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LT  John L. BURTCH

UNIT: 418th BOMB Sqdn POSITION: NAV
SERIAL #: O-691762 STATUS: POW
MACR: 03021 CR: 03021

Comments1: 6 MAR 44 BERLIN (EAC)

COMMENTS & NOTES

MEMO 1:

CREW

    Lt Sherwin L.Barton               P  POW      6/3/44  BERLIN
    Lt George W.Davidson          CP  POW      6/3/44 BERLIN
    Lt John L.Burtch                NAV  POW     6/3/44  BERLIN
    Lt Bernard J.Smolens          BOM  POW     6/3/44 BERLIN
 S/Sgt Jack M.Robins              ROG   POW     6/3/44 BERLIN
 S/Sgt Harvey A.Moore           TTE   POW     6/3/44 BERLIN
   Pvt Robert J.Taylor             BTG   POW     6/3/44 BERLIN
   Sgt Frank J.Foldy               RWG   POW     6/3/44 BERLIN
   Sgt Paul H.Morris               LWG   POW     6/3/44 BERLIN
   Sgt James W.Powell              TG  POW     6/3/44 BERLIN

418th Sqdn. Crew,as above,joined the 100th Group on 21/2/44. 
MACR  #3021,Micro fiche #1021 First two missions were Recalls
but on March 6, 1944, this crew was shot down.  


Date Last Name Initial Rank Position Aircraft Nbr Target 
3/3/1944 DAVIDSON G.W. LT CP 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944 BARTON S.L. LT P 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944  MORRIS P.H. SGT LWG 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944  BURTCH J.I. LT NAV 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944 SMOLENS J.M. LT BOM 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944 ROBINS J.M. T/SGT ROG 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944 MOORE H.E. T/SGT TTE 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944 TAYLOR R.H. SGT BTG 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944 FOLDY F.J. SGT RWG 231800 BERLIN 
3/3/1944 POWELL J.W. SGT TG 231800 BERLIN 

3/4/1944  POWELL J.W. SGT TG 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944  SMOLENS J.M. LT BOM 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944  BARTON S.L. LT P 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944  BURTCH J.I. LT NAV 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944  ROBINS J.M. T/SGT ROG 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944  MOORE H.E. T/SGT TTE 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944 TAYLOR R.H. SGT BTG 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944  FOLDY F.J. SGT RWG 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944  MORRIS P.H. SGT LWG 231800 BERLIN 
3/4/1944  DAVIDSON G.W. LT CP 23231800 BERLIN 

3/6/1944 POWELL J.W. SGT TG 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 MORRIS P.H. SGT LWG 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 FOLDY F.J. SGT RWG 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 TAYLOR R.H. SGT BTG 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 MOORE H.E. T/SGT TTE 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 ROBINS J.M. T/SGT ROG 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 SMOLENS J.M. LT BOM 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 BURTCH J.I. LT NAV 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 DAVIDSON G.W. LT CP 231800 BERLIN 
3/6/1944 BARTON S.L. LT P 231800 BERLIN


The following is a transcription of Lt Sherwin Barton’s diary kept while in Stalag Luft I.

This will start out as all stories do, with the date and time of arrival in Germany via parachute.  We, Combat Crew 32, 418th Sqdrn, 100th Grp, 8th Air Force were shot down in flames near Oldenburg Germany, March 6, 1944. Four men were wounded, but all arrived alive.  Sgt Taylor [Ball Turret] was hit in both legs above and below the knees with 20mm fragments, T/Sgt Moore [Top Turret - Engineer] was hit in the leg with .303 slugs, Sgt Morris [Waist Gunner] was hit in the legs with fragments and Second Lieutenant Burtch [Navigator] was hit in the left wrist with 20 mm fragments. 

We started out for our third try in a row for Berlin.  We all felt that we'd succeed this time, we did succeed, via a "40 and 8" box car
As usual my insides were tight and I couldn't seem to check our ship enough. Oxygen, ammunition, flak suits, guns, spare chutes and spare oxygen masks were all O. K. but I still checked and rechecked until time to start engines. I apparently had a premonition of what was to follow, because I changed our bail out signals to , if you hear the warning bell and there are no planes within 1,000 feet, jump!

We were flying a borrowed ship  231800 , as the “Susan B” was laid up for repairs from our pervious mission. Our position in the group was as good as could be expected, but flak is no respecter of position. 

We assembled and gain altitude as we crossed the North Sea, heading for the coast of Holland.  We arrived, naturally, and Jerry sent up his greeting in flak-mean stuff and rather sudden in its appearance.  We threaded our way through the first flak belt and prepared to go through some heavy stuff.  One of our ships had been hit going in and had “aborted” with No. 3 Engine feathered.  We could see the next flak barrage ahead, it was slowly getting the altitude and I could see we were going to get some hits.  Our fighter escort left us at this point and I could see, high above us and to the left, contrails being made by approaching enemy fighters.  I had just settled down to do some conscientious formation flying when we flew into the flak.  About this time enemy fighters attacked from head on, and their first past sent our Squadron leader down in flames [Lt Miner Crew in 238059].  His left wing man was knocked out and set on fire in the same pass [Lt Kendal in 230278 Sly Fox].  The both went down and to the right.  We were hit but still under control.  I slipped the ship down and to the left to close the gap left by the first pass. Before I could close the gap, we were hit again.  Folke Wulfe 190’s were going through our formation like wind through a picket fence, ten and fifteen at a time. I looked ahead and saw two “Forts” going down from the group ahead of us.  Chutes were all over the sky.  We were catching hell for sure.  I'd had the dubious pleasure on my first mission of seeing another group under fighter attack. Now I was on the receiving end, and “It aint funny McGee.”

We were hit for the third time just as I got into position and my rudder controls went slack. I knew we were getting hit in the tail but didn't know how badly. I pulled  No.3 and 4 throttles back and just barely missed side swiping the ship on my left. My rudder was gone, and I was using my throttles to give me lateral control of the ship.

I had just got back into position again when a “190” got direct hits in the leading edge of the right wing just outboard of No.4 engine. He was using 20mm explosives, and as luck would have it, the wind got under the frayed edges of the wing “skin” and ripped off a strip that was about six feet wide; it ran all the way back to the trailing edge of the wing.  The ship immediately went into a violent turn to the right and it was all my Copilot and I could do to keep the ship from going over on her back.  I said a prayer then and there and thanked God it hadn't been my left wing, because we'd have ploughed into the ship on our left, and I probably wouldn't be alive to tell of it. 

Even when things were rough, a lopsided sort of luck was on our side. Our left wing tip was shot away which helped balance the loss of so much skin from our right wing.  Even then, with our entire aileron to the left, we were in a bank of 5 or 6 degrees to the right.  Something was wrong with the tail, and we had to keep the stick full forward to stay on a level keel. 

You have read stories of wolves gathering around a campfire waiting for a victim.  Picture yourself in that predicament, and walk away from the fire; then you'll know how I felt when I saw our group drifting away to the left.  The “190’s” were building a traffic pattern around us and were moving in for the kill. Suddenly, the controls went slack!  It took me three weeks to get my heart out of my throat.  I flipped on the automatic pilot, and I did some frantic knob-twisting.  The only control that worked was the aileron.  I threw it full left and glanced up at the instrument panel.  My airspeed was dropping fast and if she stalled, we were “gone geese”.  I tried my last resort and spun the elevator trim tab full forward. Thank God it worked but even with it full forward the ship just barely flew level. I had wanted to “hit the deck” but no chance now.  I was hoping we could pick up some fighter escort and fly a huge circle until we were over England.  Just then the ship jerked, we had been hit by flak. A shell had gone through the leading edge of the left wing between No.1 and 2 engines, and had exploded about fifty feet above the wing. I took a good look and part of No.1’s oil cooler was sticking up like a finger of fate.  About this time, the interphone was shot out and I was beginning to wonder what the hell I was doing in the Air Corps. My Copilot started pointing at No.3 engine. I looked over and we had a nice fire in No.3 nacelle.  The blaze was “behind the firewall”.  I motioned for my Copilot to get his chute on, but he couldn't seem to understand me. I took off my oxygen mask off and hollered at him twice.  Still he could not seem to understand.  When I ripped off my flak suit and reached for my chute, he didn't waste any time getting his own.

I flipped the warning bell on and did something I'd wanted to do ever since I'd flown “Forts,” I salvoed the bombs from the cockpit. There were ten 500 lb demolition bombs and I often wonder whose turnip patch I ploughed up.  I pulled the engineer out of the top turret and his only comment was “That right wing sure looks like hell”.  He picked up his chute and started back through the bomb bay. I went down into the nose and pulled my navigator away from his side nose gun. We were still under attack.  When he turned around, he looked as though he was wondering “What the hell are you doing down here at a time like this.”

MEMO 2:

Crew had been at Thorpe Abbotts about 2 weeks.

KIA / MIA / EVA / INT INFORMATION:

TARGET: Berlin DATE: 1944-03-06  
AIRCRAFT: (42-31800) CAUSE: EAC  

BURIAL INFORMATION

PLOT: ROW:  
GRAVE: CEMETERY:  
ID: 663