01.08.1943 409th Bomb Squadron (H) B-24D 42-40265 ‘Honky Tonk Gal’, 1st Lt. Hubert H. Womble.
Operation: Ploesti (Operation Tidal Wave), Romania
Date: 1st August 1943 (Sunday)
Unit: 93rd Bombardment Group (H), 409th Bombardment Squadron (H), 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force
Type: B-24D Honky Tonk Gal
Serial No: 42-40265
Location: 16 km from the Ploesti refineries
Base: Site #7, Benghazi, Libya
Pilot: 1st Lt. Hubert Heslep Womble O-663978 AAF Age 22. PoW *
Co Pilot: 2nd Lt. Lawrence Henry Lancashire O-735404 AAF Age 25. PoW *
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Arthur W. Thompson O-794181 AAF Age? PoW *
Bombardier: 1st Lt. William King Little O-728290 DFC, AAF Age 27. Killed ()
Radio Operator: S/Sgt. Howard Odell Ford 33200358 AAF Age 27. PoW *
Engineer: T/Sgt. Mack Fitzgerald 14067163 DFC, AAF Age 23. PoW **
Tunnel Gnr: Sgt. John P. English 35277037 AAF Age? PoW **
Left Waist Gnr: Sgt. Leo Sharp 18108375 AAF Age? PoW *
Right Waist Gnr: Sgt. Jack Reed 18084225 AAF Age? PoW *
Tail Gnr: Sgt. James W. Barker 13048346 AAF Age? 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.
REASON FOR LOSS:
The 93rd Bombardment Group (H) (BG) was one of three BG on “detached service” to the 12th Air Force from the 8th Air Force. The 8th Air Force BG B-24s retained their olive-drab camouflage.
This photograph depicts Liberators of the 451st BG over the oil refineries at Ploesti on the 31st May 1944.
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)
Returning crews reported that the Honky Tonk Gal was seen on the ground some 5 or 10 miles from the town of Ploesti having apparently crash landed after the mission. Several of the crew were seen standing on the ground by the aircraft. This was confirmed by photographs, taken by the 44th BG which went over the same ground some 15 or 20 minutes
The Honky Tonk Gal was riddled with shrapnel from the flak during the low level bombing attack and the pilot was forced to carry out an emergency landing at approximately 15:15 hrs.
1st Lt. Womble suffered a serious foot/leg injury either during the German fighter attack or during the crash landing resulting in him losing a foot. He himself did not know when it occurred.
Sgt Barker suffered a fractured skull from exploding cannon shells and was pulled from the wreckage semi-conscious. He recovered from his injuries.
(1) 1st Lt. Little was trapped in the aircraft wreckage. He had sustained a broken leg and internal injuries. During the 8 hours it took to release him gasoline from ruptured fuel tanks was running over him. After he was rescued he was admitted to a military hospital in Sinaia, Romania for treatment. However, he succumbed from a combination of his injuries and the effects of the gasoline fumes on the 8th August 1943.
He was initially buried in the grounds of the hospital and S/Sgt Ford attended the ceremony. To this day there still exists a memorial stone bearing his name. A Dan Juncu from the city of Sinaia contacted Aircrew Remembered in Apr 2021 and provided an image of the memorial stone. Dan has installed a small “candle box” and lights a small candle in remembrance when he passes the site. Sadly, over the years that he has been visiting, the memorial has deteriorated.
Above: The memorial stone bearing 1st Lt. Little’s name in Sinaia: Credit Dan Juncu
Above: 1st Lt. Little, photograph credit Pete Stevens; Grave marker credit Marshal & Mary McIntyre
1st Lt. William King Little. DFC, Air Medal, Purple Heart. Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 43, Grave 15. Born on the 2nd May 1916 in Kingsport, Hunt, Texas. Son of Riley P. and Belle (née Fite) Little. Husband to Lucille (née Tobey) Little from Foster, Memphis, Tennessee, USA.
Researched by Michel Beckers for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew (Feb 2016). Photographs from Michel Beckers collection. Reviewed and updated by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered (May 2021). Thanks to Terrence Popravak Jr. for pointing out the incorrect photographs of crash (May 2021).