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25 Combat Missions Over German Occupied Europe

Below is a transcription of a “diary” kept by Thomas Edward “Edd” Snodgrass during his 25 combat missions in World War II.

Staff Sergeant Snodgrass began his military career on Aug. 19, 1942 when he enlisted in his hometown of Auburn, Neb. He was sent to a AAF mechanic school in California and after graduating was assigned to a factory school for advanced training. Having the ideal build for an aerial gunner, Sgt Snodgrass was sent to gunnery school upon completion of mechanic school training. It was on May 27, 1943, that Snodgrass arrived in England to join the growing ranks of the Eighth Air Force. And it didn’t take the Eighth very long to put the sergeant to work. He spent five months of combat duty in England with the Eighth Air Force. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for participating in 25 missions over enemy occupied Continental Europe. He also received the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf clusters for exceptional meritorious achievement while participating in five separate and highly successful combat missions over Germany.

(note: aircraft name and/or tail number are listed after each mission date)




June 26th, 1943 1st
Ye White Swan (506)

My first raid was on Ricquivele, France. I flew right waist. Bombing altitude 24000 ft on an airdrome with 300 lbs bombs. The flak was light but very accurate. Only about 15 or 20 enemy fighters most FW190. On oxygen about 3 hours. Fighters didn’t attack us. (Temperature was minus 25 degrees) [I made one fill in and one recall before this date] (Spitfire escort)


June 28th, 1943 2nd
Kayo (688)

My second raid was on St. Nazair, France (clipping). I flew right waist Gunner again. Bombing altitude 25000 ft on U-Boat pens (a direct hit) with two 2000 lb bombs each plane. The flak was heavier today and accurate on the Group behind us. Approx 25 FW190s and ME109s five of which made direct head on attacks out of the sun. Got a good shot at one as he passed. On oxygen about 4 hours (temp was minus 25 degrees) (P47 escort going in) Had to land on English coast to refuel to get back to base.


June 29th, 1943 3rd
Ye White Swan (506)

My third raid was on Villacubulae, France. I flew right waist again. Bombing altitude was 24000 ft. The target was a repair factory for FW190 and JU88 only a few miles from Paris. The clouds were very heavy so couldn’t see target and had to bring eggs back (500 pounders) flak was light and inaccurate as they couldn’t see us. About 15 or 20 fighters (FW190s) (We had P47 escort coming back.) On oxygen about 2-1/2 hours. Temp was minus 23 degrees (Tail attacks) Our tail gunner (Cugier) knocked one out of the air.


July 4th, 1943 “Fourth Raid”
Yankee Gal (557)

And what a way to celebrate the fourth. (Clipping) Our target for today was Pantes, France (repair factory for ME 109, FW190, and JU88) Bombing altitude 23000 ft. On oxygen for 2-1/2 hours. Flak was a little heavier and fighter opposition was much greater as we were flying “tail end charlie” and all fighters were after our plane. Returned with (over 100) several holes including the nose broken out. First time (and last I hope) that I ever celebrated the 4th with 20MM bursting in my face. One 30 caliber went through just a short distance above my head. I saw a couple B-17s go down in flames and only seven got out of one. I also saw about 6 or 7 Jerries go down in water. Approx 70 to 80 ME109 and FW190s enemy fighters. Wt of bombs were ten 500 lbs each. We had to stop at an emergency field and refuel before getting back to base. Temp was minus 23 degrees. I flew right waist again. All tail attacks with 5 to 8 at a time. Ball turret Gunner (Willoughby) got a ME109. Tail Gunner Cugier 1-FW-190.


July 10, 1943 “Fifth Raid”
Ye White Swan (506)

On my fifth raid the main target was Villacubulae, France. 2:30 am briefing, take off at 5:30, we were back at 10:30 am. Bombing altitude 24000 ft, on oxygen 2-1/2 hours. Bomb load - 16 - 300 pounders, temp was minus 29 degrees. I flew right waist again. The flak was very light and below us. We saw no fighters whatsoever. The clouds were very heavy as before (on June 29th) over Villacubulaw so we hit our secondary target which was an airdrome at “Caem, France” just inside of coast as clouds were light there. 8 squadron of spitfires as escort both going in and out.

This raid entitles me to the “Air Medal” begins five missions over enemy territory.


July 14th, 1943 “My Sixth Raid”
Ye White Swan (506)

Our target for today was Villacubulae, France and we finally got it today after our third attempt in the last four raids. Early briefing. Bombing altitude 24000 ft on oxygen 2 hours. Bomb load 10 500 pounders. Temp minus 23 degrees and I flew right waist again. The flak was heavier and spit 9’s escort going part way in and out.

15 or 20 fighter opposition but didn’t get many attacks other than a few at the tail.


July 24th, 1943 “My Seventh Raid”
Ye White Swan (506)

Our target for today was one which has never even been briefed before it was a factory for manufacturing magnesium and nitrates at Heroya, Norway. Bombing altitude 17,000 ft. There was quite a little flak over the target. Temp - minus 13 degrees. Briefing at 5:30 am. Take off 10:30 am and back at 5:00 pm. Quite a long run. The fighter opposition was only about 15 FW190s but the pilots were green and made poor attacks without much damage. There were 10 groups that went over which should of did a pretty good job of it. All in all it was an easy raid. I flew right waist again. Bomb load 10 500 pounders. Saw a few bursts of red flak from a boat along the coast coming out. Our bombardier claimed a ship today. (Received cablegram when arriving back at base.) We had to land at an emergency field (at Falshum) to refuel again.


July 26th, 1943 “My Eighth Raid”
Ye White Swan (506)

My eighth raid was on Hanover Germany and it was the roughest raid I’ve been on yet. The target was one of Germany’s largest synthetic rubber factories which supplies them with 80% of their rubber for aircraft and auto tires. Bombing altitude 27,000 ft 14 mi bomb run or 6 min. Bomb load 16, 250 pounders of incendiaries. Temp minus 31 degrees. On oxygen 2 1/2 hours. Take off at 8:30 a.m and back at 5:00 pm as we had to land and refuel again. Flak was very heavy and accurate over target. Fighters met us before reaching coast and stayed with us approx 80 miles over sea coming back and they really gave us hell all the way. They had everything up that they had (ME109s, FW190s, ME110s, ME210s) I flew right waist again. Our pilot got hit with a piece of flak.


July 28th 1943 “My Ninth Raid”
Ye White Swan (506)

The target for today on my ninth raid was at Kassel Germany. A repair factory for FW190. Bombing altitude 27000 ft. Bomb load = 10 - 500 pounders. On oxygen for four hours. Temp = minues 25 degrees. Flak was heavy and very accurate over target. Approx 150 enemy fighters. About 20 FWMP barrel rolled through the formation from a head on attack at one time. Briefing 4:30 am, take off 7:30 am, and landed at home base at 1:20 pm. 4 minutes bomb run. We flew in lead group today. We could see Berlin which was only about 50 miles away. Eight squadrons of P-47s for escort and met us well in over Germany on way out. I saw four B-17s go down, two of which were over target and other two later. One blew up in mid-air. I flew right waist again.


July 29, 1943 “My Tenth Raid”
(870)

The target on my tenth raid was U-boat pens at Kiel Germany. Bomb load = ten 500 pounders. Bombing altitude 27000. 4 min bomb run. Temp minus 23 degrees. On oxygen 2 1/2 hours. Early briefing, take off 7:00 am, and back at 12:00 noon. Approx 90 ack ack guns around target and flak was heavy and accurate. 80 to 100 enemy fighters. Again we flew tail end charlie so got quite a few attacks from tail. One made head on attack and nearly hit our plane and would have if pilot hadn’t jumped plane up fast to avoid crash. This raid entitles me to my first “oak leaf cluster.”


August 12th, 1943 “My Eleventh”
Ye White Swan (506)

The target on my eleventh raid was on synthetic gasoline plants at Gelsenkirchen, in the Ruhr. Bomb load 16 260 lb incindiaries. Bombing altitude 30000 ft. Temp minus 42 degrees. On oxygen four hours. 20 minutes bomb run. Flight time 8 hours. The flak was terrible heavy, nothing but solid flak from 1000 ft to 30000 ft and approximately 60 miles across it. Never saw so much flak before in all my raids up to this date. Lost 25 B-17s. The fighter opposition was very heavy with attacks from 4 o’clock to 8 o’clock. We flew tail end charlie again. We were escorted part way in and part way out by P-47s. My heated suit burned out and I froze my hands and left foot, therefore was grounded for the next three missions. Also Willoughby the ball turret gunner was froze.


August 19, 1943 “12th raid”
Kayo (688)

My twelfth mission was Flushing, Holland on a Luftwaff airdrome. Bombing altitude 19000. Bomb load 16 300 pounders. Temp minus 20 degrees. On oxygen 2 1/2 hours. Briefing at 1:00 pm. Take off 4:00 pm and landed at 8:00 pm. They only had a few AA guns but was very accurate and made a direct hit on a plane off to the right of us and blew it completely to pieces.

There was no fighter opposition whatsoever. We have Spit 9s as escort all the way in and out again. We led the second element today. The bombardier got some flesh wounds in his leg from flak coming through the nose.


August 23, 1943 “12-B or 13th raid”
Moon Beam (530)

I got over the hump today making my thirteenth mission. The target was an airfield at Villacubulae France, just out of Paris. Bombing altitude 24000. Bomb load 12 500 pounders. Temp minus 23 degrees. On oxygen 2 1/2 hours. Briefing was at 1:00 am and at 4:00 am when we were supposed to take off, the mission was scrubbed so the second briefing was at 12:30 pm, take off at 4:00 pm, and back to base at 9:00 pm. The flak was moderate but not very accurate. We had ten groups of P-47 escort all the way coming in three waves and they really did a beautiful job of covering us up until after we left the target and ran into a large fog cloud and had to break formation to get out and all scattered out all over the sky when the fighters jumped us. We led the second element. Went down on next mission.


August 27, 1943 14th raid
(803)

My fourteenth raid was on Watten France (the unknown target). Bomb load 2 2000 lbs. Altitude 16000. Oxygen 2 hours. Approx four hr mission. The flak was heavy intense, accurate. 530 flying just off our right and ahead of us blew up in mid air directly over target when hit by flak and not a man got out of it.

Six squads of Spitfires as escort all the way. No enemy fighters were seen. We led second element again. I flew right waist again.


August 31, 1943 15th raid
(645)

My fifteenth mission was on an airdrome at Ameions France. Bomb load 12 500 lbs. Altitude 23000 ft. Temp minus 26 degrees. Oxygen 3 hrs. About a five hr flight. The flak was heavy, moderate and inaccurate. Fighter escort was practically none as they were suppose to meet us but didn’t stay with us.

Approx 40 to 50 enemy fighters attacked us that day. I fired approx 1300 rounds. We led the second element again today and I flew tail gunner today. I am now entitled to my second “oak leaf cluster.”


Sept 2, 1943
(645)

My sixteenth mission was an airdrome and repair plant at Romilly France. Bomb load 12 500 pounders. Altitude 24000. Temp minus 29 degrees. Oxygen 3 1/2 hours. Time of mission was six hours.

The flak was light and inaccurate as far as on our group. We had P-47 escort all the way in to the IP and none coming out. Our no. 3 engine oil all leaked out and we came all the way back from the other side of Paris with it wind milling and no. 4 engine in poor condition plus no. One engine smoking. We had to drop back of formation and come in straggling. We saw 15 to 20 enemy fighters.

We started out leading the second element today. I flew in the tail gun position again today.


Sept 6, 1943
(018)

The target for my seventeenth mission was Stuttgart Germany. Bomb load 10 500 pounders. Altitude 26,000 ft. Temp minus 26 degrees. Oxygen 5 hours. We had a fast oxygen leak in the right side so we had to turn back. After we were over enemy territory 30 minutes (approx 70 miles) and came back alone sweating out fighters jumping us. We saw flak as we went over coast and fighters way in the distant but they followed a 17 that went down. I flew tail position again. The rest of the planes didn’t get back to base unitil almost 5:00 o’clock pm. Briefing at 3:00 am and take off at 6:00 am. Kney and crew had to crash land when the last engine went dead just out of London. We started out No. 2 in lead element.


Sept 7, 1943
(645)

The target on my eighteenth mission was an airdrome at Brussells Belgium. Bomb load 12 500 pounders. Temp minus 27 degrees. Altitude 24500 ft. On oxygen 2 1/2 hours.

The flak today was heavy flak but inaccurate and not very many guns. Approx 16 guns at target.

We had P-47 escort all the way in and out from target and they gave us the best cover we have ever had. No enemy fighters were seen by us. The bombing looked to be excellent as the weather was perfect. 13 minutes bomb run. We led No. 3 element of lead squadron. I flew tail position today. This was the milk run of my raids to date.


Sept 9, 1943 AM
(645)

The target on my nineteenth mission was an airdrome at Lille-Norde France. Bomb load 140 30 pounder fragmentation. Temp minus 25 degrees. Altitude 27000 ft. On oxygen 3 hours.

The flak was heavy but only a few were accurate to altitude but th the right of us.

Had P47 escort all the way. The bombing looked good. Approx 10 min bomb run. We led the second element in the high squadron. Breakfast at 1:30 am. Briefing at 2:45 am. Take off 5:50 am and back to base at 9:30 am. We saw 6 to 8 enemy fighters.


Sept 15, 1943

The target on my twentieth raid was an airdrome at Romilly France. Bomb load 12 500 pounders. Altitude 23000 ft. Temp minus 25 degrees. Oxygen 4 hours. Briefing at 1:00 pm, take off at 3:15 pm. Base at 9:15 pm. The flak was heavy flak but didn’t quite have our altitude. We had good P47 escort all the way in and out.

We flew number 3 of the second element in the led squadron (tail end charlie again). We saw a few enemy fighters today but P47 took pretty good care of them. Only two made a tail attack but peeled off well out of range. I flew tail gunner position again today.

This is the first time we went out and had a come back after dark.


Sept 16, 1943
(018)

The target for my twenty-first mission was battleship repair barge at Nantes France, the same place we went the fourth of July. This raid was easier than our last Nantes raid as far as the fighters were concerned as we only saw two which made tail attack and one shot a few burst with their rocket gun pealing off at about 1000 yds. Bomb load 12 500 lbs. Altitude 23000 ft. Oxygen 3 1/2 hours. Temp minus 21 degrees.

Lt Ellenberger, my pilot I have flown with on all my raids thus far, finishing his 25th mission today. Hated to lose him but glad to see him finish. He was really a wonderful pilot as well as a Joe.

The flak was intense but inaccurate. The red lights started flashing a short time after leaving French coast and had to transfer gas all the way back and we just barely made it back to England and had to crash land in a rocky field on the tip of England and stayed overnight at the Lands End Hotel. We got back to field just 24 hrs late. We led the low squadron of the high group in 018. I flew tail gunner again today.


Sept 23, 1943
Wham Bam (586)

The target on my twenty second mission was at Nantes France again and was no easy raid either as we had to drop down to 16000 ft over target to get under heavy clouds and flak was intense, heavy and to our altitude. The fighters came up and really gave us hell for awhile. Bomb load 12 500 pounders. Oxygen 3 1/2 hours. We flew No. 2 in the second element. Temp minus 20 degrees. My oxygen mask froze up and I couldn’t get oxygen so I took it off and broke tube off and put one end of it in my mouth and sucked on that most of the way.

The pilot is Lt Barstow and he finished up on his missions today. We flew in “Wham-Bam” the pride of the fleet (265th). We had to land at an emergency field and refuel before coming on in. I put in my application for cadet training tonite.


Sept 27, 1943 “My 23rd raid”
(804)

The target for today was Emden Germany (anywhere in the city). Bomb load 42 65 pounders incinderary. Altitude 25000 ft. Temp minus 40 degrees. Oxygen 3 1/2 hours. Briefing 3:00 am, take off 6:00 am, base at 12:15 pm. The flak wasn't very accurate due to 9/10 overcast clouds however it was very heavy. We had P47 Escort all the way in and out (700 mile trip) the best cover we have ever had yet. Our group was the eighteenth group over target and it was estimated by the papers that there were around 500 B17s in air today.

We flew No. 2 position of the second element in the lead squadron. The pilot was Lt Oakley. The bombardier Lt Durrum finished up today.

They sent up everything they had close today ME-109s, FW 190s (Abbeville Kids), ME110s, ME210s, and JU88s (approx 30 in all were shot by us). I flew right waist again.

[Note: Abbeville Kids were an elite group of German fighter pilots known for their flying ability]


Oct 8, 1943
Sundown Sal (740)

The target for today was the city of Bremen and was the flak ever heavy and close, flak all over the sky and we waded right in through it. Altitude 23000 ft. Bomb load 12 500 pounders. Oxygen 3 1/2 hours. Briefing 9:15 am. Take off at 11:15 am and back to ase at 6:30 pm. Take off at 11:15 am and back to base at 6:30 pm. We have P-47 escort to the IP and most of the way back. There were about 80 to 90 enemy fighters up today. Fws 190, ME109s, JU88s, ME210, ME110s and ME410s.

We flew No. 2 man in the lead squadron today with Lt Kincaid. The radio man “Terror” Jones, the ball turret gunner “Solenoid” Willoughby, and our co-pilot “Bullet Bill” Lt Durig all finished up today.

The bombing looked real good today. I flew right waist again today. Oh yes, today was the first day I’ve wore a flak suite.


Oct 9, 1943
Sundown Sal (740)

And last but not least and what a one it was to. The target was naval ships “The Pride of Germany” at Danzig Poland. A 1700 mile round trip. Flight time was eleven hours. Altitude over target 23000 ft. Oxygen 4 hours. Bomb load 5 1000 pounders and propaganda leaflets. Briefing at 5:00 am. Take off at 8:00 and back to base at 6:45 pm. The flak had our altitude but didn’t get any forts over target. However two ME410s got a couple forts on way back. We really went on a sightseeing tour over Sweden, Poland, Denmark. We saw Stockholm and also Copenhagen Denmark.

The fighter opposition was light with only 8 or 10 enemy fighters well back over water on way back.

I was really sweatin’ this one out and glad to see the English coast again. We started out No. 3 position in the second element of the Low Squadron and ended up No. 3 in the first element. I flew right waist again with Lt Kincaid as pilot. Schwinger and I both finished up today and is really good to be done. Am now sweating out our orders to back to states by Christmas.




S.Sgt T.E. Snodgrass At His Gun




The following article was published in the World Herald Magazine (Omaha) on February 13, 1944.

Here to Join Staff of DOT1...

Gunner Tells of 25 Missions
by S.Sgt. Cappy Schroeder

“United States heavy bombers attacked objective in northwest Germany Tuesday. Eighteen bombers are missing.”

--------

To SSgt Thomas E. Snodgrass, who only a few months ago fought the Luftwaffe in the skies over Germany, there is soul-stirring drama in that brief routine report of an American daylight bombing assault against Hitlerís Fortress Europe. Because SSgt Snodgrass has experienced the thrill of getting back to England and he also knows how it feels to have the “missing” behind over enemy territory.

The short, curly haired Fortress waist gunner, now stationed here with the Department of Technical Instruction, spent five months of combat duty in England with the Eighth Air Force. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for participating in 25 missions over enemy occupied Continental Europe. He also received the Air Medal and three Oak Leaf clusters for exceptional meritorious achievement while participating in five separate and highly successful combat missions over Germany.

Typical Gunner Type

No one could look more like the typical American aerial gunner than Sgt Snodgrass. Once at ease, he is a good talker and his light blue eyes will light up when he is telling about one of the many successful missions he was on. His continuous cigaret smoking is the only outward sign of that traditional devil-may-care attitude of the sky fighter. He is only 22 years old, but the five months of living Hell over Europe have made him act and appear much older.

“I was scared to death on every one of those 25 missions,” he says frankly. “Each mission usually consisted of nine hours of flying over enemy territory and brother, thatís a lifetime when you have to battle heavy flak, fighter planes and those new deadly rocket bombs the Germans are using.”

Staff Sergeant Snodgrass began his military career on Aug. 19, 1942 when he enlisted in his hometown of Auburn, Neb. He was sent to a AAF mechanic school in California and after graduating was assigned to a factory school for advanced training. Having the ideal build for an aerial gunner, Sgt Snodgrass was sent to gunnery school upon completion of mechanic school training. It was on May 27, 1943, that Snodgrass arrived in England to join the growing ranks of the Eighth Air Force. And it didnít take the Eighth very long to put the sergeant to work.

Over France on First Mission

“My first mission was a raid on Triequeville, France. The flak was so heavy and tough-looking that I was actually happy to see the German fighters moving in on us.” Snodgrass recalls that quite a few of the B-17 bombers failed to return from that mission.

Raids on Bremen, Hamburg, Hanover, Brussels, Stuttgart, Lille, Emden, Cologne, Kiel, St. Nazarre and Nantes, in Norway, followed in quick succession. A few hours before he left on the Norway mission, Snodgrass received a telegram notifying him that his wife had given birth to a seven pound baby bay. “The German fighters caught plenty of Hell on that trip,” he added smilingly.

The sergeant believes that the raid of Pantes, France, on July 4, was the toughest of them all. “We were on our way back,” he related, “when we ran into heavy fighter opposition and murderous flak. One of our engines was knocked out and the ball turret wouldnít work. As we fell behind our formation, about 15 or 20 German fighters roared in for the kill. It didnít take them long to learn that our ball turret was out and they immediately began hitting us from below with everything they had. Fortunately for us, the gunner had stuck to his guns and finally got them working. He shot down three planes before the German pilots decided to call it a day.”

“We landed at an emergency field on the English coast and found that our Fortress had over 200 holes in it, one engine shot out and practically n nose. Frankly, I never thought we would make it.”

On October 9, Sgt Snodgrass participated in a heavy raid on Danzig, Poland, his 25th mission in less than five months of combat duty. In keeping with an Army Air Forces policy, he was sent back to the United States for a much-needed rest.

How many enemy planes did he shoot down? Sgt Snodgrass insists he doesnít know. “I never officially claimed any because I was never certain that I had bagged one. I was too busy firing at them to watch what happened after they were out of range.”

The sergeant, his wife Ruth and their seven month old baby are at the present time making their home in Lincoln. They are residing at 2139 North 67th Street.