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Philip Mundell


He was assigned to Robert Schoch crew. Reported to the ETO on 19 Nov 1943.
Hit by flak and crashed near Caen on 8/8/44 in B-17 #42-102669, Returned to Duty (RTD).
Completed 30 missions from 01 Dec 1943 to 08 Aug 1944. Discharged USAAF 01 Sept 1945.

Phil lied about his age to join up: he was 17 when he enlisted in 1942. He was assigned to the 306th Bomb Group at Thurleigh, Bedfordshire. He flew 15 missions as a ball turret gunner, and others as a ‘togglier’ (‘toggling’ the switch to drop the bombs) and nose gunner. Phil was a Staff Sergeant, but was ‘busted’ down to Private, after a long-running disagreement with an officer and temporarily put onto mess duty. ‘It actually turned out to be pretty doggone good deal. Because every once in a while I would acquire a can of peaches or something like that!’ Despite the demotion, Phil continued to fly missions. He was forced to bail out on his 28th mission. He landed in a minefield, and was rescued by a group of Welsh soldiers.

Phil was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery while flying combat missions as a Private. The award was unusual, as almost all fliers were of Sergeant’s rank and above.


Philip Mundell was born in Long Island in 1925, the youngest son in a family of nine children badly hit by the Depression of the 1930's. He left High School after two years and went to work to boost the family funds. When the USA declared war a gang of them went to the Recruiting Office to enlist; Phillip was turned down being only 17 at the time so he went home and changed the date on his Birth Certificate. He was accepted second time around and opted for the Air Corps.

Eventually sent for further selection at Miami Beach he was discovered to be color blind and therefore unsuitable for pilot training. Instead he was given the option of becoming an air gunner - training on the AT6 in such skills as shooting at a moving target. He was then shipped to MacDill Field Florida, assigned to a B-26 Group and designated tail gunner because he was small in stature. There were a lot of accidents during training with the B-26, which aircraft -says Mundell- acquired the slogan 'One Day in Tampa Bay'. After many months he was sent to an assembly base to train on the B-24 Liberator which carried a 10 man crew and where he was assigned ball turret gunner.

The time scale is unclear but Phillip Mundell finally found himself aboard the Queen Mary 'packed like sardines'. He remembers the Fire Drill first day out when it took them three hours just to get up on deck. He was never to repeat that experience, instead playing Black Jack down below for six days solid. 'You played until you got tired and couldn't see anymore. You would go over to your bunk, fall asleep, wake up and start playing cards again'. After a few days at the usual holding base in Scotland he entrained for Thurleigh in Bedfordshire and was assigned to a B-17 in 369th BG 'the first time I saw a B-17'.

Mundell recalls that his first mission took place on 1st December 1943 and was to Bremen. There was a misconception, he says, that a crew flew a mission every day-not so- a great deal were training flights. He described the difficulties encountered by a ball turret gunner; having to lie on your back 'knees to chin for hours', not being able to eat or drink on a flight because it was impossible to move and the endless technical problems with equipment. On the plus side he was his own master and had a great all-round view of the action.

He flew with the same crew until March 44 when he went on a three-day pass to London. On returning to base somewhat overdue at 5.30 am he discovered that his crew had been called out on a mission with a replacement gunner and from which they had not returned. Mundell fell foul of the adjutant - an unpopular man with whom he had previously crossed swords - who threatened to court martial him as a deserter. Instead he had him demoted from Staff Sergeant to Private and taken off flying. Mundell accordingly spent the next few months cutting grass and doing KP. He was apparently re-instated around D-Day; this time to serve as a 'togglier' responsible for the arming and dropping of bombs in the absence of a bombardier. Mundell swears that his old enemy was responsible for the fact that he flew every mission. He recalled the occasion when flying in formation outward bound an armed 250 lb bomb appeared between No. 3 and 4 engines - dropped from a plane above. They managed to land at an emergency airfield and have it removed. On August 8th 1944 -flying in support of Monty's forces in the Caen sector -he was shot down parachuting into a minefield from which he was were eventually rescued by some Welsh soldiers, turned over to the nearest American base and flown home. It was Mundell's 28th and final mission.

Back in the USA at Langley Field Virginia, resenting being sent home when the war was still being fought, he applied to get back into action. After several refusals he took matters into his own hands and, with two other men, went directly to Washington to the Adjudant General's office to request an overseas posting. A few days later he was summoned to the office at Langley and told 'we are shipping you out and, by the way, you are now a Private'. So it was back to cutting grass, this time in Kansas, where he again managed to blot his copybook.

Mundell because of his frequent misdemeanors was able to experience both sides of the military coin. As a Private he messed with the ground crews often in somewhat primitive conditions, as a Flight Sergeant he lived in comparative luxury. Mundell says he was happy to mix with everybody and seems to have made the best of any situation. He loved England especially London and was always glad to visit this country which he has done several times since the war.

After being discharged he traveled round the USA 'I was a wanderer', never finished school and worked in the family gas station as a mechanic. He fulfilled a long time personal ambition by learning to fly, later owning his own aircraft and holding a Flight Instructor's certificate for many years.


Units served with

  • 306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers

    306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers

    Constituted as 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942. Activated on 1 Mar 1942. Trained for combat with B-17's. Moved to England, Aug-Sep 1942, and assigned to Eighth AF Eighth Air Force in September 1942 Station 111 Thurleigh. During combat,...

  • 369th Bomb Squadron


  • 42-102669 DAMYANKEE

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 24/3/44; Kearney 15/4/44; Grenier 29/4/44; Assigned 369BS/306BG [WW-G] Thurleigh 24/5/44; Missing in Action Cauvincourt, Fr 8/8/44 with Andy Kata, Co-pilot: George Simons, Navigator: Ray Bleker, togg-Phil Mundell, Flight engineer/top...

Associated Place


Event Location Date
Born East St Louis, Illinois, USA
Returned (RTD) France 8 August 1944
Died Florida 5 September 2016


Date Contributor Update
24 July 2020 21:26:12 jmoore43 Changes to awards

Added the award mentioned in the "Summary biography".

Date Contributor Update
24 July 2020 21:23:57 jmoore43 Changes to biography

Added a "-" to the A/C serial number & corrected a typo in the "Summary biography" to aid clarity & consistency.

Date Contributor Update
14 January 2020 15:32:15 Emily Changes to events

Find a Grave

Date Contributor Update
17 August 2018 14:10:36 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography

Biography completed by historian Helen Millgate. Information sourced from correspondence files and articles held in an IWM research collection related to the acquisition of various items and ephemera belonging to Philip Mundell.

Date Contributor Update
14 August 2018 11:20:13 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography

American Air Museum text from displays.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:21:28 AAM AAM ingest

306th BG Association Directory, 1 September 1999 Edition MACR 8434, 306th BGA Collection, Russell Strong Index Cards, First Over Germany pg. 266, / Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 8434 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database /