PILOTS AND AIRCREW fROM SCHUYLKILL COUNTY WW2
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
While doing some research at the Schuylkill County Historical Society recently I came across some interesting stories written during World War 2 in the Pottsville Journal and Republican. I want to share these wonderful stories that attest to the courage and the service of country that so many Schuylkill Countians have done in the performance of their duty to our country.
There are so many interesting stories to relate that I find I must break them down into different parts. The first part I will write up will be on the Army Air Corps during the war. Aviation has always been one of my favorite subjects and I never knew we had so many men in the Air Corps during the war. These staggering statistics tell the story of what these men endured during the war.
U.S. ARMY AIR FORCE CASUALTIES TOTALED 120,000, OF WHOM 40,000 DIED IN COMBAT. ANOTHER 15,000 DIED IN TRAINING OR IN AIRCRAFT ACCIDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES. AIRCRAFT LOSSES WERE 65,200, ONE THIRD OF THESE WERE DESTROYED IN CRASHES IN THE STATES.
“POTTSVILLE BOY WINS DFC FOR BRAVERY IN WAR”
In the May 6th 1942 addition of the Pottsville Republican was this story
For a hazardous and technically difficult flight in a bombing plane from Washington, DC to the Netherland East Indies during which their plane was subjected to an aerial attack by Japs and struck by lighting, a Pottsville boy and seven other members of the crew have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. War Department.
The recipient of the award is the first of its kind to be awarded to a county soldier during the present war. It is Staff Sergeant Errol W. Wynkoop, son of Mr. And Mrs. Roy Wynkoop of 421 East Arch St. Pottsville.
The citation doe not say when the action took place, but his family believes it was in early January. Since he was home on New Years. In subsequent letters he has written that he saw a bit of action.
The plane was piloted by 1st Lieut. Richard T. Kight of Lubbock, Texas. The citation says that Kight and his crew were subjected to an aerial bombing raid at Palembang, Java, during which Kight directed his crew and took every precaution for their safety and that of the ship. An additional hazard was met on the crossing in the form of a sever electrical storm during which the ship was struck by lightning and burned in several places. First Lt. Kight worked tirelessly to keep his ship in good flying condition and brought both the ship and crew safely back to Washington, his mission an urgent and vital one successfully accomplished.
Wynkoop has been in the Air corps six years, having enlisted upon his graduation from Pottsville High School in 1936. He was first sent to Chanute Field, Ill. Where he learned radio. From there he went to Chicopee falls, Mass. Where he received promotion to Staff Sgt. Since that time he has been at Morrison field, West Palm Beach, Fla. And within the last week is believed to have been sent to Australia.
His mother is proud of her son, and is not surprised that his family have heard little of his exploits. “Buddy” as she calls him, was always modest.
Sgt. Wynkoop is just another of the famous Wynkoop’s from Schuylkill County. It will be remembered that his great grandfather was Col. George C. Wynkoop famous for his raising the 7th Pa. Cavalry. And his grandfather was Nicholas Wynkoop Killed in action at Gallatin , Tenn.
It is hard to find out what their mission was while in the Netherland East Indies but doing a little research I found this info.
The first B-17 Flying Fortresses to be based in Australia were 14 early model Flying Fortresses of the 19th Bomb Group which had been evacuated from Del Monte air field in the Philippines. They began arriving at Batchelor airfield in the Northern Territory on 17 December 1941. Some of the more war-weary B-17's were sent south to Laverton in Victoria for major overhauls. These B-17's started to fly bombing missions against Tulagi and other targets in the Solomons from their new base in Townsville. They would also drop supplies to allied forces in the Celebes. They would either stage through Port Moresby or Batchelor for these missions.
“By New Year's Day 1942, eleven B-17's flew to a new base at Malang in Java. Their main target then was Japanese shipping. These B-17's were reinforced in January 1942 by some LB-30 Liberators and some new B-17E's of the 7th Bomb Group. These aircraft were later withdrawn to Batchelor at the end of February 1942.
B-17E Flying Fortress, #41-2460, piloted by 2nd Lt. C.H. Millhouse, had arrived in Australia on 15 January 1942 via Africa. Both of these B-17E's had operated in the Philippines with the 7th Bombardment Group before being evacuated back to Australia and transferred to the 19th Bombardment Group.
On 17 February 1942, ten B-17 Flying Fortresses of a US Navy Task Force in "Southern Bomber Command" arrived at Archerfield airfield in Brisbane. These ten B-17's were part of a group of twelve B-17's that had flown from Hawaii via Plaine de Gaiacs, New Caledonia. They had spent a number of weeks in Hawaii prior to this long flight. On the final leg from Plaine de Gaiacs, two of the B-17's flew directly to Townsville in north Queensland through a tropical storm and landed at Townsville on 19 February 1942. These two were piloted by Captain Lewis and the other by Harry Spieth. Dick Graf was Radio Operator on Captain Lewis's aircraft. Three other B-17E's of the US Navy Task Force had earlier flown from Hawaii directly to Java.”
“PINEGROVE BOY BAGS FIVE NAZI PLANES IN TWO DAYS”
The next Exciting story deals with Lt. John S. Keesey from Pine Grove. A fighter pilot who flew P-51 Mustangs in the 368th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group. Lt. Keesey flew on this particular story the P-51B-10 42-106581 named “Tootser”.
The story entitled, An Eighth AAF Fighter Station, England. A slight youngster from Pine Grove Pa, who flies’s a Mustang fighter on escort with our bombers over Europe racked up a score of five Nazi aircraft blasted by his guns in two days.
He is Lt. John S. Keesey, 20 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Keesey, Pine Grove, R1, and official reports list his two day bag as two FW-190’s destroyed; one FW-190 probably destroyed; and two more damaged heavily. He has already been awarded the Air Medal with an oak leaf cluster for combat missions.
Describing one of the dog fights in which he was engaged, Lt. Keesey reported his squadron was attacked by approximately 55 enemy aircraft over Dreuz, France.
“At about 17,000 feet 25 Nazi fighters dove under us and split up as we turned into them” he said. “We followed them down to about 3,000 feet when they pulled up into some clouds. We pulled up after them and just about then 30 more enemy ships dove on us from above the clouds.”
“I passed through the new attackers head on. I began blazing away almost immediately and saw my slugs tear into three of them. One of the three had a burst of hits on his fuselage and about the canopy which I believe must have killed the pilot. I report that one as probably destroyed, the other two damaged.
“They were firing at me as we passed head on and I recall seeing some of their shots striking my right wing.
“After we had passed, I glanced over and saw one of the FW-190’s on the tail of a Mustang which was trailing smoke. I rolled over to the left and took an angle shot at the Nazi, saw a few strikes from my burst.
“The Mustang that was being attacked went into a steep spiral with the FW-190 still stuck on his tail. I latched myself onto the tail off the FW-190. We went down to 100 feet. He spotted me back there and began turning violently, but I managed to stay with him, firing al the while.
“I began getting more strikes on the enemy plane and noticed he was trailing smoke. I was down to one gun by this time, having fired so much ammunition during the earlier stages of the fight.
“We were in a turn at about 100 feet above the ground, when I fired my last burst, watching hits on his wing and in the fuselage near the cockpit. The slugs must have wounded the pilot because the plane slipped out of the turn and hit the ground in a dive. When he hit the ground his left wing and tail section were torn off. He bounced back up and finally crashed about 200 yards from where he first struck.”
The day before while escorting bombers to Munich, Lt. Keesey fought with a Nazi pilot for about five minutes over Munich itself until the enemy bailed out under a rain of strikes on his ship.
Lt. Keesey, husband of Mrs. Louise R. Keesey, W. Mill St. Pine Grove, is a 1941 graduate of Pine Grove High School.
Keesey would finish out the war as a Captain having flown 68 combat missions.
His unit was the 359th Fighter Group 368th Fighter Squadron. Nicknamed the 'Unicorns', the 359th FG was one of the last groups to arrive in the UK for service in the ETO with the Eighth Air Force. First seeing action on 13 December 1943, the group initially flew bomber escort sweeps in P-47s, before converting to the ubiquitous P-51 in March/April 1944. Throughout its time in the ETO, the 359th was credited with the destruction of 351 enemy aircraft destroyed between December 1943 and May 1945.
Here is another report of the dogfight on August 8, 1944.
“Flying P-51 CV-V 43-106581 named Tootser. From ER: Lt. John S. Keesey was leading the element, White Three, in Capt. Forehand's flight. After providing bomber support in the vicinity of Dreuc, France they began letting down in an easterly direction to strafe. At approx. 17,000 ft 25 E/A dove under us, coming from 7 o'clock. We turned into them and they all split S'd .... At about 15,000 ft. I saw three of them at 3 o'clock. They were about 1,000 ft. above us then.... I called them in and then turned into them in a slight climb. Just at the time we turned, approx. 30 more E/A dove at us from out of the sun. They were at approximately 25,000 ft. At this time the first E/As came at me in a diving turn. I passed thru them head on. While going thru I fired at several of them and distinctly remember getting strikes on three of them. On one of these I got strikes on the fuselage and about the canopy, firing from about 15 degrees to starboard of the E/A's nose from head on. The pilot was probably killed. I claim this one as probable. On the other two I had strikes on the wings. These I claim as damaged. One of the E/A got 3 strikes on my right wing. After I passed the last one, I noticed that two of the E/A had already turned and were coming at me in a climbing turn from 7 o'clock..... I started rolling out to the left and before completing my roll-out I saw an E/A on a 51's tail at about 3 o'clock and about 2,000 ft. below. Just then the E/A began firing and the P-51 started trailing smoke. ... At this time the P-51 started down in a steep spiral and the E/A split S'd to the left and dove straight down. I used full bore and approximately 2800 RPM to stay up with him. ...he made a slight turn left and went thru some clouds. I followed right thru and when we broke out at about 5,000 ft I was right on his tail with my airspeed 600. He started his pull out at 4,000 and leveled off on the deck with streamers pulling of his wings...... I then fired a burst and discovered I had but one gun firing - my other three had jammed. I turned with him for about two mins. and fired short burst when I got a good head. I had no trouble turning with the E/A but at one time I hit his prop wash and flicked. He then had the advantage but I got it back when I did a little climb and sucked it in. I then fired another burst and he began trailing thick smoke. ... I then fired another burst and saw strikes on the E/A's cowling so I left my sight drift back and got strikes along the fuselage. At this time he flicked out of the turn and hit the ground in a dive. I tried to fire as he flicked out of the turn but my only gun had jammed. When he hit the ground his left wing and tail section tore off. He bounced back up and finally crashed about 200 yds from where he first hit.... The combat took place at about 100 ft. I claim this E/A destroyed. Lt. Keesey was awarded 1 FW 190 destroyed and 3 FW's damaged. Also on that day Lt. Willis J. Cherry flying yellow four was lost and became a POW Somery France.”
The 359th Fighter Group
Station:East Wretham (USAAF Station No. 133) 19 October 1943 to 2 November 1945
Wallpaint to 22 April '44 then:
Chairman (A Group)
Cavetop (B Group)
Ragtime (C Group)
(No Squadron Callsigns in C Group)
Fighter Pilots Who Served. From Schuylkill County
There were other fighter pilots from Schuylkill County who flew P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs to include;
Lt. Clyde (Nebby) Beheny from Orwin who was flying P-47’s.
Lt. Peter Chowansky, from Frackville who graduated as a fighter pilot on May 23, 1944 at Luke field, Arizona. He entered the service in January , 1943 at the time of this report July 1944, he was stationed in Portland Oregon.
Local Pilot tests “G” suits.
Lieut. Bernard Greenfield isn’t always the man flying the best airplane who comes out on top in air battles against the Luftwaffe, according to Lieut. Greenfield from Pottsville together with other Eight Air Force P-51 Mustang fighter groups in England, In almost all cases agree the the airmen, the victor is the best trained flier using the best combat flying equipment.
One such type of equipment now being worn by American pilots in the European Theater of Operations is the new “G” suit.
Used in combat since October 1944, by the 353rd Fighter Group with which Lt. Greenfield belongs, the “G” suit is lauded by pilots for its ability to prevent dangerous “blackouts” and “grayouts” ordinarily resulting from the effects of centrifugal force on the blood flow during high speed maneuvers.
According to unit histories Lt. Greenfield flew P-51 D 44-72845 “Lil Miss Boomerang”. In the 350th Fighter Sqdron. 353rd Fighter Group.
Bomber crewmen who Flew In the European Theatre From Schuylkill County
The Air Medal Awarded to many Schuylkill Airman
Tsgt. Richard Krecker
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Krecker Pottsville, was reported as missing in action over enemy occupied territory since March 16, 1944. He was a radio operator gunner who has been awarded the Air Medal and two oak leaf clusters. Sgt. Krecker was one of the first boys in the county to bomb Berlin. He has been in the service since November of 1942. It was later reported he was safe back in England.
Brownmiller Wins Air Medal
An Eight Air Force Bomber Station, England. Staff Sergeant Ronald E. Brownmiller, 19, of Pottsville has earned the Air Medal, for “Meritorious Achievement, coolness, courage and skill” in aerial warfare. Sgt. Brownmiller is a waist gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress participating in Eight Air Force bombing attacks on targets in Nazi, Germany.
He is a member of the 34th BOMB GROUP MENDLESHAM, ENGLAND
a unit of the Third Air Division, the Division cited by the President for its now historic England Africa shuttle bombing of Messerschmitt aircraft plants at Regensburg, German.
Before entering the Army Air Force Brownmiller was a student at Pottsville High School.
View from the top turret engineers gunner position B-17
Awarded His Third Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal
TSgt. Austin Brommer of Friedens burg has been awarded the third oak leaf cluster to the Air Medal., equivalent to the fourth award of the medal, for “Meritorious achievement” on bombing attacks over Germany. The Airman displayed’ Courage, coolness and skill” while serving as top turret gunner with the 490th Bomb Group, a B-17 Flying Fortress Unit of the Eight Air Force commanded by Col. Frank P. Bostrom of Bangor Maine. He entered the Army Air Force in February 1940.
Gets Air Medal
December 21, 1944
Staff Sergeant Clarence M. Krammes from Cressona, an Eight Air force waist gunner on the B-24 Liberator “Modest Maiden has just recently been awarded the Air Medal.
The citation in part reads: “For meritorious achievement in accomplished aerial operational missions over enemy occupied continental Europe. Sgt. Krammes actions reflect great credit upon himself and the armed forces of the United States.”
The presentation was made by Col. A.W. reed, commanding officer of the 491st Heavy Bomb Group of the second bombardment Division stationed in England.
Sgt. Krammes has flown nine combat missions, participating in attacks on Karsruhe, Hamm, Ulm and military installations in support of ground forces. Sgt. Krammes has been in the Army thirteen months. He received his wings at Laredo, Texas and completed training at Chatham Field, GA.
Sgt. Krammes belonged to a famous B-24 Bomb Group:
491st Bomb Group.
Squadrons of the 491st BG:
852nd Bombardment Squadron - Heavy
853rd Bombardment Squadron - Heavy
854th Bombardment Squadron -Heavy
855th Bombardment Squadron - Heavy
Assigned 8th AAF: 1 January 1944
2 BD, 95 CBW 5 May 1944
2 BD, 14 CBW 14 Aug 1944
2 AD, 14 CBW 1 Jan 1945
METFIELD 25 April 1944 - 15 August 1944
NORTH PICKENHAM 15 August 1944 - 4 July 1945
Lt Col Carl T. Goidenberg: 12 Feb. 1944 - 26 Jun. 1944.
Col Frederick H. Miller: 26 Jun. 1944 - 16 Oct. 1944.
Col Allen W. Reed: 20 Oct. 1944 - 18 Jun. 1945.
First Mission: 2 June 1944
Last Mission: 25 April 1945
Total Sorties: 5,005
Total Bomb Tonnage: 12,304 Tons
Aircraft MIA: 47
Other Op Loses: 23
Distinguished Unit Citation: 26 Nov. 44: Misburg
Claims to Fame:
Highest rate of operations of all B-24 groups.
Activated 1 Oct. 1943 at Davis-Monthan Fd, Ariz. Moved to Biggs Fd, Texas 11 Nov. 1943. Most of ground unit transferred to B-29 groups. Group transferred less personnel and equipment to 2BD Hq. as of 1 Jan. 1944 Apparently planned for 14CBW and North Pickenham designated a base in Feb. 1944, but in view of advanced state of training of 492BG 491BG rescheduled for Metfield. Four established groups in 2BD ordered to raise and train an additional squadron ground unit each one of the five ground echelons in each group then selected for 491 BG. These transferred to Metfield on 25 April 1944. Aircraft continued training in US, moving to Pueblo AAB, CO. in early Jan. 1944. Began movement overseas on the 21 April 1944 via Florida, Trinidad, Brazil, Dakar an' Marrakesh.
Redeployed US June 1945. The aircraft left 17 June 1945. Ground unit sailed on Queen Mary on the 6th of July 1945 arriving in New York 11 July 1945.
Completes 35 Combat Missions
T/Sgt. Ellis E. Miller,
23 of Hegins has arrived at Army Air Forces Station No-2 in Miami Beach for reassignment after completing 35 combat missions as a B-24 Radio Operator gunner in the European theater earning the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.
Douglas C-47 Skytrain
Flew 60 missions in C-47’s.
Pottsville Journal January 25, 1945.
Staff Sergeant Albert V. Hupka, St. Clair a radio operator in the veteran 12th Air Force Troop Carrier Group Italy has been awarded the Air Medal and four oak leaf clusters to the Air Medal for “Meritorious achievement in aerial flight against the enemy”. Sgt. Hupka has sixty combat missions in an unarmed, unarmored, and unescorted C-47 type aircraft to his credit. Most of these operations were made over the Balkan Countries in direct support of Marshall Tito’s Partisan forces. A large number of these flights were landings on small hastily improvised airfields, deep in enemy held territory, at night and with only a row of fires to light the landing strip. Getting through to the objective called for the greatest degree of skill from each member of the crew on these missions, for the Balkans present rugged terrain, difficult flying weather and constant danger from enemy night fighters and flak. Sgt. Hupka entered the Army in June of 1943 and served overseas since January 1943.
Top Turret of a B-24 Blows Apart in Flight
January 25, 1945 Pottsville Journal.
Even in the best regulated war, accidents happen. Just ask Cpl. Francis X. Donahue, 22, Port Carbon. On January 10, Cpl. Donahue, a top turret gunner with a heavy bomber crew flew a long range mission deep into Austria with his veteran B-24 Liberator Squadron. High over the Adriatic Sea on the way to the target, Cpl Donahue climbed into the top turret of his bomber to test fire the 50 caliber machine guns. Then the trouble began. While still in the turret he heard the Plexiglas crack and felt the bitter cold air of high altitude rush against the back of his neck. A gaping hole appeared in the turret. Fortunately he was uninjured by the flying glass fragments. Explanations none of them entirely satisfactory sprang from every quarter. Some opinioned that a flaw in the glass had been cracked by the rush of cold wind. Others guessed that an empty machine gun shell from a bomber further ahead in the formation had struck the turret. “The rest of the trip was a cold one. There was nothing we could do to stop the cold air from rushing in that hole, “ said Donahue. Donahue is a graduate of St. Stevens High School, he entered the Army Air Corps on June 21, 1943. And attended gunnery school at Harlingen, Texas.
B-17 Radio Operators Position
Airman Promoted to Sergeant
January 25, 1945 Pottsville Journal
Thomas F. Toth, 21 of Pottsville has been promoted to Sergeant while stationed with the Eighth Air Force. He is on a Bomber station in England flying as a radio operator and gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress “Lady Gay”. He entered the Air Corps in August 1943.
Fighter Pilot Held as Prisoner of War
January 29, 1945 Pottsville Journal
2nd lieutenant George Leymeister of Orwigsburg who is reported missing over Germany since November 18, is now reported a prisoner of the German government. He is a fighter pilot and has been overseas seven months.
Three Countians On Board Same Aircraft Shot Down over Germany and Made POW’s
Pottsville Journal January 29, 1945
T/Sgt. John McMenamin formerly of Pottsville and now living in Auburn is reported missing over Germany since November 21. He is now listed as a POW of the German Government. He is a radio gunner aboard a bomber. S/Sgt D. Griffith Morgan and S.Sgt Eugene Minchoff, both of Pottsville were aboard the same bomber when it went down. Minchoff was also reported a prisoner. NO word has been received about Morgan, but it is hoped he will turn up safe.
I found this story which relates to this accident on a POW web site.
On their 12th mission (11-21-44) to bomb the Luena Oil Fields near Meersberg, Germany, their B17 was hit by FW 190 German Fighters. They bailed out and were captured immediately. Jack was ordered to swim across the Saale River by a large number of Gestapo. He was taken to Stalag Luft IV prison camp near Gros-Tychow in Poland (by crowded boxcars). They were kept in near starving conditions until they were evacuated 2-6-45 to escape the advancing Russians. They began a forced march (some refer to it as "Death March" because so many lives were lost because of starvation and very little medical help). They were liberated when the prison guards surrendered to U.S. troops at Halle. Friend Eugene Minchoff, Quarryville, PA who was on this mission, verified this to authorities. Gene is now the only living member of this crew.
398th Bomb Group that was based at Nuthampstead in England.
The Three Crewmen of the B-17 Nutty Huzzy. 44-8348..603 rd on the mission to Merseburg Germany 11/24/44
John McMenamin T/sgt. Radio Operator Gunner POW
Eugene Minchoff S/Sgt Tail Gunner POW
David Grifith Morgan S/Sgt Right Waist Gunner POW
Almost Ditched in the North Sea
Pottsville Journal January 24, 1945
When the last of their bombers four engines started sputtering 25 miles from the English coast, Sergeant Richard W. Laubenstine, 20 year old B-17 Flying Fortress engineer and top turret gunner of Cressona and his crew faced the grim prospect of ditching their bomber in the icy North Sea 300 feet below.
Sgt. Laubenstine and his crew had made a game bid to make it back to England after heavy German anti aircraft fire had literally ripped their plane to shreds and disabled three engines during an Eighth Air Force attack on key Nazi oil refineries at Hamburg.
Suddenly in response to their SOS a reply came back from a British air sea rescue launch. In the tense moments that followed the commander of the British rescue launch coxed the bomber crew on. “Its too cold for a swim, lads stay up there and follow us in, we’ll set you down on an emergency landing strip.” Laubenstine and his crew jettisoned everything in the ship that wasn’t bolted down. Lightened the bomber stayed in the air and safely crashed landed at the emergency base.
Formerly an electrician at the Middletown Air Depot, Sgt. Laubenstine serves with the colorful 390th Bomb Group which holds a Presidential Citation for skill and daring in action. And also shares in an other Presidential award held by the Third Air Division, of which it is a unit, for the epic assault on key aircraft plants at Regensburg, German in August 1943.
The History of the 390th Bomb Group
Constituted as 390th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 15 Jan 1943 and activated on 26 Jan. Prepared for combat with B-17's. Moved to England in Jul 1943 and assigned to Eighth AF. Operated chiefly against strategic objectives, flying many missions with the aid of pathfinders. Began combat on 12 Aug 1943. Five days later, attacked the Messerschmitt aircraft complex at Regensburg and received a DUC for the mission. Received another DUC for a mission on 14 Oct 1943 when the group braved unrelenting assaults by enemy fighters to bomb the antifriction-bearing plants at Schweinfurt. Participating in the intensive Allied assault on the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944, the organization bombed aircraft factories, instrument plants, and air parks. Other strategic missions included attacks on marshalling yards at Frankfurt, bridges at Cologne, oil facilities at Zeitz, factories at Mannheim, naval installations at Bremen, and synthetic oil refineries at Merseburg. Sometimes flew interdictory and support missions. Bombed the coast near Caen fifteen minutes before the landings in Normandy on 6 Jun 1944. Attacked enemy artillery in support of ground forces during the breakthrough at St Lo in Jul. Cut German supply lines during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945. Hit airfields in support of the airborne assault across the Rhine in Mar 1945. Flew last combat mission on 20 Apr 1945. Dropped food supplies to the Dutch during the week prior to V-E Day. Returned to the US in Aug. Inactivated on 28 Aug 1945.
Geiger Field, Wash, 26 Jan 1943
Great Falls AAB, Mont, 6 Jun-4 Jul 1943
Framlingham, England, Jul 1943-4 Aug 1945
Sioux Falls AAFld, SD, 12-28 Aug 1945.
Col Edgar M Whittan, 26 Jan 1943
Col Frederick W Ott, 21 Apr 1944
Col Joseph A Miller, 17 Sep 1944
Lt Col George W Von Arb Jr, 23 May 1945
Maj John A Angotti, 26 Jun-Aug 1945.
Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe.
Distinguished Unit Citations: Germany, 17 Aug 1943; Germany, 14 Oct 1943.
Prisoner in Stalag Luft No. 4
Pottsville Journal January 11. 1945
Staff Sergeant Charles Yokitis is a prisoner of war in a German Camp known as Stalag Luft 4. He filed an express message with the Red Cross to inform his family. His mother received the word in the form of a cablegram and while sponsored by the U.S. Gov’t it is activated by the International Red Cross. It read, “I am well and hope you are the same. Feeling fine as a POW, Write soon.
Sgt. Yokitis is from Port Carbon. He was declared missing last May 29 and it was not until September 9 that his mother received word that he was a prisoner of war. From September until the message arrived they had no word of the fate of him.
He enlisted on January 2, 1942 and received his training at Orlando Fla., Texas Buckley Field, Colorado and McCook Nebraska from where he left for overseas in March, 1944. He saw action in Italy, and Africa and flew 11 missions before he was shot down over Austria.
In researching more on Sgt. Yokitis I found out that he flew in the 783rd Bomb Squadron on a B-24H-tail number 42-52589 named “Moby Dick” and was shot down on Mission Number 16 with the target as Atzersdorf a factory complex. The mission time was 7:15 .
Airman Flies 50th Mission
Pottsville Journal January 4, 1945
Staff Sergeant Walter C. Freiler, Pottsville has recently flown his 50th combat mission with a veteran Corsica based B-25, 321st Bomber Group 445th Bomb Squadron 12th A.A.F.
Flying as an engineer gunner in his 6 man crew on a B-25 Mitchell bomber, Sgt. Freiler has flown on missions carrying out widespread attacks against the enemy in France and Italy. On August 15, he was out over the beachhead on Southern France as his group flew a mission in support of the landing armies. This was the sixth amphibious operations support by his group.
Switching back to Northern Italy, the group turned the heat on communication targets in northern Italy. On September 22, Sgt. Freiler was in a formation which destroyed 300 feet of the Cittadella road and railroad bridge in what was called the most destructive attack ever carried out by the group against a bridge.
Sgt. Freiler has sampled deadly Flak defense surrounding the Galliate area of northern Italy but has come through unscathed and on the October 20th mission, he watched bombs from his formation smash Galliate Bridge in perfect precision bombing.
Lately Sgt. Freiler has participated in a number of successful attacks against enemy defense areas around Faenza and Bologna in support of allied troops fighting there. His group has set a world record in precision bombing accuracy of better than 90 % over a three month stretch.
I found this interesting little story about the Galliate Mission.
The Group's most spectacular operation during this period was a raid on the Galliate Bridge, during which a fierce barrage of anti-aircraft fire damaged 30 of the 44 participating B-25's. In spite of the ground operation every plane in the formation reached 100% accuracy, thereby insuring the establishment at that time of an all time Army Air Force accuracy mark.
Also in September of 1944 the 321st Bombardment Group which Freiler flew with established an Army Air Force record for bombing accuracy by placing 90.4% of all bombs dropped within the target circle. A bombing circle with a 200 yard radius and the objective in its center is the scale used to determine accuracy. This record was maintained at exactly the same percentage for a two months period during which time this Group dropped 1,820 tons of high explosive each month on enemy strong points North of Rimini, Italy.
Sgt. Freiler was also listed as having flown a mission on New Years day, January 1, 1945. The boys of the B-25 Billy Mitchell group of the 12th AAF took off in light snowfall; the veteran Corsica-based medium bomber group attacked a large enemy ammunition dump in northern Italy. When the bombs hit their mark there was a violent explosion which hurled smoke and debris thousands of feet into the air.
Flies as A Co-Pilot On B-24’s
Pottsville Journal January 1945
2nd Lieut. William J. Calhoun, 21, of Mechanicsville has arrived in Italy and has taken up duties with the 15th A.A.F. Heavy Bomber Group the 456th . He is trained as a co-pilot on B-24 Liberators. He is in a group commanded by Col Thomas W. Steed. The group has flown more than 170 combat missions against strategic targets in southern Europe and the Balkans.
Earns Oak Leaf to the Air Medal
Pottsville Journal January 1945
Second Lieutenant Bruce W. Evans, 22 a pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress, has recently been awarded the oak leaf to the Air Medal. He is from Pottsville. He is flying out of England.
Spends Time On R&R
Pottsville Journal January 1945
Lt. Harry E. Sanner, Minersville recently enjoyed a “recess” from aerial war fare at an Air Service Command Rest Center, on an English Sea side resort hotel where America’s Airman who provide aerial cover for the advancing allied armies in Germany may relax between missions. Lt Sanner has flown 10 missions. After seven days he went back tohis combat station.
Glider Pilot Earns Oak Leaf Cluster to The Air Medal
Pottsville Journal February 5, 1945
2nd Lieutenant Robert E. Neumister, St. Clair has been awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight of the U.S. Troop Carrier Forces. He engaged in intense aerial activity as a glider pilot with this group in the re-supply of Allied Armies advancing along the entire Western Front and in air evacuation of casualties.
Bomber Crews who flew in the China Burma and Pacific Theatre from Schuylkill County
Sergeant Cyril J. Rowland, USAAF
The husband of Betty (nee Boyle) and father of two-year-old James Cyril of 56 E. Greenwood Avenue, Lansdowne, Cyril was also survived by his mother, three brothers and three sisters, all of Connerton, Pennsylvania. He entered the Army Air Corps in September 1942, where he became a radio-gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber assigned to the Pacific Theater. While flying his sixth mission on November 22, 1944, over Negros Island in the Philippines, his plane failed to return. Sgt. Rowland entered the service in 1942 and received his basic training at Scott Field where he was later assigned as an radio instructor operator. His last know station was flying B-24’s out of the Dutch East Indies
On July 3, 1945 this article appeared in the Pottsville republican:
“PLANE DOWN BUT COUNTY BOY SAFE”
When their B-29, the “ Mary Ann” with two engines dead and a third functioning with only a portion of its full power, had to take to the water, off Kyushu, ten of its 11 crew members were rescued by submarine. One of those rescued was Sgt. Albein A. Donoris, Minersville, who was the operator of precision instruments on the plane.
Two of the crew members had been seriously wounded in the fight which preceded the water landing. One was the commander of the B-29, Lieut. Penn, San Francisco who died, and the other was a sergeant from Colorado.
Another Superfortress, seeing the distress of the Mary Ann fell out of formation and contacted a submarine directing the sub toward the “Mary Ann” and the plane to the sub. Thus the submarine was able to pick up the survivors after the acting pilot landed it tail first in the water. All but one Lt. Penn were rescued.