458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Crew 60 - Assigned 755th Squadron - July 29, 1943

Back Row: Unknown, John Woodworth* - N, Howard Slaton - P, Otto Sobanjo - TG, Frank Curtis* - CP, Ross Messner* - B
Front Row: Raymond Sherman - BTG, Nelson Keefer - RO, John Dembecki - TTG, Clarence Johnson - NTG, David Kerr - E
* Not original crew members

(Photo: John Woodworth)

Completed Tour

SlatonCrew
 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
Capt Howard W Slaton 024926 Pilot Aug-44 CT Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594
1Lt Lawrence P Riesen 0799865 Co-pilot Aug-44 CT Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594
1Lt Albert F Pogue 0425464 Bombardier Jun-44 CT Transferred to 466th BG
1Lt Pasquale Collalto 0694858 Navigator Jun-44 CT Transferred to 482nd BG
T/Sgt Nelson P Keefer 15320162 Radio Operator Aug-44 CT Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594
T/Sgt David E Kerr 19115880 Flight Engineer Aug-44 CT Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594 
S/Sgt John R Dembecki 36504806 Aerial Gunner Aug-44 CT Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594
S/Sgt Clarence E Johnson 38180136 Aerial Gunner, 2/E  Aug-44 CT Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594
S/Sgt Raymond J Sherman  39318386 Ball Turret Gunner Aug-44 CT Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594
S/Sgt Otto A Sobanjo 17108860 Armorer-Gunner Aug-44 CT Left for 8th AFRD at AAF 594

1Lt Howard W. Slaton was one of the first pilots assigned to the 458th when it was formed in July 1943.  His was the first crew assigned to the 755th Squadron on July 29, 1943.  This crew trained with the group in the fall of 1943 and flew a 755th Squadron B-24 named Ole Satan to the ETO via the Southern Ferry Route in January 1944.  Unfortunately no photo of the original crew members from Tonopah has been found.


At the end of February 1944, the 458th flew two diversion missions to the Dutch Coast in support of the Eighth Air Force’s “Big Week”.  Crew 60 flew a B-24 named Little Lambsy Divey on the first of these missions on the 24th of February.  The crew’s first combat mission came on March 3rd when the target assigned to the 458th was the Daimler-Benz A/C works at Oranienburg, Germany near Berlin.  Slaton led the group with Major Bruno Feiling flying as command pilot. Due to severe weather over the Continent, the mission was recalled.  Lt. Riesen, Sgt Dembecki, and Lt Robert M. MacGeorge, an extra navigator, all received frostbite on this mission, winding up in the hospital for several days.  The group’s first combat loss occurred on this mission when 1Lt Frank L. Herzik and crew, also from the 755th Squadron, failed to return.  They were flying the B-24 that Slaton and crew had brought overseas, Ole Satan.


According to records, Slaton flew only two missions in March (on the 3rd and 9th) and did not resume flying until April 5th.  It is possible that the men received lead crew training during this time, but that is not certain.  One thing that is certain is that after the crew returned to flying they flew 24 lead missions, completing their combat tour in July 1944.


The crew flew B-24J 42-100407 Little Lambsy Divey on 25 of their 30 missions.  The two Swastika symbols on the nose denote two fighters shot down.  These were both added to the nose after the April 29, 1944 mission to Berlin when, according to records:  "Today the target was the Friedrichstrasse Station in the heart of Berlin…  Capt. Slaton and crew 60 flew as deputy lead of the second section…  The German Air Force was up in force today and many violent air battles ensued.  In the final outcome of the battle 4 men of our squadron are officially credited with destroying an enemy plane apiece… S/Sgt Otto A. Sobanjo of Hibbing, Minn. is credited with an Me 109, and S/Sgt Clarence E. Johnson of Douglas, Oklahoma is credited with an FW 190.  Each of the above men are awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to their Air Medal." 


Little Labsy Divey's combat career came to an end on December 31, 1944.  Flown on this date by Lt Robert Burman and crew, battle damage forced them down in a Belgian field.


The crew underwent some personnel changes early on.  With Lt. Riesen out of action due to frostbite, his place was most likely taken by various command pilots when Slaton flew lead.  2Lt Albert F. Pogue, navigator and 2Lt Pasquale Collalto, bombardier, are believed to have flown with other crews, both are shown on load lists at different times with the 755th crew of 1Lt Harold Wells.  Both of these men completed their tours with the 458th and were transferred to other bomb groups in June 1944.  Pogue went to the 466th Bomb Group at Attlebridge, and Collalto was assigned to the 482nd at Alconbury.


Lt. Ross Messner was the original 755th Squadron bombardier.  He flew with Slaton on a number of missions, including the April 8, 1944 mission to Brunswick, Germany.  According to 755th Squadron records: “Flak was very heavy at many points along today’s route and many enemy fighters were sent up to attempt to disrupt our mission.  During the bomb run, the formation was attacked by enemy fighters and the ship flown by Capt. Slaton and crew was the recipient of a flak burst that severed the oxygen and hydraulic lines causing a serious fire in the tail section of the ship.  Lt. Messner was checking his bombs prior to their release at the time of the enemy attack and he immediately manned a waist gun as the waist gunner was in the nose turret.  In the excitement, the abandon ship bell was struck and the men in the rear of the ship prepared to jump, not realizing the ship was under control.  Lt. Messner prevented three gunners from bailing out and smothered the fire by beating it out with his hands.  Lt. Messner by his coolness and quick thinking undoubtedly saved the aircraft and enabled its crew to return to fight again another day.”  Records show that he received a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for this action (see citation below), and an Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC) to the DFC in August.


Lt John I. Woodworth was originally assigned as navigator on Crew 75.  On his second mission on March 5, 1944, his eardrums were injured and he came off of combat flying for a week or so.  His crew finished up before him in June and he was transferred to Crew 60 to fill in as lead navigator where he completed his final nine missions with Captain Slaton as pilot.  John Woodworth supplied two of the crew photos on this page.  The picture of the crew with Little Lambsy Divey was taken on June 10, 1944 as the crew gathered to slow time all four engines after they had been changed.


Also flying as navigator was 1Lt Robert D. MacGeorge from 1Lt Robert Hannaman's Crew 65.  Captain Robert V. Whitlow took over this crew shortly after the group arrived in the ETO and Hannaman was assigned as the 755th Squadron Operations Officer.  Hannaman was flying as command pilot with the Perkinson crew on June 29, 1944 when he was shot down.  It is believed that MacGeorge was assigned to Slaton's crew as DR (Dead Reckoning) Navigator as early as March 3rd, when he got frostbite on the mission to Oranienburg.  It is not known how many missions he flew with this crew.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in August and returned back to the Zone of Interior that same month.


It is believed that Larry Riesen flew the majority of his missions with Slaton. Eventually he was assigned as a first pilot, flying nine missions to complete his tour between the beginning of June and the end of July 1944.


The enlisted men remained fairly intact throughout their combat tour.  With the exception of John Dembecki who wound up with frostbite on March 3rd, records indicate that they flew and completed most of their missions at the same time and were awarded DFCs in August 1944.  Dembecki was not far behind, as he completed his tour in the same month.  Howard Slaton, Larry Riesen and all six enlisted men were transferred to the 8th AF Replacement Depot in August 1944.


Capt Howard Slaton - 1st Pilot

SlatonMissions
Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Cmd Pilot Ld  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
24-Feb-44 DUTCH COAST D1 --     42-100407 -- J3 D1 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY Diversion Mission
03-Mar-44 BERLIN 2 1 FEILING L1 42-100425 -- J3 1 THE BIRD  
09-Mar-44 BRANDENBURG 6 2 O'NEILL L1 42-100362 A Z5 4 SWEET LORRAINE/BOOMERANG  
05-Apr-44 ST. POL-SIRACOURT 16 3     42-100407 A J3 6 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
08-Apr-44 BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM   17 4     42-100407 A J3 7 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
09-Apr-44 TUTOW A/F 18 ABT     42-100433 B J3 -- BIG DICK HARD TO HIT #1 ENG OIL LEAK
12-Apr-44 OSCHERSLEBEN REC --     42-110059 E J3 -- UNKNOWN 056 RECALL
13-Apr-44 LECHFELD A/F 21 5 OLLUM D1 42-110059 E J3 5 UNKNOWN 056  
19-Apr-44 PADERBORN A/F 23 6 MOORE D2 42-110059 E J3 7 UNKNOWN 056 Landing Acc Sta 123
24-Apr-44 LEIPHEIM A/F 26 7 LaROCHE L2 42-100407 A J3 8 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
29-Apr-44 BERLIN 31 8     42-100407 A J3 10 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
05-May-44 SOTTEVAST 35 9 PACKER D3 42-100407 A J3 11 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
07-May-44 OSNABRUCK 36 10 MOORE L 42-100407 A J3 12 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY FARMER (LEAD NAV)
09-May-44 ST. TROND 38 11 HOGG L 42-100407 A J3 13 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY DEEGAN (LEAD NAV)
10-May-44 DIEPHOLZ REC --     42-100407 A J3 -- LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY RECALL BEFORE EC
11-May-44 EPINAL 39 12     42-100407 A J3 14 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
12-May-44  BOHLEN 40 13     42-100407 A J3 15 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
19-May-44 BRUNSWICK 42 14 KING D1 42-100407 A J3 16 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
21-May-44 SIRACOURT 44 15 CRAIG? L 42-100407 A J3 17 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
29-May-44 TUTOW A/F 50 16 OLLUM L2 42-100407 A J3 20 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY NAV - CRAIG
31-May-44 BERTRIX 52 17 HENSON L 42-100407 A J3 21 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY KING (LEAD NAV)
04-Jun-44 BOURGES A/F 54 18   L2 42-100407 A J3 22 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
06-Jun-44 COASTAL AREAS 56 19 BOOTH L5 42-100407 A J3 23 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY MSN #1
08-Jun-44 PONTAUBAULT 60 20 ISBELL L1 42-100407 A J3 24 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
12-Jun-44 EVREUX/FAUVILLE 64 21 JAMISON L1 42-100407 A J3 25 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
15-Jun-44 GUYANCOURT 66 22 FEILING L1 42-100407 A J3 26 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
18-Jun-44 FASSBERG A/D 69 23 OLLUM D1 42-100407 A J3 27 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY MSN #1
21-Jun-44 BERLIN 75 24 OLLUM D1 42-100407 A J3 28 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
24-Jun-44 CONCHES A/F 77 25 JAMISON L2 42-100407 A J3 29 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY MSN #1
25-Jun-44 ST. OMER 80 26 SLATON D1 44-40126 D Z5 9 SPITTEN KITTEN / SKY TRAMP GILBERT SCHULZE PILOT
28-Jun-44 SAARBRUCKEN 81 27 BOOTH D1 42-110059 E J3 24 UNKNOWN 056  
11-Jul-44 MUNICH 88 28 CHAMBERLAIN  L2 42-100407 A J3 31 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
18-Jul-44 TROARN 93 29 ISBELL L1 42-110059 E J3 27 UNKNOWN 056  
21-Jul-44 MUNICH 96 30 CLAGGETT L1 42-50768 A Z5 2 ARISE MY LOVE AND COME WITH ME    
28-Jul-44 LEIPHEIM & CREEL SCR -- OLLUM L2 42-100407 A J3 -- LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY BRIEFED AND SCRUBBED
31-Jul-44 LUDWIGSHAFEN 99 31 OLLUM L2 42-100407 A J3 33 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY


1Lt Lawrence Riesen - 1st Pilot

RiesenMissions
Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
04-Jun-44 BOURGES A/F 54 ABT 42-110059 E J3 -- UNKNOWN 056  LOSS OF ALL OXY 
06-Jun-44 COASTAL AREAS  56 1 42-52274 H J3 4 UNKNOWN 029  
06-Jun-44 VILLERS BOCAGE 57 2 42-52274 H J3 5 UNKNOWN 029 MSN #2
07-Jun-44 LISIEUX 59 3 41-28719 Q J3 33 PADDLEFOOT  
08-Jun-44 PONTAUBAULT 60 4 41-28719 Q J3 34 PADDLEFOOT  
18-Jun-44 FASSBERG A/D 69 5 42-95316 N J3 21 PRINCESS PAT MSN #1
19-Jun-44 REGNAUVILLE 72 6 42-95120 M J3 14 HOOKEM COW / BETTY  MSN #2
23-Jun-44 3 NO BALLS 76 7 42-51097 T J3 25 UNKNOWN 022 TGT #7 BLAUGERMONT 
24-Jun-44 CONCHES A/F 77 8 42-95008 R J3 17 UNKNOWN 035 MSN #1
12-Jul-44 MUNICH 89 9 42-51097 T J3 30 UNKNOWN 022


B-24J-100-CO 42-100433  A  J3  Little Lambsy Divey

Courtesy: Mike Bailey
 
Little Lambsy Divey prior to the addition of nose art; and later, with 29 missions and two fighters down.

(Photos: Mike Bailey & John Woodworth)

Iconic Photo

Standing: Larry Riesen (just in frame on left), Howard Slaton (with clipboard), David Kerr, Nelson Keefer, John Woodworth, Clarence Johnson
Sitting: Ross Messner (legs visible), Ray Sherman, Unknown, Robert MacGeorge
(Photo: Karl Lake)
One of the better known photographs to emerge from the Eighth Air Force in the European Theater is the one above with Howard Slaton and crew pictured in front of a 754th Squadron Liberator named Arise My Love And Come With Me.  As related by John Woodworth, the photograph was staged on one of the crew's off days.  He said that at the time, none of them were too happy to have to don flight gear and go to the flight line to have pictures taken.  The crew only flew this aircraft one time during their combat tour.  Click here for a hi-resolution, unedited version of this photo
 
Taken at the same time, but not quite as widely publicized as the first photo. 
The men are, left to right: David Kerr, Unknown, Robert MacGeorge, Ross Messner, Larry Riesen, and Howard Slaton.
In the background are Unknown (behind propeller), Ray Sherman and Clarence Johnson on the right.

(Photo: James Leddy)

Lt John Woodworth - Navigator Mission List

WoodworthMissionList
Msn Date  Location/Target Plane ID  Pilot  Comments Log
-- 3-Mar-44 Berlin (recall) 441 Mattson Abort (fire) x
1 5-Mar-44 Bordeau,F 288 Burtis Broke eardrums x
2 13-Apr-44 Lechfeld, G 359 Olney   x
-- 18-Apr-44 Air-Sea Rescue -- Keck (not a msn) x
3 20-Apr-44 St.Pol, F 359 Olney   x
4 24-Apr-44 Liepheim, G 359 Olney   x
5 25-Apr-44 Mannheim, G 359 Hannaman (Ops Officer) x
6 26-Apr-44 Paderborn, G 359 Olney   x
7 27-Apr-44 Arras, F 359 Olney   x
8 27-Apr-44 Luneville, F 359 Olney 2nd of day x
9 29-Apr-44 Berlin, G 359 Olney   x
10 1-May-44 Liege, B 738 Olney   x
11 7-May-44 Osnabruck, G 359 Olney   x
12 8-May-44 Brunswick, G 359 Olney   x
    R & R Leave     (Scotland)  
13 19-May-44 Brunswick, G 359 Olney   x
-- 20-May-44 -- aborted-- 359 Olney Pitot tube froze x
14 21-May-44 St. Pol, F 359 Olney   x

WoodworthMissionList2
Msn Date  Location/Target Plane ID  Pilot  Comments Log 
15 23-May-44 Bourges, F 359 Olney   x
16 24-May-44  Villaroche, F 359 Olney   x
17 25-May-44 Mulhouse, F 359 Olney   x
18 29-May-44 Tutow, G 359 Olney   x
19 30-May-44 Bremen, G 359 Olney (Zwischenaner) x
20 31-May-44 Bertrix, B 276 Olney Recall x
21 2-Jun-44 Le Tourget, F 359 Olney Crew 75 finish x
22 4-Jun-44 Bourges, F 407 Slaton Pilotage Nav  
23 6-Jun-44 Normandy Invasion  407 Slaton Pilotage Nav  
24 8-Jun-44 Val St. Pair, F 407 Slaton Group Lead x
25 12-Jun-44 Evreaux, F 407 Slaton Wing Lead  
26 15-Jun-44 Guyancourt, F 407 Slaton Group Lead  
27 18-Jun-44 Wesermunde, G 407 Slaton Deputy Lead x
28 21-Jun-44 Berlin, G 407 Slaton Deputy Lead x
29 28-Jun-44 Saarbrucken, G 59 Slaton Deputy Lead x
30 11-Jul-44 Munich, G 365 Slaton 2nd Section Ld  x
31 25-Jul-44 St. Lo, F 59 Whitlow  Pilotage Nav


Distinguished Flying Cross

Headquarters Eighth Air Force

General Orders No 438

3 June 1944


ROSS (NMI) MESSNER, 0669365, First Lieutenant, Army Air Forces, United States Army.  For meritorious achievement while serving in his capacity as Bombardier on a B-24 aircraft on a mission to Germany, 8 April 1944.  Enemy fighters seriously damaged Lieutenant Messner’s aircraft and exploding 20MM shells caused a illegible fire in the tail section.  With utter disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Messner beat out the flames with his hands and prevented three gunners from bailing out.  The presence of mind and cool courage exhibited by Lieutenant Messner on this occasion were contributing factors in the safe return of his aircraft and crew, reflecting great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.  Entered military service from Ohio.


Individual photos

Howard Slaton, Larry Riesen, Pasqaule Collalto
 
Ross Messner, Nelson Keefer, David Kerr
 
Clarence Johnson, John Dembecki, Raymond Sherman
 
Otto Sobanjo
(Courtesy: FOLD3 and Gerald Massie Collection)

Howard Slaton

Howard Slaton with his painting of the crew

(Courtesy: William Christiansen)

1Lt Samuel M. Slaton

Howard Slaton's brother Samuel - 91BG Group Bombardier, September 1943

Europe - Five miles above the target, the oxygen-masked group bombardier, Lt. Samuel M. Slaton of Town Creww, Alabama, calls "Bombs Away" over the interphone, leans forward over the plexi-glass nose to watch them go to the point of impact, then turns to the navigator with the old "high sign".  The eggs were "on the button", he grins.  Forts won't have to visit this target again soon.


(Photo & caption: FOLD3)