Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day - James A Kurtz WWII Bombing Missions

My great uncle, James Albert Kurtz was 2nd Lieutenant in the 57th Bomb Wing, 310th Bomber Group, 381st squadron.  He flew in 27 missions before he died in a training flight over Tunisia, North Africa on November 4, 1943.  I was able to uncover the records of his missions, their targets and their results and I want to capture them here to honor his war service.

James Kurtz was born on September 5, 1918.  He enlisted in the Army Air Force on September 16, 1939 and graduated from the cadets at Maxwell Field, Alabama January 14, 1943, where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.  He was sent overseas in April 1943.   He was a co-pilot in B-25 bombers based in Oudna, Tunisia. 

Here is a listing of missions that he conducted (I am missing a few, but this is nearly comprehensive):

1.       Milis Airdrome, Sardinia 7-7-1943
18 B-25’s escorted by 36 P-38’s went on a bombing run over Sardinia, Italy.  There was heavy flak.  Most of the aircraft were hit.  One of the B-25’s engines caught fire, causing him to make a landing in the sea 15 minutes from the target.  Air-Sea Rescue Service was notified to save the crew.
2.       Biscari, Siciliy 7-6-1943
18 B-25’s escorted by 24 P-38’s went on a bombing run over Biscari, Sicily, Italy.  Due to low visibility and terrain difficulty for the navigators, the bombs for this mission struck all over the country-side. 
3.       Viba Valentia Airdrome, Italy 7-16-1943
36 B-25’s escorted by 24 P-38’s went on a bombing run over Vibo Valentia Airdome, Italy.  A six hour trip to the toe of Italy via the south coast of Malta, in order to avoid our shipping.  The mission paid big dividends, as all bombs hit in the target area, destroying many of the 50 or more aircraft parked on the airdrome.  Buildings and hangers were also hit, and several oil fires were started.
4.       Ciampino Airdrome, Rome, Italy 7-19-1943
72 B-25’s escorted by 36 P-38’s went on a bombing run over Ciampino Airdrome, Rome, Italy.  35 enemy aircraft were dispersed on this mission and 10 destroyed on the ground.  No bombs struck in the center of the city.
5.       Battipaglia, Italy 7-22-1943
24 B-25’s escorted by 26 P-38’s went on a bombing run over Battipaglia, Italy.  The marshaling yards were hit by only two strings of bombs.  The remainder hit wide, mostly in the small town.
6.       Practicia Di Mare Airdrome, Italy 7-30-1943
 36 B-25’s escorted by 24 P-38’s went on a bombing run over Practicia Di Mare Airdrome, Italy.   Apparently the enemy was taken by complete surprise, for in addition to the 80-100 large aircraft on the ground, 3 were in the process of landing when the bombs hit.
7.       Crotone Airdrome, Italy 8-7-1943
24 B-25’s escorted by 26 P-38’s went on a bombing run over Crotone Airdrome, Italy.  The bombing was only fair –several strings did strike in the center of the landing area, but others were short and to the sides.          
8.       Marina Di Catenzara Railroad Bridge, Italy – 8-8-1943
Bridge area covered, but direct hits observed due to dust and smoke.
9.       Littorio Railroad Yards, Rome, Italy  - 8-13-1943
36 B-25’s escorted by 24 P-38’s went on a bombing run over Littorio Railroad Yards, Rome.  This mission was part of another combined big push by the air force to tie up rail traffic to and from Rome.   All planes returned safely. 
10.   Road Curve Between Palermiti and Valepiorita, Italy  8-18-1943.
A “Milk Run”.  No Flak, no enemy fighters and no direct hits on the road.
11.   Salerno Marshaling Yards, Italy 8-19-1943
Only average bombing results.
12.   Benevento Marshaling Yards – 8-27-1943
No details
13.   Civitavecchia Marshaling Yards – 8-30-1943
Good bombing with no enemy aircraft interception.
14.   Capua Bridge, Italy – 9-21-1943
36 B-25’s took part in a bombing mission to destroy 2 road bridges.  These bridges had been damaged in a previous mission on 9-16-1943.  This mission completed the demolition of both bridges.  This was part of the stated strategy to destroy lines of communication of the Germans which were currently in Salerno, Italy.  He Co-piloted B-25 42-32333
15.   Flumeri Bridge, Italy 9-22-1943
36 B-25’s mission to block retreat of enemy motor convoys, however, the flak was so heavy and accurate that it prevented an accurate bombing run.  Five of the aircraft were damaged.
16.   Highway and Railroad Bridges Near Amorosi, 9-30-1943
Plan to block the enemies retreat.   Bombs dropped, but no confirmed hits on targets.

During October, James Kurtz was copilot on the B-25 designated 41-30386.  He had a consistent crew which included the following:

Pilot:  1st Lt. Malcolm C. Hanna, 31 Elliot Place, Freeport, New York
Copilot:  2nd Lt. James Albert Kurtz, RFD#1, Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania (Norvelt)
Bombardier:  S/Sgt  George R. Trevethan, 427 Lois Road, Rochester, Michigan
Radio-Gunner:  T/Sgt  John R. Pelkey,  2822 Grant Boulevard, Syracuse, New York
Gunner:   S/Sgt  Celest F. Camagna,  727 Warren Ave., Apolho, Pennsylvania
Turret Gunner:  Pfc. Robert E. Frazier, Grahn Kentucky

17.   Highway at Formia, Italy  - 10-5-1943
An outflanking movement by allied ground forces above Naples is causing the withdrawal of German forces along this main highway.  The results of this mission have been reported to be successful.  Although, it cannot be determined if the Formia Highway was rendered completely unserviceable, crews observed many strings of bombs landing toward the two aiming points.  No flak or enemy aircraft were experienced.    
18.   Sessa Aurunca Road Junction, Italy  10-13-1943
Many direct hits were reported in the center of the road junction.  A road junction one mile west of the target was cut by bomb hits, as well as another road junction just east of the target.
19.   Grosseta Railroad Bridget, Italy  10-14-1943
Complete weather coverage at the target caused the flight to return without dropping its bombs.
20.   Centivari Airdrome, Italy  10-20-1943
Bombs hit directly across the field and into hangers and buildings on its north side.  Several aircraft parked near the hangers were hit.  Bombs also struck in the dispersal areas, causing at least 6 planes to burst into flames.  One string of bombs which fell short of the target cut railroad tracks.  A submarine was sighted when flying to target.  It was headed toward Lido di Roma.
21.   Railroad Tracks 10 miles Southeast of Orbetello, Italy   10-21-1943
The railroad tracks were bombed between a road junction at 42 23’ N – 11 27’ E and a lake at 42 24’N – 11 23’ E.  The tracks were reportedly severed in three places.  At least three direct hits were made on the tracks just west of a road junction and 6 direct hits on the tracks just east of the lake.  Black smoke was seen coming from a bombed area on the tracks near the east end of the lake.  Many near misses were reported.
22.   Railroad Bridge 2 miles south of Grosseto, Italy   10-22-1943
Considerable dust and smoke covered the target area, making observations difficult.   Post mission photographic analysis, revealed three direct hits on the bridge and one hit each on the approaches to the bridge. 
23.   Undecipherable Railroad Bridge, Italy    10-23-1943
Bomb hits were concentrated around the bridge, with several strings cutting across it.  Other strings of bombs blasted the north and south approaches.
24.   Railroad Tracks 10 Miles South of Cecina, Italy 10-30-1943
Flight turned back due to unfavorable weather conditions in the target area.

Sadly, there were no bombing missions flown in November 1943, but they did do training flights.  It was on one of these training flights on November 4, 1943 that James Albert Kurtz was killed.

Here is what was entered into the daily log:

Thursday, 4 November 43
News was received today from Oudna of an airplane accident in which 2nd Lt. James A. Kurtz and F/O Charles (NMI) Hudson Jr. were killed.  They were on a routine training flight , and had been flying formation over Tunis at 2000 feet with a pair of B-17’s, in the left wing position.  They pulled out of the formation and were flying straight and level when their B-25 suddenly went into a dive and then began to spin.  The plane crashed and burned about 5 miles NW of Oudna A/D #2.  No one else was in the plane.   They were buried at Tunis in the late afternoon.

WWII History
James Kurtz’s bombing missions coincided and supported the invasion of Italy and their surrender to allied forces.  Much of his mission activities were meant to limit German retreat from Italy and their supply lines.  These bombing missions were very successful and were important to the Allied troop’s success in Italy.

Here is a picture of James Kurtz and a flight crew.  I am not sure if this was taken in Tunisia or during his training in Alabama.     I suspect that this may have been taken during his training in Alabama.  The trees in the background look more like the southern United States vs. what I would expect would be a more arid environment in Tunisia.

Please let email me if you have any information about the men in this picture or the men that James Kurtz flew with.  It would be very interesting if they have any personal stories about serving with my great uncle.

The source of this bombing mission information was previously classified /secret mission logs which are posted on the following website.  I am thankful that they have published this information on the web for everyone to access.

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