Friday, June 19, 2009

Liberator Diary

Continuing the story of the Liberator bomber crashes in Westgate and Palm Bay on April 27th 1944, my thanks to Annette Tison who has sent in excerpts from the war diary by LtCol Warren A. Polking, commanding officer of the 578th Sqdn. He wrote:

27 April 1944:
Up at 1:45 this morning which I thought I was leading since my Sqdn led, but Maj. Martin led instead. Bombed the Calais area with good results and no losses. Went to bed at eleven in morning and up at two this afternoon when again alerted. We ran a rush mission to a railway marshaling yards in France for our second mission in a day. Looks like the push is on.

The ships returned at nine-thirty. Lt Weinheimer’s ship was hit by a direct burst of flak over Belgium and Lt Weinheimer was killed and the ship badly damaged. Sgt Kent, off Waugh’s old crew, bailed out since his was the only chute undamaged by flak . The co-pilot, Lt Marshall, did an extraordinary job; brought the ship back, crash-landed near Manston. He is ok, six crew-members were killed.

What a tragedy as Weinheimer was a new crew but had worlds of experience and it was his tenth mission in a row. Really a swell fellow and a good crew. My sqdn is really having tough luck in the losses. I don’t see how this pace can continue on the crews.

Alerted again for tomorrow.

28 April 1944:
Slept fairly late. Then, this afternoon, I flew Maj. Holland [Group Flight Surgeon] and a nurse down to Manston to pick up Lt. Marshall off Weinheimer’s crew. Lt Weinheimer wasn’t killed after all. He, the co-pilot, navigator, and tail-gunner were the only ones not killed.

A sad sight, two B-24’s beneath the white chalk cliffs in the water. The scenery at Westgate was beautiful, flower gardens and all. Lt. Marshall has a very bad case of nerves, kept screaming he would never fly again. He said, “Colonel, how many were killed? I could see bodies.” He finally went to sleep on the way back from the hypo given him.

Annette writes: This certainly provides lots of details about the incident, including why copilot Marshall was awarded the DFC.

A Question for you: While in Westgate, would Polking have been able to visit both B24 crashes?

Ed: Very easily, in fact it's a nice coastal walk or cycle ride from Westgate to Palm Bay

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