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97th BG, 342nd BS - Brenner Pass

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AZTrailer47
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2012/03/13 17:29:01 (permalink)
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97th BG, 342nd BS - Brenner Pass

Good afternoon all - I am new here but have been following an aviation archaeology forum for several years.  I am mainly involved in researching southwestern sites of the old CAA airway beacon system (NM and AZ).  I'm a SP4 who put in some flight hours as a backup medic (vision-limited) for the 498th Dustoff unit in 70-71. 
 
I'm joining this forum in search of information on a B-17F, 42-5948, that went down over the Brenner Pass on 12-19-43 with two of the crew KIA.  I am helping a friend sort through letters and records of her (still-living) father's AAF career and POW experience - Lt. Robert Dawson was the pilot, but it was not his regular AC or crew. 
 
We have the wartime MACR, but do not have any verifiable photos of this aircraft, nor is the AC name certain - one source says "The Thunderbolt" but, well, third party accounts - letters and memoirs - vary remarkably.  We'd like to find a photo, and verify the name, as well as any new info about that mission.  We're also in contact with Giorgio Pietrobon, as he pursues a planned book on that day's events. 
Thanks!  Steve Owen / Grants NM
martyjhawk
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Re:97th BG, 342nd BS - Brenner Pass 2012/03/13 17:41:36 (permalink)
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Dick Drain's 5th Bomb Wing History of Aircraft Assigned book lists the plane's name as "Thunderbolt", no "The".  This is one of the planes we have not been able to find a photo of.
 
The plane was first assigned to the 99th BG, and then transferred to the 97th BG.
 
Marty
AZTrailer47
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Re:97th BG, 342nd BS - Brenner Pass 2012/03/13 17:53:54 (permalink)
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Thank you - that's a start!  We know the flight originated from Cerignola near Foggia on (apparently) the morning following their transfer from North Africa.  Due to casualties, etc., pilots and crews were frequently mixed on short notice to make as many planes mission-ready as possible.  Lt Dawson had co-piloted with Cyril Brickfield on the transAtlantic shuttle to Africa, then in a few months to Cerignola.  From a letter to the family, Brickfield said Dawson's own original crew watched the burning bomber dropping lower and lower till it exploded "over an Alp." Amazing that eight got out.
martyjhawk
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Re:97th BG, 342nd BS - Brenner Pass 2012/03/13 18:52:56 (permalink)
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From the 97th's history book "Venit Hora":
 
#206 Marshalling Yards, Innsbruck, Austria 19 Dec 43
Flak heavy type, moderate intensity, inaccurate.  7 to 10 Me-109s and FW-190s were encountered in target area.
Bombs started hitting buildings in center of yards.  There was an explosion just south of roundhouses.  
One B-17 received slight damage due to E/A attack or flak.  Another B-17 lost an engine about 20 miles after attack and became a straggler.  This plane was attacked by E/A and was further incapacitated.  Three chutes were observed leaving the aircraft.  Personnel aboard this B-17 were: 1st Lt Robert Dawson, Pilot; 2nd Lt Harold Novak, Co-Pilot; 2nd Lt Early Sullivan, Navigator; 2nd Lt Thomas McHugh, Bombardier; S/Sgt Robert Dean, Radio Operator; S/Sgt George Barth, Top Turret Gunner; S/Sgt Kenneth Schroll, R/W Gunner; S/Sgt Clarence Sommerfield, L/W Gunner; S/Sgt Joseph Radanovic, Ball Turret; S/Sgt Joseph Dobrzanski, Tail Gunner.
 
Marty
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Re:97th BG, 342nd BS - Brenner Pass 2012/03/13 20:43:12 (permalink)
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Thank you, Marty - interesting detail on this straggling aircraft.  Lt Dawson wrote (about 10 years ago) that his #3 engine quit and held them back on the approach, then further damage from cannon fire set the oxygen bottles ablaze.  Reports are sketchy and various; only one other officer (bombardier McHugh) survived, but all the EM bailed or were blown out.
Steve
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