July 15th - Part 3
Continuing the story of the remaining six aircraft that crashed on July 15th.
Liberator No. 42-78323 was another victim of German Flak defenses over the Bor mines. While returning from the mission, the plane was directly hit in the wing, which fell off. The aircraft started to spin out of control and broke apart. Only three airmen that were thrown out of the plane managed to open their parachutes. Others died in the plane, unable to bail out.
The airmen landed about 5km from Bor. Local peasants helped the injured airmen to hide and brought them to the Chetniks. Six days later, they started to move to Pranjani with the Stevenson crew, which landed in Serbia on May 18th. They were all evacuated on August 10.
B-24 No. 42-95256 was hit by the Flak over Ploesti. It lost one engine while several other systems were damaged. The plane fell out of the formation and continued to fly alone. Over Niš, it was attacked by German Me-109 fighters, who were stationed at an airfield there and used to attack lone and damaged aircraft. The crew bailed out over Aleksandrovac. Two of the airmen were shot and killed by Me-109 fighters while they were descending in their parachutes. Others were quickly helped by the local villagers.
T. L. Beard
Robert Kent Soon the Chetniks arrived and gathered the airmen into a local farmhouse. They stayed here for several days until they were joined by another group of rescued airmen, with Lt Cator. They walked some 120 miles, avoiding Germans, and arrived near Pranjani on July 31st. They were evacuated ten days later.
Lt Cator's B-24 No. 42-50408 had an early engine problem crossing the Adriatic from Italy. Slightly before the target, another engine malfunctioned, and they had to drop their bombs, without fusing. The plane started to lose altitude, and the crew started to throw everything from the aircraft to maintain flight. When they starting to unscrew the ball turret the pilot gave orders to bail out. The entire crew jumped out near the city of Kruševac.
While descending in his parachute Peterson heard shots and bullets whizzing past him. He immediately hid when he reached the ground and saw a man with an old-style funnel rifle searching for him. After that, he saw two women with a boy and presented himself as an American. They were glad to see him but frightened because of those pursuing him. They sent a boy for help, and he soon came back with Chetniks. They took him to safety, and soon Cator, Ferris, Hartter, and Blackburn joined. They met with the local Chetnik commander, Keserović, and spoke with him. Some days later, they joined Grinnel's group and together started walking to Pranjani.
Enroute to Pranjani, when they were near Kraljevo, they heard it was bombed by Allied bombers and that some civilians were killed. It caused an unpleasant situation for their party. Soon they arrived in Pranjani, from where they were evacuated on August 10.
The remaining airmen from Cator's crew were contacted by Partisans, who moved them south to the Allied mission, and were evacuated on August 22 from Slisane.
Finally, the last three damaged aircraft managed to fly further before their crews had to bail out.
Liberator No. 42-78275 reached Hercegovina, near the Adriatic, and crew were helped by Partisans who evacuated them in 10 days.
Plane No. 42-95325 crashed in Montenegro, near Mojkovac. One airman was killed in the crash, and others were evacuated in five days from Berane. B-24 No 42-64488 was heavily damaged over Ploesti, lost its course, and the crew bailed out over the northern Adriatic island of Hvar. Locals and Partisans hid the airmen from the Germans and evacuated them by a boat to the Allied base on Vis island.
Photo: Heavy smoke can be seen rising from Ploesti oil installations after a group of B-24 Liberators attacked it on July 15th.