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29 May 1944

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cathreese
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/10/23 10:20:39 (permalink)
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Martin & Ahron:
 
I'm researching the May 22, 1944 crash of the "Bayou Gal", 305BG 364BS, which exploded over Kiel.  It could be helpful to compare notes.  I am particularly interested in learning more about the pilot, Lt. C. Marvin Gerber, who was also Jewish.  It must have been a very personal war he fought.  My grandmother's cousin William Hamilton was a waist gunner on this aircraft, and sadly the entire crew of 10 were killed.
 
regards,
Cathy
ahronshapiro
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/10/25 07:49:53 (permalink)
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Hi Cathy,
I don't envy the challenge of researching a crew from a plane that exploded with no survivors. I've checked your other thread and you have done great work finding the plaque that was dedicated at the synagogue Gerber's family attended.
I would have to say the synagogue would still be your best place to look for anybody who may have known Gerber. Still, it's a very cold trail to follow after all these years.
Have you checked the 1930 Census for any brothers and sisters who may still be alive? That Census has been a good source of leads, at least for me.

I've had relatively very good luck with my research so far with the Jersey Belle. While none of the original crew members are still alive today, at least two or three spouses or siblings are alive and lots of children and grandchildren. I even found a surviving family member on Facebook! All the survivors of the Jersey Belle lived relatively long lives and left traceable people who may still know their stories.

Regarding Lt. Ezra Shapiro, I can assure you - from my late father's accounting of his brother's motivations - that the war against the Nazis was indeed a personal war for him, as it was for many Jews. In fact, until his death, my father shunned German-made products.

That said, I believe Ezra was the kind of person who would have volunteered for the war regardless - he was certainly a patriot and shared a fighting spirit with his non-Jewish crew. I have two Jewish family members who served in the Pacific with distinction, so I'm sure you could say Jews were as motivated as anyone to fight for the USA in WWII regardless of where they were deployed.

On a side note, you may find it interesting that Jersey Belle crew member Harry Arfman's father was an immigrant from Germany. So it was a very interesting mix on board.

Let me know if there is any specific information I can help find for you.
cathreese
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/10/27 07:26:45 (permalink)
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Thanks Ahron!
It certainly has been challenging.  There appear to be a very few siblings and in-laws of the crew still alive, but again at their ages I am concerned about upsetting them, etc.
 
Interestingly I have located but not yet made contact with Gerber's nephew who was named after him.  He is apparently a prominent physician in California (he has a different last name).  I could use some pointers on reaching out to family members.
 
One thing that has helped my research is that both Lt. Gerber and his co-pilot Houison Reed were fairly prominent in their communities and got several mentions in their local newspapers.  The Gerbers were pillars of the Hagerstown Jewish community and Marvin had a bit of an acting career, performing in several comedies.   Reed's father was the district attorney of their parish and Houison was a high school football star.  Of course this doesn't substitute for the specifics that family members could provide.  After this long, I'm hoping someone at least kept photos and letters.
 
I'm getting a lot of help from a friend who is a Holocaust scholar.  Certainly your family's stories reflect those of most Jewish servicemen in that tragic era.
 
Thanks again,
Cathy
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/10/27 08:11:03 (permalink)
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I would like to post Lt. Wilkinson's crew photo that was taken during training at Dalhart AFB during the crew's training.



A scan of the photo was emailed to me by the family of Ball Gunner Marvin Beasley.
On the back, he wrote the names and origins of the crew.
First name added in brackets added by me, as well as their position on May 29, 1944, also in brackets.
Front row: left to right
[Earl] Ketchledge, PA, LW Engr [Right Waist Gunner]
[Harry] Arfman, Tex, RW Engr [Left Waist Gunner]
[Henry] [Robert] Turton, Calif, Radio Oper [Not on 5/29/44 flight]
[John] Deckard, Ind, Armaerer (sp?) [Top Turret Gunner]
[Verner] Bartholomew, Neb, Tail Gunner

Back row: left to right:
[Robert] Wilkinson, Calif Pilot
[Ezra] Shapiro NY, Co-Pilot
[George] Cooley, FLA, Navigator
[???] Kenned, Neb Bombardier [Not on 5/29/44 flight]

An asterisk under the list denoted that the ball gunner - likely Beasley himself - was in the hospital at the time the photo was taken and is missing from the lineup.

Radio Operator Joseph Kobrierecki was flying with Wilkinson's crew for the first time on May 29, 1944. It's not clear when Kenned was replaced with Bombardier Lawrence Singleton - if it was a temporary fill-in or a longer-term switch, I don't know.

I'm posting this photo to honour the service of these men but also to encourage anyone who can provide more information about this crew, and especially my uncle Ezra Shapiro, to send me a message, make a posting or otherwise get in touch with me, even if they come across this post years from now.

On a side note - can anybody identify that trainer B-17 "Dottie" in the photograph? I know there were a few Dotties in the fleets. A book of nose art that mentions "Dottie" shows nose art that looked different. I suppose it's possible they are the same plane and the nose art was redone at a later date. Any guesses?
post edited by ahronshapiro - 2010/12/17 08:33:57
patootie
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/10/27 16:12:13 (permalink)
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Hello
original "Dottie" was 41-24411 (92nd then 97th BG)
 
link to another "Dottie" III :
http://www.footnote.com/image/#55704049
 
another aircrafts
Dottie : 44-8248 (97th BG 414th BS)
Dottie G 2nd : 42-31978 (92nd BG 325th BS)
Dottie J :  42-29654 (96th then 351st BG)
Dottie J II : 42-30160 (96th BG)
Dottie J.III : 42-3348 (96th BG)
Dottie Jane : 42-31227 (94th then 447th BG)
Dotty : 42-30650 (305th BG)
Dotty G :  42-37755 (92nd BG)
 
 
Daniel
 
 
ahronshapiro
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/11/03 23:58:49 (permalink)
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Some documents in the MACR for Wilkinson's crew shows that the plane, 42-31475 Fuselage code WF-B was a B17-G. Others say B17-F.
Can anyone please confirm which model it was?
Ian White
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/11/04 03:30:43 (permalink)
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Hi
Our 305th roster for B-17's flown from Chelveston, show #475 asa Boeing built 'G' model. Assigned to group 28th December 1943, one of a batch of 'G' models that the group received in. Carried fuselage codes WF-'B'.
 
Ian

Ian White - 1st VP 2012-2013, 305th BGMA Hon. Life Associate, UK-European Contact and 305th BGMA Historian  

patootie
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/11/04 03:54:03 (permalink)
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Hello,
 
42-31475 was a Boeing B-17G-20-BO (G-20-BO models : 42-31432 to 42-31631, 200 aircrafts)
 
extract from "the B-17 Flying Fortress Story" by Roger Freeman :
42-31475 delivered at Cheyenne 5 nov 43, Gr Island 21 nov 43, Detroit 26 nov 43, Presque Is 30 nov 43, assigned to 305th BG 364th BS at Chelveston 28 dec 43
 
bye
Daniel
ahronshapiro
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/11/04 22:55:40 (permalink)
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Thank you for that information.
I appreciate it. That is very useful information to me.

Ok, here is another question, if y'all don't mind. In the photo I have posted earlier of the "Dottie" crew, the man in the far right of the back row is identified as "Kenned, Neb., Bombardier." This identification notation was made by Marvin J. Beasley.
Here's the photo again:


However, I have done a search of NARA WWII enlistment files and there is nobody by the name of Kenned from Nebraska who enlisted into the air corps that would appear to match up with this description.
Furthermore, am I right to say that everyone in the back row of the picture is dressed like an officer? So am I right to assume that this man identified as Kenned held the rank of an officer?
Is there anyone who would venture to suggest who this mysterious Kenned might be?

On a related note, Ezra Shapiro does not appear in NARA WWII enlistment records either... I don't know why that would be.
Everyone else in the crew - officers and enlisted men alike - are found in NARA's database.
Strange.

Thank you again for your help and insights.
post edited by ahronshapiro - 2010/11/19 05:26:03
ahronshapiro
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Re: 29 May 1944 2010/11/19 05:18:01 (permalink)
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Instead of editing the previous posts - so as not to confuse people who may be following this thread - I will just add another reply to this thread. I hope this is not bad thread etiquette.

After receiving new information, I am correcting the caption to the Wilkinson crew photo. The man in the back row, far right is Lt. Herbert Kennedy, Bombardier.

Both Sgt. Turton and Lt. Kennedy were still in Wilkinson's crew in May 1944 but were not on the May 29, 1944 flight because, I am told, they were filling in for sick crew on another plane. Mr. Kobierecki and Mr. Singleton were their replacements on May 29, as we know.

However, I have another question, if anyone could possibly answer it, I'd be grateful.
In the Jersey Belle's MACR, the plane's downing is recorded by eyewitness testimony of Capt. Robert Morgan, Serial Number O-434030, who was a Navigator in a plane in the formation that day. Can anyone tell me anything about him, i.e. what plane he was in, who he was, etc.

Thank you.
post edited by ahronshapiro - 2010/11/30 16:54:21
ahronshapiro
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RE: 29 May 1944 2010/11/30 02:10:03 (permalink)
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Hi,
 
I've just been informed by the family of John C Deckard (top turret gunner on the Jersey Belle) that a single Focke-Wulf 190 shot down the Jersey Belle.
Furthermore, that German fighter was almost immediately downed in turn by a B-17 gunner in the formation by the name of Chuck Evans.
If anybody knows of a Chuck Evans in the 305th, please let me know.
 
-Ahron
Ian White
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RE: 29 May 1944 2010/11/30 09:17:53 (permalink)
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Hi Ahron
Charles J Evans is deceased.
 
++
 
Capt Robert 'Bob' Morgan became a highly skilled Navigator; promoted to Sqn Lead Navigator during the summer of 1944. He led both Sqn, Group and Wing on several missions.
 
Attaching a poor quality, but rare, photo of Capt Bob Morgan 366th, on left standing with a colleague and close friend, Capt Jim Dawes on right. Both men shared a hut at Chelveston. Dawes became Lead Bombardier on the 366th Sqn.
 
Ian

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Ian White - 1st VP 2012-2013, 305th BGMA Hon. Life Associate, UK-European Contact and 305th BGMA Historian  

ahronshapiro
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RE: 29 May 1944 2010/11/30 17:10:26 (permalink)
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Thanks, Ian, on both counts.
 
Not many who lost a relative in the Air Corps got the satisfaction - for what it's worth - of knowing that the plane that killed them was shot down itself, let alone know who on our side did the honours. So I consider myself very lucky. Charles J. Evans, may he rest in peace, is owed a debt of gratitude from my family.
 
When I first heard the name Robert Morgan I thought - naw, it couldn't be the Memphis Belle's Morgan - and of course it wasn't.
But the Memphis Belle's Morgan was a household name by 1944.
The 305th's Morgan must have gotten some ribbing by people... "Oh, not THAT Robert Morgan".
But it sounds like the 305th's Morgan earned a highly respected reputation for himself in his own right.
 
Thanks for sharing that information and photo with us.
 
On a side note for people following this thread, note I have corrected my information earlier in the thread that the Jersey Belle's usual bombardier (appearing in the crew training photo) was a Lt. Herbert Kennedy and not Robert Kennedy, as previously stated.
ahronshapiro
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RE: 29 May 1944 2010/12/17 08:30:06 (permalink)
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Well this is just plain (or plane as it were) embarrassing.
I mistakenly identified the Turton in Wilkinson's crew as Henry S. Turton, when in fact it was Robert L. Turton.
I only realized it once I had a chance to read his mother's letter to one of the POW crew members and she kept referring to another Bob that clearly was not the pilot.
I'm going to have to change a lot of my notes.
Two months into this research and I had the wrong guy in the crew.
Well just dang! Let me go and change the photo caption above to reflect this.
ahronshapiro
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RE: 29 May 1944 2011/01/06 23:57:08 (permalink)
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Happy to report for those following this thread that I have contacted a member of the Hanson Crew and he is alive and well.
For matters of privacy I will not state which crew member publicly, but he was happy enough to hear from me and as helpful as one could hope about this particular mission to Cottbus and his fate and that of his crew.
To my knowledge based on a lot of research, all other members of the Hanson and Wilkinson crews have passed on.
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RE: 29 May 1944 2011/04/05 09:25:08 (permalink)
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For all those following this thread:
Regarding the Wilkinson crew, I have recently hired a NARA researcher to retrieve the mission folders for the crew's nine missions. He has done so, but only partial scans of each.
I have noticed that the crew did not always fly the same plane. It would appear that on May 8 and May 9, #31475 was sidelined with flak damage incurred on May 7.

For the record: the crew's flight history together proceeded as follows:
(Their radio man from phase training at Dalhart was sick and did not join the 305th until June 2, 1944 - after the rest of the crew was shot down. Therefore, most missions had a different radio man... S. Porter was the radio man on two missions, May 7 and May 28).

On the crew's first mission - May 1 -  Copilot Ezra Shapiro flew on plane #97475, while RG Wilkinson flew first pilot on the Jersey Belle (#31475). No other Wilkinson crew members flew that mission AFAIK.
On May 7, Wilkinson's whole Dalhart crew except for John Deckard and Harry Arfman flew on the Jersey Belle (#31475).
On May 8, Wilkinson's whole Dalhart crew except for Earl Ketchledge and Harry Arfman flew on #38037.
On May 9, Wilkinson's whole Dalhart crew except for Harry Arfman flew on #107136.
On May 13, Wilkinson's whole Dalhart crew except for John Deckard and Harry Arfman flew on the Jersey Belle (#31475).
On May 25, every member of Wilkinson's Dalhart crew flew together on the Jersey Belle (#31475).
On May 27, every member of Wilkinson's Dalhart crew flew together on the Jersey Belle (#31475).
On May 28, every member of Wilkinson's Dalhart crew flew together on the Jersey Belle (#31475).
On May 29, Wilkinson's Dalhart crew except for Herbert H. Kennedy (transferred to TG on lead plane) were shot down together on the Jersey Belle (#31475).


Could anyone please identify planes #97475, #38037 and #107136 for me?
Thank you.
Ahron Shapiro
Nephew of Ezra Shapiro, 305th/364th KIA 5/29/44
post edited by ahronshapiro - 2011/04/06 08:04:51
vic-513
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RE: 29 May 1944 2011/04/05 15:34:35 (permalink)
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Ahron,
 
Possible identity of these planes from Project Bits and Pieces:
42-97475 (No name listed) involved in a take-of accident 3-Dec 44 and salvaged.
42-38037 422 JJ M "Liberty Run" Failed to return and landed on the Continent and  then regained.
42-97475 (No name listed)
All this information is suspect because of the lack of full serial numbers and dates seem to be suspect on some. Take it all with a grain of salt but maybe you can find something further.
 
Vic

Vic Walzel, brother of 1st Lt Leland H. Walzel, bombardier with the 93rd Bomb Group, 330th Squadron. KIA 6 March 1944 on his 25th mission.
www.lelandwalzel.150m.com
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RE: 29 May 1944 2011/04/06 00:44:57 (permalink)
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Thanks Vic,
Sorry - let me add side markings, let me see if it helps.
42-38037 WF-T
42-97475 WF-U
42-107136 WF-D
 
Any info would be appreciated.
 
Also, after reviewing the mission folders, I believe that the tail gunner in the plane directly ahead of Wilkinson's plane in the formation, Texan William L. Dreyer, flying with the Treleaven Crew, almost certainly witnessed the downing of Wilkinson's plane and actually made a claim of shooting down one of the three attacking FW-190s that in all likelihood were the trio that brought down Wilkinson's plane.
 
Actually Dreyer flew as a replacement on the Wilkinson crew on one mission, May 13, 1944 (Stettin).
And does anyone know anything about his current status?
I have found no evidence he has passed on.
Update: I have found circumstantial evidence he has passed on.

Thank you.
post edited by ahronshapiro - 2011/04/06 07:58:49
Ian White
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RE: 29 May 1944 2011/04/06 07:39:49 (permalink)
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Hello Ahron
You have some answers already on the three ships...
42-107136 WF-D 'Dog'. No known name attributed, Assigned group 30th Apr 1944, battle damaged Merseberg mission 24th Aug 1944, crash landed back at Chelveston base, salvaged.
42-97475 WF-'U' Uncle, assigned 11th Feb 1944, from the 482nd BG. Took off with elevator locked 3rd Dec 1944, nosed over at end of runway, salvaged. ** Not sure but suspect 475 was a PFF Pathfinder ship carrying H2x Radar.
 
I have a couple of unidentified 'crushed noses' on 17's which had nose over incidents. One of them may be 475, but not able to confirm from the image scene.
 
Ian

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RE: 29 May 1944 2011/06/23 22:01:00 (permalink)
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While researching the other Bomb Groups involved in the dogfight over Meseritz, I discovered a recent book by George Webster of the 92nd Bomb Group which described the Cottbus mission in quite some detail. 
 
The 92nd Bomb Group flew directly behind the 305th on this mission.
 
Webster was a radio operator on a plane that was damaged about 15 minutes after the Hanson and Wilkinson planes were shot down in what was essentially a continuation of the dogfight as the formations flew north.
Webster's plane, which was heavily damaged, made it to Sweden.
 
The book is called "The Savage Sky" and is available from Amazon and both in print and digital formats.

Ahron Shapiro, nephew of 2nd Lt Ezra Shapiro, co-pilot with the 305th Bomb Group, 364th Squadron. KIA 29 May 1944 on his 9th mission. 
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