9 April 1945
Troop Concentrations Northeast of Lugo, Italy
April 9th was D-Day on the Italian front. In preparation for this day along towards the latter part of March, the Group Command staff were called to a conference at 49th Wing Headquarters, where they were told that a spring offensive on the Italian front was in the offing. Plans were drawn up and every phase of Operation Buckland, as it was called, was discussed.
Upon their return from the conference, the Group command staff began to make intensive preparations. In the days following, flight navigators and bombardiers held frequent meetings behind closed doors with Colonel Rogers, Major Rider, Major Murphy, Captain Toth, and Lt. Goodfriend. A number of navigators and bombardiers were flown to northern Italy to the scene of future operations, where they studied the surrounding terrain.
Operation Buckland was designed to extend over several days and presented many difficulties. There could be no mistakes because thousands of lives depended on the outcome of the operation. The area to be bombed -- troop concentrations and gun emplacements in the vicinity of Lugo and most o the Santorno River -- was devoid of prominent landmarks, thereby putting a high priority on skillful and accurate navigation. Bombing was to be over a wide area and therefore had to be perfect. Moreover, the job called for precision timing because the entire Air Force had to pass over the target within the space of an hour and a half.
The Group formation of forty one planes comprising two forces -- the Red Force led by Colonel Rogers, and the Blue Force led by Major Rider -- took to the air at 1200 hours. In the target area the Red Force encountered no difficulty: ground markers were clearly visible, radio navigational aids worked perfectly, the target was identified and bombed as planned. The Blue Force following closely on the Red Force, however, ran into unexpected interference on the bomb run. Another formation came underneath them at bombs release point and Major Rider, choosing the only possible alternative, ordered the bombardiers to refrain from bombing. By then the hour was very near to being 1520, the time when all bombing was to cease, and it was considered too dangerous to attempt a second run on the target. As a result of this the Blue Force did not bomb but returned its bombs to Base.
Contrary to expectations, enemy resistance at the target was surprisingly slight. Anti-aircraft fire was encountered but was described as slight, inaccurate, heavy, and generally ineffective. The Luftwaffe was conspicuously absent. Consequently not a single plane was damaged. Strike photographs of the bombing by Red Force show that the aiming point was well covered though the pattern did not extend as far as was intended.