn’t tell whether it was actually the one chosen, or only a look-alike, but at that point we couldn’t be choosy. Our southerly course was directly over the road to the bridge, and we immediately went into our bomb run.

During a bomb run there was normally nothing for the navigator to do, so I looked over Bonde’s shoulder to watch the PDI. After the needle swung in one direction, and Bonde made a course change, the needle almost immediately swung the other way. When this happened a couple of times, I realized Bonde was overcorrecting. Indeed, how could he not be? With all that flak and in the extreme danger of the bomb run, our brains must have been flooded with adrenaline, and the tension made delicately coordinated actions especially difficult. There was an unwritten rule that during a bomb run the intercom was left open for only the bombardier and pilot. However, I knew Wegenek was very busy, and something had to be done quickly, without undue concern for rules. So I got on the intercom and tried to help, deliberately speaking as calmly as possible while saying things such as, “Okay, Bonde, let’s just take it slow and easy and we’ll get through this right.” Great pilot that he was, it seemed to be all he needed. The needle of the PDI soon settled down in dead center, indicating a perfect response to Wegenek’s requested course corrections.

The story of the rest of the bomb run came from Wegenek after the mission. He said he had the crosshairs riding steadily on his aiming point at the near end of the bridge. Then, with only a few seconds to bomb release, he saw four gun flashes through the bombsight. Noting that two of these were on each side of the road, just on the other side of the bridge, he moved his crosshairs forward to the gun flashes. When the bombs released, we immediately turned west, toward home, and Wegenek watched as our pattern of twelve 2,000-pound bridge bombs, the heaviest we ever carried, completely blanketed the area of the four gun flashes. Our bombs were much more powerful than required for mobile 88s, so all four of the guns and their crews must have been destroyed. And our turn toward home took us away from their salvo of flak shells, which exploded harmlessly behind us. In the circumstances of that time, we couldn’t possibly have destroyed a more satisfying target. The bomb pattern was so close to the bridge that we may have destroyed it as well, but we never learned the results of the strike photos.

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