458th Bombardment Group (H)

  Honoring those who served with the 458th BG during World War II

Crew 52 - Assigned 754th Squadron - October 1943

Standing: Roland Johnson - B, Harry Bengry - CP, B.E. Ballard - P, Eugene Singer - N, James Lewis - TG.
Kneeling: Raymond Rice NTG (3/E), Victor Krueger - BTG, Ralph Kracker - WG, James Nemeth RO, Edwin Sowles - TTG/E

(Photo: B.E. Ballard)

Shot down March 6, 1944 (MACR #3350)

BallardCrew
Rank First Name MI Last Name Serial #  Pos Date Status  Notes
2Lt Beverly E Ballard, Jr 0805152 Pilot 06-Mar-44 POW Stalag Luft I
2Lt Harry E Bengry 0811316 Co-pilot 06-Mar-44 KIA Buried in U.S.
F/O Eugene J Singer 0122792 Navigator 06-Mar-44 POW Stalag Luft III
2Lt Roland W Johnson 0752754 Bombardier 06-Mar-44 POW Stalag Luft I
S/Sgt James   Nemeth 32450063 Radio Operator 06-Mar-44 KIA Buried in U.S.
S/Sgt Edwin E Sowles 37443523 Engineer 06-Mar-44 KIA Buried Margraten
Sgt Victor W Krueger 36289442 Ball Turret Gunner 06-Mar-44 EVD Evaded (No Rpt)
Sgt Ralph C Kracker 35595479 Waist Gunner 06-Mar-44 POW Stalag Luft IV
Sgt Raymond W Rice 36392406 Aerial Gunner 2/E 06-Mar-44 POW Stalag Luft IV
Sgt James H Lewis 17127576 Aerial Gunner 2/E 06-Mar-44 POW Stalag Luft IV
An original crew that trained with the group in Tonopah, Ballard flew over to the ETO in January 1944 with the rest of the 458th. They flew on the February 25, 1944 diversionary mission towards the coast of Holland in support of "Big Week". The March 6, 1944 raid on Berlin was their first and last combat mission.  Flak knocked out their hydraulics and possibly punctured a fuel tank.  Losing gas, the crew was forced to bail out about 10 miles north of Amsterdam.  There is the possibility that one of the crew, instead of jumping, may have attempted to fly the plane back to base, lost control of the aircraft and crashed. 

Based on a German report, two men were recovering in a German hospital: Lt Singer had a, "fracture of the left leg", and Sgt Lewis suffered from, an "effusion in the left foot."  Of the three men who were killed: Sgt Sowles was buried on March 8, 1944 in the Community Cemetery of Purmerand in North Holland.  Sgt Nemeth and Lt Bengry were removed from the wreckage on March 15th and 16th and buried in the same cemetery on March 27.

MACR 3350

Interrogation of crew of Burton M. Bush, pilot, on 6 March 1944 revealed: "Saw one of our ships feather No. 3 engine over target.  Dropped down to about 10,000 last we saw of him.  Under "K" was a "G" - fuselage J-4 (think)."  Lt. Ballard was flying on that day in A/C 450 with a letter "G".


Sgt Victor Krueger 

"The pilot had set the autopilot, but it must have clicked out for some reason because the bomber went out of control and started to spin.  With the other gunners in the rear, I was thrown about and it was a terrible struggle to get to the hatch.  In the end I managed to reach it.  But I think I must have struck my head against the side because the next thing I knew I was coming to as the parachute was opening.  I don't remember pulling the ripcord." 

- Excerpt: Target Berlin Mission 250: 6 March 1944


Sgt Krueger evaded capture for the next 14 months with help from the Dutch underground.  No Escape & Evasion Report has been located to date.


Crew 52 Missions

BallardMission
DATE  TARGET 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Notes
25-Feb-44 DUTCH COAST D2 -- 42-52450 -- Z5 D2 UNKNOWN 032 Diversion Mission
06-Mar-44 BERLIN/ERKNER 4 1 42-52450 G Z5 3 UNKNOWN 032 FLAK

B-24H-15-FO 42-52450 Z5 G Wreckage

Photos Courtesy: Kracker Archive at the Aircrew Remembrance Society

Memorial in Holland

A memorial to this crew and two RAF crews has been erected [for some time] on the Kanaaldijk, near Purmerend, Noord-Holland, on the initiative of Mr. Just Kroon from Purmerend, who has had contact with some of the families of the three crews of the aircraft which crashed within 1 km of it.

The Ballard Crew plaque from this memorial is shown below.


The following is courtesy 207 Squadron Royal Air Force History website


Co Maarschalkerweerd found some details about this B-24 crash in a book Luchtoorlog boven de Zaanstreek (Airwar above the Zaan-region).


To summarise:

At about 5.15 pm on the 6th of March 1944 Liberator B-24H 42-52450 (K + no. 75 on the fuselage) of the 754th Bomber Squadron of the 485th Bomber Group USAAF was flying over Purmerend. It was obviously in trouble, because engine no.3 was out of action. The aircraft was returning from a raid on Berlin and had (probably) been hit by Flak or fighters [the US records say fighter]. The weather on that day was reasonably clear with a low layer of clouds.


An eyewitness saw a number of crew members leave the aircraft by parachute. The aircraft went down in sort of a horizontal spin, stalled, and hit the ground nose-first. It crashed on land then owned by Mr. Bakker, Kanaaldike no.59. The engines went deep into the marshy soil of the meadow.

Some local people were right on the spot before the Germans arrived. They found three men still inside the aircraft. According to the author the three were:


1st Pilot B.E. Ballard [Ballard survived, as stated above and was a PoW: the third fatality was Edwin E. Sowles]
Co-pilot H.S. Bengry
Waist-gunner J. Nemeth


According to the Germans the deaths were probably caused by the force of the crash. One was found sitting still in his seat behind the controls, obviously not wounded, but dead apparently because of a broken neck.


The other crew members parachuted down in an area called 'Wijde-Wormer' and were seen by two eyewitnnes to be arrested by the Germans. The ball turret-gunner Victor W. Kreuger (who was wounded) evaded capture and found shelter in the house of Mr. Wijnberg. Next day, unknown to the Germans, he took the wounded airman (on his bicycle) to the St. Lyduina hospital in Purmerend.


After Kreuger recovered he was brought to another safe-house (Schrieken-Withaar family) by two resistance members (Mr. Hobo and Mr. Stevens) and managed to keep out of sight for almost 14 months. Later he went to Wormenveer, and across the border to Belgium, where he was hidden in the woods for about 2 months until liberated by Allied troops. Victor Kreuger then returned to Purmered, fell ill, and once again was in the St. Lyduina hospital ,where he underwent an operation. In June 1945 he returned to the USA where he died in 1990.


One of the three crew members killed in the crash [presumably Bengry] found a temporary resting place in the General Cemetery of Purmerend. This was on the 8th of March 1944. Later, the bodies of Nemeth and Sowles were recovered from the aircraft and were buried there on the 16th of March 1944. After the war all three were re-interred in the American Cemetery at Margraten. Later, at the request of their families, the remains of Bengry and Sowles were taken to the USA and buried there.

"The man in front of the memorial is Just Kroon of Purmerend Holland. He spearheaded the monument. The B-24 landed on his father's farmland. He returned my Uncle's leather flying helmet in the 90's." - Tom Kracker