458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Nelson Crew - Assigned 754th Squadron -  June 14, 1944

Back Row: Harlan Villers - WG, Felix Massaro - CP, Earle Hagen - N, Wayne Nelson - P, William Steinecke
Front Row: Louis Larkin - G, Duncan Fringer - WG, Morris Lunn - TG, Charles Nally - E,
Not pictured: Fred Staub - B, Claude Danner - WG

(Photo: Brent Nelson)

Completed Tour

NelsonCrew
 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
1Lt Wayne H Nelson 0684397 Pilot Oct-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
1Lt Felix Massaro 0693809 Co-pilot Nov-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
2Lt Earl Q Hagen 0747011 Navigator 12-Aug-44  UNK  Air Crew Leave
2Lt Fred L Staub 0690870 Bombardier 07-Jul-44 KIA Shot down w/Larson Crew
S/Sgt  William Steinecke  11085663  Radio Operator Nov-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross 
T/Sgt Charles T Nally 12063850 Flight Engineer Nov-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Duncan L Fringer 6796904 Armorer-Gunner  Nov-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
Sgt Claude E Danner 38387680 Armorer-Gunner 14-Jun-44 UNK Assigned
S/Sgt Lewis K Larkin 17069985 Aerial Gunner Nov-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross

The Nelson Crew Sept. 1943 - Jan. 1945

The Wayne H. Nelson crew was formed in the fall of 1943 at Clovis, New Mexico.  Assigned to the 302nd Bombardment Group, the crew completed its Phase I crew training in mid-October, whereupon it transferred to the 34th Bombardment Group at Blythe, California for Phase II crew training.  The crew completed this phase of training in late December 1943.  Much to the surprise of crew members, it was not sent overseas for combat assignment, but was deferred to Will Rogers Field in Oklahoma City for reconnaissance training.  The crew was relieved to leave reconnaissance work in late January 1944; it returned to combat training at Langley Field where navigator Rex Blacker and bombardier Fred Staub received training in radar bombardment.


In mid-April 1944 the crew completed this training and flew the southern route to Italy.  Initially assigned to the 450th Bombardment Group (Manduria, Italy) where pilot Nelson flew five or six combat missions with an experienced crew.  The crew was then selected as an exchange crew with the 8th Air Force and left Italy in May 1944. Rex Blacker was reassigned to a unit in the 15th Air Force.  Arriving in England around the 1st of June, the crew waited for its new assignment at the Replacement Depot for approximately 10 days, whereupon it was assigned to the 458th Bombardment Group, 754th Squadron in mid-June 1944.  The crew flew its first mission with the 458th on June 23rd.  On its June 28th mission, gunner C. Eugene Danner was seriously injured by flak; he was replaced with gunner Villers.  On July 7th, bombardier Staub was alerted for a mission to fly as pilotage navigator with the deputy lead crew (2Lt Lincoln A. Larson) of the 754th Squadron.  Larson's crew was shot down over Emden, Germany. Fred Staub's remains have never been recovered.  Thus, the two crew members trained in radar bombardment techniques were lost to Nelson and the crew never used its training as a radar crew in combat.  Bombardier William Cain flew with the crew for ten missions during July/August 1944. The crew flew without a bombardier for the remainder of their missions.  Nelson's crew also participated in the mid-September Truckin' missions - hauling gas to Patton's 3rd Army in France.


Pilot Nelson completed his quota of missions on October 5th (Paderborn, Germany), whereupon co-pilot Massaro took command of the crew.  The crew completed its combat tour of duty with the 458th on November 16th.  Massaro's crew was then assigned to the 434th Troop Carrier unit where it served for much of the winter of 1944/45.  Thereafter, the crew was disbanded and crew members returned to the United States.


The Picture
The nine man crew pictured in front of Elmer only flew this aircraft on a combat mission, with this [crew] line-up, one time: September 11th.  Bill Steinecke wrote to his fiancée that the picture was taken after a mission to Germany.  Although he did not give the date of the photo or mission, the September 11th mission was to Magdeburg, Germany - consistent with what Steinecke reported.  At this time, the crew consisted of:1 Lt. Wayne H. Nelson, pilot; 2 Lt. Felix Massaro, co-pilot; 2 Lt. Earl Q. Hagen, navigator; S/Sgt. Charles T. Nally, engineer/top turret; S/Sgt. William Steinecke Jr., radio operator; S/Sgt. Harlan E. Villers, waist; S/Sgt. Duncan L. Fringer, waist; S/Sgt Morris W. Lunn, tail gunner; Sgt. Louis J. Larkin, nose turret/bombardier.


The preceding history of the Nelson crew was contributed by Brent Nelson


Missions - 1Lt Wayne Nelson, Pilot

NelsonMissions
Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn  A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
23-Jun-44 3 NO BALLS 76 1 41-28705 W Z5 35 YE OLDE HELLGATE TGT #7 BLAUGERMONT
25-Jun-44 ST. OMER 80 2 42-95116 V Z5 15 JUNIOR FLEW WITH 446TH
28-Jun-44 SAARBRUCKEN 81 3 42-95116 V Z5 16 JUNIOR  
29-Jun-44 ASCHERSLEBEN 82 4 41-28705 W Z5 37 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
02-Jul-44 COUBRONNE 83 5 41-28705 W Z5 38 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
06-Jul-44 KIEL 85 ABT 42-95108 M Z5 -- ENVY OF 'EM ALL II #2 ENGINE
12-Jul-44 MUNICH 89 6 41-28705 W Z5 39 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
16-Jul-44 SAARBRUCKEN 91 7 41-29352 K 7V 35 WOLVE'S LAIR  
17-Jul-44 3 NO BALLS 92 8 42-100366 B Z5 32 MIZPAH  
18-Jul-44 TROARN 93 9 42-95108 M Z5 24 ENVY OF 'EM ALL II  
21-Jul-44 MUNICH 96 ABT 41-29276 G Z5 -- URGIN VIRGIN/The ROTTEN SOCK  #4 ENG #5 CYL
24-Jul-44 ST. LO AREA 97 10 41-29305 N Z5 31 I'LL BE BACK/HYPOCHONDRIAC  
28-Jul-44 LEIPHEIM & CREEL SCR -- 42-110070 E Z5 -- ELMER BRIEFED AND SCRUBBED
31-Jul-44 LUDWIGSHAFEN 99 11 41-29288 L J3 41 BIG-TIME OPERATOR  
01-Aug-44 T.O.s FRANCE 100 12 42-110070 E Z5 23 ELMER  
02-Aug-44 3 NO BALLS 101 13 41-28682 I Z5 51 UNKNOWN 003  
03-Aug-44 2 NO BALLS 102 14 42-100366 B Z5 40 MIZPAH  
04-Aug-44 ROSTOCK 103 15 41-29276 G Z5 21 URGIN VIRGIN/The ROTTEN SOCK  
05-Aug-44 BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM  105 16 42-100366 B Z5 42 MIZPAH  
08-Aug-44 CLASTRES 108 17 42-110070 E Z5 26 ELMER  
09-Aug-44 SAARBRUCKEN 109 18 42-110070 E Z5 27 ELMER  
11-Aug-44 STRASBOURG 110 19 42-110070 K Z5 28 ELMER  
12-Aug-44 MOURMELON 111 20 42-100311 P 7V 41 YOKUM BOY  
24-Aug-44  HANNOVER 117 21 41-29305 N Z5 36 I'LL BE BACK/HYPOCHONDRIAC  
25-Aug-44 LUBECK 118 22 42-110059 T Z5 34 UNKNOWN 056  
01-Sep-44 PFAFFENHOFFEN ABN -- 44-40126 L Z5 -- SPITTEN KITTEN / SKY TRAMP ABANDONED
08-Sep-44 KARLSRUHE 123 23 41-29276 G Z5 30 URGIN VIRGIN/The ROTTEN SOCK  
09-Sep-44 MAINZ 124 24 42-100366 H Z5 48 MIZPAH  
11-Sep-44 MAGDEBURG 126 25 42-110070 K Z5 34 ELMER  
18-Sep-44 HSF to CLASTRES TR02 -- 42-109805 J 44BG T1 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE LOAD No. 1
23-Sep-44 HSF to ST DIZIER TR07 -- 41-28682 I Z5 T4 NO NAME or NAME UNKNOWN WW
27-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR10 -- 42-109805 J 44BG T7 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE TRUCKIN' MISSION
28-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR11 -- 42-109805 J 44BG T8 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE TRUCKIN' MISSION
29-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR12 -- 42-109805 J 44BG T9 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE TRUCKIN' MISSION
30-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR13 -- 42-109805 J 44BG T10 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE TRUCKIN' MISSION
05-Oct-44 PADERBORN 128 26 42-100366 H Z5 51 MIZPAH  
19-Oct-44 MAINZ 136 ASSY 41-28697 Z Z5 A22 SPOTTED APE FIELDS PILOT

Nelson flew five missions in Italy before being transferred to the 458th.  The above list was compiled from formation plans and operations reports.  Brent Nelson, nephew of pilot Wayne Nelson, has done extensive research on this crew.  Click here for a detailed account of the crew's missions.

Missions - 1Lt Felix Massaro, Pilot

MassaroMissions
Date  Target  458th Msn   Pilot Msn   Serial RCL Sqdn  A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
14-Oct-44 COLOGNE 133 1 42-110070  K Z5 40 ELMER  
19-Oct-44 MAINZ 136 2 44-40126 L Z5 27 SPITTEN KITTEN / SKY TRAMP   
30-Oct-44 HARBURG 139 3 42-95108 B Z5 42 ENVY OF 'EM ALL II  
02-Nov-44 BIELEFELD 140 4 44-40298 E Z5 8 THE SHACK  
04-Nov-44 MISBURG 141 5 42-51179 P Z5 44 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE  
08-Nov-44 RHEINE 144 6 42-95183 U Z5 55 BRINEY MARLIN  
10-Nov-44 HANAU A/F 146 7 44-40298 E Z5 12 THE SHACK  
16-Nov-44 ESCHWEILER  147 8 42-51199 A Z5 12 UNKNOWN 023


2Lt Fred L. Staub

Killed In Action July 7, 1944: Flying as Pilotage Navigator on Lincoln A. Larson's Crew


(Photos: Tom Staub)


Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma City - January 1944

Wayne Nelson, Felix Massaro, Fred Staub, Rex Blacker
 
William Steinecke, Claude Danner, Morris Lunn, Charles Nally

And in Europe...

Wayne Nelson, Felix Massaro and Fred Staub 

on a hotel balcony, location unknown

 
At Hyde Park in London
 
Standing: Duncan Fringer, William Steinecke, Charles Nally
Kneeling: Morris Lunn, Harlan Villers, Lewis Larkin
Lewis Larkin, William Steinecke, Charles Nally

Public Relations Article - August 1944

An Eighth Air Force Liberator Station, England
S/Sgt Harlan E. Villers (photo at Left) of Warren, Ohio, Radio Operator and gunner on "Elmer", a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, will remember the number "19" for a long time.  While on his crew's "19th" mission over Germany and enemy occupied territory he narrowly missed being hit by a piece of flak with No. "19" stamped on it.  His left leg escaped the missile by just one fraction of an inch.  Exactly a year ago Sgt Villers was injured in the left leg by flak while in a B-17 over enemy territory.  After recovering he was transferred to a Liberator group.

Sgt Villers is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Burl E. Villers, RFD #3, Warren, Ohio.  His wife, Mrs. Grace Villers was in the personnel section of the Copper Weld Steel Co., Warren, Ohio.  He was inducted into the Army 15 September 1942 and has been overseas since 16 July 1943.

Sgt Harlan E. Villers


Sgt Harlan Villers was originally assigned to the 385th Bombardment Group flying B-17's out of Great Ashfield.  On August 15, 1943, Villers flew his ninth mission with the crew of 2Lt Jerome H. Mudge (above) to an airfield near Vitry en-Artois, France.  It is not clear whether this was Villers' original crew, or if he was a fill in with them on this mission.  He was wounded by flak, and while the extent and nature of his injuries are unknown, he was hospitalized and underwent a period of convalescence from August 1943 to May 1944.  On June 9th he was assigned to Horsham St Faith and placed on flight status a week later.  When Clyde Danner was wounded later that same month, Villers took his place as a permanent member of Nelson's crew.  He completed his combat tour in November 1944 and was awarded the DFC (below).