On 4 Jan 1944, the target was Kiel's naval port, docks, and submarine pens. US fi ghter support from the enemy coast over the target was fair; intermittent 10/10 cloud cover limited the effectiveness of the bombing. From the target out, German fi ghters took advantage of weak US fi ghter support. About 30 e/a of all types (Me-109s, -110s, and -210s; Ju-88s; and FW-190s) attacked the 392nd, usually in pairs. Flak on the way back was also a factor, being very accurate from the IP to the coast out. It was concentrated in the Group's altitude . . .
Aircraft 'Alfred' likely got hit by flak just before bombs away that knocked out one of the four engines. Considerable structural damage was suffered, especially to the wings, and the radio no longer worked. Despite their best efforts, the pilots could not keep up with the formation. Lagging behind, they were attacked by enemy fighters and received further damage.
As they flew across the North Sea, all three remaining engines stopped completely - twice - but the pilots managed to restart them by putting the nose down and going into a dive. Things were so desperate that the pilots gave the order to prepare to ditch. Luckily, before that had to happen, the men saw land.
Survivor Henry Wilk later wrote, "Just as we got to the coast, the engines cut out for the third time and we never did pull out of the dive. Lt Waugh did do his best to make a belly landing but our wing got caught in a grove of trees and spun us into a hill, nose first."
Eyewitnesses said the engines were spluttering and misfiring and it appeared that the pilot was trying to land in a long field. However, it seemed to them as if the plane side-slipped into the trees, possibly caught by the strong north-easterly wind blowing off the sea. Regardless, the Liberator nosed into the ground near the small village of Upper Sheringham.
2/Lt Waugh, 2/Lt Cound, 2/Lt Thomson and S/Sgt Belden were killed in the crash. The others were taken to a hospital in Cromer, where gunner S/Sgt Murphy died four days later. 2/Lt Barton had a broken leg and damage to one eye. He was in Cromer Hospital for at least a week before being transferred to an Army Field Hospital where he was a patient for about two months. His eye problem never fully cleared up so he was eventually returned to the US.
The injuries suffered by T/Sgt Wagner and S/Sgt Johnson were such that they could no longer be on flight status. T/Sgt Wagner became an airplane and engine mechanic at the 392nd before transferring to the 389th BG in May 1944. S/Sgt Johnson also joined the 392nd ground crew but in January 1945 was transferred to the infantry.
S/Sgts Kent and Wilk were the only survivors who resumed combat duty. Kent became a POW on 27 Apr 1944. Wilk finished his missions on 27 May 1944 - and attended the dedication of the Memorial to his crew in 1994.
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