Roberts Crew - Assigned 752nd Squadron - May 27, 1944
(Photo: Annie Parks & Erik Johnson)
|Capt||John P Roberts||0813062||Pilot||24-Apr-45||CT||Assgd to Inst Pilot Prof Board|
|2Lt||Wallace T Brown||0701900||Co-pilot||06-Aug-44||UNK||Mission to Hamburg|
|2Lt||Walter C Dietzgen||0712778||Navigator||20-Sep-44||UNK||Temp Duty to London|
|1Lt||Lester R Johnson||0698017||Bombardier||Jan-45||CT||Trsf to 70CP return to ZI|
|T/Sgt||Augustine Parades||39695878||Radio Operator||Dec-44||CT||Trsf to 70CP return to ZI|
|S/Sgt||Stanley A Pitakos, Jr||35789484||Flight Engineer||Dec-44||CT||Trsf to 70CP return to ZI|
|S/Sgt||John W Robinson||12086524||Armorer-Gunner||Nov-44||CT||Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross|
|S/Sgt||Lyle J Powell||17110989||Aerial Gunner, 2/E||Dec-44||CT||Trsf to 70CP return to ZI|
|S/Sgt||George W Parks||34767422||Armorer-Gunner||Dec-44||CT||Trsf to 70CP return to ZI|
|S/Sgt||Dewey A Guidry||38487859||Armorer-Gunner||Dec-44||CT||Trsf to 70CP return to ZI|
Lt Wallace C Brown is believed to have flown as co-pilot until sometime in mid-July, when he was either given his own crew or flew as Instructor Pilot with new, incoming crews. He flew a total of twelve missions as aircraft commander between July 12 and August 6, 1944.
It seems that the job of navigating frequently fell to the crew's bombardier, 2Lt Lester R. Johnson, who had received navigator training (see A.J. Parades "North Atlantic" story below). At some point during the summer of 1944, 2Lt Theodore E. Joiner, Jr. was assigned as the crew's navigator. Joiner came to the group as a navigator with F/O Harold A. Walker and crew, which joined the 458th on May 11, 1944. On October 23, 1944 the 458th underwent a massive reshuffling of crews when the 755th Squadron was designated as a "lead crew" squadron. Roberts and his crew were transferred from the 752nd to the 755th. For some reason, Jack Roberts was transferred back to the 752nd on November 20th only to return to the 755th two weeks later - such is the bureaucracy of the Army!
The 458th came off of combat operations in September in order to transport gas and supplies to Patton's army in France. Roberts and crew flew seven of these Truckin' Missions in late September. While these missions did not involve combat, some crews believed that they were sometimes more dangerous since they were loading their Liberators with as much fuel as they could carry in 5-gallon Jerry cans or modified fighter drop tanks. There were a total of seven Liberators lost by the group during this time, most from accidents, but one was shot down as they strayed over enemy lines and were hit by flak.
It is assumed that most of the crew flew the majority of missions together, possibly as a lead or deputy lead prior to being transferred to the 755th Squadron in October. The crew was not assigned a co-pilot in order to make room for a command pilot on these lead missions. Three mission lists are available. That of the bombardier, 1Lt Lester R. Johnson, gunner S/Sgt George W. Parks, and the pilot's record of missions gathered from group records. All are presented below.
It appears that most of the crew completed their required missions in November or December 1944 and were rotated back to the States. Capt John Roberts remained with the group, and after being trained on the Army Air Forces SCS-51 (Mobile) Instrument Landing System (ILS) in January, he may have been employed as a landing control officer, but that is not known for certain. In April 1945 he was appointed to the Instructor Pilot Proficiency Board.
Missions - Capt John P. Roberts
|Date||Target||458th Msn||Pilot Msn||Cmd Pilot||Ld||Serial||RCL||Sqdn||A/C Msn||A/C Name||Comments|
|18-Jun-44||FASSBERG A/D||69||5||42-95179||X||7V||16||HERE I GO AGAIN||MSN #1|
|19-Jun-44||REGNAUVILLE||71||6||42-52457||Q||7V||29||FINAL APPROACH||MSN #1|
|20-Jun-44||OSTERMOOR||73||7||42-52457||Q||7V||30||FINAL APPROACH||MSN #1|
|23-Jun-44||3 NO BALLS||76||9||42-52457||Q||7V||32||FINAL APPROACH||BLANE-PIGNOT-FERNE|
|24-Jun-44||CONCHES A/F||77||10||42-52455||O||7V||34||PLUTOCRAT||MSN #1|
|05-Jul-44||LE COULET, BEL||84||13||42-52457||Q||7V||36||FINAL APPROACH|
|08-Jul-44||ANIZY, FRANCE||87||15||41-29303||H||Z5||33||LIBERTY LIB|
|24-Jul-44||ST. LO AREA||97||18||42-100311||A||7V||38||YOKUM BOY|
|13-Aug-44||LIEUREY||112||21||42-50864||B||J3||2||JOLLY ROGER (II?)|
|25-Sep-44||HSF to LILLE||TR08-1||--||42-52698||W||489BG||T6||THE BABY DOLL||1ST FLIGHT|
|25-Sep-44||HSF to LILLE||TR08-2||--||42-52616||Q||44BG||T5||GLORY BEE||2ND FLIGHT|
|26-Sep-44||HSF to LILLE||TR09||--||42-52616||Q||44BG||T6||GLORY BEE||TRUCKIN' MISSION|
|27-Sep-44||HSF to LILLE||TR10||--||42-52616||Q||44BG||T7||GLORY BEE||TRUCKIN' MISSION|
|28-Sep-44||HSF to LILLE||TR11||--||42-52616||Q||44BG||T8||GLORY BEE||TRUCKIN' MISSION|
|29-Sep-44||HSF to LILLE||TR12||--||42-95219||W||752||T10||PATCHIE||TRUCKIN' MISSION|
|30-Sep-44||HSF to LILLE||TR13||--||42-52616||Q||44BG||T11||GLORY BEE||TRUCKIN' MISSION|
|26-Oct-44||MINDEN||138||ASSY||41-28697||Z||Z5||A25||SPOTTED APE||ASSEMBLY CREW|
|05-Nov-44||KARLSRUHE||142||27||WRIGHT||L2||42-50504||D||7V||11||UNKNOWN 019||BALL TURRET|
|21-Nov-44||HARBURG||148||28||SPEER||L2||42-50502||T||J3||15||LARRUPIN' LINDA||TYPO (S/B 502G)|
Missions - Lt Wallace C. Brown
|Date||Target||458th Msn||Pilot Msn||Serial||RCL||Sqdn||A/C Msn||A/C Name||Comments|
|12-Jul-44||MUNICH||89||1||41-29340||N||7V||35||YANKEE BUZZ BOMB||FIRST MISSION AS A/C CMDR|
|16-Jul-44||SAARBRUCKEN||91||2||42-95117||M||7V||31||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|17-Jul-44||3 NO BALLS||92||3||41-29340||N||7V||37||YANKEE BUZZ BOMB|
|18-Jul-44||TROARN||93||4||42-95050||J||7V||29||GAS HOUSE MOUSE|
|19-Jul-44||KEMPTEN||94||5||42-95050||J||7V||30||GAS HOUSE MOUSE|
|24-Jul-44||ST. LO AREA||97||7||42-100431||B||J4||29||BOMB-AH-DEAR|
|25-Jul-44||ST. LO AREA "B"||98||8||41-28709||I||7V||28||LUCKY STRIKE|
|03-Aug-44||2 NO BALLS||102||9||42-95050||J||7V||34||GAS HOUSE MOUSE|
|04-Aug-44||ACHIET A/F||104||10||44-40281||Q||J4||9||A DOG'S LIFE|
|05-Aug-44||BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM||105||11||42-95050||J||7V||36||GAS HOUSE MOUSE|
|06-Aug-44||HAMBURG||106||12||42-95050||J||7V||37||GAS HOUSE MOUSE|
B-24H-15-FO 42-52457 7V Q Final Approach
"The gang's all here except the Radio Operator, taking picture, and the navigator. I was doing the navigation as I most usually do. This is an older ship as you can see by the number of missions on her. The name, not our doing, points to the day when our "final approach" will be in the direction of the good old U.S.A.!"
Sitting: George Parks, Stanley Pitakos, John Robinson, Ground Man, John Roberts, Ground Man, Dewey Guidry
Standing: Lester Johnson, Wallace Brown, Lyle Powell
Ryan TerSteeg, great-nephew of Jack Roberts, built a model of Final Approach to honor his uncle's service.
(May have to adjust quality settings for a clearer video)
1Lt Lester R. Johnson Mission List
"Our navigator [Ted Joiner] is in the pilot's seat, the engineer [Stanley Pistakos] is in the top escape hatch, and me in the copilot's seat. We have no copilot because we have a command pilot on all our combat missions, so I get to be copilot on all our practice missions, and do I love it!"
|9||23-Jun-44||Blanc Pignon Ferme
S/Sgt George W. Parks Mission List
|11||23-Jun-44||Blanc Pignon Ferme
Capt John P. Roberts "...the best darn pilot in the USAAF."
Capt John Roberts in the co-pilot's seat
(Photo: Erik Johnson)
Lost over the North Atlantic
So we started out in a Northwesterly direction. Roberts had lost his radio compass, command radio and his liaison radio. There was no way he could get any bearing, or get any help by communication. The only hope was with my CW liaison (code) radio. About an hour had gone by and everybody was dozing as we cruised at 10,000 feet. Johnson called Roberts and said something kind of chilling. I will remember the words to this day, “Jack, I’m lost. I don’t know where I am. There’s cloud cover and no landmarks.” Then Roberts called me [and] asked me if I could get him a fix. There was no panic in his voice. Just a calm, every-day kind of question. I told him I thought I could get him a fix. It would take a minute.
Those old transmitters had nine tuning units. They each had a short range set of frequencies. They were about the size of a carton of cigarettes. You pulled them out and slipped another one in its place depending on the frequency you wanted to use. I had a pre-tuned unit to a direct finding station somewhere in the south of England that I used to practice with every time we went on a practice mission. I thought that maybe someday I might have to use it. Their call letters were CQ9. When Roberts asked for the fix, I was ready. There was one hitch though. They weren’t on the air every day of the week. There were days I had called CQ9 and they wouldn’t answer. They were not ON that day.
Now I kept hoping that this wouldn’t be one of those days. I put the tuning unit in, fired up the transmitter to its peak, and pounded CQ9 V (from) 7VGL (my call sign), E (emergency), and the codes for our problem and request for a fix. You can imagine when I heard that beautiful 7VGL V CQ9, and then the instructions to hold down my key for an uninterrupted radio signal they could home in on. Then they gave me our position and directions to take heading such and such in a line for home base. They kept repeating until we got [within] sight of the coast. I’d be willing to bet we didn’t have more than a few gallons left over after we landed. Whew!
I remember Pitakis coming over when we got out of the airplane and kissing me on the cheek, and saying, “You did it! You did it! You got us in!” It seemed pretty much routine to me at the time, but supposing we hadn’t been able to get contact, and would have had to ditch in that cold North Atlantic. I just don’t think many people survived that cold – if they survived the crash.
(Photo: Erik Johnson / Story: Annie Parks)
Roberts Crew Gallery
(Photos courtesy: Erik Johnson)