458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Vehslage Crew - Assigned 752nd Squadron - August 8, 1944

Standing: Vernon Gilbertson - TG, Ralph Chavkin - BTG, Edward Wilk - NTG, Paul Peters - WG, Ellsworth Shields - RO, Carl Kressin - E
Kneeling: Roger Williams - N, Matthew Dorfman - B, Louis Vehslage - P, Lyall Barnhart - CP

(Photo: Ben Vehslage)

Completed Tour

VehslageCrew
 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
1Lt Louis D Vehslage 0705456 Pilot 09-Apr-45 RFS TD to AAF 101 Cent Med Bd 
1Lt Lyall Barnhart, Jr 0771615 Co-pilot Mar-45 CT Crew completed combat tour
1Lt Roger W Williams 0722410 Navigator 03-Feb-45 CT Rest Home Leave
1Lt Matthew B Dorfman 0773314 Bombardier May-45 CT Trsf to 70RD for return to ZI
T/Sgt Ellsworth H Shields 36818272 Radio Operator 03-Feb-45 CT Rest Home Leave
T/Sgt Carl G Kressin 3919132 Flight Engineer/Airplane Mech  12-Apr-45 CT Reclassified
Sgt Ralph Chavkin 32802729 Aerial Gunner 03-Feb-45 CT Rest Home Leave
Sgt Vernon E Gilbertson  36762332 Aerial Gunner 03-Feb-45 CT Rest Home Leave
S/Sgt Paul W Peters 33683850 Aerial Gunner 03-Feb-45 CT Rest Home Leave
S/Sgt Edward P Wilk 31405653 Aerial Gunner 03-Feb-45 CT Rest Home Leave

The Vehslage crew picked up a brand new B-24 at Topeka Army Air Field in Topeka, KS in the latter part of July 1944.  They flew this aircraft to Ireland and then proceeded on to Horsham St. Faith where on August 8, 1944 they were assigned to the 752nd Bombardment Squadron.  Their first mission was to Hanover on August 24th.  The crew flew 42-95316 Princess Pat, an old veteran of the 458th on 14 of their missions.  On October 23, 1944 2Lt Matthew B. Dorfman was transferred to the 755th Squadron to be a lead bombardier.  On January 7, 1945, 1Lt Anthony W. Hurtenbach, co-pilot on the Sievertson Crew, transferred to the Vehslage crew.  After the January 28th mission he flew with several other crews and flew two missions as first pilot before completing his tour.


On January 28, 1945, the crew took off  on their 23rd mission in heavy snow flurries to bomb a coking plant four miles northeast of Dortmund, Germany.  Over the target flak burst directly beneath the nose of their B-24 damaging electrical, hydraulic, and auto pilot systems and shattering Plexiglas in the nose.  Vehslage was hit in the neck by fragments that came through the cockpit and an artery was cut.  He elected to stay with the formation and the crew dropped their bombs on target with the rest of the group.  After turning from the target the crew made it as far as the Belgian/French border where they made a crash landing. 


The crew was returned to Horsham St. Faith shortly thereafter, Vehslage going to the hospital and the rest of the crew on rest home leave on February 3rd.  Vehslage flew no further combat missions, but he did return to his squadron in late February.  During this rest leave two of the crew must have blown off a bit more steam that they should have as they were reduced to the grade of Private on February 5th.  It must not have been too serious as they were both reinstated to Sgt in April.  T/Sgt Carl G. Kressin was reclassified in April 1945 as an Airplane Electrical Mechanic.


Lt. Lyall Barnhart was checked out as first pilot by Vehslage, and he began flying with his own crew on January 7, 1945.  After completing his missions with the 458th, he flew Mosquitoes in the RAF.  After that, the crew was not assigned a co-pilot, but was provided with newly arrived, replacement first pilots to be checked out prior to them taking their own crews on combat missions.  It is assumed that the remaining crew members flew additional combat missions as fill-ins, but nothing is known for sure.  Lt. Roger Williams, navigator, finished his required missions fairly quickly and was the first of the crew to be sent back to the States.


Both Vehslage and Hurtenbach were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions on the mission of January 28th.  Vehslage was also awarded the Purple Heart for the wounds he received.  Vehslage did not fly any further combat missions.


Vehslage Missions as 1st Pilot

VehslageMissions
Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
24-Aug-44 HANNOVER 117 1 42-52455 O 7V 53 PLUTOCRAT  
25-Aug-44 LUBECK 118 2 42-100311 P 7V 44 YOKUM BOY  
09-Sep-44 MAINZ 124 3 41-29352 K 7V 53 WOLVE'S LAIR  
11-Sep-44 MAGDEBURG 126 4 42-51110 P Z5 43 TOP O' THE MARK  
12-Sep-44 WELFORD to CLASTRES TR01 -- 354     T1 NOT 458TH SHIP ON LOAN FOR TRUCKIN'
20-Sep-44 HORSHAM to CLASTRES  TR04 -- 42-95219 W 7V T2 PATCHIE CARGO
22-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR06 -- 42-52698 W 489BG T4 THE BABY DOLL TRUCKIN' MISSION
25-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR08-1 -- 42-97972 I 389BG T2 NOT 458TH SHIP 1ST FLIGHT
25-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR08-2 -- 42-97972 I 389BG T3 NOT 458TH SHIP 2ND FLIGHT
27-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR10 -- 42-50335 A+ 389BG T5 NAME UNKNOWN TRUCKIN' MISSION
28-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR11 -- 42-52698 W 489BG T9 THE BABY DOLL 1ST FLIGHT
28-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR11 -- 42-52698 W 489BG T10 THE BABY DOLL 2ND FLIGHT
30-Sep-44 HORSHAM to LILLE TR13 -- 42-100177 L 44BG T7 NAME UNKNOWN  TRUCKIN' MISSION
06-Oct-44 WENZENDORF 129 5 42-110163 M J4 26 TIME'S A WASTIN  
14-Oct-44 COLOGNE 133 6 41-28963 T 7V 2 UNKNOWN 007  
17-Oct-44 COLOGNE 135 7 42-51215 T 7V 6 UNKNOWN 024  
22-Oct-44 HAMM 137 8 41-29352 K 7V 55 WOLVE'S LAIR  
02-Nov-44 BIELEFELD 140 9 42-95316 H 7V 51 PRINCESS PAT  
04-Nov-44 MISBURG 141 ASSY 41-28697 Z Z5 A27 SPOTTED APE ASSEMBLY CREW - ALLEN Cmd-P 
05-Nov-44 KARLSRUHE 142 10 42-95316 H 7V 53 PRINCESS PAT  
06-Nov-44 MINDEN 143 ABT 42-95316 H 7V -- PRINCESS PAT #3 ENG THROWING OIL
09-Nov-44 METZ AREA 145 11 42-95316 H 7V 54 PRINCESS PAT OPS REC - POSSIBLE ANA
25-Nov-44 BINGEN 149 12 42-95316 H 7V 57 PRINCESS PAT  
26-Nov-44 BIELEFELD 150 13 42-95316 H 7V 58 PRINCESS PAT  
04-Dec-44 BEBRA 152 14 42-95316 H 7V 59 PRINCESS PAT  
11-Dec-44 HANAU 155 15 42-95316 H 7V 60 PRINCESS PAT  
12-Dec-44 HANAU 156 16 42-95316 H 7V 61 PRINCESS PAT  
18-Dec-44 KOBLENZ REC -- 42-95316 H 7V -- PRINCESS PAT RECALL DUTCH ISLE
24-Dec-44 SCHONECKEN 157 17 42-95316 H 7V 62 PRINCESS PAT  
07-Jan-45 RASTATT 166 18 42-95316 H 7V 66 PRINCESS PAT  
08-Jan-45 STADTKYLL 167 19 42-95316 H 7V 67 PRINCESS PAT  
14-Jan-45 HALLENDORF 170 20 42-95316 H 7V 69 PRINCESS PAT  
21-Jan-45 HEILBRONN 173 21 42-95316 H 7V 70 PRINCESS PAT  
28-Jan-45 DORTMUND 174 22 42-51561 G 7V 5 LUCKY 13 CRASH ON CONTINENT
28-Feb-45 BIELEFELD 192 MSHL -- -- -- --   MARSHALING CHIEF
14-Mar-45 HOLZWICKEDE 203 MSHL -- -- -- --   MARSHALING CHIEF


Barnhart Missions as 1st Pilot

Barnhart-LMissions
Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
07-Jan-45 RASTATT 166 1 41-28963 T 7V 14 UNKNOWN 007  
08-Jan-45 STADTKYLL 167 ABT 41-28963 T 7V -- UNKNOWN 007 #2 ENG FEATHERED
14-Jan-45 HALLENDORF 170 2 44-40424 F 7V 2 MONYA  
16-Jan-45 MAGDEBURG 171 3 44-40424 F 7V 3 MONYA OFF LOCATION
28-Jan-45 DORTMUND 174 4 42-51270 A 7V 3 MY BUNNIE II  
29-Jan-45 MUNSTER 175 5 42-51270 A 7V 4 MY BUNNIE II  
31-Jan-45 BRUNSWICK 176 MSHL -- -- -- --   MARSHALING CHIEF
03-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 177 6 42-51514 B 7V 8 BIG CHIEF LIL' BEAVER  
08-Feb-45 RHEINE M/Y REC -- 42-51215 T 7V -- UNKNOWN 024 RECALL - WEATHER
09-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 179 7 42-51215 T 7V 18 UNKNOWN 024  
14-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 181 8 42-51215 T 7V 19 UNKNOWN 024  
19-Feb-45 MESCHADE 184 9 42-51514 B 7V 12 BIG CHIEF LIL' BEAVER  
20-Feb-45 NUREMBURG TANK FACT  REC -- 42-51215 T 7V -- UNKNOWN 024 RECALL - WEATHER
21-Feb-45 NUREMBERG 185 10 42-51215 T 7V 23 UNKNOWN 024  
23-Feb-45 GERA-REICHENBACH 187 11 42-95316 H 7V 81 PRINCESS PAT  
25-Feb-45 SCHWABISCH-HALL 189 12 42-51270 A 7V 14 MY BUNNIE II  
27-Feb-45 HALLE 191 13 41-29340 N 7V 64 YANKEE BUZZ BOMB  
28-Feb-45 BIELEFELD 192 MSHL -- -- -- --   MARSHALING CHIEF
01-Mar-45 INGOLSTADT 193 14 42-51110 M 7V 80 TOP O' THE MARK  
03-Mar-45 NIENBURG 195 15 44-10487 R 7V 33 Girl on surfboard (no name)  
05-Mar-45 HARBURG 197 16 44-10487 R 7V 35 Girl on surfboard (no name)  
07-Mar-45 SOEST 198 17 44-10487 R 7V 36 Girl on surfboard (no name)   
08-Mar-45 DILLENBURG 199 18 41-29567 G 7V 15 MY BUNNIE / BAMBI BOMBED WITH 466BG 
12-Mar-45 FRIEDBURG 202 19 42-51514 B 7V 22 BIG CHIEF LIL' BEAVER


B-24JSH-5-FO 41-51561 G 7V Lucky '13' (Lucky '1 ' )

Somewhere along the way, someone figured out that "Lucky 13" wasn't lucky and altered the name.  Somehow, this did not help Vehslage's crew on January 28th - or perhaps it did - they all survived!

Lucky '1 ' in a Belgian field

A crashed American bomber was quite an event, as Belgian civilians look the plane over.  The nose turret took the brunt of the damage by the flak burst, as the crew takes a break and speculates on their close call..

(Photos: Ben Vehslage & Ryan Lemke)


1Lt Anthony W. Hurtenbach, co-pilot January 28th

Entry from the diary of 1st Lieutenant, Anthony W. Hurtenbach,  January 28, 1945  at Horsham-St. Faith Airdrome,  England.


January 28

Dortmund – what a mission!  Over 300 heavy caliber flak guns.  Pretty accurate too.  The whole Ruhr Valley was visual, too.  We had a burst a few feet in front of the nose, shattering the nose turret, blowing all the windows out of the nose, tearing huge holes (about 300) all over the right wing and the nose.  Engines no 1 and 3 had the induction systems knocked out.  No. 3 and 4 both had oil leaks and no. 3 had to be feathered.  No. 2 engine and no. 4 had ignition cables and valve stems cut and several cylinders were damaged.  The electrical system was out and the radio equipment was destroyed by flak.  The hydraulic system was a total washout.
 
The crew fared a little better.  The nose gunner suffered only minor scratches and a little frostbite (Temp  – 53 degrees C).  His clothing was torn by flak.  The navigator was blown out of the nose back to the bomb-bay.  One of his gloves, his oxygen mask and helmet were torn off by flak.  He also suffered frostbite.  The pilot was seriously injured by a piece of flak which penetrated the left side of his neck directly above his collar-bone.  He bled rather profusely and had to be lifted out of his seat and given first-aid.  The top gunner was injured by flying bits of plexiglass which cut him about the eyes.  The rest of the crew escaped unhurt except for minor frostbite due to the electrical failure.
 
Immediately after being hit we lost about a thousand feet of altitude and I took over the controls while the navigator began to give the pilot first aid and the engineer checked over the ship to determine the extent of damage.  We decided that our best chance would be to head directly in the general direction of France because we had lost all means of navigation and had to trust to blind luck.  We decided that the ship would not last long so we took the most direct route – straight across the Ruhr Valley!  That was the beginning of a perfect nightmare.  We were under fire the greater part of the next twenty minutes as we made our way slowly, trying to lose altitude as slowly as possible and doing the best evasive action possible with our crippled ship, sacrificing precious altitude with every turn ‘til we were down to 15,000 feet.  We made it, tho, and I’m sure none of us mind admitting that we did plenty of praying.
 
After flying for an hour in a general west – southwest heading we estimated that we had crossed the lines and began to think about getting down.  This didn’t prove as easy as it sounds.  We found that now we had a solid undercast below us with no signs of an opening and it was a safe bet that it was snowing below those clouds.  Nothing to do but keep flying and look for a break in the clouds.  We found a small hole after another hour’s flying and started down.  We found that we were flying in a snowstorm with a 700 ft. ceiling.  Next problem was to keep what altitude we had left and find a field.  We cruised about for another hour and finally decided that finding an airfield wasn’t going to be so easy.  After a hurried conference we all agreed to take a chance on a crash-landing.  We found a field near what appeared to be an Allied ammunition dump.  We circled the field once and decided that it was all right.  The engineer then went back to crank the gear down with the emergency crank.  Flaps were out of the question.  I couldn’t put them down and fly at the same time.  The engineer was about to start putting the nose wheel down when another engine stopped.  The ship quit flying right then and there and there was nothing to do but set it down.  There was a long field ahead of us and I managed to get it up to the field without doing more damage than knocking down a few trees.  The ship settled down easily enough even tho we were going downwind with no flaps and traveling probably 160 M. P. H. As the ship slowed down the nose settled down on the ground and began tearing away in big chunks.  By the time the ship stopped the nose had ground down to where my feet were on the ground and the cockpit was full of stones, dirt and snow.
 
We lost no time in getting out of the plane and started looking over our surroundings.  There were Frenchmen coming towards us from every direction and, Praise the Lord, an American jeep with two real, live, G.I.’s. We explained our predicament to them and they took off to the nearest town for an ambulance.
 
While we waited, we made the wounded men as comfortable as possible and looked over the remains of our ship.  I found the navigator destroying what was left of his confidential radio equipment.  On the flight deck, the radio operator was attacking his transmitter with a crash after chuckling with fiendish glee.  I never saw a man enjoy himself so thoroughly.

Distinguished Flying Cross

General Orders Number 88


LOUIS B. VEHSLAGE, 0-705546, First Lieutenant, Army Air Forces, United States Army.  For extraordinary achievement, while serving as pilot of a B-24 aircraft on a bombardment mission over Germany, 28 January 1945.  Just prior to bombs away, an anti-aircraft shell burst close under the nose of Lieutenant Vehslage’s aircraft, seriously reducing the manifold pressure on two engines rendering ineffective the electrical, hydraulic and auto pilot systems, and shattering the plexi-glass in the nose.  Lieutenant Vehslage was wounded in the neck and an artery cut.  Nevertheless, he retained control of his aircraft, saw that his bombs were dropped with the group and turned toward the rally point with the formation.  The courage, coolness and devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Vehslage on this occasion were a source of inspiration to all flying with him, and reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.  Entered military service from Indiana.


ANTHONY W. HURTENBACH, 0-823593, Second Lieutenant, Army Air Forces, Unites States Army.  For extraordinary achievement, while acting in his capacity as Co-Pilot of a B-24 aircraft on a bombing mission to Germany, 28 January 1945.  At bombs away an anti-aircraft shell burst close under the nose seriously reducing the manifold pressure on two engines, rendering ineffective the electrical, hydraulic and auto pilot systems and shattering the plexi-glass in the nose.  The Pilot was severely wounded in the neck, and weak from loss of blood, turned the over the damaged plane to Lieutenant Hurtenbach three minutes after the blast.  Lieutenant Hurtenbach was forced to feather number three engine, and with only two engines pulling full power effected an emergency landing on a frozen sugar beet field after a third engine failed completely at low altitude.  The initiative, skill and superior flying ability demonstrated by Lieutenant Hurtenbach on this occasion, reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.  Entered military service from Illinois.


Maj Gen William E. Kepner, 2nd Air Division CO, decorates Lt. Hurtenbach


In Our Country's Service - May 4, 1945

An Eighth Air Force Liberator Station, England – 1st Lt. Anthony W, Hurtenbach of Glenview, Ill., and formerly of Des Plaines, Ill., has been decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross by Maj. Gen. William E. Kepner, commander of the Second Air Division.  The DFC was awarded Lt. Hurtenbach for heroism as a co-pilot on a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber of the 458th Bombardment Group.

 

Lt. Hurtenbach, who is the son of Mrs. Maria H. Buellesbach, Villa Redeemer, Glenview, Ill., was cited for initiative, skill and superior flying ability during a mission to Germany on January 28.  At bombs away an anti-aircraft shell burst close under the nose seriously reducing the manifold pressure on two engines, rendering ineffective the electrical, hydraulic and auto pilot systems and shattering the plexi-glass in the nose.  The Pilot was severely wounded in the neck, and weak from loss of blood, turned the over the damaged plane to Lieutenant Hurtenbach three minutes after the blast.  Lieutenant Hurtenbach was forced to feather number three engine, and with only two engines pulling full power effected an emergency landing on a frozen sugar beet field after a third engine failed completely at low altitude. 

 

Lt. Hurtenbach has been overseas since August 8, 1944.  He entered the Army October 3, 1942, was commissioned second lieutenant February 8, 1944, and promoted to first lieutenant February 5, 1945.  He was graduated from the Maine Township High School in 1939, and attended aeronautical university for one year.

 

The 458th Bombardment Group which is part of the Second Air Division has completed more than 200 combat missions over enemy targets in the European Theatre of Operations.


Courtesy: Maria Hurtenbach Sharpe