392nd Bomb Group

Target: Heilbronn - 21 January 1945 - Mission #230

After four days of stand downs for weather and low inventory of operational B-24s from the 16th's mission, preparations were made for a mission to the marshalling yards in this key rail-waterway city just north of Stuttgart. Briefings were held between 0415 and 0530 hours for 20 aircrews. After the heavy snow had ceased, take-offs were delayed until 0830 while the runway and perimeter taxiways were re-opened. Five ships were early returnees as the remaining 15 went over the target led by an H2X equipped ship. A total of (202) 500# GP and RDX type bombs were released in the target area with results unobserved. The mission was one of the longer duration flights and 2 aircrews were forced to land on the Continent, low on fuel. These were Lieutenant Byrne's crew from the 578th in #249 who landed at B-63 and, Lieutenant Prater's in ship #079 from the 577th which recovered at A-62. All remaining ships returned to Wendling around 1630 hours having encountered no enemy reaction from fighters or flak.

578th Sqdn pilot 1/Lt J.E. Fox aborted when the #3 propeller ran away, tore loose, and then dropped off. They turned back at St. Quentin at 23,000 feet; bombs were jettisoned.

In an article in the December 1977 issue of the Second Air Division Association News Letter, copilot Robert J. Levin gave an account of the Prater crew's mission on January 21, their first: Heilbronn was deep into southern Germany and old-timers had warned their crew to "nurse the gas and spare the horses." All went well until just before the formation crossed into France. Then, waist gunners Healy and Kegler noticed "a steady bubbling of oil that was blown over the engine, coating the tail a syrupy black." They notified the pilots, who promised to watch the instruments carefully. Five minutes later, tail gunner Deshantz reported that "the oil had covered the tail and was even dripping off the back." Their oil pressure - first sign of engine failure - had dropped 10 points. Engineer Lawrence boosted power on the remaining three engines to keep the plane in formation, although "at a terrific cost of gas."

After bombs away and crossing the Rhine, the gas gauges showed barely enough for two hours flying. When they tried to notify the lead plane that they were going to land in France to refuel, the radio transmitter didn't work. Navigator Pilcher was asked to get a fix to the nearest airfield but reported that his position finder wasn't working either. He directed the pilots to stay on their course and to let down slowly until they broke through the cloud layer.

While the plane slowly dropped through thousands of feet of snowstorm and Pilcher tried to consult his maps and repair his equipment, the flight compass had frozen on a wrong heading and they were in fact flying back into Germany. By the time the error was discovered and they reversed course, Pilcher had no idea where they were. After all, his radio equipment wasn't working, they'd been off course for an unknown amount of time, and no ground checkpoints could be seen through the snow.

Engineer Lawrence came up to the flight deck (rather then use the interphone and alarm the crew) to report that the gas supply would last another 40 minutes - if the gauges were correct. Pilcher advised the pilots to keep above 500 feet in order to clear hills in the area. At 700 feet, they broke through the storm and sure enough there was a bluff just 200 feet below.

During the descent, the cockpit windows had frosted and flying had to be done from the side windows with the help of nose gunner Venuti, who alerted the pilots of obstructions in their path. Levin wrote, "Picture four men flying a plane: Navigator calling out directions, nose gunner calling out altitude and pilots on the controls with our heads out the window praying for a field to appear. With gas levels dropping right along and no large town for reference we alerted the crew for a crash landing. Puss 'N Boots would be flown on the last cupful of gasoline and then set down in the flattest field possible."

Radio operator Kilian tried to use the radio compass to find a landing field but found only heavy static sandwiched between faint station signals. According to Levin, "In desperation, they turned the plane toward the only station indicated on the compass which, oddly enough, was transmitting music and not code. With each reverberation of the engines the melody of a popular song came in clearer and clearer. Quickly quarterbacking, guided by the "fix" taken on the musical notes, we descended below the storm's level.

Call it luck or attribute it to Providence, but like a fairybook ending or a Hollywood climax the most beautiful city imaginable could be seen through the fringe of the storm - Rheims. Along with the city went an airfield complete with hangars, runways and somebody shooting flares. A heaven on earth. No time was wasted in landing. When the brakes were locked the engineer informed us that we had 15 minutes worth of gas sloshing in the tanks. We were down safe, but none too steady. Like the song "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," which had loreleid us to safety, we would stay where we were for the night."


Cpl. Brown, Warren L. 576th Ground Crew KILD

Cpl. Brown was a member of the 576th Armament section. He was driving a bomb service truck and preparing the planes for a mission while working in blackout conditions. The ground was very frosty due to freezing rain. He drove in front of a bomber that was being checked out by a crew chief who was giving a preflight check to the engines. As part of the pre-flight check, the engines were really revved up. There are two explanations for what happened. The first is that the wheel chock skidded on the tarmac because of the icy surface and one of the props struck the driver’s side of the windshield. The other explanation is that the left wheel jumped the chock and the prop struck the windshield of the truck. Regardless of the cause, Cpl. Brown was killed instantly. He was buried at Cambridge American Military Cemetery on 23 January 1945. He is now interred at Quincy National Cemetery, Section B Site 345.



21 Jan 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 916
P Ross, J.E. 2nd Lt.
CP Crane, F.D. 2nd Lt.
N Richner, G.C. F/O
NG Hester, T.G. S/Sgt.
E Albright, H.B. S/Sgt.
R Agnew, T.G. T/Sgt.
RW Brooks, V.B. S/Sgt.
LW Blackburn, W.F. S/Sgt.
BT Arnold, E.R. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 340 (no mission credit)
P Dugger, F.R. 1st Lt.
CP Carey, H.V. 1st Lt.
N Hampton, W.A. F/O
B McInvale, A.L. S/Sgt.
E Jones, J.R. T/Sgt.
R Chenail, G.E. T/Sgt.
RW Gordon, G.P. S/Sgt.
LW Daniels, J. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Cochran, G.D. S/Sgt.
RCM Bartnowski, M.A. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 464
P Harcus, R.W. 2nd Lt.
CP Thompson, J.R. 2nd Lt.
N Adler, M.N. 2nd Lt.
B - -
E Thomas, E. S/Sgt.
R Shanley, J.V. S/Sgt.
RW Spears, D.D. S/Sgt.
LW Marshall, L.C. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Rosenberg, J.E. S/Sgt.
NG Brennan, R.W. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 387 (no mission credit)
P Bell, J.W. 1st Lt.
CP Guegold, R.L. 1st Lt.
N Forbes, D.R. 1st Lt.
B Wilson, H.W. 1st Lt.
E Radzikowski, L.S. T/Sgt.
R Cheshire, W.T. T/Sgt.
RW Noltkamper, A.A. T/Sgt.
LW Zwolinski, V.W. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Geron, H.E. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 302
P Crowell, R.K. 2nd Lt.
CP Berkley, J.B. 2nd Lt.
N Byrnes, W.B. 2nd Lt.
B - -
E Hough, J.F. M/Sgt.
R Waggener, L.R. S/Sgt.
RW Tracy, R.D. S/Sgt.
LW Slechta, M.T. T/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Moffa, A.J. S/Sgt.
NG Colquhoun, R.N. S/Sgt.
S-27 Halpern, H.M. S/Sg
21 Jan 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 901
P Dodson, G.H. 2nd Lt.
CP LeFevre, L.P. 2nd Lt.
N Fletcher, W.J. 2nd Lt.
B Hochard, H.H. Sgt.
E Herrera, D.R. Sgt.
R Green, J.M. Sgt.
RW Allendorf, V.G. Sgt.
LW Peterson, F.H. Sgt.
BT - -
TG Jenkins, C.E. Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 079
P Prater, W.K. 2nd Lt.
CP Levin, R.J. 2nd Lt.
N Pilcher, W.L. 2nd Lt.
B - -
E Lawrence, L.J. Sgt.
R Killian, C.J. Sgt.
RW Healey, J. Sgt.
LW Kegler, S.D. Sgt.
BT Venuti, L.C. Sgt.
TG Deshantz, D. Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 906 (no mission credit)
P Myers, C.E. 2nd Lt.
CP Anderson, K.W. 2nd Lt.
N Warntz, W. F/O
B Zgurich, E.E. 2nd Lt.
E Payton, J.B. S/Sgt.
R Jaklinski, B. S/Sgt.
RW Gillette, R.E. Sgt.
LW Thornton, A.H. Sgt.
BT - -
TG Kirk, G.A. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 380
P Wade, B.L. 2nd Lt.
CP Zeigler, R.H. 2nd Lt.
N Sanders, L.L. Jr. 2nd Lt.
B Somerhalder, W.R. F/O
E Pergande, B.E. Sgt.
R Luniewicz, T.E. Sgt.
RW Jamar, J.L. Jr. Sgt.
LW Kudej, R.W. Sgt.
BT - -
TG Townsend, E.S. Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 808
P Teipel, H.N. 2nd Lt.
CP Karas, M. 2nd Lt.
N Polansky, M.L. 2nd Lt.
B Flory, D.L. 2nd Lt.
E Rabine, V.A. T/Sgt.
R Goodson, E. T/Sgt.
RW Hodoian, J.C. S/Sgt.
LW Conrad, D.E. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG McConnell, H.M. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 118
P Inman, C.E. 1st Lt.
CP Ondrasek, J.G. 2nd Lt.
N Lange, E.A. 2nd Lt.
B Rees, R.R. 2nd Lt.
E Kamholz, E.J. T/Sgt.
R Flake, R.M. Jr. T/Sgt.
RW Evans, H.D. S/Sgt.
LW Finkelstein, B. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Gafin, B. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 240
P Clarke, J.C. 2nd Lt.
CP Mackey, O. 2nd Lt.
N Eaton, C.B. 2nd Lt.
B Lowe, R.C. 2nd Lt.
E Brunett, E.C. T/Sgt.
R Brown, J.T. T/Sgt.
RW Peer, G.R. S/Sgt.
LW Heckman, J.K. 2nd Lt.
BT - -
TG Killea, K.B. S/Sgt.
NG Bunting, J. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 804
P Downs, H.E. 2nd Lt.
CP Bickham, T.E. 2nd Lt.
N McKay, R.P. 2nd Lt.
B - -
E Lim, D.P. S/Sgt.
R Spicketts, J.G. S/Sgt.
RW Crane, T.P. S/Sgt.
LW Cinquina, E.A. S/Sgt.
BT Weatherman, H.W. S/Sgt.
TG Szerdi, A.W. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 313
P Hoover, J.A. 2nd Lt.
CP Douglass, G.E. 2nd Lt.
N Fetter, G.R. F/O
B - -
E Marlowe, J.D. S/Sgt.
R Affinito, L.J. S/Sgt.
RW Janak, E.G. S/Sgt.
LW Gayda, F.M. S/Sgt.
BT Fitzgerald, T.R. S/Sgt.
TG Jones, L.A. S/Sgt.
RCM Williams, O.L. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 636
P Ardinger, J. 1st Lt.
CP Grandmontagne, E.T. 2nd Lt.
N Wagner, H.W. F/O
B Edwards, R.L. 2nd Lt.
E Wiedekehr, R.W. Cpl.
R Huitt, G.E. S/Sgt.
RW Jones, J.K. Sgt.
LW Gorback, B.S. Sgt.
BT - -
TG White, A. Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 249
P Byrne, C.E. 1st Lt.
CP Schmitt, F.J. 2nd Lt.
N Lasker, M. F/O
NG Heilman, R.C. S/Sgt.
E Bennett, L.F. T/Sgt.
R Trapp, M.W. T/Sgt.
RW Libby, J.E. S/Sgt.
LW Wagner, F.E. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Alper, M.A. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 446 (no mission credit)
P Fox, J.E. 1st Lt.
CP Sampley, T.A. 2nd Lt.
N Johnson, M.S. 2nd Lt.
B Robinson, D.T. 2nd Lt.
E Smith, B.F. T/Sgt.
R Tameling, H. T/Sgt.
RW Seever, B.H. S/Sgt.
LW Knephoff, J.J. S/Sgt.
BT Bleickhardt, F.G. S/Sgt.
TG Davis, C.L. S/Sgt.
21 Jan 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 150
CA Keilman, M.H. Maj.
P Niederriter, R.A. Capt.
CP Peters, M.J. 1st Lt.
N Richert, G.W. 2nd Lt.
B McMahon, C.D. 1st Lt.
E Maertens, H.J. T/Sgt.
R Underwood, J.W. T/Sgt.
RW Greenwood, I.G. S/Sgt.
LW Flowers, W.C. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Spurgeon, E.F. S/Sgt.
PN Correnty, R.D. 1st Lt.
MV Dovey, A.J. 1st Lt.
21 Jan 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 519
CA Cassell, H.S. Capt.
P Dawson, H.B. Capt.
CP Fastabend, J.B. 1st Lt.
N Cummings, F.L. 1st Lt.
B Paul, R.M. 1st Lt.
E Carter, W.R. T/Sgt.
R Wilkinson, E.J. T/Sgt.
RW Hanson, T.R. S/Sgt.
LW Lee, S.A. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Ross, R.D. S/Sgt.
MV Barry, W.T. 1st Lt.
PN Whittaker, J.B. Maj.
21 Jan 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 899 (no mission credit)
P McClellan, H.B. 1st Lt.
CP Carleton, D. 1st Lt.
N Havel, E.E. 1st Lt.
B Snoden, C.A. 1st Lt.
E Berger, R.F. T/Sgt.
R Kingston, D.B. T/Sgt.
RW Markle, J.M. S/Sgt.
LW McGinnis, M.C. S/Sgt.
BT - -
TG Manville, F.E. S/Sgt.
MV Fowler, R.T. 2nd Lt.
PN Lipman, B.D. 2nd Lt.