ERNEST L. ROTH CREW - 359th BS
(crew assigned 359BS: 14 April 1944 - photo: 18 May 1944)
1Lt Ernest L. Roth (P-KIA);
2Lt Homer E. Raker (CP);
2Lt George J. Beys (N-KIA);
2Lt Owen H. O'Neill, Jr (B)
S/Sgt Earl W. Buckingham (R-KIA),
Sgt Ralph E. Streicher (BTG-KIA),
Sgt John W. Kurzawski (LWG-KIA),
Sgt Henry A. Gardner (TG-POW)(front, 3rd from left),
Sgt Arnout C. Martens (RWG-POW)(front, 4th from left),
S/Sgt Fred E. Dexter (E-POW)(far right),
crewmen are not in order
Ten Dispatched (9 credited) combat missions of 1Lt Ernest L. Roth:
138 (18 April 1944), 142,143,144, 146, 148, 151, 154, 155 (19 May 1944).
Flew as a spare B-17 on mission 149 and returned to Molesworth when not required.
For Mission dates, targets and Mission Reports, see Combat Missions
- 1Lt Ernest L. Roth (P) - Flew on three missions as CoPilot with other combat crews:
2Lt Maurice C. Daum (138); 1Lt Charles F. Hanselmann (142); 1Lt John N. Savage (146) -
and six missions as First Pilot (143, 144, 148, 151, 154, 155). Was KIA on mission 155.
- 2Lt Homer E. Raker (CP)(KIA) - Flew on two missions with the 1Lt Roth Crew (143, 144).
Was KIA on mission 144, 29 April 1944, to Berlin, Germany in B-17G 42-31405
Wallaroo Mk II (359BS) BN-X. Flak had disabled one engine and injured Lt Raker. Lt
Roth asked Lt Raker to adjust the engines. Despite being in great pain, he feathered the
engine and adjusted the supercharger. He then slumped forward unconscious and died.
For his actions 2Lt Raker was posthumously awarded the Silver Star Medal.
- 2Lt Donald L. Gibbons (CP)(POW) - Assigned to 359th BS on 2 April 1944. Became
the CoPilot replacement for 2Lt Raker. Flew on four missions with the 1Lt Roth Crew
(148, 151, 154, 155), five dispatched (3 credited) missions with the 2Lt Maurice C. Daum Crew (134(A), 140(A), 143, 144, 145) and one mission with the 2Lt Clinton A. Moser Crew (146). Became a POW on mission 155.
- 2Lt George J. Beys (N)(KIA) - Flew on six missions with the Lt Roth Crew (143, 144,
148, 151, 154, 155) and two missions with other Pilots (146, 150). Was KIA on mission
155 and is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery near Liege, Belgium.
- 1Lt Owen H. O'Neill, Jr. (B) - Flew on five missions with the Lt Roth Crew
(143, 144, 148, 151, 154). Flew on 29 missions with other Pilots: 1Lt Edwin H. Assenheimner (2 missions - 155, 157); 2Lt Russell W. Meier (12 missions (150, 171, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187); 2Lt John W. Reed (6 missions - 189, 190, 191, 194, 195, 205); With five other Pilots (7 missions - 208, 209, 211, 214, 215, 222, 223); Last mission (225) flown as a Lead Crew Tail Gunner/Observer with LtCol Richard H.
Cole (P). 35 mission combat tour completed on 11 August 1944.
- S/Sgt Herman L. Moening (TOG)(KIA) - Assigned 359th BS on 26 August 1943.
Became a replacement for 1Lt Owen H. O'Neill, Jr. (B). Flew on one mission with the 1Lt
Roth Crew (155), with 2Lt Richard K. Marsh Crew (6 missions - 136, 137, 140, 141, 146, 151) and two missions with other Pilots (118, 131). Was KIA on mission 155 and is
buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery near Liege, Belgium.
- S/Sgt Fred E. Dexter (E)(POW), S/Sgt Earl W. Buckingham (R)(KIA), Sgt Ralph
E. Streicher (BTG), Sgt John W. Kurzawski (LWG)(KIA), Sgt Arnout C. Martens
(RWG)(POW), Sgt Henry A. Gardner (TG)(POW). Flew on six credited missions with
1Lt Roth (143, 144, 148, 151, 154, 155) and no missions with other Pilots. Sgt Martens
stood down on mission 154. All became casualties on mission 155.
On 19 May 44 mission #155 to Berlin, Germany in B-17G #42-313 86 Sky Duster 359BS (BN-W)
. Number 3 engine fell off after receiving a direct flak hit just before bombs away. Sky Duster
slipped to the right out of the Squadron formation and crashed in Berlin, Germany - 6 KIA & 4 POW. Substitute crewmen: 2Lt D.L. Gibbons
(CP)(POW) for Lt Raker
(CP); S/Sgt H.G. Moening
(Togglier)(KIA) for Lt O'Neill
was KIA on Mission #144 29 April 1944. O'Neill
completed his combat tour and returned to the USA.
As the allies were closing in, the Stalag Luft 4 prison camp was being moved daily. Food was scarce and the German guards were jumpy. The guards began to be hasty about roll call. Sgt Henry "Hank" Gardner
and S/Sgt Fred Dexter
took the chance and hid in a barn one morning and were left behind. As soon as they could, they set out in the direction they'd come from and eventually joined oncoming allied troops. A cablegram from Hank about his "release" was received 27 April 1945.
[photo from the 303rdBGA Archives]
[Researched by 303rdBGA Historian Harry D. Gobrecht]