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Heaven's Above B-24 WWII
Heaven's Above B-24 WWII
Heaven's Above B-24 WWII
Heaven's Above B-24 WWII
Heaven's Above B-24 WWII

Five From the 464th Bomb Group

The 15th Army Air Force, based in Italy, sent hundreds of B-24 Liberators against the Romanian oil fields at Ploesti on June 6, 1944. This mission cost one of their units, the 464th Bomb Group, five crews. It was one of the worst days of the war for the 464th.

B-24 tail #42-52449, nicknamed “Hard Hearted Hannah,” left the formation for reasons that could not be determined by observers. A top turret gunner in another plane in the formation testified that “…there was no smoke, couldn’t tell what happened as the plane was in full control, flying level. Apparently flak might have shot off some of the controls…”

In fact, the bomber managed to stay airborne and eventually crash-landed at a barricaded runway at Sidi Gazi, about 25 miles north of Istanbul, Turkey. Turkey was a neutral country, and after a short period, the crew – all of whom survived – were repatriated to the United States.

The crew of “Hard Hearted Hannah” (hometowns not of record) were:

    • 1st Lieutenant John F. Ware
    • 2nd Lieutenant Robert W. Johnson
    • 1st Lieutenant Herbert M. Johnson
    • 1st Lieutenant Gordon B. Smith, Jr.
    • Technical Sergeant Odel B. Fitzgerald
    • Staff Sergeant James W. Kent
    • Staff Sergeant Joseph J. Infusino
    • Staff Sergeant Roland J. Hier
    • Sergeant Charles J. Tucek, Jr.
    • Sergeant Floyd W. Smith

“Pappy’s Puss,” B-24 tail 41-29410, was knocked out of the sky by German fighter aircraft. A waist gunner aboard a nearby aircraft made this report: “…all of a sudden I saw 4 ME 109’s (German fighter aircraft) come right through the middle of our box, a little bit underneath us. The fighters peeled off to the left and I looked over at Ship #410, Lt. Ullman’s ship, which was flying…in a level flight. It then looked to me as though it was out of control as the nose suddenly went straight up in the air and just as she was about at the climax of her climb, I noticed three chutes come out.”

Remarkably, the entire crew of this bomber safely bailed out. The crew was captured and held as Prisoners of War in Germany.

The crew of “Pappy’s Puss” were:

    • 2nd Lieutenant Victor H. Ullman (Laurelton, NY)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Duane M. Buckmaster (Siloam Springs, AR)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Robert B. McCaslin (Cincinnati, OH)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Donald J. Pieper (Decatur, IL)
    • Staff Sergeant Franklin R. Snyder (Williamstown, NJ)
    • Technical Sergeant Milton H. Peck (Vivian, LA)
    • Sergeant John R. Ward (Bismarck, ND)
    • Sergeant William A. Danaher (Lafayette, IN)
    • Sergeant Dexter E. Kimzey (Torrington, WY)
    • Sergeant Paul L. Sanders (Benton, IL)

A third crew, that aboard B-24 tail #42-50411, had a similar fate to the two others. Fifteen minutes from the target on the return trip, the ship was hit by enemy fighters. After the end of the War, the navigator of the crew gave a gripping description of their final minutes airborne:

“…noticing that the ship was on fire tried to notify the nose gunner (Richardson) to the effect that abandon ship had been signaled. The interphone was out of order and he could not have heard a verbal order. However Richardson was tracking a FW 190 (German fighter aircraft) down and had his turret turned so that I could not get to open the inner door. The fire by this time had reached such a proportion that I knew it would be foolhardy to remain further, so I adjusted my chute and went out the nose wheel door…Lt Stout bailed out (or rather I should say he was half-way out of the ship when it blew up. His chute was opened by the force of the explosion….”

The entire crew survived as POWs in Romania, except one. He was Staff Sergeant Richardson. His fate was surmised by Lieutenant Stout, also after the war:

“….I think that in the excitement that members (of the crew) jumped without first telling him that the Bombay was afire, and by the time he found out he was unable to get out of the turret. The interphone was shot out. The plane exploded before touching ground.”

He added that, after he landed on the ground, Lieutenant Stout was approached by a Romanian guard, who brought him Richardson’s dog tags, and told him that “…they came from a body in the nose of the airplane.”

Staff Sergeant Richardson’s remains were recovered after the War and returned to the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA. Serving as a replacement gunner, he was 19 years old when killed, on his first mission. The rest of the crew survived.

The entire crew of B-24 tail #42-50411 included:

    • 2nd Captain George W. Leggat (Detroit, MI)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Eugene W. Stout (Montgomery, AL)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Harvey W. Bronstein (Roxbury, MA)
    • 2nd Lieutenant William F. McCabe (Ridgewood, NY)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Edward M. Schieres (Dunkirk, NY)
    • Staff Sergeant Eugene H. Ballard (Riverton, UT)
    • Staff Sergeant Stanley W. Richardson (San Mateo, CA)
    • Sergeant Ronald E. Hall (Tucson, AZ)
    • Sergeant Warren G. Clement (Bluefield, WV)
    • Sergeant Robert H. Thurmond (Cotton Plant, MS)
    • Sergeant James E. Allinder (Heavener, OK)

The fourth crew was that of “Heaven’s Above,” B-24 tail #42-50405. Hit by both fighter attacks and anti-aircraft fire, the bomber went down over Yugoslavia. The entire crew was able to exit the downed Liberator. Interviewed after the War, the copilot, 2nd Lieutenant Gerhard Heinicke, reported, “…2nd Lt. Bert R. Hays (pilot) was killed while descending in his chute by ground troops firing at us. He is buried at Uzice, Yugoslavia.”

He also reported that the rest of the crew successfully evaded capture, except Staff Sergeant Monroe Earnest, who was captured by German troops and made a prisoner of war.

The crew of “Heaven’s Above” were:

    • 2nd Lieutenant Bert R. Hays, Jr. (Birmingham, AL)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Gerhard A. Heinecke (Seward, NB)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Gordon J. Broadhead (Middletown, NY)
    • 2nd Lieutenant Robert J. Thies (Minneapolis, MN)
    • Staff Sergeant Thomas N. Dixon (Covington, KY)
    • Staff Sergeant Monroe H. Earnest, Jr. (Houston, MS)
    • Technical Sergeant Robert Cassity (Portsmouth, OH)
    • Staff Sergeant Gerald L. Bryan (Shafter, CA)
    • Staff Sergeant Dell J. Edmundson (Yorktown, IN)
    • Sergeant William R. Ely (Portland, OR)

The remains of Lieutenant Hays were never recovered.

The fifth loss suffered by the 464th was tail #41-29379. The Navigator of the crew, 1st Lieutenant Michael Lyga, gave this report of how his bomber was shot down:

“…I was alone in the nose section when the head on fighter attack came. Nose gunner was in the turret. A shell, presumed to be a 20mm, exploded close to my head. I was dazed for 15 to 20 seconds and upon reviving, I tried to fight a fire which was blazing under the flight deck.

“Although I have no definite proof, it is my belief that the nose gunner, Carpentier, was either severely wounded or dead, and did not leave the ship. The line of fire from enemy aircraft hit the front and center of our ship. A few days after being taken prisoner, a Romanian Intelligence Officer – Lt Val John (or Valjcan) mentioned that one body was found in one of the ships that had been located. Carpentier was not on our crew – he was filling in on our crew that day-and I know nothing more about him.”

The remains of SGT Anthony F. Carpentier, were never recovered. The rest of the crew survived. They were:

  • 2nd Lieutenant James C. Donan (Montclair, NJ)
  • 2nd Lieutenant Michael Lyga (Bayonne, NJ)
  • 2nd Lieutenant Patrick J. Anderson (hometown not of record)
  • Technical Sergeant Raymond H. McMahon (hometown not of record)
  • Staff Sergeant Robert A. Veley (Marion, OH)
  • Sergeant Anthony P. Carpentier (Jeanette, PA)
  • Private First Class Allen F. Simmons (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Sergeant Robert P. Byer (Scranton, PA)
  • 2nd Lieutenant Richard M. Dennis (Lynbrook, NY)

If you served with the 464th, or if you are a family member or friend of any of the flyers listed here, please get in touch with me, either in the Comments below or at bill.beigel@ww2research.com. I would love to hear from you.

Image notes: We’re researching exact identifications of the photos included in this post. The planes shown have nose art in common with the names of the planes in this story, but it is unknown whether these are the exact B-24 Liberators featured, or if any of the flyers pictured are men from these stories. “Hard Hearted Hannah” is from the collection of Tim Chadwick, courtesy of Frank Ambrose. “Heaven’s Above” photos provided by B24BestWeb and “crossloch“; the last Heaven’s Above photo is possibly “Dave Spaulding crew”. If you have any information to offer, please get in touch.  

  1. JamesJames03-20-2015

    My grandfather William H. Stephens was a member of the 464. I have his paperwork and medals, he flew 25 missions. I would like to know which plane(s) he flew in and possible crew members.

  2. JamesJames03-20-2015

    My grandfather William H. Stephens flew 25 missions with the 464th. I have his paperwork and medals. i would like to know which plane(s) he flew on and possibly crew members.

  3. anthony radleranthony radler06-12-2015

    My uncle Lt Anthony radler was shot down over polesti l was told he was a navigated on hard hearted Hanna but I can’t fined any pics of him can u help

    • Bill BeigelBill Beigel06-12-2015

      Dear Anthony: Thank you for this inquiry. I do not have any photos of your uncle. You might contact one of the 464th BG-related sites below to see if they have a photo.

      https://www.facebook.com/464BG

      464th.jkhathaway.org/

      464bg.com/

      I am a long-time researched of WW2 casualty records, and will be happy to give you a research quote for your uncle, 1st LT Anthony J. Radler. Please send me an inquiry on my website, http://www.ww2research.com.

      Best regards, Bill

    • alex Kalex K03-02-2016

      Can you get in contact with me as into Anthony Radler and any airmen of 464th lost in Romania ?

  4. David CaldwellDavid Caldwell02-03-2016

    My father was Robert L Caldwell. He piloted a B24 out of Pantella Italy. I think he was with the 780th Squadron. Is there any information on his plane I can find. He was shot down and I have a picture of him with what looks like Russian Troops in a town square in Hungry I think. His records were at St. Louis so they are gone. Any Help would be appreciated.

    • Bill BeigelBill Beigel02-04-2016

      Hi David: I think I can assist you in your research on your father. Please visit my website at http://www.ww2research.com and leave me an inquiry. Best regards, Bill

    • Barbara LapeBarbara Lape08-13-2016

      My father also was in the 464, 779th. I have a picture of the Boozin Susan and on the back of it, someone had written ” Jim Hahne’s plane. My dad and Jim were good friends. Mi will check to see if there is any mention of your Dad in my father’s paper’s. I do know Jim lost his plane. My Dad name was Frank “Ted” Price and he piloted the Shoo Shoo Baby after Shoemaker was promoted.
      There is a reunion of the 464th in Denver, Co Sept 14-18 2016. If you are interested in visiting with the Veterans of the 464th, I can send you the contact info. Our amity went last year in Dayton, oh for the first time and it was an unforgettable experience.

  5. Ryan SewellRyan Sewell05-04-2016

    My grandfather, S/Sgt Leigh Freeman, was in the 464th Bomb Group 779th Bomber Squadron and was an armorer gunner on the “Boozin Suzan” when it was shot down on July 16, 1944 outside Vienna. I have the MACR 7111 on that incident. If you have any photos or additional information, I would greatly appreciate it.

    • Bill BeigelBill Beigel05-16-2016

      Hi Ryan: I may be able to provide you with a lot more information on your grandfather. Please visit my website at http://www.ww2research.com and go to the ‘Services’ page to see what I can locate for you. We might search further records of the 464th BG, or attempt to locate records for those who, like SSGT Forrest Kirkpatrick, died in the crash. Record sources are generally much better for those who died than for those who survived. Best regards, Bill

  6. Barbara BaileyBarbara Bailey11-13-2016

    I believe my father-in-law, Kenneth E. Bailey, was in the 464th and was a pilot of the B24 plane named ‘Combatty’. Can you tell me what happened to his plane? He passed away 10/31/16 and was 99 yrs old and I’m curious. Thank you

  7. Susan MatheisSusan Matheis02-14-2017

    My father, Virgil Sommers was a bombardier with the 464th. His plane went down over Germany, he was captured and a prisoner at Staalug Luft 3. He is nearly 94 years old. I am trying to gather information before he is gone. Thanks so much. Susan Sommers Matheis

    • Susan MatheisSusan Matheis03-09-2017

      Unfortunately, he passed away four days after I posted this😢. We had a beautiful service with full military honors and he now lays to rest with his bride of 70 years in the Missouri Veteran’s Cemetery.

  8. Vic HenningsenVic Henningsen04-02-2017

    Lt. Robert McCaslin, bombardier on “Pappy’s Puss” (49-29410) was my wife’s uncle, though they never met. Contrary to your report, Bob did not survive that mission. Originally listed as MIA, his body was later found by US Graves Registration personnel and identified by a prayer book, carried in his breast pocket. The official ruling was that he bailed out, but his chute didn’t open. No one believes that, because everyone on the crew testified that Bob was also wearing a reserve chute and that it would have been highly unlikely that both would have failed. According to a letter sent by the pilot, Victor Ullman, to Bob’s mother, observers from another plane saw a man eject from the plane and hit the tail. Perhaps seeking to soften the blow, Ullman said that he didn’t believe this account (though without explaining why). What none of them knew was that Bob had had a stomach operation (for an ulcer?) not long before he enlisted. Although his doctor warned him that any sudden blow to the stomach could kill him and planned to declare Bob medically unfit for service, Bob managed to talk him out of it and was certified as medically fit for service. Many in the family believe that the shock of hitting the slipstream upon ejecting might have rendered him unconscious. Perhaps he did hit the tail. Perhaps not. The end was the same.

    Do you happen to know if any of that crew are still alive?

  9. Sean MarshallSean Marshall10-12-2017

    Hi Bill.
    You have incorrectly listed the George W. Leggat as a 2nd Lt. He was a Captain.
    Capt. Leggat flew with my grandfather from Pocatello to Europe. At the time they piloted Pistol Packin Mama. tail 42-52563. Leggats crew was:
    Pilot – George Leggett
    Co-Pilot – McCord “Mickey” Marshall (my grandfather)
    Navigator – Johnny Sevy
    Engineer – Jack Collier
    Radio Operator – John H. “Jake” Schuffert Bombardier – Ed Stillwell
    Nose Gunner – Dale Teur
    Tail Gunner – Dick Snider
    Waist Gunner – Al Bardill
    Waist Gunner – Jimmy Stalworth

    For reasons I don’t suppose I will ever know why this crew was split up. My grandfather went on to co-pilot the Three Corner Kid with Capt. Arthur Robertson Jr. then later co-piloted Corner Coffin Cutie with Lt. Richard Roode.

    Thanks for keeping these stories alive!!

    Sean Marshall

  10. Scott BakerScott Baker12-11-2017

    I was wondering if anyone might have more information about my uncle? MAX EUGENE BAKER 22, staff sergeant in the army air corps, was officially declared dead in Nov., l945 after he had been reported missing in action Apr. l3, l944 while on a combat mission to Budapest, Hungary as assistant engineer and waist-gunner on a B-24 bomber. The son of Mr. and Mrs. Esta Baker, Laketon, Max was born Sept. 12, l92l, was graduated from Laketon High School where he played basketball, entered service Nov. ll, l942 and went overseas in Dec. l943. Based in Italy, he participated in numerous flights over enemy territory in the Mediterranean theatre of war.dering if anyone had any more information about my uncle.

    • Bill BeigelBill Beigel12-11-2017

      Hi Scott:
      Thanks for this note. Locating the kind of information I think you’re seeking on your uncle, SSGT Max E. Baker, is exactly the kind of research work I do. I’ll send you a personal e-mail shortly with more details. In a nutshell, I can locate all details of his final mission, information on the search for his remains, extensive correspondence files between the Air Corps and SSGT Baker’s next of kin, information on his personal effects, and much more. Best regards, Bill

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