July 22nd, Part 2 - Dangerous Parachuting
We follow up on the events of July 22nd. Flying Fortress No. 42-97725 was attacking Ploesti on this faithful day. As they approached their target, the Astra-Romana refinery, their group ran into very accurate flak. One of their engines was hit, while another two were damaged. The aircraft had to drop its bombs earlier in order to continue flying. They lost some altitude before the pilot managed to stabilize the aircraft by reducing power to the two damaged engines. The damaged aircraft started to return to base. Near the Bulgarian border, the plane was attacked by a single Me-109 fighter, setting one engine on fire. The ten-man crew had to bail out soon: Floyd Cofer
Jerome Mandelman They landed near Bela Palanka in Eastern Serbia. The crew was immediately found by Chetniks and taken to nearby villages. Four of the airmen, Cofer, MacAlister, Rogers, and Winmill, had injured legs. The remaining airmen were taken to the village of Studenja, while the injured stayed behind to recover. However, two days later, due to German and Bulgarian activity, they were forced to follow in an oxcart. The crew remained hidden in the village for a few days, until a truck came for some of the airmen. They were dressed as Chetniks and mixed in with the locals while they traveled through Nis and other occupied towns. They stopped in Staro Selo from where they continued in horse-carts to Pranjani and were evacuated on August 10.
The remaining airmen stayed in Studenja for a month, when a truck came for them and carried them close to Pranjani, from where they were evacuated on September 6th. The last plane lost on this day was Liberator No. 42-64344. The aircraft was damaged over the target but managed to remain in the formation all the way back to the Adriatic coast. There an engine problem cause a rapid loss of altitude. The crew was forced to bail out near Dubrovnik. Unfortunately, the wind was strong, and parachutes were dragged away. Two of the airmen hit the cliffside and died in the crash. The remaining airmen were captured by the Germans. Photo: Captain Joseph Scurzi being made for examination by members of the