Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Real Catch 22

In July 1943 Operation Vesuvius (remember that codename) liberated Corsica from German occupation. After its capture the US used it as an air base and began using it as an unsinkable aircraft carrier right off the coast of France and Italy. The 340th Bomb Group was one of the units deployed, this seems to have been the inspiration for one of the units bombardiers, one Joseph Heller. Heller famously wrote the novel Catch-22. Life was pretty relaxed on the island with sunny beaches to relax on between missions. The 340th was based at two airfields: Borgo-Poretta and Alesani.
US personnel enjoying the beaches on Corsica
 Overnight on 12-13th May 1944 at three and a half minutes to 2200 a single flare burst in the darkness over Borgo-Poretta at an altitude of 3000 meters. Heartbeats later a string of flares started bursting in a curve to the south and west encircling the base. At this point the ground defences began to wake up. The airfields defences began to squirt strings of tracer upwards, their only target was the flares, so they used these as an aiming point.

At 2200 the last of the flares appeared, the airfield was brightly lit, all the planes were clearly visible. Then came the first bomb. It was a canister of incendiaries which impacted in the middle of the field to act as a marker. Suddenly the air was filled with the sounds of Jumo engines, as the second wave of JU-88 bombers screamed in at 1200m altitude. The first wave had dropped the incendiaries. The second wave used high explosive bombs aiming for the aircraft. Suddenly a column of fire rose to several hundred meters, and formed a raging inferno, the bombs had hit the main fuel dump on the island. Then the night became still apart from the roar of flames as the Germans left.
On board the German planes they dived to sea level. As they flew away they could see the glow of the fires they left behind them. As it faded they climbed to about 3000m to clear the mountains and about an hour an half later they landed at Ghedi airfield, Italy. The exultant pilots filed their reports, and took a break, having a drink and a meal. By the time they'd finished their planes had been bombed back up.
They repeated their navigation, with the group assembling over Modena, the pathfinder aircraft leaving the group five minutes before the main party. They would drop down to about 150m over the Florence countryside. Over the sea they dropped even lower, to under 20m. The land behind, and the low approach path meant that the defenders radar couldn't pick them up on their approach. After skimming across the sea, passing Elba, the planes climbed up to 50m over the Corsican coast. This time their target was Alesani but they could see fires and damage they'd caused at Borgo-Poretta. Again they hit the target and made their way out, landing back home without loss, at just after 0600.
This was possibly the last offensive mass bombing raid of the Luftwaffe, 59 JU-88's were involved in the raid, and for no loss on the German side they destroyed and damaged about 65 planes and wiped out large stocks of fuel. US losses were 24 killed and 115 wounded.

Image credits:
http://www.warwingsart.com and http://www.reddog1944.com

For Further details and reading see this links: