Operation "Leader" - The Raid on Bodo, Norway

On October 4, 1943, as part of Operation "Leader" the USS Corry provided escort support for the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) battle group in the highly successful Allied air raid on the area around German-occupied Bodo, Norway. Bodo is a small coastal town located about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. After escorting the Ranger, the Corry had the additional job of moving closer toward land so as to rescue any American pilots that might not make it back all the way. German shipping and a radar-communications installation were destroyed by pilots from the Ranger.

(See USS Corry Chief Petty Officer "Mac" McKernon's first-hand account of the Bodo raid below maps, with more photos.)

VT4 men on board aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) -- 1 October 1943
3 days before Operation "Leader"
[National Archives Photo] 

VB4 men on board aircraft carrier USS Ranger shortly before Operation Leader
(Northern Attack Group)

- C.O. LCMDR. Klinsmann (in the middle in front row)
- LT (jg) Tucker - Killed over Bodo Harbor - No. 8 from left in back row
[National Archives Photo]

Attack planes from USS Ranger during Operation "Leader"
4 October 1943.  [National Archives Photo]

View from attack plane from USS Ranger
during Operation "Leader"
[National Archives Photo]

SBD's (VB4) and F4F's (VB4) in coordinated attack over
Bodo Harbor -- Northern Attack Group.
4 October 1943, approx. 0800 AM.
[National Archives Photo]

Air attack at Bodo harbor. 
[National Archives Photo]

Path of USS Ranger task force from Scapa Flow, Scotland
to Norway to point of Bodo air attack.

Close-up path of aircraft attack on Bodo from aircraft carrier USS Ranger.
Note names of at least 15 ships sunk / destroyed / damaged in four locations
as well as location of German JU-88 patrol aircraft shot down (top left, near Ranger).
N.A.G. = Northern Attack Group;  S.A.G. = Southern Attack Group



Click here to view Operation Leader
Battle / Damage Reports including
names of ships attacked


USS Corry Chief Petty Officer "Mac" McKernon's
First-hand account of Operation "Leader" Bodo Raid
With more National Archives Photos

USS Corry (DD-463)
Chief Radio Technician
Francis "Mac" McKernon


October 1943—As part of the task force with the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4), the Corry provided support for the air raid on Bodo, Norway, a small coastal town about a hundred miles above the Arctic Circle. The Nazis had built a radar and communications installation there. Destroying it was important not only for disrupting German navigation but also for allowing our shipping to operate more freely in the waters of northern Scandinavia.

The Ranger task force for the raid, code named Operation "Leader", included the big battleships HMS Duke of York and HMS Anson, the heavy cruisers USS Tuscaloosa and HMS Belfast, and a dozen destroyers of both American and British nationality. After helping escort the Ranger, the Corry had the additional assignment of moving in closer toward land so as to rescue any American pilots who might not make it back all the way.

On October 4, 1943, planes took off from the Ranger shortly after 6:00 a.m., flying very low to avoid radar detection. In addition to bombing the shore installation, our aircraft would also attack any German ships they spotted.

The raid was cleverly planned. Although the assault was launched from about a hundred miles off the Norwegian coast, the carrier’s planes bypassed Bodo instead of heading straight for it. They popped up over the mountains and sneaked their way down through the valleys. Finally, they turned toward Bodo, making the raid look like a land-based attack coming from Russia.

Approaching their target, the pilot of the lead U.S. plane noticed that the harbor was full of German ships. We heard him talking on the radio to the other U.S. planes: “Save your bombs! Save your bombs! That’s an attack force with troop ships down there!” He ordered his squadron to use half of their bombs on the radar target and the other half on the German ships.

Air attack at Bodo harbor
[National Archives Photo]

Attack on steamship La Plata by planes from
USS Ranger during Operation "Leader"
[National Archives Photo]

Plane from USS Ranger strafing steamship
La Plata
during Operation "Leader"
[National Archives Photo]

Our pilots brought about a solid victory for the Allies that morning: in addition to putting the radar and communications installation out of commission, the raid left six ships either sunk or destroyed and at least nine others damaged and unseaworthy.

After 9:00 a.m., attack aircraft were returning to the carrier. Although we lost only a few of our planes in the raid, some of the ones that made it back were all shot up. After the last attack aircraft had landed on the Ranger, a German JU-88 patrol plane came by. Spotting an aircraft carrier task force, the German pilot knew that the U.S. planes were not coming from Russia but from off the coast. American fighters that were in the air guarding the Ranger immediately went after the German plane and shot it down. I remember watching the long black trail of smoke pouring out of the plane before it crashed about a mile away from the Corry. However, on the Corry’s radio, we heard the pilot shouting in German just before he got hit. He was telling his superiors, who had sent their planes toward Russia, “You clowns! They’re all right out here! Just off the coast!”

German JU-88 airplane being shot down by planes
from USS Ranger during Operation "Leader"
[National Archives Photo]

Because he had given away our location, we knew German planes would soon come after us. The admiral promptly gave the order for the task force to move out. It was more than 700 miles back to Scapa Flow, Scotland—plenty of distance for the Nazis to catch up to us. We were sure that quite a bit of shooting would soon commence, bringing many potential casualties.

But then a miracle happened: a big storm came up, its fog, snow, and sleet covering the task force as we headed back to Scapa Flow. Making our way south, we could hear German planes overhead searching for us, but they never found us.

The Bodo victory boosted morale for the entire Allied forces. It was interesting—ironic, even—that this mission had been accomplished by planes from the USS Ranger, the aircraft carrier the Germans claimed to have sunk six months earlier.

The story of the raid on Bodo went mostly unpublicized. In 1985, more than 40 years later, I received a letter from a Royal Norwegian Air Force pilot, Knut Store, who was writing a book about Operation Leader. I had written the Norwegian embassy in Washington in 1980 requesting information about the raid, but I got no reply. My letter was kept in the embassy’s files, however, which is how Captain Store came across it. Having interviewed several pilots from the USS Ranger, he then wrote to ask for my personal input as a destroyerman who had participated in the raid.

Copyright © 2003 by Kevin McKernon

Following the completion of the raid, USS Corry crewmembers
were given certificates showing that they had crossed the Arctic Circle
aboard the Corry while en route to Bodo.

Mac McKernon's Arctic Circle Certificate

Bill Finch's Arctic Circle Certificate

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