by Staf Cryns
Sources: Luc Cox, Staf Cryns.

17th august 1943. Time quoted as German Summer Time (= British Summer Time + 1 hour).

03:00 | 06:15 | 10:45 | 11:17 | 11:25

03:00 - 385th Bomb Group - Great Ashfield - East Anglia - UK

Waking up this morning is a painful experience for the enlisted men. The orders they received the evening before that they had to prepare extra under-wears, toilet articles, and mess kits had caused them confusions, disputes, suppositions and ... insomnia. Breakfast is served but in an obvious special way that is just enhancing the speculation that today something big could be expected.

04:00 - Briefing Room - Great Ashfield

The hall is filled with cigarette smoke. Sgt. Joe Schreppel and his companions are sitting at the edge of their chairs waiting anxiously for the Information Officer to remove the covering of the map that will reveal the target of the day. Will it possibly be Berlin and then fly to Russia? The Officer gives them a bit of a thrill by vigorously pulling the cover of the map. Then a moment of dead silence till they realize that the trip is leading deep into Germany and then to Africa. There is an outbreak of dismay and disbelief. The tension has mounted till the Officer takes the word:

"Today you are making history, not only because of the importance of the Target, but because this is a new extension of air power. Your target will be the Messerschmitt assembly factory at Regensburg making 30 percent of total single engine, the most important target to be attacked by any aircraft to date. At the same time another task force will bomb the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt. The route has been picked to keep you away from Anti Aircraft fire. 'Little Friends' will support you from Woensdrecht as far as possible. Beware of shooting at your escort."

The officer gives more details and closes his speech:

"Remember you have a long trip and a different landing field; therefore be extra careful about talking. If forced down near the target, head for Switzerland and be sure to say you are escapees not evaders. If forced down in Italy, hide out until Italy surrenders. If forced to surrender, do so to Italians so as not to be shipped to Germany. Pick up guns and go to ships. Don't get cocky; be alert throughout."

Still discussing, the airmen leave the briefing room. They still have to get their weapons, and parachute. To put their attire for the very cold journey is already a hell-of-a-job. Some hurriedly write to their loved ones in the home front, others are making deals with their pals in case they won't return. The whole airfield is set in uproar; all kinds of vehicles roll back and forth, more than hundred of plane engines are warming up. Ammunitions, bomb loads and oxygen are being loaded. Fuel reserves are being checked and rechecked.

In the meantime, fog has slowly blanketed the whole area.

The first crews are already being brought to their aircrafts.

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