(310) 791-3949

Bill’s blog archive: Daily Posts

459BG
459BG
459BG
459BG
459BG

Bailout Procedure Uneventful

While the world’s attention was focused elsewhere on June 6, 1944, the 459th Bomb Group, based at Giuilia, Italy, was sending its B-24 “Liberators” to attack the railroad marshalling yards at Braznov, Romania.  The pilot of their only B-24 lost on the raid was 2nd Lieutenant Joseph E. Buchler, of Ronkonkoma, New York. The plane’s nickname was “Jackie Boy”, tail # 42-52717

After bombing the target, another pilot noticed that “… (Jackie Boy) had begun to lag in the formation and I called him and asked if there was anything wrong and he replied that he had feathered one engine, but was all right.  We slowed down our flight a little and he caught up with us.  He stayed with formation for a little while, then started dropping back and in a short while he was completely out of sight.”

As the plane began to lag, Lieutenant Buchler finally realized that the aircraft would never get back to Italy.  About 90 miles from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, the order to bail out was given. Months later, after he returned to their base in Italy, the copilot, 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Cole, described the event in terse language:

Bail out procedure uneventful though slow. Total time – about 5 minutes. Crew assembled safely on ground later with minor injuries.”

Fortunately for the crew of “Jackie Boy”, their parachutes landed them in an area controlled by Chetniks, partisans fighting against the German occupiers of their country.  They were well treated while on the ground, and by early September, had been returned to their base in Italy.  In addition to the pilot, the crew of “Jackie Boy” was:

  • 2nd Lieutenant Robert L. Cole, Syracuse, NY
  • 2nd Lieutenant George Salapa, Jr., Cleveland, OH
  • 2nd Lieutenant Charles L. Davis, Washington, DC
  • Staff Sergeant George G. Koch, Jr., Atlanta, GA
  • Sergeant John F. O’Grady, Jr., Clifton, NJ
  • Sergeant David LaBissoniere, Milwaukee, WI
  • Sergeant Thomas G. Pettigrew, Chicago, IL
  • Sergeant George R. Hurd, Fort Worth, TX
  • Corporal Frederick A. Kuercher, Milwaukee, WI

The entire crew survived the war.

  1. Gary ColeGary Cole07-11-2016

    Hey Bill – The co-pilot you are quoting above, Lt Robert Cole, is my dad. I have lots of photos and memorabilia I’d like to share and would appreciate some advice.

    • Bill BeigelBill Beigel07-11-2016

      Hi, Gary.
      Thanks for getting in touch with me. If you would like to send me some photos of your dad, I’d be interested in seeing them and adding them to my blog post about him and his crew.

      If you have any other information about this incident, or something else that’s relevant about your dad, feel free to send that also, and I’ll see about updating the post.

      It isn’t often that I get to write about crews who survived the war, so this was a nice one to cover.

      I appreciate your getting in touch!

      Best regards, Bill

      • gary colegary cole12-16-2016

        Bill – Sorry for the delayed response, but I was looking for an email reply; just happened to return to your blog. My dad had a camera when he went down and I have some one of a kind prints from his time with the Chetniks, including personal photos with General Mihailović. I have just ordered air force and MACR reports and will have that soon I hope. Meanwhile, I have about 50 small prints (no negatives) that we have kept in dark storage and have copied to CD. I can mail you a CD if you would like, and am interested in learning more about this event. Need a mailing address for you and I would appreciate an email return gcole44@yahoo.com

Ask Bill or comment on this story