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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
21.06.1944 751st Bombardment Squadron (H) B-17G 42-31656, 2nd Lt. Hershel L. Wilson

Operation: Berlin (Mission #428), Germany

Date: 21st June 1944 (Wednesday)

Unit No: 751st Bombardment Squadron (H), 457th Bombardment Group (H), 1st Air Division, 8th Air Force

Type: B-17G

Serial No: 42-31656

Code: :R

Location: West of Berlin, Germany

Base: Glatton (Station #130), Huntingdonshire, England

Pilot: 2nd Lt. Hershel Lee Wilson O-812711 AAF Age 23. Killed (1)

Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Bailey J. Gaudinier O-755919 AAF Age 23. PoW *

Navigator: 2nd Lt. Chester Donald Perkins O-717265 AAF Age 20. KiA

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Jack Henry Srout O-551958 AAF Age 27. KiA

Radio/Op: S/Sgt. Frank J. Garzia 36574008 AAF 21. KiA

Engineer: S/Sgt. Joseph Frank Schankin 36577981 AAF Age 21. PoW **

Ball Turret: Sgt. Edward L. Attleton 31287652 AAF Age 20. KiA

Waist Gunner: S/Sgt. Francis Xavier Heekin 35125563 AAF Age 25. PoW ***

Tail Gunner: Sgt. George Nick Vassilopoulos 39083215 AAF Age 26. PoW **

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

* Stalag Luft 7a, Moosburg, Southern Bavaria, Germany.

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

*** Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow, Pomerania, Prussia now Tychowo, Poland (Moved from Stalag Luft 6 Heydekrug. Moved to Wöbbelin near Ludwigslust and then to Usedom near Swinemünde).


On the morning of the 21st June 1944 the 557th Bomb Group dispatched 37 aircraft on a mission to bomb the motor industry in Berlin, Germany.

Flak was moderate over the target but 42-31656, after dropping its bombs, received a direct hit which knocked out an engine. 2nd.Lt. Wilson, who was on his first mission, gave the order to bail out as the aircraft spiraled down. It is known that at least three of the crew managed to escape before the aircraft exploded in mid-air. The wreckage fell to earth, at 10:34 hrs, near Friesacker Zootzen, some60 km NW (37 mls) of Berlin. The fuselage and a greater part of the wings fell into a small meadow in a forest and was totally destroyed by fire.

In an after mission statement the aircraft was observed to have blown up west of Berlin at 10:26 hrs and only one parachute was seen in the air.

S/Sgt. Schankin, S/Sgt. Heekin and Sgt. Vassilopoulos were captured immediately after the crash and transferred to a prisoner collecting point at airbase district 4/III Berlin-Staaken on the 23rd June 1944. From there they were transferred to Dulag Luft, Oberursel and then onto their PoW camps.

No records have been found that provide any information as to when and where 2nd Lt. Gaudinier was captured. No information has been found that provides any information as to the circumstances of the deaths of the five crew members that lost their lives.

(1) 2n .Lt. Wilson’s youngest sister, Mrs. Loretta Hamilton-Geary maintains in a pocket book entitled Coming Full Circle that she met some of her brother’s fellow PoWs one of whom witnessed that her brother had been shot in the head by a German soldier for no apparent reason after he was captured.

No records or other documentation has been found that confirms this allegation.

Burial Details:

German documents record that the five members of the crew that perished were initially buried in the district cemetery at Friesack Kreis Havelland in the West Dept. Section 2 at 19:00 hrs.

Above: 2nd Lt. Wilson (Credit: Dwight "Andy" Anderson - FindAGrave)

2nd Lt. Hershel Lee Wilson. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Plot Z, Row 5, Grave 166, Relocated to Plot B, Row 33, Grave 23. Born during 1921 in Oklahoma. Son of Henry A. and Nova L. (née Kennedy) Wilson of Norman, Oklahoma, USA.

Above: 2nd Lt. Perkins (Credit: Patrick Teater Sr. - FindAGrave)

2nd Lt. Chester Donald Perkins. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Plot Z, Row 5, Grave 118. Born on the 2nd November 1923 in South Dakota. Repatriated and buried at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, Dutchess County, New York. Son of Harry Othmer and Martha Mary (née Miller) Perkins of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York, USA.

2nd Lt. Jack Henry Srout. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery Plot Z, Row 5, Grave 117. Repatriated and buried at the Fairfield Memorial Lawn Cemetery, Fairfield, Iowa. Born on the 2nd October 1917. Son of Joseph Edward and Jessie Mabel (née Norvell) Srout. Husband to Bev (née Litton) Srout. No further details.

S/Sgt. Frank J. Garzia. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery. Repatriated and buried at the Mt Olivet Cemetery, Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, Section 11, Lot 325, Space 1, on the 5th August 1949. Born on the 25th August 1922 in Detroit, Michigan. Son of Angelo and Giuseppa (née Magno) Garzia. Husband of Virginia Beatrice (née Droulard) Garzia of St. Clair County, Michigan, USA.

Sgt. Edward L. Attleton. Purple Heart. Reinterred at the Ardennes American Cemetery, Plot AA, Row 5, Grave 104, Relocated to Plot D, Row 4, Grave 34. Born during 1924 in Massachusetts. Son of Charles L. and Sadie J. Attleton of Holland, Massachusetts, 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’.

RS & TV 07.04.2020 - 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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