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Conrad J Kersch

Military

Hit by flak just after bombs away on a mission to Wizernes, France on 26 Mar 1944, B-17G 42-31929 'Tennessee Hillbilly' crashed N of St. Omer after the crew baled out. Evaded capture (EVD).

Conrad John Kersch was sergeant in charge of maintenance and a tailgunner at this juncture.

He was stationed at Hamilton Field and March Field, California then flew right around the time of the Pearl Harbor attack to Macdill Field, Tampa Bay, Florida. This is a mission called Ferrying that involved the B-17s. It came out of California and was in Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In his diary The 19th Bomb (H) Group 93rd B Squadron flies from Florida December 27, 1941 to Brazil. From there the squadron hops from one African nation to another: Iran, Algeria, Iraq then on to India. The 93rd’s final destination was Clark AFB in the Philippines. But the US Troops and General MacArthur had to retreat. The squadron flew to JAVA where they performed most of their 52 missions in the Straits of Makassar. As a gunner you were to shoot short bursts not to over heat the barrels that would warp. Conrad first mission he shot to long melted the barrels and had to put on the safety, because the gun was miss firing! He was fined! The jungle drums would sound everytime they came or took off. These natives were telling the Japanese. Their base had no real defense to protect them or their planes. Air raids would burn vehicles, planes, and damage buildings. A lot of the bombs dropped hit close and caused enough damage. They were trying to stop and slow down troop, equipment, and supply movement. The daisy bombs that were introduced during this time had a long detonating nose so they would go off above the ground surface for the most effective damage. During their time in Java the crews made friends (mascots) with the monkeys and even took them on flights. In Java they could hear Soerobaja being pounded time after time.

The British surrendered in Singapore, but before the Japanese knew it they had gotten a lot of their equipment out plus the civilian population. 93rd’s base got their Anti-Air Guns, finally some protection. Japan has now taken over ruling the skies, 20 Feb 1942. The squadron now has to retreat from Java because the Japanese have bases surrounding them. Orders were given to be careful of the locals and looters. The base commander had all the vehicles dumped into the waters, destroyed supplies, and burned the buildings along with the badly damaged planes. Nothing was to be left for the enemy. Conrad got some ammunitions and a pistol from the Britons and gave it to Charlie, bicycle taxi driver, to help protect him and dad’s girl friend, Baby, half native & Dutch, which there was a lot of prejudice. Dad’s German made it easy for him to talk to the local Dutch. A colonel needed a witness and help to burn any money. My dad did which later he had to write a letter for the colonel now a general to prove the money wasn’t stolen. At Stead AFB, Nevada my father need help from some corrupt officers and the general repaid the favor by flying in. It is nice having that kind of support and clout. They never messed with Conrad, again!

The Japanese due to the perception we were retreating left the 93rd’s last mission into Bali alone. The Japanese came alone side more like an escort. They evacuate to Jarkarta on the way to Australia. Hopping from Island to Island with civilians and important brass. Had to evacuate again, leaving nothing for the enemy. There were about 30 of them including Dad waiting for transportation. Conrad planned by himself alone to evade if need be into the jungle. By yourself you don’t endanger others and they don’t put you into a bad situation. As luck would have it a sea plane arrived in the dark, kept the engines going, load, and took of immediately. They were now headed to Broome Australia. Sgt. Kersch continued to help out by doing maintenance and pumping the bilge’s during docking in the waters. He helped replace the spark plugs from on top of the wings with a detachable metal support rail. The sharks were circling looking for food with one eye out of the water. Then Dad dropped his wrench. The Brit. retrieved it by throwing fruit way out and then in the sharks absence used a magnet on a rope. Landed in Brisbane, then went by train to Melbourne. On 2 December 1942 the 93rd got new B-17s, uniforms, and equipment.

Arrived in America and boarded the Queen Elizabeth to England. Tsgt. Conrad John Kersch joined the 303rd Bomb Group Molesworth in England. He was in the 427th Bombardment Squadron. He flew two missions as a tailgunner. There were heavy crew losses and got the chance to be the bombardier on the Tennessee Hillbilly. Dad was offered to be an instructor/trainer due to his time and experience. Conrad told his command he was an orphan and no one would miss him. Give the job to a married enlistedman. On his 6th and final mission he was shot down over France, evaded capture, and fought in the French Underground until liberation.

Dad came back into the service 20 May 1948 Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Why? My mother, Doris, due to Rh factor pregnancies had lost two boys, stillbirth. I, Kris Conrad Kersch, was the one who was to be aborted. Dad was transferred to the OSI (early CIA) due to his ability to speak 6 other languages, raised for awhile in Banat region of Europe, and time spent in the French Underground.

See The Albert De Groote Story by Conrad J.Kersch for further reading.

Service

People

  • Donald Carter

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner | 389th Bomb Group
    Evaded (EVD) Ran out of fuel and crashed at Noyelles on 7/11/44 in B-24 41-28713. ...

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Units served with

  • 303rd Bomb Group

    303rd Bomb Group

    Group
    The 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated on 3-Feb-1942 at Pendleton Field, Oregon. They assembled at Gowen Field, Idaho on 11-February 1942 where it conducted flight training until 12-Jun-1942. The Group then moved to Alamogordo Field, New...

  • 427th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 42-31929

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 7/1/44; Gr Island 15/1/44; Presque Is 21/2/44; Assigned 427BS/303BG [GN-R] Molesworth 1/3/44; Missing in Action Pas de Calais 26/3/44 with Chas Mars, Co-pilot: Bill Dallas, Navigator: George Arvanites, Flight engineer/top turret...

Missions

  • 8th Air Force 280

    26 March 1944
    9 V-Weapon sites in the Pas-de-Calaise, France area and 7 V-Weapon sites in the Cherbourg, France area are the targets of this mission. A combined force of 573 heavy bombers from all three Air Divisions are despatched. Mission Summary follows: ...

Associated Place

  • Molesworth

    Military site : airfield
    Molesworth was one of the early stations used by the Eighth Air Force in the UK, first occupied by the 15th Bomb Squadron’s Douglas Bostons in June 1942. Built in 1940 and extended and improved in 1942, Molesworth is most associated with the 303rd...

Events

Event Location Date
Born Fox River Grove, Illinois, USA
Based 27 December 1941 – November 1943

The 5th AF, 19th Bomb (H) Group 93rd B Squadron flies from Florida December 27, 1941 to Brazil. From there the squadron hops from one African nation to another: Iran, Algeria, Iraq then on to India. The 93rd’s final destination was Clark AFB in the Philippines.

Based Molesworth November 1943
Evaded France 26 March 1944
Died 16 May 2000

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
25 September 2020 00:40:48 decwriter Changes to service number and awards
Sources

NARA files verified ASN, DFC with 1 oak leaf cluster, Purple Heart and Air Medal. He did serve in two theaters, earning both the APCM and EAME Campaign Medals with bronze stars for the campaigns.

Date Contributor Update
29 April 2015 13:08:23 general ira snapsorter Changes to events
Sources

Biographical, media and event details added courtesy of his son, Kris Kersch.
Additional information from:
http://www.303rdbg.com .
The Albert De Groote Story by Conrad J.Kersch (from the Hell's Angels Newsletter, Feb 1985, Wilbur "Bud" Klint Editor, re-edited)

Date Contributor Update
29 April 2015 13:08:22 general ira snapsorter Changes to biography, events, mission associations and media associations
Sources

Biographical, media and event details added courtesy of his son, Kris Kersch.
Additional information from:
http://www.303rdbg.com .
The Albert De Groote Story by Conrad J.Kersch (from the Hell's Angels Newsletter, Feb 1985, Wilbur "Bud" Klint Editor, re-edited)

Date Contributor Update
27 April 2015 10:24:32 Emily Changes to biography
Sources

Research completed and written by Kris Kersch on his father.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:06:37 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 3475 / MACR 3475, Losses of the 8th & 9th Air Forces / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

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