This post is part of a series about the World War II experience of my maternal grandfather, Lt. Harold Wesley “Jerry” Patrick. He served as a B-17 navigator with the 8th Air Force 457th Bombardment Group, 749th Squadron, which was based at Glatton Air Force Base in England. To read other posts in the series, select “WWII” from the “People, Places, and Things” drop-down menu on the right-hand side of your screen.
On his fourth sortie, Jerry and his crewmates flew their B-17 along with 35 other heavies from the 457th Bomb Group in an attack on Augsburg, Germany. Their goal was to bomb the manufacturing facilities of the Messerschmitt aircraft company, which was based in the city.* Messerschmitt produced fighter planes for Germany, including the Bf 109Gs shown in the photo above.
Around the time of this mission, in response to a ramping-up of the “Allied air offensive against Nazi Germany … the Nazi leadership decided to construct underground installations in order to produce weaponry and related war materiel,” according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. This activity included creating protected places to produce Messerschmitt planes. The USHMM website states:
“Accelerated construction of such facilities required significant outlay of human resources. The SS provided concentration camp prisoners to carry out the most dangerous tasks, such as hollowing out tunnels from mountainsides and caves, constructing subterranean factories, and hauling construction materials. To facilitate these immense projects, it set up hundreds of satellite camps close to proposed industrial sites in 1944 and 1945.
In mid-1944, the SS established the Mühldorf camp complex in Bavaria as a satellite system of the Dachau concentration camp to provide labor for an underground installation for the production of the Messerschmitt 262 (Me-262), a jet fighter designed to challenge Allied air superiority over Germany. Between July 1944 and April 1945, when the US Army overran the area, more than 8,000 prisoners had been deported to the main camp at Mettenheim and to its subcamps.”
The sortie on July 19, 1944 was part of a larger 8th Air Force mission involving 1,082 bombers and 670 fighter planes that were dispatched to western and southwestern Germany. The targets for this mission included two “plants producing hydrogen peroxide (an ingredient in V-weapon fuels), a chemical plant, 2 aircraft factories, 4 ball bearing plants, 6 marshalling yards, 4 airfields, and a river dam.” Some planes participating in the mission also attacked “strafe ground targets, including parked aircraft, locomotives and rolling stock, and road vehicles.”** The day’s “destruction was extensive,” according to the 457th’s Mission Narrative for July 19, 1944. It had been “one of the more successful missions of the war.”***
This wide-ranging mission extended “even into Austria,” reported Eric Hammel in his Air War Europa. “Fourteen B-17s and three B-24s [were] lost” in the mission, while another “three B-17s [were] interned in Switzerland.”****
* Jerry’s sortie record, one of his military records I have in my personal collection. 457th Bomb Group Mission Narrative (http://www.457thbombgroup.org/Narratives/MA91.HTML)
and Loading List (http://www.457thbombgroupassoc.org/archives/loading-lists/loading-list_1944-07-19_457thBG_749thSQ.pdf) for this sortie.
** 8th Air Force Historical Society Chronology: http://www.8thafhs.org/combat1944b.htm
*** 457th Bomb Group Mission Narrative: http://www.457thbombgroup.org/Narratives/MA91.HTML
**** Hammel, Eric. Air War Europa: America’s War Against Germany in Europe and North Africa: Chronology, 1942-1945. California: Pacifica Press, 1997, p. 341.
The photo at the top of the page is from the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv). “Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-638-4221-06, Produktion von Messerschmitt Me 109” by Höss. This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-de via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-638-4221-06,_Produktion_von_Messerschmitt_Me_109.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-638-4221-06,_Produktion_von_Messerschmitt_Me_109.jpg.
The sources for information in this and future posts will be linked within the text. I also will compile and post a complete bibliography for this project in the near future. In the meantime, if you have any questions about anything discussed here, please let me know.