13.08.1944 654th Bomb Squadron (R), Mosquito PR.XVI MM370, 1st Lt. Dean H. Sanner DFC
Operation: Aphrodite (Mission #549), Le Havre, France
Date: 13th August 1944 (Sunday)
Unit: 25th Bombardment Group (R), 654th Bombardment Squadron (R) Special, 8th Combat Camera Unit, 8th Air Force
Type: Mosquito PR.XVI
Serial No: MM370
Location: North side of mouth of the river Seine.
Base: Watton (Station #376), Norfolk, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. Dean ‘Curley’ Harold Sanner DFC, O-684056 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Aerial Photographer: S/Sgt. August T. Kurjack 6994841 AAF Age 29. Killed
* Stalag Luft 1 Barth-Vogelsang, today situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
Above left, 1st Lt. Sanner and right, S/Sgt Kurjack (Credit: American Air Museum in Britain)
Extract from “Air Force Fifty” (50 Years USAF) by the Air Force Association:
The 654th Bomb Squadron (Heavy Special) also flew the Mosquito Mark XVI for photography missions, chaff dispensing, and command flights. In addition, it was also assigned two A-26 aircraft for its activities with the OSS. It flew 700 varied missions between March 28, 1944 and April 1945.
Of the missions performed by the 654th Squadron, 368 were associated with photography. Of these, 161 were night photography flights, code-named “Joker,” to observe enemy activities, movement, and bridge construction conducted under cover of darkness. Another 55 missions were daylight, still-photography flights to determine the effects of bombing missions and to observe selected positions, conditions, and events. Twenty missions were daylight motion picture photography flights. Another 132 photography missions were dispatched to obtain H2X pictures for use by the bombers to bomb targets through total cloud cover. Chaff dispensing sorties, command flights, and secret service operations made up the balance of the missions.
The 8th AF Combat Camera Unit was a unit of camera crewmen and photographic technicians composed of eight officers and 23 enlisted men. They were trained as navigators, aerial gunners, and some were taught to operate equipment such as chaff dispensing machines. They flew on bomber operations with all three divisions of the 8th Air Force as well as with the Mosquito missions of the 25th bomb Group. They flew on 230 missions with the 25th Bomb Group alone.
One collection of nebulous missions performed by the 654th Bomb Squadron served the objectives of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The squadron provided crewmen, planes, flight plans, and associated services to OSS personnel for 32 missions over Germany, Austria, and other enemy-occupied territory. Several Mosquitos and two A-26 Invaders, painted black, were used on these missions. The A-26 had range, speed, and bomb bay space.
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the morning of the 13th August 1944 MM370 took off from Watton tasked with the filming of an ‘Aphrodite’ radio-remote controlled GB-4 bomb attack on the harbour installations at Le Havre in France.
Aphrodite: Aphrodite was the code name of the USAAF operations to use B-17 Flying Fortress as precision-guided munitions against bunkers and other hardened/reinforced enemy facilities. The missions were not generally successful, and the intended targets in Europe were either overrun by the ground advance of Allied troops or by conventional attacks by aircraft.
In August 1944 three Aphrodite missions using the TV camera equipped, radio-remote controlled GB-4 Bombs. GB-4 was a glide bomb with remote control flight surfaces and a TV camera under the nose. Three B-17Gs, 42-97518, 42-40042 and 42-40043 fitted with directional radio equipment and wing racks for two GB-4s. Only B-17G 42-40043 was used on operational missions flown by a crew from the 388th Bombardment (H) Group.
GB-4 weighed approx. 2600 lb, had a 12ft wingspan and was just over 12ft in length. 5 Magnesium flares were attached to the rear of the warhead. The TV camera range was 15 miles and time to target from 15,000 ft averaged 6 minutes.
This was the first operational mission for this weapon system. B-17G 42-40043 loaded with two GB-4 bombs together with another B-17 and a P-38 ‘Droop Snoot’ Lightning for observation and MM370 for filming the attack formed the flight.
P-38 ‘Droop Snoot’ was a P-38J Lightning fighter with a modified nose for a Bombardier.
When in range of the harbour facilities at Le Havre the first GB-4 was deployed. However, because of poor pictures from the TV camera the GB-4 impacted a mile SE of Le Havre on the north bank of the mouth of the river Seine.
1st Lt. Sanner in his eagerness to do a great job stayed too low and as the Mosquito flew through the aftermath of the bomb burst of the GB-4 it was hit by bomb fragments. The observing aircraft saw the Mosquito immediately began to smoke, the starboard wing drop, and at about 400 ft went into a starboard bank and crash on the north side of mouth of the river Seine.
1st Lt. Sanner was blown out of the Mosquito before the crash and landed by parachute on the muddy delta of the river Seine. S/Sgt. Kurjack was last in the nose position and 1st Lt. Sanner believed that he was still in the aircraft when it crashed. Immediately after he was captured, he asked the Germans if they had seen S/Sgt Kurjack but they could not find his body.
1st Lt. Dean ‘Curley’ Harold Sanner had completed 35 combat missions flying the B-17 before being transferred to the 654th Bombardment Squadron (R).
B-17G 42-31480 VE-K 'Reich's Ruin' with crew (Credit: American Air Museum in Britain)
Rear left to right: 1st Lt. Harold J. Wiley, 2nd Lt. Dean H. Sanner, 2nd Lt. Steve Musolino, 2nd Lt. Gerald Kreske, Sgt. Julian Wesley.Front left to right: Crew Chief-Ground, Omer Van Huylenbroek, John Villalobos, Everett McKean, George Little, Sam Johnstone.
After he was released from Stalag Luft 1 he returned to the US and served in the newly formed USAF. He flew the B-52 Stratofortress in Strategic Air Command (SAC) on combat missions over Vietnam. He retired from the USAF as a Lt Col. His awards included the DFC, Air Medal (4 Oak Leaf Clusters) Purple Heart, PoW Medal, WW2 Victory Medal and the European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal.
Dean Harold Sanner was born on the 6th July 1922. He passed away on the 26th August 1997 and was laid to rest at the Fort Logan National Cemetery.
S/Sgt. August Kurjack. Air Medal, Purple Heart. Listed on the Tablets of the Missing Ardennes American Cemetery. Born on the 1st July 1915 in Lebanon, Pennsylvania Son of Joseph and Kathleen Irma Kurjack. Husband to Mary Matilda Kurjack from Greenburg, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, USA.
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.