458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Bechtel Crew - Assigned 753rd Squadron - August 13, 1944

Standing: Alex Bail - BTG, John Gast - TTG, Everett Russell - TG, Louis Dolce - NTG, William Dromey - E, Eldon Williams - RO
Kneeling: Paul Collette - N, Russell Bechtel - P, Joseph Bryant - CP, William Torres - B
(Photo: Randy Scorby)

Mid-Air collision - February 23, 1945 (Acc Rpt 45-2-23-45)

 Rank  Names  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
2Lt Russell J Bechtel 0704452 Pilot 23-Feb-45 KIA Cambridge American Cemetery
2Lt Joseph C Bryant 0771659 Co-pilot 23-Feb-45 KIA Cambridge American Cemetery
2Lt Paul H Collette 0723291 Navigator 28-Oct-44 RFS Suspended from flying
2Lt William E Torres 0716780 Bombardier 23-Feb-45 KIA Cambridge American Cemetery 
Sgt Eldon O Williams 39408944 Radio Operator 10-Apr-45 UNK Classified MOS 866 (RCM)
Cpl William C Dromey  31311311 Flight Engineer 21-Apr-45 UNK Promoted to Sgt
S/Sgt Everett E Russell 36612622 Aerial Gunner/2E 23-Feb-45 KIA St Louis, MO
S/Sgt Louis R Dolce 32929744 Aerial Gunner/2E 23-Feb-45 KIA Cambridge American Cemetery
S/Sgt Alex C Bail 33671177 Airplane Armorer-Gunner  23-Feb-45 KIA Cambridge American Cemetery
S/Sgt John A Gast 36448807 Aerial Gunner 23-Feb-45 KIA Cambridge American Cemetery

On February 23, 1945, while returning from the 458th Bomb Group's mission to bomb the Gera and Reichenbach Marshalling Yards in Germany, Bechtel's crew, flying B-24H 42-50449 HEAVENLY HIDEAWAY, collided with 2Lt Daniel F. Hunt, Jr.s crew (754th Sqdn), flying B-24H 41-29596 HELL'S ANGELS.  Both ships went down about 10 miles north of Horsham St. Faith, 15 of 18 men being killed.


Three members of Bechtel's crew were not on the February 23rd mission.  Lt Paul Collette, bombardier, had been removed from flying status the previous October.  There is no further information available on him.  Sgt's Williams and Dromey appear to have gotten into some mischief and were both reduced in rank to Private in October 1944.  They remained with the 753BS and apparently regained their commander's good graces as both finished out the war with the rank of Sergeant. It is not known if either flew any further missions, although in Williams' case it was likely as he was given an additional classification of 866 (RCM).


Flying in the enlisted men's places with Lt Bechtel's crew that day were T/Sgt Harold A. Nelson (E), and Sgt Leonard E. Wood (G).  Harold Nelson was an individual replacement, arriving at the 458th on August 12, 1944 and Leonard Wood was a gunner on 2Lt Donald K. Williams crew, assigned November 17, 1944.  Both of these men were killed.


Missions

BechtelMissions
DATE  TARGET 458th Msn Pilot Msn Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Notes
25-Aug-44 TERTRE 119 1 44-40285 H J4 32 TABLE STUFF  
27-Aug-44 FINOW 121 2 41-28705 W J4 42 YE OLDE HELLGATE MISSION CREDIT IN NOV
01-Sep-44 RAVENSTEIN, HOL AZ14 3 44-40277 P J4 9 MISS USED  AZON MISSION
21-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR05 -- 41-28735 S J4 T3 V VERIFY A/C
25-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR08-1 -- 42-28739 D   T2 NOT 458TH SHIP - HETHEL 1ST FLIGHT
25-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR08-2 -- 42-29250     T1 NOT 458TH SHIP - HETHEL 2ND FLIGHT
27-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR10 -- 41-28721 G 753 T8 DOWNWIND-LEG MORFORD CROSSED OUT
29-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR12 -- 42-94975 M 754 T6 NOT 458TH SHIP - SHIPDHAM TRUCKIN' MISSION
03-Oct-44 GAGGENAU 127 4 44-40201 N J4 16 SILVER CHIEF  
12-Oct-44 OSNABRUCK 132 5 44-40201 N J4 18 SILVER CHIEF  
15-Oct-44 MONHEIM 134 6 44-40273 T J4 26 HOWLING BANSHEE  
22-Oct-44 HAMM 137 7 44-40201 N J4 19 SILVER CHIEF  
05-Nov-44 KARLSRUHE 142 8 44-40201 N J4 24 SILVER CHIEF  
08-Nov-44 RHEINE 144 9 44-40201 N J4 26 SILVER CHIEF  
16-Nov-44 ESCHWEILER 147 10 44-40201 N J4 27 SILVER CHIEF  
25-Nov-44 BINGEN 149 11 44-40285 H J4 44 TABLE STUFF  
06-Dec-44 BIELEFELD 153 12 44-40201 N J4 30 SILVER CHIEF  
18-Dec-44 KOBLENZ REC -- 44-40201 N J4 -- SILVER CHIEF RECALL DUTCH ISLE
24-Dec-44 SCHONECKEN 157 ABT 44-40201 N J4 -- SILVER CHIEF ABORT - #3 ENG OIL
25-Dec-44 PRONSFELD 158 13 42-51200 B J4 3 STINKY  
28-Dec-44 ST. WENDEL 160 14 44-40281 Q J4 23 A DOG'S LIFE  
30-Dec-44 NEUWIED 161 15 44-40281 Q J4 24 A DOG'S LIFE  
01-Jan-45 KOBLENZ 163 MSHL -- -- 753 --   MARSHALLING CHIEF
13-Jan-45 KAISERLAUTERN 169 16 42-50912 D J4 1 THE TRAVLIN' BAG  
14-Jan-45 HALLENDORF 170 17 44-40118 S J4 28 WE'LL GET BY  
28-Jan-45 DORTMUND 174 18 42-50449 W J4 36 HEAVENLY HIDEAWAY  
31-Jan-45 BRUNSWICK 176 19 42-50912 D J4 6 THE TRAVLIN' BAG RECALL - SORTIE CREDIT
03-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 177 20 42-110141 U J4 37 BREEZY LADY / MARIE / SUPERMAN  
06-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 178 21 42-50912 D J4 8 THE TRAVLIN' BAG  
09-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 179 MSHL -- -- 753 --   MARSHALLING CHIEF
15-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 182 MSHL -- -- 753 --   MARSHALLING CHIEF
16-Feb-45 OSNABRUCK 183 22 44-40273 T J4 35 HOWLING BANSHEE  
17-Feb-45 ASCHAFFENBURG M/Y REC -- 44-40273 T J4 -- HOWLING BANSHEE RECALL - WEATHER
19-Feb-45 MESCHADE 184 23 44-40273 T J4 36 HOWLING BANSHEE  
22-Feb-45 PEINE-HILDESHEIM 186 24 44-40134 R J4 52 UNKNOWN 039 ABORT - ?
23-Feb-45 GERA-REICHENBACH 187 25 42-50449 W J4 47 HEAVENLY HIDEAWAY COLLIDED w/HUNT 596R

Accident Report 45-2-23-514

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT
Approximately 1527 on 23 Feb 45 B-24 449 and B-24 596, in formation with the 458th Bomb Group, collided in mid-air about ten (10) miles north of AAF Station 123.  Altitude at time of collision was about 16,500 feet, visibility about 1 mile reduced to 200-300 feet in clouds.

Ship 596 was flying #3 position and ship #449 was flying #4 position ion the hole element of the second squadron.  Just before the accident the element leader had aborted, and no one had assumed the lead.  All ships were flying their relative position when a layer of dense clouds were entered.  A few seconds later, as reported by the survivors of ship #596, another ship appeared very close just below their left wing.  Almost immediately the ships came together.

The right wing of ship #449 was torn off and it evidently went into a spin immediately.  the ship was destroyed by fire.

Ship #596 crashed about 1-1/2 miles from #449.  It was scattered over a large area and appeared to have broken up several thousand feet above the ground.

Cause of accident 100% unknown

Recommendations: None.

754TH BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON (H)
AAF 123 APO 558

27 Feb 1945


SUBJECT:   Collision of Aircraft, 41-29596 and 42-50449


TO: Air Inspector, 458th Bombardment Group


1.  The collision occurred over Buncher 15 as our Squadron, second section of the Group, was making the first ten minute circle to the left to allow time interval for the first Squadron to execute proper instrument let down.  Our altitude was approximately 16,500 and visibility was one-half mile in scattered clouds.  The aircraft involved, [call sign] Cotstring 596 R and Fiction 449 W were flying left and right wing respectively in the slot.  The slot lead, Lt. Besten left a few minutes prior due to fuel shortage.  From this point, the positions of the ships in the slot is debatable.  Fiction W was either flying left wing on Cotstring R or lost his position when we entered the high scattered clouds in the buncher area.  Fiction W, however, did get on the inside of the formation and on endeavoring to get back into formation, overestimated his rate of closure.  Fiction W’s right wing removed the upper half of Cotstring R’s left fin and definitely damaged the left elevator controls.  My nose-gunner reported that Cotstring R’s entire tail assembly controls were damaged if not entirely removed.  This aircraft immediately went into a steep dive straight ahead.  Fiction W, however, lost the outer section of his right wing and #4 engine caught fire.  He turned sharply to the right and is believed to have spun in.


2.  I reported the collision on wing channel to the Squadron Leader whereby Lincoln Red Control Tower was informed.


3.  The above report is as related to Sgt’s Francis Birmingham and John W. Bradley.


/Signed/
William G. Everett
2nd Lt. Air Corps
Pilot


Wreckage of #449, Heavenly Hideaway (left); and #596, Hell's Angel's (right)

Lt Russel J. Bechtel

Purple Heart Letter and Award Certificate; Letter


(Courtesy: Timothy Boshart)


Sgt Leonard E. Wood

(Courtesy: Wayne Wood)

Artwork & Photos - Mike Bailey

B-24H-30-CF 42-50449 J4 W Heavenly Hideaway

B-24H-15-CF 41-29596  Z5 R Hell's Angel's

Flare pistol and flak helmet from one of the a/c involved


Courtesy: City of Norwich Air Museum (CNAM)