This B-24 Liberator, 42-51272, “Dear Marion” and crew were assigned to the
706th Squadron of the 446th Bomb Group. On November 30,
1944, they were hit by flak and shot down over Neunkirchen, Germany. On January
30, 1950, two members of the crew were buried in Section E Site 266 of the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
1/Lt John V. Colson – Pilot POW
2/Lt Desmond E. Steele
1/Lt Howard F. Kieffer
2/Lt James T. Champlain Zachary
Taylor National Cemetery
2/Lt Clifford H. Vaughn
Lorraine American Cemetery
T/Sgt Herman R. Moseman Zachary
Taylor National Cemetery
T/Sgt Edward G. Gallagher
S/Sgt Leon C. Nye
S/Sgt Ernest B. Lanier
Lorraine American Cemetery
S/Sgt Joe C. Looney
Sgt Werner E. Hohenstein Lorraine
November 30: Neunkirchen,
The marshalling yards were bombed through solid cloud cover. A plane 42-51272 received a direct flak
hit in it's bomb bay, split in 2, and crashed. The pilot was blown free by the explosion and parachuted safely to the ground
where he was taken prisoner, but the other 10 crewmen were killed. Another unnamed plane (42-51115) was severely damaged by
debris from the explosion of the first. One crewman was killed by the debris, another bailed out but died later. The remaining
8 bailed out and landed safely in Allied occupied territory.
This B-25 and crew were assigned to the 448th Squadron of the 321st Bomb
Group. Two members of the crew were killed on June 13, 1944 after receiving a direct hit of flak on the nose of the plane.
They were buried in Section E 11 at the Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery on December 22, 1948.
1/Lt Henry Olszewski,
1/Lt Rene P. Petit, Bombardier
448th BS War Diary: Mission 272 (394): At 10:18 19 planes
off to bomb Sarraferrato RR/viaduct and dropped 72 x 1000 bombs at 11:33 from 10,000 feet. All
returned at 12:30. Crews
report good concentration, especially heavy on N end and approach. N span believed knocked out. Heavy, moderate and accurate flak from SE of Lake Trasimeno holed 5 planes and 1 PLANE,
pilot Lt. Greene received a direct hit in the nose, killing Bombardier Lt. Petite and the Navigator
Lt. Olszewski and causing the rest of the
crew to bail out over the home base to safety. Heavy traffic along the coast roads.
This B-26 Marauder, 42-95878, “Weary Lera,” and crew were assigned to the
1st Pathfinder Squadron. They were shot down in the Luxembourg area on December 23, 1944. They were buried in Section
E Plot 133 on September 20, 1949 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
1/Lt John R. Berens
Francis J. Boyd
1/Lt Walter P. Garbisch
2/Lt David B. Lantz
S/Sgt Roger J. Roy
S/Sgt Joseph M. Shearon
Herman L. Wolfe
The Garbisch crew was with the 1st Pathfinder Squadron. The 1st Pathfinder Squadron was an independent
unit belonging to no parent Group. Formed in February 1944 from a cadre drawn from 322nd, 323rd, 344th, 386th and 387th
was pathfinder for the 322nd Bomb Group, leading them to their primary target, the Euskirchen Railroad Bridge, Germany
when attacked by German fighters.
July 31, 1944, this B-24 was involved in a crash on take-off with seven crewmembers killed and three surviving. They were
assigned to the 722nd Squadron of the 450th Bomb Group. The crew was
buried on November 18, 1949 in Section E 197 at the Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery.
2/Lt Joseph H. Zeleznock
– Pilot Buried Gettysburg Nat’l Military
John F. Millspaugh, Jr, Copilot
Richard H, Pieters, Bombardier
2/Lt Irwin H. Stockel,
Emery F, Risch, Gunner
S/Sgt Joseph Mazias,
S/Sgt Charles W.
Hermany, Radio Operator
Sgt Bernard P. Steinbruegge
– Gunner Survived
Sgt Edward E. Szymanski
Jr – Gunner Survived
Sgt Melvin Platt
This B-24, 42-51870, was assigned to the 720th Squadron of the
450th Bomb Group. On April 9, 1945, their aircraft was believed to have been hit by a bomb cluster dropped by the
preceding group. Two members of the crew were buried in Section E 220 at the Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery on December
Lt Owen N. Wahl,
Pilot – Buried Ft Snelling Nat’l Cemetery
N. McDonald, Copilot – Unknown burial location
Kunz, Jr, Navigator – Buried in Florence American Cemetery
I. Weseman, Bombardier – Buried in Florence American Cemetery
Sgt Billy B. Maxwell,
Sgt John J, Rogosz,
J. Payden – Unknown burial location
Cpl Michael Keuchel,
Radio Operator – Buried in Florence American Cemetery
Cpl Luther T. Snyder,
Engineer – Unknown burial location
Pfc Charles E. Brown,
Tailgunner – Buried in Florence American Cemetery
Pfc John C. Sanford,
Upper Gunner – Unknown burial location
This B-24, 41-29272, was assigned to the 721st Squadron of the 450th Bomb
Group. They were shot down on April 25, 1944. Six members of the crew were buried
on February 16, 1950 in Section E 276-277 at Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery.
1/Lt Abner D. Hervey, Pilot
Lt. Leslie J. Paul, Copilot - Burial site is unknown
1st Lt. Chester
F. Kingsman, Bombardier - Survived
Lt. Raymond E. Barthelmy, Navigator POW
A Stock - KIA
S/Sgt John O, Brown - KIA
S/Sgt Frank R. Collings - KIA
S/Sgt Stephen Malarik - KIA
S/Sgt Charles T. Wernett KIA – Buried at Zachary Taylor Nat’l
S/Sgt William J. Shergold – Burial site is unknown
S/Sgt Tilman J Thompson - Survived
Tilman J. Thompson
15th AIR FORCE
450TH BOMB GROUP 721ST BOMB SQUADRON
MANDURIA – SOUTHERN ITALY
25 APRIL 1944 – 33RD MISSION
by Tilman J. Thompson
Time – 0400 hrs.
Breakfast & Briefing
Weather – closed in – clouds
Waiting on ACFT, parking area. Flying with a new crew as the old crew disbanded. Pilot, bombardier, crew chief, and
co-pilot killed while landing crippled B-24 (Paper Doll) in pasture. They were attempting to bring plane back to base after
maintenance at other airfield.
Weather clears enough for take-off. We wanted to be grounded for the day because Marlene Dietrich was to perform as
part of USO troupe. Tail gunner Brown, from Iowa, was the only one with cigarettes while we were waiting. We all had one on
The mission was for ball bearing plant in northern Italy. I was flying lower ball turret. After take-off ACFT in formation.
Weather very closed in. Time of flight – 11:44 hrs. Alps & Switzerland in sight. German fighters all around. Formation
spread out in clouds to keep from colliding. Saw lead plane shot down. No chutes visible. Our turn – German ME 109s
(Messerschmitt) coming in form 12 o'clock high. Took out leading edge of wing, cockpit, etc. Came in from sides & tail.
Waist gunner remarked, "This is the end." Waist in flames. Oxygen bottles punctured
and explode. Can't see from the flames. Look for chest chute. Tell others to follow. Plane going down. Find chute. Leave via
waist hatch (lower camera hatch). Altitude approximately 20,000 ft. Don't remember pulling rip cord, as I must have passed
out due to lack of oxygen. Seem suspended in air. Remove glove to see if it drops ahead of me. Look down. See plane on ground
in flames. "Lucked out!" Landed very hard on back. Thought my leg was broken.
My boot was full of blood. I saw two people cutting wood, and I offered them one dollar from escape kit. I asked them, "Where's
Rome?" They pointed south. I asked, "Where and how far?" They didn't respond. No speak English! More scared than I.
Soon saw two people with uniforms and binoculars calling out, "Hey, Joe." I hid under a bush after hiding parachute.
Didn't trust them because I was in German territory. Bad pains. Must trust someone or bleed to death. I waved to them. They
picked me up and carried me down mountain. I tried to escape from them as I was sure they were enemy. Took me to farmhouse.
Very nice lady stripped me and put pail of lard on face. Very badly burned. Washed blood off. Thirty-seven fragment wounds.
Had to leave before daylight as Gestapo were in area. Would eliminate the people I stayed with if they were caught harboring
Allies. I couldn't walk. Provided me with mule. Not too cozy to ride on. Had two 20mm cannon shells – one lodged in
leg, other exited.
After some time, I was taken to party of underground, consisting of English, New Zealanders, South Africans, etc. In
the meantime the navigator was brought in uninjured, but very weak mentally. We had to carry his gear. Moving everyday. Germans
everywhere. Partisans raided the Fascists. Food, wine, etc. Captain in charge Ian McCodell of Johannesburg, South Africa of
tank corps, was captured in Tobruk. Beautiful man, but tough! Pills in escape kit to be used in emergency. Many rough days.
Hardly any food. Italians provided bread and goats milk. Enough to service. So much walking. People in group very nice. Ask
about American girls! 4th of July – sitting in woods. German re-con spotted. We ran like crazy. Watched while
they destroyed our camp, medical supplies, etc. Very mad!
$50.00 in escape kit. Shared it with all the other partisans. Built shelters from the woods. Large enough to lay down
in for protection from rain. Flight suit – full of holes. Cut off legs and sleeves. Partisans gave me a pair of heavy
mountain climbing shoes – ankle length. Steel cleats in soles. Need haircut! Sneaked into village. Ten year old boy
barber. Clothes full of lice. Feel like a monkey picking them out of hair and clothes. No soap or tooth paste. Received blue
slacks and blue shirt. Capt. McCodell nicknamed me "little boy blue." Rumors flying – to be rescued by submarine soon.
5th of May – I wonder how Nanian is doing? See lots of Jerry Aircraft – Stukka dive bomber flew
right over us. Wish I had a cannon! Allied Aircraft, flying south. Soon they will be back at their base – how I wish
I were on board. A pilot and gunner from shot-down B-25 joined us – also Polish officer deserted German Army.
Italian doctor (trained in Brooklyn, NY) brought in to remove shells from thigh. Turning green – very painful.
Had very little medical equipment. No Novocain. Used scissors to enlarge hole to remove shell from leg! Ouch! Prayed to die.
Hurt very much! Forgot a lot that happened.
Very happy to be alive. Thought about home and relatives a lot. Finally had to make a break for Allied lines.
No food. Lots of Germans. Formed formation – single file – hundreds! Made for Florence. German gun position killed
25 in front of line. Everyone panicked. I made it over 20 ft. fence into cornfield. Stayed until daylight. Rained very hard.
I looked awful! Heard Italian ladies talking very loud. Knew they were alone. Took a chance and advanced. Asked if there were
Germans around. They said, "No, come in." Stayed in home while town being shelled by both Germans and Allies. German soldiers
at front door. I went out the back door to olive orchard. They left and I returned to house. I and an 80 year old man slept
upstairs. All women and children were so scared they slept in cellar. Shells landing all over neighborhood. No memory of how
long I stayed at this house. Finally man took me on bike down town through all kinds of military over bridge to Canadian guard.
What a relief. The first thing I knew what to ask for was Lucky Strike.
They had one. Received new uniform. Was transported to Naples by jeep. After arriving in Naples,
hopped an English C47 to Bari than to home base at Manduria. Sqd. Commander Stevens glad to see me. Gave me $20.00 to spend
at PX. Then on to Naples for Boat trip home. Was told there by military, "You're going home." Stayed in Naples for a few days,
waiting for ship transport. Thirteen days on ocean (sick thirteen days). Arrived New York City. Moved to New Jersey for the
debriefing and furlough (approx. 30 days).
Then to Miami Beach. President Madison Hotel for rest and recuperation., While in Miami Beach, met the nose gunner
in Mess Hall. Had not seen him since we left on mission. Had it made there. Train to Eau Claire. Then to North Dakota. How
beautiful that farm looked! Mom and Dad and all glad to see me. My family gave me a Gold Gruen watch. Everyone here so nice.
Had a big party at Kellers! Everybody was there. Also had a party at Coopers "White House"! To Truax Field Madison, Wisconsin. Then to Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois. Worked on flight line. Crew chief on AT6.
Discharged in August 1945, Ft. Sheradan, Ill.
Targets – some of 32 ½
Numerous targets in Northern Italy
Railroad yards – Ball Bearing plants
Ploesti, Rumania – oil refineries (3 trips)
Induction center – Fort Sheridan, Ill. 14 Apr 1942
Basic training – Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Mo
Aircraft maintenance and flight line mechanic AT6 aircraft – Macon, Ga
AC Gunnery School – Panama City, Fla
Target practice – Apalachicola, Fla
Overseas training – Alamogordo, NM
Pickup new ACFT clothing, etc…in Kansas
Overseas takeoff point - West Palm Beach, Fla. Dec. 6, 1943
Puerto Rico, Belem, Brazil, Natal Brazil, Dakar West Africa, Senagal, Marrakech, Morocco to base at Manduria, Italy.