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Lieutenant Bill Gaither and Lieutenant John Stull of the 452nd Bomb Group with a B-17 Flying Fortress (serial number 43-37781) of the 96th Bomb Group that was destroyed by German dive bombers. Image via William C Gaither.

Letter from Gaither enclosed with print: ‘These photographers were taken at Poltava, Russia on June 22 1944. On June 21st my group, the 452d and others flew from England to Poltava en route hitting oil refinery at Rhurland, Germany. That night after landing German dive bombers bombed the field destroying ninety or more B-17 aircraft. Our P-51 fighter escort which has landed at another field were denied permission to take off and intercept the German attack planes. My crew and I were assigned to the 730 Sq. My aircraft “Borrowed Time”. Was hit by an ME-109 over Yugoslavia. No 4 engine was knocked out and feathered, a hole was put in horizontal tail and hydraulic system damaged. Without brakes I ground looped on landing to stop the ship. There it remained isolated from the other ships which were destroyed that night. PHOTO NO 4- Lt Bill Gaither and Lt Stull and destroyed B-17. The Germans directed their attack at the B-17s and not at the crew’s bivouac area. Only later did we learn that we were also a target- butterfly bombs were found in the tent area. Young Russians were used to search and destroy these bombs.’

IWM catalogue record

This contains information written on the back of the original print and some of it may be inaccurate.

Lieutenant Bill Gaither and Lieutenant Bill Stull of the 452nd Bomb Group with a B-17 Flying Fortress (serial number 43-3778) of the 96th Bomb Group that was destroyed by German dive bombers. Image via William C Gaither. Letter from Gaither enclosed with print: ‘These photographers were taken at Poltava, Russia on June 22 1944. On June 21st my group, the 452d and others flew from England to Poltava en route hitting oil refinery at Rhurland, Germany. That night after landing German dive bombers bombed the field destroying ninety or more B-17 aircraft. Our P-51 fighter escort which has landed at another field were denied permission to take off and intercept the German attack planes. My crew and I were assigned to the 730 Sq. My aircraft “Borrowed Time”. Was hit by an ME-109 over Yugoslavia. No 4 engine was knocked out and feathered, a hole was put in horizontal tail and hydraulic system damaged. Without brakes I ground looped on landing to stop the ship. There it remained isolated from the other ships which were destroyed that night. PHOTO NO 4- Lt Bill Gaither and Lt Stull and destroyed B-17. The Germans directed their attack at the B-17s and not at the crew’s bivouac area. Only later did we learn that we were also a target- butterfly bombs were found in the tent area. Young Russians were used to search and destroy these bombs.’

Connections

Units

  • 452nd Bomb Group

    452nd Bomb Group

    Group
    The 452nd Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses from Deopham Green, Norfolk, from January 1944. The air crews hit strategic sites in Germany but also supported the movement of ground forces across Europe after D-Day. On 6 June 1944 itself, the Group...

  • 96th Bomb Group

    96th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 96th Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses to targets across occupied Europe from May 1943 to April 1945. ...

  • 337th Bomb Squadron

People

  • William Gaither

    Military | Lieutenant | Pilot
    B17 # 42-38145 'Rosalie Ann' Crashed near Buckenham, England, due to mid-air coll. w/ #42-31242 from 388th BG on 19 May 1944. RTD

  • John Stull

    Military | Lieutenant | Navigator
    B17 # 42-38145 'Rosalie Ann' Crashed near Buckenham, England, due to mid-air coll. w/ #42-31242 from 388th BG on 19 May 1944. RTD

Aircraft

  • 43-37781

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 20/5/44; Kearney 29/5/44; Grenier 7/6/44; Assigned 337BS/96BG [AW-R] Snetterton 11/6/44; destroyed by enemy aircraft at Poltava with Carl Schram 21/6/44; Salvaged 1/7/44.

Locations

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
12 February 2018 11:35:01 Lucy May Changes to caption, person associations, place associations and aircraft associations
Sources

Corrected aircraft from 43-3778 to 43-37781by looking through aircraft biographies for a match.

Date Contributor Update
08 September 2014 15:25:27 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

IWM, Roger Freeman Collection

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