Howard 'Howie' Griffith Mertens was the second son and youngest child born to native Californians, Ferdinand C Mertens and Margaret Mary (Griffith) Mertens, but his paternal grandparents were German immigrants. Howie graduated from Mission High School in San Francisco and was apprenticed to his father, a renowned local cabinet-maker when he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. He never married. He received his flight training at Luke Airfield, Glendale, AZ.
On this, his 28th mission, Howie served as the Co-Pilot on the B-17G, #446140 'Miss Lace,' on 30 Nov 1944 when it encountered heavy flak over the target, the Brabag Synthetic Oil Plant just northeast of Zeitz, Germany. After a near explosion of flak, the plane lost its right wing and entered a vertical spiral while ablaze. It broke into two sections: the tail/waist section, which landed near Threna, Germany, and the nose, which crashed into District 7 of the Oberholz Forest near Großpösna, Germany. In this debris field, German citizens recovered partial and complete human remains and military identification tags for some crew members seated in the nose section of the plane, but Howie's military ID tag was not located. The citizens of Großpösna placed five sets of remains in individual coffins that later were buried in their town cemetery. Howard's identity remained unknown to the Germans.
In late June 1945, the US Army exhumed the crews' remains from the Großpösna Cemetery. One set of remains eventually was identified as those belonging to Howard after a laundry tag marked with his name was found inside the remnants of clothing buried with his corpse. In 1949, his remains were brought back to the United States and re-interred in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, CA, at his parents' request.
Military | Technical Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 379th Bomb Group
A native of Chicago, Bernard 'Bernie' Bonderski was the eldest son of a Polish immigrant father, Pawel 'Paul' Bonderski and Apolonia "Paulina" (Cholewinska, born in New Jersey) Bonderski. Bernard practiced the Roman Catholic faith. Bernie attended...
Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator Gunner | 379th Bomb Group
Charles was the youngest child and only son of Charles V Bowles Sr and Maude "Lovey" (Estes) Bowles. Born in Atlanta, GA, he moved at a young age with his parents first to Highland Park, Michigan, and then to Chicago, Illinois, where he graduated from...
Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 379th Bomb Group
Eugene Scott Bush was the second son and youngest child of Kansas farmers, Robert T Bush and Ola M (Osborn) Bush. He enlisted in the US Army Air Corps on 04 Aug 1943.
Military | Staff Sergeant | Nose Gunner / Enlisted | 379th Bomb Group
Chester "Chick" Mark Durham was the fourth surviving son of cotton share croppers, Cornelious Jordan Durham and Anita Melvina (Stephens) Durham. He was a talented wood worker and musician. He loved to laugh, kick up his heels, and have a good time. In...
Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 379th Bomb Group
Shirley Clare Griffith was the son of Michigan natives, Carl W and Ethel Griffith. He attended Washington Gardner High School in Albion, MI. He enlisted in the Michigan State National Guard on 25 Sep 1940. He was inducted into the US Army on 24 Feb...
Military | Lieutenant | Pilot | 379th Bomb Group
Gilbert 'Gil' Jerome Schlesinger was the second son and youngest child of Samuel M and Celia Schlesinger, who practiced the Jewish faith. Gil never married and produced no known heirs.
Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 379th Bomb Group
Stewart Welton Schoch was the second son of Pennsylvania natives, Paul Edward Schoch, a chauffeur, and Gertrude Lydia (Stewart) Schoch. Stewart was single when he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps on 19 Apr 1943. He served as the Waist Gunner on the B...
Military | Second Lieutenant | Bombardier | 379th Bomb Group
Theodore 'Ted' Zivanidis was the eldest of three children born to Greek immigrants, Athanasious 'Thanos or Thomas' Zivanidis and Elizabeth (Krettecos) Zivanidis. Ted's father and his maternal uncle, James Krettecos co-owned and operated an Altoona, PA,...
Units served with
The 379th Bomb Group (H) (heavy), based at Kimbolton, flew more sorties than any other Bomb Group in the Eighth Air Force and dropped a greater bomb tonnage than any other Group. The B-17 Flying Fortress Group was awarded two Distinguished Unit...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Tulsa, OK 5/14/44; Kearney, NE 5/24/44; Dow Field, Bangor, ME 1/6/44; Assigned 527BS/379BG Kimbolton, England 10/6/44; Missing in Action northeast of Zeitz, Germany on 11/30/44 with 8 crew Killed in Action: 1st Lt Gilbert J Schlesinger, Pilot...
Military site : airfield
Planned for RAF use, Kimbolton airfield was built by W and C French Ltd. in 1941. The airfield was increased in size to accommodate a full US heavy Bomb Group, and the first such unit to us it was the 91st Bomb Group, who arrived in September 1942....
||San Francisco, California, USA
||22 June 1921
Großpösna Village Cemetery according to German records.
||30 November 1944
||San Bruno, CA, USA
Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, California, Grave -- Section O, Site 1033