458th Bombardment Group (H)

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

Sanders Crew - Assigned 753rd Squadon - February 13, 1945

Standing: Paul Pottharst - G, Jordan Jacks - RO, Vernon Powell 0 G, Joe Kormick - E, Donald Craig - G
Kneeling: Lt Harwood - B, William Sanders - P, Hubert Church - CP, Robert Grahlmann - N
Not Pictured: John Gooch - G

(Photo: Jordan Jacks)


Flying at the End of Hostilities

SandersCrew
Rank Name Serial # Crew Pos Date Status Comments
2Lt William V Sanders 02059123 Pilot 1-May-45 FEH 754th BS Roster
2Lt Hubert M Church 02067656 Co-pilot 25-May-45 FEH Transferred to 755BS
2Lt Robert G Grahlmann  02073112 Navigator 1-May-45 FEH 754th BS Roster
S/Sgt Jordan R Jacks 16121369 Radio Operator 25-May-45 FEH Transferred to 755BS 
S/Sgt Joseph N Kormick 33266837 Flight Engineer 25-May-45 FEH Transferred to 755BS
S/Sgt Donald L Craig 38394758 Armorer-Gunner  25-May-45 FEH Transferred to 755BS
Sgt John H Gooch, Jr 1912402 Aerial Gunner 23-Apr-45 TRSF Transferred to 453BG
Sgt Paul C Pottharst 38500452 Aerial Gunner 25-May-45 FEH Transferred to 755BS
Sgt Vernon L Powell 35245560 Aerial Gunner 25-May-45 FEH Transferred to 755BS

2Lt William V. Sanders and crew were assigned to the 753rd Squadron on February 13, 1945.  The crew’s bombardier, 2Lt Harwood, was pulled from the crew prior to movement overseas. There is a bit of a discrepancy regarding William Sanders and if he was reassigned after a short time at Horsham St Faith, but as far as all the records show, he was the pilot of the crew until the war ended (see section below).

The crew flew their first combat mission on March 8, 1945 to the marshaling yards at Dillenburg without incident.  Their second mission was to be on March 14th, but there was a mishap prior to the crews manning their planes.  An experienced gunner in the 753rd Squadron accidentally discharged his .50 caliber waist gun while on the ground.  Several rounds struck an adjacent aircraft, We’ll Get By (which had been flown by Sanders on the 8th) narrowly missing three crewmen who were preparing that plane for the mission.  An incendiary caught fire and the men were unable to suppress the flames and were forced to abandon the aircraft.  All efforts failed to bring the fire under control and the area was evacuated.  The aircraft exploded, causing damage to nine other aircraft in the vicinity.  As a result, the 753rd Squadron was stood down for the day.

Special Orders (SO63) dated March 15, 1945, transferred Lt Sanders and crew to the 754th Squadron, from which they flew the remainder of their missions, including a flight on the weather ship on March 25th.  At some point prior to this transfer, the navigator from the crew of Captain James Gardner, 2Lt Donald E. Montgomery, was assigned to Sanders. The crew’s last combat flight was on April 15, 1945 when the group dropped Napalm canisters on the German garrison in the Royan Area.

The crew particpated in the Trolley Runs that were flown in early May 1945.  Many of the photos on that page were taken by co-pilot Hubert Church, whose grandson Arie shared them with this site.

In late May 1945, most of the crew were transferred into the 755BS.  As with most of the combat crews on the base that had not completed a tour at war’s end, Sanders crew was tasked to ferry a Liberator back to the States.  S/Sgt Jordan Jacks remembers the flight[s] home, “We started to fly home on a group B-24 but aborted it, landing in Gibraltar, then flown back to Horsham. [We] again started home on another group B-24, aborted it in Wales, then flown to Sudsbury, England, [where we were] assigned a wonderfully new B-24J. [We] flew home with a B-17 group that ditched one in the north Atlantic, crash landed one in Iceland, spun-in one into the thick forest outside Goose Bay, Labrador, and so on to air base at New Haven, CT, where we kissed the B-24J good bye and kissed the US runway hello.”


Missions

SandersMissions
Date Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn A/C Name Comments
08-Mar-45 DILLENBURG 199 1 44-40118 S J4 45 WE'LL GET BY  
14-Mar-45 HOLZWICKEDE 203 ACC 44-10602 E J4 -- TEN GUN DOTTIE DAMAGED/EXPLOSION
15-Mar-45 ZOSSEN 204 2 42-50456 D Z5 46 DOROTHY KAY SPECIAL  
18-Mar-45 BERLIN 206 3 42-51199 A Z5 37 UNKNOWN 023  
21-Mar-45 HESEPE 209 4 42-50456 D Z5 50 DOROTHY KAY SPECIAL  
23-Mar-45 OSNABRUCK 211 5 42-50640 O Z5 36 BUGS BUNNY  
24-Mar-45 NORDHORN 212 6 42-51179 P Z5 82 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE  
25-Mar-45 HITZACKER 214 WTHR 42-95183 U Z5 -- BRINEY MARLIN WEATHER SHIP - 754
31-Mar-45 BRUNSWICK 216 7 42-95108 B Z5 75 ENVY OF 'EM ALL II REPLACED 456
04-Apr-45 PERLEBERG 217 8 42-51179 P Z5 86 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE  
05-Apr-45 PLAUEN 218 9 42-51196 Q J3 54 THE GYPSY QUEEN  
07-Apr-45 KRUMMEL 220 10 42-51179 P Z5 89 DUSTY'S DOUBLE TROUBLE  
09-Apr-45 LECHFELD 222 11 42-110059 T Z5 78 UNKNOWN 056  
10-Apr-45 RECHLIN/LARZ 223 12 42-50456 D Z5 56 DOROTHY KAY SPECIAL  
11-Apr-45 REGENSBURG 224 13 42-95183 U Z5 99 BRINEY MARLIN  
15-Apr-45 ROYAN AREA 226 14 42-51196 Q J3 62 THE GYPSY QUEEN


Lt Sanders or Lt Wroten?

This is an interesting situation, one I have not come across in all of my research.  This crew was assigned under William V. Sanders in February 1945.  In correspondence with the radio operator, Jordan Jacks and with Arie Church, the grandson of co-pilot Hubert Church, there are statements (Jacks) and indications (Arie Church) that Sanders was removed as pilot of the crew shortly after they had arrived at Horsham, and that replacement pilot, 2Lt Donald I. Wroten took his place.   While I have no possible way to know with absolute certainty, which man piloted this crew, I have presented the information that I have below.

2Lt Donald I. Wroten was originally a part of the 492BG 856BS “Carpetbaggers” having been assigned to that unit in September 1944: Clayton W. Pluff, Navigator, T-127085; Milton J. Trefny, Bombardier, 0773012; Walter Turchen, Co-pilot, 0771159; Don I. Wroten, Pilot, 0771204; Robert L. Bell, Gunner, 17055915; Henry D. Corbin, Gunner, 33642128; Benjamin F. Garrett, Gunner, 38478949; James R. Kennedy, Engineer, 34810750; William E. Lewis, Jr., Radio Op., 39120406, Walter A.  Merritt, Gunner, 14122974.

According to the Carpetbaggers website: “The Wroten crew arrived at Harrington as a ten-man crew in September of 1944, on Special Orders #154, dtd 20Sep44 they were assigned to the 856th BS. The crew must have been broken up as there are no entries for them in the Late Period Log. Turchen, Pluff, Trefny, Corbin and Merritt were sent DS [Detached Service] with the 859th BS in Italy. Garrett had been transferred to the 857th BS in Special Orders #229, dtd 05Dec44. In Special Orders #022, dtd 1Feb45 Lewis was promoted to Staff Sgt, indicating that he remained on base at that time. Kennedy's only appearance was in the initial orders of September. Bell shows up in Special Orders #248, dtd 16Dec44 sending him to Sunnyside Mansions for R&R in late December of 1944 indicating he was still on combat status.”

On February 21, 1945, 458th group Special Orders (SO45) show 2Lt Donald I. Wroten being assigned to the 754th Squadron.  According to Radio Operator S/Sgt Jordan Jacks, shortly after arriving, the crew (with William Sanders as pilot) was sent up on a training flight: “I recall our first 458th ‘training’ mission’ (c. 2/15/45) was a bit of a disaster.  On returning from our ‘practice’, Lt. Sanders totally missed the runway, landing in the grassy swale beside it, frightening the hell out of us; almost immediately, he was transferred to R&R as I recall, making runs to Ireland for the mighty 8th for the rest of WWII. We never flew with him again, so the records aren't correct.”

Arie Church, grandson of co-pilot Lt. Hubert Church, had this to add:  “I do remember my grandfather speaking about Sanders’ off-runway landing, which, if I remember was on a qualification flight after the B-24 in question had returned from depot-level maintenance.  I know my grandfather told the story of the mishap, and though the details are hazy, I am fairly certain Mr. Jacks is correct in saying that Sanders did not fly with the crew again.  

“My Grandfather’s view was that the mishap had been pilot error, and, if I remember, that Sanders had persisted despite warnings, in actions which led through a series of events to the mishap.  I believe the incident resulted in a loss of confidence between pilot and crew, which was the reason for Sanders leaving the crew.  If memory serves, it was his decision rather than an order from higher up.”

The crew never flew Bachelor's Bedlam on a combat mission. Here they are pictured with Lt Sanders.

Standing: Paul Pottharst, Jordan Jacks, Vernon Powell, Joe Kormick, William Sanders
Kneeling: John Gooch, Donald Craig

(Photo: Arie Church)

Jacks remembers, “Donald I. Wroten joined us as our pilot the next day or so, coming from R&R, doing the Ireland runs, we were told. We loved the guy right off the bat! He was one hot pilot! We thought of him as ‘Hotshot Charlie’, right out of Milt Canniff's Terry and the Pirates.  In civilian life, he had been a carpenter from around San Francisco.  He was redheaded and short and always wore a ‘50 mission crush cap’. He was so short that he sort of [had to] fly our B-24 almost standing up. He enjoyed touching wing tips when we flew in a tight formation, that's how great he was. On our first ‘practice’ mission with him, he flew down the channel as low as he possible could. He had me go to the bombardier’s position, lay on my belly.  There, I looked out the Plexiglas just below the turret, and when a spray hit the glass he had me tell him on the intercom, and he lifted the '24 up and buzzed a radar tower and RAF air field at war speed, and we were away before being identified.  He was often called into the base commander's office, but he talked his way out of trouble. One time he ‘borrowed’ the colonel's small aircraft to see his girl in Ireland.  He always got away with a slight reprimand. Because of these ‘pranks’, he was never promoted, but he was truly one hot B-24 pilot!”

Neither records kept by the group or at the squadron level show Wroten flying a mission as airplane commander.  Lt Sanders, on the other hand, does appear on 16 group formation plans, indicating he was flying as pilot.  He is also listed in 754BS records for March and April under “Missions and Pilots Participating”. On General Orders (GO118 2AD) dated April 5, 1945, Sanders along with most of the crew, was awarded the Air Medal for, “meritorious achievement in accomplishing with distinction, several aerial operational missions over enemy occupied Continental Europe.”  He was awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal (for five additional combat missions) on April 16, 1945.  So Jordan Jacks recollection that Sanders, “made runs to Ireland for the rest of the war” do not hold up well. Wroten received the Air Medal (first award) on April 16, 1945 and an OLC on April 24th.  The absence of his name on formation charts, but the awards of the Air Medal and OLC-AM clearly show he was flying combat missions, but strongly indicate that it was NOT as an airplane commander.

When the crew was transferred to the 755BS in mid-May 1945, all except Sanders, Grahlmann and Gooch (who went to the 453BG in April) were on the list.  Don Wroten was listed with the crew in this transfer order. Further clouding the issue is a line in the 755BS records for May 25, 1945.  The group was readying aircraft and equipment for the trip back to the states and the squadron record keeper wrote, “The Air Echelon was to be flown home in our own airplanes – the regular combat crews plus 5 passengers in the PFF equipped ships and 10 passengers in the regular combat planes.  The first Squadron crew – that of Lieutenant Wroten – was alerted on the 25 of May.”

It is possible that Sanders was removed from this crew and flew with a different crew during March and April, but he was in the same Squadron as his “old crew”.  This still does not explain why Wroten’s name does not appear on any records as being pilot in charge of a crew.

The only way to know for sure who the pilot of the crew was, is from the load lists currently stored in the National Archives.  They list each man’s name and position that he was flying in on each combat mission flown.  If one of these should ever be acquired for this crew, I will post it on this page.

Lt Don I. Wroten?

Arie Church has contributed many photos of "unknown" personnel, including several flying officers. Perhaps one of the men below is Don Wroten?


This photo appears to have been taken either prior to or after a flight in Briney Marlin.  William Sanders is shown on formation plans flying this aircraft on March 25, 1945 as the Weather Ship; and on April 11, 1945 on their 13th combat mission.  William Sanders, however, does not appear in this photo.  I can only tentatively identify three of the men in this picture. Standing, second from left, appears to be Vernon Powell.  Kneeling, far left looks like Paul Pottharst, and second from right Hubert Church. It is difficult to identify other members of the crew, but the man to Church's right is definitely not in other crew pictures.  Is this Don Wroten?


Same man in crew photo above

Unknown officer and Hubert Church (R)

Unknown officer

Photo Gallery

All photos courtesy: Arie Church