The original purpose of this document was to present listings of flight crews of the 391st Bomb Group in World War II, showing their makeup when assigned to the Group, and also listings of individual aircrew personnel for whom crew assignments have not yet been determined. I have tried to do more than just list crews, by including comments about mission experiences and casualties.
A couple of earlier versions of this report were sent to the archive at the University of Akron in “loose-leaf” format. They were termed “Interim,” and they are now very much out of date. Although the report is constantly changing, and may never be finished, as many needed documents may never be located, I feel that the time has come to make what I have available to our members and other interested persons. Twenty-five copies were printed in the fall of 1999, and the last of these were gone by the end of the Omaha reunion in October 2000. A copy was supplied to the Pima archive. This present internet version incorporates many changes based on information from orders and many other sources that I have acquired since the original printing, much of it provided by Dave Garnham, my colleague in England. I will continue to try to update the report in my computer so that I can similarly update the internet version.
I realize that text material can be boring, and one may be tempted to skip much of it. I think that the serious visitor to the website would be well advised to read all of the text herein, because it describes policies, procedures, practices, terminology, operations and reports thereof regarding events of some sixty-plus years ago.
I should briefly explain my interest in undertaking this project. I joined the 572nd Squadron, 391st Bomb Group, in September 1944. I was a co-pilot on a typical replacement crew. I flew two missions out of England before moving to France. I left the group around the middle of April 1945, upon the conversion to A-26’s and then, during the winding down at war’s end, I served briefly in the 322nd and 323rd and about three months in the 387th. But I flew no combat missions with these groups, and I have only passing interest in them. When I learned about and joined the 391st BG Association in the early 1980’s, it seemed to me that we needed crew lists to help reconstruct what had happened in many instances. I thought preparing crew lists a small, but useful, contribution that I might make. It has not been as small as I thought.
Let me describe how I have approached this project. In this front material, I have tried to explain the approach and format. I do think it important for the reader to review this material in the front for a better understanding of the lists. At the start, I asked in “Wings of Courage” for readers to send me copies of orders. Bob Cox gave me a lot of support through the newsletter. The first source of information is the orders dating from World War II. Orders are the best source of information, because they give name, rank, serial number, and initial crew makeup. 391st Bomb Group Special Orders are the very best, because they show crew assignment to the squadrons. Many people have responded, and they are identified in one of two following lists of orders, one identifying the pertinent extract numbers, etc., and the second identifying the donors. I thank all of the donors most profoundly. You will see that some individuals have supplied a large number of different orders. I have not included the orders themselves, as they would make the report too bulky, but I have supplied them to the Archives (Akron and Pima) so that they are available. Quite a few of the orders are from the Replacement Training Units (RTUs), Barksdale AAF and Lake Charles AAF, and enroute stations; these are fine for determining crew data provided someone has identified the crews that ended up in the 391st. Unfortunately, many orders, especially 391st orders, are missing, as I will enumerate below. The result is that I have sizable numbers of partial crews and individual crewmembers not placed in any crew. You should understand that not all crewmembers received copies of orders. Usually the pilot received a copy of each order or handout; what happened to these then depended upon the pilot. In my case, my pilot gave them to me (co-pilot), and I saved them religiously. I continue to hope that additional orders will come my way.
Regrettably, I have a minority of the 391st Special Orders. Not all such orders contained crew listings and assignments, but without seeing them, I have no idea which of the missing ones would be important to this project. As of this writing, here is a listing of the 391st Special Orders that I do have.
1943: 7, 10, 55, 60, 64, 89, 127, 156 & 192
1944: 51, 58, 95, 102, 106, 122, 124, 126, & 128
1945: 1, 3, 5, 18, 41, & 116
You can see that the missing orders far outnumber the ones that I have. I asked an Air Force retired friend in Montgomery, AL, to look for 391st Special Orders at the AF Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB. He was unable to find any. When I checked several years ago with Nevin Price, who keeps computer records for the B-26 Marauder Historical Society, for 391st orders, he had none in his computer; I have since sent him copies of orders that I have received. Finally, I have made one limited inquiry at the National Archives in San Bruno, CA, with no success, but it may be that some orders could be found through the National Archives in Suitland, MD.
A second source of crew information has been the personal recollections and stories supplied by many people, especially at the Savannah reunion. All the contributions are much appreciated, and I have tried to include them in the Comments about the crew to which they apply.
Other sources have been the two Group Histories, Taxi Sheets (I have included a number of these), "Who Dat?", and "Return of the Marauder Men." I refer to the two histories as “hardback” and “softback.” Both were written, abstracted, and edited by Colonel Hugh Walker, the 391st BGA historian. “Return of the Marauder Men” was prepared under the auspices of the B-26 Marauder Historical Society, again under Col. Walker’s direction. Col. Walker’s softback history contains a number of taxi sheets, and I am indebted to Jack Crumal for the Babenhausen and Coesfeld taxi sheets and the 572nd Combat Crew Roster of 14 March 1945. Martin Mazurk and Stu Main supplied other taxi sheets. Jim Bischoff and Bob Holliday each supplied a large number of taxi sheets, which are not yet incorporated but will be, when Dave Garnham and I can get to it. We will probably put all of the taxi sheets and airplane information in a separate “volume.” I will have some comments later about several of the taxi sheets.
Where serial numbers are shown, the information generally came from orders. The rank shown is that at arrival; many times in comments I refer to a higher rank later attained. The lists include each crew member’s name, rank, serial number, and crew position, squadron, year of assignment (which in some cases cannot apply to all crew members), airplane ferried over, etc. Sometimes the data come from RTU or enroute orders (where someone has indicated that a crew ended up in the 391st), but I may have been unable to identify the squadron; hence, there is a category called Headquarters or Squadron Unknown.
The members of the original crews apparently were assigned throughout 1943, and the crews sometimes took shape gradually. The replacement crews from the RTUs generally flew over together during 1944 and early 1945. However, many crews were assembled overseas from individual assignees.
I have tried to refrain from guessing about data I have input, except for the year of assignment, where I have shown 1944 unless I know it to be 1943 or 1945. When more source documents are obtained, I can correct this item as need be. I have, on several occasions, drawn inferences that I think are better than guesses. For example, if a pilot, whose squadron is not known, is found in a taxi sheet in a flight from Squadron X, it is reasonable to assume that this pilot was in Squadron X in the absence of countervailing information. I have undoubtedly made mistakes and missed information. I welcome corrections. I might say that the above-mentioned sources sometimes have conflicting information, leaving me to guess which is correct unless I can include both versions. In general, a single crewmember is listed in the individual lists, but if there are two or more members that I know flew together, they are listed with the crews.
As a result of receiving the order which sent the first 57 crews overseas, provided first by Frank Schleicher, and which included the number of the airplane that each crew flew over, I have included A/C number and name (where known). I am confident that the 391st got to keep the airplanes in this deployment. For the later replacement crews, I have also included the number of the aircraft that they ferried over, if I have the order that contains this information. You should realize, however, that these later aircraft may or may not have ended up in the 391st, as they were delivered to the depot at Stansted and undoubtedly were sent where needed most. Where I have mission comments about a crew, I have tried to include the mission aircraft number; this information generally comes from the softback history.
For readers from a later generation, it may be of interest to know that the group and squadrons had certain identifying symbols. The 391st airplanes had a yellow triangle near the top of the vertical stabilizer; the other groups had different symbols which can be found in various sources. All squadrons had letter and numeral codes on the sides of the fuselage which could be read from a distance during combat; ours were 572nd, P2; 573rd, T6; 574th, 4L; and 575th, O8.
As many of you already know, the standard B-26 crew was pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, flight engineer (engineer-gunner), radioman (radio-gunner), and tail (armorer) gunner. There were many navigators also, mainly flying in lead ships. I have included a space for them, but it will be empty for most crews.
Additionally, for all readers, including participants who were early returnees, let me mention that the Group initiated a new operational scheme at about the time that we moved to France. A squadron would be "on ops" for six days and then "off ops" for two days. This rotation kept going independent of weather. It was this system which caused the 572nd to be off ops on 23 Dec 44, which explains why there were no 572nd losses on the tragic Ahrweiler mission. Not surprisingly, the 572nd found itself "on ops" that afternoon. Circumstances combined to make the Ahrweiler mission on Dec 23, 1944, unusual and tragic. The 391st lost 16 out of 30 aircraft. The first thing was that the weather had been not flyable for upwards of two weeks. During this period, both sides had worked hard at getting the maximum number of airplanes in commission. When the weather broke clear on the 23rd, it was still cloudy in Germany, which is why the mission became a “Pathfinder” mission (see below). When our planes reached the fighter rendezvous point, our fighters did not show up. The leader made one circle and then forged on to the target. At some point then, the group was attacked by 60 German fighter planes, ME-109’s and FW-190’s. Our defenses were overwhelmed, particularly for the low flights.
There is another point in the interest of accuracy and understanding, and again about the Ahrweiler mission. The standard practice on Pathfinder missions was for the lead flights to have only three airplanes (bombing was by box, and this practice tightened the bomb pattern). The taxi sheet in the softback history shows this to be the case in this instance. Chism, for example, was leading the low flight of the second box. I believe that his position is misidentified in “Return of the Marauder Men.”
The taxi sheet for the second mission on 23 Dec 44 needs some explanation. As you can imagine, after losing 16 out of 30 aircraft on the morning mission, planning for the afternoon mission was almost worthless. The 572nd was put on ops and supplied several airplanes. I know that because I was scheduled to fly as co-pilot with Reynolds in the 2nd Box, Low Flight; we did not get off the ground because of engine problems, but Stevens of the 572nd was in the same flight, and I suspect that the Grove listed was really Grow of the 572nd. A further indication of the state of affairs is that Abraham is listed in the 2nd Box, Lead Flight, and he did not return from the morning mission.
I should also mention "Operation Clarion" in some detail. This operation on 22 Feb 45 was directed against the German rail system, mostly manned by workers from the captured lands of Eastern Europe, and it was a large and special effort. Targets, such as marshalling yards, were bombed from 8000 ft instead of the usual 12000 ft. Then we came back at them doing over 300 mph and strafed. Not our usual cup of tea!
It is a source of great sadness to me that the B-26 has fared so badly in the years since WWII. I think that the mass destruction of B-26’s in Europe was wanton. To the best of my knowledge, there is only one flyable B-26 in existence now. The Air Force Museum at Wright Field has what appears to be a complete airplane for display. I believe that the Air and Space Museum in Washington does not. The American Air Museum at Duxford does not. The Confederate Air Force had a flyable airplane, but it crashed, killing several crewmen. If what I have heard is true, this should not have happened. I have heard that the airplane did not have “stall strips.” If you find a good picture, which shows a wing root of a WWII combat plane, you will see a small roll of metal, perhaps two feet long on the leading edge at the root. This is a stall strip which insured that the wing root would stall before the wing tip, preventing a snap roll. What a shame that the modern flying and ground crews did not have a WWII crew chief or flight engineer involved! Either would have noticed immediately that the airplane needed installation of stall strips, especially before any stalls were practiced. A pilot even might have picked up on that.
Finally, I must call attention to the fact that the 391st Bomb Group converted to the Douglas A-26 in the late winter and spring of 1945. This airplane initially had only a two-man crew, a pilot and an engineer-gunner. I have included these crews as assigned by 391st SO-41, 03/14/45. Most of the 391st aircraft had co-pilot controls installed, I believe, and co-pilots were used on missions. Although I did not get to stay after the conversion, I flew the A-26 enough to become familiar with it before I left, and later I flew it quite a bit at Wright-Patterson AFB.
For the B-26 people who never flew the A-26, let me mention several things of interest. Regarding wintertime, combat-loaded operations: after the crew chief swept frost and/or snow off its wings, a B-26 would take off, seemingly using all of the 6000 foot runway at A-73 (it used about all of it on clear days too). The combat-loaded A-26 used about 3500 feet when the wing was clean, but it essentially wouldn't fly at all with frost on the wing because it had a laminar flow airfoil, which did not function properly when frost caused early boundary layer separation. Fortunately, winter was ending when the A-26 began operations.
The B-26 was a perfect formation airplane. The nacelles were behind the pilot; nothing interfered with his view. The A-26, on the other hand, had nacelles that projected far in front of the pilot. To fly #2 or #3 position, the pilot had to fly close in and high, looking at the lead aircraft between his aircraft’s nacelle and the fuselage, or else move way out so that he could see the lead over the nacelle. Further, the B-26 had the equivalent of built-in dive brakes--the drag of the airplane. If one came rushing up into formation in the B-26, retarding the throttles smartly and briefly upon almost getting into position would result in a beautiful join-up. Try that in an A-26, and you would find yourself about a quarter of a mile in front of the formation. I, for one, am not sorry that I never had to fly a mission in an A-26.
The database can be sorted in any of a number of ways, by date of assignment, for example, which puts the charter members at the head of the lists, and I could provide such listings should someone have a special need. However, as the lists are too long to list in more than one format and as crews were commonly identified by the pilot's name, I am including only crew lists that are alphabetical by pilot's name within squadrons. For lists of individuals whose crew is not known, they are alphabetical by individual by crew position and in squadron order, and will be added later.
I should digress to mention that I considered briefly the question of whether I should include post-war information in the Comments. I quickly decided that the purpose here is to present what happened some fifty-plus years ago and only what happened then.
Let me set forth some thoughts that may not be apparent to readers who were not participants. The crew listings are as the crews were assigned (with some exceptions, which I have tried to explain). Many things happened to change the crews on a particular day or permanently. If the commanding officer or some such VIP from Headquarters reported to an airplane at mission time and told the copilot to stay home, he stayed home that day. Illness or injury caused temporary changes in crews. A crewman being AWOL or On Report probably caused occasional changes. Death of a crewman resulted in a permanent replacement and could lead to multiple shuffling of people. I have tried to list deaths and burial places in the Comments, mainly depending upon "Return of the Marauder Men" for this information; however, it appears that this book does not list those individuals whose remains were brought home. Also, I infer that the difference in this book between those buried in a cemetery and those listed on a Wall of the Missing has only to do with whether the remains were recovered. The hardback history is pretty good at listing mission crews of the planes that went down, and I have tried to include these listings in the Comments. I have been unable so far, however, to identify the crew makeup in all such situations. I will try to amplify and correct the Comments as time goes on.
I have included a subsequent section on the subjects of crew training and deployment.
Finally, I must comment on how much I have learned about the 391st in the course of preparing this report, too much to talk about. We all owe Col. Hugh Walker a debt of gratitude for his work in preserving our history. I realize now how little I learned or knew about at the time, and I can only wish now that I had hung out around Squadron Ops more than I did, instead of the quarters and mess hall. I hope that by bringing this crew information together, I will have provided you with some new information and added insights.