This is the story of the most tragic heavy bomber mission in the history of military aviation and certainly in the history of the mighty Eighth United States Air Force (USAAF VIII Bomber Command). It took place during WWII and involved the 445th heavy bomber group which on September 27, 1944 was assigned a mission leaving their home base of Tibenham UK to bomb the Henschel Motor Works in Kassel, Germany. The Henschel motor works manufactured the Panzer class tanks and were the designers and sole manufacturers of the dreaded Tiger I and King Tiger II machines for the German army.
Of the 35 b-24 Liberator heavy bombers that left Tibenham air field that morning, only 4 returned that afternoon. Each B-24 bomber was flown by a 10 or 11 man air crew and due to 10/10 cloud cover over the target area, the decision was made to conduct the bomb run using radar guidance along the run. For reasons unknown for over 70 years, this bomber group which was the lead for the entire 2nd Combat Bomber Wing, penetrated to within 4 minutes of reaching the Henschel Motor Works when suddenly the formation deviated away from the bomb run leaving behind its fighter escorts and the defenses of the surrounding groups and alone bombed the wrong target Goerttingen, 28 miles to the northeast of Kassel.
As they turned westward in an attempt to rejoin the other bomber groups, being alone without defensive coverage, they were attacked by over 120 radar guided Luftwaffe interceptor aircraft and within 2 to 3 minutes 25 of the Liberator bombers were destroyed and fell to the ground, 6 crashed while trying to limp back to Tibenham and only 4 successfully returned to their home base. In terms of percent losses, this was the most catastrophic heavy bomber mission in the history of military aviation.
After an intense investigation assembled by Lt. Col. James Maitland Stewart, long time friend of the lead group commander Maj. Bill McCoy, who didn't return, the 2nd Combat Bomber Wing penned a report dated October 23, 1944 that blamed the lead crew and specifically the lead radar operator for a navigational error and for not recognizing the correct target. The report however did not explain why the 445th inexplicably turned toward Goerttingen halfway along its bomb run. In the pages of the book KASSEL, we show where this was a falsification on the part of the 8th USAF in an attempt to cover up the truth. We carefully examine the techniques and procedures of WWII navigation and bombing and for the first time apply the principles of scientific and technical analysis in an attempt to discover the reason why the 445th deviated from their bomb run while turning away in the wrong direction. From doing so, we have arrived at an unbelievably simple reason as to why things went so terribly wrong for the 445th.
This is the story you will read from the pages of KASSEL.