Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Raid on Sète

Smoke and B-24s fill the skies over Southern France on June 24, 1944.
Sunday, June 25, 1944, dawned bright and sunny over southern France. The invasion of northern France was all of 19 days old, and the Allied planners were going full-steam ahead with their bombing campaign against Nazi petroleum-related targets. On this day, over 400 B-17s and B-24s, flying from bases in Italy, hit the rail yards in Sète, as well as the oil refineries at Frontignan la Peyrade and  Balaruc-les-Bains.

The B-24 Liberators over this target area were from the 464th and the 485th Bomb Groups, 55th Bombardment Wing, part of the 15th Air Force, operating from Pantanella  (464th) and Venoza (485th) Airfields. Escorting the heavy bombers were 41 P-38 Lightnings from the 82nd Fighter Group, and others. Opposing them in the skies over occupied France were 59 Bf-109s from Jagdgruppe 200. JGr. 200 records show claims of two B-24s shot down, as well as three additional aircraft damaged. The fighters clashed about 0935, and one P-38 was seen diving nearly vertically after a Bf-109, and did not pull out  (P-38s in dives at high Mach numbers had a nasty habit of that). One Bf-109 is known to have been shot down.

Chart showing photo locations with current condition by Eric Radecki
The 8x10 glossy shown above is one of the Archives most recent acquisitions. My brother, Eric, who is an expert in maps and aerial photograph interpretation, helped immensely by assembling the chart on the right, showing the target areas as the appear today, 68 years later. Surprisingly, there is still an oil refinery at Frontignan.

Both the 464th and 485th have active association groups, and if anyone from those groups has details on this mission, I'd love to hear from you!

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