Eye witness report
Bombardier Sergeant Matt Henley in a pathfinder B29
USAAF Raid #1 of WWIII
Target Leningrad, USSR
Raid composed of 224 B29, 2 B29 Silverplates, 52 P51 escorts. A Mark III atomic bomb was loaded on one of the Silverplates.
The beginning of the raid was uneventful. We took off from Lechars and made our way east to Swedish airspace near Stockholm. The pre-placed fighters took off from the airfield in Sweden were waiting at altitude and everything was nominal. Radio silence is maintained.
We formed up with the fighter escort and headed East over the Black Sea and observed bogies forming as we hit the Gulf of Findland.
Near Gogland Island, what looked like V2 rockets, started to launch from the island.
I know what a V2 looks like because I had seen them launch in the last war.
These rockets appeared to be smaller and in addition they seemed to be vectoring in towards our bomber formation. A number seemed to be purposely being directed towards individual bombers. Kind of like they were…guided by someone. I caught a glimpse what seemed to be a wire coming out the rear of the rockets yet when they got close the wires fell off. This did not seem to divert the missiles trajectory and they just keep on coming and even seemed to be compensating for lead just like someone shooting ducks.
It was the damndest thing I’ve ever seen.
I counted about 30 of these coming up from the island. About 10 of these exploded on or near the B29s near the middle of the formation. I saw Pete’s plane Knickers explode with no survivors and Jim Sheppard lost both engines on the port side and went straight down. I counted 3 chutes until they disappeared into a cloud.
The other 20 or so missiles seemed to have missed their targets and just continued on through the formation and detonated at a higher altitude. One took out 5 of the escorts who were too close.
The whole event was so unreal that no one reacted and the remaining bombers continued on their way as if nothing had happened. I think we were all in shock and just couldn’t react.
Then I noticed that about a hundred twin engine medium bombers were closing in from below and at about a 45% angle. They pointed their noses in our direction and launched a volley of a hundred of smaller missiles at our formation again from below. I just happened to get thrown to the side and caught a glimpse of some fighter sized bogies kind of mixed in with the medium bombers kind of off at another angle also launching missiles at us.
The escorts were going crazy chasing those medium bombers but as they dived on them Yak 9’s and Lagg 7’s would be in perfect position to engage them and if they followed the bombers lower they were dragged into flack traps from what I heard.
Mean while the new volley of missiles where getting closer and again a good number of them seemed to be steering themselves towards the bombers. Another 15 or so were hit by the first wave of missiles including the two Silverplates who were supposed to keep flying to Leningrad with a heavy escort to drop the Abomb. The rest of us were just kind of decoys and were supposed to turn back before Leningrad and run for it. The Abomb was supposed to do the job we came for.
Anyway this was too much for the remainder of the formation and when the next volley of missiles from those medium bombers and those single engine jobs were launched the boxes broke up and it was every man for himself.
I hate to say it but we panicked. I saw at least 10 mid-air collisions as every B29 dodged and weaved trying to shake off those missiles that in our minds where being steered right to us. Thinking back on it now most of the missiles came nowhere close to us but just the horrifying sight of those missiles zeroing in on those ships who bought it scared the crap out of us.
As the bomber formation broke up and with all the maneuvering we lost both altitude and speed. The Reds were on us with hundreds of conventional fighters in no time flat and the flight degenerated into a series of individual fights between one or two B29s being engaged by 5 or more fighters and even some 2 engine heavy fighters at lower levels.
All resemblance of a formation ceased to exist and we ran with our tails between our legs for home. I saw at least 20 more B29s drop from the sky. We made it to Sweden on two engines but then had to ditch and 6 of the crew were rescued.