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Harold Francis Korger

Military

Lt. Harold Francis Korger was a B-24 bombardier in the 344th Bombardment Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 9th Air Force, based in Benghazi, Libya, 1943. He flew on the B-24D, Hail Columbia, with the Element Group Leader Col. John R. Kane, on the famous mission, Operation Tidal Wave, to destroy the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, and returned safely to base. 1 Aug 43.

Harold F. Korger was born October 7, 1918 to German American parents in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He graduated from high school and attended the University of Wisconsin, earning a Bachelors Degree in Music in 1940. He would put that degree to use as the music director of the Eagle River Schools until World War II cut his teaching career short.

In December, 1941, Harry made a decision that would change his life forever. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and graduated from Bombardier School at Midland, Texas, in 1942, and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. He was stationed at various locations around the USA before transferring overseas in February, 1942, with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, known as, "The Pyramiders", and the 344th Bomb Squadron, stationed in Benghazi, Libya, North Africa. The 98th Bomb Group left the United States, July 15, 1942, flying their B-24s south to Florida, Brazil, and across the Atlantic Ocean, finally arriving in Tunisia, Egypt, and Palestine in July, 1942. They flew their first mission to Mersa Metruh on August 1, 1942. The 98th Bomb Group was initially assigned to the USMEAF (United States Middle East Air Force). However, the USMEAF was dissolved on November 12, 1942. At that time, the 98th came back under the command of the 9th Air Force. Harry Korger started flying combat missions with the 98th shortly after he arrived in North Africa, mostly bombing targets in Italy. He had 23 missions and almost 300 hours of flying time in his log book when the mission that would define his later military career was announced. It was the mission to attack and bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti Romania. 1 Aug 1943.

Harry was hand picked by Col. John R. “Killer” Kane, to be his bombardier for the Ploesti mission. Col. Kane was to earn the Medal of Honor for his leadership and valor, flying, Hail Columbia, as Group Commander on the mission.

On the Morning of August 1, 1943 the crew of, Hail Columbia, took off from Lete, their airbase at Benghazi, Libya. In letters that Harry wrote home, he proudly wrote that he was going to fly on the Ploesti mission with Group Leader Colonel John R. Kane, a former West Point, All American football player. After the mission, Korger sadly wrote, "I saw my old friends crash to a flaming death before my eyes. The Jerries were throwing up everything they had at us. Our plane was shot to shreds but, by sheer flying skill, Colonel Kane got us out safe. My bombs hit dead center on my target, the Astra Romano refinery, and we wiped the place out. Then, the fighters jumped us, and more of our friends were shot down. But they took, at least, four or five German and Romanian fighters down with them for every one of us. Once the bombs were dropped, and after a long harrowing flight toward home, safety and freedom, Harry Korger and, Hail Columbia, reached the friendly British airfield at Nicosia, Cyprus. Lieutenant Korger related, "John Kane crash landed, Hail Columbia, in the dark, after hitting a ditch the British had dug across the their runway's threshold at Cyprus. The two pilots and their bombardier, Lt. Korger, were surprised to see their main landing gear assemblies go cartwheeling past them on both sides of the airplane after they hit the ditch across the runway. Everyone survived the mission and the crash landing, thanks to the skills of both Col. Kane, and his copilot, Johnny Young, along with Bombardier Lt. Korger, their excellent lead navigator, Lt. Norman Whalen, and, of course, the rest of their cracker jack crew of gunners, who defended their airplane with great skill, determination, and extreme valor.

Capt. Korger was awarded another Oak Leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross, for his service and valor on the mission, as did all of the men who flew on the mission. The following day, the crew spent the day looking over their shot up and wrecked B-24 bomber, Hail Columbia, with over 150 counted holes the airplane, marvelling at the damage and the number of the flak splinter and cannon shell holes in it, each wondering how it was possible no one on board was killed or even seriously wounded. But, this mission and this airplane would not be the only ones Lt. Korger would fly on, that would be destroyed. Over his long career in the Air Force, he would get another ride in another one a month later.

After the Ploesti mission, Lt. Korger was given the option of flying home and going on a war bond tour with Lt. John Young and all of his crewmen from Young's former B-24D, Kickapoo, that had crashed on takeoff for the Ploesti mission, killing most of it's replacement crew. But Harry decided he should finish his last required mission. It was a decision he would later regret. On September 3, 1943, Lt. Korger would fly on what he thought would be his last mission, his 25th, before going home to his beloved wife, Bernice. His final mission in the MTO was supposed to be a routine one, over Sulmona, Italy. But, there were no easy missions at that time in the war. On the way to their target, Korger's assigned B-24D, What's Up Doc ? - Big Operator, was attacked by German JU-88 fighter-bombers and ME-110 fighters equipped with cannons and air to air rockets. What's Up Doc? - Big Operator, quickly took several direct and devastating hits, pitched over into a dive, fell into a flat spin, and crashed. Harry successfully bailed out and earned the first of his career "Caterpillar Club" pins. Harry hit the ground hard and was injured, but survived. He was found and arrested by the Italian police and held in several German and Italian prison camps for the next two years, 1943 to 1945. Four of, What's Up Doc ?'s, crewmen were killed. 6 POW. 4 KIA. 3 Sep 1943.

As a WWII POW, Harry Korger was part of the Stalag Luft I prison camp (musical) band led by Mike Spodar that was known to the Kriegies (Germans) as the "Round the Benders". "Around the Bend" was a Kriegie term, which means that one is mentally off key - the inevitable result of chronic "barbed wire fever". The band has been described as "a first class outfit". They gave the POWs many happy hours on their instruments that were provided by the YMCA. Members' names and hometowns were noted on a drawing by POW artist Don H. Ross.

In the years between WWII and his retirement in 1971, Harold Korger never again saw combat. But that didn’t mean he didn’t risk his life.

On Feb 16, 1956, he was the navigator of the first B-52 to be lost by the USAF, on a mission near Tracy, CA. His airplane caught on fire after an alternator failed and exploded, allowing Harry to earn his 2nd Caterpillar Club pin, when he ejected from the B-52 at 36,000 feet, breaking an arm. He and 3 other crewmen survived the bail out. But 4 of them did not. 1 WIA-RTS. 4 KIA. 16 Feb 1956.

After a long and successful career, Harold Korger retired from the USAF in 1971 with the final rank of Colonel. He eventually settled in Medford, Oregon, where he lived with his wife, Bernice, and family, until he died in 1995 at the age of 77.

For his long career of service in the U.S Army Air Force, in WWII, and the later, newly organized, U.S. Air Force, Col. Korger was awarded the following decorations : The Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart (twice), the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Joint Services Commendation Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Prisoner of War Medal, WWII Victory Medal, and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Service

People

  • Neville Benson

    Military | Staff Sergeant | B-24 Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    SSgt. Neville C. Bensen took part in Operation Tidal Wave, over Ploesti, Romania, on 1 Aug 43. He was a waist gunner in the Element Lead B-24D Liberator, 41-11825, Hail Columbia, piloted by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young. He survived...

  • Ronald Helder

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24D Co-Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    2nd Lt. Ronald Lee Helder was a B-24 pilot in the 8th Air Force, the 389th Bomb Group, and the 564th Bombing Squadron in WWII. He flew as Co-pilot with his friend, Command Pilot Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes, in the B-24D Lt. Helder called, Ole Kickapoo,...

  • Raymond Hubbard

    Military | First Lieutenant | Radio Operator | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Raymond B. Hubbard was assigned to the 9th Air force, the 98th Bombardment Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron in Libya, North Africa, 1943. He flew in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying as a Waist Gunner and Radio...

  • Lloyd Hughes

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    Lloyd Herbert Hughes Jr., better known to his friends, as "Pete," flew his fifth mission, as pilot of a B-24D Liberator bomber in an attack against the Axis oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania. He was killed August 1, 1943 when his plane was severely...

  • John Kane

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Bomb Group Commanding Officer / B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    John Riley Kane was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and, later, in the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor, in World War II, for his leadership, courage, and...

  • Joseph LaBranche

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying in B-24 Liberator 41-11825, Hail Columbia. 1 Aug 1943.

  • Frederick Leard

    Military | Technical Sergeant | B-24 Right Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Technical Sgt. Frederick A. Leard was a waist gunner assigned to the Element Lead B-24D Liberator bomber, named, Hail Columbia, 41-11825, flown by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to destroy...

  • Royden LeBrecht

    Military | Captain | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Royden Louis LeBrecht was a B-24D command pilot in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron. He flew his B-24D, he named, The Squaw, on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to destroy the German held oil refineries at...

  • Samuel Neeley

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Pilot Lt. Samuel Neeley was a B-24D Bomber pilot in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in WWII. He served in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron in North Africa, flying, bombing, and strafing missions, mostly...

  • Robert Sternfels

    Military | Major | B-24D Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Robert Sternfels was a B-24D bomber command pilot in WWII in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombing Group, the Pyramiders, and the 345th Bombing Squadron. Lt. Sternfels flew the famous B-24D bomber, THE SANDMAN, on Operation Tidal Wave, which sought...

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Units served with

  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

  • 344th Bomb Squadron

    344th Bomb Squadron

    Squadron
    The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24...

Aircraft

  • 42-40402 - The Sandman

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator bomber, named, The Sandman, was named, and flown, by Lt. Robert Sternfels and his co-pilot, Lt. Barney Jackson, in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 345th Bomb Squadron, on Operation Tidal Wave, the famous mission to...

  • 41-24198 - The Vulgar Virgin - Hell From Heaven - Shoot You're Faded

    B-24 Liberator
    - The B-24D, 41-24198, in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron, was one of 2 B-24Ds in the MTO based at Benghazi, Libya, with identical nose art pictures, and both named, The Vulgar Virgin, this one, 41-24198, flown...

  • 41-24311 - Hadley's Harem

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named, Hadley's Harem, was Lt. Gilbert Hadley's personal airplane and the one he flew, with his CoPilot, Lt. James Lindsey, on the mission to destroy Hitler's oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. As Hadley was approaching his target refinery,...

  • 41-11819 - Raunchy

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator, Raunchy, 41-11819, was in the 344th Bomb Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 9th Air Force, based at Benghazi, Libya, North Africa, in early 1943. ...

  • 41-11825 - Hail Columbia - Little Chief Big Dog - Grumpy

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, Hail Columbia, 41-11825, was assigned to the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron. It was first assigned to the 344th Squadron's CO, Col. John R. Kane's, personal aircraft until Kane became the 98th Bomb Group's...

  • 41-11768 - Kickapoo

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator, 41-11768, named, Kickapoo, was Lt. John S. Young's regularly assigned B-24D, after his 98th Bombardment Group moved out of Egypt, to the air bases at Benghazi, Libya. John Young was from Dallas, Texas, like so many of the men...

  • 41-24040 - What's Cooking Doc? - Big Operator

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, 41-24040, What's Cooking Doc ? - Big Operator, started out on Operation Tidal Wave, the mission to bomb the Ploesti oil refineries, piloted by Lt. Hoover Edwards. Aircraft aborted near the island of Corfu with turbo supercharger problems. ...

Missions

  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B-24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57...

Associated Place

  • Lete

    Military site : airfield

Events

Event Location Date
Born Eau Claire, WI 7 October 1918

Son of Anton Friederich and Rose M Korger.

Enlisted Wausau, WI 18 December 1941

Wausau, Wisconsin

Based Berca 15 July 1942 – 3 September 1943

Assigned to the 344th Bomb Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, The Pyramiders, in the 9th Air Force, USAAF.

Prisoner of War (POW) Barth, Germany 3 September 1943 – May 1945

Prisoner of War (POW). Stalag Luft I.

Died Medford, OR 19 October 1995
Buried Eagle Point National Cemetery Eagle Point, Jackson County, OR 22 October 1995

Eagle Point National Cemetery
Eagle Point,
Jackson County, Oregon

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
22 May 2022 13:48:58 Al_Skiff Changes to service number and unit associations
Sources

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/886863/harold-francis-korger

Date Contributor Update
21 May 2022 11:36:07 Kickapoo Changes to role
Sources

Find-A-Grave Memorials.com - Col. Harold Francis Korger

Date Contributor Update
21 May 2022 11:34:27 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Find-A-Grave Memorials.com - Col. Harold Francis Korger

Date Contributor Update
21 May 2022 11:21:23 Kickapoo Changes to awards
Sources

Find-A-Grave Memorial.com - Col. Harold Francis Korger

Date Contributor Update
21 May 2022 11:12:36 Kickapoo Changes to role, biography and events
Sources

Added details, events. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2021 12:03:01 Kickapoo Changes to person associations
Sources

Black Sunday-Ploesti - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2021 11:59:39 Kickapoo Changes to person associations
Sources

Details added. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2021 11:57:31 Kickapoo Changes to role
Sources

Added details. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
01 December 2021 11:55:59 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Added details. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
11 October 2021 10:23:08 Al_Skiff Changes to service number, biography and events
Sources

https://www.fold3.com/image/312802751
https://www.fold3.com/image/685664575
https://www.fold3.com/record/48007806/harold-f-korger-social-security-de...
https://www.fold3.com/record/84350318/harold-f-korger-wwii-army-enlistme...
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/886863/harold-francis-korger

Date Contributor Update
10 October 2021 12:07:45 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

togetherweserved.com - Korger, Harold Francis, Col.

Date Contributor Update
10 October 2021 06:19:12 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

togetherweserved.com - Korger - Harold - Francis, Col.

Date Contributor Update
10 October 2021 04:11:57 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

togetherweserved.com - Korger Harold Francis, Col.

Date Contributor Update
10 October 2021 02:56:28 Kickapoo Changes to role, biography and place associations
Sources

togetherweserved.com - Korger Harold Francis, Col.

Date Contributor Update
10 October 2021 01:18:10 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Ploesti - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
14 August 2021 10:09:43 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Detail word changes. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
26 January 2021 10:31:42 Kickapoo Changes to unit associations
Sources

TogetherWeServesd.com Black Sunday - Michael Hill Into the Fire - Duane Schults

Date Contributor Update
29 June 2019 23:10:51 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

TogetherWeServesd.com Black Sunday - Michael Hill Into the Fire - Duane Schults

Date Contributor Update
14 June 2019 05:04:15 Kickapoo Changes to role, biography and awards
Sources

FindaGrave Memorial ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- The Return Of Hadley's Harem - Michael Schultz

Date Contributor Update
22 May 2019 22:37:28 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Togetherweserved.com Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
22 May 2019 14:42:39 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Into the fire - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
01 September 2018 10:44:10 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
26 May 2018 20:17:51 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Into The fire - Duane schultz

Date Contributor Update
26 May 2018 20:12:58 Kickapoo Changes to media associations
Sources

Into The Fire - Duane schultz

Date Contributor Update
15 January 2018 12:04:32 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Air Force - Together We served

Date Contributor Update
14 January 2018 03:28:14 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Air Force - Together We Served

Date Contributor Update
14 January 2018 03:21:05 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Air Force - Together We Served

Date Contributor Update
14 January 2018 03:15:47 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Air Force - Together We Served

Date Contributor Update
14 January 2018 03:06:55 Kickapoo Changes to person associations and unit associations
Sources

Air Force - Together We Served

Date Contributor Update
14 January 2018 02:56:04 Kickapoo Changes to awards
Sources

Air Force - Together We Served : Col. Harold Francis Korger

Date Contributor Update
14 January 2018 02:43:21 Kickapoo Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

Air Force - Together We Served : Col Harold Francis Corger

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