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MORTON C. PERKINS CREW - 358th BS
(crew assigned 358BS: 02 Feb 1945 - photo: 15 Feb 1945)
MORTON C. PERKINS CREW - 358th BS
(crew assigned 358BS: 02 Feb 1945)
(Left to Right) Unknown Ground Crewman,
Sgt Warren L. Partsch (WG), Sgt John T. McDonald (TG),
Sgt Walter D. Beckwith (BT), T/Sgt Neal W. Noble (R),
Sgt Gerald G. Little (R), 2Lt Morton C. Perkins (P),
Sgt Arlan R. Allen (Tog) - Behind Perkins - feet only visible,
2Lt Robert J. Wallace (N),
T/Sgt Charles F. Carlson (E) - still on B-17 not in photo.
314 (15 Feb 1945), 317, 318, 319, 320, 324, 336, 338, 339, 340, 342, 343, 344, 347, 350 (SR), 351, 352, 353, 357, 358, 359, 360, 362, 363 (20 April 1945).
(SR) Non-Credited Spare B-17 that returned to Molesworth after take-off and formation assembly. For Mission dates, targets and Mission Reports, see Combat Missions.
Eighteen B-17Gs flown by 2Lt Morton C. Perkins on his 24 dispatched combat missions:
Mission 324, 26 February 1945, to Berlin Germany in B-17G 44-8316 (No name) (360BS) PU-P. 2Lt Perkins, on the entire crew's 6th mission, called the Group Leader shortly before reaching the target stating that he had a gasoline shortage and engine problems. On the way to the target the engine on the B-17 was causing problems and began using a lot of fuel. 2Lt Perkins did not believe that he could make the return journey and stated that he was heading for the Russian territory. Upon reaching Russia they found some flat farm country and 2Lt Perkins made a wheels-up landing at Zolotonosha, Russia, near the Poltava Headquarters of the USSAFE Eastern Base Command. The crew was unhurt and the B-17 was left in Russia and salvaged. The crew returned to Molesworth on 12 March 1945 after some interesting visits in Russia and then via Air Transport Command aircraft with landings and visits in Tehran, Iran, Cairo, Egypt, Tobruck, North Africa. Athens, Greece, Naples, Italy and back to London, England. Combat missions were resumed on 14 March 1945 (Mission 336).
Unusual Experience of S/Sgt Walter D. Beckwith
On the 26th of February, 1945, we took off on a mission to Berlin to bomb the railroad marshalling yards. Lt. Perkins was the Pilot and I was the Tail Gunner on the crew. On the way to the target we began having trouble with one engine, which began using a lot of fuel. Lt. Perkins did not believe that aircraft, #44-8316 (No Name), could make it back to friendly territory, so just before we dropped our bombs he called the Group Leader and told him we were heading for the Russian lines. We were sort of sweating it out with the Russians, but the weather was so bad we couldn't see a thing so we kept going until we began running out of fuel.
We had a great Navigator, Lt. Robert Wallace, who was later to make another crash landing in Germany, flying with a lead crew and was taken prisoner. Lt. Wallace had no maps of that part of the country but he was pretty sure that we were over flat land. No one wanted to bail out so we let down until we broke out of the soup—about 400 feet, and sure enough, we were over real flat farm country.
We bellied in on a field covered with snow which enabled us to slide real good and we stopped near a small village with a river. We later found out that the place was Zolotonosha, USSR. The plane was later salvaged.
We weren't sure what our reception would be like when the people started heading towards the plane, but as soon as we made them understand that we were American, everything turned out OK.
With the help of a woman who spoke French, we went into the village and got everything sorted out. We ended up splitting up and staying with three or four different families that night. I still to this day don't know what kind of fat meat we ate that night, but we had the same for breakfast the next morning.
Later that day we all gathered in the village hall where they gave us a banquet of fried chicken accompanied with a lot of wine and vodka, with which we had to drink one toast after another to Stalin, Roosevelt and Perkins. A couple of the younger guys got sick because their systems weren't used to that sort of thing.
That afternoon, they flew us out in five small ski planes. My plane was one passenger open cockpit, so I got down as low as I could to keep warm. The pilot must have thought I fell out because he stood up and looked back and I gave him the thumbs up, to let him know that all was OK. We landed at one of their bases and kept sort of isolated. I ate a lot of spam and eggs while I was there, which was what I believe to be about one week. We had a Russian woman who was a Lieutenant in their Army, as an interpreter. She really wanted my flying boots, so I let her wear them while we were there but I told her I had to have them back when we left. Finally, we were shipped to Poltava, Russia by train. The cars had shelves that pulled down from the walls to sleep on, but as soon as we laid down on them, the lice started to make meals out of us.
As soon as we got to Poltava, they had to delouse us and we stayed there for about three or four days. We were flown out by our Air Transport Command. Our first stop was Tehran, Iran, where we stayed overnight. From there on to Cairo, Egypt, where we stayed for two nights and got to see some of the sights.
We stopped at a British base at Tobruk, North Africa, for refueling and then on to Athens, Greece. From there we went to Naples, Italy, where we stayed overnight and then back to London. We finally got back to Molesworth on the twelfth day of March and then went back on duty
[Researched by 303rdBGA Historian Harry D. Gobrecht]