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MACR PILOT: 2Lt  Billy B.  Blackman  - O-414787

MACR: 11364 FICHE : 04182

ORGANIZATION

LOCATION: AAF Station #139 COMMAND: VIII AF GROUP: 100th Bomb Gp (H) AAF
SQUADRON: 418th BS DETACHMENT:  
     

DETAIL

DEPARTURE:AAF Station #139 INITIAL COURSE: E  
INTENDED DESTINATION: Hamburg    
MISSION TYPE:Operational    

WEATHER & VISIBILITY AT TIME OF LAST REPORT

CONDITION: CAVU    

GIVE

DATE: 1944-12-31 TIME: 11:50 LOCATION: 5330

SPECIFY:

Last Sighted

CONFIRMED OR BELIEVED REASON FOR LOSS

LOSS DUE TO : Enemy aircraft

OTHER REASON FOR LOSS:

AIRCRAFT: 43-38215

TYPE: B-17 SERIES: G  
     
     

ENGINES:

MODEL: R-1820-97    
A: SW-018555
B: SW-019222
C: SW-019232
D: 074232
   

INSTALLED WEAPONS:

A: 683935
B: 685049
C: 675047
D: 674232
E: 683676
F: SW-019236
G: 683394
H: 683390
I: 407044
J: 3744209
K: 684456
L: 684779

PERSONS BELOW ARE LISTED AS:

CASUALTY TYPE: Battle casualty  
NUMBER OF PERSONS ON BOARD:    
CREW: 10 PASS: 0 TOTAL: 10

PERSONNEL:

POSITION NAME RANK SERIAL
P1
P2 Billy B.  Blackman 2Lt O-414787
CP Robert E. Freshour 2Lt O-2059161
NAV (N) William M. Sterrett 2Lt O-925746
BOM (B) Andrew M. Herbert. SSgt 34653337
RAD Robert E. Fortney SSgt 15382027
ENG Joseph T. Pearl SSgt 16135683
BAL Stanley P. Carson SSgt 37683440
WG (W) Thomas C. Pace SSgt 39680650
WG (W)
TG (T) Basil Numack SSgt 42061027

PERSONS WHO ARE BELIEVED TO HAVE LAST KNOWLEDGE OF AIRCRAFT

John McLaughlin 2Lt O-816523
Last sighted
Francis R. Mikesh 1Lt O-747461
   

PERSONNEL WHO ARE BELIEVED TO HAVE SURVIVED

REASON: OTHER:  

EYEWITNESS DESCRIPTIONS OF CRASH

Report:
A/C 215 sustained a direct flak hit on the #2 engine which began to smoke and finally stopped. E/A began to attack as it began to lag. One engine burst into flames and a moment later the aircraft exploded. One chute was seen.
   
   
Second Witness: No Data  
Report:

DESCRIPTION OF SEARCH EFFORT

DETAIL:No search made.

PREPARING OFFICER

PREPARED BY: GEORGE D. ALLEN Capt Air Corps Assistant Adjutant

DATE PREPARED: 1945-01-06

TRANSCRIBER NOTES


REPORT:

December 31, 1944 is one day in my life that I will never forget. We were gotten out of bed at the usual time and went through the usual procedure of getting ready to go. When the map was uncovered in the briefing room we all gave a sigh, knowing Hamburg was a tough target. For what ever reason I believe the entire crew felt this would be our last mission. We would not be flying our regular plane due to an engine problem and were assigned one from another squadron.

When we had finished all out checks we all gathered in the tent and waited by the fire until start engine time. It was the usual procedure to kid one another and shoot the bull but everyone was quiet on the morning. We never told the ground crew where we were going, it was against security regulations, but they had a good idea about the target by observing our actions. I am sure they knew we were "sweating this one out. " They were a swell bunch and would do everything in their power to help us get back.

We took off at 0715 hours and assembled over England. We left the English coast at 0900 and went up over the North Sea. The weatherman had told us the weather conditions were not good, which soon became evident. The wind was supposed to be about 150 knots at altitude, but it was much stronger. Consequently we drifted about 30 miles south of course which put us almost over Holland. The lead navigator began to correct out heading which made us fly almost directly into the wind, reducing our ground speed to under 100 miles per hour.

We were supposed to come in above Helgoland Island but instead came in below and had to turn directly into the wind to reach the I. P. We were talking over the interphone and wondering what was going to happen next. Helogland, our secondary target, was heavily defended; still we wished we could drop our bombs there.

We finally got to our I. P. , turned on the rack switch, opened the Bomb Bay doors and started down the bomb run. At this point we usually turned off our heated flying suits because the nervous energy was enough to keep us warm. Out turn to the bomb run heading was to the right and we were on the outside causing us to lag a little, but we were able to get back in position.

We could see the target from the I. P. and it took us 10 minutes to get over it. A group hit an airfield off our right. We could also see the groups in front of us getting shot at and we knew we would soon be in the middle of the action, No one was saying a word, we were just hoping and praying we would come through without trouble.

Finally we got back into the flak which was really close. We could hear the shells as the burst, which is too close for comfort. On our Frankfurt mission told the boys that I could hear the pieces of shrapnel hitting the ship and they had all said I was getting "Flak Happy. " I knew they would agree with me this time.

At 1133 the lead ship dropped his smoke bombs which was the signal for all of the wing ships to drop their bombs. Andy hit the toggle switch and out went our bombs. You always felt better as soon as the bombs were gone; the job was done. We started for our rally point, after flying about two minutes, Carson, the Ball Turret Gunner, called Bill and reported oil pouring out of the number three engine. This was confirmed by the oil pressure gauge and Bill feathered No# 3. After three stopped turning, Carson called with he news that number four was also leaking oil. Bill feathered it also, and with only two engines running we could not maintain altitude or stay with the formation speed wise. We could have still made it without the other complications to follow.

Bill exhorted us to "Stick with it and we could still make it home. " I gave him a heading for the North Sea. Bill tried unsuccessfully to call in fighter escort, they had been grounded by the weather over England. There had been "bandits" reported in the area and at that instant Joe yelled that they were coming in at six o'clock. I looked through the astro dome and saw two FW-190s coming up on our tail. We could see tracers as they passed us, 20mm shells were also flying around. Now we all realized our chances of getting through were slim.

A 20mm shell exploded in the cockpit and knocked all the insulation between the pilots compartment and the nose into the nose. The ship was on fire and when it started to enter a spin I knew it was time to leave. When I got to the escape hatch Bob was lying on the catwalk on his back. Thinking he was hurt I started to help him, but he got up and told me to get out. I put my foot on the door and pushed it our and then jumped. Andy was following me and when he got to the door Bob was there and Andy followed him out. Clearing the ship I took off helmet and pulled my rip cord, looking back I saw the ship explode.

Bill said he reached behind his head to fire the berry pistol to call for help and 20mm exploded which knocked him out. We he came to he rang the bail out bell and managed to get his chute on. When he got down in the nose the ship blew up. He came to falling through space and pulled his rip cord. The next thing he knew he was on the ground and Krauts were standing around him. They told him another boy had been found with his chute open but he was dead. This was undoubtedly Bob Freshour since he was reported killed and the rest of us POWs or missing in action.

I don't know what happened to the rest of the boys, but I think Basil and Joe were killed by the fighters; Carson was unable to get out of the Ball and Fortney did not have his chute on. There is no way to be sure since we never saw each other after take-off -- unless we were in the same compartment.

I lost my gloves when I jumped and could not get may hand in my pockets dure to the chute hareness being too tight. They turned white and stiff but I thought that the loss of a hand was a small price to pay for life.

I bailed out at 27000 feet and it took about fifteen minutes to reach the ground. I landed in the middle of field and had visions of gettng to some near by woods until I saw a bumch of Krauts with rifles coming from all directions. The Germans searched me and told me the war was over for me.

The two men who got to me first had quite an argument over who should get credit for my capture. Finally one of them told me to gather up my chute and it on the back of his bike and push the bike down the road. I feared they were going to take me into town and lynch me; this was not the case as I was turned over to the local Bourgemaster.

I stayed there until about 1800 hours when a German Major came to find my name rank and serial number. Since he did not understand English he asked me to write it down in his book. When I took the book I noticed Tom Pace's name and knew he was safe. In about another hour the guard who had captured me came and took me to a German Airfield. Tom Pace was also there. Inside they searched us for any concealed weapons and took all out personal belongings. Afterwards they took us through some woods to a barracks. As I went out the door I saw Andie's cigarette lighter and through he was probably alive.

When we arrived at the barracks they took us into the CO's room where Andy (Andrew Hubert) had been most of the afternoon. One of the Germans could speak a little English so Andy told him we would like some of the bread and potatoes he had been given earlier. The bread hard to digest but we managed to eat most of it, nearly choking in the process - - there would be a time when we would have been very glad to have gotten bread like this.

At bed time a guard took us into a room which had three straw ticks on the floor. The guard locked us in and posted himself outside. We laid down and tried to sleep, but were too nervous and excited to sleep. Tom told us he had been blown out of the ship. The last thing he remembered he was lying on the floor in the waist and could not move. Then he came to, reached for his rip cord but the concussion had broken his shroud and the chute dangled above his head. He finally gathered his wits and pulled the rip cord.

On Tuesday Jan 2 we left on a two and one half day trip to the Frankfurt Interrogation center. We were on about six different trains, riding in the same car as the Germans.

We had a big scare at noon on the second day. Approaching Fulda, the target we attacked December 27th, when the sirens started to sound and the train stopped. All the people jumped off and into track ditches. Soon the bombs began to fall and it sounded like nothing I have ever heard. When the raid was over the train could not move due to damaged tracks. We had to walk all way through the town to get to another train. Bombs had fallen all over the city killing lots of people and setting many fires. The civilians recognized us and wanted to lynch us, our guards would not allow it. We were very thankful for the character of our guards. Coming to the other train we found about 20 other American airmen who had been captured. Many were from our group--Not surprising when we found the 100th had lost 12 aircraft on December 31, 1944.

By William W. Sterrett