22 June 1944
Seventy years ago today my father was busy over Caen, France at an altitude of around 10,500 ft while performing his duties as a commander of a B-26 Bomber. This is a continuing tribute to my father, Ishmael Wicks, and his fellow airmen.
The allied invasion1 of France was at a fever pitch from 6 June 1944 – 25 July 1944 as many targets were assigned to the 386th Bomb Group (M) in Normandy from Caen to St. Lo.
As allies tried to establish a front during this time many troops and French civilians perished on the ground and in the air. One can obtain an idea of the violence in the air surrounding D-Day by looking at my father’s unit, the 386th Bomb Group (M), and its activity on 22 June.
The 386th Bomb Group (M) went on two missions that day to the Cherbourg Peninsula and to Caen, one in the afternoon and one in the
evening. The morning’s mission, Mission 215, went well with little flak damage to the aircraft. Furthermore, the target of interest (see image1 above) was eliminated and only three of my father’s squadron aircraft were damaged.
Mission 216, the second mission, was a different story with the flight leader of the second formation, Col. Weiss, and his crew killed when his plane received a direct hit in the forward part of the bomb bay that blasted an eighteen inch hole in the top part of the fuselage and caused the plane to burst into flame and crash. My father and his aircraft, Sparta, were on Col. Weiss’s wing that day and although they received damage as well they returned safely from the mission.
During this mission, of the thirty-six aircraft that took off in two formations, two other planes crash landed and thirty-one other aircraft returned with battle damage. Of the 148 crew assigned to this mission, eight were killed in action and an additional sixteen of these airmen were wounded2. All bombs were dropped that day though with fair/good target results.
Upon returning around 2200 Hours one of the airmen remarked that although he was not hit he discovered that he had flak in the gum he had been chewing during the mission. A hard night for the 386th Bomb Group (M) but then a few hours sleep and another mission the next day.
2Mission Accomplished, Charles W. Duncil, Red Devil Publishing Company, Costa Mesa, California 1988.
1The Story of the Crusaders, The 386th Bomb Group (M) in World War II, Ed. Barnett B. “Skip” Young, 1991.