17.04.1945 366th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 43-38085 ‘Towering Titan’, 1st.Lt. Brainard H. Harris
Operation: Railway marshalling yards at Dresden (Mission #957) Germany
Date: 17th April 1945 (Tuesday)
Unit: 305th Bombardment Group (H), 366th Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Towering Titan
Serial No: 43-38085
Location: Babisnau, south of Dresden, Germany
Base: Chelveston (Station #105), Northamptonshire, England
Pilot: 1st.Lt. Brainard H. Harris O-830851 AAF Age 21. Killed
Co Pilot: 2nd.Lt. Earl Holly Boyd O-2062431 AAF Age 21. Killed
Navigator: 2nd.Lt. Herman Reeve Spurrier O-1574347 AAF Age 28. Killed
Bombardier: S/Sgt. Earl A. Losse 37623141 AAF Age 23. Killed
Radio/Op: T/Sgt. Walter Adell McClellan 34795617 AAF Age 20. Survived (1)
Engineer: S/Sgt. Louie M. Daybook 36679861 AAF Age 21. Killed
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Samuel H. Williams 6999329 AAF Age 24. Killed
Tail: Sgt. Edward Ganschow 36153615 AAF Age 30. Killed
One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from the 23rd February 1945.
Back Row (L to R): Unknown, 2nd.Lt. Spurrier, 1st.Lt. Harris, Unknown, Unknown; Front Row (L to R): T/Sgt. Daybook, T/Sgt. McClellan Unknown, Unknown, Unknown. (Credit: Robert Harris, FindAGrave)
The photograph of 43-38085 ‘Towering Titan’ was taken on the 8th April 1945. The aircraft was originally selected by 2nd.Lt. Robert L. Searfoss to be nicknamed ‘Organised Confusion’. (credit: American Air Museum, Roger Freeman collection)
REASON FOR LOSS:
The Towering Titan took off from Chelveston on the morning of the 17th April 1945 on a mission to bomb the railway marshalling yards at Dresden, Germany. Before reaching the target area the formation was attacked from the rear by a number of German Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow) jet fighters. The formation’s gunners returned fire and several of the attacking fighters were hit and seen falling away in flames.
An after-mission interrogation report described how, at about 1412 hours, an Me 262 fighter made a pass at the formation and rammed the Towering Titan tearing off the port outer wing panel. The Me 262 exploded after the collision and the 'Towering Titan' went into a gradual dive, disappearing into the high-altitude clouds through which the formation was flying.
However, another account of the events described how two Me 262 fighters took up a position alongside the Towering Titan whose gunners fired on the fighters hitting one, causing it to explode and descend in flames. The remaining fighter took up a position ahead of the Towering Titan, off the port wingtip of the lead B-17, which made it impossible for the gunners to bring their guns to bear. 1st.Lt. Harris dropped the Towering Titan down to allow the upper turret gunner to fire at the German fighter. The pilot of the Me 262 took evasive action and collided with the Towering Titan tearing off the port outer wing panel and damaging the outer engine. The Me 262 was seen diving away from the formation trailing black smoke.
An account of the engagement by Generalleutnant (Maj. General) Adolf Galland and Leutnant (2nd.Lt.) Klaus Neumann from Jagdverband 44 (JV-44) recalled that Unteroffizier (Cpl.) Eduard Schallmoser’s Me 262 ‘White 5’ was strafed by a solid stream of .50 caliber machine gun fire. Both the jet’s engines were severely damaged, and the aircraft’s canopy was shattered causing Schallmoser to lose control of the aircraft and collide with the ‘Towering Titan’. Neumann reported that no one managed to bail out of the ‘Towering Titan’, which was confirmed by Oberst (Col.) Johannes Steinhoff.
This was Schallmoser’s forth ‘collision’ of five claimed victories in the Me 262. He survived on each occasion which earned him the nickname of ‘The Rammer’.
Official records reported that the crew perished in the aircraft which crashed close to the village of Babisnau. A memorial at the Sportplatz, located at the western end of Burkhardswalde village, remembers the eight Allied airmen who perished nearby on the 17th April 1944.
Translation of memorial:
NOT FAR FROM THIS PLACE EIGHT ALLIED SOLDIERS ARE RESTING 17 APRIL 1945
(1) A German researcher, Matthias Schildbach (residing at Lungkwitz), determined that T/Sgt. McClellan was either thrown clear or managed to bail out of the aircraft before it crashed. He also found that the SS personnel stationed in the nearby Burkhardswalde village had observed everything and captured T/Sgt. McClellan. He was taken to the village Inn where he was interrogated and abused. The Innkeeper and individual villagers, without concern for their own safety, had tried in vain to persuade the SS men to release him to the responsible Wehrmacht authorities. But they were ignored, and T/Sgt. McClellan was taken out of sight of the village where the SS men pressed a shovel into his hand. He was made to dig his own grave before he was executed in cold blood.
After the war the Soviet occupying power came across the shallow grave of an unknown Allied airman and arranged to have the remains reinterred at the Burkhardswalde cemetery. His grave, with a black cross burial marker bearing the words “Here rests an unknown Allied Flier", was tended by the village residents Pastor Helmut Berthold and Mrs. Seifert. After the Soviet occupying power left the region in the early 1990’s Herr Schildbach informed the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC was deactivated on the 30th January 2015) of his findings and on the 2nd September 2008 the remains were exhumed and taken to a laboratory in Hawaii. The remains were identified on the 18th June 2009 as being those of T/Sgt. McClellan and his next of kin were informed in February 2010.
There are no records available of anyone being apprehended or brought to trial for the murder of T/Sgt. Walter Adell McClellan.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the remains of the crew of the Towering Titan were retrieved and buried by the residents of Babisnau in a mass grave close to the crash site. It is not known what steps the Defense PoW/MIA Accounting Agency have or are taking to recover the remains.
Above 2nd.Lt. Harris (credit: John Lawler, FindAGrave)
2nd.Lt. Brainard H. Harris. Purple Heart, Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Tablets of the Missing, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium. 2nd.Lt. Harris was officially declared dead on the 18th April 1946, one year and one day after the date of the crash. Born on the 18th April 1924 in Florida. Son to Joseph F. and Mary E. (née Gossett) Harris of Lithia, Florida, USA
2nd.Lt. Earl Holly Boyd. Purple Heart, Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Tablets of the Missing, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium. 2nd.Lt. Earl H. Boyd was officially declared dead on the 18th April 1946, one year and one day after the date of the crash. Born on the 3rd July 1923 in Warner, Oklahoma. Son to Reuben E. and Lola C. (née Colvin) Boyd and husband to Mrs. Carolyn E. Boyd of Venice, California, USA.
2nd.Lt. Herman Reeve Spurrier. Purple Heart, Air Medal. Tablets of the Missing, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium. 2nd.Lt. Spurrier was officially declared dead on the 18th April 1946, one year and one day after the date of the crash. Born in June 1917 in Des Moines, Iowa. Son to William A. and Helen R. (née MacRae) Spurrier and husband to Mrs. Maria (née Baquerizo) Spurrier of West Los Angeles, California, USA.
S/Sgt. Earl A. Losse. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Tablets of the Missing, Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. Born in 1922. S/Sgt. Losse was officially declared dead on the 18th April 1946, one year and one day after the date of the crash. Husband to Mrs Rose M. Losse of Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.
Above: T/Sgt. McClellan credit: TogetherWeServed and Jerry L. Thomas, Find A Grave)
T/Sgt. Walter Adell McClellan. Purple Heart, Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters). Tablets of the Missing, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium. Born on the 28th August 1925 in Saint Augustine, Florida. Son to Robert H. and Amy E. (née Raley) McClellan of Pensacola, Florida. T/Sgt. McClellan was reinterred with Honours on the 23rd April 2010 at the Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola, Florida, USA. (credit: TogetherWeServed and Jerry L. Thomas, Find A Grave)
S/Sgt. Louie M. Daybook. Purple Heart, Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Tablets of the Missing, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium. S/Sgt. Daybook was officially declared dead on the 18th April 1946, one year and one day after the date of the crash. Born in 1925 in Illinois. Son to Harry and Annie C. Daybook of Aurora, Illinois, USA.
S/Sgt. Samuel H. Williams. Purple Heart, Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Tablets of the Missing, Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery, Hombourg, Belgium. Born on the 10th December 1920 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. S/Sgt. Williams was officially declared dead on the 18th April 1946, one year and one day after the date of the crash. Son to Samuel and Lucy M. (née Bliss) Williams of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.
Sgt. Edward Ganschow. Purple Heart, Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Tablets of the Missing, Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, The Netherlands. S/Sgt. Ganschow was officially declared dead on the 18th April 1946, one year and one day after the date of the crash. Born on the 10th September 1915 in Saginaw, Michigan. Son to Herman and Natalie (née Kunitzer) Ganschow and husband to Mrs. Evelyn M. (née Rabideau) Ganschow of Saginaw, Michigan, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’ and for his valued research and advice in compiling this report. Additional References: “Journey to Sunset’ - A true story of the co-pilot of the B-17 Towering Titan by Michael Alan Todd” and “The Me 262 Stormbird: From the Pilots Who Flew, Fought, and Survived it by Colin D. Heaton and Anne-Marie Lewis”. Web site, Together We Served. The Pensacola News Journal