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359th Chance Crew
Arthur F. Chance, Pilot
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(crew assigned 359BS: 25 July 1944 - photo: Ardmore, OK, June 1944)

(Back L-R) 1Lt Arthur F. Chance (P)(POW), 2Lt Robert H. Johnson (CP)(POW),
1Lt Eugene D. McCarver (N), 1Lt William M. Couch (B/N)(POW)(Murdered),

(Front L-R) Sgt Leo A. Torre (WG)(POW), T/Sgt Albert Miller (R)(WIA)(POW),
S/Sgt Dennis R. Hejna (TG), S/Sgt Shirley L. Moss (BTG)(KIA),
T/Sgt Elmer W. Menasco (E)(POW), S/Sgt John Robert McCue (WG)

B-17G Liberty Run #44-6076 (359BS) BN-Y
(crew assigned 359BS: 25 July 1944 - photo: 29 August 1944)

(Back L-R) 1Lt Arthur F. Chance (P)(POW), 2Lt Robert H. Johnson (CP)(POW),
1Lt Eugene D. McCarver (N), 1Lt William M. Couch (B/N)(POW)(Murdered),

(Front L-R) T/Sgt Elmer W. Menasco (E)(POW), S/Sgt Dennis R. Hejna (TG),
S/Sgt Shirley L. Moss (BTG)(KIA), T/Sgt Albert Miller (R)(WIA)(POW), Sgt Leo A. Torre (WG)(POW)

Thirty-six dispatched (35 credited) combat missions of 1Lt Arthur F. Chance:
217(3 Aug 1944), 219, 220, 221, 222, 224, 226, 227, 230, 231, 232, 234, 235, 237, 238, 240, 243, 244(A), 247, 248, 250, 251, 252, 256, 258, 259, 260, 261, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, 269, 273, 275 (21 Nov 1944)
(A) Non-credited aborted mission - Broken hose clamp caused gas line to disconnect. Landed at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk England (Flight time 5:15)

Seventeen B-17Gs flown by 1Lt Arthur F. Chance on his thirty-six dispatched missions:

  • 42-102484 Heller's Angel (359BS) BN-K - Missions 217, 261, 275
  • 42-97058 Scorchy II (359BS) BN-M - Mission 219
  • 42-38050 Thunderbird (359BS) BN-U - Missions 220, 227, 230
  • 42-31183 Bad Penny (359BS) BN-J - Mission 221
  • 42-107206 Old Black Magic (359BS) BN-R - Missions 222, 231
  • 44-6076 Liberty Run (359BS) BN-Y - Missions 224, 232
  • 42-97944 Daddy's Delight (359BS) BN-I - Missions 226, 243, 244, 9/1/44 mission abandoned
  • 42-31177 Lonesome Polecat (359BS) BN-L - Missions 234, 235, 237, 238, 240
  • 44-8326 (No name) (359BS) BN-S - Mission 247
  • 44-6502 (No name) (359BS) BN-G - Mission 248
  • 42-31739 Pugnacious Peter (358BS) VK-P - Mission 250
  • 43-38289 Sweet LaRhonda (359BS) BN-J - Missions 251, 252, 256, 265
  • 44-6309 Duchess' Granddaughter (359BS) BN-T - Missions 259, 273
  • 42-31055 Aloha (360BS) PU-J - Mission 260
  • 43-38608 Lucille (359BS) BN-E - Missions 264, 269
  • 44-6600 (No name) (359BS) BN-B - Missions 266, 267
  • 43-38878 (No name) (359BS) BN-D - Mission 268
Crew Notes - Nine Crewmen on the 21 Nov 1944 mission #275 to Merseburg, Germany:
  • 1Lt Arthur F. Chance (P)(POW) - First mission (217) flown as CoPilot with combat Orientation Pilot 1Lt William J. Arnold and his crew. All other missions flown as First Pilot. Was on his 35th credited mission when he became a POW.

  • 2Lt Robert H. Johnson (CP)(POW) - Stood down on mission 217. Flew on all of the other 1Lt Chance missions. Flew on one mission (274) with 1Lt Walter J. Carney (P). Was on his 35th credited missions when he became a POW.

  • 1Lt William M. Couch (B/N)(POW-KIA) - Stood down on mission 217. Flew on 30 credited missions with 1Lt Chance (All 1Lt Chance missions except 259, 260, 266, 268). Flew with four other Pilots on four missions (249, 260, 266, 268). Mission 275 was flown as a Navigator substituting for 1Lt McCarver. Was on his 34th credited mission when he became a POW and was murdered by Nazi Officials.

  • T/Sgt Ralph A. Coykendall (TOG)(POW) - Was flying as a substitute Togglier for regular Bombardier 1Lt William M. Couch. Was an Engineer with the 1Lt Guy H. Mc Clung crew on 9 February 1943. First mission on 27 February 1943 (Mission 18). Completed his 25 mission combat tour on 17 July 1943 (Mission 51). Volunteered for a second combat tour and was on his third mission second tour (28th total credited mission) when he became a POW.

  • T/Sgt Elmer W. Menasco (E)(POW), T/Sgt Albert Miller (R)(WIA)(POW), Sgt Leo A. Torre (WG)(POW) - Stood down on mission 217. Flew on all of the other 1Lt Chance missions. Were on their 34th credited mission when they became POWs.

  • S/Sgt Shirley L. Moss (BTG)(KIA) - Stood down on missions 217 and 258 and with 1Lt Chance on his 33 credited other missions Flew with 1Lt James P. Mickle (P) on mission 249. Was on his 34th credited mission when he was killed.

  • Sgt Anthony B. "Tony" Martin (TG)(POW)(Murdered) - Was flying as a substitute Tail gunner for regular Tail gunner S/Sgt Dennis R. Hejna. Was the regular Tail Gunner on the 359th BS 1Lt Jack T. Davis Crew on 23 Sept 1944. First mission on 5 October 1944 (mission 251). Was on his 16th dispatched combat mission when he became a POW and was murdered by Nazi Officials.
Crew Notes - Other three original 1Lt Chance crewmen (In crew photo):
  • 1Lt Eugene D. McCarver (N) - Flew on 33 credited missions with 1Lt Chance (All of the 1Lt Chance missions except 217 and 275). Flew with two other pilots on two missions (228 and 249). Completed his 35 mission combat tour on 16 November 1944 (Mission 273).

  • S/Sgt Dennis R. Hejna (TG) - Flew on 27 credited missions with 1Lt Chance (All of the 1Lt Chance missions except 217, 265, 266, 267, 268, 269, 273, 275). Flew with other Pilots on nine missions: 1Lt Robert O. Akers (249), 2Lt Philip H. McDavid (249), 2Lt Alfred M. Holmes (278, 282, 283, 285, 286, 287). Completed his 35 mission combat tour on 18 December 1944 (Mission 287).

  • S/Sgt Robert McCue (WG) - Was a member of the 1Lt Chance crew during their USA training Was deleted from the crew when crew size was changed from 10 to 9 men with elimination of the second Waist Gunner. Remained in the USA and flew on no 303rd BG(H) combat missions.
by Albert Miller

We'd dropped our bombs, and closed the bombbay doors
To get home, was our desire
when suddenly the plane got hit
engine number four was on fire

I sat there at the radio
flak bursts all around us
and breathed a prayer, into the air
for HIS presence to surround us.

The ship was doomed, 'Twas plain to see
every gun for miles was on us
each man got up, to 'hit the silk'
before we all were goners

I stood up to go, got knocked right down
(the ship was in a spin)
and lay there helpless, on my back
amid the terrible din.

With wings ablaze, and fuselage
ripped from nose to tail
My one salvation was in prayer
I knew it could not fail

"Almighty God," thou knowest well
to what each man is fated
But it seems to me, my destiny
is prematurely dated

that's all I said, I know not why
though my mind was wracked in torment
then suddenly all hell broke loose
it looked like the final moment

a burst of flame and then a roar
twas like a clap of thunder
I saw a tear, a gaping hole
the fuselage was torn asunder

then once again, that chilling sound
it started with a rumble
a wing fell off and then the tail
the rest began to crumble

I checked my chute, and made quite sure
that it was on securely
for I knew darn well, if I got clear
without it, I was done, most surely

then came the blast, that blew me clear
as though HIS hand had plucked me
out of the wreckage of the ship
and into the air had chucked me.

I felt a sudden searing pain
blood from my forehead spurted
it seemed my prayer had been in vain
disaster had not been averted.

with anxious hand I felt the wound
it seemed that I was blinded
and just as quickly came the thought
to pull the ripcord, I was reminded

then the chute unreeled, it seemed to take
an age for it to open
a sudden jerk, and there I hung,
it happened, as I'd been hoping.

A deathly silence all about
replaced the engines roar
I looked around me for the ship
Alas! I would fly no more.

A stream of blood, ran down my face
my thoughts to the wound returning
except for losing some precious blood
all I felt was painful burning

As I dropped to earth, and thought again
of what had happened, my body quivered
then I knew somehow, my prayer got home
the Good Lord had delivered

Sometimes we seldom stop to think
we take our luck as we find it
but I guess it's not the prayer we say
it's the FAITH that lies behind it.
Last Combat Mission of the 1Lt Arthur F. Chance Crew

Mission 275, 21 November 1944, to Merseburg, Germany in B-17G Heller's Angel (359BS) BN-K Flak, as anticipated at the pre-mission briefing was very heavy and accurate. The Leuna Synthetic Oil Refinery at Merseburg was one of the most heavily defended targets in Germany. This was the fifth time that Merseburg was bombed by the 303rd with a loss of six B-17s.

Bombs were dropped on the target and 1Lt Chance was making a right turn with the formation when Heller's Angel received a direct flak hit. The number three engine was spewing flame back to the tail. 1Lt Chance unsuccessfully attempted to keep up with the formation in which he was flying in a thick belt of haze and contrails. Visibility was extremely limited and 1Lt Chance, fearing that his B-17 would explode, gave the order for his crew to bail out.

As Sgt Anthony Martin (TG) and S/Sgt Shirley L. Moss (BTG) jumped from the waist compartment escape hatch, 1Lt Chance shouted on the interphone "Hold on, the fire is under control. Don't leave the ship." The other crewmen could see that the two parachutes of their crewmen had opened.

The Pilot and CoPilot then headed their B-17, on a course provided by the Navigator, towards what they thought were Allied lines in France. Instead they were suddenly over the City of Frankfurt, Germany in clear bright sunlight at 14,000 feet altitude. Flak batteries opened up and blew Heller's Angel out of the sky. The remaining seven crewmen then made successful parachute jumps.

2Lt William M. Couch (N) and S/Sgt Anthony B. Martin (TG) were captured by the local police and jailed. Three Nazi Officials obtained their release from the local Police/Wehrmacht at gun point and later murdered 2Lt Couch and S/Sgt Martin. The three Nazi Officials were tried in a war crimes trial and were hanged in 1946.

S/Sgt Shirley L. Moss (BTG), who had parachuted early with S/Sgt Martin, was also killed - where and how is unknown. He is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery near Neupre, Belgium (Plot C-9-41). Sgt Martin is buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery near St. Avold (Moselle), France (Plot F-16-34). It is presumed that the body of 1Lt Couch, the third crewmen who was killed, was returned to the USA for burial.

T/Sgt Albert Miller (R) was blown free of the wreckage of Heller's Angel after it exploded and had a head wound. He managed to pull his parachute ripcord with blood streaming down his face. Seconds after he landed behind some houses a crowd of German civilians rushed up to attack him. They were yelling epithets and throwing stones. They were held off almost immediately by three German soldiers with fixed bayonets.

T/Sgt Miller was taken to a nearby air raid shelter where he met up with the three other surviving Enlisted Men of his crew - T/Sgt Ralph A. Coykendall (Tog), Sgt Richard A. Martin (TG) and Sgt Leo A. Torre (WG). Their parachutes were piled in a wheel barrow and T/Sgt Elmer M. Menasco (E) had to push it as they were marched to their next destination along a rocky muddy road. T/Sgt Menasco was wearing only one shoe - the other had blown off when his parachute opened. T/Sgt Miller tried to help T/Sgt Menasco when one of the German soldiers shoved the butt of his rifle into his chest hollering "Nix helfen".

The four enlisted crewmen were sent to a Dulag prison camp where they were interrogated. T/Sgt Miller, who had a head wound, was treated with sulfa and the crewmen were transferred to a Stalag prison camp where they were incarcerated as "Kriegsgefangenan". After some six months as POWs they were liberated by the Russians and returned to Allied Military control.

The two surviving Officers, 1Lt Arthur F. Chance (P) and 2Lt Robert H. Johnson (CP) were captured after their successful parachute jumps and were placed in a POW prison camp.

{Last mission information source: The above information was provided by T/Sgt Albert Miller (R) in HANL "Open Forum" letters: February 1998 page 7; August 1999 page 16; February 2001 page 17. While a POW in "Kriegieland" Al Miler wrote beautiful poem "Faith" which was published in the HANL, February 1998, page 7.}
[photos courtesy of Maj. Mike Manifor, USMC]
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]