"YELLOW K" The Making of a HANGER QUEEN
HOW TO BECOME A LEGEND
Webmaster Note: -
"Yellow K" earned the distinction of being the First Allied Aircraft to land at "Mondolfo Airfield"
the soon to be 325th Fighter Group's new base situated near Marotta on the East Coast of Italy. At the time of
this incident the runways had not been completed, were not surfaced and were still under construction.
As a result of this 'Controlled Crash Landing' by Ben Donahue and his crew,
a special page has been added to the town of Marotta's history.
A Mission in Yellow "K"
- submitted by Ben L. Donahue
|One unforgettable day in Feb.'45. My crew and I were assigned to a mission.
Target may be forever unknown. Arrival at the "war weary" (Yellow K) was notable.
Engines #2 and #3 were marginal. The nose compartment had missing windows.
I was ordered to put flak vest over the non-windows.
The upper turret was mal-functioning. Later to be rectified?
There were other factors of the a/c. Some were minor. But!
Because of a maximum effort by all groups I was committed to fly it,.
Take off and "Rendevoo" was of a normal pattern. En-route things became a bit sticky.
Excess power settings were necessary to get into our position in the "Bomb Stream."
My engineer and co-pilot kept me informed of the fluctuating engine instruments on engine
#3 and #1. Upon arriving at the initial point for the bomb run all hell broke loose. The #3 were running away. The usual procedures to control such a situation did not work.
Feathering of #3 did little to ease the problem.
|Because of the extreme cold, minus sixties, it would not stay feathered. The problem persisted, necessitating
the constant use of the feathering switch. I was unable to stay with the group, leaving the crew and I alone over Austria.
Turning for home, still with the bombs on board, Good Ole Joe, my bombardier, picked up a target of opportunity.
Located in a small valley there was a junction of a railroad, a highway and 2 bridges. Joe laid the string across the junction. The crew in the backend stated the string looked good; damage was not visible, due to the smoke that arose from the area. Ahead of us lay further troubles.
The weather front had moved into the area after the bomb stream had flown through. A big ugly wall of weather stood in our way. I had only #3 turning and #4 slowly wind-milling. #I was not cooperating too well dur-ing this period. The whole crew was discarding all that they could. Guns, ammo, flak vests, etc. all went out the aircraft.
We were down out of the fighter area, so l felt that it was the thing to do.
|Well! That big black wall engulfed us finally. We all suddenly
got very cold. The electrical system had packed up and quit with the feathering circuit haywire. We really had problems! I was on the
gauges with my good copilot monitoring with me while the engineer
iddled with the prop-feathering switch. We got into some very rough
air. Within moments #1 engine packed up and #3
became a howling banshee. I remember the tach on #3 go
past 3000 rpm. I suddenly became a very busy person.
With #3 running away put us upside down very quickly.
I chopped the power on the two good engines.
Rube, my co-pilot, and I pushed like two Atlas's on the yoke while standing on the right rudder pedal with both feet pushing to get the wild bird under control. Rube kept shouting "Don't jerk, don't jerk!" as we
slowly got the a/c under control.
Ben Donahue relating his experiences
|The engineer said that the airspeed went way past the "redline" somewhere over 320 mph. I saw the altimeter at 8000 ft. as we slowly pulled the wild bird up and back to about 13,000 ft. This was all on the old basic needle, ball and airspeed as we were still in that black wall of weather and had been in for over the last half-hour.
I called out to my crew "Are you still all with me?" The crew one by one called back, and I quote, "Hell, Lt., we were glued to the airplane-we couldn't have left you if we wanted to."
By gingerly flying on needle ball and airspeed we finally broke out over the Adriatic somewhere along the coast
|Calling "Big Fence," a radar station near Ancona, we got a fix to that area.
With the 2 engines windmilling I was unable to keep altitude. #2 and #4 were running at very high power settings.
Exactly how high I cannot recall. We slowly passed thru 13,000 ft. when #2 suddenly decided to become just
a passenger and would not work.
Calling the English controlled field at Ancona I got clearance for a straight-in approach from out over the
Adriatic from about 10 miles out over the water.
That was not in the cards. Seems that the "Gremlins" were still at work and not about to make it that easy.
Suddenly the British tower calls and tells us that we cannot land. They have an emergency on the field at the
present time. Please use the airfield 10 miles inland.
GD! I was barely going to make 3 miles. I so notified the Bastard. I had committed myself to gear and flaps
so I just did a right turn and was going to attempt a beach landing. There was a good stretch of sand north of the town.
|Then 'Lo and Behold' the most beautiful airstrip loomed up in front
of us. No indications had been made at briefing or on the flimsy.
But hell, I would take it, rather than the beach any time. By this time
I had no choice. I was fully at the mercy of the Gods. The #1 engine was packing it in. I had the #4 at full power. We were then too low to go to
Again the "Gremlins" were on our case.
The damned airfield was under construction. People and equipment were all over the place. They must have heard the one howling engine
and seen our flares being shot above the a/c.
Well, the co-pilot and I sat the old cripple down into a big morass of
mud, sand and gravel since the metal pierced planking had not been placed as yet.
"YELLOW K" in the Mud at Mondolfo
If I do say so myself, we sat her down real nice on the mains.
This is a concept of the Nose Art "OUR BABY"
Ben Donahue commisioned to be placed on his own plane.
The War ended and it never came to be!
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