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HOWARD C. LACKER CREW - 360th BS
(crew assigned 360BS: 30 Jan 1945)
(Back L-R) S/Sgt Clarence Mooneyham, Jr. (TOG)(KIA)(1) **,
Sgt Robert R. Reynolds (BT)(KIA)(1), Sgt Louis V. Garbarino (TG-KIA)(1) **,
T/Sgt Lane Foster (R)(KIA)(1), S/Sgt Francis E. Bratcher (E)(KIA)(1) **
2Lt Howard C. Lacker (P)(KIA)(1),
2Lt Ralph L. Johnson (CP),
The mascot "Baby Doll" was given to Jim O'Neil by his wife as a good luck piece.
Twenty-four dispatched (23 credited) combat missions flown by 2Lt Howard C. Lacker:
315 (15 Feb 1945), 316, 317, 318 (A), 319, 324, 325, 326, 327, 330, 333, 334, 336, 337, 338, 340, 342, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 352, 353 (6 April 1945)
Eleven B-17Gs flown by 2Lt Howard C. Lacker on his 24 dispatched combat missions:
Voice Interpreters (VI) - Missions 325, 330, 338, 340, 352. Radio Control Measure Operator (RCM) - Mission 347. Y Radio Operator (YRO)(KIA) - Mission 353. Sgt Oscar F. Bonner (YRO) KIA on 6 April 1945 (Mission 353).
(KIA) - 06 April 1945 on mission #353 to Leipzig, Germany. The Lacker Crew in B-17G #44-8647 (no name) (360BS) PU-M, was involved in a mid-air collision with the 2Lt Melvin Alderman Crew in B-17G #43-38958 Green Hill Belle (427BS) GN-H just before reaching the target.
Johnson and Runnels were not with the Lacker crew on the 06 April 1945 mission. Replacement crewmen were: Alexander T. Kacus (CP-KIA) and Oscar F. Bonner, Jr. (WG-KIA).
The dense contrails appeared to contribute directly to the collision. There were no parachutes observed leaving either B-17. Both aircraft crashed at Loessnitz, Germany, approximately 50 km south of Leipzig. #43-38958, piloted by 2Lt Melvin Alderman, exploded in the air after the collision and broke up into small parts--some were on fire. All eight crewmen were killed. F/O Thomas, 2Lt Weinberg, and Sgt Prieto are buried in Ardennes American Cemetery near Liege, Belgium.
The tail assembly broke and the No. 3 engine caved in with the propeller off on #44-8647, piloted by 2Lt Howard C. Lacker. Other crews spotted the aircraft going down in a flat spin. It appeared that the engines had been out because the propellers turned slowly. Also killed in the crash were 2Lt Alexander Kacus, 2Lt James B. O'Neil, S/Sgt Clarence Mooneyham, S/Sgt Francis E. Bratcher, T/Sgt Lane Foster, Sgt Robert R. Reynolds, Sgt Louis V. Garbarino, Jr., Sgt Oscar F. Bonner. 2Lt O'Neil, S/Sgt Mooneyham, S/Sgt Bratcher and Sgt Garbarino are buried in Ardennes American Cemetery near Liege, Belgium. Click here for crash site photos.
(1) See the 360th Juns Crew photo
Six members of the two crews are buried in a common grave at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville, KY.
by 2nd Lt. Billy L. Runnels
0-2073412, Bombardier (1035)
8th Air Force, 1st Division
303rd Bomb Group (H), 360th Squadron
AAF STA 107, APO 557
Howard C. Lacker Crew
I still remember the firm nudge on my shoulder and soft voice saying "Lieutenant, it is time." The date February 15, 1945, hour 5:00AM, place 303rd Bomb Group, Molesworth, England. The cool damp barracks atmosphere made crawling out of the sack less than desirable. But, it was time and I responded as did fellow crew members 2nd Lt. Howard C. Lacker (pilot), 2nd Lt. Ralph Johnson (co-pilot), and 2nd Lt. Jim O'Neil (navigator). A similar wake up call was also given to crew members S/SGT. Francis Bratcher (engineer), T/SGT. Lane Foster (radio), SGT. Louis Garbarino (tail gunner), Sgt. Robert Reynolds (ball turret), and S/SGT. Clarence Mooneyham Jr. (waist gunner) in their barracks. This day would test our skills and commitment in the unfriendly skies over Germany. Assigned target, "Military Objectives", Dresden, Germany. . . . continued . . .
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]