458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Morley Crew - Assigned 754th Squadron - May 1944

Standing: Paul Dulmage - RO, Jerome Caffey - TG, William Rickert - TT/E, Wesley Darden - BTG, Earl Dunaway - RWG, Max Detty - LWG.
Kneeling: Henry Hier - B, Bennie Hill - CP, Frank "Red" Morley - P, Charles Davis - N.

(Photo: Marilyn Walton & T.J. Reiling)

Shot down June 17, 1944 (MACR #5806)

MorleyCrew
 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
2Lt Francis R Morley 0813041 Pilot 17-Jun-44 KIA Logan County, OH
2Lt Bennie H Hill 0699417 Co-pilot 17-Jun-44 WIA/POW  Liberated German Hosp - Normandy 
2Lt Charles E Davis 0712775 Navigator 17-Jun-44 KIA Mississippi County, MO
2Lt Henry C Hier 0698012 Bombardier 17-Jun-44 KIA Normandy American Cemetery
S/Sgt Paul L Dulmage 12080395 Radio Operator 17-Jun-44 KIA Normandy American Cemetery
S/Sgt William F Rickert 37659663 Flight Engineer 17-Jun-44 KIA Normandy American Cemetery
Sgt Wesley R Darden, Jr  34708338 Ball Turret Gunner  17-Jun-44 KIA Normandy American Cemetery 
Sgt Earl C Dunaway 18191706 Waist Gunner 17-Jun-44 KIA Normandy American Cemetery
Sgt Max L Detty 35215912 Waist Gunner 17-Jun-44 KIA Fayette County, OH
Sgt Jerome T Caffey 34612556 Tail Turret Gunner 17-Jun-44 KIA Montgomery County, MS

Lt Frank "Red" Morley and crew arrived at the 458th towards the end of May 1944. They were assigned to the 754th Squadron, flying their first mission on June 14th.  Three days later, in support of the invasion troops, they were shot down over Caen, France.  Only co-pilot Lt Bennie Hill survived. Severely burned, he was liberated in early August from a German hospital in Normandy where he was being treated.  He spent several years in Stateside hospitals recovering from his wounds.

MACR 5806

2D LT MORLEY'S A/C was hit by flak in left wing root while over Caen, France.  Entire fuselage then burst into flames and A/C nosed down.  Tail twisted off during spin and A/C was seen to crash.  One 'chute reported.

Missions

MorleyMissions
 Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name Comments
14-Jun-44 DOMLEGER 65 1 42-95165 S Z5 16 COOKIE  
17-Jun-44 TOURS 68 2 42-95106 L Z5 13 MISS PAT  SHOT DOWN FLAK 


Letter of Mrs. Norvella M. Hier

Oketo, Kansas

September 13, 1944

 

Dear Mr. Darden,

 

This week I received a letter from the War Department giving me the names and addresses of the boys.  My husband, Lt. H.C. Hier, Bombardier, was on the [same] ship as your son.  I’ve gotten no more word since hearing they went down over Caen, France, except hearing from the co-pilot’s wife that she had heard from her husband.


This is what she has written me, which you no doubt, would like to hear too. Aug. 8 – “In an illegible, and will soon be back in England.  My right hand is badly burned.”  Someone wrote this to her, also said, “Do not write.”   Aug. 20 – “Well, I’m back in England, but not at my field, tho.  They have me in a General Hospital.  Don’t know if you have received some letter telling you what happened.  If not, I’ll repeat.  Our plane was shot down by “ack-ack” on June 17.  The ship caught on fire and I got some nasty burns before getting out.  I had leather gloves on, but still my hands were burned.  My right hand is as good as ever now, and left will soon be as good.  As you know, we don’t wear goggles and I was burned around my eyes.  My eyelids were damaged, but luckily my sight wasn’t damaged.  I’m not certain whether they’ll do the plastic work on my eyelids here or ship me to the States.  As far as the rest of the crew’s concerned, I only know Red (pilot) left before me.  I hope they are okay.  I was a prisoner for 45 days, and in that time was treated pretty good, except you know how well I like to eat.”  Aug. 25 – “Good news.  The Doc just told me that I’ll be shipped back to the States as soon as possible."  Sept. 5 – “I am now ‘boarded’ for the States.  (‘Boarded’ means I’ll be sent back in the first plane available).  Upon arrival in the States, I’ll be sent to Valley Forge General Hospital in Philadelphia, which was recommended.  Col. Braun, the plastic surgeon there, is supposed to be the best.  My eyebrows and lashes are ok.  The lids are quite badly scarred and the right one doesn’t open fully.  I’m taking physical therapy treatments for the left hand.  I think some skin will be grafted on backs of my hands.  Have you heard any news from Novella or Pat (pilot’s wife)?  If they are ok and are prisoners, they will probably be freed as I was.”

 

Surely hope and pray that more of us will hear from the boys.  Should I hear any more, I’ll surely let you know, and hope you will do the same.

 

Sincerely,

Mrs. Norvella M. Hier


Letters to Maurice Pfister, cousin of S/Sgt Paul Dulmage - RO

Portion of a letter written in January 1989,  by co-pilot Bennie Hill’s son:


“…He had told us that on the day that their plane had been shot down it was their very first mission.  As they were flying into their bombing position, they began to encounter very heavy gunfire and flak from below.  Their plane was hit in three different areas all at once – the wing, the center section, and the tail section.  My father got up out of his seat and went back to inspect the damage.  He stated that when he looked into the bomb bay section, it was engulfed in flames.  Fuel from the damaged wing had leaked into the section, had ignited and all their bombs were in flames.  They never had a chance to release their bombs!  He told us that there was nothing he could do, so he went back to his pilot’s seat and sat back down.  Within minutes the plane exploded!  He was blown out of the plane and the fire of the explosion burned off the covering of his parachute.  As he was falling it came out and was burning as he came down.  Shortly before the ground the chute burned off and he fell into a plowed field.  The flight oxygen mask he had on had melted and when pulled from his face, took all the skin with it.  Also, his flight gloves had melted and took all the skin from his hands when they were removed.


“He lay in the field and within a short time the German soldiers arrived and took him prisoner.  He said that the first thing they had done was splash filthy water on his burns to try to get him to talk.  However, due to his severe burns, he could not.  They then turned him over to some Catholic nuns who took care of him in a German hospital.  The German doctors did many skin grafts on him, taking skin from the inside of his upper legs and grafting it onto his face and hands.  On one occasion they cut too deep into his leg, which became infected and had to have a skin graft.  His recovery was long and slow.  In order that his hands not become stiff and unusable, he had to work with putty each day to keep them limber.  He then began playing cards with other prisoners as his hands improved.  He mentioned that as the American troops got closer, the area was bombed quite regularly and although they could hear many shells going over, none ever hit the hospital.  Eventually he was liberated by the American troops and sent to an Army hospital in the east, possibly West Virginia.  He was treated there for quite some time for his burns and was finally able to go home almost three years after being shot down….”


Bob Hayzlett letter, February 1989:

Yes, I did witness ship 106 just tumble from formation, falling out of control; one of the B-24’s in our 458th Group on the mission to Tours, France on 17 June, 1944.  Our crew had arrived at Horsham St. Faith on or about D-day, June 6th, 1944, assigned to combat. Tours was our fourth mission. Our combat experience was only about ten days old. Everything was all new to us. So new that there was no chance to meet any of the other crews, just get
up there and fly with them.

On the mission to Tours, we were flying right wing position; and 106 was also on the right wing position in the formation, about a mile or so in front of us. My near vision, in the left cockpit seat, was glued on the ship of my squadron leader; my distant vision was on the line of formation in front of us. There was a considerable barrage of flak exploding around the ships in the front part of the formation, where 106 was, as we passed by Caen. Suddenly, that ship 106, far out in front of our ship, just fell out of the sky, out of control; obviously a victim of the flak barrage. As 106 fell, the nose section of our ship quickly blocked my view. While it was in my view there were no outwardly visible flames. It is not likely that bombs aboard 106 could have exploded. There is a spinner in the nose of each bomb, which arms the bomb, as it free falls after bomb release. A crewman must release, manually, a  pin which secures the spinner, in flight, before bomb release. Considerable spinning is necessary to arm the bomb. Unless armed, the bombs would not explode on impact, either. I do not know exactly what time we left England, but my guess is that we held briefing about four PM, took off about five PM, assemble over "the Wash" about six PM, near Horsham, then headed out over the south of England and across the Channel, for Tours.

Jackson W.Granholm was our crew's chief navigator, and later became the 458th Group Navigator. He is a professional writer, has published many articles about the 458th and is currently writing a book about our crew's experiences and those of other groups in the 2nd Air Division.  I called him about your letter. He remembers observing ship 106's tragic fate. He tells me that he watched clearly from the vantage point of his window, on the right side of our ship and can give you a more complete account than I. He has, at hand, all of the available 458th records. They may contain information on the identification of the other crews and ships on that particular mission.

B-24s had a reputation for exploding, if a shell hit the fuel lines, or if they just ruptured; which then poured fuel onto the extremely hot engine manifolds igniting the fuel. Usually, within thirty seconds the fuel line fires traveled to the gas tanks and the whole ship became an airborne Molotov cocktail.

I am pleased that the crew of 106 is still alive in memory.

Bob Hayzlett

Tom Jeffers' letter, January 1998:

Please forgive the long delay in answering your very welcome letters and the information you have been able to send to me. Based upon the work that you and Joe Davis have been doing over all these years, both of you have been able to provide me with much more than I can give to both of you!

I think that it might be best for me to give you some background information on the training of the crews involved, shipment to Europe, assignment to the 458th and missions, especially those of 16, 17, and 18 June 1944.

All of the individual crew members reported to the Air Base at Salt Lake City about 1 December 1943 from their individual training stations.  Crews were formed and assigned for further training in B-24's. We were then sent to Casper, Wyoming where we began mission flying training.  It was just wonderful taking off at about 5:00 AM at 0 degrees, climbing to altitude where the temperature averaged 20 to 30 below and practice bombing, and navigation!  It was even better when as usual on each high altitude mission, the heaters froze up! Our crews left Casper in April, picked up new aircraft at Topeka, Kansas and flew to North Ireland via Manchester, NH, Goose Bay, Labrador, Iceland, and on to Nutts Corner, North Ireland arriving about 1 May 44.  After further training several of our crews, including Morley's were assigned to the 458th at Horsham Saint Faith, arriving there in late May . I might add that we were all very naive and believed that the new aircraft that we flew over were ours to keep. Not so, and as the new kids on the block we got to fly the old and weary planes on missions until we had been around long enough to be assigned a plane of our own!

This brings me to 16, 17, 18 June.  Lt. Morley flew #168 overseas and of course like the rest of us lost it at Nutts Comer! Through a quirk of fate it came to the 458th and he was able to have it assigned to him. We also finally had a plane assigned to us at the same time, and neither of our crews would have to fly the war wearies again. However, on the 16th of June, another crew flew Morley's plane to France and over the invasion coast it received a Flak hit through the outer wing. The pilot did manage to fly it back to England to another base. On the l7th,our crew was assigned to fly in our new plane (#106) to France on a morning mission. The flight was "scrubbed" because of bad weather, while we were taxiing out. We had the Squadron Armament Officer [Lt William Brodek] riding with us because one of our gunners [Sgt Joe Risko] had received a bad case of frostbite, and he wanted to ride along as gunner. Unfortunately, when the  mission was called again in the afternoon, Lt Brodek decided that he didn't want to go, and as a consequence Lt.Morley's crew was sent in (#106) in our place. As a consequence, Morley was lost in #106 and we were lost the next day flying the oldest and most war weary #733, Rhapsody in Junk. Two of the engines quit at once near Hamburg. we lost altitude, were hit by Flak at low altitude, lost a third engine and finally had to bail out. Our flight engineer was killed and the rest of our crew spent the rest of the war in POW camps. Some of the enlisted men walked across Northern Germany from 5 February until 8 May 1945 when met by British troops....

In response to your question about #106, I don't really have any information I can pass on, because we only had the airplane for three days and never got to do anything with it except to taxi it out for the 17 June morning mission. I do not recall whether it had the name Miss Pat on it although it could have, since we were around it mainly in the dark....

Thanks again for all of your efforts in providing all of the information you have.  Between you and Joe Davis, I have learned much more than I was able to pass on to both of you. Incidentally, I will pass on a copy of this letter to Mr. Davis. In addition, it has just dawned on me, that I was able to locate our navigator, Frank Deimel after 52 years just recently. He probably trained with Charles Davis....

Best wishes for the New Year to you and your family.  Take care of yourself...
Tom Jeffers

Excerpt from The Day We Bombed Switzerland

2Lt Jackson Granholm, navigator, witnessed Morley’s crew go down:

“Our lead navigator of the day was a bit off course and took us directly over Caen.  The city was full of panzer units and they opened fire.  As I was to learn with time, the anti-aircraft fire of German tanks was highly accurate.  They laid their first shells right to the middle of our formation, and for the first time I got the full impact of flak fire.


“Gniewkowski was down in the nose with me.  Though he was only to toggle on the drop of the lead ship this day, he always liked to practice at his bomb sight, preparing for the day when he would lead the attack — performing the essential sighting himself — in the nose of the foremost bomber of the formation.  When the intense sounds of the bursting flak shells hit our ears, I looked at Eddie Gniewkowski.  His face was as white and bloodless as I’m sure mine must have been.


“The sound of accurate flak aimed at your bomber is unforgettable.  To this day I can remember it, and hear it, and have bad dreams about it.  There is the loud crunch of the shell explosion, followed by the sharp rip of those fragments which penetrate the fuselage, and the rattle of those which bounce off.  It sounds a bit like someone throwing big fistfuls of gravel down a huge tin pipe.


“At about the tenth loud crunch a bomber of the 754th Squadron, flying formation to our right, suddenly pulled up and out of formation.  This was the aeroplane of Lieutenant Morley’s crew, in bad trouble.  The ship made a 180-degree turn, heading back for England, and feathering the right inboard engine.  I watched this turning back with fascination from my side blister window.  About the time our neighbor had finished his turn and was northbound, headed noticeably downhill, the bomber burst into flame.  The whole ship lit up in a giant, blinding flash of fire.


“There was a great fire in the sky where the bomber had been the instant before.  The whole tail section fell off, and one parachute dropped out of the wreckage.  The rest of the aeroplane, burning fiercely, fell spinning into the countryside of France below.


“I fought off the urge to vomit in my oxygen mask.  But the facts were made plain to me: one could die suddenly flying combat with the Eighth Air Force over Europe.  I’d just watched some people do it.  My knees were still shaking when we got back to Horsham St. Faith four hours later.”