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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
30.05.1944 614th Bombardment Squadron (H) B-17G 42-97440 ‘Flak Rat II’, 1st Lt. Carleton L. Wilson DFC

Operation: Oschersleben (Mission #380), Germany

Date: 30th May 1944 (Tuesday)

Unit No: 614th Bombardment Squadron (H), 401st Bombardment Group (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-17G Flak Rat II

Serial No: 42-97440

Code: IW:A

Location: 14½ km west of Bookholzberg, Germany

Base: Deenthorpe (Station #128), Northamptonshire, England

Pilot: 1st Lt. Carleton Lee Wilson DFC O-803329 AAF Age 27. PoW *

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Curtis Clifton Kelley O-752211 AAF Age 24. PoW **

Navigator: 2nd Lt. John King Connery O-809538 AAF Age 23. PoW * (1)

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Francis Matthew Fogarty O-682098 AAF Age 23. PoW ***

Engineer: T/Sgt. Robert Emmett Quinn 35612632 AAF Age 21. PoW ****

Radio Operator: S/Sgt. John Arthur Gray 32170030 AAF Age 27. PoW **

Ball Turret: S/Sgt. William Wayne Passeno 36539194 AAF Age 21. KiA (2)

Left Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. James Franklin McMahon 32714726 AAF Age 22. KiA (2)

Right Waist Gnr: S/Sgt. George Richard Smith 13131441 AAF Age 28. KiA (2)

Tail Gnr: S/Sgt. Gerald Nathan Pettit 13109913 AAF Age 19. PoW ****

* Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria).

** Unknown Camp.

*** Stalag 7a Moosburg, Bavaria (Work Camps 3324-46 Krumbachstrasse and 3368 Munich).

**** Stalag Luft 4 Groß-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug on 28th May 1944. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).

Above: 1st Lt. Carlton L. Wilson crew (Courtesy: Andy Swinnen)

Standing L to R: S/Sgt. Gerry M. Pettit, S/Sgt. William W. Passeno, T/Sgt Robert E. Quinn, S/Sgt. George R. Smith, T/Sgt Carl D. Anderson. Front L to R: 2nd Lt. Francis M. Fogarty, 1st Lt. Carleton L. Wilson, 2nd Lt. John K. Connery, S/Sgt James F. McMahon.

2nd Lt. Curtis C. Kelley is not shown and may have taken the photograph.

REASON FOR LOSS:

The 614th BS mission report for the 30th May 1944 detailed Flak Rat II taking off from Deenthorpe in a Sqn take off commencing at 07:25 hrs on a mission to bomb the aircraft factory at Oschersleben in Germany.

The target was the "Apparatebau GmbH Oschersleben" (AGO) Flugzeugwerke aircraft factory which was a prime subcontractor for the production of Fw 190 fighters. The factory was located about 2½ km east of Oschersleben.

The after mission report detailed that en route to the target meager flak was encountered. However, on the return leg from the target the flak encountered over Vechta, just north of Dümmer Lake, was moderate and extremely accurate resulting in the 15 of 16 returning aircraft suffering battle damage.

Several minutes after leaving the target area between 40 to 50 enemy fighters including Bf 109s and Fw190s were encountered. Two aircraft in the Low Sqn were hit with one being observed to hit the ground, the other going down steeply but evidently under control.

The aircraft observed to hit the ground was B-17G #42-107207 which crashed at 11:30 hrs about 11¼ km NW of Helmstedt airfield. Three of the crew were KiA and seven became PoWs.

Various records on the loss of the Flak Rat II are very confusing. An observer in the formation stated that this B-17 was shot down by Fw 190s about 16 km west of the target.

The Germans reported that some of the crew were captured at Kathendorf, some 19 km NNE of Helmstedt and taken to Gardelegen airfield. They thought the B-17 went down in the area of Rühen and confirmed that the three casualties were buried in the Foreigners Cemetery, at Helmstedt airfield.

On the other hand they confirmed that Sgts Gray and Pettit were captured in Bookholzberg at 12:00 hrs, this is about 8½ km NW of Delmenhorst. A further German document states that the three crew were killed in Delmenhorst but no burial location is given.

Finally, another German report confirms that a B-17 crashed at Tweelbäke, which is about 14½ km west of Bookholzberg. It would appear that this is the crash site for the Flak Rat II since the entire crew baled out at the same time and some were reported have been captured at Bookholzberg.

The distance between Helmstedt and Tweelbäke is some 190 km.

(1) Maj. Connery was the pilot of the Convair C-131D Samaritan serial #55-0291 which crashed after taking off from München-Riem airport on a flight to RAF Northolt near London.

(2) The various Individual Casualty Questionnaires (ICQ) all report that after the bail out bell was sounded S/Sgt. Passeno immediately bailed out. S/Sgt. McMahon and S/Sgt. Smith, the waist gunners, bailed out at the same time. None of the three were injured prior to bailing out.

1st Lt. Connery reported that S/Sgt. Gray had told him that he had observed two of the three parachutes open but could not identify whose they were.

T/Sgt. Quinn was informed by his captors that S/Sgt. McMahon was found dead with his parachute unopened.

In all probability the Germans had mistakenly recorded the names of S/Sgt. Passeno, S/Sgt. McMahon and S/Sgt. Smith as being buried in the Foreigners Cemetery, at Helmstedt airfield instead of the three airmen who had perished from B-17G #42-107207 which had crashed about 11¼ km NW of the airfield.

This would account for the disparity of some 190 km between Helmstedt and where the Flak Rat II crashed at Tweelbäke which is about 14½ km west of Bookholzberg and where some of the crew had been captured.

In view of the confusing German and the ICQ reports the circumstances leading to the deaths of at least two of the three casualties are and remain suspicious. Their deaths were probably those who were reported to have been killed in Delmenhorst.

Burial Details:

S/Sgt. William Wayne Passeno. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Ploy Y, Row 2, Grave 49. Repatriated and interred on the 6th August 1949 at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan. Born on the 19th February 1921 in Chedoygan, Michigan. Son of William Laurence and Mary Laura (née Valot) Passeno from Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, USA.

Above: S/Sgt. McMahon burial notification courtesy of the Newsday Suffolk Edition, dated 29th July 1949

S/Sgt. James Franklin McMahon. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Ploy Y, Row 2, Grave 45. Repatriated and reinterred on the 30th July 1949 at the Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. Born on the 20th December 1923 in Roslyn, Nassau, New York. Son of John Thomas and Mary Elizabeth (née Hyland) McMahon from North Hempstead, Nassau, New York, USA.

Above: S/Sgt. Smith burial notification courtesy of The Pittsburgh Press, dated July 20t, 1949

S/Sgt. George Richard Smith. Air Medal (3 Oak Leaf Clusters). Reinterred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Ploy Y, Row 5, Grave 102. Repatriated and interred at the Robinson Run Cemetery, McDonald, Pennsylvania on the 22nd July 1949. Born on the 8th September 1915 in McDonald, Pennsylvania.Son of Edward Leonard (his father predeceased him in December 1943) and Rebecca Bertha (née Grady) Smith. Husband to Miriam F.(née Bennett) Smith of East Liverpool, Ohio, USA.

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’.

Thanks also to Andy Swinnen from Remember Our Heroes for permission to use the crew image in this report.

RS & TV 07.10.2022 - 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', 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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