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LT  William B. AGNETTI

UNIT: 418th BOMB Sqdn POSITION: BOM
SERIAL #: O-755595 STATUS: POW
MACR: 03034 CR: 03034

Comments1: 6 MAR 44 BERLIN (EAC - F)

COMMENTS & NOTES

MEMO 1:

CREW

PILOT:      LT  DEAN  M. RADTKE             POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN                 Distinguish Service Cross, Purple Heart Dec 30th
CO-PILOT: LT  ROBERT J. "Dig" DIGBY      KIA,   30 DEC 43 LUDWIGSHAVEN   Purple Heart
NAV:        LT  ROBERT M. REILLY           POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
BOM:        LT  WILLIAM B. AGNETTI       POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
ROG:   T/SGT  ROBERT  RAY                 POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
TTE:    T/SGT  VAN  D. PINNER             POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
BTG:       SGT  CASMER  E. SZYMANSKI   NOC
WG:    S/SGT  RICHARD  L. KERWIN        POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
WG:    S/SGT  CHARLES  F. ALLEN          POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
TG:     S/SGT  THEODORE E. MANGUM    POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN

CREW AS ABOVE JOINED THE 418TH SQDN,  100TH BOMB GROUP ON 28 NOV 43

MISSIONS OF LT DEAN RADTKE CREW FROM S/SGT CHARLES ALLEN FORM 5's

#          DATE              MISSION                                      HOURS                   NOTES

          1/12/43        PRACTICE MISISON                            2:00HRS
          4/12/43        PRACTICE MISSION                            2:20HRS
          6/12/43        PRACTICE MISSION                            3:05HRS 
        10/12/43        PRACTICE MISSION                            3:30HRS 
1.     16/12/43        BREMEN                                            6:30HRS
2.     20/12/43        BREMEN                                            5:00HRS
3      22/12/43        MUNSTER                                          4:15HRS
4.     24/12/43        ST.JOSEPH au BOIS (NOBALL)              4:25HRS 
5.     30/12/43        LUDWIGSHAVEN                                 8:00HRS         

"ON DECEMBER 30, 1943 ON A MISSION TO LUDWIGSHAVEN, DEAN RADTKE'S AIRCRAFT SUSTAINED SEVERE FLAK DAMAGE IN THE TARGET AREA.  IT WAS THEN ATTACKED BY A PAIR OR FW190'S SOUTHWEST OF ABBYVILLE WHERE A NUMBER OF 20MM SHELLS RIDDLED THE LEFT WING AND NOSE.  ONE SHELL SOCKED THROUGH THE NAVIGATORS COMPARTMENT AND STRUCK THE COPILOT, LT ROBERT DIGBY IN THE HEAD AND HE WAS DECAPITATED.  SHELL FRAGMENTS STRUCK LT. RADTKE, WOUNDING HIM IN THE FACE, HEAD, AND IN THE NECK NEXT TO HIS JUGULAR VEIN. ONE FRAGMENT COMPLETELY CLOSED HIS RIGHT EYE AND SPLINTERS FROM THE INSTRUMENT PANEL WERE DRIVEN INTO THE MUSCLES OF HIS RIGHT LEG, RENDERING IT USELESS. THE EXPLOSION ALSO RIPPED THE OXYGEN MASK FROM HIS FACE AND STUNNED THE ENGINEER RUSSELL PINNER.  UPON REGAINING HIS SENSES, PINNER COULD SEE THE PILOT AND COPILOT SLUMPED OVER THE CONTROLS.  BLOOD WAS SPLATTERED OVER THE SHELL-PITTED COCKPIT.  THE WINDOWS WERE SHATTERED AND BROKEN.  AT THIS TIME RADTKE REGAINED CONSCIOUSNESS AND CALLED THE REST OF THE CREW AND REASSURED THEM EVERYTHING WAS OK.  MOST OF THE  CREW WERE UNAWARE OF THE DAMAGE IN THE COCKPIT AND THE LOSS OF THE COPILOT OR THE INJURIES LT. RADTKE HAD SUSTAINED.

BOMBARDIER LT AGNETTI WAS CALLED UP AND MOVED THE COPILOTS BODY TO THE NAVIGATORS COMPARTMENT, THEN RETURNED TO ASSIST LT RADTKE.  DUE TO THE LOSS OF ONE ENGINE AND SEVERED CONTROL CABLES, THE PLANE LAGGED BEHIND THE FORMATION.  LT RADTKE MADE THE DECISION (DESPITE THE UNCERTAINTY OF HIS ABILITY TO STAY CONSCIOUSE) TO ATTEMPT TO REGAIN POSTION IN THE FORMATION. FAILURE TO DO SO WOULD RESULT IN THE DAMAGED AIRCRAFT TRYING TO MAKE IT BACK ALONE OVER ENEMY TERRITORY WITH GERMAN FIGHTERS LOOKING FOR "STRAGGLERS" TO PICK OFF.      WITH FINGERS USELESS BECAUSE OF SEVERE CUTS, HE USED THE BUTTS OF HIS HANDS TO MANIPULATE THE CONTROLS AND FOUGHT HIS WAY BACK INTO POSITION.  UPON REACHING THORPE ABBOTTS, LT RADTKE BROUGHT HIS SHIP (AND THE REMAINDER OF THE CREW)  IN FOR A PREFECT LANDING.  FOR HIS ACTION THAT DAY, LT DEAN RADTKE RECEIVED THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS, THE NATIONS SECOND HIGHEST AWARD FOR VALOR AND BRAVERY."

ON 30 DEC 43 (LUDWIGSHAVEN, CHEMICALS) BOB DIGBY WAS DECAPITATED BY A 20MM SHELL AND IS BURIED AT CAMBRIDGE.  HE WAS REPLACED AS CP BY LT GORDON E. DEVAULT  WHO BECAME A POW ON 06 MAR 44 (BERLIN); SGT J.G. KRUSIENSKI WAS FLYING IN THE BALL TURRET IN PLACE OF CASMER SZYMANSKI AND WAS KIA BY A 20MM WHICH SO BADLY DAMAGED THE BALL TURRET THAT KRUNSIENSKI COULD NOT BE GOTTEN UP INTO THE SHIP. KRUSIENSKI WAS THE REGULAR TG ON THE HERB .A. ALF CREW WHEN HE JOINED THE 100TH.

CREW GOES ON FLAK LEAVE WHILE LT RADTKE RECOVERS FROM WOUNDS AND LT GORDON DEVAULT TAKES OVER AS COPILOT
       
       25/01/44        PRACTICE MISSION                             2:35HRS
       26/01/44        PRACTICE MISISON                             1:30HRS
       27/01/44        PRACTICE MISSION                             1:00HRS
6.    03/02/44        WILHELMSHAVEN                                5:30HRS
7.    04/02/44        FRANKFURT                                        8:00HRS
8.    05/02/44        ROMILLY sur SEINE & VILLACOUBLAY     7:00HRS
9.    06/02/44        ROMILLY sur SEINE, CONCHES,EVREUX   2:00HRS   (BELIEVE THIS TO BE AN ABORT)
       09/02/44        HALBERSTADT                                    3:30HRS   (RECALL)
       11/02/44        PRACTICE MISSION/TRAINING               2:00HRS
10.  13/02/44        LIVOSSART & BOIS REMPRE (NOBALL)    3:10HRS 
11.  22/02/44        SCHWEINFURT                                     4:15HRS   (RECALL DUE TO BAD WEATHER)
12.  24/02/44        POSEN                                              11:00HRS   (BIG WEEK)
13.  25/02/44        REGENSBURG                                       9:40HRS   (BIG WEEK) 
14.  04/03/44        BERLIN                                              11.35HRS
15   06/03/44        BERLIN                                                              (SHOT DOWN)        

CREW ON 6 MAR 1944  BERLIN

                       CREW OF 42-97491 ON 6 MAR 1944  "RONNIE R"

PILOT:      LT  DEAN M. RADTKE            POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
CO-PILOT: LT  GORDON  E. DEVAULT     POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
NAV:        LT  ROBERT M. REILLY           POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
BOM:        LT  WILLIAM B. AGNETTI       POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
ROG:    T/SGT  ROBERT  RAY                 POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
TTE:    T/SGT  VAN D. PINNER               POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
BTG:    S/SGT  JOSEPH C. KRUSIENSKI     KIA    6 MAR 44 BERLIN
WG:    S/SGT  RICHARD L. KERWIN          POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
WG:    S/SGT  CHARLES F. ALLEN            POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN
TG:     S/SGT  THEODORE E. MANGUM    POW  6 MAR 44 BERLIN

SHOT DOWN DURING FIGHTER ATTACK NEAR HASELUNNE AT APPROXIMATELY 1200 HOURS. AIRCRAFT (42-97491) CRASHED NEAR TWISTRIGEN. ONE KIA, REMAINING SUCCESSFULLY BAILED OUT AND WERE TAKEN PRISONER.  AIRCRAFT IS BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN DESTROYED BY Ofw REINTHALER OF FIGHTER GESCHWADER II.

Email = wgordon949@msn.comuname = William Gordon
comments = My dad (Jerome Gordon WG)was in the 100th. He originally was in a crew headed by Herbert Alf but soon after his arrival was transferred to a crew headed by Dean Radtke. The co-pilot, Robert Digby, was killed in a mission over Ludwigshafen and Radtke was wounded but got the plane back home.I am trying to find any documentation on this crew, the aircraft and mission.There is a small paragraph in the book Century Bombers about the mission and crew but not much info.Any ideas where I might inquire?Thanks.
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ON MAY 27, 2007, CHARLES ALLEN GAVE US THE FOLLOWING INFO ON THE DEC 30, 1943 AND MARCH 6, 1944 MISSIONS:

DEC 30, 1943:  We had no idea of the damage done in the cockpit until we landed.  I remember seeing oil pouring from one of our engines which was wind milling all the way back to Thorpe Abbotts.  Had we run out of oil on that engine, it would have seized up and possibly torn the wing right off.  When we landed we had just pulled off the end of the runway onto the perimeter track and the engines died. Our fuel tanks were bone dry!  I also remember a P-38 staying with us as we made our way across France.  This kept German fighters at bay from making an attack on our crippled plane.  (P-38 was either from the 20th FG or 55th FG). The thing I remember the most was that they had to pry Lt Radtke's hands off the Wheel, they were frozen on them!

March 6, 1944:  When we hit briefing that day, we thought we were going to Bremen or a No-Ball since we had been to Berlin on March 4th.  Instead the curtain is pulled back and there it is, "Big B", Berlin again!  Well I just got a terrible feeling in my stomach and the responses in the room reflected that.  That room got pretty quiet really quick.  We listened really intently as if our lives depended on it, and it did!  Our position in formation, good, no "tail end charlie" for us, damn worst position to fly and we had seen our share of it!  Enemy fighter, flak batteries, fighter rendezvous were all laid our for us.  As we headed for the plane, I assisted the Bombardier with pulling the pins out of the bombs while Kerwin got both waist guns out of the engineering shack near their hardstand and installed them in the waist.  Even though I knew Kerwin did a good job installing them, I reinstalled my gun each time just to make sure.  You see, if that gun failed me, it was my life. The moment we stepped into that plane and shut the door, it was all business.  No fooling around or let up.  As a waist gunner, we were standing from the time we took off until we landed. Always on guard for enemy fighters or possible collisions during forming up.     

Start engines and the ROG, BTG, both WG’s and TG were in the Radio compartment sitting against the bulkhead waiting for take off. This allowed the pilot a balanced aircraft at takeoff.  Lt Radtke, our pilot, was respected by every man on the Crew. During training in Rapid City, South Dakota, Lt Radtke made sure every man on the crew had at least 30 minutes at the controls of a B-17.  This allowed him to inspect every station in the air and to see what is was like from our perspective and we could get some flying time in case of emergency. Pretty smart man.

On March 6, 1944 we were flying "Ronnie R" which was named after his newly born son Ronald R. Radtke.   Take-off and assembly went off without a hitch.  We were on our way to Berlin!  It was a beautiful day and I kept scouring the skies for our little friends and enemy fighters.  It had seemed like a long time since I had last seen our fighter protection.  Radtke always kept me informed of the outside temperature, just as he said, it was 60 degrees below zero outside, the first wave of fighters came barreling in head on.  We never knew what hit us in the back of the plane; 20mm shells were exploding everywhere! As one of the FW 190's went by I could see the pilots face, now that’s too close.   There was fire and smoke, communications were shot out, Oxygen was out, One 20mm exploded on top of the ball turret and his position went silent. We could not get to S/Sgt Krusienski , I believe he was KIA instantly.  During the attack I had been hit by shrapnel on the right side of my face and eye, the plane was on fire, control cables shot out, we'd had it!   It was "every man for himself".  T/Sgt Ray, our radio operator went out the bomb bay, along with bomb load which just happened to be jettisoned at the same time.  He told me later, "As I was falling I was shouting for the bombs to "get away from me"!  I could not see the Tail gunner but found our later he made it out but had lost a big toe from enemy fire.  It was time to go, I pulled the release on my flak vest, clipped on my parachute, Sgt Kerwin kicked out the escape hatch and I followed him out. When I landed that I was captured by the German Army.  I was thankful because there had been reports of American fliers being captured by civilians and being lynched or pitch forked to death.  I had my G.I. issued 45 cal. revolver on me just in case. We had been taught to shoot first, killed or be killed. I didn’t plan on surviving a bail out only to end up on the end of a pitch fork!  Instead, I was a guest of the Germans in Stalag Luft IV and Stalag Luft VI.”

I originally trained in B-25's getting them prepared for combat over in the Pacific before being transferred to B-17's.  Something interesting, I was trained in Judo in the Air Corps, one of the last classes to have this as part of training.  With my training in B-25's I could have easily ended up on the Doolittle Raid, but thank God that never happened, those guys had it rough.  I never took a drink while I was overseas, even after those rough missions.  I believe I knocked down at least one fighter but never got credit for it."

*****************************************************************************************************************
S/Sgt Gordon, replacement Gunner on Dec 30, 1943 mission


Ok.
My Dad (S/Sgt Gordon) never mentioned any planes he had worked when he was assinged to a ground Crew.  Sorry.  I am also going to forward 2 more pics. But here is the story from his notes on Dec 30. 1943
 
"I was 19 years of age when I flew my 1st mission with Lt Dean Radtke's crew.  The call came on 12/30/43 for a strike on a chemical plant at Ludwigshaven-Mannheim.  I was assigned right waist gunner.  We were assigned a fairly good spot in the formation and took off for the rendezvous.  As we lifted off, it was noted that a geyser of gasoline appeared to be erupting over our left wing.  This forced us to circle and land.  Someone got a royal chewing out as there was a fuel tank cap missing.  As soon as the fuel cap was replaced, we again departed to rendezvous with the formation.  No fuel had been added.

When we found the formation, we saw our open spot but a supernumerary plane got there first.  This caused us to end up in an open spot...guess where?  Tail end Charlie!  As we headed for the target there was a lot of singing.  I remember singing the "hokey pokey".
From my position, all appeared as expected until we reached the target area.  There was a heavy curtain of flack and the sky was quite black.  The plane was jolting violently and I saw 2 of our planes completely engulfed in flames.  The German planes started to attack.
The sequence was so rapid that things are a blur in my memory.  I remember a FW-190 coming in at about 9 o'clock.  I looked over my shoulder and saw his guns blinking.  He raked our plane from front to back.  I never saw a swastika so big in my life and I felt I could reach out and touch him as his tail passed underneath.  Cannon fire destroyed almost 6 feet of left wing.  A 2 foot hole was blown in 2 engines which began pouring black smoke.  A shell entered the cockpit hitting Co-pilot Lt Robert Digby in the head (decapitating him), killing him instantly, and severely wounding Pilot Lt Dean Radtke.  The exploding shell also destroyed all the instruments in the cockpit.  The plane looked like a sieve.  The ball turret was hit and the rear gunner was wounded by shrapnel.  The radio room was also badly damaged rendering our IFF radio inoperative.

*Radtke was wounded in the face, head and in the neck beside his jugular vein.  One fragment completely closed his right eye, and splinters from the instrument panel were driven into the muscles of his right leg, rendering it useless.  The explosion also ripped the oxygen mask from his face and stunned the engineer Russell Pinner who was hurled against the turret controls.  Upon regaining his senses, Pinner thought first to escape, as he was certain the plane had been blown apart.  Through the smoke, he could see the pilot and co-pilot slumped over the controls.  Blood was splattered over the shell-pitted compartment.  The windows were shattered and broken.  At this time, Radtke regained consciousness and saw Pinner about to leave.  He yelled at him and the engineer returned to his station.  Radtke then called the rest of the crew and reassured them.  Most of the crew were never aware that co-pilot had been killed or that Radtke himself was severely wounded.  Bombardier Lt William Agnetti was called up and moved the co-pilots body to the navigator's compartment, then returned to assist Radtke.  
Due to the loss of one engine and severed control cables, the plane lagged behind the formation.  Radtke was was now confronted with the problem of uncertainty as to his remaining consciousness long enough to bring the ship and crew home.  He made the decision over the inter-phone and attempted to regain position in formation.  With finger useless because of severe cuts, Radtke skillfully used the butts of his hands to manipulate the controls and fought his way back into position.*

We were forced to return home alone because of the damage.  As we reached the coast of England, the fact that our IFF radio was inoperative, caused the British to send up warning anti-aircraft fire.  We sent up red flares, and to the best of my memory, landed at an airfield that was not Station 139.  After a successful landing we taxied to the end of the runway.  Emergency equipment and ambulances removed the dead and wounded.  One of the ground crew later told me that there were several thousand holes in the plane.  Another pilot then boarded the plane to move it from the runway.  The plane wouldn't start.  There was no gas.
 
* These 2 paragraph are from the book "Century Bombers" by Richard LeStrange 
 
 Bill Gordon
2375 Sapphire Circle
West Palm Beach, FL 33411
(561)784-3680 (Home)
(561)676-2393 (Mobile)
wgordon949@msn.com

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

RADTKE, DEAN M.  DSC 
Synopsis:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Dean M. Radtke, First Lieutenant (Air Corps), U.S. Army Air Forces, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a B-17 Heavy Bomber in the 418th Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group (H), EIGHTH Air Force, while participating in a bombing mission on 30 December 1943, against enemy targets in in the European Theater of Operations. On a bombing mission to Ludwigshaven, Lieutenant Radtke's aircraft sustained severe flak damage in the target area. It was then attacked by a pair or FW-190's southwest of Abbeville where a number of 20-mm. shells riddled the left wing and nose. One shell socked through the navigators compartment and struck the copilot in the head and he was decapitated. Shell fragments struck Lieutenant Radtke, wounding him in the face, head, and in the neck next to his jugular vein. One fragment completely closed his right eye and splinters from the instrument panel were driven into the muscles of his right leg, rendering it useless. The explosion also ripped the oxygen mask from his face and stunned the engineer. Upon regaining his senses, the engineer could see the pilot and copilot slumped over the controls. Blood was splattered over the shell-pitted cockpit. The windows were shattered and broken. At this time Lieutenant Radtke regained consciousness and called the rest of the crew and reassured them everything was ok. Most of the crew was unaware of the damage in the cockpit and the loss of the copilot or the injuries he had sustained. Due to the loss of one engine and severed control cables, the plane lagged behind the formation. Lieutenant Radtke made the decision to attempt to regain position in the formation. Failure to do so would result in the damaged aircraft trying to make it back alone over enemy territory with German fighters looking for "stragglers" to pick off. With fingers useless because of severe cuts, he used the butts of his hands to manipulate the controls and fought his way back into position. Upon reaching Thorpe Abbotts, Lieutenant Radtke brought his ship in for a prefect landing. The personal courage and devotion to duty displayed by First Lieutenant Radtke on this occasion have upheld the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.
Headquarters: U.S. Strategic Forces in Europe, General Orders No. 19 (1944)

MEMO 2:

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT INFORMATION:

TARGET: Berlin DATE: 1944-03-06  
AIRCRAFT: "Ronnie R" (42-97491) CAUSE: EAC  

BURIAL INFORMATION

PLOT: ROW:  
GRAVE: CEMETERY:  
ID: 27