Z SQUARE 7, A B-29 TRUE STORY

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Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Pages Introduction
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Zachary Taylor Nat'l Cemetery Memorial Page - B29 Superfortress
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C. Clayton Thompson Bookseller
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Lt Raymond "Hap" Halloran
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313th Bomb Wing Mining Missions
Lt Robert Copeland, copilot, Z Square 8
Pyote Bomber Base With A Photo Album
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C. Douglas Caffey, A WW2 Veteran, Book Of Poetry
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C. Douglas Caffey on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
C. Douglas Caffey With More on PTSD
C. Douglas Caffey Memorial Day Flying The Flag
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Ivan Fail's "The Saga Of The Superfortress"
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This B26, Marauder, 42-107735, “Flossie’sFury” was assigned to the 95th Squadron, 17th Bomb Group. The bomber was shot down on August 20, 1944. Crew members were buried at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery at Site E053-054 on April 23, 1949.

 

 

1/Lt Albury, Joseph L Jr,    Pilot    Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery

2/Lt Casey, Joseph J   Copilot Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery                                          

Sgt. George Moscovis    Flight Engineer/Gunner    Survived

Sgt. Robert McCluskey   Radio/Gunner                   Survived

Lt Hawthorne, Edgar   Bombardier      Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery

Sgt. Pesta, Francis      Gunner     Unknown burial location

Lt. Marshall, Paul   Navigator   Zachary Taylor Nat’l Cemetery

Sgt. Frieden, Herman   Camerman  Unknown burial location

 

 

The attached picture is B-26 42-107735, Battle number #50, of the 95th Bomb Squadron, 17th Bomb Group taken on August 20, 1944 while bombing Toulon.

There had been a disagreement between General Eisenhower and Prime Minister Churchill on the necessity of an invasion of southern France.

 

Eisenhower said that the Germans would destroy all ports in the Normandy area and there had to be another way to get supplies. After the invasion of southern France the ports of Toulon and Marseille were receiving more supplies than all the Normandy ports combined.

 

It was taken by S/Sgt. Peter Holmes. This is B-26 #42-107735 "Flossie's Fury" of the 95th BS, 17th BG, 42nd BW, 12th AF (MACR 7867). The image was taken on August 20, 1944 just after the bombs were released on gun emplacements in Toulon, France in support of the invasion of southern France.

Two of the crew survived. Sgt. George Moscovis (top turret gunner/flight engineer) and Sgt. Robert McCluskey (radio/waist gunner). McCluskey was pinned and unable to evacuate the aircraft when Moscovis pushed him out before following him. The aircraft was so low at this point that Moscovis's parachute either failed to deploy or only partially deployed, but he survived. The rest of the crew died in the crash.

This article
tells the tale of Moscovis after the crash, but I'm unsure of the voracity. It says he lay in a morgue with German dead German soldiers, was stripped of his belongings while they thought he was dead, before being rescued by French civilians. However, Moscovis makes no mention of a morgue and the German troops in his diary and I found no other reference to this besides that article.

The following is from Moscovis's. It was produced from an OCR scan.

Today is Sunday and every thing were working out o.k. until we found out we had a mission and of course I was on it. We knew it was going to be a hot mission and McCluskey brought along a few extra-flak suits.

”Well at app. 2:55 this afternoon our plane -was shot out of the sky. The last burst of flak which hit the plane threw me clear out of the turret and it started burning. The right engine (this made history latter on) was shot completely off. After saving the life of McCluskey I bailed out of the plane myself. My chute was badly damage and probably had many holes in it because he rip- cord was shot off including the rest of the top of the chute. Some of the silk was loose and was out. Before I bailed out I had noticed McCluskey was tied down with the flak suits, arm belts, etc. and I pulled all these things off him and gived him a good push and out he sailed. I had an awful time to get out myself, but I finially made it. I saw about four feet of the silk come out of the chute and then I went out cold. I probably were hit by the plane or maybe a shell burst. It was pretty low when I left the plane. One boy said he saw one chute come out and open and later on another one came out, but it didn't completely open on account of the plane being too low to the ground. So far I haven't found out the straight story and probably never will.

When I came to after being out for about three hours the French underground had me. The first thing they did was to give me a shot of whiskey. Later on I found out I was stripped naked with only one towel over me. It look as though I was in a work shop. Shortly afterwards a doctor came in and put me on a stretcher and put me in an amblance and carried me to a private home. This was the most worst ride I have ever been on. It sure was plenty rough. The gived me two shots in my left ankle and bandged up my back and of course they also took care of the smaller wounds. My left ankle was fractured, my right knee was sprained and my chest and back were also killing me. It looked as though my back were sprained and I had internal wounds. My back was badly burussed and black with some extenial wounds.

Tonight I was such in a bad condition that a french of girl slept besides me all night. She tried to keep up my courage all night because she knew as well as I that the chances were pretty slim. I asked for my dog tags and bible several times,' but were* unable to get this. They kept a lot of things secret from me and sometimes I thing maybe the Germans thought I were dead and stripped everything off me for souveniors.

I don't recall what wounds I recieved in the plane, but I beleive the flak suits played a big part in saving my life.

I also give a lot of credit to the French girl who kept up my courage because otherwise I am allmost certain I would finish. “

Flight JournalMagazine  December 2002

 

"Greater Love Hath No Man"
A B-26 crewman fights to save his friend
by Charles Mahoney

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An 88mm shell exploded between the right engine and the fuselage of Flossie's Fury on August 20, 1944, over Toulon, France. Of the eight crewmen aboard the B-26 Martin Marauder, miraculously, two survived (photo by S/Sgt. Peter Holmes courtesy of Charles O'Mahony).

It was taken by S/Sgt. Peter Holmes, who was flying his first mission as a combat photographer. But even more remarkable than the photograph is the story of one of the stricken plane's crew, George Moscovis, who was born and raised and is still living in Opelousas, Louisiana.

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42-107735, "Flossie's Fury"

During the summer of 1944, three medium bomb groups of the 12th Air Force operated as the 42nd Wing and flew from two airfields on the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea. The 319th and 320th Bomb Groups flew from Decimomannu air base on the southern end of the island. The 17th Bomb Group was based 15 miles to the northwest near the town of Villacidro. Each group consisted of four squadrons with 25 operational B-26 Martin Marauders in each squadron. Twenty-year-old T/Sgt. George Moscovis was an engineer/gunner in the 95th Squadron of the 17th Bomb Group.

Sunday, August 20, was "Organization Day"—a very special day for the men of the 95th. On that date in 1917 during WW I, the 95th Squadron was formed. To celebrate its proud heritage, a party was planned for that evening in the base theater—good food, lots of beer and Sardinian girls to dance with. But first, there was a mission to fly, and today's targets were the heavy gun emplacements that guarded Toulon harbor on France's south coast.

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Lt. Edgar Hawthorne

All three Bomb Groups had pounded these gun positions before, during and after the invasion of Southern France on August 15, and the planes had taken a pounding in return. Their primary targets were three 340mm gun batteries mounted in turrets on a peninsula in the harbor. From the Marauder's bombing altitude, the gun targets were small and hard to spot, and the bombardiers had difficulty synchronizing the cross-hairs in their Norden bombsights for an effective hit. They needed a longer than usual bomb run—bad news on this heavily defended target. The Germans considered these gun batteries critical and had heavy concentrations of 88mm and 105mm flak batteries strung along the nearby coast—all manned by the Luftwaffe's best. "The old-timers say Toulon is the toughest target the 17th has hit since the early days in North Africa," Moscovis wrote in his diary.

It was a rough target, and the men who were scheduled to fly on that Sunday were apprehensive. The previous evening, the 17th Squadron's operations officers had posted six mission lineups; each consisted of six-plane formations that would fly a variety of strikes: one decoy flight would fly first over the target at a lower altitude, at a higher speed and on a different heading from the main force. This decoy would drop fragmentation bombs on the antiaircraft batteries. Another formation would follow to drop chaff—bundles of tinfoil strips that would disperse and confuse the Germans' radar screens. In the rest of the flights, the Marauders' bomb loads would consist of two 2,000-pound demolition bombs—the biggest the B-26 bomb racks could hold.

Sgt. George Moscovis and his friend Sgt. Bob McCluskey were together on Flossie's Fury—a plane with battle number five-zero on its tail—that would carry the 1-ton demo bombs. Moscovis, the flight engineer, would man the twin .50- caliber machine guns in the top turret, while McCluskey flew as radioman and handled a .50-caliber at one of the waist windows.

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Robert McCluskey

The two sergeants would not be flying with their regular crew. Piloted by Lt. Joseph Albury with Lt. Joseph Casey in the right seat, Flossie's Fury would be the lead ship in their formation. Lt. Edgar Hawthorne was the bombardier, and Sgt. Francis Pesta manned the twin .50s in the tail. Five-Zero also had navigator Lt. Paul Marshall and cameraman Sgt. Herman Frieden on board. Instead of the usual six-man crew, eight men were crammed in. Like many of the other combat crew that day, McCluskey had had bad vibes at the briefing, and when they drew their flight equipment, he had opted to take extra flak jackets; heavily leaded front and back, each weighed almost 20 pounds. A jacket usually hung from the shoulders like an umpire's chest protector, but the crew often took extras and strategically placed them under or over whichever other parts of their anatomy they most wanted to protect.

This was mission number 29 for McCluskey and Moscovis. At 1257 hours, a green flare arced from the control tower at Villacidro, and the first of the 17th's planes revved its 2,000hp Pratt & Whitney engines up to full power and thundered down the runway. The others followed at 30-second intervals. It was a hot day, and the heavily loaded Marauders needed the entire runway to get airborne. When the precision join-up had been completed over the field, the formation took a 330-degree heading for the 300-mile flight to the target. Bombing altitude for the main force was 12,400 feet, so the planes climbed steadily on course. By the time they reached the initial point (IP) for the bomb run, they were at 14,000 feet. The extra altitude would be bled off erratically during the bomb run to make it more difficult for the gunners in the flak batteries below to accurately time-fuse the shells. They hoped that only the final minute of the bomb run would be straight and level.

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Sgt George Moscovis

Leaving the IP, Lt. Albury rolled Flossie's Fury onto the target heading at 1427 hours. In the nose, Lt. Hawthorne crouched over his Norden bombsight and got the cross-hairs centered on the target. The bomber was now being "flown" by Hawthorne. Each of his slight course corrections to stay on target moved the needle of the pilot's directional indicator on Albury's instrument panel. Smoothly working the throttles and controls, Albury kept the needle centered and maintained an airspeed of 185mph.

 

Lose 200 feet," Hawthorne commanded on the intercom. "Lose 300; lose another 100." At 12,400 feet, Hawthorne called, "Good; hold it. I got it pegged." The formation was flying the last part of the bomb run straight and level and as sitting ducks. The flak was as briefed: heavy, intense and accurate, and there was an acrid smell as they flew through the roiling black smoke from the 88mm and 105mm bursts. The seconds dragged, but then the big plane shuddered as the two huge bombs dropped out of the bomb bay. "Bombs away! Let's get the hell out of here," Hawthorne shouted, and Albury broke hard right.

"There was heavy flak on the bomb run," Moscovis recalled. "You could feel the bombs go out, and I thought we were safe. But just as we started our break, we got two direct hits."

Lt. Ladd Horn was piloting the plane on Five-Zero's left wing. "There was a cluster of four 88mm shells," Ladd says, "and two of them straddled their plane. One burst sheared their right engine completely off its mounting, and the second one blew a large hole in the left side of their fuselage. They held steady for just a moment and then rolled upside-down and began to spin." Cameraman Sgt. Peter Holmes was in the Marauder on Five-Zero's right wing and was aiming a hand-held camera down through the waist window to record the bomb strike when the stricken aircraft flew right into the frame. It was the first aerial photo he had ever taken.

"The blast knocked me out of the turret, and when I found my chest pack, some of the silk was hanging out and the ripcord had been shot off, but I snapped it on," Moscovis says. By now, the plane was spinning down out of control and was completely engulfed by the billowing flames. The fuselage skin was too hot to touch.

 

"I started crawling back toward the   tail to the waist window, when I saw McCluskey pinned under a bunch of flak suits. They were really heavy because of the G-forces, but I dragged the suits off him and got him to the waist window.  

Lt. Edgar Hawthorne in bombardier training. He was the bombardier on Flossie's Fury on that fateful August Sunday.

There was no gun mounted in the left window, and I helped him go out, head first. We were really low by then, and I knew I had to get out. I squeezed out the waist window, and that's the last thing I remember." As he floated down, McCluskey watched the Marauder below him and saw it hit and explode. He did not see another chute, and he was sure his friend George had been killed along with the rest of the crew.

A happy Robert McCluskey during his gunnery-training days. After he bailed out over Toulon, the free French hid him in a morgue. For three days he lay naked on a slab, covered with a sheet and surrounded by dead German soldiers.

German soldiers still occupied Toulon, and they found what appeared to be the lifeless body of Sgt. George Moscovis. They stripped him of his dog tags, his watch, an escape kit with $40 in francs and the Bible he had carried on every mission. Then they ordered some French civilians to get rid of the body. The Frenchmen carried Moscovis to a small shed and laid him on a table, naked and covered only by a towel; they began to make a crude casket out of ammunition boxes, and by the time they had finished, it was almost dark. As they eased the body from the table into the coffin, George Moscovis regained consciousness. "They all started to kiss me," Moscovis says. "Then they all began to cry. Then, dammed, if I didn't cry, too."

Germans were still everywhere in the city, and for several days the French Underground risked their lives to protect Moscovis and get him medical help. "About four days later, these free French had got me to a hospital, and they said they had a surprise for me," Moscovis recalls. "Into my room walked Bob McCluskey. I couldn't believe it and neither could he. We both cried like babies; each of us had thought the other was dead."

Allied troops took over Toulon soon afterward, and Moscovis was flown to a hospital in Naples. In addition to the broken ankle the French had put in a cast, he had broken his right elbow and injured his back. He walked with a cane, but he still managed to visit his buddies in the 95th on Sardinia before he was shipped back to the States. "They gave me an MIA box with all my personal belongings. I had been listed as missing in action, and they were going to send the box to my parents."

Sgt. Moscovis back with his squadron on Sardinia. The box contains all his personal belongings that were about to be shipped to his parents. Note the cane and the cast on his left ankle.

 

The reluctant Moscovis was sent back to the States, to a hospital in Miami. In March 1945, after extensive medical treatment and rehab, he was given his honorable discharge. During his combat tour, he had earned the Air Medal with seven Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross. But more than that, he had earned the admiration and respect of his peers for putting a friend's survival ahead of his own; he had made sure that his friend got out of a spinning, burning plane that was seconds from crashing. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Young T/Sgt. George Moscovis proved he was willing to make that sacrifice.

Military records show that the day after Five-Zero's loss, the 17th Group Exec. Maj. Verl Oberlin submitted a confidential "Disappearance of Missing Personnel" report on each crew member. The report on T/Sgt. Moscovis read in part, "Only one parachute was seen to open as the plane went down—most likely, the waist gunner Sgt. Robert McCluskey. The crash was probably fatal to the other crew members."

And the official 95th Squadron records for the August 20 mission read: "One A/C was hit by flak immediately after bomb run. Flak hit between right engine and fuselage and A/C went into a sharp spin, fell on its back and exploded. One chute was observed to open." How did the miracle happen? If his parachute never opened, how did George Moscovis survive? "I'll never know for sure," Moscovis says. "Maybe I hit on a sloped roof. Maybe a tree broke my fall."

Or maybe God was watching and rewarded his bravery.

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