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42-97238

B-17 Flying Fortress

Delivered Cheyenne 10/2/44; Kearney 25/2/44; Presque Is 22/3/44; Assigned 534BS/381BG [GD-I] Ridgewell 6/4/44; Missing in Action 3m Kerlin-Bastard, Fr 8/6/44 with John Martyniak, Co-pilot: Dick Kellum, Navigator: Jim Manion, Bombardier: Ray Stewart, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Darrell Longley, Radio Operator: Paul Stewart, Ball turret gunner: Lloyd Jackson, Waist gunner: Albt Fahey, Tail gunner: Wayne Coffey; flak damage, ditched Channel 30 miles W of Jersey, (9 Returned to Duty). OUR CAPTAIN.

The following was recorded in 381st BG War Diary on 8th June 1944:

"Nine Flying Fortress crewmen returned to their home base today in borrowed RAF clothing after surviving a ditching just off the French coast last night in "invasion" waters bordering the beachheads of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. Grinning and unharmed except for minor cuts and bruises suffered when their Fortress ‘Our Captain’ plunged into the channel at dusk yesterday, the crew told a story giving high praise to the efficiency and skill of the Air-Sea Rescue Service.

‘Our Captain’ was struck by flak while raining its bombs on an airfield at Lorient, France. Fragments smashed into the No. 4 engine, causing both to start leaking oil and gasoline.

2Lt Martyniak, gave his faulty engines "full boost" to maintain his position in the formation, but the fortress gradually slowed and began lagging behind. Finally the two engines lost almost all power and the No. 3 engine began malfunctioning. 2Lt Martyniak called by radio for fighter protection. Heading for the Channel, ‘Our Captain’ lost altitude at the rate of 500 feet a minute, but the pilot believed a long glide to England might still be possible and ordered his crew to jettison all moveable equipment except the ball turret.

The navigator gave the ship’s position to the radio operator and contact was made with Air-Sea Rescue. As the bomber dropped lower and lower toward the sea, the pilot called off altitude every 100 feet, keeping the Air-Sea Rescue well informed of his Fort’s position. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew except pilot and co-pilot, crowded into the radio room and braced themselves according to plan for the imminent ditching.

‘Our Captain’ struck tail first, then slid into the water on its belly, shaking up the men in the radio room and slightly injuring several of them. Water rushed into the radio room through the camera well so rapidly that it half-filled the tiny compartment by the time the men had climbed through the hatch in the ceiling.

Though the huge bomber sank in little less than two minutes, the crew cleared their rubber dinghies from the ship and inflated them, but within a few minutes a pair of British Spitfires had sighted the stranded airmen. They were now floating in water less than a score of miles from the Channel Islands, where, according to news reports of the day, Allied paratroopers were attacking German defenses.

"But we didn’t see any invasion ships near us," said ball turret gunner. "We must have been south of their path."

The two Spits were joined by several more British fighters within 10 or 15 minutes, and the aircraft circled above the dinghies, protecting the Americans from possible strafing. A Wellington bomber arrived at the scene an hour after the ditching. It circled for half an hour, calculating wind and drift, then dropped a motor launch by parachute from an altitude of about 300 feet.

"The launch floated down supported by the parachute," Lt. Martyniak said. "When it hit the water, there were sharp explosions and the chutes were blown clear of the boat. It was beautifully carried out."

‘Our Captain’ crew maneuvered their dinghies to the launch and climbed aboard. As a safety measure, they tied the dinghies to the rear of the emergency boat, but trying to start the motor of the launch was another problem. One motor sputtered into action finally, but the propeller became fouled in the dinghy lines and the motor quit. The drenched crew worked strenuously until they managed to start the second motor. After proceeding for about a mile they met a high powered rescue ship and were taken aboard. The motor launch was secured to the larger ship’s stern.

"And soon after we started on our way home," Sgt Jackson said, "The same thing happened to that ship’s motor that happened to the one on the launch. Its propeller got tangled in a line, and the motor quit. They had another, though, and we came home on that one."

The men were given dry clothing, hot food and medical attention at an Air-Sea Rescue Station in southern England. After a night’s sleep, they flew back to the home base aboard the Fortress "Yankee Rebel".

Crew:
(P) 2Lt John A Martyniak, (Co) 2Lt Richard L Kellum, (Nav) 2Lt James G Manion, (Bomb) Ray L Stewart, (Eng) S/Sgt Darrel E Longley, (R) T/Sgt Paul E Stewart, (TG) S/Sgt Wayne M Coffey, (BT) S/Sgt Lloyd S Jackson, (WG) S/Sgt Albert W Fahey.

Service

Units

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force


    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 381st Bomb Group

    381st Bomb Group

    Group
    The 381st Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses from Ridgewell, Essex between June 1943 and April 1945. The Group was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations, the first for bombing shipyards at Bremen, whilst under heavy attack, on 8 October 1943 and...

  • 534th Bomb Squadron

People

  • Wayne Coffey

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Martyniak Crew. On mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 42-97238; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. RTD Awards: DFC, AM (4OLC), WWII Victory, EAME (4stars)

  • Albert Fahey

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Martyniak Crew. On mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 #42-97238; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. RTD Awards: WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Raymond Hart

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator | 381st Bomb Group
    Martyniak J. Crew

  • Lloyd Jackson

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Gunner | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Martyniak crew. On mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 #42-97238 'Our Captain'; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. RTD Re-assigned to Houston crew. On first...

  • Allen Jones

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Martyniak Crew. On mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 42-97238; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. RTD Awards: DFC, AM (5OLC), PH, WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Richard Kellum

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Martyniak Crew. On mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 42-97238; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. Returned to Duty (RTD) . ...

  • Darrell Longley

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner; Flight Engineer | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Martyniak Crew. On mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 42-97238; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. RTD Awards: PH, WWII Victory, EAME.

  • John Martyniak

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Pilot on mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 42-97238; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. RTD Awards: DFC, AM, WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Arthur Murray

    Military | Flight Officer | Navigator | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Martyniak Crew. On mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 42-97238; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. RTD Awards: WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Paul Stewart

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator | 381st Bomb Group
    Assigned to 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF. Martyniak Crew. On mission to Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44 in B-17 42-97238; Ditched in channel 30 miles W of Jersey due to flak damage, rescued by ASR. RTD Awards: WWII Victory, EAME.

Show more

Missions

  • 400

    8 June 1944
    Mission #7 - Bombed the railway yards in Tours, France. Long ride (7 hours).

Places

  • Ridgewell

    Military site : airfield
    Built during 1941-42 as an RAF bomber station, Ridgewell operated as a satellite to RAF Stradishall until May 1943. It had three concrete runways, initially 36 pan hardstandings, and two dispersed T2 hangars. Taken over by the Eighth Air Force in June...

  • Presque Isle Army Airfield

    Military site : airfield

Events

Event Location Date
Manufactured Long Beach, CA 1944

Built at Boeing.

Delivered Cheyenne AAF, WY 10 February 1944

Delivered Cheyenne AAF 10-Feb-44.

Assigned Ridgewell, UK 6 April 1944

Assigned 534BS, 381BG, 8AF USAAF.

Crashed 30 miles W Jersey 8 June 1944

Missing in Action Kerlin-Bastard, France 8-Jun-44; Flak damage, ditched Channel 30 miles W of Jersey 9 x RTD

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
17 April 2020 21:25:52 jmoore43 Changes to description
Sources

Added a space before the words "Tail gunner" in the A/C “Description” to aid clarity.

Date Contributor Update
15 May 2019 08:39:35 Al_Skiff Changes to description
Sources

D-Day Bombers: The Veterans' Story By Stephen Darlow
https://b17flyingfortress.de/en/b17/42-97238-our-captain/
https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/199893

Date Contributor Update
13 May 2019 20:33:49 Al_Skiff Changes to production block number, manufacturer, nicknames, markings, events, unit associations, person associations and mission associations
Sources

D-Day Bombers: The Veterans' Story By Stephen Darlow
https://b17flyingfortress.de/en/b17/42-97238-our-captain/
https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/199893

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:41:10 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Dave Osborne, B-17 Fortress Master Log

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