19.12.1943 440th Bomber Squadron B-26C 41-34881 ‘Miss Eveready,’ 1st.Lt. Waldon R. Stewart
Operation: Marshalling yards at Foligno, Italy
Date: 19th December 1943 (Sunday)
Unit: 440th Bomber Squadron (319th Bombardment Group (M)), 15th Air Force
Type: B-26C Marauder
Serial No: 41-34881 Miss Eveready
Code: B/N 77
Location: 12 miles east of Lake Bolsena, Viterbo, Italy
Base: Decimomannu airfield, Sardinia
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Waldon R. Stewart O-727797 AAF Age 25. Killed
Co Pilot: F/O. Ralph E. Weaver T-120367 AAF Age? PoW *
Bombardier/Nav: 1st.Lt. Leo J. Kaminski O-729759 AAF Age? PoW *
Radio Op/Gunner: T/Sgt. Dale Eugene King 39603244 AAF Age 25. Survived (1)
Engineer/Gunner: S/Sgt. George W. Abbott 39167527 AAF Age 27. PoW **
Gunner: T/Sgt. Ruel Ingles Stevenson 31132559 AAF Age 34. PoW ***
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, Prussia now Poland
** Stalag 17B Krems-Gneixendorf, near Krems Austria
*** Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Miss Eveready was one of thirty five Marauders that took off from Decimomannu airfield on the 19th December 1943 on a mission to bomb the marshalling yards at Foligno in Italy.
Returning from the target, 440th BS B-26C-10 MO 41-34881 B/N 77 Miss Eveready, flown by 1st.Lt. Waldon R. Stewart, was hit by flak over Orvieto and only three parachutes were seen before the aircraft crashed. (Osprey Combat Aircraft – B-26 Marauder Units of ETO).
An after mission report by S/Sgt. John L. Wagner:
“I was tail gunner in #3 plane of #2 flight. Lt Stewart's plane was in #2 position of same flight. About 1325 hours, shortly after flying over Lake Bolsena many bursts of heavy flak started coming up at our formation. At this time I was looking over in the direction of Lt Stewart's plane and saw a burst of flame shoot up out of his left engine. I then informed the rest of the crew of the incident. With the burning engine Lt. Stewart stayed in formation for about 30 seconds. He pulled out of the formation climbing in a right bank, and was about a thousand feet above our formation before he levelled off. While in the climb I saw one man parachute out of the waist window. Another man parachuted out of the waist window as the plane levelled off at about 10,000 ft. The plane then made about a 200 degree turn heading back in a northwest direction. The ship was then a good distance from us and I then noticed a 3rd man bail out with chute open while the plane appeared to be in a glide at about 7,500 feet. The plane then disappeared in the haze.”
The following was a statement from S/Sgt. Frank A. Badia, a top turret gunner who witnessed the crash landing of a B-26 of the 319th Bombardment Group on the 19th December 1943, on the mission against the Foligno marshalling yards:
“I saw fire coming from the left engine of the plane, it flew along in formation for 2 and a half to 3 minutes before peeling off to the left. The plane went into a 35 to 40 degree glide and appeared to have crash landed in a wheat field. I believe the pilot had extinguished the fire from the left engine before the plane hit the ground. The plane did not burn.”
"I saw two chutes come out of the plane, the first man jumped about thirty seconds after the plane had been hit and while the plane was still in formation, this man made a delayed jump, his chute not opening until he was several thousand feet below the formation. The other man jumped as the plane peeled eff from the formation.”
The aircraft was last sighted 12 miles to the east of Lake Bolsena before it crashed.
In his Individual Casualty Questionnaire, 1st.Lt. Kaminski recorded that S/Sgt. Abbot, T/Sgts. Stevenson and King bailed out at the point the aircraft separated from the formation and that he and F/O Weaver bailed out 2 minutes later. 1st.Lt. Stewart was killed in the aircraft crash.
It is not known when or by whom 1st.Lt. Kaminski, F/O. Weaver, S/Sgt. Abbot and T/Sgt. Stevenson were captured.
(1) The fate of S/Sgt. King was unknown until a Military Commission was convened at Leghorn (Livorno) in Italy between the 3rd and 8th August 1947. Tito Roncaglia then a member of the Fascist Federazione of Terni, Italy, acting with and in support of combatant forces of the German Reich, a belligerent enemy nation, did, near Polino, Italy, on or about the 24th January 1944, wrongfully, unlawfully, and contrary to the law of war, summarily kill S/Sgt. Dale E. King, a member of the Military Forces of the United States of America by shooting him with a gun.
The court heard that S/Sgt. King had parachuted and landed near Lake Bolsena. He obtained civilian clothes and for the next 10 days travelled over the mountains and reached Polino, which is about 40 miles due east of the lake, on or about 29th December 1943. By this time he was weak from hunger, exhaustion and the cold. He was taken to the home of a Mrs. Orsini Galleranan where he remained until the 18th or 19th January 1944. Mrs. Galleranan fearing that his presence might be discovered in her home, took him to the home of Domenico Matteucci where he remained until the 24th January 1944.
The day before on the 23rd January two Italian fascists had been killed by partisans in Polino. A unit of the 104th Legion of the Republican National Guard (LRNG) and Fascist Federazione of Terni, under the command of a German officer, were ordered to Polino.
On the 24th January 1944, Roncaglia, a member of the LRNG and detached to the Federazione accompanied the unit to Polino where the male inhabitants were ordered to report to the town square. Prior to the unit’s arrival it was rumoured that there was an American airman in hiding at the home of Matteucci. Roncaglia and another soldier, named Edoardo Lancia, who were armed with pistols and guns, entered the home of Matteucci.
On entering the house S/Sgt. King was observed sitting in a chair before a fireplace opposite to the door leading into the house. Immediately on seeing him Roncaglia and his companion shouted “Halt” or words to that effect and at the same time Roncaglia fired one shot at him, then shouted a second time and fired again. S/Sgt. King fell off his chair and died shortly thereafter.
Roncaglia had admitted on a number of occasions that he had killed S/Sgt. King but in his testimony at trial he retracted his admission and maintained that he had entered the house after hearing the two shots had been fired and saw S/Sgt. King lying on the floor. Witnesses before the court testified that Roncaglia and his companion told them that when they entered the house S/Sgt. King was hiding behind a cupboard armed with a dagger. The only eye witness to the incident who was before the court refuted the assertion that S/Sgt. King was hiding behind a cupboard or that he was armed.
The court rejected Roncaglia’s defence and found him guilty of the charge. He was sentenced to death by hanging. However, upon review which took into account the possible political effect in US relations with Italy given that Italy had abolished the death sentence, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour. The final disposition of his sentence is unknown.
Left: 1st.Lt. Waldon R. Stewart. Initially buried in Castelfiorentino, Florence, Italy. Repatriated and reinterred at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery, Texas, Section B, Site 310a on the 26th March 1949. Born on the 17th December 1918. Son to Robert Reed and Lydia Marie (née Walthall) Stewart of El Paso, Texas, USA. (Courtesy LC-FindAGrave)
Right: T/Sgt. Dale Eugene King. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Initially buried in the civilian cemetery in Terni Plot 10, Row 3, Grave 130. Disinterred and buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, Nettuno, Italy in Block W2V, Row 84, Grave 6761 as unknown X-852. After identification he was relocated to Plot D Row 13 Grave 34 on the 7th March 1946. Born during 1918 in Montana. Son to Mrs Roxie V. Jacobsen of Bell Fourche, South Dakota, USA. (Courtesy John Richter-FindAGrave)
Researched by Traugott Vitz and Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.