458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Helfrecht Crew - Assigned 754th Squadron - July 31, 1944

Standing: Andrew Husari - E, Frank Mulhall - AG/2E, George Swartz - RO, James Spangberg - AG, John McNeill, Jr. - AG, Basil Fell - AG
Kneeling: Charles "Jack" Helfrecht - P, Marvin Vick - CP, Richard Lukas - B, Mackenzie Lunan - N

(Photo: Jack Helfrecht)

Completed Tour

Serial #
Crew Pos
Charles J Helfrect
Trsf to 70th RD - Tour Complete
Marvin W Vick
Trsf to 70th RD - Tour Complete
Richard A Lucas
Trsf to 70th RD - Tour Complete
Mackenzie A Lunan
Trsf to 70th RD - Tour Complete
George W Swartz, Jr
Radio Operator
TD to AAF 101
Andrew Husari
Flight Engineer
Trsf to 70th RD - Tour Complete
Frank J Mulhall
Aerial Gunner/2E
Trsf to 70th RD - Tour Complete
James E Spangberg
Aerial Gunner
Wounded In Action - Magdeburg Mission
Basil J Fell
Aerial Gunner
Removed from Flying Status
John J McNeill, Jr
Aerial Gunner
Trsf to 70th RD - Tour Complete
The Helfrecht Crew arrived at Horsham on July 31, 1944 and flew their first combat mission on August 8, 1944.  Eight days later, on the crew’s fifth mission to Magdeburg, S/Sgt James Spangberg was wounded.  The circumstances and severity are not known, but it was apparently severe enough for him to come off of combat operations.  He is not shown flying further missions with the group.

In mid-September the crew took part in five Truckin’ Missions, flying three times to Lille and twice to Clastres.  After resuming combat operations, on the group's first mission on October 3rd, radio operator George Swartz had difficulties at altitude, as is noted in the "Aircraft Not Attacking Report": 44-40126  Not Pathfinder. No Sortie.  returned Bombs.  Pilot reported that while flying at 20,000 feet in formation Radio Operator began complaining of cramps in one knee.  He was flying waist gun position at the time, and was told to put his oxygen in full rich position, sit quiet and keep his legs straight.  By the time A/C reached 24,000 feet both legs were cramped and one arm was giving trouble.  Fingernails and lips were purple.  A/C returned to base.  Swartz was transferred to AAF 101 High Wycomb, headquarters for the Eighth Air Force, on October 7th He did not return to the 458th and it is unknown if he flew any further combat flights.

In mid-November, gunner Sgt Basil J. Fell was sent to AAF Station 114 to appear before the Central Medical Board. Records indicate that he was removed from flying status In January 1945.  The crew’s last mission of 1944 (their 16th) was on December 12th when the group hit the marshaling yards in Hanau Germany.  The crew flew B-24J 42-51196 The Gypsy Queen, landing off location upon their return to England.

On January 5, 1945, the crew was transferred from the 754th to the 755th Bombardment Squadron, presumably to become a lead crew.  Their first mission in the 755th was on January 31st.  They flew a total of eight missions as either lead aircraft or deputy lead between February 14 and their last mission on April 15th to Royan.  They were assigned to fly lead aircraft in the third squadron. It was on this date that the Eighth Air Force experimented with a new jellied gasoline bomb called Napalm.  Helfrecht’s crew, flying B-24L 44-49902 J3 M equipped with GH-H2X equipment is pictured (see below) at the moment they released their Napalm canisters.

Those crew members who had completed their tour were sent to the 70th Replacement Depot on May 1, 1945.


Date Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn Cmd Pilot Ld Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn A/C Name Comments
08-Aug-44 CLASTRES 108 1     42-95018 J Z5 35 OLD DOC'S YACHT  
09-Aug-44 SAARBRUCKEN 109 2     41-29596 R Z5 39 HELL'S ANGEL'S  
11-Aug-44 STRASBOURG 110 3     42-51110 P Z5 33 TOP O' THE MARK  
15-Aug-44 VECHTA 114 4     42-110059 T Z5 32 UNKNOWN 056  
16-Aug-44 MAGDEBURG 115 5     41-29303 H Z5 38 LIBERTY LIB SPANGBERG WIA
18-Aug-44 WOIPPY 116 6     41-29596 R Z5 45 HELL'S ANGEL'S  
24-Aug-44 HANNOVER 117 7     42-95018 J Z5 38 OLD DOC'S YACHT  
01-Sep-44 PFAFFENHOFFEN ABN --     42-95165 S Z5 -- COOKIE ABANDONED
09-Sep-44 MAINZ 124 ANA     42-95018 J Z5 -- OLD DOC'S YACHT BOMBS NOT DROPPED
10-Sep-44 ULM M/Y 125 9     42-95165 S Z5 34 COOKIE  
11-Sep-44 MAGDEBURG 126 10     42-95165 S Z5 35 COOKIE  
26-Sep-44 HSF to CLASTRES TR09 --     42-94975 M 754 T5 NOT 458TH SHIP - SHIPDHAM CLASTRES
27-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR10 --     42-97972 I   T4 NOT 458TH SHIP - HETHEL 1ST FLIGHT
27-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR10 --     42-97972 I   T5 NOT 458TH SHIP - HETHEL 2ND FLIGHT
30-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR13 --     42-110077 W 389BG T3 LUCKY LEONE TRUCKIN' MISSION
03-Oct-44 GAGGENAU 127 ABT     44-40126 L Z5 -- SPITTEN KITTEN / SKY TRAMP R/O BENDS AT 20,000FT
14-Oct-44 COLOGNE 133 11     42-50456 D Z5 4 DOROTHY KAY SPECIAL  
22-Oct-44 HAMM 137 12     42-50456 D Z5 6 DOROTHY KAY SPECIAL  
30-Oct-44 HARBURG 139 13     44-40298 E Z5 7 THE SHACK  
16-Nov-44 ESCHWEILER 147 14     42-95120 M Z5 54 HOOKEM COW / BETTY  
25-Nov-44 BINGEN 149 15     42-110059 T Z5 47 UNKNOWN 056  
26-Nov-44 BIELEFELD 150 ASSY     41-28697 Z -- A32 SPOTTED APE ASSEMBLY CREW
11-Dec-44 HANAU 155 ABT     42-110059 T Z5 -- UNKNOWN 056 C/N CATCH FORM
12-Dec-44 HANAU 156 16     42-51196 Q J3 16 THE GYPSY QUEEN OFF LOCATION
25-Dec-44 PRONSFELD 158 MSHL     -- -- -- -- -- MARSHALING CHIEF
13-Jan-45 KAISERLAUTERN 169 MSHL     -- -- -- -- -- MARSHALING CHIEF
31-Jan-45 BRUNSWICK 176 17     42-50608 W J3 21 FILTHY McNAUGHTY LAND OFF LOCATION
14-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 181 18 BLACK L2 42-51743 F J3 12 UNKNOWN 006  
16-Feb-45 OSNABRUCK 183 19     44-10618 T J3 3 UNKNOWN 038  
21-Feb-45 NUREMBERG 185 20     44-10602 P J3 29 TEN GUN DOTTIE  
26-Feb-45 BERLIN 190 21     44-10602 P J3 32 TEN GUN DOTTIE GROUP 200TH MISSION
01-Mar-45 INGOLSTADT 193 22     42-50516 V J3 24 STARDUST  
02-Mar-45 MAGDEBURG 194 23 BRECKENRIDGE L4 42-51939 G J3 22 UNKNOWN 028  
08-Mar-45 DILLENBURG 199 24   L3 42-51936 I J3 19 UNKNOWN 027  
10-Mar-45 ARNSBURG 201 MSHL     -- -- -- --   MARSHALING CHIEF
12-Mar-45 FRIEDBURG 202 25     42-95557 H J3 34 LADY PEACE  
18-Mar-45 BERLIN 206 26   L2 42-51743 F J3 21 UNKNOWN 006  
23-Mar-45 OSNABRUCK 211 27   L2 42-51743 F J3 25 UNKNOWN 006  
06-Apr-45 HALLE 219 28     42-51936 I J3 30 UNKNOWN 027  
07-Apr-45 KRUMMEL 220 29   L3 44-48837 L J3 26 UNKNOWN 041  
10-Apr-45 RECHLIN/LARZ 223 30 GOODFRIEND D1 44-48837 L J3 28 UNKNOWN 041  
15-Apr-45 ROYAN AREA 226 31   L3 44-49902 M J3 7 UNKNOWN 043

April 15, 1945 - Napalm mission

April 15, 1945: Helfrecht crew (top a/c, center) releasing Napalm canisters in the Royan Area.

Jack Helfrecht (right) and crew flew their final mission on April 15, 1945.  This was the date that the 8AF first tried using Napalm.

Force II (2nd Air Division)
This force, made up of five B-24 combat wings having an aggregate of 34 squadrons, was assigned to five targets (Target Nos. 7, 8, 10, 11, 12) closely grouped in the Royan/Vaux-sur-mer area.  Although smoke interfered with the sightings of numerous squadrons, and H2X aid was utilized in three instances all units attacked their designated objectives with the exception of two which bombed second priority targets.

As this mission represented the first operational use of Napalm fire bombs by heavy bombers of the Eighth Air Force, a ground survey party was dispatched to the area to study effectiveness of this weapon.  It was found that the Napalm tanks which fell in open fields and upon relatively soft surfaces had a tendency to bury to a depth which made them practically ineffective; those fire bombs which struck upon harder surfaces such as roadways and strong point areas had a somewhat larger burning radius but were relatively ineffective as to heat intensity or scattering of fire.  On an average, the effective, though far from deadly, radius of these incendiaries was 10-15 feet.  Based on first-hand observation, prisoner of war interrogation, and information obtained from French Staff Officers, it was concluded that the pill boxes, gun encasements and underground shelters were not physically damaged by this weapon and that open trenches and dugouts were only slightly affected.  The psychological effect upon troops was also found to be generally negligible.  Enclosures in the “Bombing” annex of this report summarize in some detail the experience of the Eighth Air Force in adapting the Napalm bomb to heavy bomber use and treat at considerable length the findings of the ground survey team.


458th Target #10

The 458th Bomb Group's target for April 15th is highlighted in yellow on each map.  Click for a larger image.