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41-24459

B-17 Flying Fortress

Assigned 401BS/91BG [LL-B] Bangor 2/9/42; Bassingbourn 1/10/42; Missing in Action Bremen 17/4/43 with Pilot: John W. Wilson, Waist gunner: Walt Bohaczyk, Ball turret gunner: Gil Andrews, Waist gunner: Clifford Cadle, Tail gunner: Robert Ade; (5 Killed in Action); Co-pilot: Art Bushnell, Navigator: Bob Barton, Bombardier: Harry Romm, Radio Operator: Howard A. Earney, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Norman Thompson (5 Prisoner of War); enemy aircraft & intense flak barrage and dropped back to crashed Hassel, near Bassum, 12 miles S. of Bremen, Germany; Missing Air Crew Report 15520. HELLSAPOPPIN.

17 April 1943, Target: Bremen, Aircraft Plant
Three or four minutes after the target there was a very hard jolt under the left side of “Hellsapoppin”, close in to the fuselage. An anti-aircraft shell had exploded just under the plane. Flak ripped into the left front side of the aircraft, flaking off chunks of metal from the fuselage and throwing them through the interior of the plane. At the same time, three feet of the right wing tip was blown off by a flak burst. A one and one-half foot hole appeared in the nose compartment and the nose window Plexiglas blew out. There was fire in the left wing and nose compartment. The radio room became engulfed in fire from broken oxygen lines.
The pilot, Lt Wilson, was wounded in the head and the copilot, 1Lt Arthur A. Bushnell, in the right eye, both legs, left arm, and right hand by flying aluminum. In the nose, the bombardier, 1Lt Harold Romm, was hit in the left leg by flak. Earlier, before the target, Lt Romm had been hit in the same leg by a machine gun bullet during an attack by a FW 190.
In the top turret, the flight engineer, T/Sgt Norman L. Thompson, felt the jolt and when he looked out, saw the left wing on fire. He had just seen a fighter off the left wing going after a plane below and was afraid it would come back up at “Hellsapoppin.” The enemy fighter was about 15 feet too low for Sgt Thompson to deflect his top turret guns to get off a burst. Since the intercom was shot out, Sgt Thompson was not certain what was happening to the plane. He stepped down from the turret and went into the cockpit. There he saw both pilots with their oxygen masks off and blood pouring out from under their helmets. He assumed both were dead. Sgt Thompson had not heard any firing from the gunners since “Hellsapoppin” had left the target. He believed they either had been killed by the flak and fighters or were too seriously injured to move. From the intensity of the fire, he knew “Hellsapoppin” could explode any second. Sgt Thompson took a final glance at the instruments to ensure the plane was still in level flight. He went back to the bomb bay and opened the doors, which still operated. After checking below and seeing there was no plane under him, Sgt Thompson dropped out.
Almost immediately after Sgt Thompson bailed out, the plane broke in two at the radio room. Four others some how or other managed to escape the aircraft, Lts Bushnell, Barton, and Romm and the radio operator, T/Sgt Howard A. Earney. All were wounded. These four survived to become POWs. The rest of the crew remained trapped in the falling aircraft.
“Hellsapoppin” crashed 20 miles south of Bremen. (The first of Many: First Crews of the 8th Air Force by Lowell L. Getz)

Service

Units

  • 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars

    91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars

    Group
    The 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated at Harding Field, Louisiana on 15-April-1942 and went to MacDill Field, Florida for the first phase of training from 16-May-1942 to 25-June-1942. The Group was then assigned to 2nd Air Force at Walla...

  • 401st Bomb Squadron

People

  • Robert Ade

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars
    Killed in Action (KIA). Shot down 17 April 1943 in B-17 41-24459 'Hellsapoppin. ' According to Havelaar, the target was the Focke Wulf aircraft factory. Fighters and flak were heavy and the 401st BS was hit especially hard.

  • Gilbert Andrews

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner, Waist Gunner | 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars
    Killed in Action (KIA). Shot down 17 April 1943 in B-17 41-24459 'Hellsapoppin. ' According to Havelaar, the target was the Focke Wulf aircraft factory. Fighters and flak were heavy and the 401st BS was hit especially hard.

  • Robert Barton

    Military | Lieutenant | Navigator | 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars
    Shot down 17 April 1943 in B-17 #4124459 'Hellsapoppin. ' According to Havelaar, the target was the Focke Wulf aircraft factory. Fighters and flak were heavy and the 401st BS was hit especially hard. Prisoner of War (POW) put in Stalag Luft 3. POW

  • Walter Bohaczyk

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars
    Killed in Action (KIA). Shot down 17 April 1943 in B-17 41-24459 'Hellsapoppin. ' According to Havelaar, the target was the Focke Wulf aircraft factory. Fighters and flak were heavy and the 401st BS was hit especially hard. Purple Heart

  • Arthur Bushnell

    Military | Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars
    Shot down 17 April 1943 in B-17 #4124459 'Hellsapoppin. ' According to Havelaar, the target was the Focke Wulf aircraft factory. Fighters and flak were heavy and the 401st BS was hit especially hard. Prisoner of War (POW) at Stalag Luft 3 POW

  • Clifford Cadle

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars
    KIA 17 April 1943 in B-17 #41-24459 'Hellsapoppin'. According to Havelaar, the target was the Focke Wulf aircraft factory. Fighters and flak were heavy and the 401st BS was hit especially hard.

  • Thomas Cottrell

    Military | Sergeant | 303rd Bomb Group

  • Howard Earney

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars
    Shot down 17 April 1943 in B-17 #4124459 'Hellsapoppin. ' According to Havelaar, the target was the Focke Wulf aircraft factory. Fighters and flak were heavy and the 401st BS was hit especially hard. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Howard Earney

    Military | 306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers
    Shot down on 17 April 1943 on 'Hellsapoppin'. Prisoner of War (POW) at Stalag 17B Braunau Gneikendorf Near Krems Austria 48-15. Wounded on 29 January 1944

  • Harold Romm

    Military | Lieutenant | Bombardier | 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars
    Shot down 17 April 1943 in B-17 #4124459 'Hellsapoppin. ' According to Havelaar, the target was the Focke Wulf aircraft factory. Fighters and flak were heavy and the 401st BS was hit especially hard. Prisoner of War (POW) in Stalag Luft 3. POW

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Places

  • Bassingbourn

    Military site : airfield
    Now home to a museum all about the aifield and its USAAF residents (http://www.towermuseumbassingbourn.co.uk/) , Bassingbourn opened in 1938 as part of the RAF's pre-war expansion programme. The RAF continued to use it until late in 1942 when its long...

Events

Event Location Date
Failed to Return (FTR) Germany 17 April 1943

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 15:03:46 acbernstein1 Changes to description
Sources

http://www.91stbombgroup.com/Dailies/401st1943.html

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 14:55:07 acbernstein1 Changes to description
Sources

http://www.91stbombgroup.com/91st_info/91stbg_pow_internees_v12-135_may2...

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 12:49:58 acbernstein1 Changes to description
Sources

AAM

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2021 01:05:45 acbernstein1 Changes to description
Sources

https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/55636/TheFirstofMa...

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:40:02 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Dave Osborne, B-17 Fortress Master Log / MACR 15520 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

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