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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.

We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via Helpdesk
15th Air Force
01.08.1943 512th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-24D 41-28294 ‘Brewery Wagon’, 1st Lt. John D. Palm SS

Operation: Ploesti (Operation Tidal Wave), Romania

Date: 1st August 1943 (Sunday)

Unit No: 512th Bombardment Squadron (H), 376th Bombardment Group (H), 47th Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force

Type: B-24D Brewery Wagon

Serial No: 41-28294

Code: 36V

Location: Tararani nr the Bucharest-Ploesti railway, Romania

Base: Tunisia, North Africa

Pilot: 1st Lt. John Dudley Palm SS, O-666805 AAF Age 28. PoW *

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. William F. Love O-735410 DFC, AAF Age? PoW *

Navigator: 2nd Lt. William Morris Wright DFC, O-794189 AAF Age 22. KiA

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Robert Warren Merrell DFC, O-729458 AAF Age 25. KiA

Radio Operator: T/Sgt. Harold Block 12039839 AAF Age 20. PoW ***

Engineer: T/Sgt. Alexander Phillip Rockinson 35284867 AAF Age 30. PoW **

Tunnel Gnr: S/Sgt. Clay Eugene Snyder 35213797 AAF Age 23. PoW *

Left Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. William E. Thompson DFC, 14081874 AAF Age? PoW *

Right Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. Austin D. Chastain DFC, 37222013 AAF Age? PoW *

Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. Dallis Richard Robertson 35490909 AAF Age 30. PoW *

The B-24 had 10 crew positions. Crew complements evolved during the war and comprised 9 personnel who were typically, but not always, Pilot, Co-Pilot, Bombardier, Navigator, Flight Engineer/Top Turret gunner, Radio Operator/Waist gunner, Nose gunner, Belly Turret/Tunnel/Ball Turret gunner, Waist gunner, Tail gunner.

* Unknown PoW camp.

** Sub-Lagarule Timis, Timisul de Jos, Roumania; or Largarule Prizoiniero #2, Timisul de Jos, Roumania.

*** Stalag 2A Neubrandenburg Mecklenberg


Some 179 B-24s made up operation Tidal Wave which took off from their desert bases starting 04:00 hrs. One bomber crashed on take-off, another flew into the sea and the lead B-24 was attacked by a Bf109 forcing it to jettison its bombs early and crash. No fewer than ten Liberators had to abort and return to base, their engines fouled by persistent sand.

Operation Tidal Wave - The operation was a strategic bombing mission and part of the "oil campaign" to deny petroleum-based fuel to the Axis powers. The mission resulted in "no curtailment of overall product output." This mission was one of the costliest for the USAAF in the European Theatre, with 53 aircraft and 660 air crewmen lost. It was proportionally the most costly major Allied air raid of the war, and its date was later referred to as "Black Sunday". Five Medals of Honor and 56 Distinguished Service Crosses (DFC) along with numerous others awards went to Operation Tidal Wave crew members. A 1999 research report prepared for the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama concluded that the mission to Ploiești was "one of the bloodiest and most heroic missions of all time”. (Credit Wikipedia)

On the way to the target the aircraft of Capt. Brian W. Flavelle (Silver Star, Air Medal (6 OLC), PH) flying B-24D 42-40563 ‘Wongo Wongo’ was seen to develop a wing wobble, stall and fall away to port before entering a spin and diving into the sea. His wingman, Lt. Guy Lovine flying B-24D 42-24258 ‘Desert Lily’ descended from the formation to look for survivors, narrowly missed the ‘Brewery Wagon’. No survivors were seen.

This left 1st Lt. Palm leading the 2nd section of the formation. Upon reaching the Initial Point (IP) he took up position on the extreme left of the second attack wave. At this point 2nd Lt. Wright advised that the IP had been incorrectly identified. Adhering to the radio blackout 1st Lt. Palm elected to break formation and head to the target alone.

Coming out of a rain cloud and flying very low, the Brewery Wagon was struck by flak directly on the nose compartment killing 2nd Lt. Merrell, fatally injuring 2nd Lt. Wright and severely injuring 1st Lt. Palm in the lower leg.

1st Lt. Palm was taken to a Bucharest hospital where his severely injured lowered leg had to be amputated.

The flak knocked out one engine and badly damaged two others. After jettisoning its bombs on an empty factory the Brewery Wagon turned south to escape the flak. Shortly thereafter

Hauptmann (Capt.) Wilhelm Steinmann, the Kommandeur of I./JG 4 attacked the Brewery Wagon and further damaged the aircraft which forced it down in a field at Tararani near to the Bucharest-Ploesti railway.

Hauptmann Steinmann claimed two B-24s this day, his 2nd and 3rd confirmed victories. By the end of hostilities Major Steinmann had a total of 33 confirmed victories. He survived the war and died on the 1st. August 1966.

Above: photographs of the ‘Brewery Wagon’ credit Michel Beckers

Burial details:

Above: 2nd Lt. Wright grave marker, credit Staci and Dominique Potier

2nd Lt. William Morris Wright. DFC, Air Medal, Purple Heart. Repatriated and interred at the Puritan Lawn Memorial Park in Peabody, Essex, Massachusetts. Born on the 30th November 1920 in Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts. Son of Forest Land and Beatrice Allene (née Lewis) Wright from Malden, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA.

Above: 2nd Lt. Merrell images, credit Staci and Dominique Potier

2nd Lt. Robert W. Merrell. DFC (Oak Leaf Cluster), Air Medal (5 Oak Leaf Clusters). Ardennes American Cemetery Plot D, Row 8, Grave 19. Born on the 23rd May 1918 in Los Angeles, California. Son of Robert Warren and Gladys Josephine (née Freeman) Merrell from Los Angeles, California, USA. His father predeceased him in April 1932.

Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Aug 2016). Reviewed and updated by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered (May 2021). Thanks to Terrence Popravak Jr. for identifying the additional photographs of crash (May 2021). Update to awards by Aircrew Remembered (Apr 2022).

RS 15.04.2022 - Correction to awards

Pages of Outstanding Interest
History Airborne Forces •  Soviet Night Witches •  Bomber Command Memories •  Abbreviations •  Gardening Codenames
CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
Concept of Colonial Discrimination  •  Unauthorised First Long Range Mustang Attack
RAAF Bomb Aimer Evades with Maquis •  SOE Heroine Nancy Wake •  Fane: Motor Racing PRU Legend
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', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. 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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