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359th Van Weelden Crew
Douglas C. Van Weelden, Pilot
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(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)

(Front L-R) 2Lt Douglas C. Van Weelden (P-POW), 2Lt William A. Sysel (CP-KIA),
2Lt Robert W. Saumsiegle (N-POW), F/O Ronald J. Vincent (B-POW)

KIA Crewmen:
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.

Combat Missions flown by Lt Douglas C. Van Weelden Crewmen:
All Crewmen (except for Sgt John Welch) flew on Eight credited missions [154(A) (15 May 44), 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 164 & 165 (30 May 44)]

  • 2Lt Douglas C. Van Weelden - Flew first two missions as a Copilot with Mission Orientation Pilots [151 (11 May 44) with 2Lt Richard K. Marsh (P) and 152 (12 May 44) with 1Lt Noel N. Newell (P). Total ten credited missions.
  • 2Lt William A. Sysel - Flew his first mission as Copilot (153 13 May 44) with 2Lt Richard K. Marsh (P) - Total nine credited missions.
For mission dates and targets see the missions list. (A) Non credited aborted mission.

(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

[photo from the 303rdBGA Archives]
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]