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LT  Leroy W. DUNCAN

UNIT: 418th BOMB Sqdn POSITION: NAV

 Lt. LeRoy Duncan, Navigator on the William S. Appleton crew, part of Carl Hellerich's lead crew, and part of the Jean DePlanque crew. (Photo courtesy of Pat Hardenstine) Appleton crew information Hellerich crew information DePlanque crew information 

Lt Leroy Duncan, Nav on Lt Appleton Crew. Courtesy of Patricia Moore

SERIAL #: STATUS: FEH
MACR:

Comments1: 31 JAN 45 RTN WITH MAJOR DAMAGE/ awarded Soldiers Medal

COMMENTS & NOTES

MEMO 1:

CREW
                                  A/C "HEAVEN CAN WAIT"  #42-37517

2nd Lt William S.Appleton          P N0C
2nd Lt Daniel L.McKeen           CP  N0C
   F/O Leroy W.Duncan         NAV CPT see below Taps 23 Nov 1993
   Cpl  J.P. Judd                    BTG NOC
   Cpl David C.Hanby               TG  CPT   15/4/45 Royan
   Cpl Edward W..Ryan,Jr.      TTE  NOC
   Cpl Calvin F.Reed                WG  CPT  15/4/45 Royan
   Cpl Harry A.Sutherland         NG  CPT                
   Cpl Patrick B.Whelehan       ROG CPT   23/1/45  Does not match a mission date..

418th Sqdn. Crew,as above,joined 100th Group on 13/11/44. 

From p.94 of "CONTRAILS": "A near tragedy was averted on the last day of the month 
(Jan.1945),as a bomb laden aircraft roared low across the perameter in the 
fog,vainly seeking the runway.  One wing dipped and carried off an engineering tent. 
The plane crashed and licks of flame began to consume it.Crew members leaped 
from the plane. "Those RDX bombs are liable to go off quick!" someone said. The 
pilot, Lt.W.Appleton, was jammed in and unable to free himself.The 
co-pilot, D.McKeen,  and the englneer, E.Ryan, were vainly trying to extricate 
him. The large navigator, L.Duncan  put his weight to the task and Appleton 
was qulckly removed. Speed was the moving factor and the area was quickly 
cleared just as the plane exploded. No lives were lost." 

Missions flown by Cpl H. Sutherland with Lt Appleton Crew: (mpf)

1. 12/4/44  Giessen
2. 12/5/44  BERLIN
3.  12/11/44 Giessen, MY
4. 12/12/44 Darmstadt, MY
5. 12/18/44 Mainz
6. 12/24/44 Babenhausen
7. 12/28/44 Koblenz
8. 12/29/44 Frankfurt
    12/31/44 Hamburg-Abort-Blew tire on Take off
9. 1/2/45  Bad Kreuznach
10. 1/7/45  Cologne
11. 1/14/45  Derben
12. 1/17/45  Hamburg
13. 1/20/45  Heibrow
14. 1/28/45  Duisburg
15. 1/29/45  Kassel    
     1/31/45  Bremen  Recall                            

Letter from Duncan 16/4/87. He was not a POW. After crash of Appleton 
crew,he went to crew of Lt.  C.E.Hellerich and Dan McKeen to crew of J.V. 
DePlanque. Duncan says, " . . .Two gunners went into pool and finished. 
The others members were hospitalized and sent home eventually."
Of the crash at Thorpe Abbotts,Duncan has this to say.  "We 
aborted the Bremen (31 Jan 45) mission and when we got back it was 10/10 over 
England.Appleton volunteered  to see if we could get down.We 
crashed alongside the runway   he was absolved at inquiry because 
the ATS was 50' off to the right and we stalled when we saw we 
were off and tried to pick it up.(we still had a full rack of 
bombs (RDX)). We burned shortly after the crash and blew causing 
lots of damage. There were three Soldiers Medals awarded.

Lt Duncan also flew as Navigator with Capt. J.V. DePlanque and was part of Lt Hellerich Lead Crew-see below
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CREW

2nd Lt Carl E.Hellerlch           P  FEH   (spelled Hellrich in some reports)
2nd Lt Eddie W.Whitney   CP  FEH:
2nd Lt Eldred N.Stein     NAV  FEH  TAPS 10 JAN 69
T/Sgt Angelo A.Alfier     TOG  FEH ( toggler on the Crew until they became Lead Crew, then went to spare gunner/tog pool and eventually to Lee Jacobs Crew) 
T/Sgt James J.Finn         ROG  FEH
T/Sgt W.W. "Pete" Miller   TTE  FEH
S/Sgt Glenn L.Hatfield       BTG  FEH  TAPS 27 MAR 87
Sgt Robert L.Blair,Jr.        WG  FEH
Sgt Wlliam A.Platzner          TG  FEH  TAPS 05 SEP 87 

418th Sqdn.  Crew,as above,joined the 100th Group on 21/1/45. See p.166"CONTXAILS" Crew 
flew final mission of 100th Group on 20/4/45.  Leroy W.Duncan from the Appleton crew (Nav) 
flew a number of missions with this crew. Including that of 20/4/45.

****************************************************************************************************************
CREW BELOW APPEARD ON THE 3RD AIR DIVISION'S LIST OF HONOR ROLL CREWS FOR MARCH 1945..

CREW

 Command Pilot                Capt.R.J. Albrecht
 Pilot                            Lt. C. Hellerich (spelled Hellrich in some reports…pw)
 Co-Pilot  (Tail Observer) Lt. E. Whitney
 Navigator                     Lt. L.W. Duncan
 Radar Navigator            F/O J.H. Clinton
 Bombardier                  Lt. A.J. Shiurba (from Lee Jacobs original Crew)
 Radio Operator             S/Sgt J.J. Finn
 Top Turret Engineer     S/Sgt W.W. Miller
 Waist Gunner               Sgt R.L.Blair
 Waist Gunner               Sgt W.A. Platzner

Hi Dusty and Mike;
 
Here is what I have in my  files for your Grandfather. Carl flew on 5 of my dads crews (1st lt. W. Griswold "Gris" Smith) 10 combat missions…4,7,8,10,11, April,1945…
 
His info is limited I believe because he was busy training for a Lead Crew for an extended period…(Usually ran 3 to 4 weeks before flying as Lead crew on combat missions)..Also 1945 records are very limited,known of,found as yet. All the missions below were his Lead Crew missions,all on (PFF) Pathfinder aircraft. Also reference Hellerich records as marked on records,i.e., also as Hellerick
 
The format below is Date,Mission Target,Aircraft # Flown,Sqdn Code,radio tail call letter, Hardstand (HS) aircraft assigned to,Commany Pilot,Pilot, Position in Group Formation 
 
2ND LT. CARL HELLERICH
 
(KNOWN MISSIONS,INCOMPLETE, Jack O'Leary 1945 100thBG database) 
 
23 MARCH,1945  UNNA                          44-8009   XR-E    HS 14        LILENQUIST-HELLERICK D-SQDN LEAD
 
4 APRIL,1945      KEIL                           44-8776   LN-U    HS 30        HELLERICK  D-SQDN LEAD
 
7 APRIL,1945     BUCHEN                       44-8719   LN-W   HS 35        HELLERICK  C-SQDN LEAD
 
8 APRIL,1945     EGER                           44-8183             HS 43         ROBBS-HELLERICH  B-SQDN LEAD
 
10 APRIL,1945   BURG-bei-MAGDEBURG,  44-8009   XR-E    HS 14         HELLERICK   C-SQDN LEAD
 
11 APRIL,1945  LANDSHUT                    44-8794   LD-B    HS RW/04   HELLERICK  C-SQDN LEAD
 
15 APRIL,1945   ROYAN                        44-8209   EP-A    HS 8           HELLERICK   D-SQDN LEAD
 
20 APRIL,1945  ORANIENBURG                                                         STIVERS-HELLERICH  100TH BG LEAD,A-SQDN
 
 
CREW FLYING AT WARS END..MISSION OF 20 APR 45 IS ORANIEBURG; Led last mission of War for 100th Bomb Group:

 Command Pilot          Maj. R.W.  Stivers
 Pilot                          Lt. C. Hellerich (spelled Hellrich in some reports…pw)
 Co-Pilot(Tail Observer) Lt. E. Whitney
 Navigator                  Lt.  L.W. Duncan
 Radar Navigator         F/O J.H. Clinton
 Bombardier               Lt.  A.J. Shiurba (from Lee Jacobs origninal Crew)
 Radio Operator     S/Sgt   J.J. Finn
 Engineer              S/Sgt  W.W. Miller
 Waist Gunner          Sgt   R.L.Blair
 Waist Gunner          Sgt  W.A. Platzner


CHOWHOUND-FERRY MISSIONS
 
6 MAY,1945   CHOWHOUND   44-8794   LD-B   HS 40   HELLERICH  D- SQDN LEAD
 
3 JUNE,1945  DP/POW  FERRY MISSION   908  W   HS 49   DAWSON-HELLERICK        C-SQDN LEAD   AUSTRIA TO PARIS   (note- a/c hardstand change from  HS  RW/04) 
 
PFF AIRCRAFT FLOWN
44-8719 LN-W
44-8009  XR-E
44-8776  LN-U
44-8794  LD-B
44-8183  LD-Q
44-8209  EP-A  "THE BRASS HAT"
     908    W  (currently  unknown a/c details) 

TAPS:  LEROY  W. DUNCAN
On December 27, 1993, in Sinking Springs, Pennsylvainia, of congestive heart failure, with complications from diabetes.  Roy (to all 100th veterans) was the Navigator who climbed into a burning plane, "Heaven Can Wait," which had crashed on the runway. He saved his pilot, William Appleton and, with the help of a member of his crew their co - pilot, Daniel McKeen, whom they somehow pulled through the top window of the pilot's compartment.  He finished his tour as Lead Navigator in the 418th Squadron. Roy became ill en route home from the 100th's 1993 reunion in Little Rock, AK and never recovered.  (from Harry Sutherland)
*************************************************************************************************************

                                                         Reading Eagle-Reading PA
                                                          6 Mar 1963 Page 59 and 61.

                                                            SUPERHUMAN FEATS 
                                                               by Dave Meister 
                                                                   Staff Writer

The following stories read like finely spun tales of fiction. But they happened. Unbelievable as they may seem, they happened. These are the chronicles of a man who single-handedly ripped apart the cockpit of a B-17 bomber to rescue his pilot in World War II, (story of another person(s) continues).  These are the tales of the superhumans. LeRoy W. Duncan, 305 Stevens Ave., Sinking Spring, does not look like an overpowering man. Of average height, sporting a neatly trimmed, snow-white beard and mustache and a barrel round midsection, he could easily pass for a department store Santa.  But, on the morning of Jan. 30, 1945, LeRoy W. Duncan, then 26, was overpowering.  Duncan , now 65, was the navigator on the B-17 nicknamed, "Heaven Can Wait." And on Jan. 30, 1945, the crew of Heaven Can Wait was leading a bombing mission over Hamburg, Germany.  Ironically, Duncan was the navigator on Heaven Can Wait when the aircraft was hit with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire on a mission to Hamburg on Jan. 17. On that mission, the Plexiglass nose of the bomber-the navigator's catbird seat-was shattered by shrapnel. > Ground crews repaired the bomber after the scathed chunk of metal plunked down on the runway at Thorpe Abbott Army Air Force Station in England. The Plexiglass nose was the last item repaired, the last of the glue applied 24 hours before the morning of Jan. 30. Although crew members said the glass needed at least 36 hours to bond, the order was given to takeoff. 

That order would save Duncan's life.  The airfield was locked in a blanket of fog when Heaven Can Wait took off for its mission to Hamburg. However, less than 20 minutes from the target, the mission was canceled and the crews ordered to return. But, the pilot was unaware that the bombs on his aircraft had been fused and prepped for the target drop. In effect, the aircraft was a flying stick of dynamite. The bombardier had told Duncan about the bombs, but not the pilot.  The weather back at Thorpe Abbott airfield had worsened by the time the bombers returned home. Visibility was near zero. Landing would be treacherous. (Turn to Page 61) - (Continued from page 59)  After several blind circles over the airfiled, the pilot decided to land. Duncan, with his face literally planted inches away form the Plexiglass nose, guided the pilot by radio.  But, the fog was just too thick.  " I looked up and saw a tree over my head," said Duncan in an interview in his home. " I told the pilot, "We're too low. Pull it up, pull it up."  It was too late, Heaven Can Wait had lost considerable airspeed and was now plummeting toward the ground.  The right wing hit the ground first, digging into the earth with such force it folded back under the aircraft and stripped off the landing gear. The rest of the bomber crashed nose first into a freshly plowed potato field. A fuel tank on the right wing caught fire and the plane began to burn. > The impact of the crash hurled Duncan through the nose like a slingshot violently releases a rock from its leather pouch. If the Plexiglass had been firmly bonded as it should have been, Duncan would surely have been crushed by the impact. Instead, he landed 200 feet from the burning bomber-face down and in a semiconscious state. > Duncan was sanpped back to the conscious world by the smell of the burning craft. And all he could think about was the bombs and his fellow crew members.  "I could hear the flames in back of me," said Duncan, "and the thing I wanted to do most was to go back to sleep. But I knew I couldn't do that. Everything was going gray.  " But I could see the flames coming from the cockpit. I stumbled back to the plane and I saw that the co-pilot was yelling to me. The pilot was trapped in the burning cockpit." > Duncan climbed onto the left wing of the bomber and brushed aside the co-pilot.  Getting inside the airplane was hopeless. And, reaching in from the outside and pulling out the unconscious pilot through the charred remains of the cockpit was impossible. The opening just was not there.  Realizing he only had minutes, perhaps seconds, to get the pilot out, Duncan wasted no time searching for a crowbar to create a larger opening in the cockpit. He used his hands.  Duncan wrapped his compact but powerful hands around the jagged edges of the metal of the cockpit and ripped it apart like a can opener tears open canned goods. He peeled apart the metal in this way until a path was cleared to the pilot.  " It was like ripping a piece of newsprint, " Duncan said, " I took the whole damn thing right off."  Once inside the cockpit, Duncan grabbed the pilot by the shoulders and started to lift him. The pilot would not budge. During the crash, one of his legs became pinned between the crumpled cockpit seats.  Although the pilot was a big man-about 6-foot-1 tall, 200 pounds - Duncan tightened his grip on the pilot's shoulders and preceded to twirl his upper body until the leg was free. He then pulled him up out of the cockpit, flung him across his shoulders, and backed off the plane.  On the ground, Duncan began to feel weak. Someone else carried off the wounded pilot, who recovered within weeks. Duncan stayed behind to warn curious onlookers to stay away from Heaven Can Wait, which had now become a ticking time bomb. Before the ambulance could get, to him, Duncan had passed out. And as the ambulance drove off, Heaven Can Wait exploded.  Even today, Duncan remembers that his body behaved in an abnormal fashion on that English airfield.  "I know I exceeded the strength of my body," said Duncan, a semiretired quality control consultant. "X-Rays, taken later that day, revealed that my body was one massive set of inplace fractures," he recalled. "Whatever strength I used was more than the body itself was prepared to support. But at the time, I thought it was a perfectly natural thing for me to do. I viewed the crash as a minor irritation and I had to straighten it out."  Duncan received the Soldiers Medal for heroism outside of combat.
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Obit-Reading Eage, Reading, PA __ Dec 1993 page ___
LeRoy Duncan; decorated hero
LeRoy W. Duncan, 75, a decorated Army Air Force veteran of World War II, died of natural causes Monday in his residence at 305 Stevens Ave., Sinking Spring.  He was the husband of Ruth E. (Joncas) Duncan. > During the war, Duncan was a navigator on a B-17 bomber nicknamed "Heaven can wait."  The aircraft was headed to Hamburg, Germany, on a bombing mission when it was recalled to Thorpe Abbott Army Air Force Station in England because of heavy fog. > The bomb-laden plane crashed just before landing. Duncan and a co-pilot were thrown from the craft, but the pilot was trapped inside. Duncan used his bare hands to rip apart the cockpit of the burning bomber to free the pilot. > The bombs on the aircraft exploded a short time later. > He received to Soldier's Medal for heroism outside of combat for savings the pilot's life. > Born in Saugus, Mass., he was a son of the late LeRoy Duncan and the late Helen G. (Semons) Duncan Farley.  Duncan was employed as a quality control manager for Reading Tube Corp. for 16 years and the former Caloric Corp., Topton, for 10 years, retiring in 1981. > After retiring, he served as a consultant in quality control and taught statistics at Albright College and the Allentown Campus of Pennsylvania state University. > He was a board member and secretary of the American Society for Quality Control, serving on their recertification program. > A noted musician, Duncan played the trumbone and bass violin for the Reading Pops, the Hershey Symphony, and the Horizon Center Orchestra. He also sang in Reading Civic Opera, the Reading Choral Society and the Reading Liederkranz. > He was a member of St. John's United Church of Christ, Sinking Spring, and its choir. > Other survivors include four daughters, Bonnie Hardenstine, Harrisburg; Sally A., wife of John E. Spinola, Reno, Nev.; Jill D., wife of Robert C. Burress, Denver, Colo.; and Janice Jones, Tioga, Tioga County. > There are also five grandchildren and five great grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 1 p.m. in St. John's United Church of Christ. Bean Funeral Home, Sinking Spring, is in charge of arrangements.

MEMO 2:

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT INFORMATION:

TARGET: DATE:  
AIRCRAFT: CAUSE:  

BURIAL INFORMATION

PLOT: ROW:  
GRAVE: CEMETERY:  

PHOTOS:

Heaven Can Wait 337517 after Crash landing. Courtesy of Patricia Moore

Courtesy of Patricia Moore

Medal display of Lt Leroy Duncan . Photo Courtesy of Patricia Moore

Little Rock Reunion nametag. Courtesy of Patricia Moore

William S. Appleton Crew (left to right)
Standing: Calvin Reed (Assistant Engineer), W. S. Appleton (P), Daniel McKeen (CP)
Leroy Duncan (NAV), Patrick Whelehan (ROG)
Kneeling: J. P. Judd (BTG and Assistant Radio), Edward Ryan (TTE), Harry Sutherland (TOG), David Hanby (TG)
(100th Photo Archives)

 Carl Hellerich Crew (left to right) Standing: Bob Blair, Carl Hellerich, Eddie Whitney, Leroy Duncan, Jim Finn Kneeling: Eddie (Pete) Miller, John Clinton, and Tony SHIURBA(Photo Courtesy of Pat Hardenstine) Hellerich crew information 

 Carl Hellerich Crew (Right to Left) Standing: LeRoy Duncan, Carl Herrerich, Eddie (Pete) Miller, Bob Blair. Kneeling: Jim Finn, Tony Shiurba, John Clinton, Eddie Whitney. (Photo courtesy of Pat Hardenstine) Hellerich crew information

 Lt. William S. Appleton crew that received the Air Medal. (Photo Courtesy of Pat Hardenstine) Appleton crew information 

 This is most of the William S. Appleton crew stateside with another Pilot and Bombardier. Back row L to R: Hill W. Bohannon, Daniel McKeen, Arthur Weiss, LeRoy W. Duncan. Kneeling L to R: Edward Ryan, Patrick Whelehan, Harry Sutherland, J. P Judd, Calvin Reed, and David Hanby. (Photo courtesy of Pat Hardenstine) Appleton crew information 

Partial Jean DePlanque Crew
L to R: 1st Lt. Leroy Duncan-Navigator, Capt. Jean DePlanque-Pilot, 1st Lt. Daniel McKeen-Co-Pilot, 1st Lt. Unknown-BOM, S/Sgt. Joseph Kosik-TTE, S/Sgt. Raymond Kowalski-ROG 
Photo Courtesy of Pat Hardenstine


 

 

SERVED IN:

Crew 1

Crew 2

Crew 3

ID: 1407