Thursday, June 16, 2011

From the Pages - Thirty Seconds Over Berlin

The U.S. Eighth Air Force began its war on Berlin on March 4, 1944, followed by an all-out assault two days later, and, after a hiatus, continued from late 1944 until war’s end. The February 3, 1945, mission was the next-to-last major Eighth Air Force effort against Berlin and the largest bombing mission undertaken against a single target. 

In the following excerpt from Mission to Berlin: The American Airmen Who Struck the Heart of Hitler's Reich, author Robert F. Dorr details the first harrowing American bomber runs of that monumental February 3rd mission.
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February 3, 1945—10:51 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The stream of more than a thousand Eighth Air Force bombers, from one end to the other, was 360 miles long. At 10:51 a.m. British Summer Time on Saturday, February 3, 1945, when the first wave of Flying Fortresses reached Berlin, the last bomber was over the Zuiderzee in Holland.

At exactly that minute—10:51 a.m.—a bomber dropped out of the bomber stream and turned for home. The aircraft was Happy Warrior, piloted by 1st Lt. William Settler of the 838th Bombardment Squadron, 487th Bombardment Group. Although at least one crewmember recalls the sequence of events differently—saying that Happy Warrior completed its run over Berlin—official records say that Settler aborted when his number one engine went out and he could not keep up with the formation. By this account, Settler dropped his bombs on a target of opportunity just north of Osnabruck and began the struggle to get home.

The bombers formation continued relentlessly ahead. Col. Lewis E. Lyle, commanding officer of the 379th Bombardment Group and air commander of the mission, said, “The bomber stream was three to five hundred miles long.” Lyle later said that each Fortress crew would spend only between thirty and sixty seconds over the center of Berlin itself, but that “every second would demand vigilance.” Lyle was at the front of the bomber stream when the formation, flying at 25,000 feet just north of Osnabruck, turned on the initial point, flying northeast on a heading of sixty-five degrees. It was 10:52 a.m., British Summer Time.

The initial point, or IP, was the point beyond which the bombardier of each lead aircraft controlled the flight path, using his Norden bombsight, and the Fortresses were expected to move ahead on an unwavering, straight-line heading, no matter how many flak blasts appeared ahead of them.

Lyle’s crew was 100 percent focused on the job of leading and guiding every one of the B-17s in the long lineup.

Lyle, who would be officially credited with sixty-seven combat missions but would claim seventy-two, was universally admired and respected but not always loved. Life aboard a B-17 with Lyle in command was remarkably straightforward, often silent, and sometimes downright sullen. “From the outset, my crew understood that they were not to talk or even eat until we hit the ground after the mission was completed,” Lyle later wrote. “If you were talking, your mind was not on the business at hand.” Lyle wrote that he became known as a strict disciplinarian who made sure crews “knew that I was the only person operating the aircraft and was the only crewmember that could do something with the airplane for their survival.” As commander of the entire Berlin mission, Lyle spent a little less time worrying about throttle, yoke, and rudder and a little more time on navigation, attack, and accuracy.

Lyle often used ten-foot cloth streamers obtained from the base parachute shop and tied to the fins of the lead Fortress’s bombs, to increase visibility of the lead airplane’s bombs when they were released. [insert Map B]

As the first group over Berlin, Lyle’s 379th Bombardment Group passed through flak that an intelligence officer called “moderate, black, and accurate.” Some clearly felt that “moderate” was not a strong enough descriptor. Six Fortresses in Lyle’s 379th group took major damage, a dozen sustained minor damage, and one was lost. The B-17 piloted by 1st Lt. William Webber was hit by flak and lost over the Berlin city center. It was 11:02 a.m., British Summer Time.

Webber’s plane was The Birmingham Jewel of the 379th group’s 525th Bombardment Squadron. Webber and three others were killed. The Germans captured five crewmembers who survived the war. The dead were Webber, toggleer Staff Sgt. Raymond Weatherbee, radio operator Technical Sgt. Carl E. McHenry, and ball turret gunner Sgt. William I. Wells. The survivors were copilot 2nd Lt. James T. Kiester, navigator 2nd Lt. Thomas A. Pickett, engineer-gunner Technical Sgt. Harold F. Francis; waist gunner Staff Sgt. William Scarffe, and tail gunner Sgt. Bennett D. Howell.

Most bomber crewmembers formed few lasting impressions of Berlin itself, a plains city without distinctive terrain features. At the beginning and end of the bomber stream’s passage overhead, undercast covered the city’s rooftops and avenues. In the middle and end of the long bombing run, smoke churned skyward from bomb explosions. The ball turret gunner and tail gunner of a Flying Fortress—the latter in his uncomfortable, kneeling position facing rearward, had the best view but were busy calling out flak bursts and looking for the Luftwaffe fighters that never came. One member of the 379th group said, simply: “It was a city.”

In another bomber of Lyle’s 379th group, 1st Lt. Carl L. “Kayo” Cook was minding his bombardier’s position in the nose and possibly feeling some temporary relief that his Fortress had not yet been hit. Cook had just written to his wife, the former Helen Kraft, in Pender, Nebraska, cheerfully reporting that he’d be home soon because he had just six missions left to fly. He was the father of two daughters, including one born just three weeks before on January 12, whom he’d never seen. Cook’s mother-in-law had recently remarried. The family was planning a big homecoming for him.

A fragment of metal, apparently from a flak explosion, punctured the Fortress’s glass nose, continued into the cramped narrow tube of the fuselage, and killed Cook instantly.

No one else in his plane was touched. Cook’s crew would make it home without him.

A mighty machine unstoppable in its momentum, unable to slow down or change course, the Fortress formation pressed ahead while flak intensified and undercast and smoke began to shroud rooftops far below. One box of Fortresses after another, the bomber stream passed over the German capital.


If the first group over Berlin, Lyle’s, lost a crew, things were even worse for the second of the twenty-six groups in the bomber stream—the 384th Bombardment Group.

They were the boys from Grafton Underwood and although a different bomb group (the 100th) often claimed to be the unluckiest and hardest hit, today was a very bad day for the 384th. When it lost an aircraft on its second mission of the war, back in the beginning, a crewmember managed to send a postcard to the group commander from his prison camp in Germany. “Keep the show on the road,” Maj. Selden L. McMillin wrote to the 384th group’s first commander Col. Budd J. Peaselee. That became the motto of the 384th, and it appeared in documents, painted on the side of a building, and on at least one airplane. Today, keeping the show on the road was difficult.

Stardust, piloted by 2nd Lt. George F. Ruckman, dropped its bombs, pulled off the target, and was struck by a flak blast that severed hydraulic lines and set an engine afire. Trailing gouts of black smoke, Stardust departed the formation.

Another engine froze up for lack of oil, but the fire was out in the engine that had started burning. Ruckman remembered the tailwinds that had been behind them all day, concluded he couldn’t return to England in this condition, and informed his crew that they were heading for Russian lines. The Americans had conflicting information about what would happen if they fell into Russian hands and as Stardust turned to struggle its way eastward, someone was heard to groan on the intercom. The rest of the 384th looked on helplessly as Stardust faded into the eastern distance. It was 11:04 a.m. British Summer Time.

While Stardust was vanishing, the 384th group took another battering when an unnamed Fortress piloted by 2nd Lt. Charles R. Molder was heavily hit by antiaircraft fire. Descriptions of the intensity of German flak over Berlin vary from one bomb group to another, as do descriptions of undercast and smoke over the target (the average crewmember was given about half a minute to look down at the city and form an impression), but no one doubts that Molder’s bomber was hit, hard. Molder broke radio silence to report that he had two injured, two engines out, and a fire on his aircraft. “We’re going to bail out,” Molder said.

Molder’s aircraft was later found near the German village of Prenzlau after an apparent, violent forced landing. In fact, the damaged bomber appears to have landed itself. Molder’s entire crew took to their parachutes while steering away from the crowded sky over Berlin. Prisoner of war status lay ahead for Molder, copilot 2nd Lt. Hobart W. Treadway, navigator Flight Officer Ernest R. Knowlton, toggleer Sgt. Ralph M. Hayden, engineer-gunner Staff Sgt. Daniel B. Hobkallo, radio operator Staff Sgt. Harold V. Haynes, ball turret gunner Sgt. Damien N. Constantine, waist gunner Sgt. Harris F. Jacobs (who had serious leg injuries), and tail gunner Sgt. Leonard J. Rizzuti. All of Molder’s crew survived the war.

The third, final, and worst casualty for the 384th Bombardment Group during its tense seconds over Berlin was The Challenger, piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert C. Long. Hit by flak at about the same instant as Ruckman and Molder, Long made what may have been a mistake. He attempted to return to England rather than to cover the shorter distance to Soviet lines.


Into the sky over Berlin came the 305th Bombardment Group and the unnamed Fortress piloted by 1st Lt. Daniel G. Shoemaker—one of the many who would not survive this day. Shoemaker’s was the fourth bombardment group over Berlin and was “mission lead” for the 40th Combat Group. It was 11:08 a.m., British Summer Time.

Shoemaker’s was a Fortress that apparently had not been assigned a name.

Shoemaker’s copilot 2nd Lt. Roy F. Moullen was handling the Fortress and Shoemaker was checking the instruments. The crew was fighting for survival with Moullen playing the leading role.

Moullen and another crewmember, in a report, later described their situation over target: “All of the men were tense and one could feel the added surge of power,” they wrote. “As we left the initial point we did a 360-degree turn between the I.P. and the target and one group slipped in ahead of us. Upon completion of the turn, our lead ship sighted the target. About 11:05 a.m., we began our bomb run. As we approached, flak was bursting around the group ahead of us. As we approached ‘bombs away,’ ack-ack started to track us with very accurate fire. One burst knocked out the pilot’s windshield. Bombs away, and the tail was hit hard.”

Shoemaker’s tail gunner, Sgt. Gale Snyder cried, “Oh, God, I’m hit!” His leg was shot off at the knee and held on by what appeared to be tendons and skin. The top turret as hit and had a flak hole dead center in the top of the dome. Thirteen to sixteen holes from flak fragments had ventilated the radio room and radio operator Sgt. Raymond Benton had three wounds in his left leg. Crewmembers gave first aid to Snyder while Benton tended to his own wounds.

Benton’s oxygen was shot out, as was his radio set. One of the men grabbed morphine, which was frozen, and began warming it—the record does not explain how—for use on Snyder. In the minutes ahead, struggling for balance, working in a temperature of sixty degrees below zero Fahrenheit, their aircraft trembling beneath them, and the sky exploding around them, the members of Shoemaker’s crew gave Snyder a quarter-grain of morphine and put a tourniquet around his thigh.

“We also had a hit from below,” the Moullen report later said. “It had gone through the wing in front of the filler niche between engines three and four.” Badly damaged, debris thrashing about in the rear fuselage, Shoemaker’s B-17 departed Berlin while the bomber stream was just beginning to arrive over the German capital. The ordeal for Shoemaker’s crew was just beginning, too. It was 11:10 a.m. British Summer Time.

The fifth of the twenty-six bombardment groups assaulting Berlin today was the 92nd Bombardment Group from the base in East Anglia known as Podington. This was the group whose air commander for the day, Major James A. Smyrl, was in a bomber that had been hit immediately upon arriving over the European continent, continued flying toward the target, and was now coming under fire again. On-scene air commander Smyrl would soon be fighting for the survival of himself and his crew, but for now the job was to get in and get out.

It was counterintuitive—Smyrl, pilot 1st Lt. Russell Bundesen, and navigator 1st Lt. James W. “Bill” Good. Smyrl all knew it—but their job was to remain exactly on course, unswerving, unwavering, taking no evasive action to avoid the bursting flak shells.

Making a visual run, the 92nd group’s lead squadron arrived over Berlin on a true heading of ninety-five degrees at a true altitude of 23,900 feet, its high squadron at seventy-seven degrees from 24,400 feet and its low squadron at sixty-two degrees and 23,400 feet. The sky was filled with Flying Fortresses and falling bombs. Exactly ninety seconds, a minute and a half, elapsed during the time the first and last bombs plummeted from the caverns inside Fortress fuselages of this group and its three squadrons. When the group’s last bomb fell, it was 11:11 a.m., British Summer Time.


Behind Smyrl’s 92nd group came the sixth American group over the German capital, the 306th. This was to be an unlucky day for the 306th, one member of which reported “intense, accurate, tracking flak from four minutes before bombs away, lasting eight minutes.”

Almost every one of the thirty-five crews in this group had a clear view of what happened to the unnamed Fortress piloted by 1st Lt. George V. Luckett Jr. The bomber “received a direct hit in its left wing at ‘bombs away,’“ wrote a crewmember from another aircraft. In fact, it appears Luckett’s crew may not have had a chance to drop bombs after a direct hit behind the number two engine set the entire trailing edge of the wing aflame. “The wing broke off and the aircraft went down in flames. Two, possible four chutes were reported,” wrote the same crewmember. Another wrote: “Down in flames over target. No chutes seen.” Yet another wrote that he “could see ribs in the skin where the wing was blown off.”

Luckett, copilot 2nd Lt. Gilbert W. Clark, toggleer Sgt. Victor Cunningham Jr., engineer-gunner Sgt. Wayne L. Martin, and waist gunner Sgt. Jack E. Boesel all lost their lives as Luckett’s Fortress, one wing torn off, spiraled down like an acorn on the wind, trailing a red plume of fuel-fire. Navigator 2nd Lt. Robert P. Foster, ball turret gunner Sgt. Bernard L. Whitman, waist gunner Anthony L. Spera, and tail gunner Victor M. Spevak are all believed to have gotten out of the Flying Fortress right over the smoke-covered capital, but Whitman and Spera apparently did not reach the ground alive. Foster and Spevak became prisoners and survived the war.

Everything seemed to be happening at once over Berlin now. Buddies watched Luckett’s plane fall and watched another, piloted by 2nd Lt. Roland A. Lissner, cut sharply across the formation. It, too, had sustained a hit from an exploding flak shell. Lissner’s Fortress, named The Jones Family, was clearly in serious trouble.

Not far from Lissner, the Fortress piloted by 1st Lt. Vernon F. Daley Jr., Rose of York, was also hit by flak. The plane had been christened in a ceremony by Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and was named in her honor. It carried a passenger today, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Guy Byam, at age twenty-six renowned for the youthful enthusiasm of his voice on radio news broadcasts and clearly one of the most intrepid of war correspondents. Several of the crewmembers ofRose of York were completing their thirty-fifth and final mission, the benchmark that meant an end to fighting and a ticket home. Because of its distinguished name and its beloved passenger—Byam had been torpedoed at sea and rescued, had parachuted into Normandy with the British 6th Airborne on D-Day, and had jumped again with British paratroopers at Arnhem—this Fortress received considerable attention. The Associated Press reported: “The plane was hit by flak over Berlin. One engine was smashed and a second was leaking gasoline as the big bomber turned for home. It kept lagging behind the main formation. Finally another bomber crew reported hearing . . . distress signals from an area over the Frisian Islands in the North Sea.” The exact time of the flak hit appears in none of the stacks of paperwork that survive the war, but it appears Daley’s Rose of York was hit during an unusually intense and concentrated volley of flak bursts that also claimed the Luckett and Lissner Fortresses. It was 11:12 a.m., British Summer Time.

Within a minute, another bomb group, the 457th, “the Fireball Outfit,” with the tall West Point alumnus Col. Harris E. “Rog” Rogner as air commander for his group and wing, was passing over a Berlin from which undercast was fast disappearing. The tall, ruffled, athletic Rogner—he was always “Rog” and you were in trouble if you called him Harris—studied rooftops, boulevards, and bomb damage while the bombardier aboard his Fortress enunciated the words, “Bombs away.” It was 11:13 a.m., British Summer Time.


The twelfth of the twenty-six bombardment groups passing over Berlin was the 381st Bombardment Group from Ridgewell. Pilot 2nd Lt. John B. Anderson pressed ahead in his Fortress, which had been named The Joker in the recent past, although it’s unclear whether the name was still painted on the aircraft. Anderson and his bomber belonged to the group’s 532nd Squadron. Anderson stayed on course over the target, resisting the impulse to take evasive action, and dropped bombs amid flak that a witness called “moderate to intense.” Anderson was hit.

A witness later wrote: “The plane swerved right off the target, then left, and went into a turning climb and exploded. The plane was under control until the crew bailed out.” It was 11:18 a.m., British Summer Time.

An official report noted, “The number two engine was on fire and burning for about five minutes. The aircraft was observed to explode after the crew had bailed out.” It appears Anderson did not bail out. He may have stayed at his pilot’s seat to give his crew its best chance for survival. His remains were later found at Klandorf, Germany, not far from Berlin. All others aboard The Joker parachuted to the ground, were captured, and survived the war. They were copilot 2nd Lt. Leonard A. Wall, navigator 2nd Lt. Paul G. Cayori, bombardier Flight Officer James Forres Jr., engineer-gunner Sgt. Carl E. Kemppainen, radio operator Sgt. George R. Nessly, ball turret gunner Staff Sgt. Michael J. Medzie, waist gunner Sgt. Curtis P. Wallace, and Sgt. Robert H. McGreevey.

One of the witnesses, watching from another Fortress, was Staff Sgt. Jeremiah B. Hogan. He suffered a “mild” wound caused by a piece of flak that struck him at the center of the forehead. Hogan was wearing his flak helmet, but the flying metal passed just under the forward brim, without damaging his helmet.

Behind Anderson another member of the 381st Bombardment Group, 2nd Lt. Paul Pucylowski, was piloting a Fortress named Hitler’s Hoe Doe, also named Blind Date, that left formation within two minutes of being over Berlin. “Pucylowski’s fate is a mystery,” an official report later said. “Nobody noticed anything wrong with his aircraft. It was last seen . . . when it left the formation, made a sharp turn, and slid underneath, disappearing from sight. No chutes were seen.” Observers in other aircraft saw no sign of the Fortress being hit by flak—but it must have been. Anderson and copilot Flight Officer Harry M. Yarnes took the aircraft out of formation. Observers in other aircraft did not see the crew bail out—but they did.

Hoe Doe navigator 2nd Lt. John E. Kelleher was killed, although, all these years later, we do not know how. Eight others aboard the Fortress became prisoners and survived the war: Pucylowski, Yarnes, toggleer Sgt. Herman A. Zichterman, engineer-gunner Technical Sgt. Clarence E. Way, radio operator Technical Sgt. Joseph J. Noxon, ball turret gunner Sgt. Stuart R. Mitchell, waist gunner Staff Sgt. Earl E. Green, and tail gunner Sgt. Robert M. Landes.


There was more to come. Yes, there was more to come. Of the many bomb groups over Berlin that day, the 91st Bombardment Group from Bassingbourn had it toughest. Having been told there would be no mission, and then that there would, some had taken off for Berlin without little or no sleep. Most had been certain they would not fly today.

Aboard the lead aircraft for the group, with the crew usually led by Maj. Manny Klette—who’d been given a pass to travel to London—Lt. Col. Marvin D. Lord occupied the copilot’s seat of 1st Lt. Frank L. Adams’ bomber. Well, it was really Klette’s bomber as many saw it and it was Klette’s crew, but Adams was the pilot and Lord the group air commander.

At the start of the bomb run, Adams’ bombardier, Capt. Nando A. “Tony” Cavalieri, engaged his Norden bombsight. Cavalieri had learned that morning of his promotion to captain. Now, the group would bomb on his lead.

First Lieutenant Theodore M. “Mike” Banta watched closely from his Fortress named Yankee Gal, not to be confused with another ship named Yankee Belle in the same formation. Banta described the tension as bombers passed over the smoke-covered German capital: “As we flew toward the target, each succeeding battery of flak bursts moved closer to us. This is when the sweat begins. Will we reach ‘bombs away’ before the antiaircraft gunners make the final correction that puts their bursts in the middle of our formation?”

Said Banta: “When bombs are released by the Norden bombsight in the lead ship, one of them will be a smoke marker bomb. As soon as the bombardiers in our other ships see this, they will pull a toggle switch releasing their aircraft’s bombs. We bomb as a unit and a tight formation leaves the best diamond-shaped bomb pattern possible.”

Cavalieri released. “Immediately after ‘bombs away’ and before lead pilot Adams could start his evasive turn, the lead ship received a direct hit from an antiaircraft shell right where the trailing edge of the wing meets the fuselage,” said Banta. “The lead ship was blown cleanly in half. The nose section went immediately into a dive with engines still under power. The tail section appeared to fly along with the formation for a split second and then drifted out of my sight behind my copilot’s window. My copilot told me that it fluttered back over the top of our rear element and was lost from his sight.” Another source said the bomber was hit in the waist with a direct burst.

Although an official report places the time as 11:10 a.m., it appears this actually happened several minutes later. What has been in dispute ever since, among all who know about the sudden and total destruction of the Flying Fortress, was a question not about minutes but about seconds. Was it true, as Banta and others wrote later, that Lord’s Fortress continued flying straight and level for ten seconds after dropping bombs—an eternity in air combat—making the plane far more vulnerable to flak? Or did someone in the cockpit, Adams or Lord, intend to pull off from the target immediately and fail to do so only because they were hit during the same second they dropped their bombs?

The ever-cheerful, ebullient Marvin D. Lord, a husband and father, a very young lieutenant colonel at twenty-three, a man known for optimism, had his life snuffed out in a blast that not only killed an entire Fortress crew: It also provoked bitterness and hurt that divided supporters of Klette from supporters of Lord. The divisiveness was still alive decades later.

Referring to the man who wasn’t aboard the Marvin D. Lord aircraft, another pilot wrote: “Klette took this to heart, not only due to the loss of friends and men he had built into one of the best lead teams in the Eighth, but because he felt that had he been in the aircraft commander’s seat and made the usual sharp turn off target, the flak barrage might have been avoided.” This was speculation. No evidence exists that Lord did anything differently than Klette would have done.

In an instant, Lord, Adams, and Cavalieri, and all of Klette’s crew—one of the most experienced in the Eighth Air Force—were gone. Among the ten who died aboard the Marvin D. Lord Fortress, the radio operator, Technical Sgt J. P. Holbrook, had flown 78 missions; the engineer, Technical Sgt. David C. McCall had done 80; and the waist gunner, Technical Sgt. George R. Zenz, no fewer than 104.

German authorities retrieved the remains of the ten-man crew. The official report does not provide crew positions for them: Lord, Adams, 1st Lt. Arthur C. Ebarb, 1st Lt. Stanley Sweitzer, 1st Lt. Norman L. Whelan, Cavalieri, 2nd Lt. Donald Shoemaker, McCall, Holbrook, and Zenz.

Aboard a Fortress called Yankee Belle, piloted by 1st Lt. George F. Miller, navigator Flight Officer Asay “Ace” Johnson was in his crew position on the left side of his aircraft when the command aircraft carrying Lord and ten others was blown out of the sky in a split second. Johnson did not see the bomber destroyed, but heard someone on the intercom, possibly pilot Miller, exclaiming, “Oh, my God! Look at that!” Just as suddenly, as the other Fortress disappeared to their right, Miller and Johnson were denied any chance to reflect further about the loss of Lord: It was their turn to be hit.

Blast and debris swirled around Yankee Belle, piloted by Miller, and another Fortress named Rhapsody in Red, piloted by 1st Lt. Elmer O. Johnson. New flak explosions also ripped into the Belle and into Rhapsody. Both Fortresses plummeted out of formation.

“Everybody stay alert,” Miller said on the intercom.

“Our plane was thrown into a spin,” said Johnson. “I think the flak hit an ammunition box because I was thrown around inside the plane and was hit by a lot of ammunition. Our toggleer [Sgt. Frank C.] Annis came to my aid.”

Miller was a model of calm deliberation as he fought to get his bomber under control. In his official report, Miller later wrote: “All the aircraft control cables were severed except for our elevators and the automatic pilot control cables. This made for a busy time for all as we struggled north, constantly losing altitude. Finally, there was no sky left and our Maker provided a large muddy farm field in which I deposited the Yankee Belle.

“The pilot and copilot managed to pull us out of the spin we were in,” Johnson said. “We crash-landed into a farmer’s field.” Luckily, considering the way he had been battered around, Ace Johnson’s major injury was a broken collarbone.”

Wrote researcher Ray Bowden: “The plane came to earth 20 kilometers [twelve and one-half miles] south of Altentreptow into wooded country and was claimed by the Luftwaffe’s 1st Flak Division. German salvage crews inspecting the wreckage later reported Yankee Belle as being 40% destroyed.” Miller and his crew became prisoners of war.

They all survived the war: Miller, copilot 2nd Lt. Walter V. Marxmeyer Jr., Johnson, Annis, engineer-gunner Sgt. John F. Zuvich, radio operator Sgt. Ellsworth H. Stumbo, ball turret gunner Sgt. Clyde J. Garrison, waist gunner Sgt. Julius M. King Jr., and tail gunner Sgt. Denver D. Holton.

Rhapsody in Red, decorated with a knockoff of an Alberto Vargas pinup illustration in the October 1944 issue of Esquire magazine, apparently left the formation but did not crash. Rhapsody survived the mission and the war.

Excerpt taken from Mission to Berlin: The American Airmen Who Struck the Heart of Hitler's Reich by Robert F. Dorr. Available now.


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