398th Bomb Group

War and Post-War Remembrances

Schweinfurt Was Hardly a "Target Of Opportunity"

Richard Hosman, Col. USAF Ret.
Pilot, 601st Squadron

I was the pilot of a replacement crew that arrived in England in October 1944, and our first mission was to Merseburg, Germany on November 2, 1944. Target, Leuna Oil Plant.

My last mission was supposed to be to Eger, Czechoslovakia on February 23, 1945, but the target there was covered by clouds and too small to be a suitable radar target. So we went looking for “targets of opportunity”, railroad yards, junctions and the like. We found it… Schweinfurt.

My bombardier made his aiming point between the railroad roundhouse and the adjacent factory, which just happened to be a ball bearing plant. We encountered intense flak, and then made a sharp turn with the tail gunner hollering, “Flak at 6 o’clock level!”

All of our planes got out, but two crewmembers were wounded. Later we learned that we inflicted about 20% damage to the ball bearing plant and the Germans had to move the operation to another location.

Shortly after that I was transferred to Group HQ as Assistant Group Operations Officer and was not permitted to fly any more combat missions. My job at Group was to brief the aircrews in preparation for each combat mission.

I did the briefing for the April 13, 1945 mission to Neumunster. The planes were to carry RDX- B-2 bombs, which were very sensitive. The instructions were to drop them “maximum interval”, meaning no salvo. Unfortunately, one plane did salvo, two bombs ‘kissed’ and the resulting explosion decimated the squadron.

We lost six of the ten B-17’s, with only four returning home… and no enemy action. My regular crew’s engineer, Floyd Aaron, was killed. I have very vivid memories of that mission. For me, April 13, 1945 will live as a day of infamy for the 601st Squadron.

Three days after VE-Day, I flew a plane to Stettin to pick up American POW’s and take them to Rouen, France to start their journey home. On the way back to England we flew over Caen and the group commander, Col. Ensign, who was flying with me, suddenly grabbed the wheel and made several sharp turns. I asked, “What the H*** are you doing?” and he said, “Somebody’s shooting at us!”

I replied that the war has been over for three days, but sure enough there were black puffs coming from a German 88 flak gun. Fortunately we were not hit, and it didn’t count as a combat mission.

Printed in Flak News Volume 17, Number 2, Page(s) 7, April 2002

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