St. Lo, France
July 24, 1944
The mission of July 24, 1944 was a complete flop as to its intended purpose. It was to be a repeat of our effort at Caen on the 18th except at St. Lo, some 34 miles west of Caen, and with a much larger number of planes. We were to drop in advance of the U. S. 1st Army in a carpet bombing tactical attack. 1586 B-24's and B-17's were dispatched of which 37 were from our 44th Bomb Group. Take off was early and we reached the drop zone in mid-morning. This type of tactical bombing, being only a few hundred yards in front of our own ground troops, required absolutely clear visibility of the drop area. This was not in the cards for today as there was 10/10 cloud cover over the target area. Under no circumstance were we to drop our bombs under these conditions so we took our flak bursts and returned to base. For the 44th, it was a very uneventful day but little did we know what was in store for us tomorrow.
This day affected the Germans very little but two mishaps turned this abortive mission into disaster for some of our own ground personnel. The first was an accidental tripping of the bomb release switch by a B-24 bombardier. When a large quantity of shaff being thrown out by a forward plane hit his compartment, it startled him. His bombs fell on one of our own landing strips killing four men and wounding 14 others. In addition he destroyed two P-47 Thunderbolt fighters.
The second unfortunate happening was even more disastrous. Another bombardier who was leading his squadron was trying to free a faulty release mechanism which in turn salvoed his bombs accidentally. When they left the bomb bay, it was a signal for 12 following planes to drop their bombs, which they did. This incident killed 16 of our ground troops and wounded 60 more. An even worse accidental bombing of our own troops occurred the following day when we again returned.
After 5 hours and 45 minutes, we landed at Shipdham unaware of these tragic mistakes.