42-29791 Little Jimmie, Memphis Blues

Delivered Cheyenne 21/2/43; Gore 7/3/43; Assigned 334BS/95BG [BG-Q] Alconbury 19/4/43 LITTLE JIMMIE; 335BS [OE-Q] Framlingham 12/5/43; on 17/5/43 with W.R. McPherson, Bombardier: Keith Murray wia when nose gun exploded; 336BS [ET-Q] Horham 15/6/43;
7m, transferred 358BS/303BG [VK-B] Molesworth 17/6/43; Missing in Action Villacoublay 14/7/43 with Calvin Swaffer, Co-pilot: John Johnston, Navigator: Bill Karraken, Bombardier: Bill Sweet, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Rudi Lopez, Radio Operator: Jim Matthews, Ball turret gunner: Ed Griffin, Waist gunner: Ed Cobb, Waist gunner: Jim Mills, Tail gunner: John Moody (10 Returned to Duty); ship hit by JU 88 rockets, ditched Channel, 30 miles off Shoreham, UK, all rescued by Air Sea Rescue in HSL145. No MACR. MEMPHIS BLUES.

A detailed account of ditching was recorded by one of the RAF Spitfire pilots of No. 91 Squadron who saw the B-17 safely back across the English Channel. It has been shared by Ray Carroll, son of Squadron Leader Ray Harries, on the 303rd Bomb Group website:
http://www.303rdbg.com/358swaffer.html

Here is the account:
'Bastille Day, July 14, 1943'

'Americans put up a huge formation of B-17's on Bastille Day to bomb a target in France, which undoubtedly was also designed to show the flag, and lift the morale of the French. My memory tells me a ball bearing factory, and perhaps Le Mans. At any rate it was a fairly massive attack for those times.'

'Our Squadron was briefed for "Withdrawal Cover" in the Le Havre-Caen area, which entailed taking up position there to await the bomber force on its return, and give any assistance that may be required.'

'We patrolled about for some time in company with a number of other Fighter Squadrons and eventually the bombers came into sight. Three boxes in close formation, each box covering the sky to something like 2000 feet in each plane. When we had first sight, one got the impression of an aerial tank, massive, imponderable, unstoppable, as they slowly advanced across the wide blue towards the coast and home.'

'As they came closer, some small dots could be seen diving and climbing around the flanks. Enemy fighters trying to make an impression on this formidable mass. Ray (Squadron Leader Ray Harries 91 Squadron CO) was leading of course and itching to get to grips, but the controller would have none of it, and insisted we maintain our position. As the formation came closer, the enemy fighters seemed to depart. I suppose they had seen us as we had seen them. We were still being vectored inland just behind Le Havre, with Ray frequently calling for permission to go in deeper, only to be denied.'

'Then the "controller" came up and said "I have a big friend who is in difficulty" He then gave us a course to steer which took us towards the Channel and away from potential action. Ray had a "moan" then turned the squadron onto the heading and very shortly we saw our "Big Friend", a B-17, and indeed he was in difficulty. I should think losing one engine in these circumstances is more then enough, but he had lost two, and in addition was slowly losing height, with a fairly large section of the English Channel still to be negotiated. I should think the occupants were feeling pretty vulnerable at the time, and to find twelve Spitfires suddenly wheeling about no doubt gave some degree of comfort, but there was still a deal to exercise their minds in the immediate future.'

'The bomber was making a slow but noticeable decent from the 5000 feet at which we picked it up. It had something like one hundred miles of Channel to traverse to the nearest point on the British mainland. The weather was fine, and the sea calm, but it was clear to all the onlookers that the crew were going to get their feet wet. We were swinging about in "pairs" around the "friendly" trying to keep out of each other's way, but also not wanting to miss anything that might be happening to the Fortress. It called for some pretty nimble "air work".'

'Ray was keeping the ground stations informed of the progress, and the possibility of a ditching. Unfortunately we were unable to raise the bomber on the R/T as we didn't have it's frequency.'

'God knows how slowly we progressed across the Channel. The big aircraft was down to about a thousand feet, when all kinds of unnecessary goods and chattels began to be flung out from the side exit door. It went on for some time suggesting the crew had scoured the fuselage for anything movable and jettisonable. Regrettably it didn't help much and the wavelets on the surface of the sea got steadily nearer the belly of the "Fort".'

'In the fighters, the fuel situation was beginning to get a little 'dicey'. Ray came up on the R/T to say that he would stay with the bomber, and the rest of us should return to base. He had some hopes. While we had a deal of sympathy with the situation of our American allies, human nature being what it was, there was no way we were not going to be there when it went in. So we kept wheeling about the sky with one eye on the fuel gauge and one on each other.'

'By this time we had crossed perhaps seventy miles of sea and were about thirty miles south of Brighton. The "Fort" was virtually down to sea level and we were in great anticipation of the Final Act. He had to go in. We were short of fuel. The Air Sea Rescue boat was on the way. It was a good day to put down. But would he ditch it? Would he hell. I don't know what they were doing in the cockpit to keep it airborne, but whatever it was it stretched the drama to the absolute limit.'

'It was some ten miles nearer Brighton, with the aircraft so close to the surface that the slipstream from the two propellers was throwing up a fine spray, before the Captain finally put it down. So competently and smoothly, it literally floated onto the bosom of our receptive Channel. A Beautiful "ditch", which brought forth much approving comment and whooping on the R/T between our boys.'

'It had hardly come to rest when a number of the crewmembers appeared on the fuselage and wing. A couple of dinghies were rapidly inflated and in they piled. We of necessity hurriedly left the area for West Hampnett, leaving the approaching Rescue boat to ring down the curtain.'

'The B-17 Bomber was Memphis Blues of the 303rd Bomber Group. Their crew turned up in our mess the next day and a good time was had by all.'

Connections

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

Units served with

Official emblem of the 303rd Bomb Group approved 7 November 1942.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 95th Bomb Group 334th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 18124489
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant (Technician Third Grade)
  • Role/Job: Ball Turret Gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 95th Bomb Group 334th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 31135149
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant (Technician Third Grade)
  • Role/Job: Flight Engineer
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 455th Bomb Group 95th Bomb Group 334th Bomb Squadron 741st Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 13007515
  • Highest Rank: Technical Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Tail Gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 303rd Bomb Group 358th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Sergeant
  • Role/Job: waist gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers 423rd Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-735276
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Bombardier

Places

Missions

Events

Event Location Date Description

Crashed

Failed to Return (FTR)

Off Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, UK 1943-10-14 Missing in Action Villacoublay 14-Jul-43. Ship hit by JU 88 rockets, ditched Channel, 30 miles off Shoreham, UK, all rescued by Air Sea Rescue in HSL145. No MACR.

Other

Non Battle Casualty

1943-05-17 On 17-May-43 with pilot Lt W R McPherson, Bombardier Keith Murray WIA when nose gun exploded.

Revisions

Date23 Nov 2022 02:50:35
Contributoracbernstein1
Sources

95th Bomb Group Memorials Foundation

Date24 May 2022 10:59:16
ContributorAl_Skiff
Sources

Dave Osborne, B-17 Fortress Master Log / MACR 819 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

Date28 Apr 2021 18:17:23
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Added a space before the words "Tail gunner" in the A/C “Description” to aid clarity.
Added a "-" to the A/C type in the "Summary biography" to aid clarity & consistency.

Date9 Jun 2016 16:14:21
ContributorLucy May
Sources

*correction* Ray Carroll is the name of Harries' son.

Date9 Jun 2016 15:33:22
ContributorLucy May
Sources

Correspondence with Ray Harries, son of Squadron Leader Ray Harries, No. 91 Squadron.
See also: http://www.303rdbg.com/358swaffer.html

Date14 Dec 2015 14:14:01
ContributorAl_Skiff
Sources

AAM DB Entry Correction.

Date2 Dec 2015 22:58:10
ContributorAl_Skiff
Sources

AAM DB Entry.

Date27 Sep 2014 18:40:23
ContributorAAM
Sources

Dave Osborne, B-17 Fortress Master Log / MACR 819 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database