Photo: 57th Bomb Wing Asociation
Aircraft of the 310th BG on their way to the target.
The railway bridge in Rovereto was (and still is)
barely five meters wide but regardless it was an
important German army transportation line and
as such drew increased attention of the American bomber units. After repeated raids it was in
fact destroyed but the Germans managed to repair the damaged section by means of temporary
bridging which, to keep it secret, was used during
the night only. At the same time, they surrounded
the bridge with the strong anti-aircraft artillery
defense. Every „trip” into the area represented a
considerable risk experienced by both 428th and
380th BS when they took part in the raid on April 19. First squadron dispatched 18 aircraft on the
mission and the second unit added six to the full
strength. Each Mitchell carried two 1000lb bombs
(bomb load of total weight of 906 kg). The formation was led by Col. Remington, 310th BG commander. In case the German fighters appeared, the
fighter cover was provided by P-47s and P-51s.
The sky full of shrapnel
At 9:40 local time Remington released the brakes
of the formation’s leading ship, and his Mitchell
started the take-off roll on the runway in Fano.
All other 23 aircraft took off in the quick sequence and only two circles around the base were
needed to make full formation. The skies were
clear and visibility unlimited. Only in the vicinity
of Florence did the crews notice one tenth cloud
cover. Past the ancient town, in the direction of
the target, the skies were clear again. The escort
fighters were patrolling above, below and on the
sides of the formation, but the German fighters
did not show up so shortly before the target the
Mustangs and Thunderbolts withdrew to monitor the situation and prepare for the return flight.
Before the first ships reached the target the first
anti-aircraft shells started to explode in the sky.
It was clear to everyone that this time it would be
no „Milk Run” as they had nicknamed the easy mi-
ssions. It was obvious that there would be some
losses, and everybody hoped he would not be one
to fall victim. There were several „green“ crews
in the formation who were experiencing a very
harsh baptism of fire. The shells were exploding
on all sides and the explosions were rocking the
airplanes in all directions. Before they released
their bombs, they heard the excited voice of one
of the gunners:
"Plane going down, nine o'clock."
"It's McGilvray," was the reply.
"Watch out for chutes," came the answer back
After a short time: "Four, four of 'em, all open,"
replied the crewman.
(McGilvray and other crew members returned to
the unit just the next day after Germany surrendered – on May 9 – and according to the unit’s diary records they were in “good condition”; editor´s
Photo: 57th Bomb Wing Asociation
When on April 29, 1945, two dozen of Mitchells
from USAAF 310th Bombardment Group got airborne from their Italian base in Fano to attack the
railway bridge in Rovereto, no one expected that,
baring one single aircraft, all remaining ships would
receive one hole or more “compliments” of the
German anti-aircraft fire. One of those was a ship
christened Angel of Mercy. It was her 47th as well
as her very last mission.
William S. McMillan in the cockpit of Angel of Mercy. Under the cockpit
there is the name of Airplane Commander 1st Lt. Thaddeus C. Michal
visible. The two pilots shared this machine during March 1945.
INFO Eduard - September 2021