July 22nd marked another big raid on the Ploesti oilfields, and again it resulted in numerous casualties.
Liberator No. 42-94887 from the 449th Bomb Group was hit over the target, causing widespread damage. One engine stopped working, and the propeller could not be feathered, so the aircraft could not keep up with the formation. On the way home, the plane was hit again by anti-aircraft artillery near the Bor mines. With another engine lost, the plane started to lose altitude. The crew prepared to bail out near Jagodina.
Pilot William Rye, copilot Angelo Verdi, and gunner Roy Buckner were the last to bail out, and they landed closer to Kragujevac, on the other side of a hill. All airmen on the ground were immediately contacted by Chetnik soldiers, who took them to their Hq. However, since they were separated after landing, the groups were found by different Chetnik units.
Rye, Verdi, and Buckner were closer to Pranjani, where they arrived in time to be evacuated on August 10. The remaining 7 airmen arrived a week later and had to wait for the second evacuation, on August 27.
The 455th Bomb Group was also in action over Ploesti. On the way home, the group ran into unexpected flak over Andrijevica, close to the Albanian border. While flying in close formation, aircraft No. 42-50424 was hit, lost control, and collided with aircraft No. 42-95328. The crash was so severe that both planes were lost control and began to spin toward the ground. Only one airman of 19 managed to bail out, the others could not reach the exit in the spinning planes. Cline Hodson was reported by Germans to be captured some 30km from Tirana, Albania, so it seems that there was an attempt to bring him to the Allied mission there.
Photo: Happy new 1945! Hospital in Italy, Arthur Jibilian (left), and Nick Lalich (right) came to visit wounded pilot Charles King (mid-left), with whom they were evacuated from Boljanić on December 27th. In the hospital they found an old friend - Anthony Orsini (mid-right) was evacuated four months before from Pranjani. He returned to duty, and was later wounded on a mission to Brenner pass. The atmosphere was quite festive - in part thanks to a traditional wooden can filled with rakija