392nd Bomb Group

Target: Schwabisch Hall - 22 March 1945 - Mission #266

This mission would see one of the most regrettable and tragic mishaps which occurred in the closing days of the Group’s combat operations. A Squadron Commander and a Lead crew would be lost as the bombers returned to base, both of whom had long experience in the 392nd. The strike for this day was the jet airfield located on the high plateau just east of the city. At 0530 hours, (30) crews were briefed and all began launch at 0800 hours on schedule. Enroute and target weather were excellent making visual bombing successful. Of the (1366) 100# bombs impacted in the target, (93) percent hit within 2000 feet of the MPI. There were no enemy fighters confronting the formation and flak was negligible. However, as the bombers coasted in and were letting down toward Wendling, an unfortunate accident occurred in the lead ship from the 579th. Captain Grettum’s crew flying lead with Major Barnes, Commander of the 576th, acting as Command Pilot and on his 44th mission of a second tour, had their ship set afire by flares which exploded on the flight deck of the bomber. About (12) miles east of base, a loaded flare gun jostled loose from the ceiling mounting, discharged, and apparently set off a box of pyrotechnic flares located just behind the pilot’s seat. Smoke and fire erupted immediately blinding the pilots and causing the bomber to go into a steep dive from about 2000 foot altitude. Four crewmembers managed to bail out safely, one of whom was Captain Good, the veteran bombardier of the famous Gotha raid. His old crew Navigator from that mission, Captain Swangren, was killed in the crash. Lieutenants Beder and Peters also managed to escape as well as Sergeant Munder. Captain Grettum’s body was found in the crash along with that of Major Barnes. It was believed that Captain Grettum had managed to egress out the side pilot’s window, but was struck by the bomber’s props. On this tragic note, the remaining force landed at base around 1600 hours.


Major Barnes, Leonard J. (P-CA) 576th KIA

Capt Grettum, Robert B. (P) 579th KIA

1/Lt McCormick, John J. (CP) 579th KIA

Capt Swangren, Roy (NMI) (N) 579th KIA

T/Sgt Baker, Morton (NMI) (R/O) 579th KIA

S/Sgt Egler, Martin G. (RW) 579th KIA

S/Sgt Sabolish, George (NMI) (LW) 579th KIA

S/Sgt Chatterton, Gale A. (TG) 579th KIA

This tragic accident occurred as the Group aircraft were descending for landing at Wendling approximately (20) miles west of Great Yarmouth and coming home from a mission to Schwabisch-Hall airfield, Germany, just northeast of Stuttgart. The detail account by surviving crewmen on what actually what took place in this flare gun mis-firing on the flight deck of the Group Leader’s aircraft was given verbatim afterwards, as follows: "INTERROGATION OF CAPTAIN GOOD, LT. BADER, AND 1/SGT. MUNDEN, 23 MARCH 1945, RE: CRASH OF A/C 150, 22 MARCH 1945....a narrative of events compiled from the stories of surviors....alI of whom agreed in all respects...A/C 150 was flying on a westerly heading about 20 miles west of Great Yarmouth at approximately 1540 hours when the fire broke out. To the best of the knowledge of the three crewmembers interrogated the crew was disposed as follows:

Major Barnes in Co-pilot’s seat;

Capt Grettum in Pilot’s seat;

Capt Good on flight deck near Mickey Set;

Capt Swangren at Navigator’s table;

Lt Bader between Pilot and Co-pilot;

Lt McCormick in waist;

T/Sgt Munden in bomb-bay;

T/Sgt Baker; S/Sgt Egler;

S/Sgt Sabolish &S/Sgt Chatterton in the waist.

Capt. Good placed a flare in the flare pistol to be fired as they approached the station. He then turned toward the front to watch the approach. As he turned he heard the pop and saw the flash of a flare behind him. He believes that the pistol fell from its mount and fired as it hit the deck. The flare was a double star flare. Capt. Good saw one unit of it which he tried to extinguish; the other unit apparently fell in the bag of flares on the flight deck igniting most of these simultaneously. In a matter of seconds the flight deck was completely filled with very dense smoke, and flames were burning all over the forward part of the ship.

T/Sgt Munden was standing in the bomb-bay when the first flare went off. He came forward to help extinguish it when the other flares went off. Capt Good yelled to him to get a fire extinguisher. He remembers pushing Capt Swangren out of the way who had in the meantime left the flight deck and was standing in the well immediately behind the flight deck.

T/Sgt Munden tried to get through the flames to get the extinguisher on the flight deck, but he couldn’t make it. He saw the flames were beyond control so he yelled for everybody to get out, and then left himself by the rear bomb bay. Lt. Bader tried, ineffectually, to stamp out the flames and then left by the forward bomb bay.

By the time Capt Good reached the nose compartment, flames were burning along the tunnel and in the nose itself, making it virtually impossible for him to return to the flight deck. He told Lt. Peters to bail out, then got his own chute and bailed out. They both left by the nose-wheel door.

The three men who were interrogated agree that the smoke on the flight deck was so thick that it would have been virtually impossible for the Pilot or Co-pilot to see their instruments. Flames were spreading rapidly; the flares either igniting or burning through everything they touched. None of the three can account for Capt Swangren, who was apparently in position to bail out. Capt Good and Lt. Bader both saw him reaching for his chute. They think that either he was struck by a flare or that he returned to the flight deck to help put out the fire. None of the three know anything of any of the men in the waist, but they believe that they were not aware of the danger until too late.... interrogated by Capt Edwin I. Wood, Assistant Station S-2." (End). (Note: My crew and I were flying in the same Low Squadron being led by Mayor Barnes. Our Gunners and myself saw the Grettum plane slowly drop down and begin to go into a slow left turn as we passed by the stricken aircraft. We saw what appeared to be smoke coming from the open bomb bay doors area, and I observed at the time what was believed to be a fiery smoke trail shooting out of the Co-pilot’s sliding window in the cockpit area. Later, it has been recounted by others that it appeared Captain Grettum and Major Barnes both had tried unsuccessfully to egress the ship through their respective cockpit sliding windows).

There was a fourth crew member who survived this tragic mishap - 1/Lt James L. Peters; he was the Pilotage Navigator and was flying in the nose turret. According to his statement in the Report of Aircraft Accident:

“We had just made landfall and were in the vicinity of Norwich; headed back to the base when I left the nose turret preparatory to returning to the flight deck. As I knelt down to crawl back thru the catwalk, I saw that then appeared to me to be a bright light at the flight deck entrance to the catwalk. As my headset was not plugged in I did not realize that it was a fire until I saw someone open the bomb bays and Captain Good scrambled thru the catwalk up to the nose and told me to bail out. About this time the other end of the catwalk was a mass of flames so I pulled the nose wheel emergency door and left the plane. We were about 2000 feet my chute opened quickly and I made a quick descent and landed easily. I was not injured.”

According to 1/Lt Charles H. Bader’s statement in the Report of Aircraft Accident:

“This accident occurred when the mission was almost completed. We had already returned to England and our position was near Norwich. I was standing between the pilot and co-pilot at the time of the accident. The bombardier had inserted a flare into the gun to be shot off when we sighted the field. The gun shook loose from the mount and exploded on the flight deck igniting other flares which were lying on the flight deck and also those in a bag in back of the pilot’s seat. I kicked as many flares down into the bomb bays as was possible, but the fire spread so rapidly and the smoke was so thick, I could hardly keep my eyes open. Every place a flare hit, another fire resulted. I managed to get down into the bomb bays where the engineer was beating out the fire on his chute. At this time I baled out. At the time I jumped, I had a last look at the flight deck which was in a mass of flames. The smoke was so thick I could not see any other of the crew.”

Engineer T/Sgt Franklin R. Munden made this statement:

“We were returning from the mission and had reached the English coast. Everything was all right. When I started back to the waist, I noticed a flash and turned around in the bomb bay to see what was happening. I seen one flare on the floor burning. Then the flares started bursting all over the flight deck. I started back to the flight deck. By the time I got there, I could not see the pilot’s or co-pilot’s seat. I trued to get up on the flight deck to get the fire extinguisher but the flares bursting made this impossible. I then got my chute, which was also burning, and walked out in the bomb bay to put the fire out. While I was doing this, Lt. Bader jumped. As soon as I had extinguished the fire in my chute, I bailed out.”

Major Barnes was Commander of the 576th Bomb Squadron at the time of this accident. He had flown many successful missions as "CA" (Command Pilot) in many Lead ships of the 392nd and reportedly, this mission was the final one of his second tour of combat missions with the Group. He is buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery at CAMBRIDGE, England in Grave D-3-20. His awards were a Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross with (4) Oak Leaf Clusters, however, no Air Medal or Purple Heart citations are noted for him. He was a native of California. Capt Swangren is also interred at CAMBRIDGE in Grave F-1-125 as is Sgt Baker in Grave F-2-142. Capt Swangren’s awards are noted as the Distinguished Flying Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Sgt Baker’s awards were an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart. Sgt Baker’s home state was New York while Capt Swangren’s was Illinois. S/Sgt Egler is buried in Gettysburg National Military Park, Section 2, Site 458, and Capt Grettum is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery, Section C, Site 652. No information is available on the subsequent interments of the other three men killed in this regrettable accident.

The aircraft was B-24H #42-51150, Call Letter "Bar-U", nickname "I WALK ALONE" on its 42nd combat mission. The crash site was at Whitehouse Farm, Horstead, England.

Both Captain Swangren, Navigator, and Captain Good, Bombardier, had flown as the lead ship Bomb-Nay "team" on McGregor’s crew on the 392nd’s famous Gotha Mission of 24 February 1944 where the coveted distinguished unit citation was awarded the group for Navigation and Bombing Excellence.

after crash 22 Mar 45
Taken three days after the tragic accident in which eight men were killed.
Another photo of #42-51150 after it crashed on 22 March 1945.


22 Mar 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 299
P Proctor, H.E. 2nd Lt.
CP Russell, C.E. 2nd Lt.
N Plagenhoef, S.C. 2nd Lt.
B Wade, T.E. S/Sgt.
R Kerfoot, D.A. Sgt.
E McGrath, C.B. Sgt.
RW Gill, J.B. S/Sgt.
LW Kouzes, G. S/Sgt.
TG Dippel, W.L. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 357
P Smith, K.A. 1st Lt.
CP Perkins, G.A. 2nd Lt.
N Vealey, S.L. F/O
B Dodge, H.F. S/Sgt.
R Carlstrand, R.E. T/Sgt.
E Seyfried, W.J. S/Sgt.
RW Hamment, R.E. S/Sgt.
LW Robertson, D.R. S/Sgt.
TG Cosentino, C. S/Sgt.
RCM Watson, C.B. T/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 545
P Crowell, R.K. 2nd Lt.
CP Berkley, J.B. 2nd Lt.
N Byrnes, W.B. 2nd Lt.
B Colquhoun, R.N. S/Sgt.
R Waggener, L.R. T/Sgt.
E Hough, J.F. M/Sgt.
RW Anastos, G. S/Sgt.
LW Tracy, R.D. S/Sgt.
TG Moffa, A.J. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 991
P Ault, D.E. 2nd Lt.
CP Maloney, J.P. F/O
N Lang, H.A. F/O
B Brown, H.F. Cpl.
R Buglewicz, G.J. Cpl.
E Dehart, R.J. Cpl.
RW Waters, R.D. Cpl.
LW Huffer, J.O. Cpl.
TG Hoffman, R.L. Cpl.
22 Mar 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 709
P Wolak, S. 2nd Lt.
CP Willett, C.E. 2nd Lt.
N Longenecker, J.R. 2nd Lt.
B Kutner, J.M. 2nd Lt.
R Murphy, R.C. T/Sgt.
E Bobish, A. T/Sgt.
RW Ruigh, R.E. S/Sgt.
LW Czop, J.A. S/Sgt.
TG Schick, F.W. S/Sgt.
S-27 Krohn, O.G. T/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 476
P DePalma, F.T. 1st Lt.
CP Austin, G.E. 1st Lt.
N Oppenheim, R. 2nd Lt.
B Margarones, J.J. 2nd Lt.
R Corbosiero, J.L. T/Sgt.
E Betterini, A. T/Sgt.
RW Mowery, H.J. S/Sgt.
LW Bryan, C.F. S/Sgt.
TG Ferdinando, A.P. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 340
P Raczko, W. 2nd Lt.
CP McGill, C.L. 2nd Lt.
N Cline, A.P. F/O
B Holland, J.R. Sgt.
R VanDeven, J.K. T/Sgt.
E Reynolds, J.R. T/Sgt.
RW Parker, R.J. S/Sgt.
LW Kracker, E.A. S/Sgt.
TG Adkins, J.E. S/Sgt.
RCM Hill, T.J. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 770
P Griffin, J.E. 2nd Lt.
CP Cameron, A.S. 2nd Lt.
N Byall, J.R. 2nd Lt.
B Kosek, S.C. Sgt.
R Kirkpatrick, J.T. Sgt.
E Richardson, S.D. S/Sgt.
RW Jordan, F.C. Sgt.
LW Shealy, L.A. Sgt.
TG Dennis, R.W. Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 507
P Weed, O.F. 2nd Lt.
CP Healy, B.P. 2nd Lt.
N Trask, W.V. 2nd Lt.
B Washabau, C.B. 2nd Lt.
R Yoak, E.B. Sgt.
E Gorman, E.J. Sgt.
RW Higgins, R.S. Sgt.
LW Erfurth, R.L. Sgt.
TG Kolodziejski, J.J. Sgt.
TT Laird, J.L. Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 906
P Eyles, E.E. 2nd Lt.
CP Foley, R.T. F/O
N Augustensen, H.R. F/O
B Stutzman, R.J. Sgt.
R Barrett, W.R. Sgt.
E Mattera, A.P. Sgt.
RW Shrum, T.H. Sgt.
LW Carpenger, B.E. Sgt.
TG Wengress, C.P. Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 118
P Grabarkiewicz, L. F/O
CP Phillips, C.E. 2nd Lt.
N Hickson, D. Jr. 1st Lt.
B Axvig, W.E. S/Sgt.
R Quagliano, F.A. T/Sgt.
E Duggan, J.J. T/Sgt.
RW Baker, E.R. S/Sgt.
LW Moskowicz, S. S/Sgt.
TG Bombardier, W.J. T/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 697
P Clower, W.J. 1st Lt.
CP Reel, H.D. 2nd Lt.
N Williams, R.B. 2nd Lt.
B Barger, G.W. 2nd Lt.
R Stroh, J.E. T/Sgt.
E Tomaszewski, E.A. T/Sgt.
RW Schumacher, A.H. S/Sgt.
LW Galvin, G.M. S/Sgt.
TG Hendrickson, R.H. S/Sgt.
S-27 Steffen, N.W. T/Sgt.
NG Venier, A.C. F/O
22 Mar 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 901
P Prater, W.K. 2nd Lt.
CP Levin, R.J. 2nd Lt.
N Pilcher, W.L. 2nd Lt.
B Venuti, L.C. Sgt.
R Killian, C.J. S/Sgt.
E Lawrence, L.J. S/Sgt.
RW Kegler, S.D. Sgt.
LW Healey, J. Sgt.
TG Deshantz, D. S/Sgt.
RCM Williams, O.L. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 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.
R Flake, R.M. Jr. T/Sgt.
E Kamholz, E.J. T/Sgt.
RW Finkelstein, B. S/Sgt.
LW Evans, H.D. S/Sgt.
TG Gafin, B. S/Sgt.
RCM Malone, H.Q. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 838
P McKellar, C.C. 2nd Lt.
CP Owen, J.L. 2nd Lt.
N James, H.P. 2nd Lt.
B Yeary, B.J. Sgt.
R Bova, N.G. Sgt.
E Cole, E.W. Sgt.
RW Hodge, T.H. Sgt.
LW Higbee, W.J. Sgt.
TG Holler, J.G. Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 875
P Dodson, G.H. 2nd Lt.
CP LeFevre, L.P. 2nd Lt.
N Fletcher, W.J. 2nd Lt.
B Hochard, H.H. S/Sgt.
R Green, J.M. S/Sgt.
E Herrera, D.R. S/Sgt.
RW Allendorf, V.G. S/Sgt.
LW Peterson, F.H. S/Sgt.
TG Jenkins, C.E. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 792
P Gridley, J.N. 2nd Lt.
CP Hunt, R.L. 2nd Lt.
N Self, W.H. 2nd Lt.
B Wright, W.M. Sgt.
R Braunhut, J.S. Sgt.
E Segal, D. Sgt.
RW Sudbrock, G.W. Sgt.
LW McCormick, F.C. Sgt.
TG Hall, D.M. Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 493
P Vickers, R.E. 2nd Lt.
CP Schwarzer, D.E. 2nd Lt.
N Roberts, K.E. 2nd Lt.
B Henthorn, W.N. S/Sgt.
R Costanzo, N.T. S/Sgt.
E Krutys, E.V. T/Sgt.
RW Nock, W.H.E. Jr. S/Sgt.
LW Damuth, T.A. S/Sgt.
TG Leinweber, R.L. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 804
P Case, W.D. 2nd Lt.
CP Griffin, R.E. 2nd Lt.
N Gullick, C.H. 2nd Lt.
B McCoy, F.W. S/Sgt.
R Black, C.B. T/Sgt.
E Kidd, J.L. T/Sgt.
RW Chanson, M.C. S/Sgt.
LW Johnson, R.L. S/Sgt.
TG Lutes, M.A. S/Sgt.
RCM Slater, R.E. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 511
P Henning, J.C. 2nd Lt.
CP Moser, F.E. 2nd Lt.
N Humiston, M.R. 2nd Lt.
B Regan, J.H. Sgt.
R Wilkins, R.A. Sgt.
E Regester, R.B. Sgt.
RW Stockard, J.C. Sgt.
LW McLaughlin, E.J. Sgt.
TG Davis, G.L. Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 240
P Clarke, J.C. 1st Lt.
CP Mackey, O. 1st Lt.
N Eaton, C.B. 2nd Lt.
B Lowe, R.C. 2nd Lt.
R Brown, J.T. T/Sgt.
E Brunett, E.C. T/Sgt.
RW Peer, G.R. S/Sgt.
LW Heckman, J.K. S/Sgt.
TG Killea, K.B. S/Sgt.
Larock, J.S. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 477
P Joyce, J.F. 2nd Lt.
CP Bowman, J.A. 2nd Lt.
N McQuade, R.N. F/O
B Andrews, Q.Q. S/Sgt.
R Brown, J.F. T/Sgt.
E Albino, A. T/Sgt.
RW Gorham, R.L. S/Sgt.
LW Kurkomelis, G.C. S/Sgt.
TG Richter, R.H. S/Sgt.
RCM Steurer, G.R. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 772
P Warner, C.W. 2nd Lt.
CP Smith, J.E. 2nd Lt.
N Peppard, J.M. F/O
B Kight, D.A. S/Sgt.
R Hathaway, E.O. S/Sgt.
E McGee, O.W. S/Sgt.
RW Brooks, E.J. S/Sgt.
LW Neel, L.E. S/Sgt.
TG Richmond, T.C. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 249
P Vaden, J.C. 2nd Lt.
CP Tichenor, N.K. 2nd Lt.
N Vrable, E.G. 2nd Lt.
B Smith, C.W. S/Sgt.
R Crockett, J.G. S/Sgt.
E Perry, C.E.O. S/Sgt.
RW Wojtowicz, C.T. Sgt.
LW Wheelwright, C.D. Sgt.
TG Beaton, S.O. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 205
P Ardinger, J. 2nd Lt.
CP Grandmontagne, E.T. 2nd Lt.
N Wagner, H.W. 2nd Lt.
B Lowry, J.O. Jr. S/Sgt.
R Huitt, G.E. T/Sgt.
E Wiedekehr, R.W. T/Sgt.
RW Jones, J.K. S/Sgt.
LW Gorback, B.S. S/Sgt.
TG White, A. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 542
P Adsit, B.D. 2nd Lt.
CP Weber, M. F/O
N Wedgeworth, Q.R. 2nd Lt.
B Timmons, K.L. S/Sgt.
R Close, H.R. S/Sgt.
E McDonald, R.C. S/Sgt.
RW Ritty, P.M. S/Sgt.
LW Anderson, W.G. S/Sgt.
TG Taylor, H.T. S/Sgt.
22 Mar 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 670
P Kerr, D.R. 1st Lt.
CP Fabiani, H.L. 2nd Lt.
N Boettcher, R.E. 1st Lt.
B Copple, R.N. 1st Lt.
R Abraham, L.J. T/Sgt.
E Chelenyak, J.A. T/Sgt.
RW Johnson, E.W. S/Sgt.
LW Richardson, W.C. S/Sgt
TG Harmon, G.E. S/Sgt.
NV Mintz, H.B. 2nd Lt.
PN Slagle, R.B. 2nd Lt.
22 Mar 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 899
P Steck, R.O. 1st Lt.
CP Quinn, E.J. 1st Lt.
N Jost, E.G. 2nd Lt.
B Gross, E.B. 2nd Lt.
R Parker, R.M. T/Sgt.
E Lewis, M.M. T/Sgt.
RW Thompson, W.J. S/Sgt.
LW Jacobson, C.R. S/Sgt.
TG Peters, R.P. S/Sgt.
PN Johnson, F. 2nd Lt.
NV Milrod, M. 1st Lt.
22 Mar 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 145
P Barnes, W.B. 1st Lt.
CP Peters, M.J. 1st Lt.
N Dieruff, R.C. 1st Lt.
B Sparks, R.L. 1st Lt.
R Benson, L.R. T/Sgt.
E Wilson, W.W. T/Sgt.
RW McGuire, E.P. S/Sgt.
LW Braman, J.L. S/Sgt.
TG Harvell, J.E. S/Sgt.
NV Kopecky, R.H. 2nd Lt.
PN Czyzewicz, C.H. 2nd Lt.
22 Mar 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 150
CA Barnes, L.J. Maj. (KIA)
P Grettum, R.B. Capt. (KIA)
CP McCormick, J.J. 1st Lt. (KIA)
N Swangren, R. Capt. (KIA)
B Good, R.E. Capt.
R Baker, M. T/Sgt. (KIA)
E Munden, F.R. T/Sgt.
RW Egler, M.G. S/Sgt. (KIA)
LW Sabolish, G. S/Sgt. (KIA)
TG Chatterton, G.A. S/Sgt. (KIA)
NV Bader, C.H 1st Lt.
NG Peters, J.L. 1st Lt.