458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Stoneburner Crew - Assigned 755th Squadron - August 9, 1944

Standing: Sheldon Weiner - B, John Brixus - N, Paul Stoneburner - P, Charles Lewis - CP
Kneeling: Jerome Jacobs - RO, Basil Olney - WG, John McGhan - G, Joe Agliata - TG, John Ferrando - WG, Lawrence Smith - TT/E

(Photo: Susan Weiner)

Went down near Luxemborg/German border September 9, 1944 (MACR #8610)

StoneburnerCRew
 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
2Lt Paul W Stoneburner  0705843 Pilot 09-Sep-44 EVD E&E Report 2097
2Lt Charles A Lewis 0827695 Co-pilot 09-Sep-44 EVD E&E Report 2125
2Lt John L Brixus 0722790 Navigator 09-Sep-44 EVD E&E Report 2098
F/O Sheldon Weiner T125705 Bombardeir 09-Sep-44 EVD E&E Report 2126
S/Sgt Jerome Jacobs 16066349 Radio Operator 09-Sep-44 EVD E&E Report 2099
S/Sgt Lawrence I Smith 32888174 Flight Engineer 09-Sep-44 EVD E&E Report 2786
Sgt John R Ferrando 33787868 Waist Gunner 09-Sep-44 EVD E&E Report 2100
S/Sgt John F McGhan 37535138 Armorer-Gunner 16-Jan-45 UNK Kenyon/Eidelsberg Crews 
Sgt Basil R Olney 15103804 Waist Gunner 09-Sep-44 POW Stalag Luft 4
Sgt Joseph Agliata 36744694 Tail Turret Gunner  09-Sep-44 POW Stalag Luft 4

Lt Stoneburner’s crew belonged to the 458th Bomb Group for exactly one month.  In that amount of time they managed to fly four missions, although one, on September 8th was an abortive attempt for which no credit was given. On September 9, 1944 the group was assigned the marshaling yards in Mainz, Germany. 


On this date the Stoneburner crew drew an original 755th Squadron ship named Rough Riders.  This aircraft had suffered a history of mechanical difficulties, including a change of fuel cell on the trip over to the ETO the previous January, and on a mission in May, the loss of three engines over Germany, where the crew just made it to RAF Manston on 1-1/2 engines. 


On the September 9th mission to Mainz, the crew made it as far as the Initial Point (I.P.) before losing two engines and turning for home.  Shortly after this and the loss of a third engine, the crew was faced with the inevitable and was forced to bail out.  All nine of the crew made it out and landed safely.  Seven of the crew landed near the border of Luxembourg and were successful in evading capture and making it back to England.  Most of the crew were back on English soil within a week, having hooked up with U.S. ground forces with the help of the Belgian resistance.


Two of the crew, Sgt’s Basil Olney, and Joseph Agliata were taken prisoner by the Germans, “…a strong west wind blowing [their] parachutes into Germany proper.”


Sgt John McGhan did not fly with the crew on this mission.  In October he was transferred to the 753rd Squadron with Lt Arthur Kenyon and crew.  He flew missions with them through November, when that crew completed their tour.  He was promoted to S/Sgt in December and is shown on a January load list flying as a gunner with Lt Robert E. Eidelsberg and crew.  It is believed that he completed an operational tour.


After their return to England, pilot Lt Stoneburner and bombardier Lt Weiner attended a P/W conference in London in November, lecturing on their successful evasion. [See below]


Missions

StoneburnerMissions
Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
25-Aug-44 TERTRE 119 1 42-50320 W J3 41 UNKNOWN 018  
01-Sep-44 PFAFFENHOFFEN  ABN -- 42-51179 P J3 -- DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE  ABANDONED
05-Sep-44 KARLSRUHE 122 2 42-52457 Q 7V 56 FINAL APPROACH  
08-Sep-44 KARLSRUHE 123 ABT 41-29342 S J3 -- ROUGH RIDERS RADIO COMPASS INOP
09-Sep-44 MAINZ 124 3 41-29342 S J3 46 ROUGH RIDERS BAILED OUT - GERMANY 


B-24H-15-CF 41-29342 S J3 "Rough Riders"


Combined Statement of Paul Stoneburner, Charles Lewis, and Sheldon Weiner

"On 9 September 1944, our target was Mainz, Germany.  We were flying 342-S, a B-24H.  Everything was normal during assembly and climb and we were over the continent before we had any signs of trouble.  Then #2 and #3 engines cut out momentarily at different times, but then continued to operate normally.  At approximately the Group I.P. #2 engine cut out and we were unable to feather.  We stayed in formation without much difficulty, but a few minutes later #1 engine quit.  We then turned back, heading for the nearest friendly territory.  We salvoed our bombs saftied [sic] in a woods.  #2 engine was vibrating excessively shaking the cowling off and finally the prop broke inside the engine so that it revolved freely.  It was turning at a very high RPM and loosening on the prop hub.  We then lost #3 engine.  The prop on #2 by this time was ready to spin off.  We could not hold altitude.  The order was given to bail out and all members of the crew left the A/C.  #2 prop is believed to have spun off.  The A/C rolled over on its back and plunged downward.  It crashed in a woods and exploded.  Seven of the crew landed in Germany and made their way back to Allied lines; however, two members of the crew have not been heard from.  They are Sergeant Joseph Agliata, Tail Gunner, and Sergeant Basil R. Olney, Waist Gunner.  The cause for the engine failure could not be determined."


Escape & Evasion

Enclosed herewith is a copy of the statement concerning evasion by Lt Stoneburner and F/O Weiner, referred to at P/W Conference, Thursday, 16 November 1944.  Other members of the crew were not available for interrogation.  These officers were used to lecture combat crew of 458th, 466th, and 467th Groups, 96th Combat Bomb Wing.


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STATEMENT CONCERNING EVASION & ESCAPE 25 SEPTEMBER 1944 THROUGH THE SIEGFRIED LINE BY SEVEN MEN OF THE 458TH BOMBARDMENT GROUP (H)

Seven out of nine of the crew who bailed out came through.  The crew bailed out on the Mainz mission of September 9, because of mechanical difficulties.  There was no flak nor enemy fighters.  They parachuted west of Frankfurt, on-half way between Frankfurt and Luxembourg, on the west side of the Rhine River.  Each made his way separately through the Siegfried Line.  Here are two of the stories.

2nd Lt. Paul Stoneburner - Pilot - E&E Report 2097

I was the last one to bail out.  There was an undercast underneath us.  I delayed my jump until reaching the undercast, and opened my chute between about four and five thousand feet.  As I broke through the undercast, I did not see anyone beneath.  There were a lot of small fields below, surrounded by hedges and barbed wire.  I landed right in the middle of one.  I grabbed my chute and ran into a woods 200 yards away.  Then I hid my chute and started to walk around.  A man ran up to me, a civilian, and told me he was a Belgian.  He asked me if I were an American and I told him I was.  He told me this was Germany and pointed in the direction of Belgium, west of us.  He told me to get my chute and equipment.  I ran through the woods and fields to my Mae West and chute.  I pulled out my escape kit and got my compass.  We hid the chute again [and] also his bike.  We dodged through woods and along fence rows.  We avoided roads and civilians – went across country.  At four o’clock the Belgian told me we were in Belgium and took me into a barn about three quarters of a mile inside the border. 


A Catholic priest came out about an hour after that and became convinced that I was an American.  He had a uniform on under his cassock.  He asked me if I had any escape photos.  I gave him one and he told me [he] would be back after dark.  He came back after dark with my pass all fixed up for me and took me down to his house and we had supper.  I was supposed to be a university student.  Then he gave me some clothes.  I had on my heated suit up to this time.  I had heavy underwear, a cotton scarf, and hat.  I took the lining out of the pants of my heated suit, and changed to my GI shoes.  Then the priest took me to the house of the man who found me in Germany.  I slept there that night.  Days were spent with the priest, nights with my Belgian friend.  The day after we walked out of Germany the Belgian went back and got my Mae West and his bike.  He brought the parachute back with him in a gunny sack.


Early on the morning of the 12th I had breakfast and then they took me through some woods.  The Germans were retreating.  Another fellow went with me through the dense woods, where we hid.  About 11 o’clock the Germans came through and I could hear the tanks going through the town.  About 50 yards away on a road a few tanks went by.  I could not see them.  About 2:30 they quit coming but they were still around.  During all this time German and American artillery fire went over.  About 3:30 our artillery came close.  The Americans fired about ten or twelve shells in the woods nearby, so we left and went across the road to another woods and then to the house where the young fellow lived.  They shelled the woods again, so it was a good thing we moved.  At 5:30 a young girl came up and told us the Americans were down in the town.  So I contacted an officer and arranged to go to Division headquarters.  The next day they took me there.  I learned my landing was about 15 miles inside Germany, and inside the Siegfried Line.


While in Germany, I stayed clear of all roads and went cross country.  All I saw were civilians working fields.  I could hear cars going by, but could not see any and guessed they were Germans.  I saw no concrete fortifications, wire entanglements, nor guards.  I could not find out what the Belgian was doing in Germany.  At first I didn’t trust the Belgian, but finally got to the point where I had to.  The priest was a very well educated man, and spoke English.  He was a member of a regiment especially hated by the Germans.  He seemed to have plenty of connections.  He was only two or three hours getting my pass fixed up as a student.


On September 13 a captain took me back in a jeep, and I talked to some officers in the artillery and infantry and told them I saw no fortifications.  They seemed surprised that there were no fortifications.  Then I went back to Bastogne, corps headquarters, where I saw some officers.  An Australian RAF boy gave us a recon car and a driver and told us to go to Paris.  A lot of bridges were out so we stayed at Rennes.  Next morning I went to Paris to a hotel and stayed for two days, and then flew back to London.  I was given every consideration and the treatment was excellent.


F/O Sheldon Weiner - Bombardier - E&E Report 2126

I pulled my ripcord at about 6000 feet.  I was about 30 miles in Germany.  I landed about ten feet out of a woods.  I grabbed my chute and went into the woods.  I cut off my harness and ran about a mile.  I stopped at another woods and changed my shoes, took the lining out of my pants.  I changed clothing and went another few miles and came to a road.  I stayed at another woods for the remainder of the day and tried to sleep.  Toward evening I started walking again.  I came to another road and heard a car coming.  It was a German staff car and I hid for a while.  Later I came on to a dirt road and passed a farm house where a fellow came out.  Before I knew it I came into the middle of a German town of about 40 houses.  I had to walk past some men in the street.  It was pretty dark and they took no notice of me.  I felt pretty shaky.  I ate chocolate from my kit and strawberries I picked on the way.  I traveled at night about three or four hours and in the morning about three or four hours.  I cut the branches of a tree for a mat on the ground.  It got very cold at night. On the night of the third day I came to a road and heard someone so I stayed where I was to try to get some sleep. 


On the 12th of September I saw a farm house with a Luxembourg flag flying from it and I went there and got something to eat.  I spoke a little German.  Then someone came in and spoke English.  He had been going by.  We went down and got a ride, and I was taken somewhere in the front lines on the border of Luxembourg, headquarters, where I was questioned.  I told them I had not seen any German soldiers.  The Siegfried Line looked like plain country to me.  I saw only six staff cars and six motorcycles.  All I heard were shells going over.


I arrived in Luxembourg on the fourth day.  I walked about seven miles a day.  I avoided towns completely after the one I passed through.  I had Halazone tablets to purify water.  The caramel tablets tasted like paste board and I could not eat them.  I definitely think there should be food in the escape kits.  I suggest that some kind of rations be worked out as you can get no food in Germany.  Money is of no value unless you can speak German.  We were told there were two Siegfried Lines.  The heavy one is along the Rhine.  We landed between the two lines.


We got together at Corps Headquarters.  Seven members of the crew got out of Germany, each on his own.  One man, S/Sgt Lawrence Smith, hurt his leg and is not here yet.  We were all helped by the underground.  It is believed that the other two members of our crew are prisoners of war.

SUGGESTIONS
Carry GI shoes, long underwear, and a .45 cal. Gun, more for protection against German civilians than anything else.  Outer part of heated suit is good to wear, but if traveling on the train, would prefer something else.  What works in one case will not always work in another.  Use your own head.  Try to do what you think is best.  As soon as you get down, get out of the area and get as far away as you can.  They seem to have about five or six trucks of Germans to look for you wherever you land, according to the Belgians.

2Lt Charles A. Lewis – Co-pilot - E&E Report 2125

I baled out at 1140 hrs 9 Sep 44 in the northern part of Luxembourg.  I was taken at once and hidden in the woods by a LUX patriot (Pierre Scheuren a Huldange, Trois-Vierge, G. D. Luxembourg).  He stayed in the woods two nights (his cousin one night) with me, and my navigator who was brought to me on the first night.  Pierre Scheuren took us to a home for meals in the day.  This home was the country home of the following:

 

Diekirch, Grand Duchy Luxembourg

Father – Felix Delvaux

Son – Leon Delvaux

Son-in-law – Jean Krombach

Daughter – Nathy Krombach

 

They fed us very nice.  The American forces took us back on the night of 11 Sep 44.


2Lt John L. Brixius – Navigator - E&E Report 2098

On Sept 9th (0600) we took off for a marshaling yard five miles west of Frankfurt.  Over the target area our No, 2 engine started to “run away” with No. 1 giving similar trouble, but not as bad.  We couldn’t feather the engines so we lost altitude rapidly.

 

We all baled out over the northern tip of Luxembourg and I landed in Deyfredt, Belgium.  Immediately upon landing, the underground took care of me, hiding me in a forest, feeding and clothing me.

 

On Sept. 11th, the 28th Div. of the U.S. Infantry caught up to us and brought us from the front to Brussels.

 

Details of the crew so far as I know:

Stoneburner, P.W. – Pilot – not found

Lewis, C.A. – pilot – O.K. (found)

Brixius, J.L – found

Smith, L. I. – found

Wiemer [sic], S. – not found

Jacobs, J – not found

Ferrando, J. – found

Agliata, J. – not found

Olney, B. – not found

 

Those who helped me while in German-held territory are:

Felix Delvaux (and family), Diekrich, Luxembourg.  (mostly fed in)

Camille Huart, Schmiede (Portulflingan).  Gave civilian clothes.

Adolf Gerard, Deyfreedt, Belgium

Pierre Scheuren, Huldingan, Luxembourg.  Link with underground and gave American forces locations of other American evaders.


S/Sgt Jerome Jacobs – Radio Operator - E&E Report 2099

We lost our engines at about 23,000 feet over the marshalling yards near Frankfort.  We turned back and shoved out our bombs.  I jumped at 12,500 feet and pulled the cord at about 6,000 feet.  I landed about three to five miles inside Germany.  P-51s circled over both before and after I landed.  I landed in a woods and made my way toward Luxembourg.  After three days I made my way to the American lines.  I had been briefed on escape and evasion before practically every mission.  I carried an aids box which I partly used.  I also carried a red purse.

 

I was helped by the following:

Jean Kreffels, Leitham, Luxembourg


S/Sgt Lawrence Smith – Flight Engineer - E&E Report 2786

We left the 458th Bomb Group on September 9, 1944 at approximately 0700 on a raid on a rail way center in Germany. Everything went okay till we were about 35 or 40 minutes from our target.  I noticed a little oil on top of No. 2 engine and pilot said it was losing power and he tried to feather it.  The prop slowed down some and then started to start up again.  After that it was uncontrollable, even with switch and gas shut off.  We had to leave the formation then because it got hard to handle.  No, 3 engine had a blown fuse in electronic control box.  The bombs were saftied and salvoed and we were ordered to bail out.

 

I landed in a lot and broke my foot.  There were two workers in the field that came over and told me about the Germans being close.  They hid my shute [sic] and boots and Maye [sic] West and he gave me a straw hat and coat and I waited in the woods nearby till there wasn’t any Germans passing and he led me to his house where they hid me and gave me civilian clothes and I stayed there till the Yanks came through.

 

Farmer Pierre Heinen (or Heiner) and family (two daughters and two sons) Huldange, Trois Vierges, Luxembourg.


Sgt John R. Ferrando - Gunner - E&E Report 2100
I baled out 1100 hrs 9 Sept 1944 about 2 miles inside Germany.  i walked about 10 miles to village and got help by Arthur Kainer, Heideishield, Luxembourg.  Stayed at his house for two days until Americans arrived.