George C. Carruthers was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1923, to Clarence Thaddeus and Ethel Pearl Mann Carruthers. He had three sisters, Allie Louise (Hollis), Dorothy Marie (Brownlow) and Doris Jewell (Gregory). His family moved to Tyler TX, shortly after the Stock Market “Crash” in 1929, at the beginning of the Great Depression, and George attended public schools there. Before December 7, 1941, as a freshman at Tyler Junior College, he had joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program, flying Piper Cub aircraft. When America entered WWII, he volunteered for the Aviation Cadet Program, and was called to active duty in June 1942.Expecting to enter pilot training, George was extremely disappointed when he was assigned to bombardier and aerial gunnery courses.
After completing training, Second Lieutenant Carruthers was assigned to Colonel Reed’s Provisional Group for B-17 crew training. After crew training at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, and at Walla Walla, Washington, in mid-May 194, the crew proceeded to the Boeing plant in Wichita, Kansas, picked up a new B-17, and started out for England, flying in stages along the northern route. With weather delays, their passage took about ten days before finally reaching their new home at Chelveston, England. Chelveston is about 70 miles north of London. On May 28, 1943, they were assigned to the 8th Air Force, 305th Bomb Group (H), 422nd Bomb Squadron and soon after were flying combat missions over the continent.
George has a photo of his aircraft and crew, taken on July 10th, that he shares with readers here. George was not a regular member of this crew. On this day the 10th, he joined them for a bombing mission over Caen, France. The plane bears nose art identifying it as the “Windy City Challenger” and markings showing that it had been credited with nine bombing missions and four German planes destroyed at that time. Four days late,r “Windy City Challenger” was lost on a mission over Occupied France. Lt, George Carruthers, wounded in the air, was taken prisoner almost immediately upon parachuting to the ground, and he spent the remainder of the war as a POW. What follows are excerpts from an account, in his own words, of his experiences that has been published in VFW Magazine.
He said, “The target on Bastille Day, July 14, 1943, was Villacoublay Air Field near Paris... I remember seeing the Eiffel Tower, a perfect landmark fix, as we approached the target on a southeast heading...The target area was clear and I saw a good bomb pattern impacting...As we turned right off the bomb run, a Focke-Wulf 190 closed in on us at lightning speed from twelve o’clock level...He got us !...I felt the sting of shrapnel on my head, neck, and buttocks...heard the splattering of 20mm cannon fragments and smoke began to fill the nose of our B-17...There was silence from the cockpit except for the long continuous “bail out” signal of the alarm...I believe that John Perkins, Pilot, and Arthur Lewis, Co-Pilot, most likely took a direct hit...A blast had ripped off the right wing and a tight spiral set in, making movement toward the escape hatch virtually impossible. I struggled in vain to reach the exit...I felt my oxygen mask being ripped from my face. I had not taken the time to disconnect it...This is the last thing I remember, I apparently passed out from lack of oxygen...Regaining consciousness, I found myself amid several burning pieces of the aircraft. There probably was a second explosion that propelled me out into space and caused the final breakup of the aircraft...I pulled the “D” ring and my parachute canopy and the risers deployed but failed to blossom. They remained tightly matted together as if packed with glue. Frantically, I tugged and yanked at individual risers as I watched objects on the ground grow larger. After free falling to about 1,000 feet the bullet riddled canopy finally opened to reveal large gaping holes. Microseconds later, I crashed to the ground, landing on my back. Badly stunned by the fall, I was not able to move for some time. About 100 yards away, I observed the largest part of 049 (aircraft identification number) burning profusely. On the other side, heading down the road toward the burning wreckage and me, was a truck loaded with gray uniformed Luftwaffe...”
Lt Carruthers’ escape from the plane was near miraculous. Centrifugal forces made it impossible for him to move to jump from inside the bomber spiraling down out of control, even if he had not also been unconscious at the time. Had the plane not come apart in the air and thrown him clear, he could not possibly have survived. As it was, seven in the eleven-man crew died with the loss of the plane. Also, today George maintains that his parachute had saved his life twice. First, it absorbed deadly German 20mm shell fragments that otherwise would have gone into his torso and would almost certainly have been fatal. Then, in descent, the canopy of the badly damaged parachute only partially deployed a brief instant before he hit the ground, barely slowing his rate of fall enough so the impact did not kill him. Against all odds, he had lived through the loss of “Windy City Challenger.” He was taken prisoner only minutes after the plane was shot down at approximately 8:20 a.m.
Before noon his wounds had been treated at a nearby military hospital. Under guard, he was then put on the evening train from Paris to Frankfurt, Germany, where he was held for a week in solitary confinement in the Dulag Luft Interrogation Center. After seven days there, he was among a large number of prisoners transported by train to Stalag Luft III in Lower Silesia, about 100 miles southeast of Berlin. He arrived July 22, 1943, and remained one of the thousands held POW there for the next year and a half. (George and Charles Otis were the two officers in the Windy Challenger surviving crew and thus were eligible for Stalag Luft III which was limited to officers at the time. Later a NCO section was built.For more details about this camp, check out Stalag Luff III) On January 27, 1945, the prisoners were evacuated; moved westward by forced march to escape capture by the advancing Russian Army. They arrived, February 5, 1945, at Stalag 7-A, Moosburg, about 20 miles northeast of Munich in Bavaria. ( For more information about this camp check outStalag 7-A) More prisoners were coming in and soon there were 100,000 POWs in the overcrowded camp that had an intended capacity of 30,000. Conditions were deplorable, so as soon as U.S. troops arrived in the area, George crawled through the barbed wire fence, took possession of a bicycle and headed west.. He found a U.S. Army Field Kitchen where he was welcomed with open arms and fed all he could eat. George says, “It was time to head for Camp Lucky Strike at Le Harve, France, for my trip home. A very speedy processing at Lucky Strike put me on the 'Marine Panther,' a Henry Kaiser type of concrete troop transport. After a short 9-day cruise, I arrived at Camp Kilmer, NJ and then home to Tyler, Texas. I gained some weight during my trip home since I spent most of my time in the ship’s mess. Consequently, I did not get a lot of sympathy when I told the story about my hunger during almost two years in a POW camp.”
George Carruthers remained in the service after the war and completed a career of almost thirty-one years. He was assigned to the Strategic Air Command when SAC was re-activated in 1948 under the command of its previous commander, General Curtis E. LeMay. Stationed at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, from 1948-1960, he flew in B-29, B-50, and B-47 bombers of the 43rdBomb Wing. He benefited from General LeMay’s “Spot Promotion” Program when he and his pilot advanced from Captain in December 1949 to Lieutenant Colonel in November 1952. In 1960, he was reassigned to the 9th Bomb Wing, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. B-47s were phased out in 1966 and he was transferred to Military Airlift Command in Charleston, South Carolina, but only briefly, and then was sent for a year in Vietnam. Beginning in November 1966, he flew 100 combat missions in the 361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron. (Here is some information about this squadron: Activated in South Vietnam in 1966. Flew EC-47 aircraft equipped with electronic countermeasures equipment over South Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, Aircrew members from the 6994th flew Airborne Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) missions from the back end of EC-47 aircraft. "Unarmed, Alone, and Unafraid" the 6994th ARDF backend crew members flew in partnership with the 361st TEWS pilots, navigators, and flight engineers in and around Vietnam, where they had one of the highest casuality rates and were one of the most decorated units of the Air Force Security Service.)
After returning home in 1967, Carruthers served as Staff Navigator in the 60th Military Airlift Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California.
Lt. Colonel George Carruthers retired from active duty on November 1, 1972, and moved to Central Texas. George married Marilyn Tyler Gaddis on November 22, 1986, in Hays County, Texas. Marilyn's first husband, L. Wesley Gaddis, a teacher, had died in 1974. He also had served in the Air Force in WWII. George and Marilyn reside as of this writing in San Marcos, Texas . He has been a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart since August 2000, and this month Chapter 1919 proudly salutes Patriot George C. Carruthers.
From the December 2012 Patriot Bulletin newsletter of The Military Order of the Purple Heart, Texas Capital Chapter 1919.
Windy City Challenger
Production block number
A list of weapons on the Windy Challenger is shown below.
Map showing location of "Aircraft in Distress", southwest of Paris. The direct distance from Chelveston to Paris is about 500 miles.
Here are two interesting article that describe what it was like in preparing for a B-17 bombing mission and what it was like to be inside the plane.
Summary: On July 14, 1943 the USAAF carried out a massive daylight sortie on the main airfields occupied by the Luftwaffe in the north of occupied France. During the attack on Villacoublay, the flying fortress B-17 nicknamed "Windy City Challenger" serial 42-3049 coded JJ * W of the 422nd BS / 305th BG is attacked head-on at 10,000 feet by two FW-190s of the JG2 based at Beaumont le Roger. The fortress goes into a spin at 0800 hours. At a thousand feet, it explodes freeing four members of the crew. The other seven members who remained prisoners of the scrap metal were killed and found among the debris of the Fortress to the east of the village of Lieusaint (77). The four parachuters are quickly taken prisoner by the Germans in cantonment in the village. The navigator Charles Otis, seriously injured, landed in the rectory garden. In the presence of the Germans, Father Jaffré, parish priest of the village, provided him with first aid, which caused him a lot of trouble.
July 14, 1943
Seine on Marne
305th BG/422nd BS/8thAF
City of Lieusaint (500m O)
German fighter planes from Beaumont-le-Roger attacked at 08:20 - Aircraft partially evacuated - Explodes in flight
Departing Base 105 , Chelveston, Northamptonshire, UK
16019182 - Silv.Star/AM+3 - Born 1917 - Son of Louis F Meyer - St-Louis, Missouri USA - Buried Lieusaint (77)
36199006 - Son de Laurence Friend - Ionia, Michigan USA - Blessé - Hospitalisé à Clichy puis Stalag 17B Braunau Gneikendorf
German Ace Who Shot Down the Wind City Challenger
Staffelkapitan Oberleutnant Georg-Peter Eder, (Staffelkapitän is a position (not a rank) in flying units (Staffel) of the German Luftwaffe that is the equivalent of RAF/USAF Squadron Commander. In the Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht the Staffelkapitän usually held the rank of an Oberleutnant or Hauptmann. Georg-Peter "Schorsch" Eder (8 March 1921 – 11 March 1986) was a German fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves of Nazi Germany. Eder flew 572 combat missions claiming 78 enemy aircraft shot down in total. He was the leading day scorer against four-engined bombers, and with 56 air victories the leading ace against the USAAF. Eder himself was shot down 17 times, 12 times wounded, 9 parachute exits. Eder was known for his chivalrous behaviour in battle. He ever refused to aim for the cockpit, but for engines and wings instead. He would also refuse to give the coup de grâce to a crucially damaged, defenceless opponent.
Thanks to Wes Otis for providing a page from William Donald book, 'John Burn One–Zero–Five'. (The title was the radio call sign for the 305th USAF Bomb Group who were based at Chelveston from 1942. The 305th Bomb Group arrived in December 1942. Radio call signs were now being standardised and the control tower was called John Burn, the one-zero-five being the RAF Station number. The first wartime mission from there was in December 1942; a diversionary flight.)
Squadron Leader Eder writes,
"We were doing about 450 km/h now and were coming down slightly, aiming for the noses of thee B-167s. There were about 200 of us attacking the 200 bombers but there was also the fighter escort above them. We were going for the bombers. When we made our move, the P-47s began to dive on us and it was a race to get to the bombers before being intercepted. I was already close and about 600ft above and coming straight on: I opened fire with the twenties at 500 yards. At 300 yards I opened fire with the thirties. It was a short burst, maybe 10 shells from each cannon, but I saw the bomber explode and begin to burn. I flashed over him at about 50ft and then did a chandelle. When I had turned around I was about a 1000 feet above and behind them, and was suddenly mixed in with American fighters.
Straight in front was a Thunderbolt, as I completed the turn, and I opened fire on him immediately, and hit his propwash. My fire was so heavy his left wing came off almost at once and I watched him go down...We flew south, ahead for a few seconds, preparing for another strike at the bombers and then, coming from above, I saw them. I called a warning: "Indianer űber uns!", and as they came in behind us we banked hard left. There were 10 P-47s and four of us and we were all turning as hard as we could, as in a Lufbery. I was able to turn tighter and was gaining. I pulled within 80 yards of the P-47 ahead of me and opened fire. I hit him quickly and two of the others got one each, so that in a minute and a half three of the P-47s went down..."
Staffelkapitãn Oblt Georg-Peter Eder's 7./JG2, combat report, 14 July 1943. Eder's bomber victim was Windy City Challenger of the 422nd BS, 305th BG (which crashed at Lieuesant, south of Paris), part of the force of 116 B-17s of the 1st BW attacking Villacoublay air depot between 0811 and 0815 hours. Seven of Lt John H Perkins Jr's crew were killed and four were taken prisoner. (The other 1st BW force of sixty-four B-17s, which attacked Amiens/Glisy airfield at 0742 hours, was the only one of the three forces sent out early this day to have escorts. Bf 109Gs of 3./JG27 and II./JG2 attacked shortly before the target was reached and a 3./JG27 Bf 109 shot down Widget of the 535th BS, 381st BG flown by Lt Robert J Holdem, the only loss to the Amiens force.) Three P-47s were lost--one from the 4th FG, two from the 78th FG and one battle-damaged Thunderbolt was abandoned off Newhaven, pilot saved (three P-47s alone were claimed this day by Maj Wutz Galland, II Gruppe CO). (The Villacoublay air depot strike force lost three B-17s, bringing total bomber losses for 14 July to eight. At Villacoublay the hangers housing the Fw 190 repair facility of Luftflotte 3 were destroyed, along with 70 Fw 190s.)
Photo of Windy City Challenger in free fall following being hit by Eder's guns.
Here is a letter written by George Carruthers, after returning to the States, to the mother of Arthur Lewis. It is a copy made by Amelia Wendell, mother of Joseph Chester Wendell, and sent along to other family members of those on the flight. It contains a detailed account of the flight.
Below are galleries containing bios, photos and documents for each of the flight members.☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Pilot 1st Lt. John Henry Perkins Jr. was born to John Henry and Clara Burgeedel Perkins Sr. in Chicago, IL on October 24, 1919. His father was born in England and his mother in Michigan. His mother died when John was 17. He graduated from Calumet High School. He attended Lewis Institute of Technology (later Illinois Institute of Technology). His photo from the IIT yearbook is at right. The photo does not look totally like the photo at left from a newspaper article. The man at right has blue eyes as John had. Here is an entry from the January 26, 1941 Suburbanite Economist (Chicago, Illinois). "Southtowner Cast for Play by Drama Club, John Perkins, Jr. 7644 Sangamon St, will play the role of John Thompson in "Two on the Island," three-act play to be presented by the Lew Drama Club on Friday in the Lewis auditorium Madison St. and Damen Ave. It will be the first play to be presented by students since the merger of the Armour Institute of Technology and the Lewis Institute into the Ilinois Institute of Technology. Perkins, who will portray one of the leading roles is a junior in the arts and sciences department, treasurer of the junior class, a member of the student council and news and annual staffs, and the badminton club. He is a member of the Gamma Rho fraternity and is currently enrolled in the government's civilian pilot training plan. In John's enlistment documents, he lists acting as his profession. He enlisted November 10, 1941. He did his flight training in Lubbock, Texas. His family received a report in late July saying he was missing in action and that other planes on the mission reported seeing seven parachutes descending. Sadly this was not to be the case as John and six of his comrades were killed. Only four parachuted to safety and imprisonment in German camps. John is buried in Epinal American emetery and Memorial, Epinal, Departement des Vosges, Lorraine, France, A row 12 Grave 33.
Below is a letter from Emily P. Reilly who was John "Jack" Perkins' paternal aunt. The letter was sent to John Chester Wendell's mother, Amelia.
Arthur Carl Lewis Gallery
Arthur Carl Lewis. KIA JUL 14
Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Arthur Carl Lewis was born to Robert C. (1896-1955) and Clara Belle Blatzy (1896-1986)Lewis in Ray, Pinal, Arizona on November 3, 1919. His father, an accountant, was born in Florence, Arizona and his mother in Fargo, ND. Arthur had a sister, Emily Claire Lewis (Sutton). Emily's picture is at right. Arthur had worked as a timekeeper at Nevada Consolidated Copper Corp. Lewis indicated that he had several years of college before enlisting. Following enlistment and training at Williams Field in Arizona, Arthur was assigned to Rankin Aeronautics School, Inc., at Tulare, CA. Arthur graduated from Minter Field in Bakersfield, CA. Arthur received a bronze oak leaf cluster for his Air Medal for destroying one enemy aircraft.
From a newspaper article "Our Fighting Men"
First Lt. Arthur C. Lewis. Ray, Ariz. Copilot and sometimes tail gunner of the Flying Fortress "Boomerang," stationed in England, has won a second oak leaf cluster to add to his Air Medal, having participated in 10 successful missions and having gotten a "confirmed" on downing a Messerschmitt 109. He flies as tail gunner of the "Boomerang" whenever his squadron leads the group, because he is assistant operations officer.
Writing to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Lewis, Ray, he comments:
"The first time I flew as tail gunner, needless to say, I was scared--I was used to riding up in the nice, warm cockpit with never a worry of getting cold or of having my oxygen mask freeze, and now flying as tail gunner I didn't know what I might have to face.
"Well, I have an electrically heated suit plus a spare oxygen mask, and as yet I have not been troubled with either being cold or having my mask freeze. In fact, that first time I flew as a tail gunner I put in for a 'destroyed' on an Me.109 and I have officially received credit for it.
"Thanks loads for the candy bars--I don't know of anything I have missed more.
"You'd be surprised at some of the things we get to eat--ice cream once a week, radishes, tomatoes, lettuce, fresh strawberries, steak occasionally. In fact, we have many things you woud think we could not get. Oh yes, we sometimes have fresh fried eggs for breakfast and are they good!! Eggs and steaks are two things we really appreciate.
"This afternoon, Bob Hope and Frances Langford put on a show in our big Hagar x x x. I don't know when I have laughed so hard as I did at Bob Hope. My cheeks ached, my stomach was sore and tears streamed from my eyes. He is so darned casual x x x. Frances Langford sang several very sweet songs and for the first time in a long time I was actually homesick. Boy, can she sing sweet!"
As "Our Fighting Men" goes to press, Lieutenant Lewis' parents have just been notified by the War Department that he is missing in action after a combat mission over France July 14.
Arthur's remains were returned in October 1948 along with 27 other Arizona War Dead. He is buried in Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona. A gravestone was requested by his father November 6, 1948.
Charles Herman Otis Gallery
: Thanks to Wesley Otis and Nancy Otis Koeber, children of Charles Otis,
for sharing of information
Charles Herman Otis. WIA JUL 14
Navigator, 2nd Lt. Charles H. Otis was born to George Madison and Othelia Elizabeth Krueger Otis on August 7, 1915 in Chicago, IL and moved to Milwaukee with his family. He graduated from Bayview High School there in 1932. He returned to Chicago in 1935, where he worked as a carpenter with Carpenters Local 839. He also worked for the Aetna Life Insurance Co. He enlisted on January 28, 1942. He married Edith Marie Jacobsen while on leave on October 2, 1942, in Cook County IL. Edith was the daughter of Christian and Paula Resby Jacobsen. His enlistment documents said he had three years of college.
Charles wrote of a bombing mission to Germany as a crew member on the Fortress Yardbird, where about 50 enemy planes met them when they were still 25 mile out in the North Sea. Otis wrote, "It was 27 below zero over Germany, but I was perspiring so much my jacket was wringing wet. The fighters attacking our group really were giving us hell. There they were sitting 30,000 feet up waiting for us. They came barrel-rolling right through our formation with their cannon and machine guns blazing. They then dropped like flies all around us. They showed nerve, though. Several came within 50 feet of our ship and one missed ur wingtip by only 10 feet."
Charles also was a member of the Fortress Black Swan crew. Here is a photo provided by his son, Wes Otis. Charles is third from left on back row. Second from right is pilot Frank Wesley Scott. Charles named his son Wesley in honor of Frank.
He parachuted to safety when his plane, the Windy City Challenger was shot down. He was discovered by a Roman Catholic priest who tended to his injuries. He was captured by German soldiers and imprisoned in Moosburg, Germany. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with oak leaf clusters for his service. In 1949, Otis built his own house in Park Ridge, IL, where he resided until his death at 83 on January 18, 1999. He was a master with the Park Ridge Masonic Lodge and longtime leader of Boy Scout Troop 50 from the Park Ridge Presbyterian Church. He and Edith had daughter, Nancy Otis Koeber, daughter Faith Otis (William T. Bailey), a son Wesley (Tina). Nancy said he was a man of great integrity and conviction. He had a sister, Joan Otis Clemens. Charles is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Barrington, IL.
Magazine Article about Charles Otis' events following parachuting into France. The magazine was La Cahiers de la Brie Francais which was published from 1986 to 2016. Thanks to Nodie Murphy for help with the translation. We pick up the story when 28 year old Charles Otis parachutes into the gardens of the presbytery of a church in the town of Lieusaint. Photo of the church is at right. He is rescued by the parish priest, Father Jean Jaffre, who does so at the risk of his life at the hands of the Germans for aiding their enemy. Deportation to Germany or execution was the punishment imposed by the occupying German authorities. He treated Charles's wounds as the Germans approached. The seven dead airmen were given a military funeral. The villagers brought bouquets for the graves with flowers arranged in tricolor, however the Germans demanded that the flowers be separated. Charles was evacuated to the Corbeil hospital rather then that of Clichy before being sent to prison camp Stalag lll.
The magazine quotes a letter that Abbot Jaffre sent to Charles Otis in September 1947. Here we summarize information in the letter. He says that on July 13, 1943, the day before the bombing raid, someone in the village had heard on London radio that there was to be a raid the next day. (Why this would be is unknown to me. Maybe to alert villagers, however this would alert Germans also.) Father Jaffre says he was in the church garden about 8:30 AM when he saw Otis land. The Germans also saw him. Charles was injured in the right eye and his brow was open and blood was flowing. Jaffre washed the wound and applied a linen dressing. He thought Charles was dying so he decided to give Charles the last rites. He did not know whether he was Catholic or Protestant so he gave a conditional absolution. Following that he gave Charles some cognac which had a very positive effect. Many villagers came to see the American. That evening he was given a message that the Commandant wish to see him and that he would be arrested. At 10 pm a car from the Gestopo showed up and took him to the office of the Commandant. The Commandant accused him of aiding the enemy. Father Jaffre said he was simply helping a fellow human in need and would do it even for a dog. The Commandant asked if he would do it for a German soldier, he replied that he would. He was set free with a stern warning not to do it again. The German officers kicked him out of the presbytery and took it over. Father Jaffre mentions that Otis had sent him a photo and he will send one of himself. He also says he met a William Fanon from Chicago after the Battle of Lieusaint in August 1944. He says Fanon gave him cigaretts however he does not smoke. He says that if Otis wished to send him something, he would accept chocolate, cocoa, coffee and rice. He offers to show Otis around if he comes to Lieusaint and points out that it is only 29 km from Paris. He sends his loves to the Otis family. He signs it Abbé Jean Jaffre, Curé de Lieusaint, Seine-et-Marne-France. The article mentions that Charles H. Otis died on January 18, 1999. Edith died July 6, 1994. At left is a picture of Father Jaffre in a window in his church. The article contains a picture of Nancy Otis Koeber, daughter of Charles Otis.
This is Nancy Otis Koeber, daughter of Charles Otis who made a pilgrimage with her daughter, Pamela, to Lieusaint.
Kenneth Vincent Meyer Gallery
KENNETH VINCENT MEYER, KIA, JUL 14
Tail Gunner, Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Vincent Meyer, was born on August 22, 1918, in Belleville, IL to Mr. and Mrs. Louis Frank and Katherine Myer of St. Louis, Missouri, He had two sisters, Bernice (Ward) and Cyrilla. Monument: Epinal American Cemetery Epinal, Lorraine, France.
Kenneth operated an auto repair shop and service station in St. Clair, MO, before enlisting at the age of 26.
His parents had previously owned a restaurant in St. Clair but later moved to St. Louis. Kenneth's parents were notified in September that the German government had notified the Red Cross that Kenneth had been killed.
He was awarded the "Silver Star", Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.
Kenneth barely escaped death earlier. On May 15, 1943, while serving as tail gunner B-17 42-29673 / Old Bill, Kenneth assisted in saving the plane from severe battle damage. Among a crew of 11, he and one other airman were the only ones uninjured. George H. Friend was also on the "Old Bill" flight. Below is a detailed description of that flight by John L. Frisbee June 1, 1993:
Valor: Ordeal for the Record by John L. Frisbee, June 1, 1993. On May 15, 1943, the 305th Bomb Group was dispatched from its base at Chelveston, UK, as part of a strike force against military installations near Wilhelmshaven on Germany’s northwest coast. The 305th was one of the earliest B-17 groups to arrive in England, flying its first combat mission on Nov. 17, 1942. Under the leadership of Col. Curtis LeMay, the group had risen from the status of combat novices to one of the premier veteran outfits. It had been a costly, often painful learning process.
Old Bill, a B-17 from the group’s 365th Squadron, was piloted by Lt. Bill Whitson on the Wilhelmshaven mission. Whitson knew that neither the AAF nor the RAF had fighters with enough range for escort into Germany. Enemy fighter attacks were inevitable as the squadron approached the target. Some distance short of Wilhelmshaven, bombardier Lt. Robert Barrall reported that the target area was blanketed with clouds. The group would proceed north to the island of Heligoland, an alternative that would not be uncontested. Already there were contrails several thousand feet above them. Seconds later, a swarm of FW-190s launched a head-on attack.
Closing at nearly 600 miles an hour, the FW-190s raked Old Bill with 20-mm cannon fire. Shell fragments cut deep into Whitson’s legs and severed oxygen lines to the flight deck. Dragging himself painfully from his seat, Whitson staggered to the rear of the aircraft to assess damage and gather walkaround oxygen bottles. When he returned to the cockpit, copilot Lt. Harry Holt was suffering from severe anoxia. A revived Holt took over while Whitson’s wounds were being cared for.
Returning to the left seat, Lieutenant Whitson was able, with difficulty, to hold formation as fighter attacks continued. The FW-190s concentrated on Whitson’s bomber, which clearly was in trouble. Another 20-mm shell exploded in the cockpit, fragments hitting the injured pilot and wounding Lieutenant Holt so seriously he could no longer help control the B-17 and had to be carried from his seat.
Almost immediately, 20-mm shells tore the Plexiglas nose completely away, killing navigator Lt. Douglas Venable and wounding bombardier Barrall. The top turret was shattered, leaving Sgt. Albert Haymon bleeding from head and arm injuries. Haymon stayed in the useless turret, hand-cranking the silent guns to a forward position that might discourage Luftwaffe fighter pilots. He then climbed down to help wounded radio operator Sgt. Fred Bewak.
With one engine out, a wing buckled, and hydraulics gone, Whitson could no longer stay with the formation. Checking with the crew, he found only two of his men uninjured. Those gunners whose weapons were still operating continued firing at enemy fighters as Whitson dove for cloud cover 5,000 feet below. The gunners claimed seven fighters destroyed during that screaming descent.
Exhausted from loss of blood and the strain of evasive maneuvers, Whitson was barely conscious. Seeing the pilot’s condition, Sergeant Haymon slid into the copilot’s seat and flew the plane while Whitson regained some strength.
When the bomber broke out of the clouds, Haymon saw an ME-210 peeling off to attack Old Bill and alerted the crew. Twice-wounded, Lieutenant Barrall climbed into the shattered nose section and manned the cheek gun, buffeted by a 150-mile-an-hour wind that blasted in through the open nose. Barrall kept firing until one of the -210’s engines exploded and the enemy plane plunged into the sea. He then climbed up to the flight deck and relieved Whitson, who would have to land the plane if they made it to Chelveston. Tailgunner Sgt. Kenneth Meyer, one of the two uninjured crew members, replaced Sergeant Haymon in the copilot’s seat. He and Barrall managed to maneuver the stricken bomber into the protection of a formation of B-17s returning to England.
Once they reached the coast, they were on their own. With a dead navigator, a copilot out of action, a wounded radio operator, and a barely conscious pilot, finding Chelveston among the welter of airfields dotting the Midlands was no small achievement. As they approached the field, Whitson took over the controls, shaking his head to clear his brain and retain consciousness. Because the plane lacked flaps and brakes, he flew the B-17 onto the runway far above normal landing speed and ground-looped when it ran out of runway. He then collapsed over the control column. No 305th B-17 had ever survived such a beating. It had been an ordeal for the record. Lieutenants Whitson and Barrall were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, all other crew members the Silver Star, and eight of the 10, the Purple Heart to become the most decorated crew of the 305th Bomber Group.
(This story does not mention four of the other crew members, one of which was George H. Friend who was also on the ill-fated Windy City Challenger flight. George, the photographer on the flight, manned guns of wounded crew members though wounded himself.)
Kenneth V. Meyer, Epinal Cemetery and Memorial, Epinal, Departement des Vosges, Lorraine, France
Joseph F. Devine Gallery
JOSEPH F. DEVINE KIA JUL 14
Left Waist Gunner, Sgt. Joseph F. Devine, was born to Joseph A. and Edith J. Devine in Rhode Island on September 25, 1917. He had a younger brother, David, and a sister, Ethel (Mrs. Arthur Nolan). He resided in Willimantie, Windham County, Connecticut prior to the war, working at the American Thread Company.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on August 6, 1940, in Hartford, Connecticut. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment, as being employed in construction and also as single, without dependents. Sgt. Devine, in May, had received an Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight. His father, Joseph A. Devine, lived in Providence, RI. Sgt. Devines' remains were returned . He is buried in Long Island National Cemetery, East Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York. He served as bombadier on some flights.
Joseph Chester Wendell Gallery
: Thanks to Larissa McShane, grandneice of Joseph C. Wendell,
for sharing of information
JOSEPH CHESTER WENDELL, KIA, JUL 14
Tail Turret Gunner, Joseph Chester Wendell, was born December 10, 1914, in Portland, Oregon, to John Joseph (1879-1948) and Marie Mae Amelia Beier (1884-1958) Wendell. His siblings include : Raymond, Westley A. Jack J. Jr., Edna, Lester Edward Clarence, Donna Mae and Juanita Lorraine. His father was a marine engineer. Joseph served as a Technical Sergeant and Top Turret Gunner
From Portland, Oregon, he registered on October 16, 1940 in Glendale, CA. He is buried in Epinal American Cemetery Epinal, Lorraine, France. Here is a biography written by his great-niece, Larissa McShane.
Joseph Chester William Wendell
Also known as "Ches", Joseph Chester William Wendell was born 10 December 1913 in Portland Oregon. His parents were John Joseph and May Amelia Wendell. His father was a butcher by trade. The family relocated to Glendale, California, in 1928 where they remained for generations. Ches attended Hoover High School in Glendale.
Ches was always an independent person and known to be a bit of a renegade. His siblings remembered him as an "often impulsive - a devil-may-care fellow." He loved cars and went through them quickly. His brother, Les, wrote that; "He would get a car - a nice one - expensive, and he'd have it beat to death in a couple of months. He was a fast driver - fast and hard!" Known as the rebel in the family, he used that independence to see and do a lot in his short life.
When he was a young 18 years old, he worked as a timberman in Redding, California. During the Depression, Ches worked for the CCC on environmental projects in Northern California. In 1937, Ches and a partner opened a business they called the North Hollywood Venetian Blind Co. Their clientele included movie stars and affluent families in the Hollywood area. As military service during WWII became increasingly imminent, he sold his share in the company and moved back to Portland, Oregon, where he felt the military quota odds were higher and his chances of getting into a plane in the Air Force were greater. He didn't feel the need to pilot, but if he was going to serve in the war, he wanted to be in the air. It was from Portland that he enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1943 to join the war effort. Inspired by their brother's example, his older brother, Ray, also went to serve as a civilian employee of the DOD and his younger brother, Jack, enlisted in the Air Force as well. Of the four male children in this family, three of them served simultaneously during WWII.
The last person in the family to see Ches was his younger brother, Jack. While en route to the European theater, Ches's unit stopped at Lowry Airfield to get their plane serviced, which was coincidentally where his brother, Jack, was stationed at that time. Neither of the boys knew each other were there and by happy accident encountered each other that night. They were able to have dinner together and some time to visit and even catch a movie on base. Jack watched the next day as his brother's plane left the runway, not realizing that he would be the last person in his family to see him. He lived the rest of his life ever grateful for that time he had with his big brother, and this precious encounter was later a comfort to his whole family.
Based in England, Ches had flown 49 missions by mid-July and was slated to be furloughed home for a visit after the 50th. His 50th mission was a special assignment in a Flying Fortress named the Windy City Challenger. It was during this run that the plane was shot down and Ches was one of seven crew members killed in action.
During the early morning hours of 14 July 1943, Ches's mother awakened and told her family that she had a nightmare wherein she saw a plane get shot down and that she was convinced that her son was either horribly injured or had been killed. The family tried to console her and felt that it was the result of stress until they received a telegram ten days later on 24 July 1943 informing them that Ches was missing in action. The confirmation of his death did not arrive until 4 September 1943.
After this tragedy, Ches's mother was ill for some time and never fully recovered from the loss of her son. She and the other families who lost loved ones on that mission kept in touch via written post to share any information they were given about their boys after their plane went down. They were not completely clear on what had happened and questioned if their boys were really deceased or if there were some kind of cover up. Eventually and mercifully, some of the crew who returned after being kept POW contacted the families of their lost crewmen. They wrote letters of clarification and genuine condolences which were helpful beyond measure.
Ches was honored posthumously with the Air Medal with the Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart. His family received these honors on his behalf in 1945.
SSgt Joseph Chester William Wendell is now buried in Epinal American Cemetery in beautiful Epinal, France. He is buried close to the other airmen who lost their lives on that mission and whose remains were not sent home. His burial is in Plot A, Row 5, Grave 33. His resting site was visited forty years after his death by the same younger brother who saw him last and who was then a war veteran himself. He was then visited and paid tribute to by his great-niece and her own military family in 2009. His 5-year-old great-great nephew, named Joseph, offered a last salute.
Joseph Louis Philippe Dube Gallery
JOSEPH LOUIS PHILIPPE DUBE, KIA, JUL 14
Top Turret Gunner, Tech Sgt. Joseph L. P. Dube was born in June 10, 1921, to Joseph and Alvine (Elvine) Dube in Manchester, NH. His occupation involved weaving and textiles. He enlisted July 1, 1942, in Manchester, NH. His residence at the time was Hillsborough, NH. His education consisted of grammar school. He was single with no dependents.He was employed by Johnson and Johnson, Chicopee Manufacturing Co. He signed his name Philip L. Dube. In Monument: Epinal American Cemetery Epinal, Lorraine, France.
Son of Elvine Dube, 374 Main St, Manchester, New Hampshire
Harold J. Fedora Gallery
HAROLD J. FEDORA WIA, POW, JUL 14
Radio Operator and Gunner, Staff Sargent Harold John Fedora, born May 20, 1920 in Hennepin, MN, to John and Mabel Fedora. Harold served on the B-17F “Windy City Challenger” (#42-3049), 422nd Bomber Squadron, 305th Bomber Group, Heavy, U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II.
Harold attended Robbinsdale High School where he participated in football, basketball and track. He graduated in 1938. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on October 14, 1941, prior to the war, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment as an actor, single and no dependents. He was a POW at Stalag Luft 3 Sagan-Silesia Bavaria (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser)
Harold's mother Mabel died on April 13, 1943 while he was in England. He married Dolores Marie Joeusich in Hennepin, MN, on August 5, 1945. He died March 28, 2012 and is buried in Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, CA.
Sidney J. Lesneau Gallery
SIDNEY J. LESNEAU, KIA, JUL 14
Right Waist Gunner, Staff Sergeant, Sidney James Lesneau, born April 15, 1917, in Benton, MN, to Jacob P. (1867-1941) and Amelia Schopp (1874-1961) Lesneau. Sidney served as a Staff Sergeant & Right Waist Gunner on the B-17F “Windy City Challenger” (#42-3049), 422nd Bomber Squadron, 305th Bomber Group, Heavy, U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. He resided in Ramsey County, Minnesota prior to the war.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on October 10, 1941, prior to the war, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment, as being employed as a hospital attendant and also as Single, without dependents.
His remains were returned from Solers, Melun, France in November 1948 to Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minnesota. Sidney was son of Jacob and Amelia Schopp Lesneau, Portland, Oregon formerly of Minneapolis. Sidney had four sisters and two brothers. Sisters were Mrs. Karl Nuerenberg, Mrs. Wallace Sorensen, Maxine Brennan and Mrs. Forest Holes. His brothers were Irving and Melvin M., of St. Paul. His older brother, John, was killed in action in WWI in 1918. Melvin was wounded at Attu during the Aleutian Campaign.
On Janurary 9, 1944, Sidney's mother, Amelia Schapp Lesneau, wrote a letter to Clara Chester, mother of Joseph Wendell Chester, who was also on the Windy City Challenger. It an example of how painful it was to not know the fate of their sons and their efforts to reach out to the families of the missing airmen. The letter was shared by Larissa McShane, great neice of Joseph Chester. She is willing to gift the letter to any family member of Sidney Lesneau.
George H. Friend Gallery
GEORGE H. FRIEND, WIA, POW, JUL 14
Aerial Photographer, Tech Sargent George H. Friend, was born in Ionia, Michigan, to Orley and Hazel Friend. He graduated from Ionia High School in 1929. He was an aerial photographer. He had a brother, Lawrence Friend. On May 15, 1943, George was a member of an "Old Bill" flight crew whose mission was discussed earlier. George manned the guns of wounded crewmen though wounded himself. At left is George's graduation picture from Ionia High School 1929 yearbook.
Ionia High School 1929 Senior Class. I suggest that George is 8th from left on back row.
Details of B-17F and Mission
Delivered Tulsa 14/1/43; Assigned 422BS/305BG [JJ-W] New Castle 17/3/43; Chelveston 25/3/43; Missing in Action Villacoublay 14/7/43 with John Perkins, Co-pilot: Art Lewis, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Joe Dube, Ball turret gunner: Joe Wendell, Waist gunner: Joe Devine, Waist gunner: Sid Lesneau,Tail gunner: Ken Meyer (7 Killed in Action); Navigator: Chas Otis, Bombardier: George Carruthers, Radio Operator: Harry Fedora, foto-George Friend (4 Prisoner of War); enemy aircraft KO’d #3, crashed Lieuesant, 10 miles NW of Melun, Fr.; Missing Air Crew Report 64. WINDY CITY CHALLENGER.