Monday, March 16, 2009

Cressona B-26 Pilot Killed In Action

444th Bomb Group Squdron Patch

Captain Harold Dieter, only son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Dieter, of River St. Cressona, who has taken part in many important bombing missions in the North African area, one of them blowing up an oil dump at the then important Italian base of Cagliari in Sardinia, has been killed in action; his parents were informed by the War Department.
The telegram delivered at the home said briefly that the young man lost his life on September 18, in the North African area.
Captain Dieter, who was 25, has figured prominently in the news and was the subject of a special story written by a newspaper correspondent of the mission against Cagliari and the “Bad Penny” the B-26 which Dieter commanded.
He had been in the service for two years, receiving his training at Minter Field in California and Williams Field in Arizona getting his commission as a second lieutenant at the latter. He was promoted to captain before leaving the states by plane for North Africa in December. In the last letter received by his family he stated he was the Squadron Engineering Officer. His family read about him in the newspapers but he was modest and seldom told them anything about his experiences. He was a 1935 graduate of Cressona High School where he stared in athletics. Upon graduation he went to California and took courses in electricity and engineering at the National School there and enlisted in the Air Corps from California. His last trip home was made just before he left for Africa.

Editors Note:
Following is the mission report from the 320th Bombardment group (m) for September 18th in which Captain Dieter was killed. He was flying as an observer on this mission and not as pilot in command.

Headquarters 320th Bombardment Group (m)
Intelligence Narrative No. 81 Day operation 18, September, 1943

Twenty eight B-26’s of the 320th bombardment group took off this morning to bomb Fratica di mare L/G Italy. They accompanied the 17th and 319th bombardment groups, and were unescorted. Three B-26’s returned early, 1 because tail and turret guns were out and 2 were spares.
The target was bombed successfully. 1 B-26 left the formation after bombing and crash landed at Sateur to give possible medical aid to a pilot flying as an observer who had been hit by flak. The officer died without regaining consciousness. 1 B-26 left the formation and headed toward Sicily after leaving the target, the right engine smoking. It has not yet been heard from. Twenty three B-26’s returned safely to this base on schedule.
Routes and Altitude to the target
From rendezvous at 2500’ with the 17th and 319th groups at Djodieda, 30Deg. For 325 statue miles to Falmarola Island, 340 Deg. For 35 statue miles to I.P. 5 miles west of Anzio, climbing gradually to 11, 500 Bomb run 34 Deg. Bomb run 340 deg. For 17 miles at 11,000ft breakaway to the left.
From target curve left 201 deg. For 366 miles to this base, dropping gradually to 3,000 ft.
Bombs started at B/8 and walked in three strings in an excellent pattern across western portion of the field into northwestern dispersal area. 9/12 A/C were seen burning on the field among bomb bursts.
A probable gasoline dump k/10 was hit resulting in a sheet of flame 50 yards in diameter and white smoke reaching 5,000 feet in the air. Nearly the entire field was seen covered with bomb bursts on leaving the target area, as a result of the bombing of the three groups.
Flak: Moderate inaccurate to accurate heavy flak was encountered from Anzio to the breakaway from the target, and four to five miles out to sea. Over the target burst were seen successively stepping up apparently getting our range. At the same time several bursts of flak were seen. Suggested is a possible signal that range had been reached.
Losses One B-26 damaged by flak and landed at Mat our, destroying the A/C. One B-26 is missing. Seven B-26’s were damaged slightly. A pilot {Captain Harold Dieter} Flying as an observer was killed by flak.
Comments: Pilots reported having difficulty flying at slow speeds maintained by the leading group.

Editors Note.
Captain Dieter flew on this mission as an observer on board aircraft 147-83 from the 444th Squadron. They took off runway 1 at 1152 local. And crashed landed.

He went back to the bomb bay to photograph the bomb drop. While peering out of the bomb bay He was struck by a very small piece of shrapnel that apparently hit him in the head.

Pilot Captain Barrett
Co-pilot captain. Harris
Navigator 1st .Lt. Housne
Bombadier 1st. Lt. Stephens
Engineer gunner T/Sgt Weil
Radio Gunner Tsgt Kraker
Aerial Gunner, S/Sgt Hedgepeth.

Dieter was buried on Saturday September 18, 1943 at the North Africa American Cemetery, Carthage Tunisia in Plot E Row 11 Grave 9
He earned in his flying careeer An Air Medal With 5 Oak leaf Clusters

When Flying as pilot in command he flew Aircraft #-Ma 41-17863 “Bad Penny” 444th BS 320th Bomb group.

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