12.05.1944 731st Bomber Squadron B-17G 42-39941 ‘Lucky Lady’ 1st.Lt. Richard F. Noble
Operation: Brüx (Mission #353), Czechoslovakia
Date: 12th May 1944 (Friday)
Unit: 731st Bomber Squadron (452nd Bombardment Group (H)), 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Lucky Lady
Serial No: 42-39941
Location: Remouchamps, 2 miles east of Aywaille, 11 miles SE of Liège, Belgium
Base: Deopham Green (Station #142), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Richard Francis Noble O-453171 AAF Age 25. Evader/Murdered (1)
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Daniel G. Viafore O-818248 AAF Age 22. Evader (2)
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Richard Diehl Laule O-700741 AAF Age 25. PoW *
Bombardier: 2nd.Lt. Bruce Walter Clago O-749756 AAF Age 22. PoW **
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Robert Atkins 32792318 AAF Age 21. Evader (3)
Engineer: S/Sgt. Lloyd A. Martin 33430645 AAF Age 21. PoW *
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Ralph John Munn 39555640 AAF Age 31. PoW *
Right Waist: S/Sgt. Vernon Lee Moody 37344164 AAF Age 20. PoW *
Left Waist: S/Sgt. George Vincent Brush 32229463 AAF Age 24. PoW *
Tail: S/Sgt. Leon Howard Davies 39246153 AAF Age 24. PoW ***
* Unknown PoW camp
** Stalag 7a Moosburg, Bavaria (Work Camp 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse and Work Camp 3368 Munich).
*** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).
1st.Lt. Noble has been identified as standing 3rd from the left. The remainder of the crew have yet to be identified by name (Courtesy American Air Museum)
B-17G ‘Lucky Lady’: (Courtesy American Air Museum)
REASON FOR LOSS:
B-17G Lucky Lady took off from Deopham Green at 0600 hrs on the 12th May 1944 on a mission to bomb the Maltheuern synthetic fuel plant at Brüx. The 3rd Bombardment Division tasked 74 aircraft for this mission.
The Lucky Lady was hit by flak over the target which knocked out two engines causing the aircraft to fall behind the rest of the formation. 1st.Lt. Noble called for fighter protection but was eventually forced to order the crew to bail out over Sprimont in Belgium.
The 452nd Bombardment Group lost 14 aircraft including the ‘Lucky Lady’ on this mission.
The aircraft crashed at Remouchamps, 2 miles east of Aywaille some 11 miles SE of Liège in Belgium at 1630 hrs and was totally destroyed.
B-17G ‘Lucky Lady’ crash site: (Courtesy American Air Museum)
S/Sgts. Davies, Moody and Brush were captured by Military Police at about 1700 hrs on the 12th May 1944 in the local area of Sprimont, SSW of Liège. All three had been assisted by friendly civilians and were captured wearing civilian clothing. They were transferred to a PoW reception centre in Brussels on 15th May 1944.
2nd.Lt. Laule, 2nd.Lt. Clago, S/Sgt. Martin and S/Sgt Munn evaded capture until they were arrested by Military Police in Liège on the 22nd June 1944. All four had been assisted by friendly civilians and were captured wearing civilian clothing. They were transferred to a PoW reception centre in Brussels on 1st July 1944.
(1) In a letter written by 2nd.Lt. Viafore to 1st.Lt. Noble’s wife he described what happened to himself and her husband after they had bailed out of the Lucky Lady.
"We parachuted safely and Dick (Lt. Noble) and I were together a few minutes after we hit the ground. We were immediately picked up by friends and hidden away. Then came a series of events - always dodging and running from the Nazis, but never once falling into any real trouble. Until Dick left me during the first week of August, we had not fallen into enemy hands and he was in the best of health. The morning he left, he did so unexpectedly ... He was accompanied by a French Canadian who spoke French and was quite familiar with the neighbouring country. It was their intention to work their way south into France ... Dick's French friend was Henry Dube [sic] of Edmunston [sic], New Brunswick, Canada.”
The following summarises a statement made by evader Flt.Sgt. A. Best who was the Flight Engineer on the same crew as Plt.Off. Dubé:
The group was composed mainly of Luxembourg patriots who had deserted from the Wehrmacht. Also in the group were six American and three English airmen. Towards the end of June 1944 the group moved to a camp in the Ardennes located near a village of Chenet which is in eastern Belgium and about 15 miles WSW of Bastogne.
After 4 or 5 weeks everyone was getting impatient because apart from a promise to notify the authorities in England nothing was being done and there was some talk amongst the evaders of striking out on their own.
The chief of the organisation, known as Gustav, heard about this and after forcibly removing the personal belongings of the evaders threatened to have anyone shot who attempted to leave the camp. However, the belongings were returned the next day but this was the catalyst for individual evaders to leave the camp, cross into France and try and contact the French resistance for their assistance in reaching Allied lines.
At the end of July 1944 1st.Lt. Noble left the camp together with Plt.Off. Dubé, who was a fluent French speaker and had a Belgian ID card together with some local currency.
Plt.Off. Henri Edouard Dubé, J/86139, RCAF was the Wireless Operator/Air Gunner from 425 Sqn Halifax III LW591, KW-T which was shot down on the 24th April 1944.
The entry for the Lucky Lady in Stan D. Bishop’s “Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces - Vol 3”, describes that they were assisted by a Mr. Mathieu from Charleville, who was a French freedom fighter. After spending a short time at Mr. Mathieu's home they left for the next safe station en route to Allied lines west of Paris but all three were quickly captured. Mr. Mathieu was held at the local jail whilst the two airmen were put aboard a train to be sent to a PoW Camp in Germany. The two airmen managed to escape from the train but when they arrived in the town of Olizy which is some 6 miles SE of Vouziers in France on the 8th August 1944 they were captured again. During the course of that day both were taken to woods located above a place named Le Canapé outside of the town, forced to dig their own graves and were then shot in the head by unidentified Germans but who are thought to have been members of the Gestapo.
Their bodies were discovered at 2000 hrs the same day, recovered and reburied in the Olizy Cemetery in Graves #6 and #7. During April 1948 a team including a member of the 3rd Zone Allied Graves Registration Committee (AGRC) based in Nancy, France arrived at Olizy and opened the graves. The body in Grave #6 was identified as that of 1st.Lt. Noble and eventually the body in Grave #7 was identified as that of Plt.Off. Dubé.
Those responsible for the murders of 1st.Lt. Noble and Plt.Off. Dubé remain unknown.
(2) 2nd.Lt. Viafore and 1st.Lt. Noble remained together up to the day 1st.Lt. Noble left the Ardennes camp near the village of Chenet. 2nd.Lt. Viafore eventually became part of Operation Marathon, and with others from the Ardennes camp arrived at the Villance camp. He and the others were then moved on to the Acremont camp from where they were liberated by American troops on the 6th September 1944. 2nd.Lt. Viafore flew back to England on the 11th September.
(3) T/Sgt. Atkins’ escape and evasion report describes that after he had landed in the vicinity of Sprimont in Belgium, he was helped almost immediately by friendly Belgians who arranged the remainder of his escape. He was moved from location to location in Liège for security purposes and was eventually freed by Allied forces when Liège was liberated on the 8th September 1944. He was returned to England a few days later and was interviewed on the 11th September.
In 1999 a memorial plaque for 1st.Lt. Noble and Plt.Off. Dubé was unveiled at the Olizy church.
(Left: Courtesy Dominique Potier - FindAGrave)
1st.Lt. Richard Francis Noble. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium, Block GG, Row 5, Grave 109. Relocated to Plot D, Row 4, Grave 19. Born on the 20th August 1918 in Muskingum County, Ohio. Son to Byrl C. and Nellie Francis (née McCormac) Noble of new Concord, Ohio and husband to Betty Bradford (née Nicholson) Noble of Etowah County, Alabama, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.