Crew 118

379BG /  524th "Little Minnie"

Dalhart, Texas

Osborn Group, Taken September, 1943

Sitting Left to Right
Pilot 2nd Lt. Edward T. Mueller Brentwood MD KIA/MIA  
Co-Pilot F/O Pascall C.Lynott Rossville, GA KIA/MIA  
Bombadier 2nd Lt. Turley E. Bird, Jr. Mars Hill, NC KIA/MIA  
Navigator 2nd Lt. Carl J. Helton, Jr. (or Halton) St. Louis, MO POW/NMI  
Back Row
    ? Unidentified Gentleman   KIA/MIA  
Ast. Engr Sgt. Ransom S. Jacobs Arlton, AL KIA/MIA  
Radio S/ Sgt. Jesse A. Hembree Viaa Rica, GA KIA/MIA  
Assit Radio Sgt. Harmon PICTURED WITH CREW - BUT NOT LISTED ON MACR REPORT AS MIA/ KIA
Tail Gunner S/Sgt. Robert P.  Blankenship Greenville, SC KIA/MIA  
Ast. Gunner S/Sgt. Herman C. Thomas Climax, GA KIA/MIA  
BT S/Sgt George G. Emery, Jr /Not Pictured Savannah, GA KIA/MIA  
RW Sgt.  Joseph W. Kampf/Not Pictured Novelty, OH KIA/MIA  

THE MISSION

It is thought this crew arrived at Kimbolton Airfield (AAF Station 117), Huntingdonshire either on the 16th or 17th of November, 1943, as part of an unusually large contingent of 30 replacement crews. On arrival, Lt. Muellerís crew was assigned to the 524th Bombardment Squadron and were housed on Site No. 4, located on the eastern side of the airfield. The new crews would have received a period of training both on the ground and in the air to familiarize themselves with the complexities of flying combat in the crowded and dangerous skies over Europe.

Lt. Mueller and his crew flew their first and only mission on Wednesday, December 22nd, 1943. The 379th Bombardment Group dispatched 21 aircraft to attack the marshalling yards at Osnabruck, Germany. These aircraft joined with 20 aircraft from the 384BG and 20 aircraft of 303BG to form the 41st Combat Wing over the Fens. In turn this combat wing joined up at Cromer, on the Norfolk coast, with three other Wings to complete the leading Air Task Force which departed England at 1246 hours. By this time there were some 248 B-17s airborne from units of the First Bombardment Division. When units from the Second and Third Bombardment Divisions and the fighter escort were taken into account over 1000 planes were involved in the day's mission.

The weather conditions were poor this day with thick cloud reducing visibility. Each Combat Wing was accompanied by a radar equipped Pathfinder aircraft, which would enable the lead plane to pick out the target in the vent of cloud cover over Germany. At some point during the mission the Pathfinder B-17 leading the 41st Wing aborted and none of the Groups in the Wing bombed Osnabruck marshalling yards because the solid under-cast obscured their primary target. So the 379th, along with the 384th and 303rd turned for home and bombed a target of opportunity in Germany when a hole in the clouds permitted.

For this mission Lt. Mueller had been assigned to fly B-17F 42-29724 "Little Minnie," carrying the fuselage codes WA-H. The WA denoted membership of the 524BS and the letter H was its radio call sign letter. This aircraft was normally parked on Hardstand No. 3, on one of the two cloverleaf dispersal areas near the railway line on the north side of the airfield.

Mission reports describe enemy opposition as "not severe". During the return flight over the North Sea, when the 379BG was almost halfway between Ijmuiden (Holland) and Great Yarmouth (England), Lt. Muellerís aircraft was seen to go into a dive, level off then pull up in a steep climb before finally going down in a spin. The plane disappeared into the dense clouds at 1800 feet. Returning crews reported seeing 3 parachutes and an Air Sea Rescue operation was set in motion, covering the general area of the North Sea where 724 was thought to have gone down. Sadly, none of the crew were ever found. The crew was commemorated on the Wall of the Missing in Cambridge or and Lt. Mueller at Margraten American Military Cemetery. The cause of their loss is listed as being downed by FLAK.  They were the only 379BG crew missing on the Groupís 51st mission. In all this day the Eighth Air Force lost 22 heavy bombers.

 

On the Flip Side:  This is what the eyewitness saw:  (Discovered Eye Witness in 2001)