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Harry H. Crosby

Brady Crew Page  |  Blakely Crew Page  

MAJOR H. H. CROSBY Much beloved Group Navigator and Friend

Harry Crosby was an original 100th Navigator.  He went overseas with Lt John Brady’s crew (Crew # 32, Aircraft #42-30071 “Skipper”), and arrived in the ETO in June 1943. He became Group Navigator and was with the 100th until the end of hostilities 9 May 45. Major Crosby’s tour spans the entire twenty-two months the 100th was on operational status in WWII.

Harry was well known as the navigator of #42-23393 (“Just-A-Snappin”) on the 8 0ct 43 Bremen mission. See Edward Jablonski’s work FLYING FORTRESS for an account of this mission (below). Lead Navigator for many of the long range and all the shuttle missions flown by the 100th starting with the 24 Jul 1943 1900 mile trip to Trondheim, Norway with Col Neil Harding (100th Gp Commander). This was the start of a series of missions known as “Blitz Week. ” The Ragensburg/Africa shuttle with Major John Kidd and Everett Blakely, the Group’s long shuttle to Mirogrod via Ruhland, always a dangerous target that lay just south of Berlin. This second shuttle mission was code named “Frantic”, a mission which demanded the utmost in precision navigation as the distance closely approached the maximum range of the B-17.

Dr. Crosby served the 100th for two and one half decades as editor of the 100th Bomb Group Association’s Splasher 6. publication. He is assuredly one of the better known 100th veterans and is highly respected by his peers. He has written a treatise on the 100th entitled, “A Wing and A Prayer”.

From Edward Jablonski’s work FLYING FORTRESS, the following gives a clear account as to why Harry Crosby is one of the 100th’s most beloved men. [© 1965 by Edward Jablonski]

Among these self-confident men was navigator Harry H. Crosby, then a First Lieutenant of Des Moines, Iowa. For his part in the Trondheim mission he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Despite a brilliant mathematical turn of mind, the sensitive, even mercurial, Crosby was a romantic. He was, in fact, responsible for one of the strangest decisions ever made during the Second World War. On August 12, 1943, the 100th was dispatched to the Ruhr to bomb various military targets in that flak-laden industrial heartland.

“We were sent to bomb as our primary target an industrial section of some city in the Ruhr. I think, Gelsenkirchen,” Crosby now remembers. “As we flew eastward with the entire Ruhr Valley on our left we could see that the Ruhr would be completely obscured and in those days before blind bombing (i.e. with the use of radar equipment), we had to have visual reference to the ground or we could not find our target.

“Instead of turning north to cross over the Ruhr, our formation turned right looking for a target we could see. In those days we were given a primary target, a secondary target, a tertiary target and a series of targets called targets of opportunity. As I remember some build-up installation in Bochum or Recklinghausen was our second and third targets, but they too were obscured by cloud cover. Therefore, our bombardier James R. Douglass began a run on Bonn, which was listed as a target of opportunity.

“It just happened that the night before, after I had been given a pre-briefing, I had returned to my quarters and was playing some records on what in England was called a gramophone . . . I had the complete Third Symphony (Eroica) and the complete Fifth Symphony. As I played the records I rather idly read the inscription on the inside cover of the album. I noticed without paying much attention that Beethoven had been born in and had gone to school in Bonn.

“On the next day, 25,000 feet in the air, when we started our run on Bonn, I looked down and saw a series of buildings which I presumed to be the University of Bonn. Instantly there flashed through my mind the thought, ‘That must be where Beethoven went to school!’

“I grabbed Douglass by the shoulder and said we would not go to Bonn. Over the intercom someone asked me why not and, after giving the pilot a new heading, I explained that this was where Beethoven went to school.

“In those tense moments for some reason nobody objected and we made a run on a marshaling yard in Cologne which was listed as a target of opportunity. We were the lead ship in the whole Eighth Air Force that day and therefore the entire formation followed us . . . “

Harry Crosby writing about D-Day:

Three Hundredth Heroes: Horace Varian, Robert Rosenthal, and Harry Crosby

Harry Crosby: “During the month of May, we felt the pace go up. In the weeks before D-Day we put up two whole groups: 100th A and 100th B plus 12 supernumeraries. We dropped every kind of bomb we had. We were softening up the coast from Holland to Spain.

In the week before D-Day, I worked 24 hours a day superintending the preparation of maps, flight plans and formation for over a hundred different missions and variations. As a result, I worked for 75 hours straight. The night before D-Day I was a zombie and was ordered to go to my quarters and get some sleep.

Twenty-four hours later I awakened and it was all over! The BBC was announcing the landings and Axis Sally was corroborating. And I had missed it all!”

Maj. Harry Crosby, Group Navigator posing with a wartime photo of himself from a copy of Flying Fortress by Ed Jablonski . The plane in the background was painted High Life to coincide with a promotion being done by Miller High Life and the Crew of Donald Oaks. Today it is painted as Aluminum Overcast and owned by the EAA.1st Lt John D. Brady P POW 10/10/43TARGET WAS MUNSTER

1ST LT JOHN D. BRADY P POW 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER
2ND LT JOHN L. HOERR CP POW 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER
2ND LT HARRY H. CROSBY NAV CPT On operations until end of hostilities
2ND LT HOWARD B. HAMILTON BOM POW 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER
S/SGT ADOLPH BLUM TTE POW 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER
S/SGT HAROLD E. CLANTON WG KIA 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER
S/SGT SAUL LEVITT ROG XFR “Yank” Magazine See Notes
PVT ROLAND D. GANGWER BTG POW 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER
S/SGT JAMES A. McCUSKER WG POW 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER
S/SGT GEORGE J. PETROHELOS TG POW 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER

418th Sqdn. This an “ORIGINAL crew. #32

On 10/10/43, Lt David Soloman from the crew of E. A. Kiessling was flying in place of Harry Crosby and became a POW. Saul Levitt had been injured in a Jeep/truck accident on base and, when he recovered, was transferred to “YANK” magazine. After the war, Saul had a brilliant career as a writer until his death in 1977 from a fatal heart attack. On 10/10/43, T/Sgt Joseph E. Hafer, who had flown overseas with the 100th was aboard. Also aboard the A/C on 10/10/43 was Major John Egan who became a POW. He was the 418th Squadron Commander and was flying as Command pilot. On this mission. Both Hamilton & Gangwer were wounded and spent many weeks in the hospital.

SECOND CREW

1st Lt Everett E. Blakely P CPT 418th C. O.
2nd Lt Charles A. Via, Jr. CP SWA 8/10/43 Bremen
1st Lt Joseph H. ” Bubbles” Payne NAV KIA 28/4/44 Sottevast (With crew of W. G. Lakin) Mission lead by Col. R. H. Kelly
2nd Lt James R. Douglass BOM CPT
T/Sgt Howard J. Brock TTE POW 17/8/43 Regensburg (With the W. R. Flesh crew)
T/Sgt Monroe B. Thornton WG CPT
T/Sgt Edmund G. Forkner ROG CPT
S/Sgt John L. Olson BTG XFR
S/Sgt Lyle E. Nord TG KIA 29/5/44 Leipzig, Aircraft (With crew of B. L. Williams)
S/Sgt Lester W. Saunders WG KIA 8/10/43 Bremen

418th Sqdn. An ”Original” crew. CREW #35 A/C #42-30061 “JUST-A-SNAPPIN”

NOTE: JOHN OLSON, AFTER FLYING SEVERAL MISSIONS WITH THIS CREW MAY HAVE BEEN TRANSFERRED TO ANOTHER GROUP. LT PAYNE WAS REPLACED ON THE CREW BY HARRY CROSBYFROM THE CREW OF LT JOHN BRADY. SGT OLSON WAS REPLACED ON THE CREW BY SGT WILLIAM MC CLELLAND/ T/SGT THORNTON BECAME THE ENGINEER AFTER AUGUST

17, 1943 AND HIS POSITION AT WG WAS FILLED BY SGT ED YEVICH.

JUST-A-SNAPPIN IS ONE OF THE BETTER KNOWN PLANES IN 100TH LORE, SHE IS REMEMBERED FOR BRINGING THIS CREW BACK FROM BREMEM ON 8 OCT 43. BADLY DAMAGED EV BLAKELY AND JOHN KIDD, GROUP OPS OFFICER WHO LED THE MISSION FROM THE CO-PILOT’S SEAT, LANDED “JUST-A-SNAPPIN” IN A FIELD AT LUDHAM. DAMAGE TO THE

HYDRAULIC SYSTEM RENDERED THE BRAKES IN-OPERATIVE AND “JUST-A-SNAPPIN” COLLIDED WITH A LARGE TREE. IMPACT WAS BETWEEN THE #1 AND #2 ENGINE. THERE ARE SEVERAL PROMINENT PHOTOGRAPHS OF HER AND THE TREE.

p. 184/195 of FLYING PORTRESS by E. Jablonski for details of the mission of 8/10/43.

On 8/10/43, S/Sgt Edward S. Yevich LWG & S/Sgt William F. McClelland, BTG were aboard in the place of H. J. Brock & J. L. Olson. Both of these men were wounded.

Lyle Nord was flying as TG on the crew of B. L. Williams on 29/5/44 and was hit in the back by a 20mm. He had flown a total of 27 missions, the last 8 of them with the Williams crew.

CREW ON OCTOBER 8, 1943 MISSION TO BREMEN: Last mission with Capt. Ev Blakely Crew.

MAJ. JOHN B. KIDD COM PILOT CPT

1st Lt Everett E. Blakely P CPT

2nd Lt Charles A. Via, Jr. CP SWA 8/10/43 BREMEN

1st Lt Harry Crosby NAV CPT GROUP NAVIGATOR

2nd Lt James R. Douglas BOM CPT GROUP BOMBARDIER

T/Sgt Monroe B. Thornton TTE CPT

T/Sgt Edmund G. Forkner ROG CPT

S/Sgt William F. McClelland BTG WIA 8/10/43 BREMEN SN#17164959

S/Sgt Edward S. Yevich WG WIA 8/10/43 BREMEN

S/Sgt Lyle E. Nordstrom WG KIA 29/5/44 LEIPZIG (with crew of B. L. Williams), Aircraft repair depot. .

S/Sgt Lester W. Saunders TG KIA8/10/43 BREMEN

MISSIONS OF MAJ. HARRY CROSBY:

1. JUN. 28, 1943 ST. NAZAIRE “FLAK CITY” (with Lt Brady Crew)

2. JUL. 4, 1943 La PALLICE (with Lt Brady Crew)

3. JUL. 24, 1943 TRONDHEIM (Col Harding Command P with Ev Blakely Crew)

4. JUL. 25, 1943 WARNEMUNDE, KIEL (Maj Egan-Command Pilot with Ev Blakely Crew)

5. AUG. 12, 1943 WESSELING / BONN (ST) (Group Lead with Col Harding-Command Pilot with Ev Blakely Crew

6. AUG. 17, 1943 REGENSBURG (Group Lead with Maj Jack Kidd-Command Pilot with Ev Blakely Crew)

7. AUG. 24, 1943 BORDEAUX-MERIGNAC (Maj Jack Kidd with Ev Blakely Crew, on return from Africa)

8. AUG. 31, 1943 MEULAN LES MERUEAUX (Wing Lead with Ev Blakely Crew)

9. SEPT. 6, 1943 STUTTGART/CONCHES (with Ev Blakely Crew)

10. SEPT. 9, 1943 BEAUVAIS-TILLE (with Ev Blakely Crew)

11. SEPT. 15, 1943 PARIS (with Ev Blakely Crew)

12. SEPT. 16, 1943 La PALLICE (Wing Lead with Col Harding as Command Pilot-Ev Blakely Crew)

13. SEPT. 23, 1943 VANNES (Maj Flesher, Group Air Exec flew as Command Pilot with Ev Blakely Crew)

14. SEPT. 27, 1943 EMDEN (with Ev Blakely Crew)

15. OCT. 2, 1943 EMDEN (with Ev Blakely Crew)

16. OCT. 8, 1943 BREMEN (Group Lead Maj. Jack Kidd-Command Pilot, this is the last mission with Capt. Ev Blakely

Crew. )

17. NOV. 13, 1943 BREMEN (Col, Harding, Command Pilot-PFF crew from Alconbury)

18. DEC. 13, 1943 KIEL (Wing Lead with Maj. Jack Kidd, Command Pilot-Lt Frank Valesh PFF Crew)

19. DEC. 24, 1943 ST. JOSEPH au BOIS (NOBALL) (3rd Air Division Lead, Col Harding Command Pilot-Lt Frank Valesh PFF Crew)

20. JAN. 4, 1944 KIEL

21, FEB 3, 1944 WILHELMSHAVEN

22. FEB 13, 1944 LIVOSSART & BOIS REMPRE (NOBALL) (flew with Lt Frank Valesh PFF Crew and were assigned to 385th BG Maj. H. T. “Spoon” Witherspoon 551st BS C. O. and later Grp Air Exec. )

23. APR. 13, 1944 AUGSBURG (Lt Col Kidd-PFF)

24. MAY 7, 1944 BERLIN

25. JUN. 21, 1944 RUHLAND (Russian Shuttle) (High Sqdn lead with Capt. Richard Helmick Crew, Capt Joe “Fuzzy” Zeller-Command Pilot)

26. JUN. 26, 1944 DROHOBYCZ (POLAND) (with Capt. Richard Helmick Crew, Capt Joe “Fuzzy” Zeller-Command Pilot)

27. JUL. 3, 1944 ARAD (RUMANIA) (with Capt. Richard Helmick Crew, Capt Joe “Fuzzy” Zeller-Command Pilot)

28. JUL. 5, 1944 BEZIERS, (from ITALY) (with Capt. Richard Helmick Crew, Capt Joe “Fuzzy” Zeller-Command Pilot)

CAPT. CROSBY HAD COMPLETED HIS REQUIRED MISSIONS AND COULD NOW BE ROTATED STATESIDE BUT UPON HIS RETURN TO THORPE ABBOTTS FROM RUSSIAN SHUTTLE MISSION, HARRY CROSBY WAS INFORMED THAT HE HAD BEEN PROMOTED TO THE RANK OF MAJOR AND WOULD NOT BE ROTATED HOME.

29. SEPT. 8, 1944 MANIZ (8th Air Force Lead with Col Jeffrey as Command Pilot and Capt. Austin Dunlap Crew)

30. UKN.

31. MAR 28, 1945 HANOVER A-SQDN LEAD Lt Col David “Handlebar Hank” LYSTER, Maj, CROSBY Lt RAIFORD 719 W PFF HARDSTAND # 35

32. MAR. 31, 1945 BAD BERKA (Lt Col. Harry Cruver Command Pilot with Maj Crosby and Capt. Murray Crew 790 V PFF Hardstand 50

Source: 100th bomb Group Foundation