Friday, December 11, 2009

T/Sgt. Bacil H. Ocheltree- Another Orlando Boy Who Served His Country

Don't miss the transcription of Bacil Ocheltree's log book of his flight missions over Europe at the end of this biography.

by David Parmer

A Long Way from the Hills
It’s a long way from Chop Fork to Podington, England. The son of a farm family, Bacil Ocheltree, grew up on Chop Fork, also known as “Booger Hole,” on Route 2, Orlando. Born in 1916 to James David and Mary Frances (Posey) Ocheltree, Bacil’s youth was spent doing chores and farm work on his father’s farm, perhaps dreaming of places far off like England, France and Germany, while he hoed corn and slopped the hogs. Little did Bacil know that before he reached his 26th year he would have lived on the cold plains of Montana, caught monster trout and panned for gold in Idaho, trained in Florida as a bomber crewman, drunk English ale in the pubs of England, and braved flak and Messerschmitt Me 262’s in the icy cold skies over Germany aboard B-17 bombers.

Right: Bacil and Mary (Pinter) Ocheltee, married 23 January, 1947.

Chop Fork
Chop Fork was a remote place seventy five years ago. Located in Braxton County near the village of Knawl and with a mailing address of Rt. 2, Orlando, the farm of James David Ocheltree and Mary Frances (Posey) Ocheltree was equally far from Burnsville and Walkersville, the home of the closest high schools to the Ocheltree farm, but only about four miles from downtown Orlando, and a mere two miles from the Clover Fork hamlet of Blake.
Coon hunters in the Orlando area, however, knew Chop Fork as prime territory for the nocturnal coon and referred to this hilly coon hunting area as “Booger Hole.” With Posey, Blake and Ocheltree ancestors, it would be an educated guess that Bacil was a practiced coon hunter during his youth and joined in the pursuit for the “masked bandit.”

Farm children of Chop Fork, including the Ocheltree children, attended the public school on Barbecue Run during the 1920’s. Just over the hill to the east from Chop Fork, the Barbecue Run School would have been a short climb up a hill for the Ocheltree children. Climbing hill to the north from Chop Fork would have taken the Ocheltree children to Clover Fork, just above Middle Run.

As with most places in the United States, coming of age in the early 1930’s was difficult, especially for young men from the Orlando area. A lack of nearby high schools and a lack of employment opportunities painted a bleak economic portrait for this young man from Chop Fork until he heard the call from the CCC.

Civilian Conservation Corps
In 1933, Congress created the Civilian Conservation Corps in order to put the youth of America to work. Many boys from the Orlando area responded to the promise of steady work, plenty of food to eat, and the adventure of faraway places. The allure of the red hot glass furnaces at Weston glass plants and not-so-steady work paled in comparison to the promise of spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and full-time outdoor work. Young Bacil Ocheltree cast his ballot for the CCC and the Wild West. In 1938, Bacil joined the CCC, enrolled at Fort Knox, Kentucky and went to Darby, Montana by train. From Darby, Bacil was trucked to the Deep Water CCC Camp in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho. Except for a short time in Montana, Bacil’s two year enlistment was spent at the Deep Water Camp, fighting fires, building trails and roads and other improvements. According to his niece, Joyce Clark, Bacil also worked as a doctor’s assistant at the CCC Camp. Bacil enjoyed his CCC experience as a youth and in 1972 made a return trip which he enjoyed as much as his initial stay at Deep Water. One memorable experience Bacil recalled from his CCC days at Deep Water was getting to meet John Huston, the actor and movie producer.

Flight Engineer
World War II changed the lives of many young men and women. For hundreds of thousands of promising young men and women, the war would end their lives as it did for Bacil’s brother Lydle who perished in the crash of his B-17 over Belgium in 1943. But duty called and Bacil answered the call of induction in 1942.

Although he did not have the opportunity to go to school beyond the first eight grades at Barbecue Run, Bacil showed great aptitude for the mechanical arts on his military tests. He was sent to military schools to receive training as an airplane electrical and engine mechanic and in flexible gunnery. Ultimately, this training placed him as a flight engineer on a bomber crew, with duties to maintain the engines and complex mechanical systems on heavy bombers while in flight. As a flight engineer, he would also be available to man the dorsal ball turret machine gun. After completing his training at air fields in Florida, Bacil shipped out to England in June 1944.

Bombs Away
In early 1944, Hitler was in control of the European continent. The American Air Force had been bombing German assets in Europe since early in the war and had suffered staggering casualties in the process. The life expectancy of an American bomber crew flying daylight missions over Europe was short. Thousands of bombers had been lost as had tens of thousands of young American airmen. Bacil’s brother Lydle who had been a radio operator on the B-17 “We Ain’t Scared” had been one of those casualties and was interred in a makeshift Belgian grave when Bacil arrived in England. The goal of every bomber crew, besides doing the best job they could in bombing their assigned targets, was to return home safely to their loved ones. The casualty lists had been so frightful that the High Bomber Command established a rule that after taking part in 25 missions over enemy territory, the crewman would be rotated out of combat and returned to the States. Later in the war because of chronic crew shortages, the number of required missions was increased to 30, with adjustments, depending on the nature of the missions.

From July 1944 to December 1944, Bacil Ocheltree served on B-17’s, bombing German assets throughout Europe. Bacil was one of the lucky survivors of bomber crews which flew out of Podington Air Base. Bacil’s airship bombed the German buzz bomb and experimental jet plane base at Peenemunde, synthetic oil refineries in the Ruhr Valley and in Merseberg, provided bomb support to ground troops in France, and flew many other missions which were assigned to the bomber formations. For his meritorious service Bacil was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters. At the end of December 1944 left England for reassignment in the United States. He was discharged from service in September 1945

Post War Career
From a review of the life of Bacil Ocheltree, it is obvious to the observer that Bacil was very intelligent and a “know how to get it done” man. The lack of a high school diploma, however, disqualified Bacil from the advantages that the G. I. Bill could have provided to further his education after the war.

Remembering his pleasure in the wilds of Idaho and Montana during his CCC days, Bacil decided to return to the western United States. However, on his way west, Bacil stopped to visit his sister Leora in Akron and she advised him that there was a position open at the Armory near Newton Falls, Ohio. He applied and was accepted. According to his niece Joyce Clark, Bacil worked there until retirement as an aircraft mechanic. Joyce advises that Bacil also found the time on many occasions to faithfully visit the Arlington Military Cemetery grave of his brother Lydle who lost his life for his country.
Bacil and his wife Mary enjoyed reunions of his old bomber group and attended many over the years, including two held in England. Until Mary’s death, he tried to attend each and every reunion, but after the death of his bride of many years, Bacil did not have the will to continue. He died at Buckhannon in 2009 at the age of 92 and was buried in Palmyra, Ohio.

. . . . .

Log Book of Technical Sergent Bacil H. Ocheltree
July 7, 1944 to December 9, 1944

transcribed by David Parmer

Friday, July 7, 1944
Mission # 1 – Plane #479
Target: Fighter Component Plants at Molken, Near Leipzig, Germany
Takeoff: 0515 - Landing: 1410
Left Channel with combat wing; climbed to 23,000 feet (remained at alt. between 5 & 6 hours). Approaching target we ran into flak and from I.P.* the sky ahead was solid with flak. Made two runs over target. Flak was in barrage with black, white and blue puffs of smoke. Several rockets were shot at us. On the way to target, Lt. Morken (navigator) became anoxic but was revived OK by the Bombardier and myself. Ship had about fifteen (15) flak holes – No one hurt & no enemy fighters were seen. We had fighter escort of P-51’s, P-47’s & P-38’s most of the way.
Over target, smoke was rising in billows to 15,000 ft. Almost all German cities were covered by smoke screens. We were over enemy territory between 4 & 5 hours. All came back dead tired.
Total hours approx. 9 hrs.
Newspaper story on raid stated 1100 bombers participated, 36 of which were shot down. Nazis lost 114 planes. B-24 outfits received about all of the Nazi fighter attacks.
*Editor’s Note: The” I. P.,” or “Initial Point” marks a place on the bombing mission which begins the last leg, just before the final approach to the target. The bombardier begins to calculate the bomb drop after reaching the I. P.

Saturday July 8, 1944
Mission # 2 – Plane #326 PREVENT, FRA
Target – Buzz Bomb Bases Near Pas de Calais, France
Takeoff 0410 - Landing 0900
Left Channel at altitude (25,000 ft) above heavy overcast. Shortly after crossing into France we ran into scattered flak. It became more intense and accurate nearing the I. P. Sgt. Gerry Dykes (BTO) passed out due to anoxia at I. P. Revived OK. Over target flak was heavy and accurate. Received quite a few flak holes – right waist oxygen shot out by flak. Didn’t drop bombs due to overcast – Had on board 2 – 2000 lb bombs. Over enemy territory approx. 40 minutes. Again we didn’t see any enemy fighters. No one was hurt. No. 3 turbo shot out. (5 hours)
Total combat hrs: approx. – 14
1 Plane
9 Men Missing

Sunday July 9, 1944
Mission # 3 – Plane #870
Target – Bridge Near Tours, France
Takeoff 0415 – Landing 1040
Again we carried 2 – 2000 pounders. Flying at 25,000 ft. We had to make two runs over the target to drop our bombs. On the first run, the Bombardier tried to close the bomb bay doors but doors failed to close so the Bombardier old me to crank them shut; just got them halfway closed when the Bombardier said to open them again as we were making another run. This time we dropped the bombs and I cranked the doors shut over the target. Got sick and vomited in the crawlway of pilot’s comp. Felt much better then. Saw about twelve bursts of flak and five rockets trails. No enemy fighters encountered. The fighter escort was sure good. Spent 2 hours over enemy territory. No one hurt. Was sure tired after this trip. (6 Hr. 30 M.)
Total combat hours – approx. 20 hrs. 30 min.

Tuesday July 18, 1944
Mission # 4 – Plane #101
Target – Flying Bomb and Long Range Rocket Experimental Stations at Peenemunde, Northern Germany
Takeoff 0445 – Landing 1430
What a way to celebrate my birthday ! I sure sweated this one out. We flew this in “Purple Heart Corner,” carrying ten five hundred pounders. This was a 325 Sq. ship and a good one it was. Was very much afraid that our gas would not get us back as the Tokio tanks had to be opened before we got to the target but we still had almost four hundred gallons left when we landed. We encountered our first flak in crossing Denmark. Going in on the target there was quite a bit of flak and rockets but they were very inaccurate. The target was visual and we did a very good job of bombing. As we crossed back over Denmark we ran into more flak and these boys were a little more accurate. We got a large hole in the left wing and in No. 1 engine cowling. Going into the target we could see some kind of fighters but too far away to be identified. Thought they were P-50’s. Coming back we had P-39’s as escort. One B-17 hit the deck and the fighters were escorting him in. Went through the clouds and couldn’t see what happened to him. Practically all this trip was over water. The co-pilot made a beautiful landing ! Was interrogated and they gave us big shots of whiskey but I was too dead to drink mine; had coffee instead.
(9 HR – 50 M)
Total combat hrs approx 30:20
Left above: The missions flown by T/sgt Bacil Ocheltree
Right below: the patch of the 327 bomb squadron of the 92nd bomb group shows cartoon character Alley Oop hurling a bomb from the back of a dinosaur.

Thursday July 20, 1944
Mission # 5 - # 627 Ship
Target – Aircraft Engine Factory for Making Jumo Engines for Junkers and Messerschmitts at Kothen, Near Leipzig, Germany
Takeoff 0630 – Landing 1500
Our bomb load was ten – five hundred pounders. We were flying left wing of rear element in lead Squadron. Assembled at 12,000 ft and on our way over the Channel started climbing up to 25,000 ft. Picked up fighter escorts of P-50’s after crossing into enemy territory – and what an escort. They were so plentiful you couldn’t look in any direction without seeing a few. Later on we had more P-50’s and P-47’s which took us on into the target. We ran into flak in several places before the target and over the target it was very dense with several rockets being shot at us. We made two runs on the target and we got several hits. A piece about three inches in diameter was taken out of the leading edge of the right wing when we landed. The target was visual except for a smoke screen that covered it. Everywhere you looked one could see flak. A rocket came very close to the tail – had the tail gunner a little scared. Picked up escorts of P-38’s after leaving target. Jerry (B – Turret) passed out from anoxia and had to be revived by Bob (RW) and Paul (Radio). After getting off oxygen, I got sick and vomited in bombay from eating some candy. It was a very good mission – after a bad start for me – to begin with, I couldn’t find the right guns. The pilot sure is learning fast how to kick the ship around. Was on oxygen about seven hours.
Total Combat hrs approx. 38:50
1 Plane
9 Men Missing

Monday July 24, 1944
Mission # 6 – Plane #596
Target – German Positions Opposite Our Own on the Cherbourg Penisula in France
Takeoff 10:30 – Landing 1500
We were gotten up at 0130 and then to chow. No briefing – put the guns in and waited for final word about take off. At 0730 went back and had another breakfast and was told that 0955 was station time. Assembled at 15,000 ft and went over target at same altitude. The target wasn’t clearly visible and we didn’t drop our bombs for fear of hitting our own troops. There were some P-47’s over our formation just before the target. Saw some flak and about eight rocket explosions. Strictly a milk run !
Total combat hours approx 43:20

Tuesday July 25, 1944
Mission # 7 – Plane # 596
Target – A Repeat of Yesterday’s Raid in France
Takeoff 0820 – Landing 1300
Assembled at 16,000 ft. and headed for target at 1006. Saw some flak at twelve o’clock just before reaching the target and some rockets were shot at us. Went down to twelve (12,000) thousand feet to do our bombing. There were lots of ships in the harbor. Dropped our bombs and headed for home. A nice mission – would like more like this one.
Total combat hours approx 48:00

Monday August 1, 1944
Flew Spare Ship # 870 today but turned back in the middle of Channel as no one aborted.

Tuesday August 2, 1944
Mission # 8 – Ship #713
Target – An Airfield for Jet Propelled Planes near Orleans, France
Takeoff 1115 – Landing 1705
Take off time was supposed to have been at 0925 but was delayed two hours due to fog. We were flying No. 3 position in high element. Before we crossed the Channel , Jerry (BTG) had trouble with his turret and he flew the mission at right waist position. Went in over the target at 21,000 ft. The target was bombed visually and we knocked the h___ out of the air field. There was no flak over the target but some rockets or some find of shells shot up just before the target. We carried 10 – 500 lb bombs. Saw one plane low at 1 o’clock just before reaching the target but couldn’t make out just what kind it was, but sure it wasn’t our own.
Total combat hours approx 53:50

Thursday August 3, 1944
Mission # 9 - Plane # 596
Takeoff 1110 – Landing 1830
We were flying No. 3 position in lead element, lead Group on this one. Flew in over Holland, Germany, and France. Just a little ways in over enemy territory, we were hit bad by flak and one shot got our elevator trim tops and make flying quite difficult for the pilot. The tail gunner called up and said he was getting cold and his suit wasn’t working. I told the waist gunner to check the fuses and found two had blown. Flak over the target was intense and accurate. I sure was scared on this one. Off to our right before the target, I saw one B-17 get hit and went into a dive. Didn’t see any chutes come out and soon after it crashed to the ground on fire. We didn’t have good fighter cover but they were kept busy with enemy fighters. Saw lots of dog fights and saw two fighters go down. Soon after the target we were attacked by three FW -190’s. They came in about 6 o’clock and a little high before I could get a chance to shoot. Some one hit the first FW in the left wing and it blew right off. Started firing at the next one but the third was in a better position so let him have it. He went into a dive and that was the last I saw of him. The ball turret and waist gunners were also firing at him and said the pilot bailed out. They put in for a kill on reaching the interrogation but I didn’t. I saw one B-17 which was hit by 20 mm, go into a spin; the whole tail came off and seconds later [the ship] burst into in the middle, just as if it was made of paper – a sight I hope I will never see again. Two more 17’s went down but I was too busy to see them. One plane crashed on the runway in landing and burned completely up but all got out OK. Sure was glad to get my feet on the ground this time.
Combat hrs. 61:10
Two Planes
15 Men Missing

Saturday August 5, 1944
Mission #10 - Ship #995
Target – Airfield Seven Miles North of Hanover, Germany
Went in over the North Sea, skirting the Frisian Islands. Crossed the enemy coast near the Elbe estuary. Ran into some flak and we got some hits but was soon out of it. Upon reaching the I. P., we saw the flak ahead over the target but we had to go through it. We picked up several more holes but no one was hit. These boys sure are getting good over there with those flak guns. They were right there anticipating each turn before we made it. There were some enemy fighters in the vicinity but our escort was too good and they never came in. I was sweating on this one and I believe each crew member was as scared as I was. The shores of England looked mighty good on coming back.
Combat hrs. 68:40

Monday August 7, 1944
Mission # 11 - Ship #084
Target – Oil Refineries and Storage Near Toulouse, France
After waiting two hours for the fog to clear away we took off and former at 11,000 ft. As soon as we hit the coast of France, we ran into flak. # 3 ship in high element was hit and had to turn back. This was a long and tiresome ride. No flak over target but I think we missed it but the group behind us sure got it. Had good escort – no enemy fighters were seen.
Combat hours 76:20

Tuesday August 15, 1944
Mission # 12 - Ship No. 017
Target – Airfield Six Miles Outside Frankfurt, Germany
Takeoff 0700 – Landing 1400
We were awakened at 0215; chow at 0245; briefing at 0345. We were flying # 3 position in lead element, low group. Assembled at 10,000 ft. Went across the Channel into Belgium and then headed south in a round-about way to get to the target. Got fighter support of P-51’s soon after reaching the enemy coast. No flak was encountered until we reached the target. Flak was moderate there, At bombs away, only two left the ship and the rest were salvoed. No enemy fighters were encountered by our wing but one behind us were and I saw two ships go down and burst into flames but I couldn’t see if they were our own or the enemy. Ran into some more flak just before re-crossing the enemy coast. Our first mission since the pilot made 1st Lt.
Combat hrs: 83:20

Friday August 18, 1944
Mission #13 – Ship No. 995
Target – Railroad Bridges at Leige, Belgium
Takeoff 1500 – Landing 2000
This mission was to have been earlier in the morning but for some reason was set back four hours. We assembled at 17,000 ft. and as things got screwed up by the leader we were almost at the Channel before the formation was complete. Went in over enemy coast at 25,000 ft. Saw no flak before the I. P. Made three runs on target and flak began to get heavier. Fighter escort was good all the way. Carried 6 – 1000 lb. bombs. Just before reaching the coast we ran into flak and was hit bad. The pilot and I lost our oxygen and had to walk around bottles for the rest of the trip. One piece [of flak] came in by the bombardier’s panel and ripped a six inch slit in his boot, grazed the navigator and went on through and showered the co-pilot with splinters. Very luck that time.
Combat hours: 88:20

Friday August 25, 1944
Mission # 14 - Ship # 158
Target – Hydrogen Peroxide Plant and Experimental Station for Jet Propelled Planes at Peenemunde, Germany
Takeoff 0800 – Landing Time 1700
We flew leader of low element in lead group. Assembled at 8000 ft. Carried 500 lb. incendiaries. Went in over the North Sea and crossed Denmark. Our left wing man aborted before we got near the target. Couldn’t see any flak on the target going in but as soon as the bomb-bay doors were opened they let us have it and the flak was terrific and accurate. Two planes were hit and started smoking. Soon three were hitting the deck. We ended up by being the only plane that could stay at altitude. We were flying alone until we got word of fighters being in the vicinity and then we joined up with another group. At the coast we got with another of our planes and came into the base with it. We lost three crews. The fighter support was very good all the way. No enemy planes were seen. Just got a few flak holes. Flew a new ball turret man today as Jerry was sick in hospital.
Combat Hours (approx) 97:20
Three Planes
33 Men Missing

Wednesday August 30, 1944
Mission # 15 – Ship No. 181
Target – Workshops in Kiel, Germany
Takeoff 1230 – Landing Time 2000
This is the first mission in our own ship. Was just recently assigned to it. Didn’t get up for breakfast and had to go on this one without either breakfast or dinner. Flying this one in No. 3 position in lead squadron, lead group. Assembled at 12,000 ft. Went in over the North Sea at 27,000 ft. and there was an undercast, so we bombed P.F.F.* There was a lot of flak over the target but we didn’t get any hits, What a surprise !! No enemy fighters seen. Our escort was good, P-51’s all the way. Got too close to the Frisian Islands on the way back and they threw some flak up. No damage, no injuries; everyone still in good shape.
Combat hours 104:50
*Editor’s Note: P. F. F. bombing relies upon the use of radar to bomb through undercast. This technology was newly developed during World War II. The term “P.F.F.” is an acronym for “Pathfinder Force.” The term “Mickey” was also used to indicate the use of this bombing technique.

Friday September 8, 1944
Today we started on a mission but aborted due to an engine that was smoking too bad and couldn’t determine the causes. Our first abortion and I hope our last.
Saturday September 9, 1944
Mission # 16 - Ship No. 396
Target – Factories in Mannheim, Germany
Takeoff 0730 – Landing Time 1440
Our first mission in nine days. We were flying No. 3 position in lead squadron. We assembled at 10,000 ft. over the field and the sky was very clear. Started our climb to 24,000 ft. on crossing the Channel; went over France and Belgium. There was quite a lot of flak over the target but we dropped our bombs without mishap and didn’t get any flak hits. On our way back the lead navigator screwed up and we ran into flak four times which should have never happened if he would have been on the ball. Mills (the tail gunner) saw one ship go down but it wasn’t in our group. Except for getting terribly cold it was a good trip. Carried incendiary bombs.
Combat hours 112:00
1 Plane
9 Men Missing
Wednesday September 13, 1944
Mission # 17 - Ship # 181
Target – Synthetic Oil Plants at Merseburg, Germany
Takeoff 0700 – Landing Time 1300
Got up at 0230. Briefing at 0400. Flying in No. 4 position in low group. Assembled at 6000 ft. Started our climb to 28,000 ft. on crossing the Channel. After we had gotten up to around 26,000 ft. our plane couldn’t climb fast enough and we began falling behind the formation and we turned back within 45 minutes of the target. Came back with another ship (Dickerson’s crew) and dropped our bombs on some small towns. Didn’t think we were going to get credit but did. Didn’t see any fighters and very little flak. The best escort ever.
Combat hours 118:00
4 Planes
34 Men Missing
Sunday September 17, 1944
Mission # 18 – Ship # 181
Target – German Gun Emplacements and Troops near Nijmegen, Holland
Takeoff 0625 – Landing Time 1230
We were the last to take off today due to having a waste gate on the turbo stuck closed. We assembled at 6000 ft. and the mission was set back 30 minutes. We bombed from 15,000 ft. Flying # 4 spot in low squadron. We saw quite a bit of flak after bombs away and collected only one hole. It was quite a sight to see, all the bombers going in to bomb the Germans, ahead of the Canadians. They sure are taking a beating. We didn’t run into any enemy planes. On returning we passed a mass of troop carriers with Glider parachute troops who landed in Holland soon after we did our bombing. Crew all OK. No one hurt.
Combat hours 124:05

Friday October 6, 1944
Mission # 19 – Ship # 434
Takeoff 0700 – Landing Time 1700
This was our first raid as a lead crew. Lt. Hendrickson flew as air commander; Capt. Jackson as Bombardier. Had two navigators this trip. This was our longest raid and I believe our easiest. We encountered no flak or enemy fighters. We hit the target hard and I saw the picture later and it was the best bombing for a long time. Saw lots of smoke rising from Berlin, Kiel, and Hamburg which was also hit earlier in the day. P-51’s gave us good cover.
Combat hrs 134:15

Saturday October 14, 1944
Mission # 20 – Ship #022 (325) PFF (Dep. Lead)
Target – Industrial Section Cologne, Germany
Takeoff Not Given - Landing Time Not Given
This is my first time to fly a mission without my regular crew and I must say it seemed rather odd at first but after getting off the ground I got over the feeling of being alone. This is my second lead mission. Flying with Herty as pilot and Hendrickson as Co-Pilot; Campbell as Bombardier; Clausen as Navigator and Klinger as Mickey Man. The contrails were very bad and it was cloudy at 27,000 ft. The flak was very accurate at the target and I would say a little more than moderate. We had more holes and larger ones than any raid to date. The flak cut all the wires to the radio system except command and the Mickey was rendered useless. Got very close to the radio man but no one was hurt. No enemy fighters encountered. Good fighter support.
Combat hrs 149:35

Sunday October 15, 1944
Mission # 21 – Ship 215 (325 Sq.) PFF (Lead)
Target – Industrial Section Cologne, Germany
Takeoff 0700 – Landing Time 1300
Flying lead of the high group. We bombed by individual groups. Hendrickson was with us again as Air Commander, Cpt. Jackson as Bombardier, Kresch and Clausen as Navigators and Klinger as Mickey Operator. Bombed thru an undercast and couldn’t see the results. Didn’t get much flak ourselves but some groups caught it very bad. It’s getting colder each raid. Lt. Billings has a crew of his own now. Saw one J. P. *jet plane+ this ride but it didn’t attack us. Had good air support.
Combat hrs 148:35

Wednesday October 25, 1944
Mission # 22 Ship # 215 PFF
Target – Industrial Section, Hamburg, Germany
Takeoff 0920 – Landing Time 1620
Leading the 92nd Group with Major McLaughlin as Air Commander, Capt. Jackson as Bombardier, Russell and Matthews as Navigators. Saw quite a bit of flak but received no damage. Didn’t see any enemy aircraft. The Mickey set went out and the deputy leader had to take over at the I.P. Mills didn’t go on this one as an officer had to ride the tail position.
Combat hours 155:35

Thursday November 2, 1944
Mission # 23 – Ship # 510
Target – Synthetic Oil Plant Merseburg, Germany
Takeoff 0845 – Landing Time 1600
Put this one in with our co-pilot who is first pilot now. Lt. Mertes was co-pilot, Gumaer, navigator and Halborn, bombardier. We were flying No. 3 spot in low lead. Knew this was going to be tough before we got off. This was same target back on September 13 where we got our Squadron wiped out. Flak was intense and we got quite a few holes including the brakes and one tire blown out. This was rather a rough ride for me for the Bombay doors wouldn’t open electrically so I had to crank them manually over the flak area and I just did get them open in time for the bombs away then I had to close them the same way and sure was a job. We didn’t get hit by fighters but the group behind did and I saw several go spiraling down in flames. We lost several planes on this day but the Germans lost more fighters than they ever did. Over two hundred enemy fighters were shot down by the 8th AAF. Billings made a good landing but due to the flat tire and no brakes we had to take to the grass but everyone was O.K.
Combat hours 162:50

Saturday November 14, 1944
Mission # 24 (Lead) – Ship 022 PFF
Target – Oil Stores Hamburg, Germany
Takeoff 0830 – Landing Time 1530
Back with our pilot on this one and Capt. Swift as Air Commander, Maj. Thornton, bombardier, Kresch and Matthews as navigators. Went in over the North Sea. Had good fighter cover all the way. Flak was moderate and we didn’t get a hit. MacCollum flying as waist gunner in Dunlap’s place and Swift finished up the mission. My heated suit shorted out and set me on fire but not much damage was done.
Combat hours 169:50

Thursday November 9, 1944
Mission # 25 – (Lead) Ship # 7777 from Kimbolton
Target – Gun Positions on Front Lines Ahead of our Troops Metz, France
Takeoff 0635 – Landing Time 1400
We were to lead the 41st Combat Wing on this one and the most messed up raid I’ve ever been on. Kralik, pilot, Capt. Jackson, bombardier, Kresch, Navigator. Taken off in the dark and started firing flares at 1500 ft. It was so cold today that even the ammo was white with frost. After all the messing around we did some good bombing. Just heard by radio that after we bombed General Patton’s Army had taken thirteen more towns. We should do this more often. Finished up two more men today, Capt. Jackson and Lt. Kresch. Got five more to go. Should finish soon. All the crew in good shape.
Combat hours 177:15

Saturday November 25, 1944
Mission # 26 – Ship # 461
Target – Synthetic Oil Plant at Merseberg, Germany
Takeoff 0750 – Landing time 1715
Flying this one with Billings as pilot and Spencer who is on his first mission as co-pilot. I sure dreaded to hear at briefing that we were going to Merseburg but as luck would have it, it was an easy mission – went through all the flak and never a hole. The flak was plentiful but not accurate; not like the other trips we’ve made there. We were in No. 3 position, lead element in high group. Spent about seven hours on oxygen. The bombing was PFF so we couldn’t see the results. Before we reached the base we ran into bad weather. The ships were all split up and we had to land at the first base we could find. We were flying at five hundred feet and then could hardly see the ground. We landed at a C-47 Troop Transport field. We were the only one from our group there, but the whole 389th Group landed there. Paul met some of his old buddies who are pilots there so they fixed us up with a place to sleep in their barracks. Stayed there all night and came back today at 1100 o’clock.
Combat hours 186:40

Wednesday November 29, 1944
Mission # 27 – Ship # 461
Target – Oil Storage at Misburg, 2 ½ Miles out of Hanover, Germany
Takeoff Not Given – Landing Not Given
This was my second raid to Hanover and it turned out to be an easy raid if you can ever call any of them easy. Surprisingly enough we did receive one hit but this was some flak. Two days before it was a rough raid and one of my good friends was killed and one wounded. Escort was good and no E/A was seen. Something went wrong with the bomb release and we had to salvo the bombs. All the crew in good shape.
Combat hours 194:25

Thursday November 30, 1944
Mission # 28 Ship # 520
Target – Synthetic Oil Plant at Merseberg, Germany
Takeoff 0830 – Landing Time Not Given
Started to another target a few miles from Leipzig but as it was covered with clouds we went to the second PFF which was Merseberg. What a target for a secondary !! We were flying lead of the high element in high group. No enemy aircraft was seen. The fighter escort is getting better every day. The flak was intense as was expected. We didn’t receive too much damage but several ships went down. It seems I get more scared each raid. It I get two leads I will finish up in two more. No. 2 engine gave us some trouble until after bombs away.
Combat hours 203:25
1 Plane
9 Men Missing

Wednesday, December 6, 1944
Mission # 29 – Lead # 367 PFF
Target – Synthetic Oil Plant at Merseberg, Germany
Takeoff 0800 – Landing Time 1615
Went with O’Halloran on the trip. Had to go get on with a lead crew so I could finish at 30. Captain Cooke of 407th was Air Commander, Maj. Thornton, Bombardier, Riley as Mickey Man, Capt. Purcell and Matthews, as Navigators. We were leading the group today. It seems as if this is the only target nowadays. It turned out to be an easy raid but just the thoughts of the place in the morning at briefing gives me the “creeps.” We didn’t get a hit from flak or see any fighters, except for a jet off in the distance. Matthews finished up today. The crew is still in good shape. I have one more to go. Capt. Kralik is Asst. Operations Officer now and I think he will fly with me on our last raid.
Combat Hours 211:40

Saturday December 9, 1944
THE BIG ONE # 30 – Dept. Lead Ship # 357 PFF (325)
Target – Stuttgart, Germany
Takeoff 0810 – Landing Time 1645
This being the last one, I was just a little nervous throughout the whole mission. Everything seemed to go wrong before takeoff. To top things off, I forgot my heated boots and the truck driver brought them out just before we taken off. We were late because the bombs were not loaded in time. Lt. Broman was pilot, Lt. Downs, co-pilot, Ross, Navigator. The temperature was -55 F, the coldest yet. The bombs hung up and we were a little late in getting them out. We had to make two runs on the target for the lead ships equipment went on the blink. Contrails were terrible today. We went over Paris on our way over, the first time I’ve seen it. I’m so glad we didn’t see any fighters as my turret was so frosted up I could hardly see a thing. There was some flak but we didn’t see or get any battle damage. When the wheels touched the ground on landing I sure was glad, a great feeling to be finished. I’m the first of my crew to finish. The last one. FINIS.

Combat Hours 220:15
133 Men Missing
15 Planes Lost
Bacil H. Ocheltree

Right: Click on Bacil Ocheltree's discharge papers to enlarge them.
. . . . .

Comment 1 by William Pritt
I grew up at Knawl and remember Mary (Posey) Ocheltree who lived on Chop Fork. Mary’s children, who were older than me, had all moved away and she lived alone when I was acquainted with her. Mary used to walk across the hill between Chop Fork and Knawl on Tuesdays and help my mother with the laundry during the 1930’s. Mary was a very nice lady and the Ocheltrees were a well respected family on Chop Fork.

Comment 2 by David Parmer
On September 17th, 1944, Bacil Ocheltree flew a mission to Nijmegen, Holland in support of an Allied ground operation which was on-going. This was the Allied offensive called “Market Garden,” a scheme cooked up by English Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery which turned out to be a fiasco. This ill-conceived mission resulted in the deaths of thousands of American and Allied forces, including 2nd Lt. Tommy Zinn of Dumpling Run.

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