41-23717, 'Exterminator' of 330th BS, 93rd BG, 8th AF.
This plane and crew were flying as element lead when it collided with one of the other planes (121-J) in its element after entering a cloud bank over Bulgaria. Both planes went down in flames and crashed in the mountains
Capt. Hugh R. Roper - Pilot (KIA) ~ Oak City, UT,
1st Lt. Walter T Stewart
Capt. John B. White,Jr. - Navigator (KIA) ~ Hillsboro, IL
1st Lt. Ted Brannon - Bombardier (KIA) ~ Coatesville, PA,
T/Sgt. Henry C. Lloyd,Jr. - Radio Operator (KIA) ~ Flint,MI
T/Sgt Albert L Lee - Tail Gunner
T/Sgt Joseph L Craighead - Waist Gunner
Sgt. Earl P Lemoine - Gunner (KIA) ~ Moreauville, LA
S/Sgt. William A. Defreese - Waist Gunner (KIA) ~ Anniston, AL,
Walter Travis Stewart, 93rd Bomb Group
B-24D 'Boomerang' signed photo from the crew during the war bond tour.
Col. Walter Travis Stewart 93rd Bombing Group Ploesti Romania
B-24D 'Utah Man' with pilot Col. Walter Stewart, deputy lead pilot for the 93rd Bomb Group.
In 1941, Stewart was a 24 year-old, U.S. Army Air Force cadet at the University of Utah. "We were pulling guns around with horses as a plane flew overhead. Jack Adamson, who had been my mission companion, said to me, `There's a war coming.' Later that year, I was one of the first flying cadets in Ontario, California." In his B-24, nicknamed 'Utah Man' for the University of Utah fight song, Walter Stewart was the deputy leader on one of the most pivotal missions of the war, Operation Tidal Wave, bombing the Ploesti oil fields in Romania, the most plentiful supplier of fuels to the Nazi and fascist regimes. "They said that if we took out Ploesti, the Italians would be out of the war in 30 days," Stewart said.
Flying his 31st mission, Stewart flew just behind 93rd Bomb Group leader, Col. Addison Baker, in 'Hell's Wench' over the Romanian oil refineries on Aug. 1, 1943. An early tactical wrong move by mission commander, Gen. Uzal Ent, who inexplicably, turned towards Bucharest instead of Ploesti at his first IP, led the B-24 bomb groups, flying as low as 20 feet, into the confusion that led the 93rd Group, and others, through the worst of the enemy's lethal flak defenses to the south of the Ploesti refineries. But Stewart recalled Col. Addison Baker sticking with the mission, anyway: "Our leaders, including Col. Baker, told us that if we didn't bomb Ploesti on that day, we'd have to return to do it another day.", Stewart said. "And the Germans would be even more prepared next time." "When Baker and Jerstad turned 'Hell's Wench' into the target, instead of following Col. Compton and Gen Ent, it was one of the greatest acts of bravery I've ever witnessed. We were only ten minutes ahead of the enemy. Col. Baker had told us he was going over the target if he had to go over in flames - and he did."
After Baker, Jerstad, and 'Hell's Wench' crashed in flames, Stewart's 'Utah Man', became the group's lead plane, dropping three of its six-bomb payload on the five Romanian refineries. However, three of the plane's bombs failed to drop, and the crew was forced the drop them manually, including hand throwing a 100 pound incendiary device out of the bomb bay.
Also, when 'Utah Man' was headed on a collision course with a radio tower, a steep climb would have taken the plane up into the enemy's fire. Stewart, instead, rolled his plane sideways, staying low, and narrowly missing the tower. Enemy flak had also struck one of 'Utah Man''s fuel tanks, but, as the gas level ebbed lower and lower, Stewart and his crew decided to head to an alternate base on a wing and a prayer. They made it to the British air base at Nicosia, Cyprus and returned the next day to Benghazi.
"John Connelly, my navigator, said he'd never been so out of gas, but we came back last from the mission, even after we'd been reported missing in action. The mission, the largest bombing mission up to that date, was seen at the time as being only a partial success, with three of the five refineries having been taken out, but now is being acknowledged to have been one of the most important and pivotal bombing missions of the war. Stewart flew one remaining mission before heading home.
Stewart received several medals and commendations for his war record, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, and a Presidential Unit Citation.
Military | General | B-24 Command Pilot - Squadron Commander - Commanding Officer | 376th Bomb Group
Keith Karl Compton (December 9, 1915 – June 15, 2004) was an American Air Force Lieutenant General who was Vice Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command. He flew as Command Pilot with Gen. Uzal Ent on Operation Tidal Wave in the B-24D, 'Teggie Ann'...
Military | Major General | Commanding General | 376th Bomb Group
Uzal Girard Ent was an American Army Air Force officer who served as the commander of the 9th Air Force and subsequently the 2nd Air Force during World War II. He flew as mission commander on the Aug 1, 1943, Ploesti oil refinery raid...
Military | Colonel | Commanding Officer, Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
John Riley Kane (January 5, 1907 – May 29, 1996) was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and later the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor, in World War II, for his...
Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 376th Bomb Group
Military | Major | Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
Lt. Robert Sternfels was a B-24D command bomber pilot in WWII in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombing Group, the Pyramiders, and the 345th Bombing Squadron, who flew the famous B-24D bomber, 'The Sandman' on the mission Operation Tidal Wave to bomb the...
Units served with
Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945.
93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 1-March-1942 at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. On 15-May-1942 the Group moved to Ft. Myers, Florida to continue advanced flight training and also to fly anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico; they...
The B-24 Liberator "Exterminator" (serial number 41-23717, H) originally flew with the 329th Bomb Squadron of the 93rd Bomb Group and was later transferred to the 330th Bomb Squadron (93BG) in March 1943. The first mission with the 330th BS was on 1st...
Assigned to Col. Walter T. Stewart of the 330 Bomb Squadron, 93rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, USAAF for the mission to bomb the refineries at Ploesti Ag 11 1943. Col. Stewart took command of the 93rd Bomb Group after the Group Leader, Col. Addison...
1 August 1943
Operation TIDAL WAVE. B24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57 B...