On Saturday February 3, 1945 the United States Eigth Air Force, send 1,500 bombers lead by Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rosenthal of the 100th Bombardment Group escorted by 1,000 fighters to attack the Berlin railway system as the Russion Army approched from the east. The 34th Bombardment Group from Mendlesham AFB sent 38 aircrafts on the mission led by Lieutenant Colonel Roy E. Tavasti flying in B-17 43-38113 "Wee Willie’s Wolves". 36 aircrafts from the 34th dropped 90 tons of bombs on the primary target and only 2 aircrafts failed to drop their bombs.
Lieutenant Colonel Tavisti later wrote
We expected to take a severe beating because of the reproted 500 heavy anti-aircraft guns that defended the city. On the bomb run to our particular target the prospects didn't appear too rosy. The bomb group immediatly ahead of the 34th completely disapeared in a black cloud of flak smoke with the exception of two or three momentary large orage flashes that indicated catastrophic explosions of bobmers ahead of us. Then a strage thing occured. The 34th, wich was leading the 93rd Bomb Win slipped in and out of the target area with nearly no shots fired at us. I can only speculate that, the flak guns were over-heated by the time we came into range. As a consequence, we had a free ride while the guns were cooling. As it turns out, the mission to Berlin unexpededly eneded up being somehwat of a a nerve-shattering milk-run
The photographs below this page are a collection from a full uncut roll of film taken by Lew Funk that wonderfully preserves the 34th Bomb Group's role in the massive raid on Berlin on February 3, 1945.
They show the 34th Bomb Group's role in the massive raid on Berlin on February 3, 1945. The sequence of the pictures in this collection preserve the story of the flight across the English Channel, bombs dropping on the target, the surprisingly light flak the men endured over enemy territory, and their safe return home to Mendlesham Air Force base. The American air attack on Berlin's railway system on February 3rd was one of the heaviest of the entire war. Overall 1,500 bombers from the Eighth Air Force flew this mission and 1,000 fighters joined to protect them. The 34th Bomb Group dispatched 38 planes for this mission and dropped 90 tons on the primary target.
Lew Funk's log from this mission state: 2-3-45 Berlin Germany, Out to squash the town 300lb Bombs at 50 ft. Intervals, 1500 Aircrafts, Did a damn good job. Pilot Hammersley, Ship #343, Time 6:35 - Further research shows Lew Funk actually flew with the Hammersley crew on 43-38343 "The Big Gear" two versions of his logs show two different aircraft number, but the official records of the day confirm he was on 43-38343.
These photos were all taken from B-17 43-38343
The Big Gear flow by the Hammersley crew:
This collection of photographs has special historical value because the pictures are from an in-tact roll of film which accurately preserves the order of events and many of the pictures include aircrafts with visible tail numbers which accurately identify them.
These images were originally shot on color film, but the color degraded over time. This caused most the colors to oxidize and turned orange. Only a little bit of red that survived in the images. To best preserve the images most them are rendered in black and white like other images from that period.
Here are some photos of the processing used to digitize this role of film. The job required a jig to to hold the role of film as I moved it across the scanner. I scanned each image on the role one by one taking special care not to scratch or dammange the film.