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360th Nafius Crew
V. Harry Nafius, Pilot
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B-17 #42-31340 Miss Liberty PU-D
(crew assigned 360BS: 17 June 1944 - photo: 27 June 1944)

(Back L-R) 1Lt Verner Harry Nafius (P), 2Lt Richard L. "Spider" Smith (CP)
1Lt Sidney L. George (N), 1Lt James E. Cummins (B)

(Front L-R) Sgt Charles G. Davies (WG), Sgt Roy K. Rydquist (WG),
T/Sgt Irving Birkenholz (R), S/Sgt Richard R. Ellis (E),
Sgt James E. McGinley (BT), Sgt Billy B. Jinkens (TG)

Wiesbaden - August 15, 1944
by Richard L. "Spider" Smith
On August 15th 1944 I experienced one of the scariest missions of my 35 mission tour with the 303rd. We were flying in the lead of the low Squadron, and I was copilot on Nafius' Crew. As we started on the Bomb run, I looked out my window toward the right wingtip. I saw what I thought was flak bursts far out to the right of the formation. At that time the tail gunner came on the radio shouting that we were under attack from enemy fighters. What I thought was flak bursts was in reality 20MM shells exploding above the wing. The right waist gunner said that we were hit in the flap behind the #3 engine . A FW-190 went by us and Bombardier Jim Cummins fired the chin turret and made several hits. Just then we began to lose power on number three engine, the loss of power continued until we had to feather number three. We saw no more fighters as P-51s and P47s had joined us as escort. We had sustained a hit at the wing trailing edge behind number 3 engine and were able to keep up with the formation and drop our bombs. The flight back to Molesworth was fine with no more problems.

That night as we were eating supper in the officers mess there was a call over the loud-speaker for the Nafius crew to report to the lobby of the Officers Club. We all went to the lobby and were met by our aircraft's crew chief who showed us a 20MM shell he had removed from the number 3 supercharger, the shell was full of sand instead of gunpowder. We owe our lives to some slave laborer in Germany who had sabotaged the making of this shell, as this shell had gone through the number three main tank .

Talking to Keith Ferris who painted the Picture of Thunderbird leading the Wiesbaden mission, I learned that this mission was the first time the Germans had tried a new tactic of Line Abreast attacks from the rear all firing their guns in unison. I think we lost twelve aircraft on this mission. When I spoke with Jim Cummins about the painting, he said that in his memoirs he has a probable shooting down of a German fighter listed for that mission. Thanks again to whoever put the sand in that 20MM shell!

[photo courtesy of Richard L. "Spider" Smith]