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427th Ness Crew
Howard C. Ness, Pilot
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B-17F Max #41-3158 (427BS) GN-Y
(crew assigned 427BS: 26 Sep 1943 - photo: Sep 1943)
(Upgraded from CoPilot to Pilot: 27 September 1943)

(Back L-R) T/Sgt Leonard E. Ratliff (R)(2)(8), 2Lt John J. Reeder (B)(1B)(2),
1Lt Howard C. Ness (P)(1)(1A)(1B)(9), 2Lt Robert V. Doyle (N)(1B)(2)(9),
2Lt Silas B. Ashwell (CP)(1C)(2)

(Front L-R) S/Sgt Jesse E. Tripp (TG)(1)(1D)(9), Sgt Edward P. Madak (LWG)(3),
S/Sgt Angelo J. Tambe (BT)(1B)(2)(5), Sgt Jack D. Ferguson (RWG)(1B)(4),
T/Sgt Charles E. Walsh (E)(1B)(2)(8)

B-17 Max was named for Ness' younger brother who was killed in a training flight while an Air Cadet.

  1. Original member of the Lt Jacob C. James Crew -29 May 43
    1. 1Lt Howard C. Ness (P) - Upgraded from CoPilot (James Crew) on 18 Sept 43 - Flew last five missions as Pilot. 25th mission 14 Oct 43.
    2. Flew with the Howard C. Ness Crew on 303 d BG(H) missions 72,73,74,77 & 78
    3. 1Lt Silas B. Ashwell (N) -Flew with the Howard C. Ness Crew on 303rd BG(H) missions 73,74,77 & 78. Became a Lead Crew CoPilot and upgraded to Pilot on 6 July 43. 25th mission 28 Sept 1944.
    4. S/Sgt Jesse E. Tripp (TG) - Flew with the Howard C. Ness Crew on 303rd BG(H) missions 73,74 & 78. 25th mission on 14 Oct 1943.
    5. Sgt Edward P. Madak (LWG) - Flew with the Howard C. Ness Crew on 303rd BG(H) missions 72 & 78
  2. Original member of the George W. Shope Crew - 06 July 43
  3. Sgt Edward P. Madak (WG) - KIA 4 January 1944 mission #95 to Kiel, Germany, Lt F.C. Humphrey, Pilot. Ditched in North Sea (10 KIA). Sgt Madak's body recovered on 21 Oct 1944 on Ameland Island, Holland.
  4. Sgt Jack D. Ferguson (RWG) - POW 21 Jan 1944 mission #100 to Bois-Coquerel, FR in B-17 #42-39786 GI Sheets that crashed at Soire-St Gery, Belgium (1 KIA, 4 POW, 5 Evd). Sgt Ferguson was badly wounded and was taken to a civilian hospital by Belgians. Was made a POW and cared for by German doctors. Crew monument at Soire-St Gery, Belgium
  5. S/Sgt Angelo J. Tambe (BT) - 30 July 1943. Bailed out over England from B-17 sprained ankle, Lt. G.W. Shope, Pilot. 01 Dec 1943. Ditched in North Sea. Out of Gas. Entire crew picked up by Air-Sea Rescue boat. 25th mission on 22 March 1944.
  6. 2Lt Robert V. Doyle (N) 25th mission 6 Mar 1944) and Lt John J. Reeder (25th mission 4 March 1944) - Both became members of Lead Crews.
  7. 6 Sept 43 mission #67 returning from Stuttgart, Germany in 427th BS B-17 #42-29944 Winning Run. Crash landing at Deanland (near Uckland), on small RAF fighter field. Lt Jacob James Pilot. Passenger was Mr. Frank Schershel, Life Magazine Correspondent. Story appear in a October 1943 Life Magazine story.
  8. T/Sgt Charles E. Walsh (E) and T/Sgt Leonard E. Ratliff (R) - 25th mission on 19 March 1944
  9. Lt Ness, Lt Doyle & S/Sgt Tripp - Flew on both Schweinfurt missions #60 17 Aug 1943 & #78 14 Oct 1943
The following article appeared in Stars and Stripes following the 14 October 1943 Schweinfurt Mission:
Bomb Caught in Bomb Bay. Nearly Blows Up Fortress

An Eighth Bomber Station, Oct. 18--German fighters and flak got 60 Flying Fortresses in Thursday's raid on Schweinfurt, German. They'll never know just how close they came to getting No. 61.

With a 1,000-pounder caught in the bomb bay mechanism, the bomb bay doors wide open, with an evasive action meaning the big ship probably would be blown to smithereens, the German fighters literally swarming in to make a kill, there was the Fortress Max, winging its way like a great clay pigeon over Schweinfurt, duck soup for the Luftwaffe.

But the Max got back, with a crew to tell the tale.

Piloted by 1/Lt Howard C. Ness on his 25th mission, his plane on its 18th without a mechanical failure.

After making the bomb run, the ship turned to head for home. It was then that the radio gunner, T/Sgt Leonard Ratliff, of Fort Cobb, Okla., noticed the bomb, hanging nose down, caught in the release mechanism, its propellor whirling merrily, a dangerous passenger if there ever was one.

Over the intercom he called the bombardier. 2/Lt John J. Reeder, of Columbia, S.C., who took one look and then san out over the radio to the pilot:

"Please! No evasive action!" It was a prayerful plea, for a slight jarring of the ship either way probably would have exploded the huge tin fish.

Just about that time there came another fervent appeal from the tail gunner, S/Sgt Jeffrey S. Tripp, of Pocatello, Ida.:

"Please! Kick it around!" - meaning that with fighters and flak pounding away he wanted some evasive action, and quickly.

"I was in a helluva fix," Ness recounted. "Reeder had summed up the situation tersely, yet I knew what the gunners wanted."

More that 200 enemy fighters were in the air at the time. Twin-engined fighters laid back, pegging rockets at the helpless Max, whose plight was evident to them all, while others tore in close, their guns singing.

Ness came back and had a try at working the bomb loose. In the 35-below zero temperature, he nearly froze.

Then Reeder, with Ratliff holding a "walkaround" oxygen flask for him, which gave the bombardiers about two minutes in which to work, went back to the bomb bay, twisted his legs around the catwalk, and went to work practically hanging out of the ship upside down.

He screwed the propellor up tight, got two pins into the detonator mechanism, and cut the tail fuse. But his.oxygen began to run out and be began to get white. Moreover, at that instant he had to be hauled back up and rushed into the nose of the Max, there to handle a gun to help beat off a terrific horde of Nazi fighters swarming in.

That bunch beaten off, he returned to his job, making the bomb harmless. It than was jettisoned.

"We closed the bomb bay doors then, and over the intercom you could hear Ratliff holler, 'OK, Skipper, kick it all you want to,'" Reeder said.

[photo courtesy of Howard C. Ness]
[Researched by 303rdBGA Historian Harry D. Gobrecht]