A B-17 Flying Fortress (serial number 41-9089) nicknamed "Johnny Reb" of the 92nd Bomb Group, formerly of the 97th Bomb Group takes off. Image stamped on reverse: 'New York Times Photo.' [stamp], 'Air (Boeing) FLY.' [annotation] and '219847.'[Censor no.] A printed caption was previously attached to the reverse, however this has been lost. Handwritten caption on reverse: '4/9/42, marsh ground. Johnny Reb.'
Info from Roger Freeman's "The Mighty Eighth War Diary", photo caption on page 14 :
"Johnny Reb, the Fortress in which 8AF sustained its first heavy bomber combat fatality on 21 August, lifts off from Bovingdon on a trainig flight, 4 September. The co-pilot has braked the main wheels which are just starting to retract. Along with the other B-17E models of the 97BG this aircraft was transferred to the Combat Crew replacement centre in late August."
Crew of the "Johnny Reb" Serial 41-9089.
Back row, from left to right : Navigator Lt Harold Spire; Bombardier Lt Ewart T. Sconiers; Co-Pilot Lt Donald A. Walter; Pilot Lt Richard S. Starks.
Front row : not identified
Lt Ewart T. Sconiers' name on the Walls of the Missing at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium. Sconiers was bombardier on B-17 "Johnny Reb II" 41-24443 when it was shot down on the 21 October mission to German submarine pens at Lorient/Kerovan, France. All crew members survived and were made Prisoners of War (POW). Sconiers was interned at Stalag Luft 3 in Poland and died in January 1944 in a hospital in Lubin, 20km South of Sagan. Listed as Missing In Action until his recovery in 2016 and positive identification in April 2017. Brought to the US, his remains will be buried next to his mother's on 27 January 2018 in Defuniak Springs, Florida. (Photo Ed Reniere 26 May 2016). See UPL 31377 for the photo of the inscription, with the rosette placed next to his name in May 2017, indicating his recovery and identification.
Lt Harold Spire in a photograph with the Milton Stenstrom crew on 21 October 1942. (Photo courtesy of Rick Flack)
Delivered Sarasota 15/4/42. Assigned 414BS/97BG Polebrook 4/42. Flew on first 8th Air Force heavy bomber mission 17 August 1942 with Pilot Lt. Richard S. Starks (WIA 21/8/42); Co-pilot: Donald A. Walter (KIA 21/8/42); Navigator: Harold Spire; Bombardier: Ewart T. Sconiers (WIA 21/8/42); Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Roy T. Nalley; Radio Operator: William A. Adams; Right Waist Gunner: Wallace M. Smith; Left Waist Gunner: Thomas P. Calhoun; Ball Turret Gunner William E. Schimke; Tail Gunner James C. Simmons.
On the 21 August 1942 mission to the Rotterdam shipyards, The Netherlands, "Johnny Reb" was severely damaged by Fw190s. Co-Pilot Donald Walter was killed, Co-Pilot Richard Starks was too seriously wounded to fly the plane and Bombardier Ewart Sconiers, who had failed pilot training, took the controls and with advice from Starks, managed to bring the plane safely back in England, landing at Horsham St Faith in Norfolk.
41-9089 was transferred to the 92nd BG at Bovingdon 24/8/42. Moved to Snetterton Heath on 16/5/43 to the 96th BG/11 CCRC (Combat Crew Replacement Center) and was used as tow target ship. Recl Comp 27/11/45.
The 97th Bomb Group flew the Eighth Air Force's first heavy bomber mission from the UK when they bombed a marshalling yard at Rouen on 17 August 1942. Just a month later though the Group were reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force and left England for the...
Military | Staff Sergeant | Radio Operator | 97th Bomb Group
Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Radio Operator. Prisoner of War (POW).
Military | Sergeant | Left Waist Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Left Waist Gunner. Prisoner of War (POW).
Military | Staff Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
Note : the 1930 US Census has his family's name wrongly spelled as Nally... This was corrected in the 1940 one > Nalley... A Top Turret Gunner, Roy Nalley was shot down on 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443. Prisoner of War (POW).
Military | Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Ball Turret Gunner. Prisoner of War (POW).
Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 97th Bomb Group
Lt Ewart Sconiers was Bombardier on B-17 41-9089 'Johnny Reb', one of the 12 B-17s participating in the first heavy bomber raid of the 8th Air Force on 17 August 1942. The target were the shipyards of Rouen/Sotteville, France.
Military | Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 97th Bomb Group
Shot down 21 October 1942 in B-17 41-24443 while serving as Tail Gunner. Prisoner of War (POW). After being held at Stalag Luft 1 (Barth, Germany), he was transferred to Stalag XIII (Hammelburg, Germany), where he was head of the escape committee.
Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 97th Bomb Group
Note : In both the 1930 and 1940 Censuses, Harold and his parents are listed as Spires. All later documents, including his Enlistment records, his Escape & Evasion Report have him as Harold Spire...
Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
Richard Starks grew up in Woodford County, Kentucky. He attended the Midway High School and the University of Kentucky before enlisting in April 1941. After his enlistment, he was sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma for primary training, starting to fly the...
Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
Killed in Action (KIA) in fighter attack in B-17 41-9089. First Killed in Action (KIA) for VIII Bomber Command.
17 August 1942
The US 8AF launches its first strategic bombing raid of the war, sending 12 Boeing B-17Es of the 97BG on a strike against the railyards of Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France, while another six fly a diversionary route. The attacking force is split into two...
21 August 1942
97BG despatches 12 B-17s on a mission to bomb the shipyards and harbour facilities at Rotterdam, Holland. The mission is aborted when attacked by approximately 25 Bf-109 and Fw-190 fighter aircraft. Spitfire aircraft were despatched by 31FG as escorts...
Military site : airfield
Polebrook was laid down for RAF Bomber Command use in 1940-1941. Built by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, it had short runways which were lengthened for USAAF heavy bomber use. The RAF used the base for operational trials - including of B-17 Flying...
Military site : airfield
Intended to be an RAF bomber base, construction of Snetterton Heath started in Autumn 1942 but continued until mid-1943, because it was extended after allocation as an Eighth Air Force bomber base. It had eventually three concrete runways, 50...
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