|12 July 1944 |
By the 12th of the month several of the crews had completed their fifty sorties. Upward of 100 combat crew members had been sent back to the United States on a rotation basis. Other crews were at rest camps. The number of crews available, consequently, was limited. For this mission it was decided to fly a formation of four flights instead of the customary six flights.
For the first time in its history the 461st Group was really hit on the bomb run by a formation-concentration of enemy fighters. Twenty-eight enemy fighters hit the last flight of six planes and knocked down four of them. Three of the planes went down over the target at Nimes, France, and the fourth apparently failed in an effort to ditch within the sight of Toulon. The planes lost over the target were those piloted by 1st Lt. Richard S. Fawcett, 2nd Lt. Frederick L. Dunn, and 2nd Lt. Chester A. Ray Jr. Lt. Fawcett's plane was in bad shape when last seen. From all three planes, never the less, chutes were seen to open. 2nd Lt. William J. Barnes, the youngest officer in the Group, was pilot of the plane which attempted to ditch in the Gulf of Lion.
The fighter attack split up the bomb run with the result that the mission was scored only 24 percent on the big Marshalling Yard. Seven enemy planes were shot down. It was apparent to all that evil days had at last caught up with the hitherto invincible 461st.