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S/SGT  Leo J. BIANCHI

UNIT: 349th BOMB Sqdn POSITION: WG

Leo Bianchi WG on Earl Williams & George Ford Crew POW 

SERIAL #: 31213084 STATUS: POW
MACR: 01394 CR: 01394

Comments1: 26 NOV 43 BREMEN. Crews 1st Mission

COMMENTS & NOTES

MEMO 1:

CREW

2nd Lt Earl "Flakked Up Willie" Williams     P CPT        sn# O-742919
2nd Lt Jean B.Pitner                               CP EVADEE 26/11/43 BREMEN
2nd Lt Arno E.Plischke                          NAV EVADEE 26/11/43 BREMEN
2nd Lt Arthur G.Bodei                          BOM POW      26/11/43 BREMEN
 T/Sgt Max S.Newman                        ROG KIA         26/11/43 BREMEN
 T/Sgt Andrew F.Hathaway                  TTE EVADEE 26/11/43 BREMEN
 S/Sgt George E.Jones                         BTG  KIA       26/11/43 BREMEN
 S/Sgt Leo J.Bianchi                            LWG POW      26/11/43 BREMEN
 S/Sgt Delton L.King                            RWG EVADEE 26/11/43 BREMEN
 S/Sgt Carl G. Glasmeier                        TG POW      26/11/43 BREMEN

349th Sqdn. Crew, as above, apparently joined the 100th Group in Nov 1943 as this is believed to be their first mission.
According to Glasmeier (31/3/90) Lt George W.Ford who had arrived at the 100th with his own crew on 12/9/43 was pilot of the above crew on 26/11/43 and became a POW.  After 26 Nov 43 mission, Lt Williams was assigned to the Crew of Lt John T. Griffin.  

2ND LT WILLIAMS FLEW AS CP ON THE JANSSEN CREW ON 3 MARCH 44 AND WAS MOST LIKELY WITH THEM ON 4 MARCH 44 WHEN THEY COMPLETED THEIR 25TH MISSION.  THE TARGET WAS BERLIN.  LT WILLIAMS WOULD BE TRANSFERRED TO THE 351ST BS AFTER 26 NOV 43  AND WAS STILL ON BASE AS OF JULY 2, 1944.  HE WOULD GO ON TO BECOME A CAPT. AND COMPLETE HIS TOUR.  HE FLEW AS CP ON LT JOHN GRIFFIN CREW.  


CREW on 26 NOV 43 mission to BREMEN

2ND LT GEORGE W. FORD             P POW 26 NOV 43 BREMEN
2ND LT JEAN B. PITNER              CP EVA   26 NOV 43 BREMEN (see lettter below)
2ND LT ARNO E. PLISCHKE        NAV EVA  26 NOV 43 BREMEN
2ND LT ARTHUR G. BODEI        BOM POW 26 NOV 43 BREMEN
T/SGT MAX S. NEWMAN          ROG KIA   26 NOV 43 BREMEN
T/SGT ANDREW F. HATHAWAY TTE EVA  26 NOV 43 BREMEN
S/SGT GEORGE E. JONES         BTG KIA    26 NOV 43 BREMEN
S/SGT LEO J. BIANCHI             LWG POW 26 NOV 43 BREMEN
S/SGT DELTON L. KING            RWG EVA 26 NOV 43 BREMEN
S/SGT CARL G. GLASMEIER      TG POW   26 NOV 43 BREMEN

349th Sqdn. Crew, as above, apparently joined the 100th Group in Nov 1943 as this is believed to be their first mission.  MACR # 1394, Microfiche # 464, A/C # 42-31215

EYEWITNESS: A/C # 215 was hit in # 2 engine when two FW 190s attacked the low squadron at 1045 hrs. Fell out of formation and dived for cloud cover.  E/A followed but P-47s came to the rescue.  A/C was seen from time to time flying below the formation.  At 1048 hrs one chute was seen and at 1103 hrs nine more chutes were seen. At 1105 hrs it hit the ground and exploded, near 49 32N and 02 00E.  During the last few minutes of flight fire spread over the entire left wing.

That Pitner % Plischke were successful evadees is evidenced by signing a report to the Adjutent General's office dated 5 Feb 44.  This same report indicates Andrew Hathaway also returned to duty also evading. The record for Denton King was an evadee rather than a POW.

This is remains some difficulty in determining G.W Ford's role with this crew.  (Letter to Jim Brown from Jean Pitner regarding this matter follows..

                                            

Dear Jim: ( 26 November 1990)

Forty seven years ago today, I was shot down.  Twenty seven days before that I signed in at the 100th. First, let me answer your specific question regarding Earl Williams and George Ford.  Earl was first pilot on my crew. I met him, as well as my navigator and bombardiar, at Walla Walla, Washington.  Earl was an "old timer".  He had been an enlisted radio operator in Hawaii before the peacetime draft and during the attack of December 7, 1941.  When I met him he was a 1st Lt., married and no children.  The rest of us had just graduated from flying schools; in my case "travel time" from Blackland AAB, Waco, Texas, to Moses Lake, Washington, then on to Walla Walla.

Earl and I flew a couple of local flights after we arrived at the 100th.  He, as well as all of the crew (except me), flew 
combat missions shortly after we arrived at the 100th. each of them flew with different crews at different times as substitutes on various crews

Our crew was scheduled to fly together for the first time on 26 November 1943.  I was not included.  An experienced multi missioned pilot would "check out the crew and sign off Earl as combat ready.  I do not know what happened during the night to change the plans, but I was awakened early in the morning and told that I would fly and Earl would not.  Earl was as surprised as I.

I met George Ford at briefing.  He was a captain, said very little, mentioned that he had flown fourteen (I think) missions. He also told me that this was a good starting mission for me (my first) and that it would be a "piece of cake" and a "milk run". The last time I saw George was as we were bailing out. I never believed, nor was I told, that George was a "new crew member" who would continue to fly with us.  I thought he was sort of a "check ride" for a new crew.  So much for George now back to Earl. The last time I saw Earl was when he came to London to make a personal identification of me for Army Intelligence. I recall that Earl had changed.  I thought he was "flak happy", and for a little while I thought he either did not know me, or would not make the identification.  He did, but the intelligence officers weren't satisfied.  Intelligence demanded two other officers from the 100th to come and make the identification. To shorten this phase, Intelligence had to accept Earl's ID because there were no officers in the 100th who knew me!
 

I haven't said anything about my escape from France, and that is not an oversight.  There are two reasons: 
 (1)  It has been proven that the longer the time from the combat experience, the greater the distortion in the way 
the person describes that experience.  If the action is told frequently, that too will alter the facts.  Often truth becomes fantasy. 
 Most are unaware of what has happened and actually believe they are recalling the combat experience exactly as it happened. 

 (2) Even if I could recount my escape in accurate detail, there is no way that I can separate a part from the whole.  I am certain 
that it would be effortless for me to write hundreds of pages, single spaced with narrow margins, and probably leave out 
something.  Even worse, I probably would exaggerate the facts.  It would be nothing but historical fiction at best.

Now you can understand why I opened this letter with those two observations, especially the forty seven years remark. 
 Come to think of it, I wonder what kind of a story I would tell about my last combat flying   three years in Vietnam, including all 
campaigns of the entire conflict?  This time I was shot up frequently, but not shot down.

I think that you have a difficult task before you in your research.  I suspect that time is running out.  Oddly, in my 33 
years of service, I've met only one person who was in the 100th.  I was lecturing at Brown University, Providence, RI, in 
the Fall of 1964, when I met a man named Brown.  He told me that he had been the historian of the 100th.  Coincidence? We talked 
at length, but we were not at the 100th at the same time.

I congratulate you on the work you are doing and hope you can bring the account to an end soon.  I know from personal 
experience how frustrating, tiring, and sometimes expensive research can be, especially oral and first person.  I know, 
too, the great satisfaction of completion.  I hope you experience that soon.

                                         Sincerely Yours,



                                          Jean Pitner


Following written by Loe J. Bianchi shortly before is death ....pw

              War Experiences of Leo J, Bianchi

     I entered-the Army Air Force in November of 1942.  (The Air Force was
called the Army Air Force then )  I took my basic training at Miami Beach,
Florida.  I was sent to Lowry Field, Colorado for "aircraft armament" train-
ing.  I was then sent to Rattlesnake Bomber Base in Pyote, Texas where we
had our bomber training.  My bomber crew was sent to Dalhart,Texas for our
second phase of training.  We practiced bombing at the Witchita Falls
and Midland, Texas bombing ranges.  I was trained for all types of aircraft
armament for almost a year.
     Upon completion of training we received our orders for duty overseas,
We flew to Scotland and then to Throppe-Abbotts, England where we were assign-
ed to the 349th Bomb Squadron of the 100th Bomb Group.  It was difficult gett-
ing used to the English weather because it was foggy and raining all the time
and the German bombers kept us awake all the time.
     Our bomber was a B-17G with a chin-turret mounted under the nose of the
plane,  Our bomber consisted of 10 crewmen. Pilot,(George W. Ford) Co-pilot)
(Jean B. Pitner) Navigator(Arno E. Plischke) Bombardier,
(Arthur G. Bodei) Radio Operator(Max S. Newman) Top-Turret Gunner(Andrew F,Hath-
away)  Ball-Turret Gunner(George E. Jones) Right-Waist Gunner(Leo J,
Bianchi) Left-Waist Gunner (Delton L. King and Tail-Gunner(Garl G. Glas-
meier).
     In November of 1943 we got orders to fly a diversion raid for Bremen, Ger-
many.  To divert German alr defenses from the main Bremen raid we had to bomb
a "Ball-bearing Factory" in Paris, France.  We were to precede the Bremen raid;
to draw the German planes and anti-aircraft fire away from the main attack force.
 When the flare went up (the signal to take off) we were off
 into the darkness.  By the time daylight broke all the B-24's, B-17's and
 P-47 Fighters that went with us were in the air flying in a giant circle
 over England as far as the eye could see there were over a thousand air-
 planes in all directions making up the formation that were to fly our miss-
 ions.  Finally the "go flare" came up and we headed across the English
 Channel to our target. Well, I guess we did draw the fire away from the main
 body.  I never saw so many anti-craft puffs in the air in one raid. We also
 encountered Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf fighters, 
 About 40 miles from Paris we
 were hit ln the right wing with anti-aircraft fire which set the wing on fire,
 Then FW's came in with 20 millimeter machine gun fire which completely dis-
 abled our plane.  It was on fire and going down and the communications to
 the front of the plane was shot away along with the control cables,  I looked
 around and saw that some of my crewmen were badly injured, Left Waist-gunner,
 King, was closest to me.  He seemed dazed and in the state of shock,  He was
 just standing in the escape hatch,  I saw that he had his chute on so I pushed
 him out of the hatch.  The Tail-gunner was very badly injured and was entangled
 in the control cables.  I untangled him, put on his parachute and put him
 gently out of the hatch.  I looked around once more and saw the Radioman,
 Newman with his hand on his chest.  I pulled his hand away and saw a lot of
 blood and realized that he had a large chest wound,  I strapped his chute on
 him and helped him out of the escape hatch.  I was ready to jump when I saw
 the Ball-turret man, Jones, trying to stand up,  It was difficult because his
 left leg was shot off and it was hanging on with the wires on his heated
 flight suit,  I had no time to apply a tourniquet or give first-aid because
 the plane was on fire and going down.  I pulled the chute harness strap up as
hard as I could because I had to shut off the blood supply on the right side
of his crotch.  He screamed all the time I was attending to him, Finally
after what seemed and eternity I gently dragged him to the escape hatch and
pushed him out. Later at the Dulug Luft I learned from a British Spit-
fire pilot that he thought Jones was in a German hospital ward in France
with him,  Evidently Jones was very upset because of the loss of his leg and
he wouldn't eat,  He literally starved himself to death according to this
British Pilot,  During all this time there was 20 millimeter machine-gun fire
popping all around us. I was hit in the legs and didn't realize it until I
saw all the saturated blood on my legs,  I was very fortunate to have time
enough to help my wounded crew members, get to the escape hatch and bail out
before the plane went down,  According to eyewitnesses a total time of
15 to 18 minutes had elapsed between the time the plane was hit and I bailed
out,
     Due to the strong crosswinds I landed on my side and injured my back
upon impact with the ground,  Two French boys tried to reach me before the
German soldiers but they were captured and taken away for trying to help me,
I never saw them again and often wonder what happened to them,  I had to be
carried to an interrogation center by the Germans.  Upon reaching the interr-
igation center in Frankfort, Germany, I was put in a cell 6ft. by 6ft.  These
cells were used to "sweat-out" information by making them very hot and then
icy-cold.  This lasted for about 10 days,  We were then put in railroad box-
cars which were used to ship about 8 horses,  The Germans packed 50 men in
each box-car with no food, no heat, no toilet facilities and nothing to sit on
The trip lasted about 5 days through the mountains to Krems, Austria,  There
we were to be imprisoned in the famous Stalag 17B Prisoner-of-war Camp,  The
buildings were built for 50 men but the Germans packed 300 prisoners into
each building.  We had no heat, water was scarce and food was of starvation
  quantities.  The winters were very cold and we had very little warm clothing
  and no warm foot protection, Some prisoner's feet froze because the Germans
  made us stand out in the cold 2 or 3 times daily.  One time we had to stand
  out on the parade grounds for 3 days and 3 nights while the Germans looked for
  a missing prisoner.  I suffered frost-bite of the feet and hands at this time.
  We dug many tunnels at the camp but were never successful in escaping.  The
  Germans fed us a watery soup once a day made from weeds and coal oil,  We were
  given a small chunk of rye bread every other day.  It was made with flour and
  wood chips.  Once I had a piece of wood in my bread as large as my little
  finger,  Red Cross food packages were very scarce and when one food package
  came the Germans would puncture any canned food so we couldn't keep it.  I
  spent a total of 17 months and 1 week at Stalag 17B.
       In early April of 1945 we were taken out of the prison camp and put on
  a forced march across Austria,  We were taken to a Point where the Inn and
  Danube Rivers meet in Barvaria.  This forced march lasted 25 days,  We had
  very little food with us and no protection from the rain, snow and cold.
  We were put in a forest at this location still under German Guard.  We had
  to build our own shelters which was very difficult without tools,
       Finally, after a few weeks we were liberated by tank spear-head of
  General Clark's 3rd Army.( Actually was Patton's Third Army)  We disarmed the
 German guards at this point.  I   disarmed a Captain and took his rifle, 22cal.
pistol and a knife.  We brought   the German guards to a place where German 
prisoners were kept by the Americans.
       Three days after we were liberated we flew to Reims, France on a C47
  cargo plane.  There we were deloused, cleaned and given clean clothing.  Our
  next destination was LeHavre, France where we were put on a diet of boiled
  chicken, 1 slice of white bread and an orange to get our stomach back in shape.
 This place in Lehavre was called "Camp Lucky Strike,"  We were then
 put aboard a Red Cross ship and brought back to America.  Upon reaching the
 USA we were taken to "Camp Shanks" in New York,
      In June of 1945 I finally realized that I was on my way home to Spring-
 field, Massachusetts.  After the ordeal I had been through the world seemed
 a brighter and more beautiful place.
      In addition to the medals my unit earned, I was awarded the Distinguished
 Plying Cross for heroism and service above and beyond the call Or duty,  I
 also received the Purple Heart for wounds that I encountered when my plane
 Was shot down.
      I have since learned that there was an eye-witness to our bomber's crash.
 A Frenchman has written to Carl Clasmeier and said that he saw what happened
 to our bomber.  He enclosed a French map and marked the spot where our bomber
 crashed in France,
      It was gratifying to me to have the Tail-gunner/ who was from Hamilton,
 Ohio, live to be best man at my wedding. He is married now and has 5 child-
 ren and about 6 or 7 grandchildren.
      We had lived and almost died together during the last moments of our
 bomber's life.  He will always be my friend and brother.

                                            Leo J. Bianchi

MEMO 2:

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT INFORMATION:

TARGET: Bremen DATE: 1943-11-26  
AIRCRAFT: (42-31215) CAUSE: EAC-Fire  

BURIAL INFORMATION

PLOT: ROW:  
GRAVE: CEMETERY:  
ID: 361