458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Crew 43 - Assigned 754th Squadron - October 1943

Back Row: Bob Geiger - N, Edward Glasby - E, Dick Hopkins - BTG, Max Lautenslager - LWG, Charles Brauer - P
Front Row: D.T. Charles - B, Don Benson - RWG, Frank Norman - TG, Don Atkinson - RO, Julius Spencer - CP

(Photo: Don Atkinson)

Completed Tour

 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
1Lt Alfred C Brauer 0659234 Pilot Jul-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross 
1Lt Julius E Spencer 0811460 Co-pilot 02-Aug-44 CT TD to London - 2 days
Capt Robert F Geiger 0811509 Navigator 31-Oct-44 CT Relieved duties as Sqdn Navigator
1Lt Darwin T Charles 0688915 Bombardier Jul-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
T/Sgt Donald G Atkinson 13151393 Radio Operator 06-Jul-44 CT Reld from aerial flights
T/Sgt Edward F Glasby 14126495 Flight Engineer Jul-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Donald J Benson 36438060 Top Turret Gunner Jul-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Max D Lautenschlager  39325603 Nose Turret Gunner  Jul-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Richard R Hopkins 13152098 Ball Turret Gunner 05-Jul-44 CT Reld from aerial flights
S/Sgt Frank Norman 11122476 Tail Turret Gunner 23-Jul-44 CT Attached to 60SC

2Lt Alfred Brauer and crew trained with the 458th in Tonopah, NV in the fall/winter of 1943.  They flew over to England via the southern ferry route in January 1944.  This crew participated in both diversion missions during the 8th Air Force’s “Big Week” at the end of February 1944.

Crew 43 flew their first combat mission on March 2nd to Frankfurt.  A trip to Berlin the next day was recalled over enemy territory due to bad weather, but all crews received a credited sortie.  The crew would head back to Berlin on March 22nd, completing the month with seven missions.

The crew would fly nine missions in April, including several rough ones: Brunswick on April 8th, Tutow on the 9th, Brandenburg on the 18th, Hamm on the 22nd, and Berlin on the 29th.  The Hamm raid was by far the most unusual that the 458th crews had participated in thus far.  A late afternoon takeoff meant that the crews would be returning to the base after dark.  The Luftwaffe took advantage of this and sent over several night fighters which shot down 17 B-24’s of the 2nd Bombardment Division over Norfolk, including two from the 458th, Lt’s Harris and Stilson from the 754th Squadron.

Up until May, the crew had flown all 17 of their combat missions in B-24H-10-DT 41-28682, and all of these without having to turn back once.  According to radio operator T/Sgt Don Atkinson, this aircraft was not named, but was referred to by the crew as Ole 682.  The crew went on a two-week leave in early May.  Their first mission after returning was on May 19th and for some unknown reason, they were assigned a silver B-24 named Cookie.  As it turned out this was the crew’s first and only abort and they were not given credit for this sortie.  The reason given in the group’s operational records is, “Mech fail. & Astro-dome-back at Zeider Zee”.  They flew “Cookie” the next two days and apparently had no other difficulties, but were undoubtedly pleased to get Ole 682 back to complete their missions for May.  At the end of the month the crew had 23 missions to their credit.

June brought the invasion of the continent, but Alfred Brauer had a sinus condition at this time and did not fly until June 10th, although several crew members filled in and flew with different crews during this time.  Their remaining seven missions would be flown to a variety of targets in France and Germany.  After flying four consecutive missions in Ole 682 at the end of May, the crew flew three missions in three different aircraft to begin June.  They flew their final four missions, including the last to Berlin on June 21st, in their faithful aircraft.  In all the crew flew this Liberator on 27 missions, including both diversion missions.  This was the first ship in the 754th to fly 50 missions. (See article below)

Most of the crew completed their missions around the end of June/beginning of July.  The enlisted men were temporarily assigned to the base’s 60th Station Complement in order to man the antiaircraft guns that ringed the field.  It appears that the enlisted on many of the crews were given this specific duty for a week or so upon the completion of their combat tours.  According to Don Atkinson, “We were told to man the antiaircraft guns around the field.  There was nothing in the way of enemy air activity going on at this time, but they did call us up once in a while to make sure we were awake.

After being released from this duty, the men were reassigned to various posts; most of them somewhere back in the States.  1Lt Robert F. Geiger, the crew’s navigator, stayed on with the group and was assigned as the 754th Squadron navigator.  He was promoted to Captain and maintained this duty until October 31, 1944.  Available records do not indicate if he flew further missions.


 Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
24-Feb-44 DUTCH COAST D1 -- 41-28682 -- Z5 D1 UNKNOWN 003 Diversion Mission
25-Feb-44 DUTCH COAST D2 -- 41-28682 -- Z5 D2 UNKNOWN 003 Diversion Mission
02-Mar-44 FRANKFURT 1 1 41-28682 I Z5 1 UNKNOWN 003  Ole 682
03-Mar-44 BERLIN 2 2 41-28682 -- Z5 2 UNKNOWN 003  
05-Mar-44 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC  3 3 41-28682 I Z5 3 UNKNOWN 003  
09-Mar-44 BRANDENBURG 6 4 41-28682 I Z5 6 UNKNOWN 003  
15-Mar-44 BRUNSWICK 7 5 41-28682 I Z5 7 UNKNOWN 003  
21-Mar-44 WATTEN 10 6 41-28682 I Z5 9 UNKNOWN 003  
22-Mar-44 BERLIN 11 7 41-28682 I Z5 10 UNKNOWN 003  
08-Apr-44 BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM 17 8 41-28682 I Z5 13 UNKNOWN 003  
09-Apr-44 TUTOW A/F 18 9 41-28682 I Z5 14 UNKNOWN 003  
10-Apr-44 BOURGES A/F 19 10 41-28682 I Z5 15 UNKNOWN 003  
11-Apr-44 OSCHERSLEBEN 20 11 41-28682 I Z5 16 UNKNOWN 003  
18-Apr-44 BRANDENBURG 22 12 41-28682 I Z5 17 UNKNOWN 003  
22-Apr-44 HAMM M/Y 25 13 41-28682 I Z5 19 UNKNOWN 003  
24-Apr-44 LEIPHEIM A/F 26 14 41-28682 I Z5 20 UNKNOWN 003  
25-Apr-44 MANNHEIM A/F 27 15 41-28682 I Z5 21 UNKNOWN 003  
29-Apr-44 BERLIN 31 16 41-28682 I Z5 24 UNKNOWN 003  
04-May-44 BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM 34 17 41-28682 I Z5 25 UNKNOWN 003  
20-May-44 RHEIMS A/D 43 18 42-95165 S Z5 4 COOKIE  
21-May-44 SIRACOURT 44 19 42-95165 S Z5 5 COOKIE  
23-May-44 BOURGES 45 20 41-28682 I Z5 27 UNKNOWN 003  
24-May-44 VILLEROCHE 46 21 41-28682 I Z5 28 UNKNOWN 003  
25-May-44 MULHOUSE M/Y 47 22 41-28682 I Z5 29 UNKNOWN 003  
28-May-44 ZEITZ 49 23 41-28682 I Z5 30 UNKNOWN 003  
10-Jun-44 CHATEAUDUN 61 24 41-29276 T J4 12 URGIN VIRGIN/The ROTTEN SOCK   
12-Jun-44 EVREUX/FAUVILLE 64 25 42-95018 J Z5 15 OLD DOC'S YACHT  
14-Jun-44 DOMLEGER 65 26 42-95116 V Z5 10 JUNIOR  
18-Jun-44 FASSBERG A/D 69 27 41-28682 I Z5 35 UNKNOWN 003 MSN #1
19-Jun-44 REGNAUVILLE 71 28 41-28682 I Z5 36 UNKNOWN 003 MSN #1
20-Jun-44 OSTERMOOR 73 29 41-28682 I Z5 37 UNKNOWN 003 MSN #1
21-Jun-44 BERLIN 75 30 41-28682 I Z5 38 UNKNOWN 003

B-24H-10-DT 41-28682 Z5 I

Ole 682 in center of picture

Ole 682 (closest to camera). Note lack of markings on some A/C, making this an early March 1944 mission

A nice view from below

(Photos: Mike Bailey)

T/Sgt Don Atkinson Mission List

Office of the Operations Officer

11 August 1944

SUBJECT: Combat Missions Accomplished
TO: Whom It May Concern

1. This is to certify that Donald G. Atkinson, T/Sgt, AAF, 13161355, has completed the following named thirty (30) Combat Missions in the ETO.

Robert H. Hinckley, Jr
Major, Air Corps
Operations Officer
Msn # Date  Target Msn # Date  Target
1 2-Mar-1944 Frankfurt 16 1-May-1944 Leige
2 3-Mar-1944 Orianenburg 17 20-May-1944 Rheims
3 5-Mar-1944 Bordeaux 18 21-May-1944 Siracourt
4 9-Mar-1944 Brandenburg 19 23-May-1944 Bourges
5 15-Mar-1944 Brunswick 20 24-May-1944 Villa Roche
6 21-Mar-1944 No Ball (St. Omer)  21 25-May-1944 Mulhouse
7 22-Mar-1944 Berlin 22 28-May-1944 Zeitz
8 9-Apr-1944 Tutow 23 5-Jun-1944 Stella Plage
9 10-Apr-1944 Bourges 24 10-Jun-1944 Chateaudun
10 11-Apr-1944 Oschersleben 25 12-Jun-1944 Evreuex
11 18-Apr-1944 Brandenburg 26 14-Jun-1944 Domleger
12 22-Apr-1944 Hamm 27 18-Jun-1944 Fassberg
13 24-Apr-1944 Liepheim 28 19-Jun-1944 Regnauville
14 25-Apr-1944 Mannheim 29 20-Jun-1944 St. Martin L. Hortier 
15 29-Apr-1944 Berlin 30 21-Jun-1944 Berlin

Courtesy: Don Atkinson

My Missions In The ETO - S/Sgt Richard R. Hopkins

Quite a bit of excitement before the first one and plenty nervous.  Soon calmed down after seeing the first burst of Flak.  We had only moderate Flak but it was plenty for a starter.

Big “B”, rough as hell.  The temperature was -65 degrees C.  Had a call on inter-phone that the tail turret motor was on fire so the CO2 extinguisher was outside of my turret where the other fellows couldn’t get at it so I jumped up out of the ball and broke oxygen mask half way off at the mask.  When I got back in the ball I was in need of oxygen and I wasn’t getting any so I passed out and if it weren’t for “Max & Frank” I wouldn’t be here now.  I don’t know what is wrong with my left eye as yet, but I can see a little out of it now.

 We had our first encounter with the “Jerries” and they certainly don’t like the taste of our 50 caliber.  Plenty of Flak was seen by all and some felt it also but we came through O.K.

 Big “B” again and from the looks of the Flak they knew we were coming.  We encountered quite a few of their Fighters but “OLE 682” came through again.
 Just as we expected we saw a lot of their red & yellow nose Fighters.  They might be the best they have but they stay their distance from “Crew 43”.  We qualified for the “Air Medal” and were the first crew in Group.
First short mission we have been on (only 6 hours).  It was a, No Ball Target, in other words, a secret installation of some sort.  We carried 2000 Pounders for the first time and really did a good job too,  We ran into heavy Flak and rockets and no Fighters.  Those rockets sure are weird looking things.

 Big “B” again and I really get a swell view hanging down there all by myself in the Ball Turret.  They threw everything but the kitchen sink today and it sounded just like the 4th of July.   I know the firing order of the anti-aircraft battery right in the center now and one of the gunners must have been out to lunch because one wasn’t firing.
I don’t hardly know where to start today but one thing I am   sure  of  is  that  the “Jerry” is  a  smart  fellow.  Our Fighter escort left  us  for  three  minutes  and twenty-two seconds and there were more Fighters hitting us than you could count.  I don’t mind saying that I was plenty scared.  We lost Lt. Raiter's Crew.  They were sleeping down stairs.  That really leaves, Old Crew 43, all alone, because the crews on both sides of us and now under us, are all gone.  It kind of makes you wonder, “I wonder whose turn is next”?

I feel better again after this mission because it was a perfectly planned mission.  That S2 Section is really on the ball because we went around some very heavy Flak fields, just as the course was planned, and we had swell Fighter escort.  Ran into moderate Flak over target, but you expect that.
We had a lot of Flak and Fighters but they weren’t very good because even though we could hear those twenty millimeter's popping all around they didn’t hit us.  They are very fascinating little things though because you can see these small red flashes and hear metal tearing at the same time.  I can’t explain either the sound of Flak or Twenties but I have seen a lot of their work.
We saw plenty of Flak and they were really tracking us with it.  I still can’t make myself believe that Flak is so dangerous even though I have seen some good friends go down from it.  They are trying a new system with their Fighter attacks but they didn’t do so good with us.
It was an average mission over Germany encountering plenty of Flak but no Fighters.  It was the first raid that we made when we were returning after dark.  We left the French Coast at sun down and they shot everything they had at us  and  it was  really a  beautiful  sight.  They shot red, blue, green, yellow, white and orange Flak at us but, not very much of it was accurate.  We did not clear our guns as we did on preceding raids because we had a hunch that the Jerries would follow us back.  We were right too, because just as we got over our own field they started blasting away from out of no where.  We opened up on them but our ship was the only one shooting because the rest of the crews took out their guns.  They shot both of the planes flying our wings and I will never forget it as long as I live.  Lt. Harris’ ship on our left wing just burst into flames for a few seconds lighting up the sky.  I could see one of the waist gunners very plainly trying to get out but he couldn’t. Lt. Stilson’s ship was flying on our right wing and they were hit very badly but he tried to land to save some of the wounded fellows.  Pierce; Silverman; and Lt. Marshal were killed and Katten got a broken back trying to get out of the Ball.  Connely (the top Turret Gunner) got the “Jerry” who shot them.  I won’t go on any more of those night raids and neither will any other fellow who flew on it.  (We also got shot at by our own Flak guns on the field).
It was a relief to go on this one because we only had moderate Flak and no Fighters.  It was another very well planned mission and the Fighter cover was swell.  I could see them have dog fights way out but none of the got to us.  My nerves are still on edge from the last mission.
Moderate Flak and lots of Fighters.  They were one of the German’s Best Fighter Groups, (The Abeville Kids).  We lost Lt. Comb’s crew and the lead ship had the top turret and tail turret shot off so we took over the Lead position.
Again, we went to Big “B” and it is still as rough as ever, if not worse.  It was very intense Flak.  That Gunner who was out to chow last time was back today and I think he was making up for lost time.  We were met by Fighters right after the “Target” but they must have been rookies because we had No.3 engine out and they attacked us all the way out to the coast, non-stop, but still didn’t get what they wanted (No. 4 engine).  We had to lighten the ship up over the Channel by throwing ammunition, waist guns, etc.  We crash landed on the English Coast and went back to base by truck.  Everybody is O.K. (yet).
Well we hit plenty of Flak and Fighters and lost a few crews.  They are throwing more rockets all the time now and some came a little too close to our formation for comfort but a miss is as good as a mile.  They do leave a beautiful white trail behind them and the wind makes it look like a large snake.
It was a very rough raid and a lot of the ships came back pretty well battered up.  Lt. Barton’s crew had a mid-air collision and all of them were killed in both ships. [This actually occurred on May 23rd]  I saw my first Flak that they have to try and trick you.  It comes up and when it explodes it looks like a parachute and I guess they are trying to break our morale but it amuses us more than anything.
#18 - TUESDAY,  MAY 23, 1944 - BOURGES, FRANCE
Well the last time we made this same haul it was a comparatively easy mission but this time it was vice-versa because they hit us with really do sling the lead.  Nobody can tell me that they are dumb because they knocked out nine number three engines (the one we need for our hydraulic systems).  That was in just one of their hit and run attacks coming out of the sun.  I saw some of them go down but still they didn’t knock any of ours down.
They really are good with the Flak over there and we were knocked around quite a bit by it and we also picked up a few new holes in the ship approximately two hundred from red Fighters.  Lt. Charles called out Flak at eleven o’clock way out so I turned my turret around to see it and Benson and I both yelled that it wasn’t Flak at all but Fighters, at the same time and we no sooner got the words out of our mouth when they swept right through us  taking a couple of our planes with them but we also got a bunch of their planes.
This was another day that we saw the “Abeville Kids” those boys ship.  The Fighter escort was good but a few Jerries came through the formation anyway but they had our bullets and our Fighters right on their tails.
#21 - SUNDAY, MAY 28, 1944 - ZEITZ, GERMANY
This one is up around Hamburg and I haven’t seen any Flak as accurate as this before.  From the first burst they had our altitude, speed and course and they kept every burst of it right in the formation.  I saw a lot of our ships go down but so did a lot of their Fighters.  The Flak was so close that the concussion was throwing us all over the sky but despite a few holes we all got back O.K.
It was a swell day to fly but they had all of their Flak gunners on duty today because we ran into more than we were supposed to.  They must have sent up those rookie pilots again because they couldn’t hit a barn door at twenty feet.  It was the first time I ever saw them play around so much before making their attacks.  I guess they must have been getting up nerve.
Well of all of the days to have to fly with another crew it had to be this.  I was the only one of our crew that flew and I flew with Lt. Vermerion.  We were briefed at eleven-thirty the night before and take off was one-thirty.  Everyone was all excited because this is the day we had all been waiting for.  When the Colonel told us that this was it, everybody was just like a bunch of little kids going to their first party.  I never saw so many happy faces in the
briefing room in all of my missions.  They were usually very taut and strained but not this time.  We were to be the first wave of heavy’s to go in and I saw that the ship I was going to fly in was the left wing man of the lead ship.  I flew the nose Turret for my first time, on a mission, and it is a swell spot and you can really what is going on.  I have the honor of saying that I dropped one of the first loads of bombs, dropped by the heavies because the bomb release switch is in the nose Turret.  There was cloud cover but from a distance off shore we could see the large coastal guns firing at the landing craft.  I never saw so many boats in all my life.  There were Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, Landing Barges, P.T. Boats and hundreds of others.  It was a swell mission in more than one way because we only saw moderate Flak and a few rockets but no Fighters and we hit the target good.  It sure felt great to be a part of it but I wish that the rest of the crew was along.
This was a very uneventful mission.  We only lost one ship and had one come back with fourteen feet of this left wing shot off and two engines out.  We had a few Fighter attacks but not very many.  The Flak was about average in barrage type.
We had quite a few Fighter attacks and again it was from the Red Nose Squadron.  These boys really get around and one of them came so close that I could actually see him.  It is so fast that you can’t actually see them until they are past and then you can see them in your mind.  This fellow gave some sort of a hand signal as he went by but I don’t know what it meant.  The Flak was pretty accurate but we came through O.K.
We were right in the middle of their Flak again and a lot of the ships are “holey” in more ways than one because of it.  They sent up a few Fighters and it was first time that we ever had Fighter attacks and Flak at the same time and although none of us went down one of their Fighters went down from their own Flak.
Those boys at the Flak guns must have transferred from Hamburg because they certainly did have it right on us again and we lost a couple but, one of them was caused by a Fighter attack.  We had to make another “emergency landing” down on the English Coast because we were short of gas.  We had a close one on the ground also, because another ship came in on the run way that crossed ours and just about the time he was going to run into us broadside the nose wheel collapsed and he stopped about twenty feet from our tail.
Well, again I flew with another crew and it was with Lt. Vemerion’s again.  We only had a couple Fighter passes but very heavy Flak and I consider myself very lucky to be here now.  I was sitting in the Ball Turret with the guns pointing straight down and nothing much was happening when all of a sudden I found myself sitting up in the Ship.  I couldn’t hear for a few minutes because we had received a direct Flak hit on the Ball and the concussion had forced me right up into the ship breaking off the one lock on the door.  All that happened to the Turret was the bullet proof glass was shattered and not a thing happened to me.  I guess my number just wasn’t up.
This was a good one for a change that although we ran into heavy Flak we didn’t see any Fighters at all.
It was a pretty good raid with only moderate Flak but ran into some Fighters and the whole electrical system was shot out.  We didn’t have any Turrets working, any heated suits, no radio or autosin instruments to fly with.  We were never so cold in our lives as we were then but we still stayed at high altitude so the Fighters wouldn’t know that we were in such bad shape because if they see a straggler they really go after him with everything they have.  When we hit the French Coast we wiggled our wings to let the rest of the formation know we were in trouble and heading for home on our own, and dropped to low altitude.  We landed at a Fighter base and stayed there over night.  It was the best food I had since leaving home.  They treated us like a bunch of “Kings” and we had steak with all the trimmings.

JUNE 20 -  Just heard that McKeon & Behrns are O.K. in Spain and expect to see them soon.  (They are from Lt. Combs’ crew).        

“Well, that is the end and we can all (Crew 43) thank the Lord that we are here.”

First Plane in 458BG to fly 50 Missions

This quartet of airplane mechanics stand proudly by their airplane, this B-24 Liberator heavy bomber which they have serviced for fifty combat missions over Germany and enemy-occupied Europe.  Left to right in the photo: Sgt Warren E. Courtney, Arlington, VA; Sgt Arnold W. Holcomb, Asheville, NC; Sgt Donald E. Seyler, Troutdale, OR, and T/Sgt F.C. "Jack" Kingsberry, the crew chief, Bryan, TX.

The plane has escaped major flak damage, despite two missions to Berlin.  No one has been killed or injured on this plane, but once a crewman received some flak holes in the seat of his pants.  Sergeant Kingsberry is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Howard T. Kingsberry.  He was a student at Texas A&M before he entered the Army Air Forces on September 26, 1942.

All four airmen are members of the 458th Bombardment Group of the 2nd Bombardment Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. William E. Kepner.  They have been overseas since January 18, 1944.

Sgt. Kingsberry's brother, 1st Lt. Henry W. Kingsberry, is now in Florida, but was a pilot in England before being injured while on his 26th mission [446BG at Bungay].  He was here two months ago and told his parents that his brother's plane had fifty missions.  Another brother, Sgt. Tom Kingsberry, is with the remount troops in El Reno, Oklahoma.

(Courtesy: Don Atkinson from the 2ADA Journal - Reprinted from Stars & Stripes, fall 1944)

Capt Robert F. Geiger - 754th Squadron Navigator

Maj Theodore J. Brevakis presents the DFC to Capt Geiger, November 1944