11 Nov. 2011; To Barbara Ennis Connolly, 57th BW Historical Researcher with Team Members John T Fitzgerald and Patti Johnson; From the Pilot of that ship and about this tragic accident on 9 April, 1945;
Dear Barbara, The War ended May 08, 1945. I was dropped upon by I do not know who but thought you needed some explanation of the Formation that we flew routinely. We flew in Boxes of Six Aircraft: Three aircraft in the “Lead Element” and Three aircraft in the “Rear Element”. The “Lead Element” Carried the Bombardier in the Middle Aircraft which in Formation was always slightly ahead of the Two Wingmen. One Wingman flew Formation on the right side of the lead Aircraft and the OTHER wingman flew Formation on the left side of the Lead Element. The two wingmen flew close behind with their wing tip as close as twenty feet from the lead aircraft. The Second Element of Three Aircraft flew in the same configuration as the front Three Aircraft except they flew just behind as well as below the lead element. They flew close but I never heard of bombs dropped by the lead element falling on the second element. The six aircraft flew so close, turning and maneuvering like one airplane. On April 09, 1945 when the Box that I was flying in, I was on the right hand front of the lead element and the Box of six was leading about 280 airplanes since we were going to blast a hole through the German Frontal Defense which was designed to prevent the British Eight Army from entering the Po Valley.
The second Box of Six Aircraft were flying slightly above us and would have normally stayed some distance behind us! This Second Box lead Pilot Over took and dropped through the Mission Leading Box of Six Aircraft. We were on the Bomb Run with Bomb Bay doors Open. Each Box of Six aircraft carried a total 792 Twenty-five pound Anti-personnel Bombs. We were about to drop when my Box Lead Pilot turned and dived abruptly leftward. This was so abrupt that none of the remaining aircraft kept with his lead! I tried to follow,diving and using full power, I glanced upward for a fraction of a second and discovered that the sky was full of Fragmentation bombs coming right us. Interestingly, I was not afraid – but said to myself – well Buster this is your final Day! Eight Frags hit my aircraft. Six went through my aircraft without exploding. These made round holes about the size of ones head. Only one bomb had fallen far enough to ARM. This bomb hit the trailing section of the wing just outside of the Left Engine. This exploding bomb took off everything aft of the Rear Main Wing Spar, one of the two primary wing support “beams”. This damage removes all lift that did exist where the wing flaps existed so the Spar was a vertical , very great Drag producing device: suction, rather than lift! The entire left side of the aircraft from the wing aft was blown inward . This cost George Jollie His left leg and hundreds of holes in his body. George survived! We flew over the ocean and dumped our bombs and Crash LANDED AT Fano, Italy our new base as of April 05, 1945! The next morning A friend and I went out to take photos…There was a live bomb in the left engine which had the alloy fuse sheared off at the nose of the steel bomb: The firing pin was protruding like a 16 penny nail! There never was an investigation and My operations Officer or Squadron Commander never discussed the matter with me! I did not know the new Pilot that lead the Second Box. Other Pilots on the mission told me that Numerous Radio Calls were made telling the Pilot not to drop that he was dropping on the Lead Element, etc. It was said that the Pilot was talking to his crew on the intercom!
I RECEIVED Decorations Orders after arriving home. Tally Ho, Bill Poole