March 28, 2010
Volume II, Issue 5
Collision of B-17G #43-38958 Green Hill Belle (427BS) and #44-8647 (360BS)
Mission No. 353: 6 April 1945
Target: Main Marshalling Yard at Leipzig, Germany
An unexpected tragedy struck the 303rd Bomb Group in the early spring of 1945. Two aircraft and their crews were lost in a mid-air collision shortly before reaching the target of Leipzig, Germany. The aircraft were B-17G #43-38958 Green Hill Belle (427BS) and B-17G #44-8647 (360BS). Dense contrails appeared to contribute directly to the collision. No parachutes were observed leaving either B-17 and both aircraft crashed at Loessnitz, Germany, approximately 50 km south of Leipzig.
Green Hill Belle, piloted by 2Lt Melvin Alderman, exploded in the air after the collision and broke up into small parts, some were on fire. The crewmen were assigned to the 2Lt Roman M. Ley Crew on 27 March 1945. They were flying their initial mission with pilot 2Lt Melvin Alderman, an experienced pilot who had flown 34 previous missions, most of them as copilot with the Grafton N. Smith Crew. Killed in the crash were 2Lt Alderman, 2Lt Roman M. Ley, F/O George S. Thomas, 2Lt Howard G. Weinberg, Sgt Roaul R. Prieto, Sgt Don M. Beebe, Cpl William M. Toler and Cpl Jesse M. Moore.
(Back L-R) S/Sgt Clarence Mooneyham, Jr. (TOG)(KIA), Sgt Robert R. Reynolds (BT)(KIA),
Sgt Louis V. Garbarino (TG)(KIA), T/Sgt Lane Foster (R)(KIA), S/Sgt Francis E. Bratcher (E)(KIA)
(Front L-R) 2Lt Howard C. Lacker (P)(KIA), 2Lt Ralph L. Johnson (CP), 2Lt Billy L. Runnels (B), 2Lt James B. O'Neil (N)(KIA)
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. Killed in #44-8647 were 2Lt Lacker, 2Lt Alexander Kacus, 2Lt James B. O'Neil, S/Sgt Clarence Mooneyham, S/Sgt Francis E. Bratcher, S/Sgt Lane Foster, Sgt Robert R. Reynolds, Sgt Louis V. Garbarino, Jr. and Sgt Oscar F. Bonner.
Green Hill Belle Crash Site
Children at the Green Hill Belle crash site. The boy at the far left attended the ceremony at age 67.
On a spring day, April 6th, 1945, massive bomber formations were on their way to Leipzig. Suddenly, explosions were heard over the town of Loessnitz, in the Ore Mountain Region. Two B-17s had lost visibility in the contrails and collided. 2Lt Frank E. Welshon, copilot on the 360th 2Lt Clarence D. Bristol Crew reported that Lt. Lacker's plane was sliding sideways and down, apparently out of control, and made contact with Lt. Alderman's crew in the Green Hill Belle. Both aircraft hung together for a few moments. Lt. Lacker's plane then detached itself and the Green Hill Belle blew up. Pieces were seen on fire, falling to earth. The two B-17s went down with a crew of 17 men, and their bomb loads.
When Roaul was reported missing his mother walked more than two miles daily to the local post office, looking for more news. Finally, the family was informed that their son would not return. Roaul was the Flight Engineer and aerial gunner on the Alderman Crew. He died three days after his 21st birthday. He had wanted to open a machine shop and get married. It was not to be.
Extensive research was done into this incident and the findings were very detailed. Some witnesses from that day are still alive. The remains of the crew were laid to rest in the local Loessnitz cemetery, and later transferred US Military Cemeteries in Louisville, Kentucky and Liege, Belgium.
After a reception in the Mayor's chambers, all participants went to the crash site in town, which has long since been rebuilt. Eugene Prieto burned incense as a Native American ritual, while his wife Cynthia spread flowers around the crash site and sang a Mexican lullaby. The scent was a mixture of California White Sage. Many in attendance had tears in their eyes. Heaven presented some hail and snow during the ceremony. Eugene read all the names of the deceased crew members. The wind tried to blow away the past, but in the people's hearts this April 6th remained unforgettable. The local residents had buried the crewmen's remains with dignity in the local cemetery, next to the chapel. For this the Prieto family was most grateful.
It was summer 1949 and the Soviet Military Kommandantur in Aue ordered me to transport several boxes from Loessnitz to Chemnitz. Since the boxes were located in the Loessnitz cemetery, it made me aware that the contents of the boxes were bodies. After the boxes were loaded onto my Ford truck, two Soviet soldiers accompanied me to Aue. The boxes were to be exchanged. I was requested to leave the truck inside the yard of the Soviet Kommandantur and disappear. When I returned the next day to my truck, the boxes were exchanged.The now 87-year old Guenther, a former POW, attended the ceremony. He lifted his hat as a salute to the Prieto family. He offered his condolences and added, "even though they died, it happened on a beautiful country side." The Prietos really appreciated the wonderful reception and hoped to return some day.
This event was made possible by the research of docent volunteers of the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, NY and the staff of the Loessnitz Archive Keeper. For the Prieto family, it brought some closure to this tragedy. There were other reasons to make this long journey – a lesson on how to face death and to say good-bye to their uncle.
Sgt Prieto is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium. For several years the Prieto family had been trying to get approval to have Roaul's body returned to the family to be interred in Palm Springs, California with his parents. Sadly, they were not successful.
303rd BG (H) Combat Mission #130
28 March 1944
Target: Dijon/Longvic Airdromes, France
Another Nazi airfield was partially missing after being visited by 303rd BG(H) Fortresses. With perfect visibility at 16,900 feet, Group bombardiers could take time to position for the run-up on the target. 838 65-lb. M47A1 incendiary bombs dropped in a compact mass on the building in the corner of the airdrome. Tall plumes of smoke could be seen rising from the burning building and petrol dumps 150 miles away from the target.
In many respects, it was one of the best missions ever executed by the 303rd BG(H). In addition to the good bombing, there was no opposition of any kind–enemy fighters or flak. The bombers flew a perfect bombing formation. The fighter escort, mostly P-47s, was present throughout the mission, although there were no German airplanes in the air. Only a few very distant bursts of anti-aircraft fire were seen. There were no casualties and no battle damage to the B-17s. All aircraft returned safely to Molesworth.
Capt. Louis M. Schulstad, Group Air Commander said, "It was the most perfect mission I've ever been on. Absolutely no opposition and bombing couldn't have been better." 1Lt. Edwin H. Assenheimer, a Fortress pilot said, "The visibility was unlimited and we could see the target for half an hour before we got to it. We had a good chance to plaster it and the bombardiers did a good job." S/Sgt. Charles W. Robb, tail gunner said, "When we were 150 miles away from the target on the way home I could still see smoke coming up from the field."
This photo was taken from the camera pit in Thunderbird on March 28, 1944. The target was an airfield at Dijon, France. Bomb strikes can be seen in one area of buildings. A following group of fortresses wiped out the next group of buildings, while a third group demolished the third group of buildings. The airfield was completely destroyed.
A total of 117 Eighth Air Force B-17s dropped 902 x 500 General Purpose and 1718 x 65 Incendiary bombs - 280 tons - from 16,900 feet at 1442 to 1453 hours. The Dijon/Longvic Airdrome was an operational base for twin-engine fighters, probably ME-110s. In the main hangar-administration area on the west side of the airfield, two heavy concentrations of incendiaries and one concentration of G.P. bombs were seen. Fires were started in two of five large double-bay hangars and damage was expected to be severe. Two square hangars received direct incendiary hits and were burning fiercely.
A large workshop was hit. The whole administration area was covered by incendiaries. In
the hangar-workshop area on the northwest side of the field, a three-bay hangar received
three direct hits and was severely damaged. Four workshops received direct hits and two
of them were completely demolished. Blast damage by near misses on four medium
workshops could be seen. Twenty-nine medium, four S/E enemy aircraft and one twin fuselage
enemy aircraft were seen on the field. Four medium enemy aircraft were
A member of the 1199th Military Police Company - March 30, 1944
General Carl Spaatz and Lt. General Jimmy Doolittle discuss the results of the bombing raid
on the oil refinery at Halle, Germany with crews who participated in Mission 349, on March 31, 1945.
Eighth Air Force Reunion – Tucson, Arizona – July 21-25, 2010
Registration is now underway for the 2010 8th Air Force Reunion this July in Tucson, Arizona. Registration information is in the March 2010 issue of the 8th AF News or online here: http://www.8thafhs.org/reunions.htm. We're looking for a good turnout from our 303rd Bomb Group veterans, families and friends. Susan and I are looking forward to seeing our 303rd BG friends again.
Yes Sir... She's Our Baby....
I am trying to locate a wartime article entitled "Yes Sir...She's Our Baby." The article was about the 359th Squadron's "The Knockout Dropper" and started out with photos and quotes from members of "The Dropper's" ground crew. I only have the first two pages of the article and would like to acquire the other pages. If anyone has this article, please contact Marin Ennis, 1405 Dogwood Drive, West Lawn, PA 19609, (610) 678-2997 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!!
Frank Harold Schuler - November 30, 1924 - March 17, 2010, Loveland, Ohio. Beloved husband of Elizabeth (nee Walker) Schuler. Loving father of Frank (Lonnie), Beth (Jim) Bischoff, Dan (Dee), Greg (Anne) Teresa (John) Garnich, Karl (Mary) and Tim (Linda). Cherished grandfather of twenty-one grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren. Brother of Margaret Schneider, Marcella Curtis, Barbara Dixon and the late James William Schuler. Proudly served our country in the US Army.
[Note: June 22, 1944 Mission #188 to Wizernes, France: As the Lynch Crew was nearing the English coast the #2 engine exploded and the crew was ordered to bail out over the English Channel. The B-17 exploded shortly before it hit the water. Partly due to the clear weather with unlimited visibility, crewmen were in the water for only 45 minutes before being spotted and rescued. Schuler and others were rescued by two destroyers. Five crewmen drowned.]
Walter is survived by his wife of 66 years, Viola, son Walter J and Cyndy Carney Jr of Palm Bay FL and daughter Bridget E. and Allan Tallis of Soddy Daisy TN. He also leaves his grandson Christopher A Tallis and fiance Amy Young of Jasper TN and grandson Michael A and Erin Tallis and great-granddaughter Shannon Elizabeth of Suffield CT. Walter was predeceased by his brother Richard and sister Lee Bass. Walter was a communicant of St. Joseph Church, Suffield. He was employed at the former American Bosch for over 20 years. He was a charter member of VFW Post 9544. Walter was a quiet person who was exceptionally talented and enjoyed the outdoors and golf at Oak Ridge. He will be missed by all who knew him. A special thank you to the staff at Country Estates for giving him such loving attention. God Bless you all.
Gary, I was sorry to hear of George Turinsky's passing in the March 7 issue of The Molesworth Pilot. You may recall that about 2 years ago you were kind enough to give me Carol Sage's contact information. That led to George getting in touch with my dad again after nearly 60 years. My dad was Turk's co-pilot during those 35 missions out of Molesworth in 1944 and 1945. They last spoke in the fall of 2009, when Turk told my dad that he had lung cancer. My dad (William Shaughnessy) is recovering from a fractured hip. I told him that Turk passed away and he was understandably saddened by the news. The EAA brought its B-17, Aluminum Overcast, to Rochester, MN last summer. Took my dad to see it and he was thrilled. (see photo). Thanks again so much for all that you do and for allowing these two 'heroes' to get back in touch with each other again. Turns out it was just in the nick of time. I cannot thank you enough. Bill Shaughnessy Jr.Keeping the Legacy Alive,