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359th Tilsen Crew
Cyril Tilsen, Pilot
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CYRIL TILSEN CREW - 359th BS
(crew assigned 359BS: 25 Dec 1944)

(Back) 2Lt Donald T. Bager (B/N), 2Lt James B. McDowell, Jr. (CP),
1Lt Cyril Tilsen (P), 2Lt Casmir M. Bielski (N)

(Front) S/Sgt Julian R. Cassino (WG/TOG), T/Sgt Sherod R. Driggers, Jr. (E),
S/Sgt Isaac H. Proctor (TG), S/Sgt Arnold Mawdsley (R),
Sgt William G. Hendon (BTG)

Crewmen not in order. Ranks and Grades at time of last combat mission



CYRIL TILSEN CREW - 359th BS
(crew assigned 359BS: 25 Dec 1944 - photo: Biggs Field, TX, late 1944)

(Back L-R) 2Lt Donald T. Bager (B/N), 2Lt James B. McDowell, Jr. (CP),
1Lt Cyril Tilsen (P), 2Lt Casmir M. Bielski (N)

(Front L-R) S/Sgt Julian R. Cassino (WG/TOG), T/Sgt Sherod R. Driggers, Jr. (E),
S/Sgt Isaac H. Proctor (TG), S/Sgt Arnold Mawdsley (R),
Sgt William G. Hendon (BTG)

Ranks and Grades at time of last combat mission

The Tilsen Crew was named the "Outstanding Combat Crew" at Biggs Field. They were the first 2nd AF Crew to be recognized for outstanding work in training. The crew competed against 54 other teams.



CYRIL TILSEN CREW - 359th BS
(photo: Molesworth, 13 March 1945)

(Back L-R) 2Lt Casmir M. Bielski (N), 1Lt Cyril Tilsen (P),
2Lt James B. McDowell, Jr. (CP), S/Sgt Arnold Mawdsley (R)

(Front L-R) S/Sgt Julian R. Cassino (WG/TOG), S/Sgt Isaac H. Proctor (TG),
T/Sgt Sherod R. Driggers, Jr. (E), Sgt William G. Hendon (BTG)

Ranks and Grades at time of last combat mission


Twenty-nine credited combat missions flown by 1Lt Cyril Tilsen:
300 (10 Jan 45), 301, 302, 303, 306, 308, 310 (1 Feb 45), 313, 315, 316, 321, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 329 (3 Mar 45), 330, 331, 337(DLC), 340, 341, 343, 344, 345, 350 (3 Apr 45), 352(LC), 353, 354, 355, 357 (10 Apr 45).
(DLC) Flown as a Deputy Lead Crew Pilot -- (LC) Flown as a Lead Crew CoPilot without any of his assigned crewmen. For Mission dates, targets and Mission Reports, see Combat Missions.

Nineteen B-17Gs flown by 1Lt Cyril Tilsen on his 29 credited combat missions:

  • 43-38258 (P) Forget Me Not Olly (358BS) VK-H - Mission 300
  • 43-38289 (P) Sweet La Rhonda (359) BN-J - Missions 301, 310, 321, 329, 330
  • 42-107206 Old Black Magic (359BS) BN-R - Mission 302
  • 42-97944 (P) Thunderbird (359BS) BN-U - Missions 303, 313
  • 42-97546 (P) Idaliza (360BS) PU-E - Mission 306
  • 43-38619 (No name) (359BS) BN-A - Mission 308
  • 44-6316 (No name) (358BS) VK-C - Mission 315
  • 42-102411 (P) Miss Lace (427BS) GN-Y - Mission 316
  • 43-38645 (No name) (359BS) BN-B - Missions 323, 345, 350, 353, 354
  • 43-39127 (No name) (359BS) BN-K - Missions 324, 325
  • 44-8734 (P) Hell's Cargo '44 (359BS) BN-C - Mission 331
  • 44-8439 (No Name) PFF (360BS) PU-Z - Mission 337 (DLC)
  • 43-38891 Blues in the Night (359BS) BN-H - Mission 340
  • 44-6309 (P) Duchess' Granddaughter (359BS) BN-T - Mission 341
  • 43-38878 (No name) (359BS) BN-D - Mission 343
  • 42-97281 (P) Quennie aka Queen of Jeanie (427BS) GN-Q - Mission 344
  • 44-8564 (No name) PFF (359BS) BN-Z - Mission 352
  • 43-38842 (No name) (360BS) PU-N - Mission 355
  • 43-38883 Lady Beth (359BS) BN-A - Mission 357
    (P) See: Nose Art Photos
Crew Notes:
  • 1Lt Cyril Tilsen (P) - First mission flown as CoPilot with Combat Orientation Pilot 2Lt Howard L. Fravel. Mission 352 flown as a Lead Crew CoPilot. Other missions flown as First Pilot. Completed 29 credited missions on 10 April 45 (Mission 357).
  • 2Lt James B. McDowell (CP)(WIA) - Missions flown: 26 with 1Lt Tilsen (All Tilsen missions except 300, 302, 352); 5 with other Pilots (300, 336, 339 (As LC Tail Gunner/Observer), 347, 351). Received a minor wound on his calf on his second mission (301) on 13 January 1945 requiring his stand down on mission 302. Completed 31 credited missions on 10 April 1945 (Mission 357).
  • 2Lt Casmir M. Bielski (N) - Missions flown: 23 with 1Lt Tilsen (All Tilsen missions except 330, 331, 337, 344, 345, 352, 353); 10 with other Pilots (312, 317, 328, 332, 336, 344, 347, 352, 353, 358). Completed 33 credited missions on 11 Apr 45 (Mission 358).
  • 2Lt Donald T. Barger (B/N) - Missions flown: 12 with 1Lt Tilsen (As Bombardier - 300, 301, 302, 303, 306, 308, 310, 313, 321, 324, As Navigator - 330, 331); 23 with other Pilots - With 1Lt Bixby (332, 333, 336, 337, 339), With 2Lt Henning (340, 344, 346, 349, 351, 352, 353, 357, 358), With 2Lt Heitman (341, 343), With 6 other Pilots 309, 316, 323, 325, 331, 342, 350. Completed his 35 mission combat tour on 11 April 45 (Mission 358). Was the only Tilsen crewman to complete his 35 mission combat tour.
  • T/Sgt Sherod R. Driggers, Jr. (E) - Missions flown: 28 with 1Lt Tilsen (All Tilsen missions except 352); With another Pilot (347). Completed 29 missions on 10 Apr 1945 (Mission 357).
  • S/Sgt Arnold Mawdsley (R) - Missions flown: 28 with 1Lt Tilsen (All Tilsen missions except 352); With another Pilot (347). Also flew on a non-credited B-17 Scouter mission with LtCol Cole (358). Completed 29 credited missions on 11 Apr 145 (Mission 357).
  • Sgt William G. Hendon (BTG) - Missions flown: 28 with 1Lt Tilsen (All Tilsen missions except 352); 2 with other Pilots (339, 347). Completed 30 missions on 10 Apr 45 (Mission 357).
  • S/Sgt Julian R. Cassino (WG/TOG) - Missions flown: 21 with 1Lt Tilsen - 13 as Waist Gunner (300, 301, 302, 303, 306, 308, 310, 313, 315, 316, 321, 323, 340); 8 as Togglier (325, 330, 340, 343, 345, 354, 355, 357). 5 as Waist Gunner with other Pilots (309, 317, 342, 344, 353). Completed 26 credited missions on 10 Apr 1945 (Mission 357).
  • S/Sgt Isaac H. Proctor (TG) - Missions flown: 25 with 1Lt Tilsen (All Tilsen missions except 316, 352, 355, 357). 5 with other Pilots (314, 317, 332, 347, 352). Completed 30 credited missions on 7 April 45 (Mission 354).
  • Y-Operators - Used on two missions (329, 344).
Mission Notes: Waist Gunner Missions
Crew flew with a Waist Gunner on fourteen missions (300, 301, 302, 303, 306, 308, 310, 313, 315, 316, 321, 323, 340, 352). Other fifteen Lt Tilsen missions were flown with an eight man crew without a Waist Gunner.

Mission 315, 15 February 1945 to Dresden, Germany in B-17G 44-3616 (No name) (358BS) VK-C.
Every mission had its moments, but the Tilsen crew's most harrowing mission was the 15 February 1945 mission to Dresden. Three engines were knocked out over the target and the B-17 dropped from the bombing altitude to 10,000 feet. Lt Tilsen was able to coax one of the damaged engines back to action, but didn't think that the B-17 would be able to fly back to Molesworth. He asked the Navigator, Lt Bielski, for a heading to Russia but Lt Bielski pointed out that his Polish and Lt Tilsen Jewish heritage would probably condemn both of them, not withstanding the hardships that other crewmen would suffer. Lt Tilsen agreed and the crew stayed on course for England. Their B-17 was flying low enough so that the crew could see German interceptor fighters taking off from their airfields intent on knocking straggler B-17 out of the sky. Again and again along the way, squadrons of American fighters would swoop down and drive the German fighters away. The B-17 managed to limp back to Molesworth, way behind the 8th Air Force, but ready and able to fight another day (Comments related by Navigator Lt Casimir Bielski, Jr.)

Enlisted crewmen initial mission grades
Four of the enlisted crewmen flew their first five missions with enlisted men grades below Sergeant.. William G. Hendon (BTG) as a Private and Arnold Mawdsley (R), Julian R. Cassino (WG) and Isaac H. Proctor as Corporals. All were promoted to Sergeants following mission 306 on 22 January 1945. It was highly unusual for any 8th AF crewmen to fly a combat mission with a grade below Sergeant.

[photos from the 303rdBGA Archives and the Irue Ferguson Family]
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]