WWII in North Africa, the 310th BG, 381st BS, Lt Melvin R Rouch
381st BS War Diary: Additional Information for February 1943:
More of the Air Echelon straggled in from England. On the 13th, Lts. Kearns and Rouch, with 4 Enlisted Men.
1st Combat Mission; Wednesday, 17 February 1943
381st BS Mission Summary: (Ops Order ---/mission ---) Group Mission # 45:
VILLA CIDRO A/D, SARDINIA
Group Mission # 45 Flight 12 B-25’s
Sqdrn. Mission # 28 Escort 15 P-38’s
Take Off 13:10 Bomb Load: (72 x 20) Frag.
Target 14:45 Bombs Dropped: 2(72 x 20). 2880#
Total Time: 3 Hrs. 15 Min.
Weather: Enroute, visibility 7 miles. Zero at target. Visibility at opportunity target better.
Remarks: Frag. bombs were dropped on an opportunity target, believed to be A/D. They were well placed among the planes on the field, blowing up a building which must have contained explosives.
Flak: Only distant barrage over Cagliari. No enemy fighters. First photo taken by group turned out beautifully.
A/C No. 41-13086 (J) P. - Kearns, Archibald G., 1Lt CP - Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt Eng. - None B - Grossi, Frank L., S/Sgt G - None R - Elder, Donald W., Cpl G - Moberg, Edward (NMI), S/Sgt
2nd; Wednesday, 17 February 1943
3rd; 28 Feb. 1943
4th; Monday, 1 March 1943
5th; March 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, MARCH the 7th of 1943 was a DOOZIE!
Sunday, 7 March 1943 (continued)
381st BS Special Account:
THE 40th MISSION OF THE 381st By Lt. Jack F. Marlow
Do you remember the Sunday you started out for a nice quiet drive and ran into a big fire, a train wreck, and old “friend” whom you owed a punch in the nose and you gave it to him, marking one of the most eventful days of your life? Well that just about described the 57th mission of our Group and the 40th of our Squadron.
In the wee hours of the morning, the Colonel called six crews into the briefing room for this “nice quiet drive” which was one of our routine sea searches. He told us that during the past week or so, several 18 plane formations had been out and that nothing had been sighted, so they were only sending six today, and he was “pretty darned sure we wouldn’t see anything.” However, he was sending along a good escort of P-38’s in case of interception, so we had nothing to worry about.
Lt. Thorndike, who was on this day marking his 25th mission, led the flight. Our ship was on the right wing and Lt. Kearns, pilot, and ***** Lt. Rouch, co-pilot ***** were on the other. We were rather new at the game with two missions under our belt and Kearns and Rouch had about eight. The second element also had one comparatively green crew.
Kearns, Archibald G., 1Lt, pilot - Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt, pilot -Thorndike, Robert W., 1Lt, pilot
We took off a little after daybreak and headed for the coast. There was a comparatively low ceiling, along with some ground fog and a lot of low scattered scud. By the time we put out to sea, the low stuff was gone, but the ceiling was still about 1500 feet. Fourteen escort ships were with us. We cruised along for about an hour over enemy waters, and finally turned on a new heading toward Sicily, when right on the horizon in front of us sat a nice juicy convoy. It looked as if there was one merchant vessel with an escort vessel on each side. I really didn’t know what to expect from the looks of it, because to me, who had never seen anything larger than a 7,000 ton freighter at close range, this thing looked like the Queen Mary.
There is no thrill in the world to compare with piling into a bunch of ships at sea. When the leader gives the signal of attack, all the motors start to roar in an effort to gain speed and the fighters get excited and start bobbing in and out like a bunch of chicks around an old hen, every thing gets pretty good. Then when you get about 250 m.p.h. and all the ships start bearing down on the kill at 200 feet altitude and the escort vessels spot you and start throwin’ those big five inches out in the water to make spouts in an effort to clip someone’s wing and throw out heavy flak, and your gunners start answering back with .50’s, there is a lot of lead flyin’ and things are pretty hot in general. Just about that time, some enemy fighters popped down out of the sky and some of our boys in the P-38’s spot ‘em and start up after ‘em.
In our ship I called the bombardier as we started on our run and told him to get set and then called the gunners and gave them their target position. I wanted them to take everything they could find at the right of us. Just when getting within what I thought was range, I hollered, “Let ‘er go, and damnit, melt those guns right off the turrets.” Boy, they did. The gunners both fired ahead of the plane but everything fell short at first and the bombardier let go with his gun and a lot of lead started to fly. I fired a few bursts out of the pilot’s gun just before we got to the target and broke the damned thing and he was really “browned off.” The gunners never let up, and the lower turret (which everyone had said was no good), manned in our ship by Sgt Frank A. Dittmar, put more lead on the decks of those two leading escort vessels than Carter has pills, knocking out two gun positions. Dittmar, Francis A., Sgt, radio-gunner
Just as we approach our target with everybody throwin’ lead, those bastards threw up two barrage balloons on the large merchant vessel but not one ship gave way. Everyone bore right on down and all bombs hit on the bow, breaking the ship in half. We drove right on over and dodged and ducked for a long time until out of range.
Here is a good place to mention the work of the first pilot of our ship, Lt. D.S. Wert. Being on the side of the formation opposite the balloons, and as the lead ship headed for the bow of the ship, he would have been forced entirely off the boat, if he hadn’t done some cool, quick thinking. He raised about 40 feet higher than the formation; fell directly in train of the leader until the bombardier dumped his load. This forced him a little out of formation; he avoided giving Jerry a belly shot by going right down to the deck and intercepting the formation a few seconds later.
Also, I think Lt. Thorndike deserves much credit for leading his first attack on shipping so successfully. Thorndike, Robert W., 1Lt, pilot
As we left the target I looked around for the other element and one ship was dragging behind. His Bombay doors were open and his lower turret was extended. He looked to be in bad shape, so we took it easy on the way back. When we got over land, he fell far behind and we thought he was going into another airport. He came home shortly after we did and crash landed on the field. Both pilots, and all the crew were injured, but they were home alive and safe. The plane had over 150 holes in it.
What had happened to him was this. He had been unable to get in between the balloon cables and the plane next to him so he went to the left of the balloons and dropped his eggs on another ship, which sank. But when he broke formation, a couple of enemy fighters spotted him and dove right through their own flak and shot him up pretty badly.
Some of the bombs overshot the big merchant ship we were on and hit a smaller merchant vessel on the other side, setting it on fire. So the report brought back was that 6 B-25’s sank two merchant vessels and left one burning. The report read that our ships hit a convoy of three merchant vessels with an escort of one cruiser, two destroyers, and five smaller naval craft from 200 feet. In spite of intense flak causing hundreds of holes in our aircraft, and personal injury to two officers and three enlisted men, all our aircraft returned safely after a running fight with three ME-109’s, one ME-110, and one JU-88. Our fighter escort shot down one ME-109 and strafed the escort vessels. All of our planes brought back battle scars. ---------------------------------------------------
Friday 12 March, 1943 Mission; A/C No. 41-13052 “TABOO” (F) (Rouch - Pilot)
Friday, 26 March 1943 Mission; A/C No. 42-53444 “PUNJAB” (L)
Sunday, 28 March,1943; A/C No. 41-13052 “TABOO” (Q)
381st BS War Diary: Additional Information for March 1943:
ENGLAND-NORTH AFRICA Group Mission # 59 Squadron Mission # 38
The following Combat Crews were given credit for one complete Combat Mission, representing their flight from England to North Africa. These flights took place between 27 December 1942 and 28 February 1943.A/C No. 41-13086 (1/16/43) Kearns, Archibald G., 1Lt Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt None Grossi, Frank L., S/Sgt Magouirk, Tillman R., S/Sgt (Crew Chief) Elder, Donald W., Cpl Moberg, Edward (NMI), S/Sgt
Campbell, Warren B., S/Sgt (AE)