Monahan Crew - Assigned 752nd Squadron - May 11, 1944
Shot down July 20, 1944 (MACR 7255)
|1Lt||James L Monahan||0138565||Pilot||20-Jul-44||POW||Stalag Luft III|
|2Lt||Gordon W Morehead||0704968||Co-pilot||20-Jul-44||POW||Stalag Luft I|
|1Lt||Warren D Johnston||0703265||Navigator||Nov-44||CT||Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross|
|1Lt||William G Baer||0703416||Bombardier||20-Jul-44||POW||Stalag Luft III|
|T/Sgt||Kenneth C Holcomb||16115164||Radio Operator||20-Jul-44||EVD||E&E Report 1858|
|T/Sgt||Cobern V Peterson||37342053||Flight Engineer||20-Jul-44||EVD||E&E Report 1859|
|S/Sgt||Kenneth S Kenyon||19094031||Armorer-Gunner||20-Jul-44||KIA||Parachute did not open|
|S/Sgt||Earle C Knee||32817431||Aerial Gunner/Eng||20-Jul-44||EVD||E&E Report 1857|
|S/Sgt||Dennie E Medley||35651982||Aerial Gunner/Eng||20-Jul-44||EVD||E&E Report 1860|
|S/Sgt||Cecil D Spence||36565502||Aerial Gunner/Eng||20-Jul-44||EVD||E&E Report 1856|
Lt James Monahan and crew were assigned to the 752nd Squadron in the first part of May 1944 and began flying combat missions at the end of that month. The crew flew several different aircraft before seemingly adopting You Can’t Take It with You a natural metal finish (NMF) B-24H that had almost completed a 30-mission tour.
The crew’s fourth mission was on June 6, 1944 – D-Day. The group flew three sorties on this date, and Monahan’s crew participated in the second trip to Villers Bocage, but as the target was obscured by clouds no drop was made and all ten crews returned with their bombs. June was a busy time for the 458th, and Monahan finished the month with 15 missions completed – half of their tour complete.
The crew was forced to abort two missions in July, both of them due to supercharger trouble, and both while flying aircraft other than You Can’t take It With You. On July 20th, the crew boarded that aircraft for what would turn out to be their final mission to bomb an aircraft factory near Eisenach, Germany.
Details are sketchy, but from the crew statements on the
Missing Air Crew Report, it seems the general consensus (at least for the crew)
was that the, “No. 1 engine exploded”. One
crew member stated that the, “…plane lost flying ability” and they were forced
to bail out. All ten made it out of the
plane, but S/Sgt Kenneth Kenyon’s “…parachute either failed to open or he
waited too long to open it”. Two of the
crew, pilot Monahan and navigator Gordon Morehead, were captured immediately by
the Germans. Both Holcomb and Spence saw
their capture. Medley, Peterson and Knee evaded successfully and were back in the UK in early September. Joining them about the same time, but on a much more circuitous route, were Holcomb and Spence.
Initially these two men and bombardier William Baer evaded capture for several weeks, until they were betrayed to the Gestapo by infiltrators in the Belgian Underground. After spending time in St. Gilles prison the men were to be relocated. William Baer was not among the enlisted men loaded on a train with a number of other Allied airmen and political prisoners.
The Gestapo loaded this train in Brussels with prisoners bound for Germany. It never arrived, and the saga of the so-called "Ghost Train" is one of the most incredible, inspiring stories of World War II.
The Belgian resistance simply refused to let the train and its cargo of resistance fighters, captured soldiers and political undesirables leave the country. Every time it departed Brussels, it encountered obstacles, from blown-up tracks to a sabotaged water supply to an engineer deliberately injuring himself so he couldn't drive the train. Eventually over 1500 political prisoners and about 50 Allied airmen were released by the Germans in late August 1944 just before the Allies overran the area.
|Date||Target||458th Msn||Pilot Msn||Serial||RCL||Sqdn||A/C Msn||A/C Name||Comments|
|29-May-44||TUTOW A/F||50||2||42-52457||Q||7V||21||FINAL APPROACH||#4 PROP RUN AWAY|
|06-Jun-44||VILLERS BOCAGE||57||4||42-100311||A||7V||26||YOKUM BOY||MSN #2|
|07-Jun-44||LISIEUX||59||5||42-95179||X||7V||10||HERE I GO AGAIN|
|10-Jun-44||CHATEAUDUN||61||7||42-95117||M||7V||15||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|12-Jun-44||EVREUX/FAUVILLE||64||8||42-95117||M||7V||16||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|14-Jun-44||DOMLEGER||65||9||42-95117||M||7V||17||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|15-Jun-44||GUYANCOURT||66||10||42-95117||M||7V||18||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|23-Jun-44||3 NO BALLS||76||11||42-95117||M||7V||22||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU||TGT # 6 COUBRONNE|
|24-Jun-44||CONCHES A/F||77||12||42-95117||M||7V||23||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU||MSN #1|
|25-Jun-44||ST. OMER||80||13||42-51110||P||7V||16||TOP O' THE MARK|
|28-Jun-44||SAARBRUCKEN||81||14||42-95117||M||7V||25||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|29-Jun-44||ASCHERSLEBEN||82||15||42-95117||M||7V||26||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|06-Jul-44||KIEL||85||ABT||41-29352||K||7V||--||WOLVE'S LAIR||#2 SUPER CHG QUIT|
|07-Jul-44||LUTZKENDORF||86||15||42-95117||M||7V||28||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|11-Jul-44||MUNICH||88||16||42-95117||M||7V||29||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|12-Jul-44||MUNICH||89||ABT||42-100311||A||7V||--||YOKUM BOY||#4 SUPER CHG BLOWN|
|19-Jul-44||KEMPTEN||94||17||42-95117||M||7V||32||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU|
|20-Jul-44||EISENACH||95||18||42-95117||M||7V||33||YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU||FLAK|
B-24H-25-FO 42-95117 7V M You Can't Take It With You
Monahan's crew flew this aircraft on 12 missions, including their last.
S/Sgt Cecil D. Spence
752 Sqdn. 458 B G
9 Sept 44
I bailed out on 20 July and landed in a wheat field between DIEST (33 miles NE of BRUXELLES) and TESSENDERLOO (6 miles N of DIEST). I hid immediately and an English speaking man brought me civilian clothes. He guided me to a Russian camp where I met Sgt HOLCOMB. (E&E #1858)
We both remained at the camp overnight, then were taken to a farmhouse. Here we were joined by Lt. BAER. We then spent five or six days on another farm. Two priests visited us and we filled out forms for the underground organization. We all were taken on bicycles to different farms.
I stayed three or four weeks with two brothers and a sister – JEFF, ARMAND, and LEA BURGESS. I do not know their address. Then we rode bicycles back to pick up HOLCOMB. BAER had left and there were two other evaders there in his place. HOLCOMB and I went to meet a car which was to take us to BRUXELLES.
I left there on 17 August with HOLCOMB and an English evader whose name I do not know. We were taken around many corners and stopped in a garage. Then we were taken into a house where we met JOHNNY and other members of the organization. We filled out forma and sat there talking a while. Then we were told we were going to have identification pictures made. We were put into a closed truck and taken directly to Gestapo headquarters. Here we were questioned, searched, and sent to prison.
I was in the same prison as Sgt. WAGNER and from that point on my story is the same as his. We returned to the UK by air from BRUXELLES on 9 September.
S/Sgt James M. Wagner - 445th Bomb Group
701 Sqdn. 445 BG
9 Sept 44
We crash-landed on 11 July near FROYENNES (2 miles NW of TOURNAI). The pilot tried to burn the plane, and we all scattered. I ran to a house and a Frenchman there took me to the attic of a convent.
He brought me a passport and a bicycle, then rode with me to LEERS NORD (8 miles NW of TOURNAI, or possibly LEERS, France which is a short distance SW). I stayed a month with ALFRED VAN WHUYS and a lady named THERESE. I worked on the farm of LEON De CONTE (20), who had been a saboteur in Normandy and was then working as a terrorist. There were regular checks by the Gestapo. Here I filled out a form for the underground.
The wife of a gendarme warned me to leave town, so I was taken to TEMPLEUVE where I stayed with the GILBERT family for five days. The Gilberts had a daughter named Annie. My helpers gave me a Portuguese passport to replace my first one.
Sgt. Harry BLAIR was also hiding at this house. We were told we would be evacuated by air. One day a man and woman came in an automobile to take us to BRUXELLES. We went through MONS where we picked up an English evader. In BRUXELLES, we went to 16 Rue de la FORET, where we remained eight days. Here we met Sgt. Spence (E&E #1856), HOLCOMB (E&E #1858), and 2 Russians.
When we arrived, we were introduced to several people and taken upstairs. There was no cause for suspicion. The people were:
(1) EMILY – the cook, a homely person who wore horn-rimmed glasses
(2) A very beautiful lady of about thirty-eight. Possibly George’s wife.
(3) “JUNIOR” – an overgrown kid of about fourteen, dark haired, surly. Called the lady “Mother”.
(4) GEORGE – a well-traveled man about 5’6”, with dark gray hair, thick glasses, and a dark complexion. He never wore a hat, and was well-dressed although his coats were long and his pants baggy. He spoke English and claimed to be a Belgian.
(5) A tall, dark, very handsome man who spoke Russian and supervised our meals. “Junior” said that he was George’s wife’s brother.
There were a number of pets here – a police dog, two Scottish terriers, a wire-haired terrier and a black cat. For this reason we later referred to this set-up as the “dog house”.
The telephone rang constantly and one day I saw 150 gallons of gas being stored. We were told we would be taken to Switzerland, but there was a slight delay due to a shortage of gas and to holidays.
I left here on 21 August with Sgt. BLAIR. We were taken in a car and, after much zig-zagging, stopped in a garage at the rear of a home. We were met by two men who walked with us through the long narrow back yard into the house. One of these was known to us as JOHNNY. He was a tall blonde with “off-set” eyes.
Here we drank wine and talked a long while. Then we were taken in a gray car to a headquarters building. We saw German guards and knew then that we had been betrayed. We were taken into the office of the commandant of intelligence. This was on the top floor of the Gestapo headquarters. Here we were interrogated and one agent accused us of having killed his wife in a bombing.
JOHNNY supervised our interrogation. We were stripped and searched, then told we would be sent to prison. While we were waiting for transportation, we saw civilians being brought in and taken upstairs for questioning. One girl, who had been arrested with her father and brother, told us that they had helped and American airman. All of them were scared and those who came back downstairs showed evidence of having been beaten. This girl’s brother returned with the side of his face battered.
We were put on a truck and taken to prison. Here, our watches, rings, identification bracelets, etc., were taken. We were put into small cells and were allowed out for a 5-minute walk only twice while we were there.
The food 3 days a week consisted of soup once and bread later. The other 4 days, we had soup twice. The conditions were terrible. The prison was very dirty and there were a great many bugs. We were treated as civilian prisoners and given no privileges.
On 2 September, we were all put on a train and shuttled back and forth as related by LT LARSEN (E&E No. ____). When the train was derailed, several of us stood guard until 0330, when Sgt SPENCE and I left the vicinity. We heard shots, so hid until daylight. Then we contacted the White Army and as soon as we had established our identities, we were handed over to the civilian police. They sent us to the Hotel Metropole and we remained in BRUXELLES for 4 days celebrating the liberation.
Then we were flown back to the UK by the Canadian Air Force on 9 September.
The White Army told us that they had rounded up the entire ring that had been betraying Allied evaders. They said that GEORGE was a captain in the Gestapo and that he was in St. Gilles prison at BRUXELLES.
It was our opinion that our original helpers had turned us over to the Gestapo organization in good faith, thinking that it was a bona-fide proposition and a good chance to get us safely to Switzerland.