Between 23 and 27 december 1944 the C-47s of the 440 T.C.G. take-off regularly from Orleans air base to drop supplies and ammunitions to the men of the 101st Airborne Division, surrounded in Bastogne, Belgium.
On the morning of December 27 the 440th was given another glider mission and at 10:39 eight C-47s and eight gliders of the 95th squadron and five planes and five gliders of the 96th squadron took off from the airstrip at Chateaudun. These 13 aircraft and gliders formed the last element of a 50-plane serial operated by the 439th Troop Carrier Group. The 440th gliders were loaded to capacity with high explosives
The weather was good and the run into Bastogne was made without trouble. The job looked easy when, almost without warning, the 440th planes collided with the most withering hail of anti-aircraft fire ever encountered by a 440th formation during the European campaign.
Apparently the German ack-ack gunners had gotten the range as the first elements of the 35-plane formation came over and as the 13, 440th planes and gliders swung over the target the blast hit with unprecedented fury. Five of the 95th Squadron aircraft were shot down with every member of their crews either killed or captured by the enemy. One managed to get back over friendly territory before making a crash landing. The remaining two returned to home base at Orleans so badly damaged that ground crews found it hard to understand how they had remained airborne.
The SNAFU Special is one of the two which were able to return at Orleans but she is badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire. She returned with a 20mm hole in left wing, 2-20mm holes in the rudder, 1 hole in elevator, small arms holes all over ship and one tire punctured by flak. It's eloquent to read the testimony of Donald Orcutt, flight leader in the Squadron :

"Harper's aircraft was a flying wreck. Both main tyres has been shot off and he landed on the bare wheels, losing one completely during the roll out. The fuselage and wings has been shredded by twenty millimetre and small arms fire. Rudder and elevator fabric was nonexistent. Fuel was leaking from the tanks. There were even holes in the propeller blades. It was a miracle that both engines continued to run."
In fact, the Squadron Engineering war diary for the month of december 1944 states that, following the battle damages of 27 december, the plane is sent to the 64th Service Squadron to be repaired. In january 1945 the war diary contain the following information: "During the month airplane 43-15073 which suffered major battle damage in the battle of the bulge was returned to active service after completion of all repairs."

 

* Her crew during Operation REPULSE

PILOT

1st Lieutenant James P. HARPER
O-681080

Corona - California

CO-PILOT

2nd Lieutenant Donald M. SMALTZ
O-814998

Weirton - West Virginia

RADIO-OPERATOR

Sergeant Joseph R. BUCKNER
38411772

Baytown - Texas

CREW CHIEF

T/Sergeant Lafette J. NERREN
06249750

Houston - Texas




Narrative on Glider Resupply Mission of 27 December 1944
Missing Air Crew Report 11315 - C-47 #43-15084
Missing Air Crew Report 11316 - C-47 #43-15658
Missing Air Crew Report 11317 - C-47 #42-100906
Missing Air Crew Report 11318 - C-47 #42-100904
Missing Air Crew Report 11320 - C-47 #42-100907
Individual Flight Record - James P. HARPER - December 1944
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