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D-Day (part 4) - Užice and Durmitor

Enemy defenses over the Ploesti oil fields were formidable. Flak and fighters claimed many Allied planes, and many that were damaged could not make it back to their bases in Italy. We follow the last two damaged planes before they crashed into Yugoslavia on June 6th. 

Another victim of the enemy defenses was Liberator No 42-50405. Like other aircraft, it was damaged over the target by flak and then attacked by enemy fighters. However, their crew fought bravely and shot down several enemy fighters. 

The damaged bomber managed to reach western Serbia where the crew had to bail out near the city of Užice. 

Bert Hays Heinicke Gerard Gordon Broadhead Robert Thies Thomas Dixon Monroe Earnest Robert Cassity Gerald Bryan Dell Edmundson William Ely

The Bulgarian occupying forces were waiting for them. Pilot Bert Hays was the last to leave the aircraft, and was killed near the ground in his parachute. For his action on this day, he was presented posthumously with the Silver Star. Another airmen, Earnest, was captured by Bulgarians. The remaining airmen were assisted by the Chetnik guerrillas, who transported them to Pranjani, where they were evacuated on August 10, on the first evacuation of the Halyard mission. 

The last Liberator that fell on this day, No 42-52505, managed to reach Montenegro. Over Ploesti, two engines were damaged and the aircraft began to leak fuel. The pilot momentarily lost control of the aircraft and lost altitude, but soon managed to get it back under control. They were later attacked by enemy fighters. The gunners claimed one Me-109, but another engine was damaged, and seven of the crew bailed out over Romania, where they were captured. Fortunately, the pilots managed to save the plane once again, and the lightened aircraft managed to fly more than 200 miles before the remaining airmen had to jump. John MacFarlane

Robert George

Ralph Finch

Albert McQuaid Jr.

They landed on Durmitor Mountain in Montenegro and were immediately gathered by Partisans. The co-pilot was badly injured, and he was carried on a stretcher. They walked for three days, with only a few hours rest. Quisling forces attacked them and shot one of the Partisan guides. Soon they reached the Allied mission, who directed them to a nearby airfield near Berane, from where they were evacuated on June 16.  One of the officers in the Allied mission was Stanley Grzesik, an American pilot who crashed near Mostar in January and stayed with the mission, helping them to build improvised airfields.  Overall, events on that day were a huge success in the rescue of downed airmen. Of the seventy men from eight crews, occupying forces managed to capture or kill only three.

Photos: Crews with their planes


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