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DOUGLAS C. VAN WEELDEN CREW - 359th BS
(crew assigned 359BS: 04 May 1944)
(Back L-R) Sgt Philip A. Olander (E-POW), S/Sgt Ralph E. Ledogar (R-KIA),
S/Sgt William K. Forsythe (WG-KIA), Sgt Urban L. Raterman (BT-POW),
Sgt John Welch (WG), Sgt John K. Barry (TG-KIA)
2Lt Douglas C. Van Weelden (P-POW),
2Lt William A. Sysel (CP-KIA),
2Lt William A. Sysel (CP), S/Sgt Ralph E. Ledogar (Radio) & S/Sgt William K. Forsythe (WG) are buried at Ardennes American Cemetery near Liege Belgium. Sgt John K. Barry (TG) is buried at Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands. All four were believed to have made successful parachute jumps, became POWs and were later shot and murdered by Germans who captured them.
Sgt John Welch (RWG) flew four credited missions with the Lt Van Weelden crew (152(A),
157, 158, 159 & 160). The Van Weelden crew size was reduced from 10 to 9 men following mission 160
and the second Waist Gunner position was deleted. Sgt Welch was later
assigned as Ball Turret Gunner on the 1Lt Arthur G. Carpenter, Jr. Crew . Flew on 15 credited and 2 aborted missions with the 1Lt Carpenter Crew [182 (16 June
44), 183, 184, 185, 189, 190, 191, 193, 194(A), 196(A), 197, 198, 199, 204, 205, 206 & 210 (23 July 44)]. Flew on his last 4 missions with other Pilots: As Lead Crew BTG with Capt. William E.
Eisenhart (P) (234 & 238); As BTG with 2Lt John W. Parker (P)(236); As TG with
2Lt Philip H. McDavid (P)(240)(11 Sept 44). Total 23 credited missions.
(KIA-POW) on 30 May 44 mission #165 to Halberstadt, Germany in B-17 #42-32213 Pistol Packin' Mama 359BS (BN-Z). Dropped from #2 to #6 formation position after crossing Dutch border into Germany. The #2 engine was smoking slightly at bombs away and was feathered when smoking became violent. On the second bomb run Lt Van Weelden was unable to make the turn and dropped behind the formation. His lagging B-17 was spotted by a ME-109 who inflicted additional damage. Was about four miles behind and 2,000 below the 303rd formation when reaching the Zeider Zee and the bail out order was given. The B-17 crashed at Nordhausen, Germany. Lt Van Weelden was advised after capture that the bodies of the four KIA crewmen and been found on the ground near the crashed B-17. He believed that this was untrue since he had flown a long distance after the crew bailed out and that the four men had been shot and murdered by the Germans
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]