Bloody Day Over Vienna
By George Krynovich (778)
I flew 28 B-24 Liberator combat missions over Europe during World War II. My
seventh mission is one I will always remember.
Prior to my story, I must identify some important data of the 464th Bomb Group,
55th Wing, 15th Air Force. We were based at Pantanella Air Field in Southern Italy.
During a maximum effort mission, our Group could launch 48 Bombers. Each of
our four Bomb Squadrons provided 12 crewed aircraft. The normal Squadron formation was a six aircraft element. The
Lead Aircraft had an aircraft flying off his left wing and right wing. The other three aircraft trailed directly behind the
The B-24 was equipped with ten 50 caliber machine guns. Two synchronized guns
were installed in the nose, upper, lower ball, and tail turrets, and one single 50 caliber gun was mounted in each of the
two aft fuselage waist windows. The Flight Engineer operated the upper turret, and the Radio Operator manned one of
the waist window guns. You can only imagine the firepower generated from a tight formation of 48 Liberators against
a German fighter attack.
Each B-24 aircraft was manned by ten individuals. In my crew for this particular
mission was, myself, Pilot; Arnold Klimpel, Co-Pilot; George Stockinger, Navigator; Ellis R. Loree, Bombardier;
Robert W. Hemmeger, Flight Engineer; Charles T. Brockman, Radio Operator; Olin D. Mullinax, Nose Turret Gunner;
Anion Richardson, Tail Turret Gunner; Bill M. Henry, Ball Turret Gunner and Hubert E. Gallagher, Waist Gunner.
The aircraft was powered by four Pratt and Whitney R-1 830 turbo-supercharged
air cooled radial engines. The 3,600 gallon wing installed fuel tanks were self sealing. Since the B-24 was not pressurized,
the crew wore oxygen masks when flying above 10,000 feet of altitude. Our normal bombing altitude was between
20,000 and 24,000 feet.
Our aircraft identified themselves by squadron letter call signs. My 778th Bomb
Squadron (B/S) aircraft was "White Victor." The 464th Bomb Group insignia
was painted on the outer vertical tail assembly. Each squadron aircraft had a large, capital letter painted on each side
of the aft fuselage in the designated color for that squadron. My aircraft had a large, white "V" painted on
the fuselage. The 776th Squadron color was red, the 777th was yellow, the 778th was white, and the 779th was black.
My call sign, "White Victor," identified my B-24 as a 778th Squadron aircraft. For military security, we never
used the aircraft serial number in any radio communications.
Now, I can begin my story regarding our bombing mission of October 17, 1944.
During the early morning briefing, our Bomb Group Commander, Colonel Schroeder, announced our target as
Vienna. Most of us uttered, "Aww...shit." Vienna targets were defended by 196 artillery flak weapons and
50 fighter aircraft. This would be no "Milk Run." The weather briefing added potential flight problems enroute,
and cloudy conditions over the target area.
After the briefing, Col. Schroeder stated "We would get to the target, come
hell or high water." From the briefing we were trucked to the Personal Equipment Supply. We were issued our
parachutes; plastic, boxed escape kits; flak helmets and chest protectors. Our "mummy-type" pilot seats
were made of steel which protected our back areas. The flak vests and helmets protected our chest and head areas.
Col. Schroeder’s Lead Aircraft took off at 0815; 30 more of our aircraft followed at
30 second intervals. The weather started to turn bad during our enroute climb over the Adriatic. Five of our aircraft
aborted the mission after losing formation contact due to cloud conditions. Formation climbing through overcast on
Flight Instruments was an extremely dangerous maneuver. In brief, during this maneuver, the Lead Aircraft flew straight
ahead. The right wing Pilot turned 10 degrees right, while the left wing Pilot turned 10 degrees left, while climbing
through the overcast. Upon reaching visual flight conditions, the aircraft regrouped back to a tight formation.
The Bomb Group ran into deteriorating weather, prior to arriving at our lP (Initial
Point), where the bomb run starts. This forced Col. Schroeder to descend from our briefed 23,000 foot bombing
altitude to 21,000 feet. This caused us to miss our briefed IP and resulted in a much longer flak exposure over the
target. At this time, our Group size was down to 23 aircraft. For clarity, at the IP the Bombardier of the Lead Aircraft,
using the Norton Bomb Sight, controls the autopilot, which steers the formation, compensating for wind drift, until
"bombs away." The Pilot closely controls the airspeed and altitude. During this bomb run, our primary
target was obscured by clouds. Col. Schroeder decided to circle over Vienna and reposition our Group for a second
bomb run on an alternate Vienna target. This maneuver further extended our exposure to the intense flak. Immediately,
after bombs away, Col. Schroeder took control of the formation as we exited the target area.
Now, my story focuses on what happened to my crew. I was checking-out a new
Squadron Pilot, Arnie Klimpel, who was flying in the Co-Pilot seat. Generally, a newly assigned pilot flew his first
mission with the Squadron’s Operation Officer and his second with a more experienced Squadron pilot. After the
second mission, he starts flying as Pilot with his regular crew.
The intense flak started at the IP and continued for at least 17 minutes. The flak
was so thick, it appeared as a huge black cloud. My Nose Turret Gunner, Olin Mullinax’s view of the intensive flak
explosions had to be the most frightening experience imaginable. The accuracy of the flak batteries increased dramatically
once their radar locked us in at 21,000 feet. During the bomb run, there is little that the crews can do except "hang
on" and pray.
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