July 18, 1944
The 8th Air Force was supposed to do today, Tuesday, July 18, 1944, for the British and Canadian ground troops fighting near Caen, what we did in fact do exactly one week later at St. Lo for the American forces. Caen is a town 9 miles in from the English Channel and 32 miles southwest of Le Harve. The comparison is not quite fair as on this effort we used only 644 2nd and 3rd Division B-24's, where as a week later over 1600 B-24's and B-17's were dispatched.
The purpose of this mission was to blast a hole in the German front lines with a large scale tactical bombing, 300 yards, in front of the British and Canadian positions. Our bomb load was fragmentation bombs to kill enemy troops, not dig holes. After the bombing and before the Germans could recover, the British were to launch a large scale offensive trying for a major breakthrough.
This had to be a visual bombing. Our specific drop zone was east of Caen by about 10 miles called Troarns. It was carried out by 139 of our aircraft. The 44th Bomb Group supplied 38 of this number of which 13 were by my 68th Squadron. General Leon Johnson, the recipient of the Congressional Metal of Honor for his bravery at Ploesti, lead the 14th Combat Wing consisting of the 44th, 392nd and 492nd Bomb Groups.
The visability at the target area was excellent. The flak was intense but not as severe as St. Lo. Our bombs landed exactly in the prescribed area as my strike photo indicates. But in spite of this intense accurate tactical support bombing, the Wehrmacht's resistance was too great. The British and Canadians did cross the River Orne with some tanks and got onto more open land but the break out of the Allied Forces in Normandy did not materialize.
There was no serious damage to any of the 44th Bomb Group planes nor any other of our Combat Wing. However one plane of the 139 that went over our drop zone was shot down. After flying for 5 hours, we landed near lunch time. Needless to say, we were all disappointed with the outcome of this battle.