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LT  Robert C. KOPER

UNIT: 349th BOMB Sqdn POSITION: P

 Robert C. Koper with his wife Detailed Information Photo courtesy of Robert C. Koper, Jr. 

SERIAL #: O-804460 STATUS: KIA
MACR: 03018 CR: 03018

Comments1: 6 MAR 44 BERLIN

COMMENTS & NOTES

MEMO 1:

CREW

6 March 1944      349th Sqdn   A/C #42-31051 "Goin Jessies"

TARGET: BERLIN            Source: Film Causalty Report
MACR #3016

Lt. Robert C.Koper            P    KIA
Lt. Gordon C.Lien             CP   POW
Lt. George H.Wing          NAV  KIA
Lt. Thomas O.Drinkwater BOM  POW
S/S Michael J.Tanowigch  ROG  KIA  (from Sammy Barr Crew)
Sgt Charles P.Corea         TTE  POW
Sgt Charles J.Luquette     BTG  KIA
Sgt Bernard Sundin          TG   KIA
Sgt Arthur Frankel         LWG   KIA
Sgt Ralph V. Zarzecki     RWG   KIA

When this crew joined the 100th GP, the Radio operator was Sgt Weston H, Rodkey. S/Sgt. Mike Tanowigch who was flying in place of Rodkey on 6/3/43 had flown overseas with Crew #4 piloted by Sam L.Barr. Except for Tanowigch, the crew was flying its 5th mission having joined the 100th BG, 349th BS on  24/2/44.  S/Sgt Rodkey was shot down with the Crew of F.W. Harte on 22/4/44 and became a POW. 

An eyewitness report stated as follows: "At 1213 hours just north of Hanover an A/C which may have been #051 was attacked by enemy fighters and was shot down.Four or five chutes were seen. Identity of this A/C  not deflnite. It may have been confused with A/C #170."

"THE STORY OF THE CENTURY" on p.44 states: "Bob Koper ordered his crew to 'bail' and was alone in his ship when it blew up."

Missions flown by Lt Koper Crew

1.    28/02/44    REGENSBURG
2.    29/02/44    BRUNSWICK
3.     2/03/44    CHARTES
4.     3/03/44    BERLIN-RECALLED
5.     4/03/44    BERLIN-RECALLED
6.     6/03/44    BERLIN (SHOT DOWN Low group in wing)


CREW
                     
ORGINAL 100TH PILOT OF 349TH CREW #4, A/C #42-30035 (TORCHY…named after Jim Browns wife's)

1ST LT  SAM L. BARR                           P:  CPT, 14 JAN 44  FORET D' HESDIN (flew 50 missions)  349th Commanding Officer
F/O     DAN BARNA                            CP:  POW, 10 OCT 43 MUNSTER (CREW# 7 LT MacCARTER CREW)
2ND LT  JAMES R. BROWN               NAV:  SWA, 15 SEP 43 PARIS  TAPS SEPTEMBER 1993
2ND LT  HOWARD J. KELLY             BOM:  CPT, 30 JAN 44 BRUNSWICK
T/SGT   ROBERT E. CLIFF                 TTE:  CPT, 21 JAN 44 BOIS D' ESQUERDES
S/SGT   WILLIAM OHL                      WG:  CPT, 24 FEB 44 POSEN
T/SGT   MICHAEL J. TANOWIGCH     ROG:  KIA, 6 MAR 44 BERLIN (with Lt Koper Crew)
S/SGT   MAX RUSS                          BTG:  CPT, 21 JAN 44 BOIS D'ESQUERDES
S/SGT   HOBART SPIRES                  WG:  KIA, 6 MAR 44 BERLIN
S/SGT   JAMES T. HITEN                   TG:  KIA, 21 JAN 44 BOIS D' ESQUERDES


CREW

1st Lt Frank W.Harte            P     KIA           22/4/44   HAMM
2nd Lt John J.Coppinger  CP      POW         22/4/44   THE ENTIRE CREW WAS ON THIS MISSION
2nd Lt Carl F.Conley        NAV      KIA           22/4/44   
T/Sgt Wallace J.Meyer    TOGG     POW/ WIA     22/4/44    
T/Sgt Weston H.Rodkey   ROG       POW         22/4/44   (From Lt. R.C.Koper crew)
T/Sgt Paul V.Carlson       TTE     POW/WIA    22/4/44
S/Sgt Felix W.McIntosh   BTG       POW         22/4/44
S/Sgt Thomas C.McDonald RWG    KIA           22/4/44               MACR #4166,Micro fiche #1475
S/Sgt Edward T.Coley     LWG    POW/WIA   22/4/44                A/C #42 37783  "DOBIE"
S/Sgt George W.McMullin     TG    POW        22/4/44

349th Sqdn. Crew,as above, taken from the MACR. This was the ninth mission for this crew. Plane was named after Frank Harte's Girlfriend.  

Their first being made on 18/3/44 to Augsburg.

It appears that on 22/4/44, fighters damaged this A/C,particularly #3 engine,and it began to lag. 
Witnesses saw the crew attempting to jettison equipment from a/c. It appears that all ten men did 
bail out although Sgt.McDonald was badly wounded before leaving the ship. Some of the crew felt that Lt 
Harte & Lt Conley may have been killed by German civilians or soldiers after they landed.


Subj: RE: LT KOPER  
Date: 3/10/2003 5:33:46 AM Pacific Standard Time 
From: Robert.Koper@Benning.Army.Mil 
To: MPFaley@aol.com 
Sent from the Internet (Details) 
 
Michael:

Thanks, for the quick reply.  I had already found most of what you sent on the 100th BG Assoc website. .. Even if they do insist on changing my Dad’s middle initial from C to G!

I got a tel no and address for Wes Rodkey from Ron & Carol Batley, but their records are out of date:  He’s still in Mission Viejo, but he’s moved from 26062 Cresta Verde to 23444 Villena, and the area code has changed from 714 to 949.  I intend to call him later today – after morning comes to California.  I have one good pic of my Dad during the time he was overseas that Wes Rodkey graciously let me copy – he and Chuck Corea are with Dad in (?) Ireland shortly after they left the US in (?)Nov or Dec of ’43.  As soon as I can get a copy made I’ll send it to you.  The only other good pic I have of Dad is when he was in Jr ROTC – he was a good lookin’ young man!

 Robert C. Koper Jr.
Contract Specialist
706-545-2206/FAX -6528
ACA, So Region, Ft Benning DOC
*********************************************************************************************************
I've had contact with 2 of the survivors from my Dad's crew on that fateful day, 6 Mar 1944.
 
I've spoken with and corresponded with Weston Rodkey [ROG] (who was grounded that day with an ear infection) and Charles Corea (TTGE) who bailed out some 60 miles west of Berlin, along with the bombardier and navigator.  I now know what happened that day, even if I'm not sure how or why.
 
Corea was the last of the only 3 survivors to exit the AC that day, and he and 2LT Gordon Lien [NAV] landed near each other in a farm field [Drinkwater was the 1st one out of the AC and landed about 10 miles west of the crashsite]; as Corea attended to Lien's injured leg, "Goin' Jessies" crashed about 200 yards or so from their position.  The AC fuel load caught fire, and then the bomb load exploded.
Corea, Lien, and 2LT Tom Drinkwater [BOM] stated in their postwar debriefing in the MACR [a copy  of which I have] that they last saw my Dad standing between the P and CP seats, asking where his parachute was.  Lien and Drinkwater, at different times, told him it was near the escape hatch and even pointed to it.
Why he did not exit the AC before it crashed… I don't know.  He was the last one on board.  His chute may have been damaged, it may have fallen out of the AC before he could grab it, he may have been injured after the others left the AC, or he may have just run out of time.  The sadness of this story, for me, is somewhat offset by the simple satisfaction of knowing.
 
I fear that Wes Rodkey may be in ill health.  He has not responded to my Christmas cards for 2 or 3 years and I can't find a good phone number for him.  I spoke with Charles Corea about a year ago, and we exchanged Christmas cards last month.  I wrote in the card that I hope to attend the reunion in Nashville in September and that we could meet; he did not respond to this in his card.  
 
I am REALLY looking forward to Nashville!
 
See you there, I hope!
 
Bob Koper Jr.
 
p.s.  I have one or two photo negs that may be of interest - if they are I'll send them along.

***************************************************************************************************************

100th Bomb Group - March 6, 1944 Berlin Mission
Recollection of Charles Corea, Tech Sergeant, Engineer Gunner
349th SQN Koper Crew (Pilot)
 
Awake 4 am breakfast
6 - 7 am briefing of mission to Berlin
Flying with 351 SQN
Left Coast (English Channel) in am
Test fired top turret guns over channel
Climbed to 21,000 FT, 50 degrees below zero
Scanning skies behind plane
Caught flash from waist gunner, upper SQN
 
Rotated turret - began firing at ME109 as he passed to my right,
Point blank, hit his tail section - as he made 180 degree turn - he banked off my right wing.
So close that we looked at each other plainly, while I was turning my guns towards him.
Before I could fire, my turret jammed, my electrical cord for my heated suit got twisted around base of my turret.
I stepped down to untangle the cord, saw a fire near gyro equipment - put fire out.
Back in turret- only to find it hit by 20mm shell and dome gone!
By this time, front of plane had also been hit.
Navigator seriously wounded, Bombardier (Drinkwater) asked what to do.
I told him to bailout.
Fortunately, he did, while still in level flight.
We were again hit and went into a spinning dive.
I grabbed my chute, kneeling in front of the hatch.
It took me almost 20,000 ft to clip my chest pack and go out head first towards #2 prop. Which hit my right foot.  I was so close to the ground that I never saw the ground or chute open before landing.
My co-pilot (Lein) landed close by and helped tie a tourniquet on my leg.  I was bleeding profusely.
We went inside a nearby farm house, placed my leg on the back of a ladder back chair, high above my head to stop the bleeding.
It worked.
Two German soldiers soon arrived.
One sprinkled my foot with sulfa powder, that he had taken from my chute harness.
Lein and I, were driven to the first aid station.  Toes severed, taken to hospital, operated on by two surgeons, both graduates of Heidelberg Medical School.  
Spent 6 - 7 weeks in hospital bed before being sent to Frankfurt for interrogation and then to Stalag 17B, Krems, Austria until end of war



MEMO 2:

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT INFORMATION:

TARGET: Berlin DATE: 1944-03-06  
AIRCRAFT: "Goin Jessies" (42-31051) CAUSE: EAC & Explosion  

BURIAL INFORMATION

PLOT: ROW:  
GRAVE: CEMETERY:  

PHOTOS:

 Robert C. Koper, center, with Wes Rodkey far right and Charles P. Corea far left. Crew flew "GOIN' JESSIES" Detailed Information Photo courtesy of Robert C. Koper, Jr. 

Orders assigning Koper, Chadwick and Gibbons Crews yo 100th . Photo courtesy of David Gibbons

 

SERVED IN:

Crew 1

Crew 2

ID: 2884