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Archive Report: US Forces
1941 - 1945

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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8th Air Force
03.02.1945 334th Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G 42-102951, 2nd Lt. Richard P. Morris

Operation: Berlin (Mission #817), Germany

Date: 3rd February 1945 (Saturday)

Unit: 95th Bombardment Group (H), 334th Bombardment Squadron (H), 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-17G

Serial No: 42-102951

Code: BG:Q

Location: Texel Island, Holland

Base: Horham (Station #119), Suffolk, England

Pilot: 2nd Lt. Richard Philip Morris O-798901 AAF Age 22. Killed

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Dean McCormick Ratts O-775127 AAF Age 28. Killed

Navigator: FO. Kenneth Cecil Wood T-132418 AAF Age 23. Killed

Bombardier: FO. Leonard A. Pospisil T-129554 AAF Age 21. Killed

Radio Op: Sgt. Kenneth Leroy Petersen 36814003 AAF Age 35. Killed

Engineer: Sgt. Leroy Herbert Hansen 37173845 AAF Age 29. Killed

Ball Turret: Sgt. Marion Lee Bell 37576952 AAF Age 37. Killed

Waist Gnr: Sgt. Milton S. Onie 15395786 AAF Age 19. Killed

Tail Gnr: Sgt. William Thompson Watt 38579269 AAF Age 20. Killed

One of the two Waist Gunners were removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.

REASON FOR LOSS:

B-17G 42-102951 took off from Horham on the morning of the 3rd February 1945 and joined the thousand-strong force that attacked targets in and around Berlin.

There were no eyewitnesses available for the loss of this aircraft, however, the following statement was obtained from Intelligence files for the mission.

B-17G 42-102951 piloted by 2nd Lt. Morris was seen to be hit by flak just after bombs away and a fire start on the wing. Three parachutes were seen to leave the aircraft on the eastern edge of Berlin. At that time the aircraft was still on fire but under control. One crew in the formation reported hearing the pilot say over the radio that he had a runaway prop but was halfway back to base. No other contact was made.

Note - The report of three parachutes having been seen leaving the aircraft has proven not to be correct.

At approximately 15:30 hrs the aircraft was seen approaching Texel island from the east. As the aircraft neared the island the German south flak battery opened fire followed by the north battery. A few minutes later the aircraft returned over the Island and was seen dropping red distress flares. (Ref 1)

The north battery continued it’s heavy fire despite that it was quite obvious to those watching that the aircraft was trying to land. German reports document that the aircraft was ditched in the sea 400 m west of the Island of Texel opposite to Beach Pole 28 at 16:00 hrs. (Ref 1)

There were four Marine-Flak-Abteilungen (M.Flak Abt) stationed on Texel Island at this time:

M.Flak Abt 2./607 (4 x 105 mm guns) located at Eierland on the NW of the island;
M.Flak Abt 3./607 (2 x 2 120 mm guns) located at Hors on the SW of the island;
M.Flak Abt 4./815 (4 x 105 mm guns) located at Den Hoorn on the south of the island;
M.Flak Abt 4./808 (4 x 105 mm guns) located at De Mok on the SE of the island.

Several Dutch people who were forced to work for the Germans at the north battery asked the Germans if they could take out a boat to rescue the crew which was promptly refused. The Germans continued to fire upon the aircraft after it had ditched in the sea. The Dutch civilians saw at least 7 airmen climb out and stand on a wing. Germans from positions in the dunes continued firing upon the American airmen until their dead bodies slid into the sea. (Ref 1).

Flying Fortress B-17G 42-102951 334th BS, 95th BG, 8AF USAAF crashed at Den Berg Texel Holland. The American Air Museum (Collection T. Gunther-Tjeertes)

Seven members of the crew were washed ashore and were buried in the Military Plot of the General Cemetery at Den Burg on the island of Texel in the following graves:

2nd Lt. Ratts #169, Sgt. Onie #170, Sgt. Bell #171, Unknown #172, Sgt. Petersen #173, FO. Pospisil #174, FO. Wood #175.

The remains in Grave #172 could not be immediately identified as it was believed that the personal effects had been plundered by persons unknown. The remains were later identified as those of 2nd Lt. Morris.

The body of Sgt. Watt was washed ashore on Terschelling Island on the 8th April 1945. The island is about 30½ km NE of Texel. He was initially buried in the Terschelling (West) ‘Longway’ Cemetery. The body of Sgt. Hansen was never recovered.

After the war had ended the killings were reported as a war crime but no documents have been found that confirm whether an investigation, if any, had been carried out or whether anyone responsible for the killings had been apprehended.

Burial Details:

2nd Lt. Richard Philip Morris. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot 3B, Row 8, Grave 192 as X-2138. Repatriated to Plot 8, Grave 5493 RH, Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Virginia. Born on the 2nd October 1922 in California. Son of Bert DeWayne and Anna Loren (née Fitzgerald) Morris of North Hollywood, California, USA.

His father predeceased him in February 1944

Above Grave marker for 2nd Lt. Ratts (Credit: Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

2nd Lt. Dean McCormick Ratts. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot 3B, Row 4, Grave 91. Relocated to Plot P, Row 13, Grave 11. Born on the 11th December 1916 in Kansas City, Missouri. Son of Arthur Doland and Bessie May (née McCormick) Ratts. Husband to Grace Elizabeth (née Burke) Ratts of Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA.

FO. Kenneth Cecil Wood. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot 3B, Row 4, Grave 86. Repatriated to the Oakwood Cemetery, Conroe, Texas. Born on the 20th June 1922 in West Columbia, Texas. Son of John Winston and Pearl Belle (née Owen) Wood of Harris, Texas, USA.

Tragically his younger brother Edwin Ray was killed in a motor vehicle accident on the 18th July 1941 and his mother predeceased him in January 1945.

Above Newspaper cutting for FO Pospsil (Credit: Anonymous - FindAGrave)

FO. Leonard A. Pospisil. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot 3B, Row 4, Grave 89. Repatriated on the 4th February 1949 to the Long Island National Cemetery Grave J/14462, Farmingdale, New York. Born on the 22nd May 1924 in Mineola, New York. Son of Louis Martin and Johanna (née Campbell) Pospisil of Mineola, New York, USA.

Above left: Sgt. Peterson (Credit: The Journal Times, dated Monday, August 20, 1945) and right Grave marker (Credit Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Sgt. Kenneth Leroy Petersen. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot 3B, Row 4, Grave 87. Relocated to Plot H, Row 6, Grave 3. Born on the 14th December 1909 in Racine, Wisconsin. Son of Simon Peterson of Racine, Wisconsin, USA.

Above Sgt. Hansen name on the Wall of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery (Credit: darealjolo - FindAGrave)

Sgt. Leroy Herbert Hansen. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Commemorated on the Wall of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery. Also commemorated at the Calvary Cemetery, Minnesota. Born on the 30th October 1915 in Currie, Minnesota. Son of Peter N. and Ellen C. Hansen of Currie, Minnesota, USA.

Sgt. Marion Lee Bell. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot 3B, Row 4, Grave 84. Relocated to Plot H, Row 6, Grave 2. Born on the 23rd April 1918 in Lyle, Minnesota. Son of Harry and Hazel Belle (née Delaney) Bell. Husband to Mary Jean (née Orcutt) Bell of Austin, Mower, Minnesota, USA.

Above Grave marker for Sgt. Onie (Credit: Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Sgt. Milton S. Onie. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot 3B, Row 4, Grave 83. Relocated to Plot I, Row 7, Grave 14. Born on the 25th January 1926 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Son of William and Peggy (née London) of Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, USA.

Above Grave marker for Sgt. Watt (Credit: Des Philippet - FindAGrave)

Sgt. William Thompson Watt. Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Plot UU, Row 3, Grave 71. Relocated to Plot L, Row 16, Grave 14. Born on the 15th December 1925 in Cochise, Arizona. Son of Charles William and Maria Belen (née Flores) Watt of El Paso, Texas, USA.

His father predeceased him in October 1942.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.

Reference(s):

1. Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces Vol 6, ETO Area (January 1945 - March 1945) - Stan D Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Marco Cillessen.

RS & TV 27.10.2021 - Initial upload

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Acknowledgments: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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