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358th Mayer Crew
Walter J. Mayer, Pilot
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WALTER J. MAYER CREW - 358th BS
B-17G #42-102945 Sweet Pea (358BS) VK-M
(crew assigned 358BS: 14 July 1944 - photo: 21 July 1944)

(Back L-R) 2Lt Raymond B. Gradle (CP), 2Lt Oron J. Rogers (B),
1Lt Walter J. Mayer (P), 2Lt Jackson Hunt (N)

(Front L-R) Sgt Harold E. Blessing (WG), T/Sgt Douglas E. Hicks (E),
S/Sgt Ernest J. Gendron (TG), T/Sgt Ernest Tuescher (R),
Sgt James M. Campbell (BTG), S/Sgt Frederick J. Withers (WG)

Thirty-six dispatched (34 credited ) combat missions flown by 1Lt Walter J. Mayer:
214 (29 July 1944), 215, 216, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 226, 231, 233, 234, 237, 238, 239, 240, 243, 244, 245, 247, 248, 264, 267, 271, 273, 275 (A), 276, 277, 278, 282, 283 (A), 284, 285, 286, 287 (18 Dec 1944)
For Mission dates, targets and Mission Reports, see Combat Missions. (A) Non-credited aborted missions: (275) Lost #2 engine; (283) 2Lt Raymond B. Gradle (CP) became sick.

Twenty B-17Gs flown by 1Lt Walker J. Mayer on his thirty-six dispatched combat missions:

  • 44-6291 (No name) (358BS) VK-E - Missions 214, 215, 221
  • 42-31060 # Pogue Ma Hone (427BS) GN-N - Mission 216
  • 42-97085 (No name) (358BS) VK-B - Missions 220, 222, 223
  • 42-97298 # The Floose (358BS) VK-H - Missions 224, 273
  • 42-31183 Bad Penny (359BS) BN-J - Mission 226
  • 43-38176 Bouncing Betty II (358BS) VK-B - Missions 231, 233, 234, 237, 238, 247, 248
  • 42-31574 Ole George (358BS) VK-G - Missions 239, 240
  • 43-38065 Princess Pat II (358BS) VK-J - Missions 243, 244, 245
  • 44-6006 (No name) (358BS) VK-D - Missions 264, 276
  • 44-6503 Lady Alta (358BS) VK-F - Mission 267
  • 43-38442 (No name) (358BS) VK-F - Mission 271
  • 42-102945 # Sweet Pea (358BS) VK-M - Mission 275
  • 43-38682 (No name) (358BS) VK-F - Mission 277
  • 44-8427 # Henn's Revenge (358BS) VK-E - Mission 278
  • 43-38878 (No name) (358BS) VK-D - Mission 281
  • 43-38530 (No name) (358BS) VK-G - Missions 282, 284
  • 44-6817 # Old Cock (360BS) PU-F - Mission 283
  • 43-38289 # Sweet La Rhonda (359BS) BN-J - Mission 285
  • 44-6316 (No name) (358BS VK-C - Mission 286)
  • 43-37590 # Neva - The Silver Lady (358BS) VK-Q - Mission 287
(#) For nose art photos see - Nose Art and Ground Crews


Sgt Harold E. Blessing in full high-altitude flight gear.  
Crew Notes:

  • 1Lt Walter J. Mayer (P) (WIA-B/O) - All missions flown as First Pilot. First two missions (214 and 215) flown with combat orientation CoPilot 2Lt Ernest Whitall. Completed his 35 mission combat tour on 18 Dec 1944 (Mission 287)
  • 2Lt Raymond B. Gradle (CP)(B/O) - Flew on 25 credited missions with 1Lt Mayer (All 1Lt Mayer missions except nine (214, 215, 234, 273, 277, 284, 285, 286, 287) and seven credited missions with other Pilots (211, 214, 234, 252, 266, 270, 277). Became ill on his last mission (#283). The mission was aborted so he could be returned to Molesworth and placed in the station hospital. Was upgraded from CoPilot to Pilot on orders dated 05 Dec 1944 but flew no missions as a First Pilot.
  • 2Lt Jackson H. Hunt (N) - Flew on ten missions with 1Lt Mayer (214, 215, 216, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 226, 231). Was made a Lead Crew Navigator and flew on fourteen missions in this position (230, 233, 236, 244, 245, 250, 260, 272, 288, 300, 320, 328, 336, 356). Was promoted to Captain on 20 March 1945 a few days after mission 336. Completed 24 credited missions on 9 April 1945 (Mission 356).
  • 2Lt Oran J. Rogers (B)(WIA-B/O) - Flew on 16 missions with 1Lt Mayer (214, 215, 216, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 226, 231, 233, 234, 244, 245, 247, 248) Last mission on 28 Sept 1944 (Mission 248).
  • T/Sgt Douglas E. Hicks (E)(KIA) - Flew on the first twenty-one 1Lt Mayer missions (214 through 248). Was killed on mission 248. Was trying to close the bomb bay doors manually when the electrical system went out. When 1Lt Mayer gave the prepare to bail out signal T/Sgt Hicks, having no interphone in the bomb bay, saw other crewmen donning their parachutes. He jumped out of the bomb bay and was killed on his 21st mission.
  • T/Sgt Ernest Tuescher (R)(B/O) - Flew on thirty credited missions with 1Lt Mayer (All 1Lt Mayer missions except four (231, 233, 286, 287) where substitute Radio Operators were used. Flew on four missions with Capt Campbell Miller (P) (Missions 290, 294, 301, 311). Completed his 35 mission combat tour on 3 Feb 1945 (Mission 311).
  • Sgt James M. Campbell (BTG) - Flew on thirteen credited missions with 1Lt Mayer (214, 215, 216, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 226, 233, 237, 238, 239). Last mission on 10 Sept 1944 (Mission 239).
  • S/Sgt Frederick J. Withers (WG-TG)(WIA-B/O) - Flew on all of the 1Lt Mayer missions: As Waist Gunner (21 credited missions - Missions 214 through 245, 271, 273, 283 (A); As Tail Gunner (13 credited missions - 247, 248, 264, 267, 276, 277, 278, 281, 282, 284, 285, 286, 287). Flew one mission (232) with another Pilot. Completed his 35 mission combat tour on 18 Dec 1944 (Mission 287).
  • S/Sgt Ernest J. Gendron (TG-WG-BTG)(B/O) - Flew on all of the 1Lt Mayer missions: As Tail Gunner (19 credited missions - 1Lt Mayer missions 214 through 245); As Waist Gunner (2 credited missions (247, 267); As Ball Turret Gunner (12 credited missions - 264, 271, 273, 275(A), 276, 277, 278, 281, 282, 283(A), 285, 286, 287). Flew one mission (265) with 2Lt Twomey (P) Completed his 35 mission combat tour on 18 Dec 1944 (Mission 287).
  • Sgt Harold E. Blessing (WG) - Deleted from crew when crew size changed from 10 to 9 men. Flew no 303rd BG(H) combat missions. Reassignment not known.
(WIA) Wounded on mission 248 -- (B/O) Bailed out of B-17 on mission 248

Substitute Crewmen:

  • 2Lt Nicholas L. Celich (N) - From 1Lt Rufus Grisham Crew - Flew on 11 dispatched (9 credited) missions with 1Lt Mayer (271, 275(A), 276, 277, 278, 281, 282, 283(A), 284, 285, 286)
  • Sgt James McGreevy (E) - From Richard McGilvray Crew - Flew on 13 dispatched (11 credited) missions with 1Lt Mayer (271, 273, 275(A), 276, 277, 278, 281, 282, 283(A), 284, 285, 286, 287)
  • Sgt James L. Brown (Togglier) - From George H. Fielder Crew - Flew on 8 Dispatched (7 credited) missions with 1Lt Mayer (278, 281, 282, 283(A), 284, 285, 286, 287). There were other substitute crewmen that flew on several missions with 1Lt Mayer
Mission notes:
28 September 1944, mission #248 to Magdeburg, Germany in B-17G 43-38176 Bouncing Betty II (358BS) VK-B. Eleven of the twenty-eight 303rd BG(H) dispatched B-17s were downed by an estimated 40 German FW-190s and ME-109s. Nine B-17s were lost on the first pass during the bomb run including two of Lt Mayer's wingmen. Bouncing Betty II lost it's #2 engine oil pressure and the prop could not be feathered on the damaged engine. The #1 gas tank was hit and ruptured. With the #1 and #2 engines out, engines #3 and #4 ran away pulling the B-17 into a steep spiral and losing altitude from 27,000 to 15,000 feet. The bomb bay doors could not be closed and the electrical system was gone. At about 6,000 feet 1Lt Meyer ordered his crew to bail out. Most landed near Wiltz, Luxembourg, about 1 km inside the Allied battle line. Three of the crewmen were wounded - 1Lt Mayer (P) - Broke his leg on landing in Germany but managed to evade the Germans who were rapidly retreating. 2Lt Rogers (B) and S/Sgt Withers (WG) were wounded by 20 mm shrapnel. All three were treated in field hospitals and spent some time in French hospitals. The other surviving crewmen were reunited at Molesworth about one month later. The 1Lt Mayer crew had two substitute crewmen on mission 248 - Lt Robert J. Simmons (N)(B/O) for Lt Hunt (N) and S/Sgt Jerome R. Miesserich (BTG)(B/O for Sgt Campbell.

10 November 1944, Mission #271 to Cologne, Germany in B-17G #42-38442 358th BS (VK-F). The Mayer Crew B-17 was hit by flak over the target and lost two engines. They were unable to keep up with the formation after dropping bombs on the target. An emergency landing was made at a P-47 base at St. Trond, Belgium. They were unable to make contact with the tower. With two engines out, no air speed indicator, and gas flowing from the right wing from a ruptured gas tank, Lt Mayer made a turn to let down and fired flares. The windshield iced up and landing was made with Lt Mayer's head out the cockpit window. P-47s were taking off and he spotted a steam roller near the end of the runway. He bounced over the steam roller and lost his Flight Hat. The prop of a parked P-51, about half way down the runway, sliced off the end of his right wing and the B-17 then crashed into a parked B-24 at the end of the runway, almost cutting it in half. The Belgian steam roller operator later returned Lt Mayer's hat. The crew sustained no injuries but one B-17, one P-51 and one B-24 were damaged beyond repair.

04 December 1944, mission #282 to Soest, Germany, in B-17G #43-38530 (No name) 358BS (VK-G). The 303rd BG(H) formations were delayed in the air for over an hour resulting in unexpectedly high gas consumption. Fifteen B-17s, included that of Lt Mayer, landed at Airfield A-70 at Laon, France to replenish their fuel. They returned to Molesworth on the next day. Three other B-17s landed at other airfields in Belgium.

Substitute Crewmen, not in photo, on missions #271 & 282:
Mission #271 & 282: 2Lt Nicholas L. Celich (N), Sgt James McGreevy (E) Mission #271: T/Sgt Elzie B. Splawn (Tog), Sgt Thomas J. Woodard (TG) Mission #282: Sgt James L. Brown (Tog), Sgt Matthew J. Karash (WG) Regular crewmen 1Lt Mayer (P), 2Lt Gradle (CP), S/Sgt Tuescher (R), S/Sgt Ernest J. Gendron (WG/TG) and Sgt Frederick J. Withers (WG/TG) were on missions #271 and 282.

[photo courtesy of Ernest Tuescher & George T. Mackin]
[Researched by 303rdBGA Historian Harry D. Gobrecht]