16.08.1944 332nd Bomb Squadron (H) B-17G ‘Texas Chubby - J’Ville Jolter’, 1st Lt. Halstead Sherrill
Halle (Mission #556), Germany
Date: 16th August 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit: 91st Bombardment Group (H), 332nd Bombardment Squadron (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-17G Texas Chubby - J’Ville Jolter
Serial No: 42-31634
Location: Forest of Mollenfelde, Germany
Base: Bassingbourn (Station #121), Cambridgeshire, England
Pilot: 1st Lt. Halstead Sherrill O-813596 AAF Age 27. Killed
Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt. Frank Joseph Gilligan O-821260 AAF Age 19. PoW *
Navigator: 2nd Lt. William Morris Porter O-702190 AAF Age 27. PoW **
Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Nicholas J. Weber O-761344 AAF Age 19. Killed
Radio Operator: S/Sgt. Richard Joseph Munkwitz 32216533 AAF Age? PoW ***
Engineer: Sgt. Vernon Edward Bauerline 33502608 AAF Age 22. Killed
Ball Turret: S/Sgt. Enrique T. Perez 18105723 AAF Age 27. Killed
Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Joseph R. Morrison 35326183 AAF Age? Killed
Tail Gunner: Sgt. Chester Walter Mis 36482180 AAF Age 20. PoW ****
One of the two waist gunners was removed from crew complements starting on the 7th June 1944 and then both from 23rd February 1945.
* Stalag 7a Moosburg, Bavaria (Work Camps 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse and 3368 Munich).
** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).
*** Unknown camp.
**** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).
Above: 1st Lt. Ray R. Ward and crew, 322nd Bombardment (H) Sqn, 91st Bombardment Group (H), with B-17G 42-31634, LG:O, "Texas Chubby - J'Ville Jolter" . Texas-born Ward and his crew were the first assigned to this B-17 - their first three missions were all to Frankfurt. They completed their tour in April of that year.
Above: Ground crew for B-17G 42-31634, LG:O, "Texas Chubby - J'Ville Jolter"
REASON FOR LOSS:
The German aircraft factory at Halle, Germany was the primary target for the Bombardment Group. Thirty-one AAF airmen were killed, and twenty-five became PoWs.
A post mission intelligence report described that:
Aircraft B-17G, 42-31634, was one of six (6) aircraft Missing in Action, 14 August 1944, on mission to Halle, Germany. This group was attacked by approximately twenty-five (25) enemy fighters at 10:00 hours, altitude 25,400 feet, East of Eisenach, Germany. During this attack, which lasted 20 or 30 seconds, four (4) of our aircraft were seen to have been shot down. As this was the only fighter attack made on this group it is presumed by this headquarters. that subject aircraft was also lost at this time, No eye witness statement in available.
Personal recollections from the crew:
Just before the German fighters started their attack, 1st Lt. Sherrill decided to try to get out of the propeller wash by moving the Texas Chubby down into the open #2 position in the 4th Element. He asked Co-Pilot, 2n .Lt. Gilligan, to take the controls since the position was on his side of the plane. As they were sliding into position, 2nd Lt. Gilligan noticed the upper turret of the plane they were joining up on, was firing like mad. At the same time, the tail gunner, Sgt. Mis, called up on the intercom and said “Our fighter cover is h. . . . no they’re not!” It was the Germans. Then it sounded like rain on a roof as 20 mm shells began popping all over the place, throwing shards of steel into the skin of the aircraft.
The Texas Chubby was hit immediately in a number of places by cannon fire. The instrument panel was shot to pieces, the engines started running away, the controls were 'not there'. 1st Lt. Sherrill flipped on the autopilot with no effect. Cannon shells exploded in the top turret killing Sgt. Bauerline, who slumped down in the turret. The ball turret took several direct 20 mm cannon hits, killing S/Sgt. Perez, whose body remained trapped in the turret. Both legs of the waist gunner, S/Sgt. Morrison, were blown off by exploding shells. He did not have his chute on. The radio operator, S/Sgt. Munkwitz, went back to give S/Sgt. Morrison aid and put an emergency chute on him and help him bail out.
The aircraft pitched up and then dropped off on her right wing. As the aircraft went down, she just missed another B-17 going down with fire streaming from the engines. 1st Lt. Sherrill hit 2nd Lt. Gilligan and said “Look at that poor bastard.” 2nd Lt. Gilligan looked out at their #3 engine which, too, was trailing fire behind the wing and said “Forget him, look at us.” 1st Lt. Sherrill then said, “I guess it’s time to go, we can’t do a damn thing about it” and sounded the bail-out bell.
The navigator, 2nd Lt. Porter, was hit in the head by shrapnel from the first exploding shells, filling his oxygen mask with blood. When, 1st Lt. Sherrill, sounded the bail-out bell and told the crew over the intercom to “leave the plane”, 2nd Lt. Porter took off his face mask, buckled on his chest pack chute and started making his way to the nose escape hatch. Because of his wounds and lack of oxygen, he became disoriented and tried to open the hatch with the regular handle, rather than the emergency handle.
In the meantime, 2nd Lt. Gilligan moved down between the seats and looked forward. He saw 2nd Lt. Porter fumbling at the escape hatch door. He then crawled forward to the door, pulled the emergency handle and 2nd Lt. Porter tumbled out. The bombardier, 2nd Lt. Weber, had his chute on and was turning around to move to the escape hatch but did not leave the aircraft.
2nd Lt. Porter landed on the side of a high garden fence and slid to the ground. Had he hit the top of the fence he most likely would have been severely injured, if not killed. An elderly couple who lived in the house came out as other civilians started running into the garden yelling “Chicago gangster” at him.
This name was given by the Germans to American bomber crewmen who were creating so much devastation and death in the German cities.
The elderly couple told the gathering crowd that the airman was their prisoner and to leave him alone. The woman went to get water to wash off 2nd Lt. Porter’s facial wounds but he told her not to bother as the blood had clotted and he was afraid his face would start bleeding again. The couple took care of 2nd Lt. Porter until the authorities came for him. While waiting, they explained as best they could in German that they had a son who was a PoW in England. He had written them to say that he had plenty of food and clothing and comfortable living conditions. Protecting 2nd Lt. Porter was one way the German couple could reciprocate for the treatment their son was receiving.
2nd Lt. Gilligan had gone back to the cockpit and stooped down to retrieve his chute from between the seats. He looked up to see 1st Lt Sherrill standing over him who said “Are you still here?” Then everything became chaos and noise, flashes, flying debris. The next thing 2nd Lt. Gilligan knew was that it was quiet. He thought he was dead. He saw blue, green, blue, green, blue. . . . . Then he realised he was alive and tumbling end over end, seeing sky, vegetation, sky, vegetation, sky. He still had his chute in his hands. He snapped it on and pulled the rip cord. As he floated down over a small village, he saw Home Guards and Hitler Youth running to where he would land in a farmer’s field. He was taken prisoner and held at the farm. Sgt Munkwitz and 2nd Lt. Porter were also had been blown free when the aircraft exploded. All three were held at the farm until the military came to take them away.
When the order to bail out had come over the intercom, the tail gunner, Sgt. Mis, started to go back into the fuselage to bail out the side hatch. Just then the aircraft exploded, throwing him out of the aircraft . Although the front half of the plane disintegrated completely from the exploding bombs, the tail section remained intact and was floating down slowly. Sgt. Mis was also floating down bumping up against the tail section. He was afraid to pull his rip cord, fearing his chute would become entangled in the tail and drag him down. Sgt. Mis finally realised that if he did not do something, he was going to be killed anyway. He pushed against the floating tail section causing him to drift far enough away to open his chute safely.
The aircraft made about four spins before exploding in a fiery ball. 1st Lt. Sherrill, 2nd Lt. Weber and Sgt Morrison were killed in the explosion. The wreckage fell to earth in the Forest of Mollenfelde at Eichenberg kreis Thüringen, about 14½ km south of Göttingen, Germany.
The initial burial location for those that perished was in the Hebenshausen village cemetery.
1st Lt. Halstead Sherrill. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Plot III, Row 12, Grave 286 on the 29th June 1945. Relocated to Plot E, Row 5, Grave 13. Born on the 20th November 1917 in New York City, New York. Son of Wilfrid Halsted and Emma S. Sherrill of New York City, New York, USA.
2nd Lt. Nicholas J. Weber. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Recovered and interred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot C, Row 1, Grave 5. Relocated to Plot B, Row 40, Grave 39. Born on the 1st November 1915 in Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania. Son of Nicholas J. and Margaret (née Frekot) Weber of Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania, USA.
Sgt. Vernon Edward Bauerline. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster). Recovered and interred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot C, Row 1, Grave 9. Relocated to Plot D, Row 5, Grave 12. Born on the 12th June 1922 in Westminster, Maryland. Son of Andrew S. and Stella I. Bauerline of Littletown, Pennsylvania and husband to Ruth Myers Bauerline of Hanover, Pennsylvania, USA.
S/Sgt. Enrique T. Perez. Air Medal (Oak Leaf Cluster), Purple Heart. Recovered and interred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot C, Row 1, Grave 2. Repatriated and buried in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Plot Q, Grave 117, San Antonio, Texas. Born on the 2nd January 1917 in Texas. No further details found.
S/Sgt. Joseph R. Morrison. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. His remains have not been recovered and he is remembered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery. No further details found.
Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Mar 2015). With photographs supplied from his collection and also Dominique Potier, CynC. Updated by Aircrew Remembered (Feb 2021).