08.05.1944 No. 339th Bomb Squadron 96th Bomb Group B17G 42-102482 QJ-A 2nd Lt. Eye
Operation: Berlin Germany
Date: 8th May 1944 (Monday)
Unit: No. 339th Bomb Squadron 96th Bomb Group
Type: B17G Flying Fortress
Location: Fümmelse near Wolfenbüttel Germany
Pilot: 2nd Lt. Harold Floyd Eye 0-748387 USAAF Age 27. Killed
Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Leland Otis Baker 0-758285 USAAF Killed
Nav: 2nd Lt. Joseph McElroy O-685669 USAAF PoW Stalag Luft 3
Bmr: 2nd Lt. Carl Francis Thinnes O-744429 USAAF PoW Stalag 7A
Radio/Gnr: T/Sgt. Charles Norman Chase 17128496 USAAF POW Stalag Luft 4
TT/Eng: T/Sgt. William Atley Pierson 13080522 USAAF PoW Stalag Luf 4
BT/Gnr: S/Sgt. William Norwood Latta Jr. 12132488 USAAF Age 28. Killed
RW/Gnr: S/Sgt. Jack Earl McIlraith 16021646 USAAF PoW Dulag Luft
LW/Gnr: S/Sgt. W C Parnell 39685053 USAAF PoW Stalag Luft 4
T/Gnr: S/Sgt. Leroy Amory Chamberlain 13136164 USAAF POW Stalag Luft 3
REASON FOR LOSS:
Shot down by German fighters:
"The mission this day for the 96th Bomb Group, 339th Bomb Squadron was Berlin. The 96th BG left in the early morning from its base, AAF 138, Snetterton Heath. This was the run-up to D-Day and the Allies wanted to keep the German’s guessing on their intentions of a cross channel landing and its location.
This crew previously flew five missions together to Brunswick, Calais and (3) to Berlin, pursuant to ICQ’s in the file.
On this day May 8, 1944, the formation was attacked by between 30 and 50 enemy aircraft. The initial wave hit at 09:55 and five ships were lost, and then at 10:05 a second wave struck and an additional 5 ships were lost. Some chutes were scene and some aircraft went down under control while others descended out of control.
Rear L-R: S/Sgt. Jack McIlraith, S/Sgt. Leroy Chamberlain, T/Sgt. Charles Chase, S/Sgt. William Latta Jr., S/Sgt. W .C. Parnell, T/Sgt. William Pierson. Front: 2nd Lt. Harold Eye, 2nd Lt. Carl Thinnes, 2nd Lt. Joseph McElroy, 2nd Lt. Leland Otis Baker.
The German information in this file indicates they believed the subject plane was damaged due to flak, “shot down at 10:30 hours.” At some point, the pilot Harold Floyd Eye was wounded and apparently could not continue to fly the aircraft, Co-Pilot Leland Otis Baker took the controls and decided to crash land the craft.
He may have made this decision to provide timely medical attention for the wounded crew members. A bail out order was never issued, however, W.C. Parnell, Assistant Armorer and Left Waist Gunner did bail out and Carl Francis Thinnes, Jr. the Bombardier, who was seriously wounded was “thrown out” by the Engineer William Atley Pierson.
Parnell may have bailed out to provide assistance to Pierson once he landed. In any case, there was obviously little time and the plane was flying at a very low altitude. Other crew members noted that the plane was “too low” to bail out.
At the time of the crash landing, the nose of the plane was devastated and the Pilot and Co-Pilot probably died from their wounds. S/Sgt William Norwood Latta Jr. was in the waist according to one ICQ and was badly injured in the very hard landing.
He was admitted to an Air Force Hospital in Brunswick but died from his wounds. One ICQ noted that the crew was in the same room that he was in when he died. Note that most agree that the German Air Force treated USAF members with the best treatment during the war. Goring believed in a strange type of chivalry among airmen.
Pierson was ultimately “captured” and had gunshot wounds to his right thigh, a head wound and a knee fracture to his left leg. Charles Norman Chase also had face wounds. Obviously, we are missing a lot of information about what happened after this ship was hit by enemy fire.
It is obvious that the crash landing was extremely hard and the ship was 85% to 95% damaged, according to German correspondence. The Germans noted that the fuselage had both a star and the letters Q7 or QJ markings on it. It actually would have had a QJ on both sides indicating the 339th Bombardment Squadron.
A briefcase that belonged to the Navigator was also salvaged, indicating that little time was available prior to the crash landing.
2nd Lt. Harold Floyd Eye. Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Holland. Plot D, Row 12, Grave 6. No further details - are you able to assist?
2nd Lt. Leland Otis Baker. Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Glendale, California, USA. No further details - are you able to assist?
S/Sgt. William Norwood Latta Jr. Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, Belgium. Plot: Plot B, Row 42, Grave 6. No further details - are you able to assist?
Left: Uncle Bill’s Story. Written by William G. Ford. Published 2012. ISBN: 9781620303214 - 131 Pages describing the story of a Tail Gunner (S/Sgt. William Norwood Latta Jr.) on a B-17 during the war. Covers his various stages of his training. Listed also are the missions he flew on, with reports and photographs.
Researcher Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered - November 2016. With thanks to Des Philippet, John Clare, James Mclaudy and Ed Tiebax for grave and crew photographs. Ed has also adopted the grave of S/Sgt. Latta at Ardennes Cemetery Belgium. He lives in the same village as our researcher, Michel. Other photographs courtesy of the Michel Beckers collection.