Reply to post

B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45

Author
Anthony J. Mireles
B-17 Nut
  • Total Posts : 1207
  • Reward points : 4184
  • Joined: 2006/03/04 13:28:27
  • Location: Calumet City, Illinois USA
  • Status: offline
2007/02/14 00:09:17 (permalink)
0

B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45

Friends,
 
On February 8, 2007, Dr. Federico Gonzales, age 85, former Northwestern University Professor, died at Evanston Hospital, Evanston, Illinois.  During WWII, Federico, known as Fred to his friends, was a B-17 bomber pilot.  He wanted to fly P-51s and was going to get his chance to fly them upon completion of his bomber tour in England. 
 
On January 23, 1945, Fred flew his 25th mission as a B-17 pilot.  The target was in Germany.  I don't know where.  He had already crash-landed a B-17 airplane in Belgium and was decorated for his actions.  On his 25th mission, the formation was flying at 27,000 feet when Fred's B-17 was hit by flak.  The wing was blown off and the airplane entered a spin toward the ground.  According to his obituary in the February 12, 2007 edition of the Chicago Tribune, Fred was unable to get to his parachute and he "plunged 27,000 feet without a parachute". 
 
The obituary goes on: "Unable to get to his parachute, Dr. Gonzales passed out during the fall.  Landing in a farmer's field, still connected to a piece of the airplane, he was the only member of the 10 man flight crew to survive.  How he did so remains a mystery to his family." 
 
Dr. Gonzales survived, but nearly every bone in his body was broken.  He was captured by the Germans and nursed back to health.  He was liberated by Allied forces on April 17, 1945.  His ankles were severely broken and he used a cane to get around for years afterward.  His right arm, which had been badly broken, was permanately disfigured.  His dream of being a professional pilot after the war was gone.  Eventually, Fred was able to walk normally with out a cane.  He attended St. Louis University in the 1950s and received a doctorate in biophysics.  He later went on to become a professor of anatomy at Northwestern. 
 
The obituary was vague, so I am not sure if he was a so-called "Wreckage Rider", crashing to earth in the bomber wreckage or if had plunged to earth in a free fall from 27,000 feet "connected to piece of the bomber."  Can't figure it out from the what is written in the obit. 
 
Does anyone out there know about this incident?  Don't know what group Fred was in.  I am interested in any information concerning the AAF career of Dr. Federico Gonzales.  I am interested in any information concerning the B-17 raid on Germany on January 23, 1945.  Looking for anything concerning Dr. Gonzales' mission and survival.  Can anybody help?  Looking for a MACR, but the aaf MACR database seems to be down tonight.  Can anybody help me with the MACR number?
 
This is a great story of survival.  Apparently his son, Laurence Gonzales, wrote a book on his father's struggles titled "Deep Survival".  I am hoping to find a copy.  Any help concerning this subject is greatly appreciated.  Thank you ahead of time. 
Tony Mireles

13 Replies Related Threads

    roy_n
    Group Member
    • Total Posts : 246
    • Reward points : 1323
    • Joined: 2004/08/15 15:27:54
    • Location: hertfordshire England
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/14 00:31:18 (permalink)
    0
    Tony,
    copies of the book" Deep Survival" available on this Site
    http://www.powells.com/search/DTSearch/search?PID=28060&cgi=search/search/&searchtype=kw&searchfor=Gonzales%20Laurence
    it does sound a remarkable story

    Roy
    jake431
    Group Member
    • Total Posts : 147
    • Reward points : 1898
    • Joined: 2002/04/09 16:38:37
    • Location: Chi-town
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/14 10:58:47 (permalink)
    0
    It also appears to be available from Amazon.

    -Jake
    vic-513
    Division Member
    • Total Posts : 1640
    • Reward points : 9109
    • Joined: 2002/05/20 18:45:58
    • Location: Refugio, TX
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/14 12:07:47 (permalink)
    0
    Tony,
     
    Lt Federico Gonzales was piloting 44-28224 of the 398th BG when it went down due to flak and crashed at Heerde, The Netherlands on 23 Jan 1945. MACR 11799 covers this plane and crew.
     
    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
    chappie
    Squadron Member
    • Total Posts : 30
    • Reward points : 1342
    • Joined: 2006/01/12 22:49:39
    • Location: Oxford, Mississippi
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/14 22:23:11 (permalink)
    0
    I believe the book's website is www.deepsurvival.com. Check it out and see if that's not the book for which you are looking.
    chappie
    shooshoobaby
    Air Force Brat
    • Total Posts : 6437
    • Reward points : 7481
    • Joined: 2006/01/28 14:22:13
    • Location: Pacific NW
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/15 12:45:55 (permalink)
    0
    Tony:
    # 44-8224 N7
    This was Lead B - 17
    Col. Frank Hunter CP KIA
    I have Crew list if Needed
    Mike
    Anthony J. Mireles
    B-17 Nut
    • Total Posts : 1207
    • Reward points : 4184
    • Joined: 2006/03/04 13:28:27
    • Location: Calumet City, Illinois USA
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/15 13:26:37 (permalink)
    0
    ShooShoo,
     
    Yes, I am interested in the B-17 crew list for Lt. Gonzales' airplane on 23 Jan 1945.  Thanks.  Tony Mireles
    shooshoobaby
    Air Force Brat
    • Total Posts : 6437
    • Reward points : 7481
    • Joined: 2006/01/28 14:22:13
    • Location: Pacific NW
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/15 13:35:38 (permalink)
    0
    Tony:
    P - Lt. Frederico Gonzales - POW
    CP - Col. Frank Hunter Jr.
    Nav. - 2Lt. Charles Letts
    Lead Nav. - Capt. William Beatovich
    B - Capt. William Campbell
    TT/E - Sgt. Howard Rogers
    RO - Sgt. Robert Mayfield
    RW - Sgt. William Shumate
    TG - 2LT. William Butters
    OB - Lt. Ralph Lentz Jr.
    Mike
    post edited by shooshoobaby - 2007/02/15 13:36:23
    Donroy
    Squadron Member
    • Total Posts : 48
    • Reward points : 447
    • Joined: 2005/03/31 11:36:04
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/15 15:33:54 (permalink)
    0
    Tony,
    A fine story about the Gonzales/Hunter crew's final mission along with some followup on Gonzales, written by Allen Ostrom in 398th Bomb Group Remembrances and available through the 398th PX at www.398th.org , or I can send you just a copy of that one story if you like.  Just let me know where to email it.
     
    Don

    Don Christensen, son of Lt. Donald R. Christensen, B-17 pilot, 398th BG, 603rd Sqd., KIA March 2, 1945.
    Anthony J. Mireles
    B-17 Nut
    • Total Posts : 1207
    • Reward points : 4184
    • Joined: 2006/03/04 13:28:27
    • Location: Calumet City, Illinois USA
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/15 16:38:21 (permalink)
    0
    Don,
     
    Yes, I would be very happy if you sent me the story of Gonzales/Hunter last mission on 1-23-45. 
     
    Please send it to:
    tony_caroline@msn.com
     
    Thank you Don and ShooShoo
     and thanks to all the others who helped. 
     
    Tony Mireles
    lee398th
    Squadron Member
    • Total Posts : 21
    • Reward points : 890
    • Joined: 2002/04/23 10:49:17
    • Location: 398th BG Association
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/21 18:39:58 (permalink)
    0
    Hello Anthony,
     
    Thank you for posting the article about Federico... he had been in poor health for some time.  Click on our 398th.org link below to read more about that Jan. 23, 1945 mission.  I think you will find the articles interesting:
     http://www.398th.org/Missions/Dates/1945/January/MIS_450123.html Best Regards, Lee Anne Bradley398th BG Historian
    Anthony J. Mireles
    B-17 Nut
    • Total Posts : 1207
    • Reward points : 4184
    • Joined: 2006/03/04 13:28:27
    • Location: Calumet City, Illinois USA
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/22 06:09:22 (permalink)
    0
    Friends,
     
    Here is the Lt. Federico Gonzales story sent to me by Don Christensen. 
    Thank You Don. 
     
    Lt. Gonzales was piloting B-17G # 44-8224 on 1-23-45.  The Gonzales B-17 was a lead ship, leading the 8th Air Force's 1st Combat Wing strike on the marshalling yards at Neuss, west of the outskirts of Dussledorf, Germany.  398th Bomb Group CO Col. Frank Hunter was flying in the co-pilot seat as mission commander.  Gonzales' regular co-pilot, Lt. William Butters, was flying in the tail gun position as observer.  Col. Hunter, knowing that the lead ships on the last four missions had been knocked down, was a little "uneasy" before the flight.  It was Col. Hunter's 17th lead mission.  Gonzales was on his 25th mission.
     
    The mission had been a "piece of cake" until the Combat Wing, flying at 27,000 feet, arrived at a point between the IP and the target--then all hell broke loose.  The Luftwaffe anti-aircraft gunners down below began firing their 88mm guns.  Thick contrails began to form, making visibility difficult for the airplanes following.  The flak became more thick and accurate, bursting off the wing tips of the B-17s in the lead element.  The flak gunners were finding the mark and shrapnel began striking the lead ship. Suddenly a flak burst scored a direct hit on the outer port wing of Gonzales' B-17.  The outer port wing folded up and separated, causing the lead B-17 to roll left and enter a dive.  The lead B-17 lurched toward a sister ship and then rolled out of control and spun off to the right into an inverted position.  The Deputy lead pilot had to maneuver to avoid striking the out of control lead B-17.  The lead ship spun two and a half times before disappearing into the undercast.  Gonzales and Hunter struggled to regain control of the ship but were unable.  Gonzales turned to Hunter and said "I guess this is it" and then unbuckled his seat harness.  The force of the spinning aircraft threw Gonzales into the windscreen and instrument panel, crimping his oxygen hose and causing him to lose consciousness.
     
    Witnesses on the ground stated that the B-17 fell to earth like a falling leaf, rather than spinning down vertically.  The airplane slammed to earth, killing everyone on board but Gonzales.  A German soldier approached the smashed bomber as Gonzales regained consciousness.  Col. Hunter was dead, still strapped to his seat.  The German soldier pointed a pistol at Gonzales and barked in English "you dirty American Dog", causing Gonzales to smile, even though he was severly injured.  Gonzales said, "I smiled because the phrase was such a cliche in war movies."  The German, now angered, put a pistol to Gonzales' head.  Soon other German personnel arrived and stopped the man shooting Gonzales.  Gonzales was captured and taken to the POW camp at Gernsheim, where he was treated by Polish and French doctors.  Gonzales was liberated in April 1945. 
     
    Killed aboard B-17G # 44-8224 were:
     
    Col. Frank Hunter, co-pilot;
    Capt. William Beatovich, navigator;
    Lt. Ralph H. Lentz, navigator;
    Capt. William Campbell, bombardier;
    Lt. Charles R. Letts, Mickey navigator;
    TSgt. Howard E. Rogers, engineer;
    TSgt. Robert C. Mayfield, radio operator;
    Sgt. William A. Shumate, waist gunner;
    Lt. William Butters, pilot observer/tail gunner. 
     
    Tony Mireles
    Donroy
    Squadron Member
    • Total Posts : 48
    • Reward points : 447
    • Joined: 2005/03/31 11:36:04
    • Status: offline
    RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2007/02/22 15:42:18 (permalink)
    0
    Thanks Tony, but credit goes to Allen Ostrom, editor of the 398th Bomb Group's  Flak News and author of the article.  His fine book 398th Bomb Group Remembrances is available from the PX at www.398th.org

    Don Christensen, son of Lt. Donald R. Christensen, B-17 pilot, 398th BG, 603rd Sqd., KIA March 2, 1945.
    Anthony J. Mireles
    B-17 Nut
    • Total Posts : 1207
    • Reward points : 4184
    • Joined: 2006/03/04 13:28:27
    • Location: Calumet City, Illinois USA
    • Status: offline
    Re: RE: B-17 Shoot Down 1-23-45 2010/09/05 17:49:40 (permalink)
    0
    Bumping this one up. 

    .
    .
    .
    Anthony J. Mireles
    FATAL ARMY AIR FORCES AVIATION ACCIDENTS
    IN THE UNITED STATES, 1941-1945
    www.warbirdcrash.com
    Jump to:
    © 2014 APG vNext Commercial Version 5.0