COMMENTS & NOTES
1ST LT JAMES R. HADDOX P KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
1ST LT JOHN L. WAGNER CP KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
2ND LT ALBERT C. WARFORD NAV KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
2ND LT ELLSWORTH C. POWER BOM KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN (see note below)
T/SGT CASIMIER J. KOBIS ROG KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
T/SGT NICHOLAS A. TENAGLIA TTE KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
S/SGT GONZALO C. ORTA BTG KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
S/SGT JAMES A. GROSSKOPF RWG POW 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
S/SGT KENDALL L. MORROW LWG KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
SGT LYLE S. JONES TG KIA 11 DEC 43 EMDEN
(Original Tail Gunner was S/Sgt Robert D. Abney) SEE MEMO BELOW
351st Sqdn. Crew, as above, is taken form the MACR. Crew joined the 100th in early September 1943. It is established that Sgt Lyle Jones was a replacement on the mission of 11 Dec 43 to Emeden. Crew flew SUGARFOOT 42-37715 EP-G, The aircraft was a Douglas built "F" model which had battlefield modifications to install a chin turrett.
MEMO: Sgt. Lyle S. Jones would occupy the tail gunners position in place of Sgt. Robert D. Abney, whose hands and legs were frozen when his electrical flying suit failed during the Bordeaux flight. Sgt Abney would later return to flying status as a spare gunner and flew missions with Lt Helmick Crew.
Sec #14 of MACR states: "This A/C was listed as a spare and where or with what group it joined is unknown."
However, a statement by James Grosskopf, the crew's only survivior, reads in effect that they joined the 390th BG and were #3 ship in one element of that group. The ship was damaged, whether from flak or fighters is unknown, and "everyone was out of oxygen." Ship crashed into the North Sea off Norderney Island. Some in cockpit & nose may have bailed out since Gorsskopf saw several chutes in the air before he jumped; but apparently those from the radio room back were unconscious from lack of oxygen.
Grosskpf adds that a Captains Warren and Liefson of the 390th landed on the same island as he and were taken POW with him. The engineer from Capts Warren and Liefson's crew landed in the North Sea and drowned. Grosskopf could not recall his name. Capt Liefson was Sqd Navigator and Capt Warren was group Navigator of the 390th.
A notation in MACR states Lt Albert Warford's body washed ashore 17 Mar 1944.
Lt. Power is often not shown on the Haddox Crew roster -- this is in error, he was an original member of the crew and flew all missions flown by the Haddox crew. The fact he was a original member of the crew is documented by micro-film copies of orders assiging the crew to the 351st Squadron, 100th BG….pw
Read story below of crew and last mission:
The True Story of Ten Brave Men
and a B-17 Flying Fortress
Francis P. McDermott
8 Alpine Road
Norwood, Mass 02062
May 6, 1999
It happened only a week after my eleventh birthday. My grandmother, Nora Kobis, was told that her son Charles was missing in action on a bombing Mission into Germany. The family went crazy. Was it possible that he was still alive? What about the other crewmen? Ten men were on that plane. Someone must know the answers. Telephone calls and letters passed in a steady stream between the families of the crew. Someone said that three parachutes were seen leaving the plane. Despite their repeated attempts, Mom and the others never did learn what really happened to Charlie. The years passed but his memory did not fade. He was my uncle, one of only two that I had on Moms side, both lost in the War. I never did forget Emden; December 11, 1943; Sugarfoot. Many years later, with retirement approaching, I decided to use those few bits of information to get the full story of what happened to my uncle Charlie. This is his story.
It was 2:30AM on the morning of Dec 11, 1943 at Station 139, Thorpe Abbotts Air Base, East Anglia, England. Ground crews were busy getting the B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 100th Air Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, ready for the Mission to Germany later that morning. Each B-17 sat on the airfield in its own parking space called a hardstand. Sugarfoot, the big Boeing four engine bomber at hardstand #2, was being readied for her 6th trip to enemy territory, having previously been to Wilhelmshaven, Germany on Nov. 3rd; Bremen, Germany on Nov. 13th, Rjukan, Norway, on Nov. 16th; Gelsenkirchen, Germany on Nov. 19th and Bordeaux, France on Dec 5th.
As the ground crews toiled to get Sugarfoot and the other B-17s ready for the long trip to enemy territory, the flight crews were being awakened in the Nissan huts located at Site #1, about one mile due South of Sugarfoots location. Sugarfoot would be manned by ten (10) men from the 351st Squadron of the 100th Bomb Group. It was a typically cold morning in December as the officers and enlisted men dressed and headed to the Combat Mess for breakfast. After breakfast, which usually consisted of eggs and plenty of hot coffee, the men quickly moved to the briefing area where they learned that today they would bomb the submarine pens located in the port city of Emden, Germany. This promised to be a fairly easy mission as Emden would be within the range of American P-47 fighter planes, which would protect the big bombers from enemy fighter attack while in the target area. After the briefings the men quickly moved to an adjoining area where flying suits were donned and flight equipment checked. Then they hopped aboard trucks for the ride to the hardstands where the B-17s were parked.
At hardstand #2 Lt. Jim Haddox , Pilot, performed the necessary pre-flight engine and instrument control checks, ably assisted by 1st Lt. John Wagner, Co-pilot. Other crew members went about their duties, including Lt. Albert C. Warford, Navigator, Lt. Ellsworth C. Power, Bombardier/Nosegunner and S/Sgt. Nicholas Tenaglia, Engineer. T/Sgt. C.J. (Charlie) Kobis, Radio Operator, checked communications ensuring that the intercom and radios functioned properly while Sgt. Kendall Morrow and S/Sgt. James Grosskopf, waist gunners, checked their guns and loaded 50 caliber ammunition aboard Sugarfoot. Sgt. Gonzalo Orta, normally the ball turret gunner, would fly as left waist gunner on this flight, trading places with Sgt. Morrow who was the old man on the crew at age 35. Sgt. Lyle S. Jones would occupy the tail gunners position in place of Sgt. Robert D. Abney, whose hands and legs were frozen when his electrical flying suit failed during the Bordeaux flight. The crew members knew each other pretty well by now, having become good friends since coming together as an Air Crew at Walla Walla, Washington, earlier in the year.
Shortly before 0800 hours the ground crews started cranking the massive 4800 horsepower Wright Cyclone engines on the 26 B-17 flying fortresses that would participate in this raid. Sugarfoot was designated as one of five spares that would be used to replace other aircraft should any of those aircraft be required to abort for any reason. The 100th Bomb Group would fly in the high position, above and to the rear of the 390th Bomb Group, which would be the lead Group for this raid. A total of 583 B-17s and B-24s of the 8th Air Force would participate in this attack, the largest group of aircraft ever assembled for a raid on Germany to this date.
At 08:15 hours the first 100th Bomb Group B-17 climbed off the Thorpe Abbotts runway and into the thick overcast that reached to 12,000 feet. Within 30 minutes all 26 bombers were airborne. Everywhere, as far as the eye could see, straining B-17s and B-24s were emerging from the billowing mass into the most beautiful sunlight imaginable, climbing to their assigned assembly altitude and joining their respective Groups. The 100th Bomb Group assembled over their radio beacon, Splasher #6, at 0920, with the five (5) spare aircraft above the Group. At 0932 the 100th Group joined with the 95th and 390th Bomb Groups, the other two elements of the 13th Combat Wing. They were now flying at 12,500 feet. Shortly thereafter, at 0950 and 13,000 ft altitude, the 13th Combat Wing, led by the 390th Bomb Group, met with other elements of the 2nd and 3rd Air Division and proceeded in a Northeasterly direction across the North Sea toward Helgoland. The 13th Combat Wing, led by the 390th Bomb Group, would lead the attack into Emden.
Shortly after forming up at the rendezvous area, a call came over the radio to replace an abort from the 390th Bomb Group. Normally, an abort would be replaced by a spare from its own Bomb Group. However, Lt. Jim Haddox opened the intercom and said to the crew Should we go guys? And the crew all responded Lets go. Haddox throttled up the engines and, upon overtaking the 390th Bomb Group, tucked itself into the #3 position in one of the lead elements.
The trip over the North Sea was uneventful. The weather was perfect but a bit cold at -50 degrees. Flying altitude was 26,000 feet. Crews kept warm in heavy flight clothes and electrical flying suits. Fifty caliber machine guns were checked in short bursts. Between 1024 hours and 1033 hours three of the 100th Bomb Group spares turned back. At the front of the formation, Major Ralph V. Hansel, Strike Leader, sat in the Co-pilots seat in the B-17 called Six Nights In Telergma. Capt Donald Warren, 390th Group Navigator, and Capt Irving Lifson, 390th Squadron Navigator, sat in the nose of Telergma, giving the lead plane of the 390th Bomb Group two Navigators. Field Order #108, outlining the Mission, directed the bombers to feint, flying east almost to Helgoland, before suddenly turning southwest to cut back to Emden, making straight for the target. The object was to fake any German fighters coming up through the clouds into defending the Bremen-Hamburg area further to the East. Escort in the target area would be provided by P-47 Thunderbolts of seven different Fighter Groups, and P-51 Mustangs of the 354th Fighter Group, flying their third mission.
As they flew over the great expanse of the North Sea, Capt Lifson, sitting in the nose of Telergma, realized that the headwinds from the East were stronger than estimated and that the bomber formation , which had a set time to rendezvous with the fighters in the target area, might not make it if they went all the way to the planned turning point. He communicated this to Major Hansel who decided that the fighters might have better winds aloft data than the bombers and might be into the target area on a timely basis. Because of this, Major Hansel turned the bomber formation southwest to Emden earlier than planned. Unfortunately, the fighters were not there when the bomber formation came up on the target area.
As the bombers approached the North Frisian Islands, near the coast of Holland, the German flak batteries began to fire. Within five minutes Sugarfoot took a direct hit on the right side, between the #3 and #4 engines. The hole was big enough to drive a jeep through. High octane aviation fuel poured across the wing toward the radio operators compartment, gravitating along the fuselage into the waist gun opening, on the right side of Sugarfoot, where Sgt. Jim Grosskopf was manning his 50 caliber machine gun. Grosskopf found himself being soaked in high octane aviation fuel! Simultaneously, the 390th Bomb Group was attacked by six twin engine ME-110 fighter planes that dived out of the sun firing rockets and cannons, knocking out the lead ship and three other B-17s. Sugarfoot took a HARD hit in the nose that knocked out communications and caused an oxygen fire, impairing the oxygen supply to some of the crew. The noise was horrendous. Machine guns blasted away at the fighters. Flak burst around the ship. The big Pratt and Whitney engines roared incessantly. Suddenly, before the formation could re-assemble behind the deputy lead fortress, 30 more single engine FW-190 and ME-109 enemy fighters attacked the formation and shot down four more Fortresses.
Grosskopf sensed a possible explosion of the leaking aviation fuel and beckoned to the crew to get out. He threw live 50 caliber ammunition on the ball turret in an attempt to get Sgt. Morrows attention, and at Sgt. Lyle Jones in the tail of Sugarfoot in an attempt to get his attention. He noted C.J. Kobis tapping away messages in the radio room, with his back to the waist section, but with all the noise could not get his attention. He beckoned to Sgt. Orta, left waist gunner, to cmon, cmon, lets go. Sgt. Orta looked at Grosskopf, seemingly ready to go. Time was of the essence. Delaying another moment could cost him his life. Sugarfoot was beginning to lose control. Believing that at least some of his comrades were behind him, he jumped out the excape hatch, counted to ten, then pulled his ripcord.
As he descended slowly toward the North Sea, Sgt. Grosskopf noticed two (2) or maybe three (3) B-17s going down. He also counted about twelve (12) other parachutes and he assumed some of them were his crewmates. He watched with sorrow as Sugarfoot, with its right wing torn away, spiraled in a flat spin into the North Sea between Langeoog and Baltrum, two islands off the coast of Holland. As he descended toward what appeared to be another small island, Sgt. Grosskopf threw his 45 caliber sidearm and survival gear into the North Sea. Miraculously, he landed at the northern tip of Norderney island where he was taken prisoner by a young German soldier who pointed a rifle at him in a menacing way. Grosskopf ended up in a building with two other Americans, Captains Warren and Lifson, both of whom were Navigators aboard Six Nights In Telergma. He was hopeful that some of his crewmates would show up as prisoners of the Germans, but, as fate would have it all nine (9) brave men perished in Sugarfoot, as well as most of the other airmen who parachuted into the North Sea. He remained in German custody for the remainder of the War, being held in an interrogation camp at Stalag Luft 1A then later at Stalag Luft 17B near Krems, Austria. He was liberated in May of 1945 after a march across Austria and part of Germany during the last month or so of the War.
Sgt. Gonzalo Orta and Major Ralph Hansels bodies were recovered from the North Sea the same day by the German rescue ship Hamburg at around 1400 hrs. Sgt. Orta was buried as an unknown in the cemetery at Langeoog, a small island off the Holland coast. He was identified after the war and reinterred in Ardennes Plot L-1-22. He was later returned to his native Texas at the request of his family and is buried there. Lt. Albert Warfords body washed ashore on or about 17 March 1944 and was buried in Langeoog Cemetery. He was later reinterred in Ardennes Plot 0-4-97. No other bodies were ever recovered.
The 8th Air Force lost seventeen (17) Flying Fortresses on that December day in 1943. Of that number, the 390th Bomb Group, the Lead Group in the attack, lost five (5) B-17s with eight (8) others damaged. The 100th Bomb Group, otherwise known as the bloody 100th because of its unusually high losses in the air war over Germany, lost one B-17, Sugarfoot, with no other planes damaged. The various P47 Fighter Groups, arriving in the target area later than expected, accounted for 21 enemy aircraft shot down with a loss of 4 of its own planes. The 354th Fighter Group (P51s) registered no kills of enemy aircraft on that day. Official records state that The fighter cover was late and ineffective.
This story was written by Francis P. McDermott, nephew of Casimier J. (Charlie) Kobis, Sugarfoots Radio Operator. I could not have completed this story without the help of Mr. Jim Grosskopf, the sole survivor of the Sugarfoot crew, and Col. Harry Cruver, former Command Pilot, 351st Squadron Commander and Group Commander; both of whom provided invaluable information during a 100th BG reunion at Salt Lake City, Utah, in October, 1997. Because of their help I have the deep satisfaction of knowing that my uncle, along with the others, died a Heroes death on that winter day in December, 1943. The names and memories of those who died, and whose bodies were never recovered, are forever enshrined on a Tablet of the Missing located at the Netherlands Cemetery in the village of Masstricht, Margraten, Holland.
1. Ian L. Hawkins, B-17s Over Berlin, pg 103
2. 100th Bomb Group Operational Narrative, 11 Dec 43, para 1.
3. Ab. A. Jansen, Air Battle Over The Netherlands
4. Letter from Capt. Irving Lifson to Col. Harry Cruver dated 12/23/94
5. The Story of The 390th Bomb Group, Turner Publishing Co., pg 56
6. 100th Bomb Group Casualty Report, 11 Dec 43, pg 54
7. 100th Bomb Group Operational Narrative, 11 Dec 43, para 5.
ROBERT ABNEY ALSO FLEW SEVERAL MISSIONS WITH THE R.H. HELMICK CREW BELOW: pw
2ND LT RICHARD H. HELMICK P CPT 25 JUL 44 ST. LO,
2ND LT JEROME E. LEIRICH CP CPT 07 JUN 44 NANTES, BRIDGE
2ND LT SOL S. KRANZLER NAV CPT 06 JUN 44 OUISTREHAM, TOWN
2ND LT HERBERT R. GREENBERG BOM POW 28 MAY 44 GERA, CITY & MAGDEBURG, OIL REF (WITH L.G. LACY CREW)
T/SGT GEORGE E. MADDEN TTE CPT 13 JUL 44 MUNICH
T/SGT JOSEPH G. KELLEY ROG CPT 25 JUL 44 25 JUL 44 ST. LO, (TAPS: 05 FEB 1972)
S/SGT HENRY A. MARKOWSKI BTG UNK WOUNDED DECEMBER 1943
S/SGT HENRY W. JOHNSON WG NOC TAPS: NOVEMBER 1989
S/SGT JACK L. SHOPE TG CPT 25 JUL 44 ST. LO, TAPS: 09 NOV 1971
S/SGT CHESTER P. COULAM TOG CPT 27 MAY 44 STRASSBOURG, AERO ENGINES (CREDITED WITH 1 DESTROYED FIGHTER
AND ONE DAMAGED FIGHTER OVER BERLIN ON MARCH 6, 1944)
351ST SQDN.. CREW JOINED THE 100TH ON 01 DEC 1943. OTHERS KNOWN TO HAVE FLOWN WITH THE HELMICK CREW:
Lt Donald S. Davis (Lt Robert Hughes Crew) took Richards Helmick’s crew for nine (9) missions before returning command to Richard H. Helmick. Helmick having upgraded to 1st Pilot while the Hughes crew was stateside.
SGT ROBERT M. MYERS BTG CPT 06 JUN 44 FALAISE, TOWN (FROM QUARTERMASTER SECTION)
SGT ROBERT D. ABNEY TG CPT 01 APR 44 LUDWIGSHAVEN, RUBBER FACTORY (WON DFC) (from Lt Haddox Crew)
S/SGT LOREN G. JOHNSON RWG (SPARE GUNNER, FLEW 8 MISSIONS WITH THIS CREW)
BOTH SHOPE AND COULAM ARE LISTED IN RECORDS AS TGs AND MARKOWSKI MAY HAVE BEEN A WG; HERBERT GREENBURG, NOW KNOW AS GREENE, IS A MEMBER OF THE 100TH BOMG GROUP ASSOCIATION..jb
March 6, 1944" BIG B" BERLIN
CAPT R.H. HELMICK'S B-17G 237936 (ALL AMERICAN GIRL) IS DEPICTED IN THE KEITH FERRIS PAINTING OF THE THREE 1OOTH AICRAFT AT 21000 FEET NEAR HASELEUNNE UNDER ATTACK BY ENEMY FIGHTERS. CAPT HEMLICK'S AIRCRAFT COMPLETED THE MISSION AND RETURNED TO THORPE ABBOTTS. THE OTHER TWO 100TH PLANES WERE FLOWN BY LT G.W. BRANNAN, WHO BECAME A POW AND LT MERRIL RISH, WHO WAS KIA…pw.
Also, re: the Coulam/Willams query -- there is a second Combat Report later on the microfilm which is another claim put in by Sgt Coulam (same mission but different timing and angle of approach, etc). In that second Report they recorded the correct a/c serial number , ie #936 All American Girl. Seems he made two claims that day but for some reason the clerk put the incorrect serial # on the "Destroyed" but the correct # on the "Damaged" claim. At least the right man got the claim. I was concerned that Sgt Williams may have not been properly credited.
MISSIONS FOR LT HELMICK CREW FROM OPS:
Date Crew Nbr Last Name Initial Rank Position Aircraft Nbr Target
1. 3/3/1944 68 122 HELMICK R.H. LT P 31256, KING BEE II BERLIN (RECALL)
2. 3/4/1944 68 123 HELMICK R.H. LT P 31256 KING BEE II BERLIN (RECALL)
3. 3/6/1944 68 124 HELMICK R.H. LT P 37936 ALL AMERICAN GIRL BERLIN
3/7/1944 68 125 HELMICK R.H. LT P 37936 ALL AMERICAN GIRL WERL (SCRUBBED)
4. 3/8/1944 68 126 HELMICK R.H. LT P 31412 MASON AND DIXON BERLIN / ERKNER PLANT
3/13/1944 68 128 HELMICK R.H. LT P 39867 BOEING BELLE NOBALL/ 11 (SCRUBBED)
5. 3/15/1944 68 129 HELMICK R.H. LT P 38047 FEVER BEAVER BRUNSWICK
6. 3/17/1944 68 131 HELMICK R.H. LT P 31412 MASON AND DIXON MUNICH
7. 3/19/1944 68 133 HELMICK R.H. LT P 39983 KATIE MARQUIS, MIMMOYEQUES
8. 3/31/1944 68 139 HELMICK R.H. LT P 31412 MASON AND DIXON LUDWIGSHAFEN/RECALLED
9. 4/1/1944 68 140 HELMICK R.H. LT P 31412 MASON AND DIXON LUDWIGSHAFEN
MISSIONS KNOWN OF S/SGT ABNEY:
Wilhelmshaven, Germany on Nov. 3, 1943 Lt Haddox Crew
Bremen, Germany Nov. 13, 1943 Lt Haddox Crew
Rjukan, Norway, Nov. 16, 1943 Lt Haddox Crew
Gelsenkirchen, Germany Nov. 19, 1943 Lt Haddox Crew
Bordeaux, France Dec 5, 1943 Lt Haddox Crew (SGT ABNEY'S hands and legs were frozen when his electrical flying suit failed )
MISSIONS WITH CAPT. HOWARD KEEL CREW:
14/1/44 NO BALL
13/2/44 NO BALL (ROCKET SITES)
20/2/44 ROSTOCK LISTED IN DIARY (GROUP HIT POSEN THIS DAY, START OF BIG WEEK)
Date Crew Nbr&PILOT Last Name Initial Rank Position Aircraft Nbr Target
3/3/1944 25 CAPT H.E. KEEL P ABNEY R D S/SGT TG 240056 HOLY TERROR III BERLIN (RECALL)
3/8/1944 68 LT R.H. HELMICK P ABNEY R D S/SGT TG 31412 MASON AND DIXON BERLIN / ERKNER PLANT
3/15/1944 25 CAPT H.E. KEEL P ABNEY R D S/SGT TG 297807 LITTLE BUTCH III BRUNSWICK
3/16/1944 64 LT L.G. LACY P ABNEY R D S/SGT TG 31389 LUSCIOUS LUCY AUGSBURG
3/22/1944 67 LT C.W. MYLIUS P ABNEY R.D S/SGT TG 231710 THE SAVAGE ORANIENBURG (BERLIN)
3/23/1944 67 LT C.W. MYLIUS P ABNEY R.D. S/SGT TG 231710 THE SAVAGE BRUNSWICK/ WAGGUM
3/26/1944 69 LT R.J. SHOENS P ABNEY R.D. S/SGT TG 31767 OUR GAL SAL SCHKEUDITZ/JU-88 PLANT
3/27/1944 27 LT R.E. MONRAD P ABNEY R D S/SGT RWG 31389 LUSCIOUS LUCY CHATEAUDUN/ EVREUX
3/31/1944 27 LT R.E. MONRAD P ABNEY R D S/SGT RWG 239983 KATIE LUDWIGSHAFEN /RECALLED
4/1/1944 21 LT G.W. RAKE P ABNEY R.D. S/SGT RWG 31256 KING BEE II LUDWIGSHAFEN
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MESSAGE: my stepfather Robert Abney of the 351st was tail gunner on the sugarfoot. He is alive and well in Redding, Ca. and is mental sharp as a tack. He has many memories and stories of the 100th boom group. I noticed on your websight that you only have profiles listed for pilots. Why? I am only 54 years old but the stories I hear...it seems to me that each mission took the effort of all the crew. I have been trying to find a photo of him other than the one you have in front of their plane. I've asked him about other photos and they have gotten lost over the years. I would like very much to honor him on this websight before the end of his days. He has four purple hearts. Has served in two wars, a member of the "order of purple hearts" locally. Would you consider doing profiles of crew members also? I hope to hear from you soon.
Good Times and Bad with the Bloody Hundredth
Robert Abney, Tail Gunner
The one thing I will always remember is how cold it was. I loved being a tail gunner because I could always see where we had been and know we were heading home. I couldn’t see all the flak we were heading into, but always felt good when I could see all the smoke from the bursts as we left. The tail was a great place to be except for the cold and having to be on your knees for such a long period of time.
One mission I remember well was the Rjukan, Norway mission. At briefing I thought the red ribbon was never going to stop before reaching the target and then back to base. This was only my 5th mission, so it sure seemed like a long way to go. At 19 years old I did not realize how important this mission was; it just seemed like a long way to go to bomb a plant making heavy water!
On my second mission to Bremen, Nov 26, 1943, I remember going to the target and then leaving it only to see two bomb groups turning into each other. I don’t remember how many planes were lost, but I remember the B-17s seemingly going down everywhere: some on fire, other exploding, and other just in flat spins. As we got further away from the collisions, I saw the last of the crippled B-17s disappearing into the clouds.
The cold finally got to me on December 5, 1943, when I froze both my legs and arms to my knees and elbows and had to be hospitalized. While I was still in the hospital, my crew, Lt. Haddox’s crew flying SUGAR FOOT A/C 42-37715, was shot down on the Emden mission.* After returning to flight duty, my next mission was to Munster, Germany. It was Dec. 22, 1943, and I was very nervous. This was my first mission after finding out the fate of my original crew. I did not know this crew, and was not sure I really wanted to go, but we made it without too much trouble and I felt pretty good about flying again.
I was lucky in January 1944, when I was able to join the Howard Keel crew as their tail gunner. I flew most of my missions with this crew. While flying HOLY TERROR III (A/C 240056) we had a few narrow escapes. We were on the second Frankfurt run when flak knocked us out of formation and we had to get home by ourselves. The fighters tried their best to knock us down, but we kept fighting until they decided to leave us alone. We got home; full of holes, but all of us were okay. The HOLY TERROR III crew was very lucky. No one really got hurt badly but, on the other hand, the aircraft was not so lucky. It sometimes looked like a food strainer, full of holes and engines shot out. Additionally, the windows in the tail and bombardier’s compartment were shot out and the top turret was hit and would not work but, all in all, we were lucky. I was very happy when most of the crew finished in the early part of March, 1944, but I was alone again to fly with anyone who needed a tail gunner.
I flew with crews that had a few missions and some that had 10 or 12 missions. It was always scary to be awakened early in the morning to fly with a crew you did not know, but most of the time I got along very well with the crewmen I was flying with. On my 22nd mission, which was 4 March 44 to Berlin, I was flying with a crew that was on their fourth or fifth mission. We were hit pretty bad with flak and lost the #4 engine. We tried to keep up with the formation but couldn’t. We fell back further and further until our group was out of sight. Here we were all alone and trying to make it back to base. As luck would have it the fighters didn’t come after us. They went after other lone bombers. We came across Germany without one single fighter coming after us, but Belgium was another story. We flew over a bunch of anti-aircraft guns and man did we catch the flak, which knocked out our #2 engine. Luck was still with us and we made it with two engines out, full of holes, but no one hurt. It was great to see Thorpe Abbotts, a little late but, as they say, better late than never. This was one mission I was glad to put behind me. Everyone had given up on us and left to go back to the squadron. When they heard the news that we had made it they came back running and cheering us. I was very thankful to have a great pilot, co-pilot, and navigator. It was a little harder to go out on missions after that, but I kept telling myself that we had a job to do and I was part of a team to accomplish this job.
March 23, 1944 was a good and a bad day at the same time for me. I was awakened at around 6 A. M. and told to get my gear together as I was needed for another mission. They had a jeep waiting for me to take me to the flight line. I got to the flight line just in time to get aboard the aircraft as it taxied out. I had to put on my long johns and heated suit, known as blue pajamas, as we taxied out to take off. I did not know any of this crew because they were from a different squadron.
After taking off, I began introducing myself to the crewmembers. I found out this crew was on its 3rd mission and here I was on my 25th. I also learned we were headed for Berlin. I had been to this city before and seemed to remember this was no milk run. We were flying low squadron and low element. Just what I needed was a green crew and low squadron. I put my trust in the pilot and the Good Lord as we went across the channel. All went well across France but, as we started into Germany, we got an escort…a German one! They made a few passes but were chased off by our little friends, the P51s.
We lost a couple of B-17s but continued on to the target. Up came the flak and a lot of it but, as all bomber crews know, you stay straight and level on the bomb run. We were sitting ducks, but on we went, even after losing our #3 engine to flak. None of the crew was hit, but I lost part of the window on my left side, which made it even colder in the tail. After we dropped our bombs we started using evasive action. By half way across Germany we had fallen behind the formation. Fortunately we didn’t get any fighters after us. All we had to fight was the gas consumption. With one engine out, we had a drag, which made us use more fuel. The pilot kept reporting to us on how much fuel we had. As we approached the North Sea he said we did not have enough to make it to Thorpe Abbotts. He left it up to the crew as to what we wanted to do. Some wanted to turn back and bail out while others wanted to try to make it. It was put to a vote, and I was the deciding vote, which was to continue on. We started throwing things out of the plane to make it lighter. The pilot had reported to us that as we left the coast of Belgium, we had one tank on zero, two tanks with 30 gallons and one tank with 40 gallons. The co-pilot kept transferring gas as best he could. Our three engines kept going until we sighted the English coast and we then lost the #2 engine. We kept going on. Two engines and the navigator had led us right to Thorpe Abbotts. We fired red flares and were cleared to land right away. As we neared the end of the runway, the #1 and #4 engines stopped. We had to be towed to our dispersal stand.
Even though this was supposed to be my last mission, it wasn’t. I volunteered to fly another tour and went on to fly two more missions until Captain Kidder, the flight surgeon, grounded me. In the later missions my legs really began to cramp. As the missions got longer, the cramps in my legs got harder.
All in all my stay with the 100th was a great experience. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world but you have to remember that I was 19 years of age and any experience was exciting. I will admit that on a great deal of missions I was scared and wondered if we would get back to Thorpe Abbotts. It seemed that the more missions I flew the more accustomed I got to the flak, fighters, the cold, and the cramped quarters I flew in. This however did not mean that I wasn’t scared and sometimes downright frightened.
I hope this will give someone an insight into my stay with the 100th Bomb Group. This experience was worth a million dollars but I wouldn’t give you a red cent to go through it again. I left a lot of good friends behind and especially the crew of SUGAR FOOT that I trained with in the United States. It was hard losing them and all of the other great guys I met in the 100th. My hair may be gray now but I still have many great memories of the Bloody Hundredth. Good times and bad.
*The Haddox Crew: The entire crew was killed except for one waist gunner, James Grossphof, who spent the rest of the war in Stalag 17.