Crew 42 - Assigned 754th Squadron - October 1943
Crashed on takeoff May 8, 1944 (Accident Report 44-5-8-511)
|2Lt||Paul E Kingsley||02045233||Pilot||08-May-44||KIA||San Augustine County, TX|
|F/O||Homer F Ausman||T612667||Co-pilot||08-May-44||KIA||Washington DC|
|2Lt||John W Rogenmuser||0810546||Navigator||08-May-44||INJ||Injured in crash|
|2Lt||Arthur J Doyle||0752557||Bombardier||08-May-44||INJ||Injured in crash|
|T/Sgt||Raymond L Hunter||15043105||Flight Engineer||08-May-44||KIA||Wayne County, IN|
|Sgt||Ben Wishinski||33486155||Radio Operator||08-May-44||KIA||Cambridge American Cemetery|
|Pfc||Arthur E Neubacher||16110921||Airplane & Eng Mech||15-Apr-45||RFS||Trsf to 377th HQ/Base ASG|
|Sgt||Wayne B Danielson||15333425||Airplane Armorer||08-May-44||KIA||Cambridge American Cemetery|
|Sgt||Albert L Nix||19071422||Airplane Armorer||12-Jun-44||INJ||Returned to States|
|S/Sgt||Sherman H Cassidy||12125135||Aerial Gunner, 2/E||Aug-44||CT||Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross|
Sgt Arthur Neubacher was removed from flying status at some point in April 1944. He was replaced by Sgt Patrick H. Cook from Montana.
Crew 42 boarded Belle Of Boston on the morning of May 8, 1944. The air was heavy with frost and many of the Liberators needed their wings cleaned more than once before takeoff. They were third in line this morning, and according to one of the crew, Lt Kingsley did not want to take off until his wings were cleaned again, but the was order was given, "Go!"
Lt. Kingsley made a normal takeoff from R/W 05 into the north east and seemed to be under control and flying normally when last observed. Shortly after this a column of black smoke was observed about 2-1/2 miles from the field. Crash trucks and ambulances were immediately dispatched to the scene of the crash.
Sherman H. Cassidy, S/Sgt, 1212515 only slightly injured and one of the three [sic] survivors stated upon
questioning that Lt. Kingsley lost an engine shortly after takeoff and
then it caught fire when it started operating again. Lt. Kingsley was
unable to keep plane in the air and mushed along clipping the tops of
trees until right wing of ship hit a large tree and was sheered off.
Immediately after this the plane crashed and burned. The ship was
completely destroyed. Sgt Patrick Cook was amongst those killed.
Lt. Samuel D. Scorza, navigator in the third B-24 behind Kingsley
"Before we even took off we were scared stiff. About four planes crashed on takeoff due to heavy frost on the wings. The sky was filled with smoke towering several thousand feet. We shot off a red flare on take off, taxied around and cleaned our wings off again. Took off and returned again because a gas cap was loose and the gas was siphoning out. We filled up with gas and took off a second time and tried to catch up with the formation. We noted one plane that crashed - several homes were demolished - nothing left of the plane. Our target was the airfield three miles north of Brunswick. Fighters were fighting us in the target area. I watched numerous dogfights and saw three planes go down in flames. Our tail gunner saw eleven B-17’s go down. About forty ME-109’s headed for our formation, but turned suddenly and made an attack on the B-17 formation. Three fighters made a pass at us on the bomb run, one hit in the nose turret - no one hurt. The Grace of God is what brought us back from this mission. It was really rough."
|Date||Target||458th Msn||Pilot Msn||Serial||RCL||Sqdn||A/C Msn||A/C Name||Comments|
|24-Feb-44||DUTCH COAST||D1||--||42-100362||--||Z5||D1||SWEET LORRAINE||Diversion Mission|
|25-Feb-44||DUTCH COAST||D2||--||42-100366||--||Z5||D2||MIZPAH||Diversion Mission|
|24-Mar-44||ST. DIZIER||13||3||41-29305||N||Z5||3||I'LL BE BACK|
|26-Mar-44||BONNIERES||14||4||41-29305||N||Z5||4||I'LL BE BACK|
|05-Apr-44||ST. POL-SIRACOURT||16||5||41-29305||N||Z5||5||I'LL BE BACK|
|18-Apr-44||BRANDENBURG||22||6||41-29305||N||Z5||10||I'LL BE BACK|
|19-Apr-44||PADERBORN A/F||23||7||41-29305||N||Z5||11||I'LL BE BACK|
|22-Apr-44||HAMM M/Y||25||8||41-29305||N||Z5||12||I'LL BE BACK|
|24-Apr-44||LEIPHEIM A/F||26||9||41-29305||N||Z5||13||I'LL BE BACK|
|25-Apr-44||MANNHEIM A/F||27||ABT||41-29305||N||Z5||--||I'LL BE BACK||ABORT - NO BOMB SIGHT|
|01-May-44||MARQUISE/MIMOYECQUES||32||10||41-29305||N||Z5||16||I'LL BE BACK|
|04-May-44||BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM||34||11||41-29305||N||Z5||17||I'LL BE BACK|
|05-May-44||SOTTEVAST||35||ABT||42-95005||H||Z5||--||UNKNOWN 034||ABORT - #3 TANKS LEAK|
|08-May-44||BRUNSWICK||37||ACC||42-52404||Q||Z5||13||BELLE OF BOSTON||CRASH on TAKE OFF|
B-24H-15-FO 42-52404 Z5 Q Belle of Boston
Ralph and Derek Hewitt
Derek Hewitt's account of May 8, 1944
It was early morning on the 8th of May 1944 around 6-15am; I can remember it well, even though it was 60 years ago. At that time my dad (Ralph Hewitt, pictured at left with Derek in 1948), was a small haulage contractor with a couple of Lorries working around Norfolk, we also had a one pump filling station, so as you could imagine a BIG DEAL! In those days, although no longer owned by my family it is still in existence today known as Frettenham service station.
We were used to aircraft taking off and flying over our house what with R.A.F Coltishall 1 ½ miles away in front of us and R.A.F. Horsham St Faith 1 ½ miles behind us, especially with the Liberators from Horsham taking off although we were not directly inline with the runway they pull to the left on takeoff which would be going to the north after which they would either do a circuit or head straight out, in doing this they would fly right over our house at quite a low level, so you can imagine we got very used to them and they sometimes did not even wake us on their early morning takeoffs.
On the 8th of May 44 it was a different story, I remember it was about 6am I heard one hell of noise, a crash, and a wallop and bang, bang, bangs, I jumped out of bed to see what it was, by the way I was about nearly 14 years old at this time. My dad obviously jumped out of bed as well, he and my mother Grace were in the front bedroom of the house and I slept in the room at the back. He had looked out of the window in the bedroom and could see flames and smoke from a crashed plane a short distance down the road from our house, he shouted to my mum and I, “I think there’s a plane crashed down the road, I don’t know exactly where but it’s flipping close“. He said “I‘m going down the road to see what I can do, there are some poor devils in there and they might need help.”
I came out of my bedroom
onto the landing, Dad said to me, “You stay here and look after your
mum”. He then dashed down the stairs to go outside, before going
outside he stopped to put his boots on, he looked like a “Phantom
flasher” in his long John underwear, shirt and heavy work boots. So off
he went, and I heard the front door slam shut. Just then mum rushed up
and said, “He’s forgotten his trousers, he hasn’t put his trousers on”.
So with this I said, “I’ll take them to him”. Mum said, “No, no, you
don’t”. To which I replied, “Mum, it’s a really bad frost out there, he
can’t go without his trousers”.
So okay, I was really keen to go anyway, off I shot after Dad with trousers and braces hanging round my neck, I caught him up a short way from the house, and shouted to him to put his trousers on. He said, “I don’t want my bloody trousers, what are you doing here, go back”. I said, “No, I’m coming with you, Mum said you’ve got to have your trousers”. I can clearly remember the both of us crawling down the hedgerow towards the plane which was only a 150 yards away from our house, soon arrived at the scene and what a sight it was, there were bullets exploding in the fires and ricocheting off the road and the trees in all directions, I don’t think we realised how close we were to getting hit and killed.
When we got in amongst the wreckage the heat from the many fires was nearly unbearable. Anyway, wherever my Dad was going I was going too, because he needed his trousers, which I still had round my neck. My goodness what real mess it was, bits of plane and debris strewn across the road and onto a piece of common land, which is still there today. If you go there and really take a good look at it, you can still see where it happened. As I said before, there was a mass of fire everywhere; the plane had disintegrated into small pieces lying about everywhere - engines, fuselage, and a bit of the tail plane sticking up in the air with a big “K” on it.
Dad and I went in amongst the wreckage and saw airmen lying on the ground in various places. Some were crying, some were shouting and others were not making any noise at all. I threw Dads trousers on the ground and got on with job of helping him to get these young chaps away from the fires. Whether we shouldn’t have done so I don’t know, but at the time we just wanted to get them away from the inferno. I remember one of the fellas [it turns out that this was John Rogenmuser, navigator], he was very young looking with dark hair and what seemed at the time a dark complexion. He was slipping in and out of consciousness; while he was awake, he kept saying, “My back, oh my back hurts”. My Dad and I very carefully carried him away from the fire and laid him on the grass roadside verge, where I put some packing beside his back, which I think now, was a parachute. He was chewing on a piece of gum as hard as he could.
My Dad and I went back in
again to see if we could help anyone else. At this time another man
joined us, this was Albert Sydell, who lived right opposite the crash
site. We really didn’t speak to each other but just got on dashing in
and out of the fires, trying to get these poor young chaps out of harms
way. After what seemed a long time another couple of chaps arrived to
help but by this time we, (Dad, Albert, and I), had got everyone out
that we could find. After a while some American Jeeps arrived. I
remember one standing on the road and Dad and I lifting the first young
chap we got out up onto the bonnet of the Jeep, and then also another
one, so there were two on the front of the Jeep. This was all we could
think of to do at the time. We propped their heads up against the
windscreen, they lay there side by side. Where they were taken to from
there I don’t really know. More American servicemen started to arrive
in Lorries and took over from there onwards obviously.
I have still got the medals and letter of commendation for bravery from Winston Churchill awarded to my Dad plus various other letters of congratulations from other government departments, of which I am obviously very proud of now. At the time of the crash, I was 14, although a very big and mature minded lad for my years, even so at this age at the time there were not any bravery awards given.
I often wondered what became of those young men afterwards. Although it is many years ago now, sometimes I will see something on the TV or read an article in a newspaper and clear, lucid memories of that frightful day will come into my mind, it was a day I will truly never forget.
I hope as we travel on through the decades that future generations of young people are taught of the sacrifices, that the young generation of those terrible years had to endure, many, of course paying the so called “Supreme sacrifice” so they can live as they do now.
Courtesy: Trevor Hewitt
Arthur Doyle Letter
August 6, 1944
I hardly know how to start this letter – I wanted to write to you before but I didn’t have your address – Mrs. Cassidy sent it to me in a letter the other day. Joyce, I guess you want to know just what happened. There’s not much to tell. We took off early one morning, the eighth of May to be exact. Just as we got off the ground one of the engines caught on fire. We started losing what little altitude we had and Paul did a magnificent job getting the plane straightened out. There were some houses up ahead of us but Paul saw them and turned the plane away. Without a doubt he saved the lives of many English people.
After that we hit a tree and it tore away the tail – all control of the plane was lost and we hit the ground. Joyce, no one suffered. The shock was too great. Hunter and Benny were the only ones who lived for a few minutes after the crash. I spoke to Benny and he said he was alright but he died on the way to the base hospital. I’m telling you this Joyce, because I want you to know Paul didn’t suffer. I didn’t know who had been killed because they thought I had a brain concussion and I wasn’t told anything for three weeks. Cassidy wasn’t knocked out and he told me most of the things that happened after the crash. I became conscious a few seconds after we crashed, but as I was thrown clear I could only see Johnny, Nix, and Cassidy. I couldn’t move and when I tried to, I lost consciousness again.
I woke up five days later in a General Hospital about forty miles from the base. I won’t be able to walk for quite a while as my left leg was badly broken and burned. Eventually I’ll be alright tho. I still can’t believe Paul and the rest of the boys are gone. I keep expecting Paul to come walking in and give me the devil for not doing something.
Joyce, Paul was one of my greatest friends, you probably don’t know this, but I lost my brother two years ago and Paul was just like a brother to me. We fought a lot and had our differences, but just as brothers fight and argue. For a while there in England, I thought Paul didn’t want me on the crew, and one night we were sitting in his room and I asked him about it. He said he would rather get rid of any other member of the crew than me. I thought he was kidding, but he wasn’t. He told me if he hadn’t liked me a lot, I would have been off the crew long before we came overseas. I know he was right because he could have gotten rid of me several times. He fought a lot for me but I never knew or appreciated it until it was almost too late. I’ll always be grateful to him for straightening me out. I know I’m a better man because of him.
Joyce, Paul was a hero. Through all the missions we flew, he did a wonderful job, and gave the best in him. I don’t have to tell you that you were his whole life and he lived only for the day he could be with you again. I only hope if I marry I can love my wife half as much as he loved his. Joyce, perhaps it will be too painful for you to write to me, but I wish you would. If you have any questions or anything you want to know about, just ask me and I’ll do my best to answer them. Another thing, Joyce, if there’s anything I can do for you believe me I’ll consider it an honor and privilege – anything at all. I know the baby is due soon or perhaps it has already been born, so if there’s anything I can do, don’t forget to call me. I don’t know whether or not I should have written this letter, but in my clumsy way I’m trying to put your heart and mind a little at ease.
Write soon if you can Joyce, and God Bless you.
Sgt Albert L. Nix Diary
His diary notes that he was hospitalized at Hamilton Field on January 7, 1944 and operated on two days later. He was released on January 21st, his crew already having departed with their B-24 on the Southern Route. While the reason for his hospitalization it is not entirely clear, Nix makes note that the, “Heel of left foot sore as hell from corn or ‘wart’ as the damn pill roller says.”
He left the States on February 1st, apparently with either another crew or as a passenger on an ATC flight. His path went through Belem, Dakar, Marrakech, and he eventually arrived at Horsham St Faith on February 17, 1944.
These are excerpts from his diary:
February 18, 1944
Heard air raid for first time. Not much anti-aircraft firing. They say this is one of the most bombed places in England.
Practice mission. Another air raid tonight. Quite a bit of AA firing. They tell me women manning the AA guns.
Mission cancelled. Colder than Old Billy at nite. Not so hot for shaving.
Made first operational mission today, diversional [sic] type, but no interception encountered. Saw coast of Denmark. Hundreds of our bombers slapped Hitler in the Pus today. Right gun in ball had short round.
Made second operational mission today. Same type as yesterday. No excitement. Hydraulic fluid leaked in ball all over my pants. Went almost to Norway.
Had Doc look at left heel again today. Says it is a wart. Can’t hardly push down range pedal on turret sight. All they did was cut part of top off.
Wart cut out. Foot OK
Started on mission 5:30. Got above cloud layer at 6000 feet. #4 engine had runaway prop. Feathered it and started back. Made let down and came right thru balloon barrage. Don’t know why we got thru that. Couldn’t climb with bomb load so salvoed 120 fragmentation bombs in North Sea (800ft). Just missed a boat. Fog too thick to find field or runways. Last bombs salvoed took off part of bomb bay doors. They took in the balloons and we finally got down on the ground again. Hope they never ask us to fly 305 [I’ll Be Back] again. Landed 9:15. No count.
April 3 or 4th [it was the 4th]
Made 1st mission today. Milk run NoBall target. Little flak, no fighters. Brought bombs back. Finally got 305 over there. Flew with Kingsley.
Second mission today Brunswick. Flak thicker than hair on a dog’s back. One hole in ship. Just missed navigator. Flew with Crew 74. Dropped 3/4 of bombs on target. Lots of ships went down. Appeared to be mostly enemy aircraft. Saw 4 for sure go down in flames. Sure good to get back on the ground. She was a rough one. 7-1/2 hours in the air. P-38’s, P-47’s and P-51 escort. Didn’t see the effect of our bombing, but saw large fires caused by other group bombing on S.E. corner of Brunswick. They say we hit the target OK. I think we were lucky to get back. Flew with Lt. Vogel, ship 404.
Today is Easter Sunday and dad’s birthday. Went to Mass this morning. Glad to not be flying today and let my nerves get settled. Guess I got a little frostbite yesterday as my left cheek is sore just below my left eye.
3rd mission completed today. Went almost to Switzerland to get Leitschfield [sic] ME110 factory. Very good fighter support. Saw some flak from tail position, which I flew, but one piece knocked a hole in nose turret big as a shoebox. No one hurt. Trip was long. Took off about 10:40 AM and got back about 5:30 PM. Two more to go and I will be eligible for the Air Medal. Covered a lot of Europe today, but didn’t get nearly as scared as on the Brunswick raid. Flew with Lt. Stilson, ship 404.
Completed 4th mission today. Took off at 10:45 AM and landed about 6:00 PM. Went to Brandenburg, a suburb of Berlin. Bombed railway yards and really hit them. Didn’t see any enemy fighters altho flak came close. One more to go to get the Air Medal. #1 and 2 props wouldn’t increase R.P.M. Overcast over target. Flew with Kingsley, ship 305.
Completed 5th mission today. Target was airfield at Hutterdom [sic]. Only 2 of our bombs went out. No fighters and only one small flak hole in ship. Has 2 air raid alarms last night. Flew with Kingsley, ship 305.
Completed 6th mission today. Target was No-Ball at Saint Pol. No enemy fighters. Flak quite heavy and we were right in it. Got 280 holes in the ship. Flew with Lt. Stilson in 404. Had to kick nose wheel out by hand. Didn’t see target and brought bombs back. Flak was very accurate. Think 3 ships went down. 48 holes in horizontal tail plane. Rode tail position today.
Started on mission today, but overcast up to 20G. Had 4 alarms last nite. May get some sleep tonite – I hope.
Completed 7th mission today. Took off about 4:45 PM and landed about 10:45 PM. Bombed railway yards at Hamm, Germany. Several flak holes in ship. Some wood splinters hit me in the face, but they were so fine they didn’t cut. Worst part of mission was return over England. English flak downed one of our ships that I saw. Seemed like English fighters shot at us, but they say it was Germans who followed us back. Flew with my own crew this time and believe my prayers were answered another trip. It’s time to get some sleep. Wish I didn’t get so scared, but I do. Flew with Kingsley, ship 305.
Yesterday and last nite still seem like a nightmare. Had a air raid alert at 4:00 AM. Saw Sgt Van Fossen about being eligible to wear ATO Ribbon. Said he’d look it up. Went to Mass at 4:00 PM. No Mass in the morning. Dreamed I telephoned home last night when I finally got to sleep.
Completed 8th mission over enemy territory today. Went almost to Munich to airfield at Gansburg [sic]. Didn’t get much flak and no enemy fighters. P-38 escort went down and evidently strafed AA guns because flak would stop when they went down there. Bombed at 20G and plastered the target. Left at 10:30 AM and got back at about 5:30 PM. Nice mission. Flew with Kingsley, ship 305.
Completed 9th mission today. Noball into France. Didn’t get to target as we had late takeoff. Couldn’t catch formation and had to turn back after hitting flak. Flew with Kingsley, ship 305.
Completed 10th mission today. Noball target. Flak was heavy. Got 4 holes in ship. Hydraulic line hit. Flew with Kingsley, ship 305.
Started on mission today. Were headed for Brunswick again. Took off and got to about 8G and #1 engine caught fir. Burned up most of the cowling. Pilot Kingsley dove the ship about 2000 feet and put out the fire. Sure got that chute on in a hurry.
Started on a mission again this morning, but gas was siphoning bad, so we had to come back. Air raid alarm at 10:30 AM. All clear at 10:45 AM
Completed 11th mission today. Went to Osnabruck to bomb city. Left at 6:45 AM and returned at 11:45 AM. Saw considerable flak, but it was inaccurate. Probably due to cloud cover. #1 engine gave out and #2 and #4 engines were detonating and throwing oil. Looked like we’d have to come in on one engine and the “Put-Put”. Dropped behind the formation and P-51’s escorted us home. They looked beautiful. Came right in and flew formation with us for a while. It takes six missions now to get a cluster for the Air Medal. Should be getting mine soon.
Took off about 6:00 AM. Crashed about 2 miles from base. Hit a tree. Don’t remember anything until I woke up and heard sound of burning wood. Tried to move, but right foot pinned under an engine. 12 500lb bombs out there in the fire. Two Britains [sic] pushed engine off my foot and dragged me out. Back gave out and me too. Don’t remember any more except Cassidy was at ambulance.
Been in hospital in cast 3 weeks today. Going back tomorrow, 65 Gen. Hospital.
Made 1st leg of trip back to States today. Train ride of 14 hours from 65 Gen. Hospital APO587 to Glasgow.
Making trip to States in C-54. Taking Northern Route. Sure is one big ship. In the compartment where we litter cases are it is big enuf to put in at least 3 John Deere Tractors. Left England about 9:30 AM. Laid on stretcher on floor so I couldn’t see anything.
Arrived at Mitchell Field about 3:30 AM
Left Mitchell Field about 9:00 AM in a C-47. Stopped at St. Louis to gas up and on to Topeka. Staying overnight. Going to Ogden and on to Walla Walla.
Took off from Topeka at 7:30 AM and landed at Ogden at 1:40 PM. McCaw Gen. Hospital at Walla Walla at 5:00 PM
Courtesy: Angela Ross via Trevor Hewitt
Remembering the crew of the Belle - 31 August 2004
From out of the smoke and flames of the wreckage of the B-24 Liberator, a ghostly figure emerged. Tall, blond and dazed, he walked slowly away from the burning bomber, gradually disappearing into the confusion. Derek Hewitt, a 13-year-old schoolboy, caught the apparition out of the corner of his eye and then returned to tending another injured airman as his father Ralph and local carpenter Albert Sidell went to the aid of others among the 10-man crew. It was early on the morning of May 8, 1944, just outside the village of Frettenham. A B-24, the Belle of Boston, with a dozen 500lb bombs and 10,000 rounds of ammunition on board had come down on common land after losing an engine on take-off from Horsham St Faith.
Local haulage contractor Ralph Hewitt dashed to the crash wearing only his white long johns, shirt and work boots, to be greeted by a scene of total devastation. The wreckage burned fiercely as exploding bullets whizzed through the air, ricocheting off trees and the ground. Derek, now 73, was told to stay at home with his mother Grace but as with all curious teenagers he went anyway, crawling along the hedgerow after his father with a pair of trousers under his arm. He hardly gave a second thought to the ghostly figure as he aided a man he now believes may have been 2nd Lieutenant John Rogenmuser, the navigator on that mission to attack an aircraft factory in Brunswick, Germany. It later emerged that the dazed figure walking from the wreckage was top turret gunner Sgt Sherman Cassidy, the only man to emerge virtually unscathed. Rogenmuser and two others 2nd Lt Arthur Doyle, the bombardier, and ball turret gunner Sgt Albert Nix were badly hurt. The other six on board died. They were: F/O Homer F. Ausman, Sgt Patrick H. Cook, Sgt Wayne B. Danielson, Sgt Raymond L. Hunter, Lt Paul E. Kingsley and Sgt Ben Wishinski. The aircraft was of the 458th Bomb Group, 754th Bomb Squadron.
Today (Sunday) at 2pm, a small memorial will be unveiled to the men of the Belle of Boston in the village hall at Frettenham. Trevor said: "We thought it best to put it there so as people can go and see it for themselves. There is a lot of interest in the village and a good number of people have contributed to this memorial." Present will be villagers, a Colour Party from the American personnel stationed at RAF Lakenheath and representatives of the RAF Association, Royal British Legion and Normandy Veterans in the area. The memorial will be formed of a small display of parts recovered from the crash site, mounted in a glass-fronted oak cabinet alongside framed photographs of the crew. There will be short readings and speeches, along with a letter from Darin Scorza who has helped with research in America. His father, Samuel Scorza, was in the aircraft three behind the Belle of Boston on that morning and flew through the smoke from the burning wreckage. Trevor's research has also involved trying to track down more information about the survivors and their whereabouts.
Ralph Hewitt, who died in 1969, and Albert Sidell were later given gallantry awards for their bravery and a commendation certificate signed by Winston Churchill. Derek didn't get an individual honour. "I was just a kid," he said. "When you were that young you didn't get recognised in those days." But he will wear his father's commendation in his lapel - "just in case anyone is interested in having a look at it," he said.
News Article, EDP24, 15 September 2004