42-100347 - Lil Max

A B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-100347) of the 446th Bomb Group bombs Gotha, 20 February 1944. Handwritten caption on reverse: '39. 446BG, 20/2/44. Gotha, from 27616, 17,000 ft. Better print?'

Object Number - FRE 8119 - The B-24J Liberator - serial number - 42-100347 - Lil 'Max from the 446th Bomb Group, bombs Gotha, Germany. FTR. 20 February...

On September 26th, 1944 a B-24 Liberator bomber returning from a mission attacking the rail road marshalling yards in Hamm, Germany, crashed near Rijswijk in the Netherlands. One of the witnesses to the crash was a 15 year old boy. When this boy grew up and had a son of his own, he told him about the bomber crashing. His son, Harold E. Jansen, researched the plane named, Lil ' Max, and the flight crew aboard, and, subsequently, wrote a book titled, "Vlucht 648", or, "Flight 648", after more than three years of research and three visits to the United States to interview some of the surviving crew members. The co-pilot / instructor on the flight was my uncle, 1st Lt. William G. Rayner. Mr. Jansen contacted my aunt, Lucille Westrom, after being given her address by the Mayor of Everett, William E. Moore, in 1982. My aunt provided a picture of 1st Lt. Rayner and some biographical information. When Mr. Jansen's book was published he sent a copy to my aunt. However, the book was only published in the Dutch language. We found a neighbor of my wife's sister who was from the Netherlands, who most kindly translated parts of it pertaining to Lt. Rayner. Her translation follows :

Vlucht 648

(Flight 648)

Foreword (in English)

Dedication.

This book is dedicated to the memory of 2nd Lt. Edward Hopkins Gill, who gave his life for his crew members. 26 Sept 44.

Introduction.

On May 5, 1945, the Second World War, that had taken the lives of too many unnecessary and innocent victims, was ended for the Motherland. This same date marks also the beginning of the rebuilding of a new society that slowly needed to put all the fear and shock of the occupation to the background. This book forms the factual reconstruction of what happened on Tuesday, September 26, 1944. The eleven man crew of an American B-24 Liberator bomber was forced to bail out of their crippled and attacked plane by parachute. For two of them it was a jump to their death. Those that were not captured by the Germans found shelter by Dutch families who risked their lives, taking these liberators under their wings. With never before published reports, documents, photos, and eyewitness reports from Dutch, German and Americans. This remarkable document started from this one fact, the crash of a bomber. “Flight 648” was not written in order to make heroes but it was meant as a retrospective view, a remembrance of the countless many that who left their lives unknown. They left us a task after they offered their lives so fascism could never again lift it's ugly head again. By the realization of this work, countless persons gave me tremendous help. Without their help “Flight 648” could not have been captured in this form. My heart felt thanks go first of all to the still alive crew members of the “Lil Max” who during my travels to the United States helped me spontaneously and were so hospitable. (There follows a long list of persons who are also thanked and lastly he thanks his parents for their patience during his research.

The following pages were translated from Dutch to English by Mrs. Wilma Jongejan.

Page 40 of the book :

Hamm Bombing Tuesday - 26 Sep 44

The B-24s in Action

The Second Bomb Division, outfitted with B-24 Liberators, would get 317 Bombers together for the attack on Hamm, Germany. The bomb groups taking part in this action were the 44th Bomb Group, the 93rd Bomb Group, the 359th Bomb Group, the 392nd Bomb Group, the 445th Bomb Group, the 44th Bomb Group, the 448th Bomb Group, the 453rd Bomb Group, the 489th Bomb Group, and the 491st Bomb Group. The formation planes were going to be escorted by three Fighter Groups consisting of 146 P-51 Mustangs, who were to start out between 12:34 and 12:51 o'clock and l followed the 446th Bomb Group. In the early morning of September 26, the airport at Bungay, England, received a telex message from the headquarters of the Twentieth Combat Wing. It was Field Order No. 243, with the details for the coming mission. Slowly the airport was coming alive. In the meantime Group Operations was busy choosing the crews who were going to take part in the attack. They also looked into a new crew, that of Thomas H. Gill of the 707th Bombing Squadron. One of those men, Sgt. Mike Kreinheder, remembers a few of the details of his first mission. He had been assisting in the hangers the night before. Early in the morning, the quartermaster woke the crew, plus four other men, to get ready for a bombing flight. "Fog was still covering the ground, and we shivered with cold while we washed and dressed ourselves. We were, both, impressed and indifferent about it all. The chow line was long, as usual, and it was good to see the scrambled eggs and bacon, oatmeal, and apricot, bread, butter, and jam, with the hot coffee. We hastily ate our breakfast because it was getting late. Soon, at 8 o'clock, the briefing for today's mission would begin. A bus took us to the field and Operations Headquarters that was more than one and one half kilometers from the barracks. From there, we went to our lockers to pick up our gear. But, first, we picked up our parachutes, after which, we went in small groups to the briefing hall. The Navigator 2nd Lt. Marvin J. Charwat told us about a strange incident when he picked up his chute. As usual he checked the instruction booklet that had the inspection dates written in it and to his surprise he noticed that this parachute had not been inspected for a long time. The man who had handed it to him thought nothing of it and nonchalantly said, “Oh, Lieutenant, you don't need to inspect that thing. You surely won't be needing it on this mission, and you'll be back here in no time.” At 8:00 o'clock, the briefing hall was filled with a total of 34 flight crews who were anxiously waiting to find out what the target would be. An officer opened the briefing and showed on the map what the route would be to the target of that day, the railroad station at Hamm that was known to be a very important target. The station was the primary target, but, if, for some reason, they would not be able to bomb that target, the secondary target would be the center of the city of Hamm, itself. And, if Hamm could not be seen because of cloud cover, then, they could attack any military object within 80 kilometers from the German border and east of the Rhine River. The 446th Bomb Group would take part in the raid with 34 B-24's, who would, during formation above the English coast, be accompanied by two B-24's from the 489th Bomb Group, who were specially equipped with H2X radar and, who would lead the formation to the target. The briefing was closed with a prayer service, after which the fliers were transported by trucks to the waiting planes. During the briefing, 2nd Lt. Tom Gill was told that on his first flight mission his Copilot 2nd Lt. Warren Blower would be replaced with an experienced copilot / instructor, 1st Lt. William G. Rayner, who would assist the crew during the flight if anything would go wrong.

William G. Rayner

1st Lt. William G. Rayner was born August 20th, 1920, in Everett, Washington. He finished his schooling, and after graduating from Everett High School, found work as assistant sales manager at the Sevenich Motor Co. until 1940 when he was drafted for military service. In the summer of 1940 he joined L Company of the 161st Infantry of the National Guard of Washington. He followed his unit to Fort Lewis, and on December 6th, 1941, he left the U.S. by boat to Hawaii. The next morning, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. During his stay in Hawaii, he requested transfer to the Air Force which was not granted until 1943. In May 1942 he returned to the U.S. and was pleased to hear he was being transferred to officers training in Fort Benning Georgia. After successfully finishing training, he was promoted to 2nd Lt. and went to Camp Hood in Texas. After 6 months there, he finally got word that he was accepted for flight training. On August of 1942, he met and married Dixie Marie Clark of San Jose, California. Lt. Rayner got his flight training in Texas and received his Silver Wings at Pampa Air Field in December, 1943. After one week of leave, he was to report at the Salt Lake Crew Replacement Depot in Utah and became Captain Rex L. Fryer's copilot. The unit left for Davis Monthan Field close to Tucson, Arizona, where their flight training was continued from January untill April. On April 5th, they left by train for Topeka, Kansas, where a brand new B-24 Liberator was assigned to them. In the following months, they flew their plane via the Northern Route to Ireland, where it was to be delivered. On June 4th, 1944, two days before D Day, they were incorporated by the 707th Bomb Squadron of the 446th Bomb Group on Bungay. Lt Rayner made approximately five fighter flights as copilot of the B-24, Lil ' Max. On the 29th of July, his pilot, Captain Fryer, was transferred to the 705th Bomb Squadron as Operations Officer and, later on, he was promoted to Squadron Commander of the 705th. After some additional training, “Bunky” Rayner finally got command of his own plane and moved over to the left seat. Next to routine missions in enemy territory, he also took part in trucking missions that were flown between August 30 and Sept 9, 1944, to replenish stock for the Allied forces in France. In the meantime, he was promoted to 1st Lt. And at the end of September, 1944, he flew, primarily, as copilot / instructor to assist new crew members with their operational missions. On September 25, 1944, one day before his fateful mission over the Netherlands, he flew as copilot / instructor on 2nd Lt. Arthur E. Bersko's crew to Koblenz, Germany.

Copilot 2nd Lt. Warren Blower had planned to go along as an extra passenger, so he could watch the whole mission over the shoulders of Gill and Rayner. But this didn't work out that way, for, shortly after leaving the briefing building, 2nd Lt. Blower was addressed by the Operations Officer of the 707th Bomb Squadron and was told that he Blower was not going to go with his own crew because the copilot of the crew of 1st Lt. Donald F. White had gotten a head cold and had doctor's orders not to fly. Lt. Blower said goodbye to his crew and went to the B-24 Liberator, 42-7649, Jertie the Gremlin, JU-G, not realizing that his goodbye to his friends would be a goodbye forever. In the meantime, all the other crews went to their planes, including Tom Gill's crew. He flew the B-24 Liberator, 42-100347, JU-M, Lil' Max. This plane was one of a series of fifty built in 1942 by Consolidated Aircraft Corp. in San Diego, California. The, Lil ' Max, had flown sixty three missions, and, only twice, did it need to abort and turn back from a mission. Copilot Lt. John Madge in the 446th Bomb Group had suggested painting, Lil ' Max, on the plane, since he was a fan of the, "Li'l Max" character of the comic strip, "Joe Palooka". Next to the new Copilot Lt. Rayner, an eleventh man was added to the crew of, Lil ' Max, he was TSgt David G. Smith, a radar observer, working with the radar apparatus, known as the H2X, “Mickey”. So the operators were known as, “Mickey Operators”.

When the whole crew was present, they were busy inspecting the entire plane. At 10:50, Major Hurr ascended in the 446th Bomb Group's formation plane, Fearless Freddie. As soon as the 34 B-24's climbed to altitude, he took the lead position in the formation. At 11:25, the starting signal was given, Everyone was in position and ready for the start. Sgt. Mike Kreinheder related : “We were on our way to, Lil' Max, our plane. We looked at the ground crew who had worked all night to get the planes ready, they were finishing up with their final inspections. Everyone took position for the start. We had Tom Gill for our pilot, and our crew instructor, Pilot Rayner because the first combat mission for each crew was always flown with an instructor pilot on board. As they began starting the engines, according to instructions from the control tower through our Radio Operator Edwardsen. Joe kept an eye on the instrument panel and mag checked each engine for performance. The rest of us, Marv, the navigator, Kirch, Dave, Wally, Jack, Shorty, and Kreinheder took our positions on the flight deck and in the front part of the bomb bay in order to distribute weight in the right places. With about 7000 pounds of bombs, eleven crew members with all of their gear, including the heavy flak suits, it was a long run to get the plane off the ground, even with more than a three kilometer runway. At last, we were on our way. We saw a bright yellow colored formation Liberator and formed up with our squadron while circling over England. In about an hour, we were on course to the target over the North Sea. We were prepared for anything. Each man, in his place, listened to the orders coming from the intercom. It was a beautiful sight, with B-24s and B-17s glistening in the sun, as far as the eye could see. We had our oxygen masks and flight suits on, as we climbed, and turned the regulator knobs of our electrically warmed flight suits as we climbed higher to our cruising altitude of 24,000 feet.

SSgt Malcolm Edwardsen can add a little to the story :

“We in, Lil ' Max, were number three in the first elements of our squadron. The formation had taken a little longer to assemble, than planned. That's why, when we reached the coast of Holland, we were an hour behind schedule. Our plane was one of the those that carried an extra bomb. We had seven, while the others had six 1,000 pounders. This was only my second mission, and the pilots' first. We left England at 20,000 feet and climbed to our cruise height of 24,000 feet while crossing the North Sea.

The navigator, 2nd Lt. Marvin Charwat remembers the following :
Our crew had come together around, Lil ' Max, the plane for the mission of today. The coming flight would bring the total attack missions to 64 for, Lil ' Max. Some of the crew were uneasy as we approached the coming fight, as could be expected. It was the first attack mission for the officers and the second for most of the other crewmen. Our copilot was the first pilot who had finished all his preliminary flights. He brought our escape kits and candy bars to the plane. We went up and were soon above the airfield and joined the right formation. Before we knew it, we were on our way on course. Within thirty minutes, we were greeted by light flak over some of the islands on the north west coast of Holland. We were at 20,000 feet around 1:30 PM and climbing to 24,000 which was cruising altitude over the target. My pilot, Lt. Thomas Gill was not satisfied with the way, Lil ' Max, was flying. He felt it took too much power to stay in formation. Shortly after leaving the English coast the bombardier, FO Harold Kirchblum, took up his position in the nose turret to be able to shoot at any enemy planes attacking from our front. Right from the start, he had the idea that this plane should really be inspected for things didn't work right. For instance, the doors of the chin turret were in bad condition and wouldn't close properly. It was risky to turn the turret to the right or left because the doors could open up and risk the gunner falling out without a parachute. The only solution was to keep the turret in its neutral position so the weapons would point forward, preventing him from being able to answer any attack from the left or the right. Tom Gill called Jack Cullbertson via the intercom and asked him to help, since he was an expert with the .50 cal. guns and turrets. Others also had mixed feelings about, Lil ' Max. Most of them agreed that this plane should have been taken out of circulation a long time ago. Around 1:36 the formation reached the coast of the Netherlands above the island of Texel where they were shot at by flak. The crazy part of all of this was that the formation leader was flying right over Texel even though the orders had been clear to avoid it. Lt. Blower's plane also had problems with the cold. The temperature was thirty degrees below zero, and the #1 prop was uncontrollable. They decided not to holdup the formation unnecessarily and turned back to base. They left the 4th position, and Lt. Gill, who was in fifth position took our place. The formation was getting closer to the target. Then, at 1:45 the problems started for, Lil ' Max. Motor No. 2 was having problems with its propeller running away. The two pilots were having trouble controlling it, but, luckily, Gill and Rayner got control of it, so, at least, they could keep flying. At 2:49 the first bombs were falling on the railway depot of Hamm. A total of 8,248 tons of bombs fell on it. The target was cloudy and the planes used radar triangulating, as well, for dropping their bombs. Flak varied from light to heavy and was, especially heavy over the city and very accurate. During the attack on Hamm, three B-24's were shot down, and, for most of the crews, it was their last flight, because this would have been their thirtieth flight, earning them a return to the US.

Lil ' Max, In trouble :

Because of the problem with motor No. 2, Lil ' Max, had gotten behind the large formation, but, it had just started on the bomb run. What happened next was described by Malcolm Edwardsen :

“Above the target, the flak was quite heavy, and, since it was cloudy, we had to bomb with radar. Our group had appointed radio operators, who, during the bomb run, had to hold open the bomb bay doors. It sometimes happened that a strong gust of wind would slam the doors shut, and, at the same time, I had to make sure that all the bombs actually left the bay. While I was busy with that, I realized that the wires of my headset and the oxygen tube were not quite long enough and were stretched tight. After the “Bombs Away” order, I called Kirchblum to let him know that some of the bombs were stuck. When I didn't get an answer, I called the pilot to pull his drop lever to try to let the bombs go, and, when I still didn't get any reaction, I realized that the wires and tubes were all disconnected. I immediately connected them because it's very dangerous to be in such a small walkway without oxygen at a height of 24,000 feet and without a parachute. I called the pilots again and asked them to try to jettison the bombs out. They did, and after the last two bombs dropped, I closed the bomb bay doors and quickly went back to my position.”

Kirchblum relates :
“When we were above the target, two of the bombs stuck the moment I said “Bombs Away”. I heard Kutzar saying : “Bullshit, they are still in here.” I immediately went back to try to get them out, but it didn't work.” Tom Gill decided to make a sharp turn with the airplane in order to get the bombs to fall out, and that plan was successful.

Mike Kreinheder :
“Flak was showing in the distance when one squadron neared the center of the target. Other squadrons were north and south of us. “Hey Mike, transfer to the Tokyo tanks (extra tanks for ten minutes to add to the main supply). "Roger. See any fighters Wally?" "No. Just flak !", as a flak splinter just missed his tail turret. "Flak was heavy now, and we were right in the middle of it. Puff, puff, small clouds of smoke, black, white, and yellow colored, so close you thought you could almost touch them. We heard the splinters slam into the plane. One of them came up under my chair just at the moment that I was pouring gasoline into a tank. Then, more problems, a motor stopped, and another started running away. We were forced to descend out of the formation and hobble home with only two engines. There was a B-17 formation flying a lot slower than us, and we thought that maybe we could keep up with them. But, no such luck.”

Shortly after leaving the target area, flak hit the other two engines. Joe Mennitto kept motor three going but couldn't do anything for motor #1, which caught on fire. Number two had been out of order since before we approached the target area. Luckily, #3 and 4 kept going until we neared the Dutch border over Enschede. In the meantime, the crew had lost sight of the formation and we were left quite aways behind. Three twelve PM was the last time the 446th Bomb Group could still see, Lil ' Max. Two pilots of the group saw Lt. Gill's Liberator disappear from sight near the area around Enschede. With three bad props and engines, we were losing a lot of altitude. By the time we reached the Ijsselmeer Lake, the crew could take off their oxygen masks. Once over the waters of Ijsselmeer, Tom Gill gave orders to throw all heavy equipment they could spare out, hoping that would help their chances of making it to England. After that, he called over the radio for an escort, and soon three P-51 Mustangs appeared to escort them over the Ijsselmeer. When the tail gunner Kasievich noticed the escort planes, he called over the intercom that he could not identify them and almost started firing at them. Malcolm Edwardsen started firing identification flares so there would be no more mistakes. After a dozen flares, he was ordered to send an emergency radio signal. During training in the U.S., it was mandatory before every flight to test the radios. But in England, for safety reasons, it was necessary to omit these tests, otherwise, the Germans could easily find out how many aircraft were involved in an air attack. So Malcom's radio had not been tested, and by the time he had to send the emergency signal, he could not get it to work. Over the province of North Holland, the three escort Mustangs were forced to leave them because of fuel shortage, and they disappeared over the North Sea. The navigator, Lt. Charwat, suggested changing course to an emergency airport in Belgium, but Gill and Rayner were hoping they might make it to Bungay. It was difficult to keep the plane on course, but, when they reached the coastline at IJmuiden, they found that they were not far off the original flight plan, and Harold Kirchblum was assisting Charwat with navigation. Their altitude was now around 7,000 feet. A few kilometers past the coast line motor three failed, and a decision had to be made quickly. They debated that an emergency landing at sea was too dangerous, and the only alternative was to find the emergency airport. Slowly the Liberator was gliding back to the Dutch coast. They were now flying Southward to Belgium.

But first let's go back to Mike Kreinheder's story :
“We asked for escorts because we were taking the shortest route over Holland and saw how other planes had passed us. Now we had to cross the water. But something was wrong with the #2 engine. It was burning. What are we going to do now, make an emergency landing on water or jump out ? We were too close to the coast to be picked up by our air/sea planes. Better turn around and jump with the parachute. We had to make the plane lighter, so we threw whatever we could overboard, our weapons, munitions, flaksuits, emergency equipment, but not any parachutes. We opened the bomb bay doors and the escape hatches, put on our parachutes, and waited for the bell to sound. I had not fastened my shoes to the chute harness yet and was just going to do that, but no, it was time; too late, the bell went. “Well good luck fellas” there goes Wally. I was next but everything went so fast we didn't have time to be scared.”

South of the Hague, the situation of, Lil' Max, became hopeless, and at an altitude of 4500 or 5000 feet, Lt. Gill gave the orders to bail out.

Page 53: An eyewitness on the ground.

One of the many eyewitnesses on the ground was then 14 year old A.J.C. Bercudsen: “It happened one afternoon, a big plane came from the sea towards us. It was obvious that something was wrong with it because it flew so low with hardly any speed at all. Our house was then at the corner of de Bovendijk at Kwintsheul and I was about the only one outside at that time, because close to us on the Heulbrug (bridge) was a German barricade that was the entrance to the fortress Hoek van Holland. The barricade was very strict in those days and the Germans would punish any actions they didn't like. At the moment I saw the plane coming I could see several persons jumping out of it after which their parachutes opened and they were gliding down. I believe there were about six of them, but I am not sure of that. What puzzled me were that small objects were flying at them and made little holes in the white chutes. At the same time I heard rapid rifle shots and I carefully walked to the highway to see where it came from. When I looked around the corner of our house I noticed that a light cannon was being set up across the street. I wondered how come all of a sudden so many soldiers were around there because usually there weren't very many in the area. Then I noticed several military vehicles arriving and a lot of German soldiers jumping out of them, laden with all kinds of weapons, slings of bullets around their necks and grenades in their boots. Next I saw two soldiers on the roof of an old store who were shooting at the parachutes with a machine gun. It was all very scary for a 14 year old boy but also fascinating. Just when I had decided I had better get out of there, because I was getting kind of scared, another military truck stopped and a bunch of armed soldiers jumped out and one of them came right up to me. Good grief, what now! But I was afraid to run away. This German asked me which way to the place where the fliers had fallen. In my confusion, because I didn't understand German, I just pointed down the road and straight on. Some time later I went to look at the plane that had crashed close to a farm on the outskirts of the city of Rijswijk. When my dad came home from work he told us that they were searching for the person who sent all those German soldiers the wrong way. I guess that must have been me because I don't remember seeing any other persons outside except for the heavily armed soldiers."

Rob Steinbruch lived in Rijswijk during the war and was fascinated by what happened in the air. He made notes of all his observations in a diary that has been saved all these years. One of his observations is about our story. Tuesday September 26, 1944 Approximately 5:15 PM: Flying Fort. Shot down by German Air Defense (This was a mistake, it was not a B-17 Flying Fort. But a B-24 Liberator.)

City Police of Delft 26 Sept 1944 5:20 O'Clock Captain Donk announces that according to headquarters of the Air Defense a four engine bomber went down northwest of the city. Chief van Dongen went there to see. 6:15 O'Clock Chief van Dongen reports that the plane landed in the city limits of Wateringen (this was a mistake, it was in the city limits of Rijswijk.) The mayor was informed. He ordered that a watch be placed around there till 10 PM in case of possible parachutists.

Copy of report from Air Defense, Wateringen.
Minutes of sighting of parachutists on 26 September 1944 from a crashed bomber at city of Rijswijk . On September 26, 1944 at 5:25 PM parachutists were seen floating West to East. Immediately I gave the order to sound the “Air Alarm”. Soon after we found that an airplane had crashed close to Rijswijk, Holland. The ambulance and fire truck immediately set out. Investigation showed that the plane had indeed crashed in the city limits of Rijswijk and also that the body of a parachutist was found a few hundred meters from the plane. German military authorities came out and gave orders that the body was to be transported to the cemetery at the Kerkhoflaan in the Hague. The driver of the ambulance and one of the firemen took care of that. The fire department did not need to do anything else, there was no danger of fire since the plane was located in a pasture. The other parachutists had fallen in the city limits of Wateringen and Rijswijk. It is not known whether any had fallen anywhere else. The German military and Griine Police have conducted a thorough search for eventual other parachutists. We have not heard the results of that search although we know that some have fallen into German hands, and are now prisoners of war. The parachutes and other gear were taken by Germans. The local police have orders to keep looking for eventual parachutists.

These notes were made and signed by JYA vander Binden, Commander of Air Defense of the City of Wateringen. Rijswijk, South Holland.
Police day report from Tuesday 26 Sept 1944 7 AM
till Wednesday 27 Sept 1944 7 AM
17:30 A 4 engine bomber has crashed in this city on a plot t 51 Kleineg. The plane was completely destroyed. One crew member was found dead near the plane. The others had left the plane by parachutes. 20:45 Field officers requested to investigate the possibility of a second dead parachutist in this area. (nothing was found)

Page 55: The Last Moments

On the 26th of September the inhabitants of the Hague and surrounding Westland were startled by the heavy sound of a bomber in trouble. It was around 6:30 PM Netherlands time – the plane was constantly attacked by anti aircraft artillery fire from German positions on the ground and shortly thereafter they could see the crew leave the plane by parachutes. One of the countless people watching was the amateur photographer Nico L.van Duier who had made many pictures with his fathers Leica . In this particular afternoon he was upstairs in his bedroom of the family home on 23 Crispijnstraat in the Hague when he heard the sound of the plane and looked out of his window to see what was going on. To the left of the smoke stack of the bread bakery nearby he could see the B-24 Liberator flying along the coastline. It was quite low and in a flash he grabbed the camera that was always close at hand and snapped a picture. A few minutes later he could see the plane starting to make a left turn while still barely visible above the house across the street and snapped another picture. (These photos are on pages 55 and 57 of the book.)

What exactly was happening on board after Lt. Gill had given the order to jump? The radio operator Edwardsen and the radar observer Smith had already gone to the bomb hold. The bomb doors were opened again and Smith went out first, followed by Edwardsen. The navigator Charwat jumped third: “The words of the pilot, Tom Gill, still echos in my ears, “Prepare to bail out”. “Bail out”.

We had turned on a course east about 25km west of Rotterdam. Harold Kirchblum looked at me and said: “It doesn't matter who goes first”. There wasn't much time for words, so I let myself fall out of the nose wheel flap and was outside. Harold Kirchblum remembers the following : "While we were in the Air Force I always wondered why we had to do so much marching when you were going to fly. At the moment the order was given, it was just a question of following orders without thinking. When we opened the wheel flaps, we saw two opened parachutes below the plane, most likely, Smith and Edwardsen. Charmat and I were at the flap. I pushed Charmat out and followed immediately. Number five to leave the plane was Walter Kasevich. His story is as follows: “ I think the most difficult part of the flight was to just leave the plane. I remember that we were in the hold, ready to jump, but stiff with fear, knowing that maybe this might be the end for all of us. Nobody wanted to be first to jump, but I can still see us when I replied, “I'll go first, and lets all try not to pop our chutes too soon. We knew we were targets if we had to float in our chutes for any time. After Kasevich followed Kreinheder and Jack Culbertsen, he remembered real well that Tom Gill had just said “Bail Out” when he already saw a parachute through the flap of the hold. This must have been Smith, who jumped without waiting for the word “Out”. The last to leave the hold location was Paul Kutzar. After those crew members left the plane, there were only three men left on board, the pilot, Tom Gill, the copilot, William Rayner, and Sgt. Mennito. Joe Mennito relates: “Everyone except Gill, Rayner, and I, had jumped. I asked Rayner to jump before me because Gill and I had trained together, and I didn't want to leave him. Rayner understood and bailed. I heared later from the Germans that he was killed in his chute by German ground fire. Tom was still holding on to the airplane yoke, because it had been hard to control the plane. Tom held the plane up untill everyone was out. Every time he let go of the yoke, the plane would go into a dive. The automatic pilot wasn't working, either. Tom was calm because he knew he had a job to finish, and did it. The only thing he said was that it was a bad time to go down. Tom was on his first mission, and the copilot on his thirtieth. But it doesn't really make any difference which mission it is when it happens. He asked if everyone got out, I said yes, with both hands on the yoke, he got out of his chair and ordered me, “Get the hell out of here, I'm right behind you”. This were his last words except for yelling “Good Luck”. The last I saw of him, he only had one hand left on the wheel while getting ready to go to the bomb hold.” Joe Mennito jumped at 1100 feet from the bomb hold of, Lil ' Max. He pulled the cord, and it seemed like a long time before the chute opened but it finally did. Immediately, the Germans started shooting at him, and a bullet hit his leg. The wound was bleeding, but didn't seem very serious. The earth seemed to come up to him fast, and he made a landing close to the Lammersbridge on the Sammersweg Road in Wateringen. He started rolling up his parachute. One of the people who saw Mennito come down was Mr. H.C.J. Nan Steekelenbusg, Sammersweg, Wateringen: “We had heard the plane and were standing in front of our house by the Sammersweg bridge to watch. One of those flyers landed right in front of our house, just across the bridge. The flyer was rolling his parachute and with his hand above his eyes trying to see where he was. At the same moment, the German soldiers came out of their bunker. They jumped across the canal and took the man prisoner. He was taken to Overvoorde.” It was a group of five to ten Germans. Mennito was surprised to see how young they were. They took his package of cigarettes away, took some, and gave it back to him. They took him to a villa in Overvoorde that was being used as headquarters. Ten minutes later they took him outside, and he was ordered to identify a body that was brought there on a farmer's wagon. It must have been a terrible moment for him to be confronted with the dead body of his pilot, Thomas Gill, whom he had spoken to, just a few minutes before. The Germans told him that his chute had not opened. He could see it was only partly opened and was now covering him. Mennitto asked if he could bury him but was told the Dutch people would take care of it. They also told him that Lt. Rayner had been found dead. On September 29th, 1944, Lt. Thomas Gill and Lt. William G. Rayner were buried at the military cemetery at The Hague in graves No. 90 and 91. On March 4, 1946, the bodies of both flyers were transferred to the central American military cemetery in Margraten. Lt. William G. Rayner's grave is now in the American Cemetery by the city Luxemburg, at Plot F, Row 19, Grave 13. As mentioned, he was found dead in a field at the Kleiweg not far from the railroad Rijswijk, Delft. Mrs. Van Ruiten was, on that 26th of September, on her way to take a friend home. On the way to the railroad. There were in those days man holes to take cover in, in case of air attack, but those were full of water. When they saw that plane coming, she and her friend ran into a field that was owned by Peter Olsthoozen. They laid flat on the ground with their hands over their heads. A short while later they heard something drop and thought it was part of the plane. They turned and saw about three meters from them, the body of a flyer bounce to the ground. It was a horrible experience to watch this close up. She went right away to that flyer to try to find papers on him, but, sadly enough, she was chased away by the Germans who arrived in five minutes. But, in the meantime, she had a good look at the flyer who laid on his back. He was not injured, and she didn't see any bullet wounds. The body seemed in normal condition. She noticed that the man was wearing a soft flyers cap, and he looked young. He was wearing an unopened parachute and chute harness, and his shoes were fastened to his harness. The Germans chased the women away, and she said without thinking “Drop dead.” Unfortunately it was impossible to know what the exact cause of death was for Lt. Rayner. Around 5:30, the firetruck and ambulance of the city of Wateringen came out to the wreckage of the plane. The Germans gave orders to F.J. Van Ooyen, the ambulance driver, to pick up the body of Lt. Rayner. The land where the dead flyer was laying was quite wet and they had to make a detour to get there. His body was laid on a stretcher and transported to the Kerkhoflaan in the Hague where it was delivered to the chapel.

A note from city police The Hague:

Mr F.J. Ooyen 4 Noordeveg, Wateringen delivered on orders of the German military the body of the American Flyer: Lt. William G. Rayner, O-1289804, T4244, who jumped from a crashing plane and fell to his death. Mulder

Mr. Loomans account:

The following account was sent by Harold Jansen to William Rayners sister after the book had been published in 1983.

On Jan. 19, 1988 I was contacted by Mr. Looman who informed me that he was a member of the International Red Cross during World War 2 in Rijswijk, Holland. He told me that he was an eyewitness of the crash of 1/Lt Rayner's Liberator. He also saw how 1/Lt. Rayner bailed out of the crippled airplane and that his parachute only opened partly. Mr Looman took his bicycle and drove to the Kleiweg, a road near the railroad track Rijswijk to Delft, where Lt. Rayner landed. He told me that he found Lt. Rayner lying on his back in a marshy grass land, and that he was still alive. He asked Mr. Looman if he was working for the Germans or if he was a Dutch patriot. Mr. Looman confirmed that he was a patriot and Lt. Rayner said: “You are my friend.” Lt. Rayner insisted that he should check his pocket for military papers and that he should also take his watch so that the Germans wouldn't find it. Five minutes later Lt. Rayner died in his arms. At about the same time, the Germans arrived, and Mr. Looman was able to leave the area without being stopped by the Germans. If they had stopped him and found the items that Lt Rayner had asked him to secure, the Germans would have shot him immediately. After the war, Mr. Looman handed the personal effects over to the proper authorities, and they assured him that it would be returned to the family. They gave Mr. Looman a receipt of returning these items, such as, an army watch, a pay book, and some sort of log,book with flight details. As you will notice, he wasn't able to remove all the items carried by Lt. Rayner. During my visit to Mr. Looman, he told me that for years he had a photo from Lt. Rayner that he had found in the logbook. But during a move to another house, the photo was, unfortunately, lost.

Page 60:

The picture of Lt. Rayner, the unfortunate copilot of the B-24J, 42-100347, Lil ' Max, who was found dead close by the railroad Rijswijk-Delft :

Lt. Rayner is buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Enter name in the search box to see details.
William Rayner burial info at Luxembourg

Photo of 2nd Lt. Thomas Gill

Lt. Gill is buried in the American Cemetery at Ardennes in Neupre, Belgium. Enter name in search box for details.
Thomas Gill info at Ardennes

Photos taken by Nico L.van Duier (page 55)

Enlargement of photos from page 55

Link to map of flight track of the plane:
Memorial at the site of the crash in Rijswijk
1938 Everett High Yearbook
Visit home by Army Officer William Rayner
Crew photos of the 446th Bomb Group
Artwork of 'Lil Max' on the plane.
Test flight photo of the plane.
Web site of the 446th Bomb Group

Connections

See how this entry relates to other items in the archive by exploring the connections below.

Units served with

A flight of B-24 Liberators of the 446th Bomb Group fly in formation above the clouds.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 446th Bomb Group 707th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Navigator
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 446th Bomb Group 707th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Sergeant
  • Role/Job: waist gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 446th Bomb Group 707th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Radio Operator, Top Turret Gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 446th Bomb Group 707th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 446th Bomb Group 707th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Tail Gunner

Events

Event Location Date Description

Crashed

Failed to Return (FTR)

Monseigneur Bekkerslaan 391/613 Rijswijk, Netherlands 1944-09-26 - 1944-09-26 Crashed at Rijswijk, Netherlands, after it was hit by flak over the railway marshalling yards at Hamm, Germany. 26 Sep 1944 MACR 9431

Revisions

Date16 Jun 2022 12:25:42
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Best Web - B-24 - 42-100347 - Lil ' Max MACR 9431

Date16 Jun 2022 11:42:59
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

"Vlucht 648" - "Flight 648" - Harold E. Jansen

Date16 Jun 2022 09:09:53
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

AC spelling - Kickapoo

Date16 Jun 2022 09:08:11
ContributorKickapoo
Sources

Aircraft name spelling. - Kickapoo

Date31 Jan 2019 17:05:28
ContributorSIMON
Sources

http://myplace.frontier.com/~wgmumaw/Flight%20648/Flight%20648.html

This is a translation of pages from the book "Vlucht 648" from the author Harold E. Jansen. (ISBN:9789061204770).

Date30 Mar 2018 00:33:23
ContributorRayWells
Sources

x

Date12 Mar 2017 00:41:06
ContributorAZ MAC
Date27 Sep 2014 18:40:08
ContributorAAM
Sources

MACR 9431 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

42-100347: Gallery (6 items)