16.08.1944 No. 322nd Bomber Squadron B-17G 42-31634 LG-O 1st Lt. Halstead Sherrill
Operation: Halle Germany
Date: 16th August 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit: No. 91st Bomb Group 322nd Bomb Squadron
Type: Flying Fortress B17G25
Serial: 42-31634 "J'VILLE JOLTER"
Base: Bassingbourn (Station 121)
Location: forest at Eichenberg, Germany
Pilot: 1st Lt. Halstead Sherrill 0-813596 USAAF Killed
Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Frank J Gilligan 0-821260 USAAF PoW Stalag Moosburg-Isar
TT/Eng: Sgt. Vernon E Bauerline 33502608 Age 22. Killed
Nav: 2nd Lt. William M Porter 0-702190 USAAF PoW Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
Air/Bmr: 2nd Lt. Nicholas J Weber 0-761344 USAAF Killed
BT/Gnr: S/Sgt. Enrique T Perez 18105723 USAAF Killed
LW/Gnr: S/Sgt. Richard J Munkwitz 32216533 PoW Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
RW/Gnr: S/Sgt. Joseph R Morrison 35326183 Killed
T/Gnr: Sgt. Chester W Mis 36482180 USAAF PoW Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria
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REASON FOR LOSS:
The German aircraft factory at Halle, Germany is the primary target for this element. 60 of 425 B-17s from 1st Bomb Division are effective on the target. 148.3 tons of bombs were dropped - 31 USAAF personnel killed, 25 taken pow.
Aircraft was attacked by German fighters, blew up in mid-air. At 12:00 hrs 25,000 ft.
Further information: Just before the German fighters started their attack, Lt. Sherrill decided to try to get out of the prop wash by moving “Texas Chubby” down into the open No. 2 position in the Fourth Element. He asked the copilot, 2nd Lt. Frank J. Gilligan, to take the controls since the position was on his side of the plane. As they were sliding into position, Lt. Gilligan noticed the upper turret of the plane they were joining up on, was firing like mad. At the same time, the tail gunner, Sgt. Chester Mis, called up on the intercom and said “Our fighter cover is h. . . . no they’re not!” It was the Germans. Then it sounded like rain on a roof as 20 mm shells began popping all over the place, throwing shards of steel into the skin of “Texas Chubby.”
Above top: 1st Lt. Ray R. Ward and crew, 322nd Bomb Sq, 91st BG, with B-17G 42-31634 "Texas Chubby - The J'ville Jolter" (coded LG-O). Texas-born Ward and his crew were the first assigned to this ship - their first three missions were all to Frankfurt. They completed their tour in April of that year. Bottom is of ground crew.
“Texas Chubby” was hit immediately in a number of places by cannon fire. The instrument panel was shot to pieces, the engines started running away, the controls were “not there.” Lt. Sherrill flipped on “George”, the autopilot - nothing. Cannon shells exploded in the top turret killing the gunner, Sgt. Bauerline, who slumped down in the turret. The ball turret took several direct 20 mm cannon hits, killing S/Sgt. Perez, whose body remained trapped in the turret. Both legs of the waist gunner, S/Sgt. Morrison, were blown off by exploding shells. He did not have his chute on. The radio operator, S/Sgt. Munkwitz, went back to give Sgt. Morrison aid and put an emergency chute on him and help him bail out.
“Texas Chubby” pitched up and then dropped off on her right wing. As the aircraft went down, she just missed another B-17 going down with fire streaming from the engines. Lt. Sherrill hit Lt. Gilligan and said “Look at that poor bastard.” Lt. Gilligan looked out at their No. 3 engine which, too, was trailing fire behind the wing and said “Forget him, look at us.” Lt. Sherrill then said, “I guess it’s time to go, we can’t do a damn thing about it” and rang the bail-out bell.
The navigator, 2Lt. William Porter, was hit in the head by shrapnel from the first exploding shells, filling his oxygen mask with blood. When, Lt. Sherrill, rang the bail-out bell and told the crew over the intercom to “leave the plane”, Lt. Porter took off his face mask, buckled on his chest pack chute and started making his way to the nose escape hatch. Because of his wounds and lack of oxygen, Lt. Porter became disoriented and tried to open the hatch with the regular handle, rather than the emergency handle.
In the meantime, Lt. Gilligan moved down between the seats and looked forward. He saw Lt. Porter fumbling at the escape hatch door. Lt. Gilligan crawled forward to the door, pulled the emergency handle and Lt Porter tumbled out. The bombardier, 2nd Lt. Weber, had his chute on and was turning around to move to the escape hatch. He did not leave the aircraft.
Lt. Porter landed on the side of a high garden fence and slid to the ground. Had he hit the top of the fence he most likely would have been severely injured, if not killed. An elderly couple who lived in the house came out as other civilians started running into the garden yelling “Chicago gangster” at Lt Porter. This name was given by the Germans to American bomber crewmen who were creating so much devastation and death in the German cities. The elderly couple told the gathering crowd that Lt Porter was their prisoner and to leave him alone. The woman went to get water to wash off Lt Porter’s facial wounds. Lt Porter told her not to bother. The blood had clotted and he was afraid his face would start bleeding again. The couple took care of Lt. Porter until the authorities came for him. While waiting, they explained as best they could in German that they had a son who was a prisoner of war in England. He had written them to say that he had plenty of food and clothing and comfortable living conditions. Protecting Lt. Porter was one way the German couple could reciprocate for the treatment their son was receiving.
Lt Gilligan had gone back to the cockpit and stooped down to retrieve his chute from between the seats. He looked up to see Lt Sherrill standing over him. Lt Sherrill said “Are you still here?” Then everything became chaos-noise, flashes, flying debris. The next thing Lt Gilligan knew it was quiet. He thought he was dead. He saw blue, green, blue, green, blue. . . . . Then he realised he was alive and tumbling end over end, seeing sky, vegetation, sky, vegetation, sky. He still had his chute in his hands. He snapped it on and pulled the rip cord. As he floated down over a small village, he saw Home Guards and Hitler Youth running to where he would land in a farmer’s field. He was taken prisoner and held at the farm. Sgt Munkwitz, who also had been blown free when “Texas Chubby” exploded, and Lt Porter were brought in later. All three were held at the farm until the military came to take them away.
When the order to bail out had come over the intercom, the tail gunner, Sgt. Mis, started to go back into the fuselage to bail out the side hatch. Just then “Texas Chubby” exploded, throwing Sgt. Mis out of the plane. Although the front half of the plane disintegrated completely from the exploding bombs, the tail section remained intact and was floating down slowly. Sgt. Mis was also floating down bumping up against the tail section. He was afraid to pull his rip cord, fearing his chute would become entangled in the tail and drag him down. Sgt. Mis finally realised that if he did not do something, he was going to be killed anyway. He pushed against the floating tail section causing him to drift far enough away to open his chute safely.
“Texas Chubby” made about four spins before exploding in a fiery ball. Lt’s Sherrill and Weber and Sgt Morrison did not escape the plane when it exploded.
1st Lt. Halstead Sherrill. Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 5, Grave 13. Entered the service from New York.
Sgt. Vernon E Bauerline. Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot D, Row 35, Grave 12. Son of Mr and Mrs Andrew Bauerline who resided in Littlestown, Pennsylvania.
2nd Lt. Nicholas J Weber. Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot B, Row 40, Grave 39. Born 1915, Blair County, Pennsylvania, USA.
S/Sgt. Enrique T Perez. (Remains repatriated after war) Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio, Texas
S/Sgt. Joseph R Morrison. Hombourg, 4852 Plombières, Belgium. (Thought to have been buried by the Germans in the cemetery of Hebenshausen, Germany, but his name is commemorated on the Wall of the Missing, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery) Entered the service from Indiana.
Researched by MicheL Beckers for Aircrew Remembered, March 2015. With photographs supplied from his collection and also Dominique Potier, CynC.