The 388th Bomber Group of the Eighth Air Force was based at Station 136, Knettishall, England. The group’s tail code was a square H. This large airfield was located on the southern side of the Little Ouse Valley between the villages of Knettishall and Coney Weston in East Anglia countryside. The main 50-yard wide concrete runway was 2,000 yards long and had two smaller intersecting runways. There were 50 hardstands, two large hangers and airfield lighting for night flying. Barracks were mainly Nissen huts dispersed in various sites south of the field near the village of Coney Weston.
A total of 38 B-17s were dispatched to bomb marshalling yards in Eastern Germany. Airborne between 05:40 and 06:37 hours, the Flying Fortress’ had little difficulty making formation over the continent. But because of cloud cover over the primary target, the lead and high group attacked the marshalling yards at Plauen, Germany using PFF methods. Bombing was done by squadrons with bombs away at 11:06 hours from 25,500 feet. 1st Lt. Ralph W. Kittle was the pilot of the B-17G 42-97542, “City of Savannah” of the 563rd Bomb Squadron. Kittle and his crew were on their twelfth mission and in the Hi-1-2 position. This was to be the second and last time Kittle flew the “City of Savannah.” On the way to the target area, Kittle and his nine man crew were hit by flak and suffered mechanical failure of their aircraft. Two engines were feathered. Kittle jettisoned his bombs to lighten the load but number 3 engine failed. Kittle was able to keep the aircraft under control and contacted the command pilot, stating he was going to try and land in Russian territory. He ordered the crew to bail out while maintaining level flight before bailing out himself. Kittle was wounded and captured by German soldiers. Four crew members were killed. The aircraft crashed near Friedland, Germany. Missing Air Crew Report 12926 was filed after the crew failed to return to base. Several of the squadron aircraft had to land in France for more gas before returning home to Knettishall, England