A Classic 321st Mission Toulon, France - August 18, 1944
I made this movie of the 18 August 1944 Toulon mission by assembling 10 still photographs taken with hand-held K-20 cameras by airmen on the B-25J Mitchell medium bombers with serial nos. 43-4021 The Little Admiral and 43-27497 Mrs. Cfrom the 446th squadron; 43-4069 Ruptured Duck by squadron photographer T/Sgt. Arthur T. Shand from the 447th squadron; and 43-4067 The Big Swing from the 448th squadron.
The large ship is the Axis battleship Strasbourg, which was severely damaged. The smaller ship listing on its side is the light cruiser La Gallissoniere, which had been shelling Allied troops near Toulon after D-day Southern France on August 15, 1944. The sunken submarine is not visible. The bombing of these ships by the 321st Bombardment Group on 18 August 1944 has been called the most successful single mission ever carried out by medium bombers. This success was largely attributable to the lead bombardier, Robert W. Joyce, who received the Silver Star for initiating a nearly perfect bomb pattern.
The following personnel of the 321st Bombardment Group (M) were wounded in action during the attack on Toulon on 18 August 1944 and awarded the Purple Heart and their 1st Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC) where applicable:
Colonel Richard H. “Red” Smith, 0-108850 Purple Heart, copilot, 321st BG Commanding Officer
1st Lt Frank M. Furey, 0-748954 1st OLC to PH, pilot, 448th BS
1st Lt Robert “Dead-eye” Joyce, 0-744314 Purple Heart, bombardier, 448th BS
1st Lt William O. Hickey, 0-805278 1st OLC to PH, navigator, 448th BS
1st Lt Louis P. Greene, 0-739246 1st OLC to PH, bombardier, 448th BS
1st Lt Henry O. Schlenk, 0-749861 Purple Heart, bombardier, 448th BS
S/Sgt Nico M. Pineda, 39691629 Purple Heart, engineer-gunner, 448th BS
S/Sgt Charles M. Richards, 13093897 Purple Heart, turret-gunner, 447th BS
S/Sgt Milton M. Slafkes, 12185949 1st OLC to PH, gunner, 448th BS
S/Sgt Rufus (NMI) York, 6937037 Purple Heart, engineer-gunner, 445th BS
Sgt Edward B. Markiewicz, 13089779 Purple Heart, gunner, 448th BS
Sgt James R. O’Neil, 20912657 Purple Heart, engineer-gunner, 447th BS
There were no personnel of the group Missing in Action, Killed or who died of
wounds as a result of this engagement.
J. H. PATTERSON, Major, Air Corps, Adjutant, 57th Bomb Wing.
Four men in the lead plane (A/C No. 43-27720) were wounded by flak: the pilot Furey, the copilot and 321st Bombardment Group CO "Red" Smith, bombardier "Dead-eye" Joyce, and gunner Hickey.
USAAF Chronology for Friday, 18 August 1944:
MTO Tactical Operations (12th AF): In France, medium bombers blast coastal guns in the Toulon area and shipping in Toulon harbor; fighter-bombers closely support beachhead troops, hit rolling stock and rail lines, and generally disrupt communications as the US VI Corps overruns the primary defenses in the coastal area of SE France; fighters maintain beachhead patrols and area cover for the bombers; and HQ XII Tactical Air Command moves from Italy to France.
445th Bombardment Squadron War Diary:
The squadron went out with the group in full force to attack
shipping in Toulon harbor. The results of the mission were extremely successful and the
raid will undoubtedly go down in group records as one of the most if not the most
effective raid carried out by the 321st. This squadron achieved 100 per cent bombing
accuracy and final results showed a cruiser with its decks awash and in a sinking
condition, a submarine sunk and a large battleship badly damaged and ablaze in 3 places.
Lt. Daniel Galindo deserves a big hand for his part in leading this squadron's bomb fall
pattern by dropping his bombs squarely in the target area.
446th Bombardment Squadron War Diary:
A big day for the 321st as we pull off one of the most spectacular
attacks of our combat history - the Toulon harbor mission that resulted in the gutting of
the battleship Strasbourg, the sinking of a cruiser of the La Galissonniere class and the
sinking of a submarine. Lt. Banks led the formation. Excellent concentration in target area.
Battleship, cruiser and submarine hit badly. Flak was heavy, intense and accurate. 27 planes holed, 11 men wounded. Window used.
447th Bombardment Squadron War Diary:
Nine of our ships participated in a raid on shipping at the Toulon
Harbor, with Lt. Banks leading our squadron. Excellent coverage of target area which
sunk a destroyer, a submarine and left a cruiser listing to starboard with decks awash.
Some bombs short to SE of target. Bombing accuracy, 22.2%; Mission efficiency 100%. Major
Raymond D. Sampson former Commanding Officer of the 447th Squadron was relieved of his assignment and transferred to 321st Group Headquarters. 1st Lt. Herbert J. Banks was promoted to the rank of Captain per SO 201, 12th Air Force.
448th Bombardment Squadron War Diary:
Mission 325 (Group Mission #498): At 10:53 36 planes off to bomb a battleship, cruiser, destroyer, and submarine in Toulon Harbor, France and dropped 151 x 1000 SAP Bombs from 13,000 feet. 28 x 1000 GP bombs were returned and salvoed due to mechanical failure of lead ship in one flight. Excellent coverage of warships, battleship listing with three separate fires, and direct hits on forward deck and turret. Destroyer and submarine sunk and cruiser listing to starboard, decks awash. 100% bombing accuracy 448. Heavy, intense,
accurate flak of barrage and tracking type holed 27 planes and wounded 11 crew members: Lts: Furey, Joyce, Schlenk, Hickey, L.P. Greene, Sgts: Pineda, Slafkes, and Markiewicz 448th wounded. Weather: CAVU.
These National Archive photographs show the damage caused specifically by the 321st BG mission to bomb the ships in
Toulon Harbor on August 18, 1944:
Judging from the squadron mission summaries above, the August 18, 1944 321st BG mission to bomb the ships in the harbor at Toulon was a pretty rough mission. Photographs from the National Archives in College Park also illustrate some pretty rough missions to Toulon harbor for the B-24s of the 15th Air Force:
The 12th Air Force B-26s also had some rough missions over Toulon, France as seen from this
incredible photograph from the
personal collection of Bob Silliman,
an armorer in the 380th squadron of the 310th Bombardment Group.
B-17s from the 15th Air Force also hit the harbor at Toulon and damaged the French battleship Dunquerke as illustrated by these National Archive photographs:
The overall effect of Allied Air Force attacks on Axis shipping in Toulon harbor is clearly evident from these photographs obtained from the National Archives:
These National Archive photographs taken on August 30, 1944 show some of the damage at Toulon just 2 days after it was liberated by French Army B (French 1st Army) under General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. This was about 2 weeks after D-Day Southern France on August 15th (Operation Dragoon):
Following the Allied Air Force bombardment of Axis shipping, a serious problem remained for the Allies because the Germans had mined the harbor at Toulon (see archival photo above). USN Blimp Squadron 14 helped to eliminate this problem at Toulon and other harbors in the Mediterranean region by using blimps to spot the mines, mark them, and signal to the minesweepers below for safe detonation. The harbors at Toulon and Marseilles were especially important because they were used to supply the Allied armies with approximately 1/3 of their total supplies until the end of the war in Europe.
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