Robert Patton BlankenshipMilitary ROLL OF HONOUR
This crew arrived at Kimbolton Airfield (AAF Station 117), Huntingdonshire either on the 16th or 17th of November, 1943, as part of an unusually large contingent of 30 replacement crews. On arrival, Lt. Mueller’s crew was assigned to the 524th Bombardment Squadron and they were housed on Site No. 4, located on the eastern side of the airfield. The new crews would have received a period of training both on the ground and in the air to familiarize themselves with the complexities of flying combat in the crowded and dangerous skies over Europe. Lt. Mueller and his crew flew their first and only mission on Wednesday, December 22nd, 1943.
The 379th Bombardment Group dispatched 21 aircraft to attack the marshalling yards at Osnabruck, Germany. These aircraft joined with 20 aircraft from the 384BG and 20 aircraft of 303BG to form the 41st Combat Wing over the Fens. In turn this combat wing joined up at Cromer, on the Norfolk coast, with three other Wings to complete the leading Air Task Force which departed England at 1246 hours. By this time there were some 248 B-17s airborne from units of the First Bombardment Division. When units from the Second and Third Bombardment Divisions and the fighter escort were taken into account over 1000 planes were involved in the day's mission.
The weather conditions were poor this day with thick cloud reducing visibility. Each Combat Wing was accompanied by a radar equipped Pathfinder aircraft, which would enable the lead plane to pick out the target in the vent of cloud cover over Germany. At some point during the mission the Pathfinder B-17 leading the 41st Wing aborted and none of the Groups in the Wing bombed Osnabruck marshalling yards because the solid under-cast obscured their primary target. So the 379th, along with the 384th and 303rd turned for home and bombed a target of opportunity in Germany when a hole in the clouds permitted.
For this mission Lt. Mueller had been assigned to fly B-17F 42-29724 "Little Minnie," carrying the fuselage codes WA-H. The WA denoted membership of the 524BS and the letter H was its radio call sign letter. This aircraft was normally parked on Hardstand No. 3, on one of the two cloverleaf dispersal areas near the railway line on the north side of the airfield. Mission reports describe enemy opposition as "not severe".
During the return flight over the North Sea, when the 379BG was almost halfway between Ijmuiden (Holland) and Great Yarmouth (England), Lt. Mueller’s aircraft was seen to go into a dive, level off then pull up in a steep climb before finally going down in a spin. The plane disappeared into the dense clouds at 1800 feet. Returning crews reported seeing 3 parachutes and an Air Sea Rescue operation was set in motion, covering the general area of the North Sea where 724 was thought to have gone down.
Sadly, none of the crew were ever found. The crew was commemorated on the Wall of the Missing in Cambridge or and Lt. Mueller at Margraten American Military Cemetery. The cause of their loss is listed as being downed by FLAK. They were the only 379BG crew missing on the Group’s 51st mission. In all this day the Eighth Air Force lost 22 heavy bombers. In 2001 an eye witness of came forward. Mueller's plane was shot down by German plane.
Location the photo was taken and crew identification information was provided by Mervyn Wilson, former Assistant Historian to 379thBGA.
Shot down 22 December 1943 in B-17 #4229724. Plane crashed in to North Sea. Killed in Action (KIA).
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Units served with
|Charlotte, NC, USA||18 December 1942|
Killed in Action
|North Sea||22 December 1943|
|Greenville, South Carolina|
|South Carolina, USA|
WWII Draft Registration Card
Brought in information from duplicate record. Source:
MACR 1718 / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database
ABMC record: http://abmc.gov/node/538947#.V62nbk1TGUk
NARA enlistment record: https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=48&cat=all&t…