31 Trips to Hell and Back
A B24 Ball Gunners View of the Air War in Europe
Nov 6, 1944 to April 25, 1945

The following is a transcript of a 'Mission by Mission Diary' as was kept by John Zahuranicik.
John served as a Ball Gunner on
'Ralph D. Hendrickson's Crew' with the 781st Bomb Squadron

John Zahuranicik
Enjoying his
retirement in
Rocky River, Ohio

(I bet he couldn't fit in that ball now;-let alone spend 8 to 10 hours at a crack in it)

8 RDX – 500’s 1 neff. Sorti 1 mission
Nov. 6, 1944 VIENNA AUSTRIA (ordnance plant)
Flying yellow "R" 24,000 "2 engines over Vienna" No. 4 feathered before target Left formation, No.2 turbo Out over target. Formation Keep passing by, cannot Even keep up with 17’s Waist & Nose guns, ammo & Flak suits dumped to lighten Load. Ship unable to Maintain altitude. Crossed 15,000 alps at 18500 Gas low -35 degrees 0800 –1600 Y-"R"

6-RDX 500 Boobies 1 sorti 2 missions
Nov. 16, 1944 MUNICH, GERMANY (Marshalling yards)
26,000 Spare ship, fly any position Heavy overcast over target, can’t see much. Blue "L" just ahead gets direct hit by flak, no shutes flak heavy accurate at 26,000 Blue "K" drops back, no.4 engine feathered. Drop bombs, scatter back. Join red form. Over Venice, Alps beautiful flak holes in tail, martin & above Nav head. No o
ne hit.
-40 degrees 7:10-2:47 Y-"G"

6 RDX 500’s 1 Sortie 2 missions
19 Nov. 1944 Linz, Austria (oil dumps)
Easy2 24,000 Heavy overcast over everything except target. Flak heavy but innacurate. White "K" drops back no.1 feathered White "O" E.R. engine out. Nice view of target, and got hits on target, oil dumps. Almost had 17’s piggy back on return to base. Capt. Blankenship good pilot. No flak holes in ship. –26 degrees 7:15 – 2:36 Y "G"

6 RDX 500 1 Sortie 2 missions
22 NOV. 1944 MUNICH, GERMANY (Communication lines)
Flying Y "R" able 8 28,000 Heavy overcast over route & target bombed P.F.F. Above flak about 4000 flak was at briefed altitude. Unable to open bomb bay doors so Ray drops them through. Most of formation brought bombs & dumped in Adriatic. Passed out when oxygen hose is disconnected without me noticing it. Ken brought me to with oxygen. Wallet & $85 stolen -–7 degrees 7:05 – 2:36 Y "R"

10 Incendiarie Clusters 1 Sortie 2 missions
11 DEC. 1944 VIENNA Austria (South ordnance plant)
Flying Y "H" dog 3 23,000 Weather gloomy, visibility 10 miles. Flak heavy as hell. Yellow "O" gets controls shot away then makes vertical climb, rolls over & noses down toward ground. They say 10 chutes got out, didn’t see any. Flak hits no.4 oil line, no.4 feathered just off target, 1 & 2 smoked all the way, 3 & 4 threw gas on way up, 1 & 2 oil on way up. –37 degrees 8:40 – 3:45 Smith, pilot. Y "H"

6 500 GP 2 500 Boobies 1 Sortie 2 Missions
15 DEC. 1944 AMSTETTEN, AUSTRIA (Marshalling yards)
Flying Y "D" Able 5 20,000 Just about made it off cause of heavy undercast which followed us all the way to target and back. Highest peaks of Alps stuck thru undercast. Above cast sky was clear ideal conditions for enemy fighter attack. No flak or fighters seen. Hope for more targets same like this one. 39 degrees 8:15 – 2:40 Y "D"

8 500 RDX 1 Sortie 2 Missions
DEC. 18, 1944 BLECHHAMMER, GERMANY (Oil Refinery)
Flying Y "G" Charlie 6 & 3 24,000 Heavy undercast all way to target, openings over Lake Balaton & slight opening over target. Flak heavy as hell. No. 1 Turbo hit, still pulled a little, hits in tail, rudder, astrodome shot away, just missed no. 3 fuel cell & trim tab on left wing, hole aside ball thru both sides, everyone ok -30 degrees 7:35 – 3:15 Y "G"

36 100 GP 1 Sortie 2 Missions
DEC. 28, 1944 AMSTETTEN, AUSTRIA (Marshalling yards)
Flying Y "B" Able 5 & 3 22,500 Clear over field, Alps covered solid in some places & heavy haze in others. Started out to bomb oil dumps just below Brux Czechslovakia, but lead bombardier F.O.’d so we came back to amstetten. Red "Y" lost one engine & had another start burning, made it back ok tho. No flak, sighted some after target about 5 miles to left. Beautiful escort fighter cover. 40 degrees 8:05 – 4:30 Y "B"

8 500 GP 1 Sortie 1 Mission
JAN. 4, 1945 BALZANO, ITALY (Marshalling yards)
Flying Y "P" Dog 4 24,000 Trip uneventfull until hitting target which was in Alps. Target was along Brenner pass route. Flak plenty Ralph hit in eye with plexiglass, just slight, ok. R "H" had big hole in waist no one hit. Dam good fighter coverage above and below. Multi bouno 40 degrees 8:35 – 3:30 Y "P"

16 250 GP 1 Sortie 2 Missions
FEB. 5, 1945 REGENSBERG, GERMANY (Oil storage yards)
Flying Y "J" Able 5 23,500 Heavy undercast all the way, just like layers of cotton, glad to see it. Saw very little flak, seemed to burst at box ahead, stop for us, then hit box behind. Couldn’t drop bombs linkage broken on toggle, bombs had to be kicked out (by Bombardier) nice run -35 degrees 8:15 – 4:00 Y "J"

8 500 G.P. 1 Sortie 2 Missions
FEB. 8, 1945 VIENNA, AUSTRIA (South Ordnance)
Flying Y "G" Dog 3 25,000 Overcast over most of the route, few breaks along the way, expected to see clean target. Target had overcast with few open spaces, flak was light, expected to see kitchen sink. Missed us. Hit prop wash almost all the way back Nav. Almost passed out for lack of oxygen 34 degrees 8:15 – 3:15 Y "G"
8 500 G.P. 1 Sortie 2 Missions
FEB. 13, 1945 VIENNA AUSTRIA (South goods depot)
Flying Y "G" Dog 5 24,500 Overcast over most of the way expected to have a P.F.F. run. Target clear as a bell overcast opened up couple miles before target. Flak heavy as hell, Pappy kept sliding left, flak followed to our right. Missed us, not one flak hole in "Flak magnet" 33 degrees 8:40 – 3:15 Y "G"

8 500 GP 1 Sortie 2 Missions
FEB. 15, 1945 WEINERNEUSTADT, AUSTRIA (M/V and communications)
Flying Y "G" Baker 3 22,500 Overcast over field most of route clear with few clouds. Target was supposed to be hit visual, finally hit P.F.F. Bombardier screwed up, bombs all over the place. Didn’t see any flak, buono. No. 4 turbo was out for a while just before I.P. No flak holes.
32 degrees 9:05 – 3:30 Y "G"
8 – 5 G.P. 1 Sortie 1 Mission
FEB. 17, 1945 POLA, ITALY (Oil storage)
Flying Y "G" Charlie 4 20,700 Short run. Field socked in waited till 12:00 for takeoff Adriatic clear, Yugo had thin layers of clouds till IP, clear target, flak was multi close. Flak burst everywhere. Flak magnet escaped with only one scratch close to left front B.B. door.
No one hit. 28 degrees 12:00 – 4:30 Y "G"
8 500 G.P. 1neff sortie 1 mission
FEB. 22, 1945 WEILHEIM, GERMANY (Marshalling Yards)
Flying B "H" Charlie 5 13,000 Supposed to be visual run over Alps we hit hellova big front, couldn’t get through, Ralph pulls 360 over alps, leaving formation. Lost formation in heavy clouds & vapor trails, followed another in to field. Brought bombs back to field. 43 degrees at 25,000 8:15 – 3:00 B "H" No. 15 2-22-45 BIG DEAL. Clarion operation Every available aircraft to be sent into the blue to disrupt communications throughout Germany

8 500 G.P. 1 Sortie 2 Missions
FEB. 25, 1945 LINZ, AUSTRIA (Ordnance depot)
Flying R "P" Charlie 2 24,500 Field had 10/10 overcast didn’t expect to get off. Route most of way up had light haze with few scattered clouds. Target was supposed to be hit P.F.F., weather man F.U., dam thing clear as bell. Flak heavy to unbearable, had only two small holes in wing. 33 degrees 8:00 – 3:30 R "P"
10 500 GP 1 Sortie 1 Mission
FEB. 28, 1945 VITIPENO, ITALY (Marshalling yards)
Flying Y "A" Able 3 21,200 Missed this target so we hit one 5 miles north of it. Visual run, pulled couple 360’s over Brenner Pass waiting for dog & baker box to return from Germany. No flak over target dam bombardiers missed target came back low on gas, no.2 coughing, bone dry. 22 degrees 9:50 – 4:30 Y "A" Dom. Almost knocks out no.2 when trying to feed no. 1, which was low as hell
8 500 GP 1 Sortie 2 Missions
MAR. 12, 1945 VIENNA, AUSTRIA (Floresdorf oil refinery)
Flying Y "V" Easy 4 24,000 Flying "V" on its first mission, dam good ship. Heavy overcast over route except for a few holes most of them being over the Alps. Bombed P.F.F., flak was heavy but very inaccurate. Returned low on gas, flew too long at altitude used too dam much. No flak holes 26 degrees 9:10 – 1630 Y "V"
8 500 GP 1 Sortie 2 Missions
MAR. 13, 1945 REGENSBERG, GERMANY (Marshalling yard)
Flying Y "N" Charlie 7 23,500 Heavy overcast over most of route, saw little flak while scepting villach Target was supposed to be hit visual but target was covered 10/10. Saw heavy black smoke come up thru overcast, good hits. Had trouble with No. 3, kept losing oil all the way. 25 degrees 9:05 – 1615 Y "N" Flew panther ship so we had panther operator, Kenny flew with another crew

5 1000 GP 1 Sortie 2 Missions
MAR. 19, 1945 MUHZODORF, GERMANY ( Marshalling yard)
Flying Y "P" Charlie 3 19,100 Flew in Red Force, clear route most of way, few scattered clouds, mostly over the Alps. Bombed M/Y visual, NO FLAK, multi bono fire & smoke all over the place, scragged hell out of target, saw caps of oil & gas burst into flame. Panther ship with operator. 28 degrees 8:30 – 1510 Y "P" Sperry Ball on way back got locked. couldn’t get out. Hydraulics were out. Manual crank clutch wouldn’t engage. Ken & Dom got me out, by disengagingel. Clutch from the outside.
40 - 100 GP 1 Sortie 2 Missions
MAR. 22, 1945 VIENNA, AUSTRIA (Marshalling yards)
Flying Y "Q" Dog 2 24,400 Route all way up 3/10 to 4/10 low clouds, target same, bombed visual, scragged hell out of target. Flak heavy & very accurate, they picked off Able 1 & Easy 1 before bombs away. Y "X" burned no. 3 engine & blew off right wing, 7 shutes got out. Got out ok, not a scratch on ship 38 degrees 8:15 – 1510 Y "Q"
216 20# Frags. 1 Sortie 2 Missions
MAR. 25, 1945 PRAGUE CZECHOSLOAKIA (Vletnany, Airdrome)
Flying Y "C" Baker 2 22,000 Route clear all the way up expected fighters. Stuck our heads in lions mouth expected it to snap but didn’t. Saw two 109’s on the way back, too far off to do any good. Hit target visual had some dam good hits in M.P.I. Target was just outside Prague Czecho. It was smoke covered, screening and oil smoke from oil storage hit today. 25 degrees 8:10 – 4:00 Y "C"
18 250 GP 1 Sortie 1 Mission
MARCH 31, 1945 VILLACH, AUSTRIA (marshalling yards)
Flying Y "R" Charlie 4 24,300 Heavy undercast over most of route. At head of Adriatic heavy front, flew through it for almost an hour, could just about make out box up ahead. Bombed P.F.F., hope we hit something, didn’t see even one burst of flak. Buono flew through front on return trip 36 degrees 8:10 – 2:00 Y "R"
10 500 G.P. 1 Sortie 1 Mission
APRIL 2, 1945 GRAZ, YUGOSLAVIA (Marshalling yard)
Flying Y "N" Baker 6 & 4 21,200 Clear route all way up with slight haze over Alps. Target clear but partly smoke covered from groups hitting before us. Flak was moderate & inaccurate. No. 3 throwing oil, made it ok though. Mission in support of Russians. 8:30 – 3:45 25 degrees Y "N"

5 1000 GP 1 Sortie 1 Mission
APRIL 7, 1945 VITIPENO, ITALY (Railroad bridge)
Flying Y "G" Charlie 5 24,500 Supposed to hit target visual run only. Route all way up about 7/10 cloud cover, target had 10/10 so we didn’t drop bombs saw beautiful vapor trails Y "N" feathered No. 3 "E.R." Saw flak from one gun at head of adriatic, burst or two came dam close, no damage 38 degrees 11:30 – 5:10 Y "G"
26 thru 30

40 100 G.P. 1 Sortie 1 Mission
April 9, 1945 LUGO ITALY (Frontline supplies)
Flying Y "N" Charlie 4 20,200 Route out pretty cloudy target clear. Bombed supplies just 1 mile from our front lines. 8 minutes after bombs away British troops were to have started their push toward northern Italy. Saw 25’s – 51’s – 47’s low level bomb and strafe the area after we bombed it. Multi smoke all over the place. 42 degrees 11:40 4:45 Y "N"
10 500 GP 1 Sortie 1 Mission
April 12, 1945 UDINE ITALY (Gdena Mezzocoronal Bridge)
Flying Y "R" Able 5 19,200 Over base was clear, enroute over Adriatic we hit weather soup, didn’t expect to get through. Flew through soup so thick that wing man was out of sight for short period. Hit in smoke covered target area, bridge no mo. Saw only one flak burst Multi buono 20 degrees 8:05 2:20 Y "R"

18 250 G.P. 1 Sortie 1 Mission
April 16, 1945 BOLOGNA ITALY (troop & gun concentration)
Flying Y "N" Charlie 4 22,000 Flew most of route over land hit Meditteranean above Rome. Most of route up covered with light haze clouds thick as hell over immediate target cloud covered. Front lines / are lined with our flak at 15,000 No flak, sweated out gat on return, only had couple hundred gals. Left. 20 degrees Y "N"
10 500 GP 1 Sortie 2 Missions
APRIL 19, 1945 ROSENHEIM, AUSTRIA (Marshalling yards)
Flying Y "E" Baker 2 22,000 Didn’t expect to get off cause nose wheel collapsed, changed P.D.Q. Didn’t hit primary target cause it was cloud covered so we went to Rosenheim. No flak, not one burst all day. Nice ship, niceday, nice run, want 6 more same. 21 degrees 7:30 – 2:30 Y "E"
5 1000 GP 1 Sortie 1 Mission
APRIL 23, 1945 PADUA, ITALY (Road bridge)
Flying Y "A" Charlie 6 21,200 Started on Y "N" took off & had cowl flap blow from piece of piston. Hit weather over Yugo, solid undercast. Hit bridge visual, but missed it, left & short. Very little flak, No. 3 and 4 throwing multie oil, feathered No. 4 on way back expected to have no. 3. Feathered too, but didn’t. 27 degrees 8:10 – 3:00 Y "A"
10 500 G.P. 1 Sortie 2 Missions
APRIL 25 1945 LINZ AUSTRIA (Marshalling yards)
Flying Y "V" Baker 6 23,300 Dam near filed my britches when I heard target. Clear as hell too. Clear all way to target, had heavy smoke screen over target. Flak thick as hell though sure as hell we’d get scragged, Harry sure coached us through O.K. Just had two holes one in eng. Cowl & one in leading edge 26 degrees 8:45 – 1540 Y "V" Wouldn’t be here if Harry hadn’t coached us. He yells "up, up", Pappy racks her up couple hundred feet and then 3 bursts bust right under us. On rally Pappy stood her up on her ear. Hot pups Watched one ship get hit fire in bomb bay but kept level flight long time, crew bailed out, ship crashed in mountains.

Going Home 23 May 1945
Left Pantanella, Italy –0845 Circled field one last time landed at Manduria May 23, 1945 at 1010

24 May 1945
Had little excitement today when Y "N" jumped chocks and smashed into crew stand knocking hell out of it with prop. 3&4 props bent engineer got front teeth knocked out with flying pipe. We had 6 ft. piece of pipe land in back of ship, we were 100 yds away. Y "N" looked like she just returned from "flak alley." The jinx does it again.