455th Patch740th Patch741st Patch742nd Patch743rd Patch

455th Bombardment Group (H)

Charles E. Swanner


From the diary of 1st Lt. Charles E. "Bud" Swanner
742nd bomb squadron 455th bomb group, Pilot
June 26th 1944

I am making this entry on Tuesday the 27th instead of the 26th like I always do, but I had a good reason not keeping my entries up to date.  One reason was that I was just as drunk as a good quart of whiskey could make me and the other reason was that I was so downhearted I couldn't write even if I was sober.  I completed my 23rd mission but in doing it I lost one of my best friends I've ever had (Ray Ramsted) as well as dozens of other very good friends and buddies.  I also had the narrowest squeak of my life, and I've never been so utterly and desparatley scared as I was yesterday.  Our ship was the sole survivor of the 742nd squadron in the raid over Vienna yesterday.  Our target was a big oil refinery on the outskirts of Vienna.  Ray and the crew he was flying with as well as the rest of the ships that were lost were all shot down by swarms of enemy fighters over the target.  Our squadron made up one of the two flights that were completely destroyed yesterday.  It was Ray's flight that the enemy fighters hit first.  The reason I think our group was hit so hard by the fighters was that we had become separated from the rest of the wing and were thus left like so many ducks on a pond.  Because we were alone we had only 13 P-38s for protection when the first wave of enemy fighters hit us.  They were twin engine ME-210s and they succeeded in completely sucking away our entire escort.  This first wave of fighters nearly got our ship, then we were hit in the fuselage very near the gas tanks by a 22mm cannon shell.  It was a few minutes later that about 150 ME-109s and FW-190s came in from the same direction.  It was just like a big flock of black birds flying at you all at once.  Every gun on our ship was firing at once in all directions.  Then the flak started to come up, it wasn't the heaviest I've seen but I'm not exaggerating when I say it was the most accurate.  Our luck was again with us because a big burst of flak exploded right where we should have been - we flew right thru its smoke.  When we went over the target we were fighting fighters, dodging flak and trying to drop bombs all at the same time.  It was over the target that the fighters hit us the heaviest, later I found the reason.  Section #1 pulled away from us too far leaving us without protection of their guns & at the same time flight E & F had been separated from us also and were slowly being shot down and since we were in flight D and were all alone too.  The fighters were really trying to put us on the ground.  They very nearly succeeded too.  It was over the target at this time that I saw the most horrible sight I've yet witnessed, I still get cold chills when I see it in my mind.  A ship, the only one in the lead section lost blew up right in front of my eyes.  One wing blew off close to the fuselage and both pieces went spinning down in a mass of flames.  At the time of the explosion two of the crew jumped out, they came floating right by our ship and I imagined I could almost see the sick looks on their faces.  After the stricken ship had spun for about a thousand feet two more chutes opened up and that was all.  A lucky shot from a fighter had caused it.  Later our waist gunner and tail gunner said they saw 3 other B-24s blow up.  Our gunners made a pretty good accounting.  Pratt, Thomas, and Broduer got one each for sure and they also got 2 probable.  I saw 2 of the 3 knocked down.  We all cheered when they went down.  It's funny when you stop to think that we were cheering because a man was killed, but at the moment I'd cheered if I could of seen every German in the world killed right before my eyes.  On the 2 ships I watched the gunners get, I could follow the tracers from our guns as they slowly tracked the fighter.  They'd get closer and closer then you'd see them hit.  You've got to give those jerry pilots credit for being beautiful flyers, some times when they would make a pass at us they wizz past us going approximately the same direction as we were, and suddenly zoom up in a half a loop coming back upside down with all their guns blazing.  They'd barrel roll right thru our formation trying to break us up.  They even came in when their flak was coming up the heaviest and nearly getting hit by it.

 Sometimes they come so close to our ship i could plainly see the big cross on the side and even one time the man in the cockpit.  It always seemed like they tried to keep their bellies toward us because that is where the most armor plating is.  When we first missed Ray and the rest of the boys we just thought they had become separated, we couldn't imagine them being shot down.  It wasn't til we'd been on the ground for hours and knew that their fuel supply would be gone did we finally realized they would not be back.  I'm hoping Ray was able to parachute from safety.

 There is a bunch of sad faces around tonight.  I just found out our boys were given credit for 5 enemy fighters instead of 3.  One of the things that made me feel so bad about the whole affair was that the mission was to be the last one for several of the crews before they were to leave for home.  I don't know why I've written so much about it because I'd like to forget it, yet I never will be able to.


Charles E. Swanner, 0-762016, Second Lieutenant, 742nd Bombardment Squadron (H), 455th Bombardment Group (H). For extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as pilot of a B-24 type aircraft. On 27 July 1944, Lieutenant Swanner participated in a high altitude bombing mission on the strategic Manfred Weiss Armament Works at Budapest, Hungary.

This target was heavily defended by swarms of enemy aircraft, which attacked the formation from all around the clock. An air battle ensued which lasted for twenty minutes. During this engagement, Lieutenant Swanner's airplane was seriously damaged by enemy aircraft fire.

This damage consisted of huge holes in the flap, ailerons and trim tabs cut, fuel line cut and one fuel tank destroyed. This resulted in the plane going into a side slip, from which Lieutenant Swanner, after gallantly nursing the aircraft for five minutes was able to pull it out after it had lost 7,000 feet of altitude. Despite all the damage and the continued tendency of the right wing to slip, Lieutenant Swanner, by his extreme professional skill, took the aircraft back into the formation and during the long, tedious return trip to base, kept it in the proper position.

While on the final approach, Lieutenant Swanner discovered his right tire had been shot away by the persistent attacks of the enemy aircraft, but despite this added handicap, Lieutenant Swanner expertly set the plane down for a one-wheel landing masterpiece and immediately took the aircraft from the runway to avoid stopping traffic.

By the extraordinary professional skill, the grim determination to return his crew and aircraft to base and the utter disregard of personal safety, as displayed by Lieutenant Swanner during his brilliant combat career, has reflected great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Residence at appointment: Spanish Forks, Utah.