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42-29752

B-17 Flying Fortress

Delivered Cheyenne 12/2/43; Walker 26/2/43; Salinas 10/3/43; Presque Is 8/4/43; Assigned 338BS/96BG Grafton Underwood 17/4/43; on assembly crashed in The Wash en route St Omer when controls were damaged and stabilizer shot off accidentally by own waist gunner 13/5/43 with Capt Derrol Rogers (KIA-drowned); Co-pilot: Norville Gorse, Navigator: Joe Hudson, Bombardier: George Rawlings, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Basil Maxwell, Radio Operator: Bob Bennett, Ball turret gunner: Alf Miles, Waist gunner: Bob Dominick, Waist gunner: Edwin Wolfkuhle, Tail gunner: Ed Youngers (9 Returned to Duty). (1st group loss). No MACR.

The aircraft was part of the 96th Bomb Group, newly arrived from the USA in April 1943.

They had landed at RAF Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, but were stationed at RAF Snetterton Heath.

On May 13 1943 they prepared for their first mission at the start of their combat tour.

They were to attack the Luftwaffe airfield at St Omer, France - but things went wrong straight away as the 22 aircraft taxied for take-off.

Two planes veered off the runway and the lead aircraft had to abort over Spalding because of an oxygen leak in the ball turret. The rest followed their leader back to base - except for B-17 #42-29752.

Its fate is recorded in the book Snetterton Falcons, written by Geoff Ward, from Diss, and Robert Doherty, a veteran of the 96th.

Pilot Capt Rogers had been on a roll of bad luck. Two days earlier his original aircraft, “Miss Poisonality”, had damaged a wing in a collision with a contractor’s truck on the airfield and was being repaired.

Lt Joe Hudson, who was the navigator on board #42-29752, later wrote of the tragedy: “We had been warned about the possibility of being attacked while we were taking off or landing. “Consequently, our machine guns were charged. When Capt Rogers banked the ship, the right waist gun discharged about 50 rounds, severing the right horizontal stabilizer.

“By great flying skill Capt Rogers and his co-pilot, Lt Norville Gorse, managed to correct the stall.”

The scattering bullets had also injured two of the crew, waist gunner Sgt Edwin Wolfekule, and tail gunner Sgt Edward Youngers.

The aircraft’s yoke - steering column - was pushed as far forward as possible but, with a missing stabilizer, it still continued to climb.

Rogers and Gorse struggled to keep the plane steady, tieing cords to the yoke which gave them enough control to fly back over the airfield where six of the crew bailed out safely.

The injured Sgt Youngers had been hit in the spine so a rope was tied to his rip chord before he was thrown out, enabling his parachute to open without his intervention.

Rogers and Gorse then bravely flew out over the Wash to jettison their bombs away from people before turning back, over land, so that the bombardier and navigator could bail out safely, near King’s Lynn.

Next, the hero pilot and co-pilot took their crippled plane back out to sea to ditch it away from built-up areas.

They both bailed out somewhere off Blakeney and the plane disappeared beneath the waves to be discovered 72 years later by the North Norfolk Divers team.

Lt Gorse was picked up by an RAF rescue launch and lived to fight another day.

Sadly, Capt Rogers was in the freezing North Sea for some time before Sheringham Lifeboat Forester’s Centenary found him, unconscious. He did not survive and is buried in the American military cemetery, at Madingley, near Cambridge.

Service

Units

  • 8th Air Force

    8th Air Force


    Eighth Air Force Bomber Command became the Eighth Air Force on February 1944, it oversaw bombardment of strategic targets in Europe until 1945. ...

  • 96th Bomb Group

    96th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 96th Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses to targets across occupied Europe from May 1943 to April 1945. ...

  • 338th Bomb Squadron

People

  • Robert Bennett

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Radio Operator; Ball Turret Gunner | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #4229752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Returned to base. Shot down 28 July 1943 in B-17 #4230355 'Dallas Rebel. ' Plane crashed into North Sea. Killed in Action (KIA). DFC, AM w/ 3 Oak Leaf Cluster, PH

  • Robert Dominick

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Navigator | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 42-29752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Returned to base. Shot down 11 April 1944 in B-17 42-31782. Prisoner of War (POW) imprisoned at Stalag 17B.

  • Norville Gorse

    Military | Captain | Co-Pilot | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #42-29752 ditched into North Sea 13 May 1943. Gorse and pilot Rogers made a valiant effort to control the plane. Returned to base. ...

  • Joseph Hudson

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #4229752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Returned to base. May also have a mention in Losses of the 8th & 9th AFs Vol. I p. 161 by Bishop & Hey for 24 June 1943, B17 41-9174 was on a navigational test flight when problems developed on...

  • Basil Maxwell

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner ; Flight Engineer | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #4229752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Returned to base. Shot down 28 July 1943 in B-17 #4230355 'Dallas Rebel. ' Plane crashed into North Sea. Prisoner of War (POW) imprisoned at Stalag 17B. POW

  • Alfred Miles

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #4229752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Returned to base.

  • George Rawlings

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Bombardier | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #42-29752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Returned to base. Shot down 13 May 1943 by own waist gunner and bailed out safely. Shot down again on 17 May 1943 mission to Lorient, France in B-17 #42-29767 'Boot Hill'. Prisoner of War (POW) : initially...

  • Derrol Rogers

    Military | Captain | Pilot | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #4229752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Killed in Action (KIA). Only member of crew killed. The waist gunner's gun went off as he was unloading preparing to land and it shot off the stabilizer, The crew bailed out and Pilot Rogers and Co-pilot...

  • Edwin Wolfekule

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #4229752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Returned to base. Shot down 28 July 1943 in B-17 #4230355 'Dallas Rebel. ' Plane crashed into North Sea. Killed in Action (KIA).

  • Edward Youngers

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 96th Bomb Group
    B-17 #42-29752 ditched in Channel 13 May 1943. Returned to base. Shot down 28 July 1943 in B-17 #42-30355 'Dallas Rebel'. Plane crashed into North Sea. Prisoner of War (POW) imprisoned at Stalag 17B. POW

Missions

  • VIII Bomber Command 55

    13 May 1943
    The large fighter sweeps of the last several weeks have not been successful in drawing any significant numbers of German fighters in opposition. So, if the German will not send his fighters up for a one-on-one confrontation with the American P-47s,...

Places

  • Grafton Underwood

    Military site : airfield
    Grafton Underwood was built in 1941 by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd. It was the first airfield in England to receive an Eighth Air Force flying unit, when in May 1942 personnel of the 15th Bomb Squadron took up residence. As a satellite airfield for...

  • Snetterton Heath

    Military site : airfield
    Intended to be an RAF bomber base, construction of Snetterton Heath started in Autumn 1942 but continued until mid-1943, because it was extended after allocation as an Eighth Air Force bomber base. It had eventually three concrete runways, 50...

  • Presque Isle Army Airfield

    Military site : airfield

Events

Not yet known

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
19 August 2021 21:54:36 jmoore43 Changes to description
Sources

Added a space before the words "Tail gunner" in the A/C “Description” to aid clarity.

Date Contributor Update
29 May 2020 22:32:08 kstrykerAK Changes to markings and unit associations
Sources

Snetterton Falcons II: The 96th Bomb Group in World War II by Robert E Doherty & Geoffrey D Ward. Second Edition with Errata and Supplemental Information. Taylor Publishing. 1996. pages 20, 24, 293

Date Contributor Update
30 November 2015 22:11:27 Pete Changes to description
Sources

452nd Bomb Group Assoc.

Date Contributor Update
30 November 2015 22:04:47 Pete Changes to media associations
Sources

452nd Bomb Group Assoc.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:40:23 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Dave Osborne, B-17 Fortress Master Log

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