The fatal day , Feb 16, 1945

Mission Number: 209
Date: Friday, 16 February 1945
Group Air Commander: Maj. C.A. Lewis
Crews Briefed: 37
Target: Gelsenkirchen
Target Details: Railroad Marshalling yards
05:30 The crew is awoken by the guard. It`s very cold and there is no hot water. They leave by truck to the Combat Mess.
The breakfast consist of eggs, canned ham, bread, butter, and marmalade and of course with coffee and tea.
07:00 When the crew arrived at the briefing room , suddenly the curtain rises on the day`s episode with the usual chorus of Ohs and Ahs.
After the flight routes and the targets are discussed, it is once more communicated, what one must do in case of an emergency.
Today`s target of 8th the Air force are railroad tracks , oil refineries and crossroads.
Then they leave by truck to obtain their equipment. Chuderewicz , co-pilot , takes along the "lunch" and the first aid kits.
The lunch exists from 9 Milky Way`s and some wafers, packed in paper.
Then they go to the weapon room.
When they arrive at the plane the ground staff has already looked after the fuel tanks ( 2498 gallon ).
After thorough check up the men crawl in the "MAID TO ORDER alias HULA GIRL".
Each crew member has a bullet free jacked and a steel helmet to offer protection against the grenade shells.
09:55 Engines turned on , 1042 B-17`s and B-24`s take off from several fly bases. Escorted by 197 P-51 Mustangs to protect them from enemy aircrafts.
10:10 Taxied towards runway 23
10:25 TAKE OFF , with intermissions of 30 seconds the planes take off.
10:54 All planes are airborne, We are shortly climbing at 500 feet a minute heading for "the Kings Cliff buncher" to form up.
From there the course will be set to the Netherlands , altitude 26000 feet.
When the plane reach an altitude of 10000 feet the men need to use oxygen masks.
Target of that day will be the synthetic oil refinery "NORDSTERN" in Gelsenkirchen, 6 miles northeast of Essen.
There are no enemy aircrafts.
Ball Turret Gunner, Wade T. Brunson, leaves the radio room to take place inside the "ball".
Its to dangerous to be in the "ball " during take off and landing.
When they reach the North sea , Togglier James L. Morrison , removes the safety pins from the 12 bombs, each 226 kilograms. Navigator , Morton Greenberg , is reading his maps and makes one calculation after the other.
He passes on these data to the pilot Hansen.
13:40 Target is in reach.

13:42 Morrison looks through his "NORDON" bomb aiming equipment and finds the right target "BOMBS AWAY".
Brunson gives the signal that all bombs are on their way and the bomb doors are closed.
Hansen turns the B-17 180° and set course to northwest to the rally point. The crew members are relieved and on their way home.
But then the flak starts shooting heavily. Morrison sees how 3 B-17 are hit over Gelsenkirchen.
Then suddenly, there is a hard explosion at the right wing, the tip of the wing has been shot away.
The tail gunner , Leroy M. Mc Knight reports of fuel coming out of the engine and Hansen tells Raymond A. Miller to transport the fuel to the left wing.
Everyone starts whoring if they still have enough fuel to cross the North sea.
Then Hansen sees that the right wing is on fire. As soon as possible he leaves the formation not to endanger the other planes.
He changes his course to southeast not to crash in the IJsselmeer.

14:30 Hansen gives the command "BAIL OUT" , 7 men jump out of the plane and seconds later the plane exploded.
But unfortunately , Hansens parachute cough on fire by the burning wreckage and the brave pilot did not survived it.
The remaining 6 are safe but 5 of them are captured by German soldiers and will be in a prison camp until the end of the war.
In the tail of the plane civilians find the body's of Brunson and Del Torto with their parachutes partly open.
Brunson was the only crew member who flew without a parachute because the "ball "was to small.
He had the most solitary and dangerous place in the plane.
The radio operator, Del Torto, was responsible for opening up the "ball". He was trying to help Brunson but it took too long.
That was supposedly the cause that he and Brunson died. But it is a fact that they tried to leave the plane, looking at the particle open parachutes.
They were buried on Feb, 20 in Hardenberg and were reburied on Nov. 9, 1945 at Margraten.

Upon returning from the mission, a number of ships were forced to land at other bases because of battle damage, poor visibility at Deenethorpe or both.

The pilot of one ship reported that he could only fly straight and level, could not find a hole in the clouds and was therefore putting the ship on autopilot and bailing the crew out over England. It was reported at 1845 hours that the ship had crashed near Bardney, Lincolnshire, but that the crew of ten had all bailed out safely.

On the following day (17 February) the Flying Control log noted that at 1515 hours all aircraft from yesterday's mission have returned except:

IY- M 371 Capt. Lozinski M.I.A.
IN- N 862 Lt. Baker at Honeyborne, No. 1 engine out.
IN- C 187 Lt. Donaldson M.I.A.
IY- A 860 Lt. Hanson M.I.A.
IY- O 779 Lt. McKay, crashed in U.K.
IY- F 664 Lt. Jordan, at Catfoss
IY- G 983 Lt. Cracraft, at Lissett, No. 1 en 2 engine out.
IW- C 833 Lt. Brown at Honeybourne, No 2 engine out.
Mission briefing
Aircraft on Mission: 37
Aircraft Lost: 4
Over Continent: 3
Other: 1
Crew Members
1st Lt Ernest Arden ( Ernie ) Hansen Pilot
Flt O Joseph Stephen Chuderewicz Copilot
1st Lt Morton Greenberg Navigator
S/Sgt James Lowry Morrison Togglier
S/Sgt Joseph Vincent Del Torto Radio Operator
T/Sgt Raymond Anthony Miller Engr / Top Turret
S/Sgt Wade T. Brunson Ball Turret Gunner
S/Sgt Leroy Miles Mc Knight Tail Gunner
S/Sgt Alonzo Albert ( Lonnie ) Karcher Waist Gunner

The 401st provided the three squadrons comprising the 94th Combat Wing "B" Group. Bombing was conducted by a combination of PFF (radar), Gee-H (radio beams)and visual when the lead bombardier saw a checkpoint through the heavy haze and contrails. While all three squadrons missed the target MPI, two of the three placed their bombs into an oil plant just short of the assigned target. While no enemy aircraft were encountered, the Group flew through intense and accurate flak at the target. As a result, three 401st aircraft were downed over the Continent and a fourth was abandoned over England upon its return.

The four were as follows:

The ship piloted by captain S. J. Lozinski, No. 44-8371 ("Badland Bat II"), received a direct hit and blew up over the target. Only the bombardier, Lt. H. E. Hughes, survived.

The aircraft piloted by Lt. Ernest A. Hansen, No. 42-97869 ("Maid to Order"), was hit in the right wing, which caught on fire. The crew bailed out over Holland, but three members of the crew, including the pilot, were killed. One crew member, Sgt. R. A. Miller, the Engineer, evaded capture, but the remaining crew members were POW's.

The ship piloted by Lt. Jeff N. Donaldson, No. 43-38187 ("Carrie B III") was hit by flak and lost an engine over the target. Unable to reach Allied-held territory, it landed in the North Sea off the coast of Holland. All members of the crew survived but were taken prisoner.

Finally, the aircraft piloted by Lt. George W. McKay, suffered major flak damage but was able to return to England. However, being unable to land the ship, Lt. McKay engaged the autopilot and ordered his crew to bail out. All crew members survived, and the ship crashed near Barney, Lincolnshire.

What happens to the other crew members.

Raymond Anthony Miller

Engineer Raymond Miller is the only one who was not captured.
He was hidden by Dutch people from the underground until he was "liberated " by Canadian soldiers.

He died Jan. 1983 in the age of 61.

Alonzo Albert ( Lonnie ) Karcher

Waist Gunner Alonzo Karcher was also captured immediately.
And was liberated in June 28th, 1945.

He died Sept. 18 , 1988 in the age of 64.

Ernest Arden Hansen
1922 - 1945

Joseph Stephen Chuderewicz

Co pilot chuderewicz was captured by German soldiers shortly after he landed.
He was interrogated and transported to Stalag Luft 3 (Bavaria) and to " Lang wasser " in Neurenberg,
were he was liberated in June, 1945.

He died , Sept. 29 , 1999 in the age of 77.

Leroy Miles Mc Knight

Tail Gunner Leroy McKnight was also captured shortly after he landed.
And he also was liberated in June, 1945.

He died in Feb., 1974 in the age of 54.

Morton Greenberg

Navigator Greenberg landed right in front of the SD ( sicherheits dienst ) security service.
He was arrested immediately and was also liberated in June, 1945.

He died , Feb. 17, 2003 in the age of 80.

James Lowry Morrison

Togglier James Morrison was captured shortly after he landed.
He was at Stalag 7A ( Munich ) when he was liberated in April, 28th by American soldiers.

He is still alive.

If you have questions, remarks or information , please feel free to Email me
or leave a message in my guestbook

Top Back