OP 25 - OPERATION "SOAPSUD"
Mission "Soapsud" was a supply dropping operation over Yugoslavia. This was the first operation of this type flown by the Squadron.
The withdrawal of 300,000 German troops from Greece and the southern Balkans provided the Partisans of the area a unique opportunity to attack the enemy, but a great quantity of arms and ammunition was needed by them to take advantage of it. The object of this operation was to provide both to Partisans in Yugoslavia.
Supply dropping operations could be especially dangerous. The crews were forced to fly low and slow, usually over mountainous terrain. The drop locations were generally rather predictable, so it was not uncommon for German flak emplacements to be ready and waiting at the base of mountains or foothills along the flight path of the bombers. There were other hazards, as detailed in an account from F/Sgt. Maurice Lihou of No. 37 Squadron:
"... [We] were to drop supplies to the Yugoslavian Partisans at as place called Icarus. I liked the idea because it had the touch of a special mission about it and it made a change from the usual routine ops. Furthermore, it made up for a daylight supply drop I had missed earlier. We were to make the drop in a large field with a marker, set out in the shape of a St. Andrews cross illuminated by small fires and placed in the middle of the field. We carried nine special containers which were to be dropped at 300 feet. It turned out to be one of the most frightening experiences of my operations, not because of the weather or enemy activity but because of the activities of my fellow pilots. It was so unexpected.
"We reached the target area spot on time and could see the cross clearly marked out ahead of us. We flew in at a height of 300 feet as planned but, as we approached the field and headed nearer the cross on the ground, we found ourselves flying into a mass of parachutes, with containers hanging from them, dropping down all around us, their billowing ‘chutes glistening white and looking for all the world like celestial bodies arriving from outer space. I watched them anxiously as we flew on. Luckily they missed hitting the wings, tailplanes, and engines of my and other aircraft by inches. If they had become caught up in the engines or wrapped around the wings, they could have sent the aircraft crashing to the ground. There was also the added possibility of colliding with other aircraft as they went out of control. When the parachutes landed it looked just as if we were flying over a field of enormous mushrooms. It was so unexpected, unreal, like a bad dream. It was so frightening it seemed like a nightmare.
"I realized immediately, recalling the stories I had heard, that the aircraft that were above me were releasing their loads too high. And what was worse they were coming in on the wrong headings.
"It was like walking through a minefield.
"It wasn’t until we got back to base that it was reported that some Liberators were again dropping their containers too high, dropping them from as high as 2500 feet. Why they did this I never found out, but it was a bloody silly practice to adopt when the aircraft that were flying in at the right height below them were having to contend with this mess of slowly dropping parachutes all around.
"In the space of the few seconds we had spent over the field what should have been an easy, simple operation had turned out to be a most horrific and nerve shattering experience. Other than that episode, the mission was uneventful, although some aircraft encountered some light flak from batteries on the way to the field. "
On the evening of October 29, 1944, fifty nine aircraft of 205 Group were detailed for operation "Soapsud" of which thirteen were Wellingtons of 37 Squadron. MacIsaac and crew took off from Tortorella at 1605 hours carrying six "J2" containers of arms and ammunition. They flew in the new Wellington "D" - LP572. The mission was a short one, with the ETA at the drop area being just one hour.
The weather was poor with eight-tenths to ten-tenths cloud en route, however, the skies over the drop area were clear. The drop zone was located at a point near the town of Belega, north-east of Dubrovnik, and the Partisans were to mark the drop point on the ground with an "H" in fires.
All thirteen Wellingtons of 37 Squadron were able to approach the dropping point in sufficient daylight to follow their course on a map, and all except "T" piloted by W/Cdr Langton identified the are a saw the "H" signal made by the Partisans. "T" arrived in twilight, identified ground detail, but saw no ground signal and so dropped on dead reckoning.
The Squadron dropped at total of seventy eight containers - 156,000 pounds of arms and ammunition - between 1658 and 1725 hours from altitudes of 600 to 1700 feet. With only three exceptions the parachutes of all containers opened correctly and crews reported a good concentration on the dropping point.
MacIsaac dropped on the "H" signal - one parachute failed to open. He returned to base at 1809 hours.
There was no enemy opposition and the Group sustained no losses during this operation.
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From the No. 37 Squadron ORB, October 31, 1944:
COMMANDING OFFICERS SUMMARY
All attacks at the beginning of the month up to the night of 20/21st October 1944 were concentrated against Marshalling Yards in an effort to stem the supplies to the Germans in YUGOSLAVIA and ITALY. Much good work was done by crews, who brought back excellent photographic proof.
On the 28th October 1944, the Squadron carried out the first of a series of daylight supply dropping operations to aid the Partisans in their attempt to prevent the Germans retreating from Greece, escaping Northwards.
The month of October saw this Squadron with the highest number of operational hours in the Group, and a clean record with regard to flying accidents. A most commendable performance by both ground and air crews.
Wing Commander, Commanding
No. 37 Squadron, R.A.F.