21.06.1944 751st Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 42-31656, 2nd.Lt. Hershel L. Wilson
Operation: Berlin (Mission #428), Germany
Date: 21st June 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit: 457th Bombardment Group (H), 751st Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Serial No: 42-31656
Location: West of Berlin, Germany
Base: Glatton (Station #130), Huntingdonshire, England
Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Hershel Lee Wilson O-812711 AAF Age 23. Killed (1)
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Bailey J. Gaudinier O-755919 AAF Age 23. PoW *
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Chester Donald Perkins O-717265 AAF Age 20. Killed
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Jack Henry Srout O-551958 AAF Age 27. Killed
Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Frank J. Garzia 36574008 AAF 21. Killed
Engineer: S/Sgt. Joseph Frank Schankin 36577981 AAF Age 21. PoW **
Ball Turret: Sgt. Edward L. Attleton 31287652 AAF Age 20. Killed
Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Francis Xavier Heekin 35125563 AAF Age 25. PoW ***
Tail Gunner: Sgt. George Nick Vassilopoulos 39083215 AAF Age 26. PoW **
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Stalag Luft 7a, Moosburg, Southern Bavaria, Germany.
** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
*** 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 the 21st June 1944 the 557th Bomb Group dispatched 37 aircraft on a mission to bomb the motor industry in Berlin, Germany.
Flak was moderate over the target but 42-31656, after dropping its bombs, received a direct hit which knocked out an engine. 2nd.Lt. Wilson, who was on his first mission, gave the order to bail out as the aircraft spiraled down. It is known that at least three of the crew managed to escape before the aircraft exploded in mid-air. The wreckage fell to earth, at 10:34 hrs, near Friesacker Zootzen, some 60 km NW of Berlin. The fuselage and a greater part of the wings fell into a small meadow in a forest and was totally destroyed by fire.
In an after mission statement the aircraft was observed to have blown up west of Berlin at 10:26 hrs and only one parachute was seen in the air.
S/Sgt. Schankin, S/Sgt. Heekin and Sgt. Vassilopoulos were captured immediately after the crash and transferred to a prisoner collecting point at airbase district 4/III Berlin-Staaken on the 23rd June 1944. From there they were transferred to Dulag Luft, Oberursel and then onto their PoW camps.
No records have been found that provide any information as to when and where 2nd.Lt. Gaudinier was captured. No information has been found that provides any information as to the circumstances of the deaths of the five crew members that lost their lives.
(1) 2nd.Lt. Wilson’s youngest sister, Mrs. Loretta Hamilton-Geary maintains in a pocket book entitled “Coming Full Circle” that she met some of her brother’s fellow PoWs one of whom witnessed that her brother had been shot in the head by a German soldier for no apparent reason after he was captured.
No records or other documentation has been found that confirms this allegation.
German documents record that the five members of the crew that perished were initially buried in the district cemetery at Friesack Kreis Havelland in the West Dept. Section 2 at 19:00 hrs.
Above: 2nd.Lt. Wilson (Credit: Dwight "Andy" Anderson - FindAGrave)
2nd.Lt. Hershel Lee Wilson. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Plot Z, Row 5, Grave 166, Relocated to Plot B, Row 33, Grave 23. Born during 1921 in Oklahoma. Son of Henry A. and Nova L. (née Kennedy) Wilson of Norman, Oklahoma, USA.
Above: 2nd.Lt. Perkins (Credit: Patrick Teater Sr. - FindAGrave)
2nd.Lt. Chester Donald Perkins. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Plot Z, Row 5, Grave 118. Born on the 2nd November 1923 in South Dakota. Repatriated and buried at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, Dutchess County, New York. Son of Harry Othmer and Martha Mary (née Miller) Perkins of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York, USA.
2nd.Lt. Jack Henry Srout. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Plot Z, Row 5, Grave 117. Repatriated and buried at the Fairfield Memorial Lawn Cemetery, Fairfield, Iowa. Born on the 2nd October 1917. Son of Joseph Edward and Jessie Mabel (née Norvell) Srout. Husband to Bev (née Litton) Srout. No further details.
S/Sgt. Frank J. Garzia. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery. Repatriated and buried at the Mt Olivet Cemetery, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, Section 11, Lot 325, Space 1, on the 5th August 1949. Born on the 25th August 1922 in Detroit, Michigan. Son of Angelo and Giuseppa (née Magno) Garzia. Husband of Virginia Beatrice (née Droulard) Garzia of St. Clair County, Michigan, USA.
Sgt. Edward L. Attleton. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot AA, Row 5, Grave 104, Relocated to Plot D, Row 4, Grave 34. Born during 1924 in Massachusetts. Son of Charles L. and Sadie J. Attleton of Holland, 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’.