Friday, April 29, 2016

Log Books and Flight Summaries - February and March, 1944

The following are excerpts from the Pilot's Log book of 1st Lt Joseph Elden Leonard and flight summaries from “417th NFS Illustrated History," edited by Dan Whitney.

1st Lt. Leonard and his radar observer Flight Officer Raymond Christensen, were night fighters for the 417th NFS, U. S. Army Air Force.  Both were killed in action when their plane was engaging a Nazi night fighter over the Tyrrhenian sea.  Their plane disappeared from radar and presumably crashed into the sea after being shot down.  F/O Christensen was my great-uncle.

Much of the work of the 417th NFS was to protect boat convoys as they transported allied suppies and soldiers.  As you can imagine, these convoys were prized targets of the Nazis.  Also, the 417th were sent on missions to check out "bogies" that showed upon their radar, and if found to be an enemy plane, engage in combat.

These excerpts resume in Tafaraoui, Algeria.  F/O Christensen was radar observer for all of these flights, so I have not mentioned him specifically.  Other passengers are noted.   The quotes are from the flight summaries of 1st. Lt. Leonard.   Notes between brackets are mine.  All crews from the 417th are named "Bishop 50, Bishop 51," etc.  Note the crazy hours these guys fly!


These entries conclude the log book and flight summary data.

Feb. 3, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 151.  Sgt. Sabo along as well.  Night Fighter Training.  2:00 pm - 2:40 pm.  "151 is undoubtedly the best A/C [air craft] on the line, everything checked up perfect, wonderful day."
Flight 2: Beau 151.  Convoy Patrol - Turban (Woodlog) [ground control].  5:35 pm - 8:30 pm.  "Convoy patrol on Turban, ran one PI [practice interception] with Bishop 57, seven mile range on the AI [airborne intercept radar], was vectored after bogie with negative results, had trouble with Woolsack and Frenchmen in the pattern, A/C [air craft] has slight hydraulic leak."

Feb. 6, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 177.  Pfc. Coleman was along.  Night Fighter Training.  2:20 pm - 3:00 pm.  "NFT, ship and radio were OK, but AI [airborne intercept] was PP ["Piss Poor"]"
Flight 2: Beau 177.  F/O Heinecke along as well.  Practice interceptions with Woodlog.  A.I. U/S. [airborne interceptions - ?/?].  6:30 pm - 8:15 pm.  "PI's with 50 on Woodlog, pretty good night despite the fact that my AI was U/S, ship and R/T [radio transmitter] were OK."

Feb. 15, 1944.
Flight 1: Beau 204, Night Fighter Training. 3:05 pm - 3:50 pm.  "Night Fighter Training in the soup, very nice, A/C [air craft], R/T [radio transmitter], and A/I [airborne intercept radar] OK also."
Flight 2: Beau 204, Convoy patrol with Fishbone [ground control].  5:55 pm - 8:05 pm.   "Convoy patrol on a helluva big job about 80 ships, nothing doing as usual and Joe Long was off the ball on his vector, A/C [air craft], R/T [radio transmitter], and AI [airborne intercept radar] OK."
Flight 3: Beau 204.  Scramble.  2:20 am - 3:40 am.  "Scramble after bandit that failed to materialize, I investigated a destroyer that turned out to be friendly, my first scramble and I get lost on the Taxi strip, C'est La Guerre ["That's war!"].  R/T [radio transmitter] a bit ropey."

Feb 18, 1944.  Beau 938, 2:15 pm - 3:05 pm.  "NFT [Night Fighter Training] with [Bishop] 70, A/C [air craft] check out OK but engineering marked it out so they could play with it.  R/T [radio transmitter] and A/C [air craft] OK."

Feb 22, 1944.  Beau 158.  8:05 pm - 12:40 am.  "PI [practice intercepts] with Bishop 53 on Stalecrust [ground control], we worked quilt at Angels 11 [altitude of aircraft - 11,000 ft] - the blackest damned night that I have ever seen.  We were both getting visuals from 800-300 ft.  Ship and set OK."

Feb. 23, 1944.  Beau 151.  5:35 pm - 8:25 pm.  "Convoy patrol with Perform [ground control], Bags of Oranges and Orange juice, uneventful as usual, ship and set OK, but it leaks."

March 3, 1944.  Beau 151.  7:55 am - 9:35 am.  "Dawn patrol with Bradshaw [Tafaraoui RAF Aerodrome control].  After waiting 25 minutes for [Bishop] 57, Bradshaw vectored me after a bandit which I chased for about 25 minutes when my radio went out.  I turned back and about 5 minutes later my port engine went out, but the radio came back in so I was vectored home, R/T [radio transmitter] OK."

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