|2nd Lt Glenn H. Rojohn
|2nd Lt William G. Leek
|2nd Lt Robert Washington
|Cpl Edward G. Neuhaus
|Cpl Orville E. Elkin
|Cpl Joseph R. Russo
|Cpl Roy H. Little
|Cpl Robert W. Baker
|Cpl Herman G. Horenkamp
350th Sqdn. This crew, as above (no NAV or BOM)
joined the 100th Group on 15/9/44.
Crew formed in Salt Lake City UT on 5
May 44. Left USA 16 Aug 44 arrived in Valley Wales, Scotland 19 Aug 44.
Assigned to 95th Bomb Group 6 Sept 44 left 95th Bomb Group on 14 Sept 44 and joined 100th Bomb Group (because of loss of 12 aircraft
on September 11, 1944 mission to Ruhland).
See S.O.C. p.88/89 and "CONTRAILS" p.91/92 for story of the mid air
"Piggy Back" crash of this A/C and that of W. G. MacNab.
On 31/12/44, Lt Robert Washington, from the crew of A. S. Spear, was flying
as navigator and became a POW. A Sgt James R. Shirley was flying as NG and
was a POW. S/Sgt Francis R. Chase from Lt Hansen Crew was aboard as TG and
Both Roy Little and Francis Chase are commemorated on the Wall Of The
Missing at the Netherlands cemetery.
Missions of Capt. Glenn H. Rojohn from Sgt Herman G.Horenkamp (2003)
190 ENGINE PLANT
KASSEL-FW190 ENGINE PLANT
(Our records say marshalling yards..mpf)
HAMBURG-SYNTHETIC OIL REFINERY
(Crew does not return)
On 31/12/44, Lt Robert Washington, from the crew of A.
S. Spear, was flying as navigator and became a POW. A Sgt James R.Shirley
was flying as NG and was a POW. S/Sgt Francis R. Chase was aboard as TG
and was KIA. Both Roy Little and Francis Chase are commemorated on the
Wall Of The Missing at the Netherlands Cemetery.
LT GLENN ROJOHN; PIGGY BACK LANDING AFTER THE 31 DEC 1944 HAMBURG
MISSION. COLLISION WITH LT
MacNAB WHILE BOTH WERE ATTEMPTING TO FILL THE SLOT IN THE FORMATION CAUSED
BY THE LOSS OF LT WEBSTER. ACCOUNT GIVEN IN "CENTURY BOMBER" FOLLOWS: AT
1244 HOURS AND AFTER LEAVING THE ENEMY COAST, NAVIGATOR DANNY SHAFFER, WHO
FLEW WITH THOMAS HUGHES,
NOTED IN HIS LOG: "TWO 17'S HOOKED TOGETHER, 43-31987, PILOTED BY GLENN
ROJOHN, HAVING CLOSED UP INTO THE SPACE LEFT BY THE LOSS OF LT WEBSTER.
UNFORTUNATELY B-17 43-38457,
PILOTED BY WILLIAM MacNAB, HAD RISEN SLOWLY FROM BELOW TO FILL THE SAME
POSITION.." ANOTHER PILOT,
ETHAN PORTER, WHO IS LISTED AS HAVING NO KNOWN ADDRESS BY THE VA(1992),
IMMEDIATELY SHOUTED A WARNING VIA RADIO, THE TWO FORTRESSES COLLIDED AND
LOCKED TOGETHER, CONTINUED FLYING PIGGY-BACK OVER THE SEA.'
FINDING THE ELEVATORS AND AILERONS STILL WORKING, ROJOHN AND HIS
CO-PILOT WILLIAM LEEK, 'CUT THEIR ENGINES, AND BY USING THE ENGINES OF THE
LOWER AIRCRAFT, THREE OF WHICH WERE STILL RUNNING, SLOWLY TURNED THE TWO
AIRCRAFT TOWARD LAND. FOUR OF
THE CREW BAILED OUT ON ORDERS AND ROJOHN DESCENDED TO RECROSS THE ENEMY
COAST AT 10,000 FEET. ON LANDING NEAR WILHELMSHAVEN THE TOP SHIP
(43-31987) SLID OFF MacNAB'S 43-38457 WHICH EXPLODED. BARELY HURT ROJOHN
AND LEEK WALKED AWAY FROM THE WRECKAGE OF 43-31987 AND INTO CAPTIVITY. AS
FOR THE MEN WHO BAILED OUT, THE ROG EDWARD NEUHAUS CAME DOWN ON AN ISLAND;
TTE ORVILLE ELKIN CAME DOWN IN THE WATER TEN MILES OFF SHORE AND WAS
DRAGGED TO THE SHORE BY HIS CHUTE.
REPLACEMENTS NAVIGATOR ROBERT WASHINGTON AND GUNNER JAMES SHRILEY
LANDED ON THE COAST. ALL SURVIVORS WERE TAKEN PRISONER. NOTHING WAS FOUND OF BTG JOSEPH RUSSO AND WG FRANCIS CHASE.
Breeding Dragonflies Over The North Sea
Article by Thesa Flatley for publication in WORLD WAR II MAGAZINE.
Article appears unchanged from original form and was not formatted....May
not be reproduced without permission of T.K.F....pw
At dawn on Dec. 31, 1944, while the Battle of The Bulge raged, two
young pilots took off from Thorpe Abbotts, England, and flew their B-17 in
formation with hundreds of others in what was to be a Maximum Effort over
Germany by every available flyer. That New Year's Eve would soon require
the maximum effort these two men could muster to stay alive in what must
be one of the most phenomenal incidents in aerial history. It was the 22nd
mission for First Lieutenant Glenn H. Rojohn, a native of Greenock,
Pennsylvania, the pilot on B-17 42-31987, and Second Lieutenant William G.
Leek Jr. of the state of Washington, his co-pilot. Scheduled for "R and R" after
flying several missions in a row, their plans were interrupted at 2 a.m.
that day when they were awakened for a Maximum Effort "which means
everyone flies," Rojohn said. Thirty seven aircraft took off with the
100th Bomb Group that day.
Only 25 planes returned home to England.
Following breakfast and briefing at the base, home to members of the
100th Bomb Group from June 1943 to December 1945, Rojohn and Leek learned
that their target that day would be Hamburg, a city(rife~with oil
refineries and submarine pens. Second Lieutenant Robert Washington, the
ship's navigator, remembers the start of the mission at 0647-0737 hours
this way: "Take-off on the morning of Dec. 31, 1944, was delayed because
of fog and when we assembled the group and departed the coast of England,
we learned that the fighter escort had been scrubbed due to the weather."
It takes "almost as much time to rendezvous, to go on a mission, as it
does to complete a mission," Rojohn said, "because the weather in England
was always bad and we had to circle around and around until we broke out
of the overcast. Our
squadrons (Rojohn flew in the "C" Squadron) then formed and we met other
groups until we got into a long line of traffic heading towards Germany. This particular day we flew over
the North Sea to a point south of Denmark and then we made a 90 degree
turn into the Bay of Hamburg.
We were somewhere in the neighborhood of 22,000
At that time I don't think much was known about jet stream but we had a
tailwind of about 200 nautical mile an hour. We got into the target pretty
quick, Rojohn said. "Over the
target we had just about everything but the kitchen sink thrown at us."
The target and the sky over it were black from miles away,
Leek, who died in 1988 after writing down his "recollections" of the
mission, said. "The flak was
brutal. We flew through flak
clouds and aircraft parts for what seemed like an hour." Rojohn said he
doesn't like to criticize his commanding officers but he thinks "we made a
mistake that day. Instead of
hitting the target and angling out over Germany still on a southwesterly
direction and then out over Belgium, they turned us at 180 degrees back
toward the North Sea. So a 200 nautical mile tailwind became a 200
nautical mile headwind. We
were probably making about 50 or 60 mile on the ground."
Washington said "when we finally got up near Heligoland, I believe we
turned west and skirted the flak area by flying between Heligoland and
Wilhelmshaven. The flak was
probably heavy as we crossed the coastline. I'm not certain whether we
headed northwest between Bremerhaven and Kuxhaven, or due west over a
little town of Aurich and across the coastline near Norden," Washington
said. In an earlier account,
he said he thought it was the later route.
Over the North Sea, Rojohn remembers they were flying at 22,000 ft.
when "we encountered wave after wave of German fighters. We just barely
got out over the North Sea and the sky was rumbling around us with
exploding flak and German ME109 fighter planes so close I could see the
faces of the young German pilots as they went by. They (the Germans) were just
having a field day with our formation.
We lost plane after plane."
Leek said he had been at the controls when the crew came off the bomb
run. He and Rojohn alternated the controls each half hour so that "the man
resting could enjoy the view.
On this mission, the lead plane was off Glenn's wing, so he flew the bomb
run. I should have kept the
controls for at least my half-hour, but once the attack began, our
formation tightened up and we started bouncing up and down. Our lead plane kept going out of
sight for me. I may have been
over-correcting, but the planes all seemed to bounce at different times. I asked Glenn to take it and he
Rojohn said he was taking a position to fill the void created when B-17
43-38436 piloted by Second Lieutenant Charles C. Webster went down in
flames and exploded on the ground. "I was going into that void when we had
a tremendous impact," he recalls.
Feeling the bomber shudder and scream, the men immediately thought
their plane had collided with another.
It had, but in a way that may never have happened before or since.
Another B-17 (43-38457), this one piloted by First Lieutenant William G.
MacNab, and Second Lieutenant Nelson B. Vaughn, had risen upwards. The top turret guns on this lead
plane for the high flight of the low "C" Squadron had pierced through the
aluminum skin on the bottom of Rojohn's plane, grinding the two huge
planes together like "breeding dragonflies," Leek said. The two planes had become one.
Whether MacNab and Vaughn lost control of their plane because they were
seriously injured or if the planes collided because both Rojohn and MacNab
were moving in to close that open spot in the formation is uncertain and
indeterminable: both MacNab
and Vaughn were fatally injured that day.
Staff Sergeant Edward L. Woodall Jr., MacNab's ball turret gunner, said
when a crew check was called, "all crew members reported in okay just
prior to the mid-air collision.
At the time of the impact, we lost all power and intercom on our
aircraft. I knew we were in
trouble from the violent shaking of the aircraft, no power to operate the
turret, loss of intercom and seeing falling pieces of metal. My turret was
stalled with the guns up at about 9 o'clock. This is where countless time
drills covering emergency escape procedures from the turret paid off, as I
automatically reached for the hand crank, disengaged the clutch and
proceeded to crank the turret and guns to the down position so I could
open the door and climb into the waist of the airplane. I could see that another aircraft
was locked onto our aircraft with his props buried in our wings and his
ball turret jammed down inside our aircraft."
A report written by John R. Nilsson in "The Story of The Century"
(copyright 1946) said that E.A. Porter, a pilot from Payton, Mississippi,
who witnessed the mid-air collision, sounded the warning over VHF: 'F for
Fox, F for Fox, get it down!' --however MacNab, whose radio was dead, did
not hear. Not to see the collision which seemed inevitable, Porter turned
his head, while two of his gunners, Don Houk of Appleton City, Missouri,
and Clarence Griffin of Harrisburg, Illinois, watched aghast, as MacNab
and Rojohn settled together 'as if they were lifted in place by a huge
crane,' and many of the 100ths anguished fliers saw the two Fortresses
cling -- Rojohn's, on top, riding pick-a-back on MacNab's, how held
together being a mystery. A
fire started on MacNab's ship, on which three propellers still whirled,
and the two bombers squirmed, wheeled in the air, trying to break the
In the 1947 book, "Contrails: My War Record," the editors wrote: "The situation was something too
fantastic for even Hollywood to simulate." Washington said he "opened the
escape hatch and saw the B-17 hanging there with three engines churning
and one feathered. I believe
Rojohn and Leek banked to the left and headed south toward land," he said.
Glenn's outboard prop bent into the nacelle of the lower plane's engine,
according to Leek. "Glenn gunned our engines two or three times to try to
fly us off. It didn't work,
but it was a good try. The
outboard left engine was burning on the plane below. We feathered our propellers to
keep down the fire and rang the bail-out bell." Our engines were still
running and so were three on the bottom ship, Rojohn said. When he realized he couldn't detach his plane, he turned
his engines off to try to avoid an explosion. He told Tech Sergeants Orville E.
Elkin, the top turret gunner and engineer, and Edward G. Neuhaus, the
radio operator, to bail out the tail, the only escape route left because
all other hatches were blocked.
The two planes would drop into a dive unless we pulled back on the
controls all the time. Glenn
pointed left and we turned the mess toward land, Leek wrote. "I felt Elkin touch my shoulder
and waved him back through the bomb bay.
We got over land and Shirley came up from below. I signaled to him to follow Elkin. Finally Bob Washington came up
from the nose. He was just
hanging on between our seats.
Glenn waved him back with the others.
We were dropping fast." As he crawled up into the pilot's
compartment before bailing out, Washington said "I saw the two of them (Rojohn
and Leek) holding the wheels against their stomachs and their feet propped
against the instrument panel. They feathered our engines to avoid fire, I
think. The toggalier (Sergeant James R. Shirley) and I went on through the
bomb bay and out the waist door, careful to drop straight down in order to
miss the tail section of the other plane which was a little to the right
of our tail." Because of the physical effort of Rojohn and Leek, Shirley,
Elkin, Washington, and Neuhaus were able to reach the rear of the plane
and bail out. I could hear Russo saying his 'Hail Marys' over the
intercom, Leek said. "I could
not help him and I felt that I was somehow invading his right to be alone. I pulled off my helmet and noticed that we were at 15,000
feet. This was the hardest part of the ride for me."
Awhile later, we were shot at by guns that made a round white puff like
big dandelion seeds ready to be blown away. By now the fire was pouring over
our left wing and I wondered just what those German gunners thought we
were up to and where we were going!
Before long, fifty caliber shells began to blow at random in the
plane below. I don't know if
the last flak had started more or if the fire had spread, but it was hot
down there! As senior officer, Rojohn ordered Leek to join the crew
members and jump, but his co-pilot refused. Leek knew Rojohn wouldn't be able to maintain physical
control of the two planes by himself, and was certain the planes would be
thrown into a death spiral before he could make it to the rear of the
plane and escape. "I knew one man left in the wreck could not have
survived, so I stayed to go along for the ride," Leek said. And what a
ride it was. "The only control we actually had was to keep them level. We were falling like a rock" with
the German ground reaching up to meet them, Rojohn said. "I know I prayed on the way down."
Washington, from his vantage point while parachuting to land, said "I
watched the two planes fly on into the ground, probably two or three miles
away, and saw no more 'chutes. Shirley was coming down behind me. When the planes hit, I saw them
burst into flames and the black smoke erupting."
At one point Leek said he tried to beat his way out of the window with
a veri-pistol, but admitted he wasn't sure why he did it. "Just panic, I guess. The
came up faster and faster. Praying was allowed. We gave it one last effort and
slammed into the ground." As they hit land near Wilhelmshaven shortly
before 1300 hours, Rojohn and Leek's plane slid off the bottom plane,
which immediately exploded.
Alternately lifting up and slamming back into the ground, their B-17
careened along the ground, finally coming to rest only after the left wing
sliced through a German headquarters Building "blowing that building to
smithereens," Rojohn said.
Staff Sergeant Joseph Russo, Rojohn's ball turret gunner, is believed to
have been killed when the planes landed. When my adrenalin began to lower,
I looked around, Leek said.
"Glenn was OK and I was OK and a convenient hole was available for a fast
exit. It was a break just
behind the cockpit. I crawled
out onto the left wing to wait for Glenn.
I pulled out a cigarette and was about to light it when a young
German soldier with a rifle came slowly up to the wing, making me keep my
hands up. He grabbed the
cigarette out of my mouth and pointed down. The wing was covered with
gasoline." The two pilots
sustained only slight injuries, which shocked even them when they took a
look at the wreckage of the B-17.
"All that was left of the Flying Fortress were the nose, the
cockpit, and the seats we were sitting on," Rojohn said.
Following their capture, Rojohn said he and Leek were forced to undress
"so they could search us for weapons, which we had thrown out on the way
down. They put us into a
truck and drove through the countryside to pick up the survivors. The
Germans then put us all into an old schoolhouse where we were finally able
to talk with each other." Even
with their lives in the hands of the Germans The Americans found a
little humor. "Our captors didn't know what to do with us because we were
in a part of Germany where they didn't take many captives," Rojohn said. "They put us in a dark damp
building way out in nowhere. All of a sudden the door opened up and
everybody popped to attention.
A German captain came in and barked something to his men. I didn't understand what he had
said, but Berkowitz (Second Lieutenant Jack Berkowitz, MacNab's navigator)
heard the same words and dead fainted away. The next day they brought us back
to the schoolhouse.
Berkowitz, the only one of us could understand German, told us the German
captain had said, 'If they make a move, shoot 'em.' That was too much for
him and he fainted."
Watching the piggy-back planes fall to the earth, German soldiers
believed they were seeing a new American weapon: an eight-engine bomber. In fact, the Germans were so
concerned that the Americans had developed a devastating new weapon that
Berkowitz said he was "shipped to an interrogation center in Frankfurt,
Germany and put into solitary confinement to be questioned." After questioning him for two weeks, his
interrogators gave up on the idea of a new American aircraft threat and
Berkowitz was transferred to a prison camp near the North Sea.
Staff Sergeants Roy H. Little, Rojohn's waist gunner, and Francis R.
Chase, the replacement tail gunner, did not survive their jumps from the
plane. (In an aside he calls an example of how providence sometimes
intercedes in a man's life, Rojohn said that Tech Sergeant Herman G.
Horenkamp, his friend and tail gunner for all of his 21 previous missions,
did not report for the mission that day because he had frostbite from the
mission the day before.
Chase, who Rojohn and Leek had never seen before and never did meet
face-to-face, was Horenkamp's replacement that day. Chase died during the mission.)
All survivors from the Rojohn B-17 were captured by the Germans almost
immediately as were three other men who bailed out of MacNab's plane:
Second Lieutenant Raymond E. Comer, Rr., Tech Sergeant Joseph A. Chadwick
and Woodall. Woodall told Rojohn years later that he was grateful to him
and Leek because they carried him for several miles when broken bones
sustained in his parachute landing kept him from walking after his
capture. Rojohn has no recollection of that.
Rojohn searched for 40 years through social security and veterans
records to find his co-pilot Leek, but was not successful until 1986 when
he was given a telephone number in the state of Washington by a man who
claimed "I can find anybody." Rojohn called the number and reached Leek's
mother, who asked him if he wanted to talk to Bill, who was visiting from
California, right then and there. The two pilots were reunited for one
week in 1987 at a 100th Bomb Group Reunion in Long Beach, California.
After the war, like thousands of other soldiers, Rojohn came back home
to marry and raise a family.
he eventually went to work with his brother, Leonard, in their father's
air conditioning and plumbing business in McKeesport, Pennsylvania,
putting the war and thoughts of heroics behind him. But something notable happened
that day over the North Sea, and who is responsible for that and worthy of
glory changes depending on who is speaking. For his part, Rojohn, who
received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart, said he owes
his life to Leek. "In all
fairness to my co-pilot, he's the reason I'm alive today. He refused my
order to bail out and said 'I'm staying with you.' One of us could have
gotten out of that plane.
He's the reason I'm here today."
But Washington, his navigator, puts it this way: "Glenn said that he doesn't
consider himself a hero: but I do!
I will never forget his calm, matter-of-fact response as I paused
at the flight deck on my way out through the bomb bay and waist door. He
may have said, 'Get on out, Wash,' or merely motioned with his head, but I
knew he and Bill Leek had made their decision and several of us who jumped
over land probably owe our lives to their courage."
As to the mission itself, the "Contrails" editors wrote: There have
been amazing stunts pulled in the colorful and courageous history of man's
will to fly . . . but none more strangely heroic than the day Rojohn and
Leek safely crash-landed their two planes pick-a-back on a field in North