398th Bomb Group

Dresden/Prague Mission Recollections
14 February 1945

Ralph McIntyre
Lead Navigator, 601st Squadron

I was navigating in the lead plane of the lower squadron, led by Capt. Scofield on that day. After reaching altitude on the way to the target there was sufficient visibility to enable me to see the ground and obtain wind direction and speed – keys to dead reckoning navigation. We did not have the H2S (Mickey) on board so dead reckoning was about all I could do to determine our position.

Shortly later the clouds filled in and the ground was no longer visible so I continued plotting our position based on the old wind, almost to the target. Meanwhile I received at least two calls from the lead plane (Col. Ensign) navigator asking my position data as the Mickey in both the lead & deputy lead planes were going on and off and they were having trouble obtaining a good reading. I advised that my record showed we were about 50 miles south of course but that my information was based on an “old” wind and might not be too reliable. Then shortly later the lead plane’s navigator said that the Mickey was on again and that they had identified the target. Bombs were dropped visually as the clouds parted just before bomb drop, and we returned home as a group, everyone thinking that Dresden had been hit.

Apparently when the bomb drop photos had been processed it was discovered that we had hit Prague. The mistake was then explored and it turned out that we really were about 50 miles south of course and that the radar had picked up Pilsen and Prague rather then Chemnitz and Dresden, both pairs of cities being in the same relative position to each other.

This was a strange coincidence, particularly when it was noticed that the distances to Prague and Dresden were not that different.

I recalled that I looked at the ground when the bombs were dropped and compared what I saw with the strike photos given to us before the mission, that the river running through the city on the photo had a slightly different angle from north and this did raise a question in my mind of where we had dropped our bombs. But, on the other hand, except for this difference, both cities looked amazingly the same.

Given the rather crude state of the art of airborne radar at that time and the lack of sophisticated navigating aids that we have today, the reason for the error can be understood and would not have occurred but for the strange similarity of the locations of the two cities.

Article transcribed by Lee Anne Bradley, 398th Group Historian, October 2007.

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Printed in Flak News Volume 20, Number 1, Page(s) 4, January 2005

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