This B-24 Liberator, 42-52171,
“Victoria Vixen,” and crew were assigned to the 737th Squadron of the 454th Bomb Group.
The aircraft was lost on June 4, 1944 during a mission to the West Marshalling Yard at Genoa, Italy. On February 15, 1950
the entire crew of “Victoria Vixen” was buried in Section E Site 294-295 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
T/Sgt Blasius, Ward H
S/Sgt Goggin, James R
2/Lt Hart, Meredith
T/Sgt Hawks, Wilbur K
T/Sgt Huff, Raymond E,
S/Sgt Lindsay, Russell W
Capt McKee, William H,
Sgt Rousseau, Richard W
1/Lt Washer, Oscar N Jr
This B-24 Liberator and crew were assigned to the 740th Squadron of the 455th Bomb Group. On
December 20, 1944 the aircraft crashed into a granite cliff in Italy during bad weather and while returning from a mission.
There were no survivors. On December 13, 1949 five crewmembers were buried in Section E Site 229 at the Zachary Taylor National
William J Jr, Capt Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
William, 2/Lt Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Harold A, Flt Off Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Barton G, Flt Off Florence American
Engineer Schulte, Joseph P S/Sgt
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Radio Oper Rausch, Robert L, T/Sgt
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Gunner Nila, Pete, S/Sgt
Sicily-Rome American Cemetery
Gunner Wrigglesworth, Harry N, T/Sgt
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
Walter M, Sgt
Gunner Field, Joseph F S/Sgt
crew were all KIA on 20 December 1944. The aircraft crashed into solid granite about 8 miles north of San Marco, Italy, while
heading toward the Adriatic Sea.
37 B24's took off to bomb the Skoda Works at Pilsen, Germany. Only 27 aircraft dropped
bombs on the target. The Group lost 6 aircraft, 5 were by unexplained causes while 1 was seen to crash into a
mountain. 62 crewmen were MIA.
Seven aircraft returned early, one because
of an oxygen leak, four due to engine trouble, and two because of fuel problems.
One aircraft bombed Klagenfurt as
an alternate because of a late takeoff that prevented it from making contact with the formation.
One aircraft bombed
Regensburg after developing engine trouble before reaching Pilsen.
One aircraft had to salvo its bombs between the
IP and the target due to engine failure.
27 aircraft bombed the Pilsen Skoda Works, Czechoslovakia. By the way, this was actually the first alternate target.
The group bombed Pilsen because the formation was 30 minutes behind schedule for the primary target due to a headwind.
One aircraft landed at the Isle of Vis, which may have been considered as missing. Another aircraft was thought to
be lost, but actually landed at another airfield. The weather over Italy was terrible that day, with a very low ceiling.
Two aircraft almost collided at the airfield as they both broke through the clouds, one attempting to land from the north,
and the other from the south. Their report for December 1944 stated that a total of three aircraft crashed into
the mountains due to weather.
This B-24 Liberator, 42-52286, and crew were assigned to the 747th Squadron of the 456th
Bomb Group. The aircraft was damaged by a fighter and crashed near Rome, Italy on February 17, 1944. On July 20, 1949 two
members of Lt Bessler’s crew were buried in Section E Site 44 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
W. Bessler, Pilot Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
T/Sgt Erwin M Rahe, Radio Operator Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
S/Sgt Joseph L Caruso, Engineer Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
In Memory of
Army Air Force Second Lieutenant
Harry W. Bessler
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
May 19, 1920 - February 17, 1944
in Action over Subiaco, Italy
Harry “Bill” Bessler was born on May 19, 1920, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to
Harry and Mabelle Bessler. Bill worked for his father doing electrical contracting for about one year.
In May of 1939, Harry Bessler enlisted in the army in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before the
Selective Service was implemented. Trained in the Air Corps, Bessler served within the continental United States through December
14, 1943. Harry Bessler married Ava McDonald in Sacramento, California, in August of 1943. On December 15, 1943,
Bessler was shipped overseas to serve our country in Italy.
Second Lieutenant Bessler was the pilot of a B-24 Liberator bomber and took part in a bombing
mission south of Rome. His plane was damaged during the mission and crashed near Subiaco, Italy, which is approximately
thirty miles east of Rome. On February 17, 1944, Second Lieutenant Harry W. Bessler was reported missing in action.
On May 18, 1945, the Adjutant General officially declared Second Lieutenant Harry W. Bessler dead after he’d been missing
in action for over a year. A portion of the Adjutant General’s letter that was sent to Mrs. Harry Bessler’s
wife read as follows:
I regret the necessity for this message but trust that the ending
of a long period of
uncertainty may give at least some small measure of consolation. An appraisal of
made by your husband in the service of his country compels in us
feelings of humility and respect. May Providence
grant a measure of relief from
the anguish and anxiety you have experienced during these many months.
Lt. Bessler’s plane was not found until several years later, and he was still at the controls.
Although Lt. Bessler went down with his plane, most of his crew was able to parachute to safety. Second Lieutenant Harry W.
Bessler will always be remembered and respected for his courage and the sacrifice that he made for his country.
This entry was
respectfully submitted by Brandee J. Soles, Senior, Sioux Falls Christian High School, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, April 5,
2002. Information for this entry was provided by South Dakota Veterans Bonus Records and by E. Warren Bessler, Louisville,
Kentucky, cousin of Harry Bessler.
This B-24 Liberator, 42-99772,
“Fat Joe,” and crew were assigned to the 747th Squadron of the 456th Bomb Group. The plane
was shot down by flak on April 21, 1944 with four of the ten crewmembers parachuting from the stricken plane. However one
crewmember was killed by ground fire before landing. On January 18, 1950 three crewmembers were buried in Section E Plot 243
at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
2/Lt Arthur Malinowski, Copilot
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
2/Lt. Joseph T. Taylor, Navigator Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Bassil Garros, Gunner Zachary Taylor
2/Lt. Earl W. Wallace Jr, Pilot
2/Lt. Wallace O. Tilt, Bombardier
Bailed out, POW was liberated.
T/Sgt John C. Buehler, Flight Engineer
S/Sgt Dennis W. Medenwaldt, Radio Operator
S/Sgt Hugh D. Borden, Gunner Bailed out, POW. Liberated
S/Sgt Eugene Wright, Gunner
S/Sgt Frederick H. Battis, Gunner Bailed out but KIA.
From Fred Riley, the 456th Bomb Group
Association Historian. This is the story of the crew from S/Sgt Dennis Medenwaldt, Radio Operator. :
" In regards to
our last mission on 4/21/44 the following is what occurred to the best of my recollection. We were unable to drop our bombs
on either the primary or secondary targets due to adverse weather conditions. I am not sure but I think our target of last
resort may have been Belgrade. As the radio operator I was manning the hand held 50 caliber machine gun from the right waist
window of the aircraft (B-24).
We experienced a direct
anti aircraft (Flak) hit on our tail and it and the tail gunner just disappeared. We immediately went into a spin. Luckily
I was able to pull my self out of the right waist window.
We had ten (10) crew
members aboard and only four (4) bailed out. They were, bombardier, 2nd Lt. Wallace O. Tilt, radio operator, T/Sgt. Dennis
W. Meldenwaldt, upper turret gunner, S/Sgt. Hugh D. Borden, and ball turret gunner, S/Sgt. Frederick H. Battis. We were being
fired upon by civilians from the ground as we descended in our chutes. Battis was hit in the neck and was dead when he hit
the ground. That left only three (3) survivors of the ten crew members.
The civilians who
captured us were extremely angry at Allied airmen because of all of the bombing they had experienced and I am sure they would
have killed us if a truck load of German soldiers had not arrived and took us from them. As it was they beat us up pretty
Let me tell you briefly
what I recall of our crew that day:
Pilot Wallace was a replacement for our crew's regular pilot, 1st Lt. Phillips,
who for some reason was not flying that day.
Flight engineer, Buehler was a replacement for our regular engineer, T/Sgt
Moran, who was not flying that day.
All of the crew members except for the three who survived after bailing out perished.
will now continue to outline what happened after our capture. We went through the normal couple of days of POW interrogation
by the Germans somewhere in Belgrade. We were then placed on a train, along with two guards.
We had little to eat
but the guards shared some very stale bread and cheese with us. Our destination turned out to be Stalag Luft III located in
lower Silesia, one hundred miles South East of Berlin. We were placed in he West compound of Luft III which was just opened.
This compound eventually contained 2500 American POW's. The entire Stalag Luft III housed over 10,000 from various countries.
The three of us, myself, Borden and Tilt, remained together in Stalag Luft III. We remained there until January 28th, 1945
at which time 10,000 POW's were evacuated. The Russians were approaching and we could hear their Artillery fire. I'm sure
that all 10,000 men will forever remember the tortuous trek that followed in the ever increasing fury of the blizzard and
near zero temperatures, ill fitting packs, blisters, frozen feet, hands and sickness all contributed to the misery of the
There were seemingly
endless hours of marching with occasional rest periods. Six days after leaving Luft III we boarded a train at Spremberg (40
x 8) box cars with our destination being Stalag XIII-D at Nuremberg for a miserable two month period. These two months were
memorable for the large scale Allied Air Raids, lice, bed bugs, fleas and food shortage. The aptly named "Green Death" soup
caused wide spread diarrhea and dysentery. Bites from bed bugs and lice covered every exposed part of the body to include
the nose and eyelids.
The American Seventh
and Third Armies pushing into Western Germany precipitated the Second evacuation by foot from Nuremberg on April 4, 1945.
The weather was spring like so it was a better march. After a 10 day march we arrived at Moosburg, Germany Stalag Luft VIII-A.
Upon arriving we were informed that President Roosevelt had died suddenly the day before. That was a shock to all. We remained
at Moosburg for sixteen days. During that time we remained very cold, filthy and many were ill. But at least we were rid of
the lice, fleas and bed bugs. We knew that he end of our captivity was near unless they moved us again.
We could hear the
artillery fire and in fact shells were whistling over our heads. We remained low to avoid injury. A couple of days before
our liberation American artillery spotting aircraft flew over Stalag VIII-A. On Sunday April 29th as Sunday mass was being
conducted bullets began to whistle through camp amid the chatter of machine guns and rifle fire. Early in the afternoon Mooseburg
fell. General Patton came into camp and was welcomed by thousands of POW's. The POW's were represented by nearly every Allied
country as they had been moved to Mooseburg from camps throughout Germany as Allied forces advanced. We finally got some decent
food and a bath. The white G.I. bread as I recall tasted angel food cake to us.
Most all American
prisoners were taken to "Camp Lucky Strike" in France to be processed. And eighteen days after Liberation we were placed on
ships at LeHavre, France to be returned to the good old U.S.A.
I have never seen Tilt after liberation. Borden and
I still correspond, usually at Xmas time. Both Borden and I eventually made a career in the USAF. I retired as a CMSGT (E9)
and Borden as a SMSGT (E8).
All crew members on A/C 42-99772 except Tilt, Borden and Medenwaldt were killed when the
Three planes returned early due to enemy fighter damage. Sixty five
enemy fighters were encountered, 3 destroyed, 4 probable's and 4 damaged. The Group lost 4 bombers. Lt. Lazewski and Lt. Williams
of the 745th Squadron landed at alternate fields due to fuel shortage. Flak was heavy, moderate and accurate. The bombing
results were nil as no bombs were dropped. Combat flight was 7:30 hours.
This is more information from Fred Riley, the 456th Bomb Group Association historian, about this mission.
On 21 April 1944, it was the Group's 35th mission. The target was Bucharest Romania, marshalling yards (rail yards), Twenty
four bombers were unable to reach the target because of a heavy overcast.
The B-29, 44-61573, Triangle 16, was assigned to the 792nd
Squadron of the 468th Bomb Group. They crashed on June 29, 1945 with no survivors. Everyone on the crew was
buried in Section E 21-22 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery on January 26, 1949.
792nd Squadron; 468th Bomb Group E 21-22
1/Lt Melvin W Morris,
2/LtVernon D. Black,
1/Lt Bernard S Onan,
1/Lt Thomas H. Wells,
2/Lt Ernest L Drew, Flight Engineer
Sgt Charles R. Shuler,
Sgt Francis E Heckler,
Cpl Rixby J. Leblanc,
Cpl George B. Petty,
L, Polacco, Gunner
Pfc Robert F, Ardoline, CFC
I6, 468th BG, 792 Sq, MACR 14691, Morris Crew, Crashed in Miyaura, Koura Village, Kojima County, Okayama Prefecture. 11 KIA.
Some reports say the plane had engine trouble while on the way to the Okayama bombing raid.
The B-29, 42-6238, and crew were assigned to the 792nd Squadron
of the 468th Bomb Group. On October 1, 1944 aircraft 42-6238, piloted by Captain Winkler, crashed on a routine
cargo mission to the Advance Base at Chengdu, China. Two airmen were buried July
21, 1949 in Section E 74 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
Eddie Winkler – Aircraft Commander
1st Lt. Robert Purvis – Copilot Zachary
Taylor National Cemetery
2nd Lt. John
Geene – Flight Engineer
Earl Thompson - Navigator
John Matthews – Passenger Zachary
Taylor National Cemetery
Maxwell – Passenger Honolulu Memorial Cemetery
T/Sgt. Jack Raymond – Radio Operator
T/Sgt. Ward Clark – Crew
Eyerman – Crew Honolulu Memorial
Spillers, Jr. – Crew Chief Honolulu Memorial
at Khangapur, India Major Matthews was given a command at an Advance Base (A-7) in Chengdu, China. He hitched a ride with
a B-29 from the 792nd Squadron, that was converted to a tanker while in India, to check out the site.
The craft departed Kharagpur either September 30
or October 1. The last radio contact was while over Myitkyina. On October 1st the craft crashed into Omei Mountain
(Emei Shan) southwest of their destination due to weather. It is assumed that all crew and passengers were killed instantaneously. What remains that were found
were buried in a cemetery in
– 792nd Bomb Squadron – Delivered to USAAF on 11/8/43 – Model B-29-1-MO – Departed Smoky
Hill on 4/15/44 for India and gained by the 468th Bomb Group on 5/24/44.
India Combat Missions –
Hump Missions – 18
42-6238 was converted to
a tanker in the CBI.
This B-17 Flying Fortress, 42-23129, “Stars And Stripes II,” and crew were assigned
to the 346th Squadron of the 99th Bomb Group. On June 25,
1948, T/Sgt Edward J. Pietras and S/Sgt Billy B. Bridges were buried in Section E Site 7 at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
T/Sgt Edward J. Pietras
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
S/Sgt Billy B. Bridges
Zachary Taylor National Cemetery
Howard W. Ebbers, Pilot North Africa American Cemetery
Donald F. Carpenter North Africa American Cemetery
Edward J. Bodnar Buried in Tunis, Tunisia
While on a mission to Naples,
Italy on August 1, 1943, Stars & Stripes II was attacked by fighters. One engine was shot and there was other major damage
to the plane. During an emergency landing in Tunisia the pilot was forced to maneuver to avoid a collision with a B-26. The
Stars & Stripes II turned on its side and burst into flames. No one survived.
This B-17, 42-30446, and crew were assigned to the 348th Squadron of the 99th
Bomb Group. 9 members of the crew were Killed In Action on October 10, 1943 with only one survivor. They were flying from
Oudna Field, Tunisia to bomb the Tatoi Aerodrome near Athens, Greece. They were buried on January 27, 1950 in Section E Plot
256-257 of the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
Crew list on mission:
1/Lt John C. Staffo, Bombardier
2/Lt Samuel R. Gilmore, Pilot Golden
Gate Nat’l Cemetery
Lt George W. Rohrer, Copilot
2/Lt Morton M. Hantman, Navigator
Sgt Richard A. Cleaver, Engineer
Sgt. William B. Hill, Radio Operator
Sgt Harold E. Wehby, Gunner
Sgt Curtis Hinkle, Gunner Fort
Leavenworth Nat’l Cemetery
Sgt Jack G. Stankus, Gunner Florence
Sgt Richard L. Myers, Gunner