12.08.1944 449th Bomb Squadron (M) B-26B ‘Winnie Dee’ 1st Lt. Francis L. Hunt DFC.
Operation: Ramrod, France
Date: 12th August 1944 (Saturday)
Unit: 322nd Bombardment Group (M), 449th Bombardment Squadron (M), 99th Combat Wing, 9th Air Force
Type: B-26B Winnie Dee
Serial No: 41-31741
Location: Near Flers, France
Base: Great Saling aka Andrews Field (Station #485), Essex, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. Francis Lee Hunt DFC, O-2045019 AAF Age 25. Killed
Co Pilot: 1st Lt. Lyle LaVern Peters O-679114 AAF Age 26. Killed
Bombardier/Nav: 1st Lt. Morris Rafalow O-748102 AAF Age? Killed
Engineer/Gunner: S/Sgt. William Frederick Stark DFC, 18074157 AAF Age 25. Killed
Radio/Gunner: T/Sgt. Raymond J. Morin DFC, 31127019 AAF Age? Killed
Tail Gunner: S/Sgt. Norman E. Thielan 14057011 AAF Age 24. PoW * (1)
* Stalag 3c Alt Drewitz, Brandenburg, Prussia (now Drzewice, Kostrzyn nad Odrą, Poland).
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Winnie Dee took off from Andrews Field on a Ramrod mission to Flers in France
Ramrod = short range bomber attacks to destroy ground targets
The following after mission statements by airmen on board other aircraft in the formation described the loss of the Winnie Dee.
S/Sgt Robert F. Wittling. “Flak was heavy and accurate. The aircraft caught a direct hit in the bomb bay. Pilot lost control of the aircraft momentarily and lost about 2,000 feet in altitude. At that time, I saw one parachute come out and open fully. Another parachute came out and did not fully open until it had fallen about 1000 ft. Then I saw a third parachute come out of the ship, but no one was in it. The aircraft peeled off and plunged straight for the ground. When about 2000 ft from the ground the aircraft seemed to break in half. Afterwards there was a large blast apparently caused by the bombs exploding”.
S/Sgt Orville Hahn. “While we were on the bomb run with the bomb bays open, the flak which was thrown up hit the #3 aircraft in our formation. When I saw it, the aircraft had gone into a bank and pulled off to the left with the nose down. Fire was coming from the bomb bays or possibly both engines. The flames were increasing rapidly. I saw a parachute and the person who jumped seem to be OK. The aircraft was enveloped in flames by this time and pieces of the right wing began to break off. Immediately after this the aircraft seemed to break near the bomb bay and burning pieces filled the sky. At this time the flak was all around us, and we were doing violent evasive action to escape it. I did not see the aircraft hit the ground. The last I saw was a lot of burning pieces in the air, and the aircraft had apparently exploded”.
The aircraft wreckage fell to the ground at 20:40 hrs near Flers, 26 km SE of Vire, France.
(1) In his Individual Casualty Questionnaire S/Sgt. Thielan recorded that they were flying at about 12,000 feet when the aircraft was hit by flak. When he bailed out, he did not see anyone else bail out and speculated that the rest of his crew perished in the aircraft.
The circumstances of his capture are not known, however, it appears that he was eventually held in a farmhouse by personnel of an SS Infantry unit. The day after his capture he was joined by 2nd Lt. George M. Mikels O-759899 US AAF, whose B-17 was shot down on the 13th of August and WO1. Griffin ‘Griff’ James Young R85855 RCAF, a Spitfire pilot also shot down on the 13th of August.
The three were moved back from the advancing front lines in a car until they arrived at a temporary PoW prison camp located SE of Rouen, France. The camp housed many black South African nationals, French Colonial Arabs and Turks who were being used as slave labour. Also held at the camp were:
Flt Lt. Denis Clark 119758 RAFVR, a Mustang pilot who had been shot down on the 20th of August 1944 (insert link);
Pvt. Gordon Lafayette Bryant 6969514 from the 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, US Army. The circumstances leading to his capture are unknown;
Two British soldiers from the Royal Artillery (RA), one whose identity is unknown and a L/Bdr. Jack Martin 976272 from the 65th (The Norfolk Yeomanry) Anti-Tank Regiment. The circumstances leading to their capture are unknown but L/Bdr. Martin was reported missing on the 21st of August 1944.
On the 25th of August 1944 at about 17:30 hrs a group of 10 SS troops broke into the camp apparently looking for American and British captives. They abused and shot to death WO1. Young, Flt Lt. Clark, Pvt. Bryant, L/Bdr. Martin and the unidentified British soldier from the RA. Their bodies were buried, apparently without removing their personal belongings, at the site of the camp.
S/Sgt. Thielan was on the other side of the camp and 2nd Lt. Mikels was not noticed and escaped the murderous intentions of the SS troopers. 2nd Lt. Mikels later escaped and hid with the help of French citizens until the arrival of British troops. He reported what he had witnessed to the authorities.
Initial burial locations are unknown.
Above newspaper clipping for 1st Lt. Hunt from The News and Observer, dated Sunday September 3rd, 1944
1st Lt. Francis Lee Hunt. DFC, AM (9 Oak Leaf Clusters). Recovered and interred in the US Military Cemetery Blosville near Carentan in August 1946, Plot DD, Row 4, Grave 66. Repatriated and interred at the Rockfish Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Wallace, North Carolina. Born on the 1st of January 1919 in Currie, Pender, North Carolina. Son of Allen Lee and Sallie Elizabeth (née Fussell) Hunt. Husband to Adalee Louise (née MacKenzie) Hunt from Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA.
1st Lt. Lyle LaVern Peters. Recovered and interred in the US Military Cemetery Blosville near Carentan in August 1946, Plot DD, Row 4, Grave 67. Repatriated and interred at the Fulton Center Cemetery, Perrinton, Michigan. Born on the 27th of February 1918 in Gratiot, Michigan. Son of Luie and Olive E. (née Morton) Peters. Husband to Elaine R. (née Morse) Peters from Clayton, New York, USA.
1st Lt. Morris Rafalow. Recovered and interred in the US Military Cemetery Blosville near Carentan in August 1946, Plot DD, Row 4, Grave 65. Repatriated to New Jersey. Son to Molly Rafalow from the Bronx, New York, USA.
S/Sgt. William Frederick Stark. DFC (Oak Leaf Cluster), AM (7 Oak Leaf Clusters) Purple Heart (Oak Leaf Cluster). Recovered and interred in the US Military Cemetery Blosville near Carentan on the 21st of March 1947, Plot DD, Row 8, Grave 152 as X-398. Transferred to the Normandy American Cemetery Plot C, Row 8, Grave 37. Born on the 28th of March 1919 in Perryton, Texas. Son of August Frederick and Beulah Mae (née King) Stark. (His father predeceased him in 1922). Husband to Nellie R. Stark from Downsville, Los Angeles, USA.
T/Sgt. Raymond J. Morin. DFC (Oak Leaf Cluster), AM (9 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. I Recovered and interred in the US Military Cemetery Blosville near Carentan in August 1946, Plot DD, Row 4, Grave 64. Transferred to the Normandy American Cemetery Plot F, Row 19, Grave 16. Son of Henry J. Morin from Somerset, Massachusetts, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.