THE HISTORY OF A B-17 BOMBER CREW
G. Duane Vieth
This volume is affectionately dedicated to the
memory of Captain Gerald Brown, U.S. Army Air Force —
** A skilled pilot
** An effective leader
** A true gentleman
THE HISTORY OF A B-17 BOMBER CREW
What follows is a brief history of the
World War I1 B-17 bomber crew led by Captain Gerald
Brown of Los Angeles California.
to the 100th Bomb Group (351st Squadron) of the Eighth
Air Force, and flew missions during the period August
1944 to March 1945.
the East Anglia section of England in Norfolk County
near Diss at a base known as Thorpe Abbotts.
The original crew consisted of:
2d Lt. Gerald Brown, Los Angeles, California —
The crew was assigned
The 100th Bomb Group was located in
2d Lt. Arthur Jacobson, Seattle, Washington —
2d Lt. Ralph Bayer, Aberdeen, Washington —
2d Lt. Joseph Dye, Washington, D.C. —
Sgt. Walter Peters, Chicago, Illinois —
Flight Engineer and Gunner.
Sgt. Gifford D. Vieth, Davenport, Iowa —
Radio Operator and Gunner.
Cpl. Roland Douglas, Peru, Indiana —
Armorer and Ball Gunner.
Cpl. George Vogiatizis, San Francisco,
California — Assistant Radio Operator and Waist Gunner.
Cpl. Wayne Page, Merced, California —
Assistant Engineer and Waist Gunner.
Cpl. Clarence Kellogg, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma —
The Brown crew, which referred to itself as
ttBrownts Clowns,tt was assembled at Ardmore Air Force
Base in Oklahoma in April 1944.
youthful and as a result was the subject of a newspaper
story in a base publication accompanied by a photograph
of the crew.
The crew was relatively
Bombs Away, Ardmore Army Air Force Base
May 27, 1944
On June 28, 1944, the Brown crew was dispatched
from Rearney, Nebraska to England pursuant to the
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The crew ferried a B-17 from Kearney to England,
making the journey with overnight or longer stops in
Manchester, New Hampshire, Goose Bay, Labrador,
Reykjavik, Iceland, and Prestwick, Scotland. On
July 23, 1944 the crew was assigned to the 100th Bomb
The 100th Bomb GrouD
The 100th Bomb Group was described in the
Foreword by Roger Freeman in the book Centurv Bombers as
#’The 100th Bombardment Group, Heavy, is
probably the best known of all the United States
Army Air Forces combat units of the Second World
War, but rather through its sobriquet The Bloody Hundredth than its official designation. Fame
follows close on infamy and that wartime label
for the rumoured ‘hard luck outfit’ of the 8th
Air Force became allied with the image of the
legions of Flying Fortresses fighting their way
through the stratosphere against a determined
enemy. For just as the Spitfire and the Battle
of Britain has come to symbolise the Royal Air
Force in the 1939-45 conflict, so the B-17’~ air
battles tend to be the image which later
generations of Americans bring to mind for their
own nation’s airmen of that war.
* * *
I*… The Hundredthls combat history was
Hundredth was undoubtedly resented by 100th Bomb
Group personnel during hostilities, it has become
an appellation of which veterans are proud,
indicative now of the Hundredthls fighting spirit
many and led a band of English people to turn the
Group’s control tower at Thorpe Abbotts airfield
into a museum recording that wartime experience.’I
Although the name Bloody
A record that has fascinated
– 7′ –
In The Miahtv Eishth, it is said:
“As no news travels like bad news, the 100thts
fortunes were soon known at other bases where the
Thorpe Abbots group was often referred to as a
‘jinx 0utfit.I The course of events was to
change the *ar to !thei and bring a telling
epithet, known beyond the confines of the Eighth
Air Force.Ii (p.78)
The epithet, of course, was ItThe Bloody Hundredthoti
The identification marking of the B- 17s
of the 100th Bomb Group was Square D.
Comoral Georse Voaiatizis
The crew which was assembled at Ardmore and flew
to England included two waist gunners, Wayne Page and
George Vogiatizis (Wogiel’) Upon arrival in England,
the crew was informed that the Eighth Air Force had
ordered a reduction in crew sizes to nine, with only one
waist gunner per crew.
reassigned to the Ninth Air Force, where he flew in
Martin B- 26s. Not long afterward, the Brown crew
received word that Vogie had been shot down while on a
mission with the Ninth Air Force, and he was later
listed as killed in action.
Accordingly, Vogie was
The Brown Crew’s Missions
Mission 1. Auaust 4, 1944 – Hambura, Gerrnanv.
Our first mission was against a synthetic oil production
facility outside Hamburg, Germany. We experienced heavy
thought the name of the plane to which we were assigned
that day was quite appropriate:
The entire crew was nervous and excited and
vlFools Rush In.”
There is more to tell about ttFools Rush In” later
in this history — see the text following the
description of our Mission 21.
– 10 –
Mission 1 – “Fools Rush In”
Mission 2 – “Our Gal Sal”
– 11 –
Mission 2. Ausust 8, 1944 – Normandy.
Tactical mission in support of British and Canadian
troops in Normandy — St. Sylvain near Caen, France.
“Over St. Sylvain on August 8, the
Hundredth, led by Jeffrey and Neal P. Scott, flew
again in support of the ground forces. The
target was the Headquarters for the battalions
forming the nucleus of the enemy’s defense.
“The operation in its larger scope was
designed to aid the attempt of the British and
Canadians to crush the hedge-hog defenses of the
enemy in the Caen sector, which held up a push to
“The R.A.F. was slated to soften up five
targets for an advance, after which the Eighth
Air Force would attack prior to the final breakthrough.’I Contrails, p. 84
This mission convinced Brown’s Clowns that B-17s
were not intended for tactical support missions. We
flew at a low altitude to bomb enemy troop
concentrations. Our altitude was much too low, and our
heavy bombers became sitting duck targets for flak
gunners on the ground.
crew — ‘lour Gal Salt1 — received 38 flak holes and our
The ship flown by Brown’s
navigator, Ralph Bayer, was wounded in the leg.
The mission is described in Century Bombers as
follows (p. 139):
!’The bomb run was thirty-four miles long,
Flak was mostly
just behind enemy lines, and at 14,000 feet. The
formation got terrific flak along entire run, and
hardly a ship escaped damage.
88, anti-tank guns pointed upward.
– 12 –
I@… Flak ‘was reported as the worst the
Group has ever encountered.tii
Nilsson, The Storv of the Century, notes
concerning this mission (pp. 72-73):
“It was smooth flying, ’til the 100th turned to
make the bomb run at 12,000 feet, when German
88’s began rampantly to throw up the flak,
through which the 100th flew for 17 minutes,
possibly the most harrowing flak ever encountered
anywhere by any air force.It
The commanding officer of the 100th Bomb Group, Colonel
Thomas S. Jeffrey, flew with the lead crew on this
mission. Upon his return to the base, the Colonel was
drinking a mug of coffee when another pilot entered the
room. Col. Jeffrey said to the other pilot:
)It.. . , did you ever see such BIG, BLACK,
LOUD, flak in all your life?’ — his hands
trembling slightly as he set down his mug. When
[the other pilot] noticed that, he didnlt feel so
bad, because he was shaking hirnse1f.l’ The Storv
of the Centuw, p. 73.
After this mission our plane Itour Gal Saltt was
repaired, the 38 flak holes sealed, and the plane
managed to finish the war with the 100th Group and was
returned to the U.S. after the war.
– 13 –
Bayer Dye Jacobson
– 14 –
After this second mission, Jerry Brown was
approached by the powers that be to determine if we
would like to be a lead crew.
additional training. But a real incentive was that our
required tour of duty would be reduced from 35 to 30
He discussed it with the
It meant that weld have to undergo some
We unanimously agreed to become a lead crew.
The Mishty Eiqhth describes the early development
of lead crews as follows (p. 76):
llTwo crews formed in each squadron underwent
intensive training for the task of acting as
group or squadron lead crews on combat
missions–and they were only to participate in
combat in this capacity. Further, two aircraft
in each squadron were equipped with every
approved device to aid location and accurate
bombing of a target, and would be flown only as
‘lead ship’ was invariably occupied by an officer
pilot who could advise the pilot on the state of
The rear gunner’s position in a
Accordingly, our becoming a lead crew required a
number of changes. The co-pilot seat on a lead crew is
occupied by a command pilot — usually a different
commander on each mission.
Jacobson, moved to the tail gunner’s compartment. From
there Jake had a view of the formations we were leading
and for which he was responsible.
gunner Clarence Kellogg (“OkieI1) moved to the waist,
once again we had two waist gunners, Okie and Wayne
Our regular co-pilot, Art
Our regular tail
Probably the most significant change was the
requirement that as a lead crew, the Brown crew flew
Pathfinder equipped B-17s.
device (code cover name Mickey Mouse — later shortened
to mickey) which enabled the Eighth Air Force to look
through cloud cover. A Pathfinder-equipped B-17 flew
lead position in a combat formation with the other
bombers in the formation dropping on the lead crew’s
point for following formations.
Pathfinder was a radar
Smoke bombs were used to mark the release
The mickey was located in a dome underneath the
B-17, replacing the ball turret.
was located in the radio compartment along with the
radio operator, and the radioman’s gun was removed. As
a result, our ball gunner Roland Douglas was reassigned
to another crew, and we picked up a new crew member,
Lt. Erwin (Tony) Lentz, the mickey operator.
The mickey operator
Roland Douglas experienced some hair-raising
adventures in his new assignment.
following the discussion of our Mission 21.
See the story on Doug
– 16 –
Pathfinder ship 009
Note radar dome
– 17 –
Lead ship releases smoke bombs
– 18 –
Mission 3. Ausust 11, 1944 – Airfield outside
Paris. We flew Element lead. This was relatively a
milk run after our last mission over Normandy.
airfield in support of the rapid American drive through
France led by General Patton. Our B-17 was named
“Skipper 11.” This plane also survived the war.
Mission 4. Ausust 13, 1944 – Central France.
Bombed retreating German columns. B-17 #295. Element
lead again. According to Centurv Bombers, p. 140:
“On the 13th, the Group was assigned a
‘ground support job’ and attacked the ‘roads and
railroads at Nantes-Gassicourt, south of the
Seine with good results,! a six hour f1ight.I’
Lay-Off for Traininq
As a lead crew, the Brown crew spent many days in
Missions 4 and 5. During this period, on September 1,
1944, the Glenn Miller Air Force band gave a concert at
Thorpe Abbotts, enjoyed by all the crew.
Mission 5. SeDtember 5, 1944 – Stuttsart.
This resulted in a long lay-off between
Genuanv. Bombed an aero-engine factory. B-17 #124.
This was the first mission in which the Brown crew led a
squadron. We were in the air for 9 hours, 20 minutes —
a long time.
“On the 5th, ‘the Hundredth put up three
groups’ and attacked an aero-engine works at
Stuttgart with ‘excellent results’ and ‘everyone
came back, although the flak was heavy and the
battle damage considerable.'” Centurv Bombers,
– 19 –
In mid-September 1944 the Brown crew was assigned
to the 95th Bomb Group at Horham for further training
with the Pathfinder equipment. Jerry Brown noted about
this training period:
“We also were assigned 15 Sept. 44 to the 95th
group for a couple of weeks for lead crew
training. That’s because the 100th did not yet
have the maintenance facilities for the Radar
equipment. Later, they got it and we went home.
While at the 95th we would fly over in the early.
evening to the 100th when we were scheduled for a
mission. They just topped off the tanks and we
were ready to go. Landing with a full bomb load
and fuel load at the 100th was a little tricky.l’
Also during this period, on September 30, 1944,
the 100th Group celebrated its 200th Mission at a
200 Mission Fiesta Party. General Jimmy Doolittle and
Eddie Rickenbacher visited the base during this party.
The party lasted for more than a day — but
“The war called a halt to the festivities,
and the planes took off at 0740 hours on the
morning of October 2 to attack an engine factory
at Kassel.” Contrails, p. 89.
– 20 –
Erwin llTonyll Lentz
– 21 –
Mission 6. October 2, 1944 – Kassel, Germanv.
Our first as a lead crew with Pathfinder. B-17 #183.
Bombed an engine factory and marshalling yards at
———- 0 ———-
While the Brown crew was training at the 95th,
our bombardier Joe Dye was hospitalized, and Bill Titley
was assigned to our crew as bombardier. Titley’s first
mission with the Brown crew was Mission 7. Upon release
from the hospital, Dye was assigned to the Thomas Hughes
crew, and he completed his tour with that crew. Dye was
credited with destroying an enemy fighter on the illfated mission of the 100th Group on December 31, 1944.
Contrails, p. 91.
– 22 –
New Bombardier, Bill Titley
– 23 –
Mission 7. October 15, 1944 – Colocfne, Germany.
Into the heavily defended Ruhr Valley for the first
time. Bombed marshalling yards. B-17 #696.
Mission 8. October 18, 1944 – Kassel, Germanv.
Bombed aero-engine and parts factory; B-17 #009. The
oxygen supply in the cockpit and the nose ran out over
the target. For two hours Page, Lentz, Kellogg, and
Vieth filled portable oxygen tanks and carried them
through the bomb bay to the pilots in the cockpit and
the navigator and bombardier in the nose.
to let down over enemy territory because of lack of
Mission 9. October 22, 1944 – Munster. Germany.
The 100th Group was assigned to the 13th Combat Wing of
the Third Division of the Eighth Air Force.
mission was the first time our crew led the 13th Combat
Wing. B-17 #226. Bombed marshalling yards.
‘I… the Third Division was dispatched to the
marshalling yards at Munster, where twenty-four
of the Hundredth’s planes released their bombs by
radar with ‘good results,’ having met ‘no
fighters and very little flak.”1 Centurv
Bombers, pp. 160-161.
– 24 –
Mission 10. October 27, 1944 – Misburs, Germany.
Mission intended for oil refinery at Misburg.
abominable — front extended up to 31,000 feet. Mission
The Brown crew was a member of the 351st Squadron
of the 100th Group. Our squadron received a
commendation from Third Division headquarters, as
‘I… ‘The 351st Bombardment Squadron (H), is
commended for outstanding performance of duty in
action against the enemy during the period
31 July to 2 November 1944. During this period,
the squadron participated in fifty-two (52)
consecutive missions without the loss of a single
crew or aircraft. On these operations, more than
400 aircraft were dispatched and only eleven (11)
aborted. Eight hundred and forty-three (843)
tons of high explosive and incendiary bombs were
dropped on enemy targets which included Venlo,
Hamburg, Berlin, Ludwigshafen, Bremen, Magdeburg,
Munster, Mersebergt as well as Szolnok, Hungary
and the supply mission to Warsaw, Poland.’
‘!@Although many of the aircraft returned
from these missions with extensive battle damage,
highly efficient maintenance crews expeditiously
repaired the crippled bombers and enabled the
courageous airmen to resume operations in the
shortest possible time. The skill in operations
planning and the courage displayed by the combat
crews in all attacks have not only insured the
high degree of efficiency necessary to establish
this record, but have also resulted in a material
contribution to the successful prosecution of the
war against the enemy.’
– 25 –
‘I’This splendid teamwork, courage and
devotion to duty displayed by the Officers and
Men of the 351st Bombardment Squadron reflect the
highest credit upon themselves and the United
States Army Air Forces.’
IllSigned: N.B. Harbold. Brigadier General,
U.S.A. Chief of Staff.’!’
Unfortunately the Brown crew managed to lose an
aircraft (temporarily) on our next mission.
– 26 –
I_ . ” ~. .” ……. . . … . . . … . __
T Sgt Walter Peters
Flight Engineer and Top Turret Gunner
– 27 –
Mission 11. November 5, 1944 – Ludwisshafen,
Germany. Our flight engineer, Walter Peters, said in
his diary, “Never want another one like this!”
In B-17 #209 we attacked marshalling yards in
Ludwigshafen. Ran into extremely heavy and extremely
Over the target our No. 3 engine was knocked out
by flak. Also our hydraulic system. A short time later
fire broke out in the cockpit. Pete, our flight
engineer, worked hard to extinguish the fire and was
began losing altitude — 100 feet per minute.
engine No. 4 also quit.
engines, both on the same side, Nos. 1 and 2.
We had to leave the formation and
We were then operating on two
Brown knew we could not make it back to England,
so we headed for Brussels, Belgium, which had been
liberated from German hands several days before, and an
airfield outside Brussels.
Capt. Brown made an excellent emergency landing.
We had no brakes because the hydraulic system had been
touching down, but Brown managed to maneuver to a stop
without hitting any of the aircraft which were parked
all over the field.
Our ship ran off the runway immediately upon
– 28 –
Jerry Brown recommended Walter Peters for a
Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts on this
mission. We were all delighted that Pete was awarded
Our crew visited downtown Brussels that night.
The populace were still celebrating their liberation,
and we were treated royally — had a great time.
Enjoyed our first ice cream in a long time.
more than our share of the local liquor.
Several other B- 17s had made emergency landings
at Brussels. The next day we were assigned to one which
had been repaired and ferried it back to Thorpe Abbotts.
– 29 –
Airfield outside Brussels
November 5, 1944
B-17 #209 – Immediately after emergency landing
engines 3 and 4 feathered.
– 30 –
Members of Brown Crew examining shot-up
German bomber at Brussels airfield
November 5, 1944
– 31 –
Mission 12. November 26, 1944 – Ham, Germany.
Bombed marshalling yards using the mickey through the
clouds. Temperature outside the plane mighty cold —
minus 56°F. B-17 #379.
The book The Mishtv Eishth describes a mission
under such extremely cold conditions (p. 101):
“The cold on this mission was intense–as it
had been on most missions of the month–the
temperature at operating height descending
to–50′ Fahrenheit of frost and caused ice
formations nearly two inches thick on windows.
Frost bite struck in a matter of seconds if
gloves were removed, oxygen masks iced and made
breathing difficult and the icy gale sweeping
open gun positions made the rear gunners’ lives
Mission 13. December 2, 1944 – Koblenz, Germany.
Headed for a marshalling yard but had to be recalled
three minutes from the target.
30,000 feet. B-17 #379.
Front extended up to
December 4, 1944 – Friedbera,
prevented our hitting this target.
cookis tour of Germany, looking for a target of
Our briefed target was Giessen, but weather
Group then took a
Finally bombed marshalling yard at
– 32 –
In December 1944, our navigator Ralph Bayer was
reassigned. He was replaced by Leo Kimball, who came to
us from the J.L. Gay crew.
Lt. Ralph Baver
Ralph Bayer was then assigned to the crew of John
Dodrill. Dodrill’s crew was lost on the January 10,
1945 mission to Cologne. According to Centurv Bombers :
“The Hundredth also lost John Dodrill, who
at nineteen, was ‘the youngest first lieutenant
in the Third Division.’
“With ‘one engine out’ on B-17 42-37936, ‘he
flew down through the clouds’ and was never seen
IIAll nine men aboard were killed, including
the co-pilot David Williams, navigator Ralph
Bayer, from the crew of Gerald Brown, and
replacement David Pitman, who flew ‘as a nose
gunner.’ All are memorialized on the Wall of the
Missing at Cambridge.” Centuw Bombers, p. 175.
Mission 15. December 5. 1944 – Berlin. Finally
the !’Big B.” Bombed a tank factory at Tegel, a Berlin
suburb. B-17 #009.
All the missions now are deep into Germany. They
are quite long and we are exposed to enemy fighters.
Pete wrote in his diary: “We were lucky on this one —
P-51s drove off enemy fighters which tried to get to our
– 33 –
formation — saw numerous dog fights in and near target
area.” Vieth diary notes: IlDonIt know what weld do
without those P-51s, P-47s, and P-38s. Canlt give them
enough credit. *I
We were leading a squadron and when the group
leader aborted, we took over the lead of the group.
Capt. Leo Kimball
– 34 –
– 35 –
Mission 16. December 18, 1944 – Mainz, Germany.
100th Group assigned to bomb marshalling yards in Mainz.
Some squadrons got through. But weather was terrible,
and our radar (Pathfinder) equipment failed, so we had
to return with our bombs still aboard. Our plane was
#209, the one we had landed in Brussels with two engines
out on Mission 11.
to our base at Thorpe Abbotts.
It had been repaired and flown back
Christmas Eve 1944
In mid-December 1944 German Field Marshal
von Runstedt initiated the Ardennes counter-offensive,
otherwise known as the Battle of the Bulge.
offensive was achieving significant success.
I’The war which many had thought would be
over by Christmas now looked like enduring for
the grip of winter.
von Rundstedt launched his surprise offensive in
the Ardennes, the last Nazi gamble, aimed at
cutting the Allied front in two and reaching the
Channel. The Germans had also chosen a period of
bad weather when they knew the Allied air support
would be minimised. While von Rundstedt moved,
the airfields in England and France were mostly
shrouded in fog.” The Mishtv Eiahth. D. 183.
‘I1… The German meteorologists had done their
work well and had chosen a week when Allied air
power could not operate.
gave … sixty-mile gap.!
everyone by surprise … p. 168.
The Allied advance had succumbed to
Then on December 16th
The Americans bent and
and the Wehrmacht poured through a
“The enemy ‘caught almost
– 36 –
For a solid week the Eighth Air Force could not
fly, and the Germans were making significant gains.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, December 24, the skies had
sufficiently cleared to enable the Eighth to launch a
maximum effort aimed at relieving the pressure on the
American troops trapped in the Bulge.
“The Field Orders that came chattering out
of the bomber station teletype machines in the
small hours of Christmas Eve 1944 listed an
unusual requirement. A total effort, with every
serviceable B-17 and B-24 participating. The
vast overcast shrouding Western Europe for a week
had begun to lift on December 23rd allowing the
Eighth’s heavy bombers to play some part in the
critical situation that had developed since
von Rundstedt launched his offensive in the
Ardennes. Their aid was of limited scope, as the
damp vapours had only partly cleared, but the
signs were there and weather men predicted clear
skies for the 24th. Eighth Air Force moved to
bring about the maximum bombardment of airfields
from which the Luftwaffe might operate in support
of the Wehrmacht, and places through which
supplies and reinforcements would pass to the
front.” The Miahtv Eiahth, p. 201.
#’All the bomb groups operated and 2,046
B-17’~ and 24’s, including a number of gaily
coloured assembly ships and war weary hacks, were
despatched into ‘the freezing fog.’ Of these
1,884 released 5,052 tons of bombs.
“At Thorpe Abbotts, sixty-two planes and 556
men set out from Runway 10, ‘in the greatest
display of strength since beginning combat
‘!The formations were led by Captain Neal
Scott and Donald Jones … by Captain J. Robinson
[command pilot] and Gerald Brown … by Captain
E. Wooten and Jean DePlanque … by Captain J.
Gibbons and Captain John Ernst … and by Captain
J. Ricker and F. Craft …
– 37 –
“Arthur Juhlin recalls: ‘First day we were
able to fly since the Germans began their big
counter-offensive and everything flyable in the
Eighth was airborne.t8 Centuw Bombers,
“556 men flew against Germany from Thorpe
Abbotts as navigators Lts. E. Wilcox, L. Kimball,
L. Chappell, J. Krepismann, A. Juhlin and F/O
C. Benyunes led the formations. Bombs were
dropped by Lts. E. Lockhart, W. Titley, A. Tong,
C. Svendsen and T. Barrett with excellent results
on the Biblis and Babenhausen airdromes and on
the Kaiserslautern marshalling yards.”
Contrails, pp. 90-91.
Mission 17. December 24, 1944 – Kaiserslautern.
Germany. The Brown crew’s contribution to this massive
Christmas Eve effort was to bomb the marshalling yards
at Kaiserslautern in B-17 #379. We had overrun our
primary target Biblis. Vieth diary notes:
“Finally had our chance to hit back at the German
counter-offensive after six days bad weather.
Quite a thrill to participate in the largest
single air operation of the war — 2000 heavy
bombers of the Eighth Air Force.
airfields and marshalling yards directly behind
the lines. Visual conditions made for excellent
The Brown crew lost one engine to flak over the
target and, as we discovered later, flak had also blown
out our left tire. Eight of our bombs hung up in the
bomb bay. Tony Lentz tried kicking them out but could
only kick out four, so we landed with four. Upon
landing at Thorpe Abbotts, our flat left tire caused our
plane to cartwheel into the mud where the B-17 became
struck with a wing still across the runway.
– 3a –
All of us on the crew jumped out and we were
joined by others on the ground, all attempting to push
our plane out of the way.
diverted to an alternate runway, but shortly later
another plane had a mishap there and it became necessary
to use the runway our B-17 was partially blocking. The
next plane to land on our runway struck the wing of our
plane and almost tore it off. This at least cleared the
runway and the rest of the planes in our group were able
The planes behind us were
WHAT A CHRISTMAS EVE!
– 39 –
A White Christmas
– 40 –
“Winter now had most of Western Europe in an
unusually icy grip. Freezing fog clung to the
East Anglian countryside. Even at mid-day the
sun was unable to diminish its persistence.
films of ice formed on everything, coating the
surfaces of aircraft and building up inside
never been experienced at Eighth Air Force bases
during either of the previous winters and during
this spell the number of take-off accidents rose
December 27th, a 390th Group Fortress rose from
the east-west runway at its base, gained fifty
feet and then started to drop away following the
fall of the countryside to its limit before
plunging into a roadside bank in the centre of
Parham village. The crew perished but despite
the explosion of fuel and some of the bomb load,
the local inhabitants were uninjured, although
every house in the vicinity was blast damaged.
Icing was the suspected cause of this, and many
other crashes that pushed the accident rate to
its highest point, often claiming more victims
than the enemy.
take-off in poor visibility and adverse
conditions, ….*I The Miahtv Eiahth, pp. 202-03.
Mission 18. December 27, 1944 – Fulda. Germany.
Such severe conditions had
At 08.40 hrs on the morning of
Many crashes occurred during
Bombed these important marshalling yards. B-17 #209
again. Flak knocked out our mickey (Pathfinder). But
weather was good so we bombed visually.
released ‘with very good results, I… The Eighth Air
Force is doing its best to throttle supplies for the
#’The bombs were
German salient at every possible point.” Century
Bombers, p. 169.
Mission 19. December 29, 1944 – Frankfurt,
for the first time. B-17 #696. Our bombardier did an
excellent job and we plastered the marshalling yards.
Brown’s crew leads the entire Eighth Air Force
– 41 –
Vieth diary notes:
will end up with a D.F.C. for this fine job.”
“Think the bombardier Willy Titley
Centurv Bombers (p. 170) describes the mission:
‘I… the Group, led by Major John Wallace
[command pilot] and Gerald Brown, set out for
Frankfurt, where at 13.18, the ‘lead bombardiers,
William Titley, Eugene Lockhart and Thomas
Barrett, put the bombs squarely on the
Our bombardier Bill Titley received some welldeserved recognition for this mission. He was
dispatched to London to appear on an Armed Forces radio
interview to be beamed to the folks back home. Our
navigator Leo Kimball also was appropriately recognized,
with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Kimball was now a
lead navigator and was occasionally assigned to another
On these missions, where the Brown crew led the
100th Group — and sometimes the entire Eighth Air
Force — we always had a lead navigator, and sometimes a
squadron or group navigator. Julius Krepismann, the
100th Group navigator, was assigned to our crew on
– 42 –
Bill Titley in his office
– 43 –
Mission 20. December 30, 1944 – Kassel, Germanv.
Bombed marshalling yards at Kassel for the third time.
B-17 #209 again. Extensive cloud cover required bombing
The Germans had developed sophisticated radio
aiming devices for their anti-aircraft guns. We
attempted for the first time to jam these devices by
releasing billows of tinfoil chaff (called window).
“The whole of Thorpe Abbotts was now
Icovered in rime frostv and even with six or
seven blankets on their beds, ‘the men still woke
up freezing co1d.I The latrines *had frozen
solid …. Centuw Bombers, p. 170.
Mission 21. January 3, 1945 – Fulda, Germany.
Used old #209 again to bomb marshalling yards at Fulda.
Bombed through cloud cover using Pathfinder. The Storv
of the Century notes that our crew on this mission
against Fulda included ItBrown, Leo Kimball, navigator,
E.A. Lentz, mickey operator, and W.H. Titley,
bombardier” (p. 95).
– 44 –
After leaving our crew in August 1944, our ball
gunner Roland Douglas was assigned to the Clifton
Williams crew. The 100th Group flew a mission to
Hamburg on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1944, and
suffered some of the worst casualties of the war. !’Of
the 3rd Division bombers lost, ten fell to flak and
fourteen to fighters. Half the Divisional loss was
borne by one unit: the 100th Group.” The Mishtv
Eiahth, p. 204. Twelve B-17s of the 100th Group went
this mission. But Douglas did, with the Williams crew.
The Brown crew luckily did not participate in
Recall that the first mission flown by the Brown
crew (including Doug) was in llFools Rush In.” During
the Hamburg raid on December 31, the Williams crew was
flying in formation just below flFools Rush In.” On the
bomb run, after releasing its bombs, *@Fools Rush In1@ was
hit by flak. The plane nosed down and crashed into the
B-17 being flown by the Williams crew, including Doug.
The Williams plane was cut in two, and both it and
“Fools Rush In” went down in flames.
As tail gunner, Doug was in the severed rear
section of the B-17 as it went down.
out near the ground and landed safely.
by the Germans.
He managed to bail
He was captured
– 45 –
Doug and fellow prisoners of war were placed in
a boxcar and were being moved by train to a prison camp.
Several days later, on January 3, this boxcar was in the
marshalling yards at Fulda, when the 100th Group bombed
those yards (our Mission 21). The guards would not let
the prisoners out of the boxcars, so they dropped to the
floor as bombs landed all over the place. Fortunately
Doug’s boxcar was not hit. Doug was ultimately freed by
Allied troops in May 1945.
– 46 –
Retired now in Peru, Indiana, Roland Douglas, a
351st ball turret and tail gunner, worked for the C&O
Railroad for 40 years and 8 with Amtrak. In 1985, en
route to Myrtle Beach, he boarded a train in Peru and
heard Sam Hurry asking the conductor if he knew of
any 100th Groupers on the train. Since Roland is saving his Splasher Sixes for his grandchildren, with this
picture they will know how Grandpop looked during
Roland Douglas, I 944
This is a note on Doug which appeared
in IISplasher Sixq1 in the Fall 1988 issue.
– 47 –
Mission 22. January 7, 1945 – Colosne, Germany.
Another attack on marshalling yards. Very bad
weather — could not even see the other squadrons in our
group. Bombed using mickey.
Mission 23. January 21, 1945 – Mannheim,
Germany. B-17 #400. Another marshalling yard. Very
bad weather — minus 65°F outside — Vieth diary notes
“almost froze even with the heated suit.”
Centurv Bombers notes that —
“For the next seven days, ‘the weather had a
field day and the ships sat on their tires as
snow, sleet and rain alternated and filled the
static pools, which spread into the roads.
Everything leaked … t
Ill… all the pipes were frozen.
The huts are
‘!’…According to our English friends this was
the worst winter in five years.”‘
Bombers, p. 178.
Mission 24. January 28, 1945 – Duisburs,
Germany. B-17 #379. Bombed a bridge over mine
River — good visibility.
really plastered it again.”
Bombers, the bombs landed just as a train was
crossing — got both the train and the bridge (p. 178).
Vieth diary notes, “Titley
According to Century
– 48 –
Mission 25. Januarv 29, 1945 – Kassel, Germany.
Bombed tank factory. B-17 #379.
‘*At 08.00 the following morning, the
Hundredth, led by Major Cruver [command pilot]
and Captain Gerald Brown, took off from Runway 10
and made its way to Kassel, where at 11.54 and
‘despite the fact that all the radar equipment in
the three lead ships became inoperative,’ the
majority of the planes released their 500 pound
bombs on a tank factory with ‘good results.t
“On their return, ‘the lead navigators Carl
Roesel and Julius Xrepismann noted: ‘Navigation
results do not seem too good …I Later, the
Hundredth was commended as being the only group
in the entire Eighth Air Force to hit the primary
target that day. The report was subject to great
discount. . . Centurv Bombers, p . 179.
Lt. Arthur L. Jacobson
Jake was with the Brown crew from its beginning
at Ardmore, Oklahoma. He was an excellent pilot and
loved flying. The good soldier that he was, Jake went
along with the crew’s decision to become a lead crew
which, as noted previously, meant that he would
thereafter fly missions in the tail gun position
supervising the formations following the lead plane.
Jake flew 25 missions with the Brown crew. On
February 3, 1945 the 100th Bomb Group was assigned to
lead the Third Division on a major raid against Berlin.
The Russians were now 35 miles from Berlin. The Brown
crew was not scheduled for this mission — the 100th
Group lead crew was to be that of pilot John Ernst.
Members of the Brown crew and the Ernst crew had been
– 49 –
friends from the days in Ardmore and had trained
together and flown together throughout their service
with the 100th Group. On February 3 the co-pilot of the
Ernst crew was disabled, and Jake volunteered to fly the
mission with the Ernst crew.
Major Robert Rosenthal, a legend in the 100th Bomb
The command pilot was
Group. The Ernst lead crew was assigned B-17 #379, the
same Pathfinder ship that the Brown crew had flown on
Missions 12, 13, 17, 22, and 24. (#379 had been
repaired after its wing was damaged during the landing
on our Christmas Eve mission, Mission 17.)
The February 3 mission to Berlin is described in
Flvins Fortress (pp. 221-22) as follows:
‘*The flak had proved to be murderously
accurate over Berlin that day–‘a beautiful day,’
as Rosenthal would later recall
course referring only to the clear weather. The
plane shuddered under the impact of the flak and
the air filled with the noises of ripping metal.
No. 1 engine spouted flame, a great white sheet
spilling into the airstream behind the wing; the
fabric-covered aileron shriveled, exposing the
graceful metallic structure. The plane bounced
again under another hit. The pilot, Captain John
Ernst, continued with the run, his eyes darting
toward Rosenthal, who mentally weighed the
possibility of their continuing against the other
possibility of a mid-air explosion before they
it. He was of
“They kept going and bombardier Lieutenant
E. Lockhart zeroed in on the Erkner factory and
the bombs fell from the blazing Fortress; the
rest of the group dropped on the leader. Then
Rosenthal pushed the alarm bell signaling
‘Abandon ship,” and ordered Ernst to supervise
– 50 –
the bail-out. He then informed Lyster that they
were leaving the formation. Another hit set the
bomb bay on fire and the middle of the B-17 was
an uncontrollable mass of flame. In making his
exit Ernst had dropped through the still open
bomb bay. He caught his leg on a jagged edge,
cutting it so badly that it had to be amputated.
@’The B-17 had now descended to about a
thousand feet. Rosenthal, certain that all who
were able had leaped from the plane, put it on
autopilot and, adjusting his chute harness, left
the flight deck. The nearest exit was the
forward emergency door just below and in front of
the pilot’s compartment. Rosenthal squeezed down
toward the door, and as he did saw that a man
still remained in the ship. He would never know
that man’s identity, for he had been
Ten of the men aboard reached the ground
safely — three (including Rosenthal) picked up by the
Russians and the others, including Jake, captured by the
Germans. The book Flvins Fortress indicates that one of
the airmen captured by the Germans was lynched by
civilians, although there is no mention of this fact in
the more recent book Centurv Bombers.
Jake’s description of his ordeal was most
“Feb. 3 – Bailed out at about 25,000 ft. after
several large swigs of pure oxygen. Counted
slowly to 30 and looked down to see I was still
plenty high so remained falling and checked
altitude every few seconds. Saw the ground
approaching rapidly so pulled the chord. Chute
opened and I found myself very close to the
ground and drifting backwards.
before I had time to face forward and then fell
on my back. I had a hell of a time spilling my
chute and then took off the harness.
haystack and started for it.
I spotted a
Hit the dirt when a
– 51 –
few bullets bounced off the ground near me.
Looked around and saw a farmer with a gun about a
4 of a mile away. Every time I raised my head he
would shoot. I then surrendered when he raised
his hand and stopped shooting. I then stood up
with my arms in the air and he walked towards me.
The farmer told me to pick up my chute and told
me to start walking towards his house, about a
4 mile away. Was completely out of wind when I
reached his farm and was then searched for any
weapons. I was allowed to take off my muddy
flying clothes and started to scrape the mud off
my hands and face. The farmer’s whole damn
family soon crowded around me and seemed to be
pleased that I was an American and not a Limey or
Russian. Washed and smoked Jerry’s cigarettes
after being told to put mine back because I only
had two in the pack I pulled out. Drank a couple
of cups of fresh milk. Was then marched to the
nearby village about 3 km away.”
While in custody, Jake ran into Roland Douglas,
who, as noted before, had been captured after bailing
out on the New Year’s Eve mission to Hamburg.
Jake remained in custody until he was liberated
by the 14th Armored Division on April 29, 1945.
Lt. William Titlev
Bill Titley had joined our crew on our seventh
mission — to Cologne on October 15, 1944 — after Joe
Dye had been hospitalized during our days of lead crew
training at the 95th Bomb Group.
had already logged twelve missions, so he completed his
thirty-mission tour of duty on the Brown crew’s
Mission 25 to Kassel.
At the time, Titley
Our bombardier on the Brown
crew’s last five missions was Maj. Don Ventriss, the
– 52 –
Major Don Ventriss
– 53 –
Mission 26. February 17, 1945 – Frankfurt,
Gemanv. B-17 #696. Original target a jet engine plant
but had to divert to the marshalling yards. “During
assembly, ‘the weather had been so bad, that several
planes were obliged to jettison their bombs after the
controls froze up.’1f Centurv Bombers, 183.
Mission 27. February 20, 1945 – Nurnburq,
Germany. Bombed marshalling yards. Brown crew again
led entire Eighth Air Force. Vieth in hospital — crew
had substitute radio operator on this mission.
”On the ZOth, the First and Third Divisions,
were despatched to Nurnburg, where the Hundredth
attacked the station and marshalling yards with
* * *
“‘The target was Pathfinder and the weather
stinko. Got flak at front lines–flak over the
target was light. Flak again as we crossed lines
on the way out.
the way out because of bad weather and everyone
came back alone.
back and split over the Field.
been visual, we would have had it because our
ground speed was 120 R. Flying time 9 hours.
Results good.t11 Centurv Bombers, pp. 183-84.
We lost most of our Squadron on
Stayed on course all the way
If the target had
Mission 28. February 23, 1945 – Treuchtlinsen,
Germany. Marshalling yards again. Vieth still in
hospital. Brown crew led A Squadron with Maj. Ventriss
– 54 –
Iton the 23rd, the heavies set out for the
enemy’s marshalling yards, although several
groups were obliged to look elsewhere.
“The Hundredth, led by Colonel Frederick
Price, [command pilot with the Brown crew]
‘visited Treuchtlingen, where Don Ventriss, the
Group bombardier, who flew with ttAtt squadron,
dropped his load squarely on the rail junction.
A commendation from higher headquarters was
forthcoming.ttt Century Bombers, pp. 184-85.
Walter Peters wrote in his diary: IIBad weather
on base on return — almost collided with another plane
— missed us by twenty-five to fifty feet.”
– 55 –
Brown Crew Near End of Its Tour
Front – L to R – Page, Kellogg, Peters, Titley
Back – L to R – Unidentified Co-pilot/Tail Gunner,
Brown, Lentz, Krepismann, Vieth
– 56 –
Mission 29. March 3, 1945 – Brunswick, Germany.
Once again, Brown crew led the Third Division. Vieth
out of hospital and back with the crew.
attacking German fighters. Vieth diary notes, !’Mostly
the new jet propelled jobs.
Sky was full of
“On the 3rd, Colonel John Wallace, who flew
with Gerald Brown, ‘led the Third Division to
Brunswick,’ where ‘the Group’s attack was
directed against a large motor transport
“The bomber stream was preceded by a chaff
force consisting of six aircraft, led by Jack
Thrasher. Each of ‘these aircraft carried, in
addition to their loads of ten 260 pound
fragmentation bombs, a load of metallized strips
to be tossed from the plane, the purpose of which
was to confound the German radar and flak
operators, diverting their attention from the
main attack … Before bombs away, with no
previous warning, a jet bounced out of the
clouds, and as the bombs were dropping, made a
pass firing heavy calibre shells.
ripped into one wing of Thrasher’s aircraft
(44-8220), setting it afire. The pilot
immediately rang the alarm bell and put the plane
into a dive in an attempt to douse the flames.
His calm voice sought out the men over the
interphone … “All right boys … This is it … Bail out …I1 He then remained at the
controls, trying desperately to keep out of a
spin so his crew could get out … Then the
flaming wing snapped off and an explosion blew
the men clear … I
“The navigator Gerald Rimmel, ‘later
reported that he never saw Thrasher again.”I
Centurv Bombers, pp. 185-86.
good bombing job.
in exactly one month.” Contrails, p. 163.
‘IThe Hundredth returned to the base after a
The lost plane was the first
– 57 –
Mission 30. March 10, 1945 – Dortmund, Germany.
THE LAST ONE.
Bombed marshalling yards at Dortmund.
“The following morning, the Hundredth, led
by Gerald Brown, was assigned the marshalling
yards at Dortmund, which was attacked with ‘fair
“Captain Brown and five of his crew had now
completed their tour, having flown twenty-eight
consecutive leads.” Century Bombers, p. 187.
Five members of the ten-man crew organized in
April 1944 at Ardmore, Oklahoma finished their tour of
duty together. Just as the 100th Bomb Group seemed to
be jinxed, it appeared to be unlucky indeed for a
member of the original Brown crew to fly with another
only Joe Dye, our original bombardier, completed his
tour of duty.
Of the five who did so, four were shot down and
The five original crew members who finished
Flight Engineer Peters
Waist Gunner Page
Waist Gunner Kellogg
Radio Operator Vieth
Jerrv Brown. Jerry was married at the time the
crew was formed. Jerry and Margaret’s home is at 821 S.
La Grange Avenue, Newbury Park, California 91320.
After the war Jerry was employed by the Department of
Defense in a number of capacities until his retirement
in 1975. He and Margaret had two sons, Richard and
Bill, and as of 1982 had two grandchildren. Jerry died
on October 1, 1985.
Walter Peters. Pete and his wife Jean were
married in May 1947. Their home is at 2700 No. Mont
Clare, Chicago, Illinois 60635 (telephone
312/889-8008). After the war, Pete was employed by
General Motors until his retirement. Pete and Jean had
a son Richard and a daughter Laura.
Pete died March 13,
Wayne Paae. Pagie was married after the war and
has three grown children.
ago. He lives at 309 West Caldwell, Visalia, California
93277 (telephone 209/627-5359). He is in the home
furnishing business in Visalia.
He was divorced some years
We have lost all contact with
Okie since our tour ended. His last known address was
Route 9, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
– 59 –
G. Duane Vieth. Known as Bud. Married Jane in
1952 and lives at 3717 Cardiff Road, Chevy Chase,
Maryland 20815 (telephone 301/654-4395; office
202/872-6901). Two sons, Peter and Robert, and a
daughter Jenny; two grandchildren. Lawyer with the
Washington, D.C. law firm of Arnold & Porter since 1949.
———- 0 ———-
The other five members of the original crew:
Arthur Jacobson (shot down Feb. 3, 1945 – POW).
After the war, Jake married Jeannine and their home is
at 2215 East Howe, Seattle, Washington 98112 (telephone
206/323-0179). They have two sons and two daughters.
Jake was in the steel construction business. He was a
successful inventor and held several patents on building
material products. After a long bout with cancer, Jake
died in 1981.
Joseph Dye. Joe was married at the time the crew
was formed in Ardmore.
Court, Parsippany, New Jersey 07054 (telephone
201/887-5023). Joe was employed as an electronics
engineer until his retirement several years ago: he now
is an electronics consultant.
daughters and several grandchildren.
He and Doris live at 2 Argyle
He has a son and two
Ralph Baver. Killed in action.
– 60 –
Roland DouqlaS (shot down Dec. 31, 1944 – POW).
Doug was married after the war and lives at 303 Van
Buren Avenue, Peru, Indiana 46970 (telephone
317/473-9629). He has six grandchildren and several
great grandchildren. He was employed as a conductor on
the C&O and Amtrak for many years and is now retired.
Secretary of Foundation building the Grissom Air Force
Base Heritage Museum.
Georqe Vosiatizis. Killed in action.
Men who joined the crew later:
Erwin (Tony) Lentz. We have lost all contact
with Tony, our mickey operator, since our tour ended.
His hometown at the time of his service was Chicago,
Bill Titley. Bombardier. After the war Bill
married Helen and they live at 242 South Fork Road,
Mountainside, New Jersey 07092 (telephone 201/233-2841).
They have two sons, Mark and William.
Bill was a teacher of social studies in junior high
school, and he is now retired.
For many years
Leo R. Kimball. Lead Navigator. Known in
civilian life as Bob.
at 619 W. Horner Street, Ebensburg, Pennsylvania 15391
Married Mary Louise and they live
– 61 –
(telephone 814/472-8163; office 814/472-7700). They
have nine children and sixteen grandchildren.
a large engineering and architectural consulting firm in
Ebensburg, L. Robert Kinball & Associates.
Julius KreDismann, Group Navigator. According to
IISplasher Sixf1 (Spring 1988), after the war Jules
Itworked as an accountant in New York, taking further
training on the G.I. Bill. In 1948 he and Charlotte
were married. For thirty years he worked for the State
of California but his love was his private practice as a
organize long-term financial programs.1t
He enjoyed helping young families
Jules died in
Don Ventriss, Group Bombardier. According to the
100th Bomb Group Association Roster, Ventriss is
– 62 –
Century Bombers, by Richard Le Strange, assisted
by James R. Brown, published by 100th Bomb Group
Memorial Museum (1989).
The Bloody Hundredth, edited by Horace L. Varian,
published by 100th Bomb Group Association (1979).
The Storv of the Centurv, by John R. Nilsson
Flvins Fortress, by Edward Jablonski, Doubleday &
The Mishtv Eiahth, Roger A. Freeman, Doubleday &
Contrails, MY War Record, John F. Callahan
Letters from Ensland, John Bennett (1945).
Brochure of 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum.
“Splasher Six,” Newsletter of the 100th Bomb
Group Association, Harry H. Crosby, Editor.
Prisoner of War Diary, Lt. Arthur Jacobson
Combat Diary, T. Sgt. Walter R. Peters (1944-45).
Combat Diary, T. Sgt. G. D. Vieth (1944-45).
. *– * * * -.
OF the 3dieve-It-Or-h’ot stories of the war was furnished this
. page by two young Davenporters when they dropped in for a
eat last week *** one was Sergi. Ross Sidney. Jr, a samivor of 109
.days of internment in a German prison camp *** the other was Tech
,.Sergt Bud Vieth, who knows what it means b make 28 bombin(
-missions on a BiIT and live to tell about them **e they were morn mates at 1- rmiversity when the service mU came *** their way
garfed *** thc day before Ross crossed fie channel to France he anc
ars the A2 Medal and tfiree oak
work in the Emopean theater
1 Unit Citation–Pihieh is quite ”* * *