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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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8th Air Force
28.09.1944 563rd Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 42-102953 ‘Sky Anne’, 1st Lt. Bernard H. Lord Jr.

Operation: Merseburg (Mission #652), oil refineries, Germany

Date: 28th September 1944 (Thursday)

Unit: 388th Bombardment Group (H), 563rd Bombardment Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-17G

Serial No: 42-102953 Sky Anne*

Code: P

Location: Near ammunition factory, Merseburg, Germany

Base: Knettishall (Station #136), Suffolk, England

Pilot: 1st Lt. Bernard Howard Lord Jr., O-817476 AAF Age 21. Killed

Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Donald Charles Trachsel O-709192 AAF Age 24. Killed

Navigator: FO. Irving Eli Podolsky T-7127771 AAF Age 21. Killed

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Walter Stephen Nowicki O-766342 AAF Age? Killed

Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Garland Duncan Vaughan 33560666 AAF Age 22. Killed

Engineer/Top Turret Gnr: S/Sgt. Raymond Eugene Bradley 37663260 AAF Age 21. Killed

Ball Turret Gnr: Sgt. Bland Parke Carter 37619956 AAF Age 22. PoW **

Waist Gnr: Sgt. Wesley Gordon Rood 6689092 AAF Age 32. PoW **

Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. Charles V. Valente 31348055 AAF Age 26. Killed

One of the two waist gunners was removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.

* The name appended to B-17G 42-102953 is reported as Sky Anne and Shy Ann in the “B-17 Nose Art Name Directory”. A number of publications reporting on B-17G 42-102953 interchange the two names. The name Sky Anne has been recorded by the 388 BG historian and therefore for this report that is the name being used.

** Stalag Luft 4 Groß-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).

REASON FOR LOSS:

On the morning of 28th September 1944 over a 50 min period commencing at 07:00 hrs the 388th Bombardment Group launched a force of thirty-three aircraft and three Path Finder Force (PFF) aircraft. This force comprised three groups with the Sky Anne in the low group. Two of the aircraft aborted the mission for mechanical reasons. The assigned target was the IG Farben Leuna works synthetic oil refineries at Merseburg, Germany.

The official after mission interrogation report recorded that:

“a/c #404 and a/c #953 collided after bombs away. #953, in the lead, started evasive action and losing altitude and in a right turn cut in on his right wing a/c #404, which was reported out of formation, and attempting to get back in at the time the accident occurred. The tail was cut off #953 and the left wing of #404 was damaged, the #1 engine being knocked out. Both planes spun down over the target. A total of four chutes was seen from both planes.”

#404 refers to B-17G 43-38404, 388th Bomb Group (H), 563rd Bomb Sqn.

The Sky Anne crashed just outside of the ordnance factory at Merseburg, Germany.

In his Individual Casualty Questionnaire (ICQ) Sgt. Carter recalled that as he was in the ball turret he could not see what transpired aboard the aircraft. It was later that he learned from Sgt. Rood, the only other survivor, that 2nd Lt. Nowicki had been hit in the back by the second strike of flak and had been paralyzed and he died along with the other crew in the crash. Sgt. Rood was blown out of the aircraft after what he thought was the third flak strike.

After Sgt. Carter was repatriated he made the following statement:

“On September 28, 1944, my crew and I took off in a B-17 around 5:00 am from a land base in England. I was ball turret gunner on my crew. We flew with the 8th Air Force, 3rd Division, 388th Bomb Group, 563th Squadron. We reached the I.P. of the bomb run around 10:30 or 11:00 AM. Our mission was Meresburg, Germany. The flak over Meresburg was very heavy.

Our first hit was near the tail section of the plane. No one was hurt, nor was the plane damaged to such an extent that it was out of control. We then dropped our bombs. We carried five 1,000 lb Bombs and two of them stuck in the bomb bay.

Right after bombs away we were hit by flak again. This time we were hit in the nose section. My interphones were knocked out and I lost contact with the rest of the crew.

Right after the second hit we received a third and direct hit in the waist. I felt the plane blow up in the air and then start to fall. I swung my ball turret in escape position and opened the ball turret hatch, which blew off right way. It was then that I saw what had happened. The plane had been blown apart and only approximately three feet was left from my ball turret. After I found out what had happened, I tried to get out of the ball turret and get my parachute, but my parachute had been blown out in the explosion and by then the force of the diving plane had caught me and forced me back into the turret. I couldn't even lift my hands. I didn't lose consciousness until the plane hit the ground because I remembered feeling my gloves, helmet and oxygen mask tear off of me and fly out of the plane.

When the plane crashed, I lost consciousness -- for how long I do not know. When I finally came to, I managed to crawl clear of the plane. As I looked back at the plane, I saw it lying on its back with the wings ripped off and burning. The plane had crashed next to the munitions factory on the outskirts of Meresburg and the slave workers came and picked me up and carried me to the factory, handing me over to the military police. They kept me in the town prison there in Meresburg for the rest of the night and part of the next day. The next day I was taken out of the town and taken to the Dulag Luft at Frankfort [sic] where I started the familiar course all prisoners were forced to take.

From information I could pick up in the prison camps and the knowledge I had myself of the crash, I believe that all the men in my crew except Wesley G. Rood and myself had died in that crash in Meresburg, Germany.”

German documents recorded that Sgt. Carter was admitted to Reserve Lazarett (Hospital) (PoW) Leipzig-Wahren on the 29th September. His treatment for a contusion to his face and a slight injury to his lower left arm was expected to take 2 to 4 weeks.

In his ICQ Sgt. Rood recalled that he was blown out of the aircraft and opened his parachute at 3000 ft and that Sgt. Carter was aboard the aircraft when it crashed. He saw Sgt. Carter about a week later but he did not seem to know any more than he himself did about the remainder of the crew.

Sgt Rood landed near to a Lt. who was the Navigator from the Squadron’s lead aircraft. That night they escaped out of the city of Merseburg and evaded capture for 4 days. They remained together until they arrived at Wetzlar, Germany where they were sent to separate Stalags.

This Lt. was 1st Lt. Jack Dean Edwards from B-17G 43-38404, 388th Bomb Group (H), 563rd Bomb Sqn.

German documents recorded the recovery of a number of bodies from the aircraft wreckage but had incorrectly listed airmen from three different bombers; the Sky Anne, B-17G 43-38404 and B-17G 43-38110 Marge. Only 2nd Lt. Nowicki, S/Sgt. Bradley and S/Sgt. Valente were named but there were a number of unknowns who could have been from any of the three bombers.

Nine American airmen who died in aircraft crashes in the Merseburg district on 28th September 1944 were initially buried on the 4th October 1944 at the Friedhof für alliierte Militärpersonen (früher Exerzierplatz); (Cemetery for allied military personnel (former drill ground)). Five were unknown with three of the five recovered from 43-38404. The five unknowns were buried in graves 1, 5 (two burned airmen; Observer & Rear Gunner), 6 & 7. The other four were S/Sgt. Garland Duncan Vaughan in grave 8 and from B-17G 43-38404, 1st.Lt. Maring Jr., S/Sgt. Sirmer and T/Sgt. Hutter in graves 2, 3 & 4 respectively.

Burial Details:

Above 2nd Lt. Lord Jr. grave marker (Credit: Des Philippet FindAGrave)

1st Lt. Bernard Howard Lord Jr. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot OOO, Row 6 Grave 135. Relocated to Plot B, Row 8, Grave 11. Born in 1923 in Minnesota. Son to Bernard H. Lord from Metarie Station, New Orleans, Los Angeles, USA.

Above: Cutting from The Californian Monday, July 9th, 1945

2nd Lt. Donald Charles Trachsel. Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot OOO, Row 6, Grave 133. Repatriated to and interred at the Oak Grove Cemetery, Bel-Nor, St. Louis County, Missouri, Mausoleum, Crypt E. Born in 1920. Husband to June P. Trachsel from Salinas, California, USA.

FO. Irving Eli Podolsky. Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot OOO, Row 6, Grave 132. Repatriated and interred at the Wellwood Cemetery, Pine Lawn, Long Island, New York. Born on the 27th December 1922. Son of Nathan Podolsky from the Bronx, New York, USA.

2nd Lt. Nowicki grave marker (Credit: Des Philippet FindAGrave)

2nd Lt. Walter Stephen Nowicki. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot OOO, Row 2, Grave 56. Relocated to Plot L, Row 12 Grave 3. Husband to Wanda D. Nowicki from Detroit, Michigan, USA.

S/Sgt. Garland Duncan Vaughan. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Interred at the US Military Cemetery Grand-Failly Plot L, Row 11, Grave 262 near Longuyon, France on the 12th July 1945. Repatriated and buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery and Mausoleum, Richmond, Virginia. Born on the 10th October 1922 in Halifax, Virginia. Son to Ruben Joseph and Mare Rebecca (née Berry) Vaughan from South Boston, Virginia, USA.

S/Sgt. Raymond Eugene Bradley. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot OOO, Row 3, Grave 57. Relocated to Plot A, Row 11 Grave 32. Born on the 22nd July 1923 in Creston, Union, Iowa. Son of John Frances and Alma Clara Susan (née Ohlschlager) Bradley from Creston, Union, Iowa, USA.

Above: Cutting from The Berkshire County Eagle dated Wednesday, January 17th, 1945

S/Sgt. Charles V. Valente. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot N, Row 24, Grave 2005. Repatriated and interred at the St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Section 11, Grave 249, Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Born on the 25th December 1918. Husband to Mary (née Pia) Valente from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, USA.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.

RS & TV 24.04.2021 - Initial upload

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Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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