War Diary: 758th Squadron

W A R    D I A R Y

April 1944.

1 April 1944

The mission scheduled for today was cancelled.

The first of April. April Fool’s Day, the day upon which every fun loving American enjoys perpetuating those hoaxes. And, being in a foriegn country under serious circumstances failed to dampen the good humor or stifle any of the typical pranks. All sorts of rumors, even more fantastic than the usual ‘tissue issue’ were started. One such even had Hitler as committing suicide.

A soft ball team made up of our pilots were defeated at the hands of a similar team from the 756th Squadron. It seems that our boys were leading 7 to 4 going into the last half of the last inning, when the opponents pulled a ‘Frank Herriwell’ and won the game to the tune of 8 to 7.

With a change in the weather, many of the enlisted men are beginning to discover and make use of the volley ball and horse shoe courts which had been built by Lt. Fallon, our Special Service Officer.

Lt. Rutherford, our chemical warfare officer, was busily mapping out a gas defense system.

2 April 1944

Today our crews blasted thhe important Daimler Puch aircraft factory at Steyr. The target was hit and all ships returned safely from this long, tough mission. It was the fifteenth mission in which our squadron had participated.
Sgt Sidney Slay, one of the most popular men in the squadron because of his ready wit and happy nature, was seriously wounded in the left leg by one of the guards. Pvt Jerome Faber, the guard, was more heartbroken than anyone else over this unfortunate accident.

– 1 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq. April 1944)

3 April 1944

Today’s mission, the sixteenth, was directed against the Marshalling Yards at Budapest, Hungary. All ships reached and hit the target, but on the return trip we suffered our FIRST plane casualty. The flight ws attacked by enemy fighters and in the subsequent action Lt. Clifford L. McCroskey’s ship was downed by two ME 109’s. The disaster occurred over Peke, Hungary, approximately twenty five (25) miles south of Budapest. Parachutes were seen and it was believed, although not confirmed, that all hands reached the ground safely.
Besides Lt McCrosky as pilot the remainder of the crew was composed of: 2nd Lt Lewis O. Prager, co-pilot; 2nd Lt Herman Herkell, navigator; 2nd Lt Leonard F. Myers, bombardier; with S/Sgts Otto Benz, Willis C. Walker, Ernest C. Hall, Edward A. Austin, Robert E. Layton, and George E. Peterson making up the enlisted men’s section of the crew. The crew was listed as missing in action.
It was the first mission for S/Sgt Benz, having just arrived with Lt. Bemmers crew on the 30 March 1944.

4 April 1944

Today the crews took off on a return engagement… another crack at the Marshalling Yards in Bucharest, evidently going all out in support of the Russian advance which had driven the Nazis back to the border of Hungary, Romania.
We suffered our second loss. Prior to the target, about fifty (50) miles east of Bucharest, Lt. Pluim’s plane dropped out of formation. Smoke was seen coming from one of his engines. One parachute was observed, while the aircraft was not actually seen to crash. Officially the crew was tagged as missing in action. Lt Peter Plium, pilot, Lt Robert Kessler, copilot, Lt Jack Courtin, Navigator, Lt Willard L. James, navigator, Lt. Olin Schnieder,

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(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)

And Staff Seargeants Earl Ringenberg, Lawrence J. Tynan, Louis Cardenas, Herbert whitsitt, Joe Rendleman and Thomas Sheridan were the men who went down with the ship. Later it was rumored, although never confirmed, that ‘Sally’ made a broadcast in which she mentioned Lt. Pluim’s crew as being prisoners of war.

5 April 1944

No Mission was scheduled. No other change.

6 April 1944

No mission was scheduled.

Pfc Robert L. Brown started on the decorations of the bar in the Enlisted Men’s Club, located in the northeast room of the Headquarters building. Subsequently, he painted gorgeous, voluptuous nudes on all four walls, interspersed of course with pictures of a few airplanes. All in all it was a beautiful job, causing much favorable comment from everyone.

A marble topped bar was to be installed soon.

We are now eagerly awaiting the opening.

7 April 1944

The eighteenth mission saw our crews taking a crack at the Stazione Kupis marshalling yards in Bologna. The target was hit and all our ships returned safely.

8 April 1944

No mission today. No other change.

9 April 1944

No mission today.

S/Sgt William T Hellard, an aerial gunner, joined our Squadron.

10 April 1944

No mission today. No other change.

11 April 1944

Scheduled mission was cancelled.

– 3 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)

The bar was finished, complete with all decorations and fixtures. Col Munn and Col Clarvoe were both present at the opening, a gala affair. Many of the men, unaccustomed to the strong, heady Italian wine, found themselves in strange predicaments before the evening was completely over.

12 April 1944

Our nineteenth mission was directed against the aircraft assembly plant and airdrome at Bad Voslau, Austria. It was a long, difficult mission from which all our planes returned safely. The flights encountered a heavy barrage of enemy flak and were attacked by determined enemy fighters who followed our ships all the way back to the Adriatic Coast. Several of our gunners put in claims for destroying enemy aircraft.

The following men were transferred to us from the 757th Squadron; 2nd Lt James Cannard, bombardier, 2d Lt Robert C Leach, pilot, 2d Lt Robert L Eagen, copilot, 2d Lt Harry C Chalmers, bombardier.

Lt. McCormack’s crew joined us from the 756th Squadron. Other members of this crew are F/O Robert Curtis, copilot, 2d Lt Quentin W Howard, navigator, 2d Lt Irwin D Kipp, bombardier, S/Sg Thomas R Fahey, S/Sgt Robert C Galor, Sgt Joseph I Rich, Sgt Donald V Holunga, Pvt Paul Polastri and Sgt Hubert P Thornton.

13 April 1944

Today our crews took off on their twentieth mission with the Tokol airdrome at Budapest as their target. It was another tough one… lots of flak and fighter resistance. All ships returned safely although one of our men, 2d Lt Charles A Aiesi, a bombardier, was wounded by the flak.

It seems as if our men are meeting more resistance than previously. Evidently the enemy is stiffening their defenses against these

14 April 1944

The scheduled mission was cancelled. Even so, it is still quite a strain on our combat crews… to be awakened at 0430… briefed at 0600… report to their planes and then receive the information that the mission has been cancelled.

15 April 1944

The Squadron took off for another crack at the marshalling yards at Bucharest. All of our planes reached the target and dropped their bombs, but two of them failed to return. Both were missing under similiar, peculiar circumstances. For, after reaching the target both ships continued on a straight course, failing to rally to the right. Both were seen to lose altitude and seemed to be under control. It was hoped and believed that they crash landed safely.

– 4 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)
Captain Daniel L Barfield’s crew with: 2nd Lt Vernon Christian, as co-pilot, 2nd Lt Lee J McMannon, navigator, 2nd Lt L T Grammens, bombardier, and S/Sgts Edward J Kodet, Samuel L Harrell, Albert Cassanelli, James T Allen and Edwin J Cooke, was one of those missing.

The other missing crew was 2nd Lt Bertram Cole’s consisting of; 2nd Lt Robert L Eagan, co pilot, 2nd Lt Wilbur Day, navigator, 2nd Lt Ralph L Mercer, bombardier, and S/Sgts Will H Griffin, Herbert Wolff, Anthony J Buckner, Vernon M Anderson, Herbert A Daniel and Herbert Simon.

The loss of these two crews, especially Lt Cole’s which was one of the most popular in the Squadron, overshadowed every other event of the day.

Major Lee issued an order for all mosquito netting to be up by the 21st. A very comprehensive anti-malarial campaign was to be put into effect on this date, for this is reported to be the third worst malarial area in the world. It is quite easy to understand, for we often have trouble in distinguishing the mosquitos from our B-24s.

Another replacement crew arrived, completing this day of hectic events. 2nd Lt Joseph A weaver, pilot, 2nd Lt Daniel Rose, co pilot, F/O William R. Roberts, bombardier, 2nd Lt Jack W Graham, navigator and Sgts Charles E Shepherd, Lawrence D Rhoades, John Mattern, Elmer D Speelman, Jon B Framer and Irving G Muncy were the new men to arrive.

Headquarters was a hive of activity, for late in the evening two more replacement crews arrived followed by the last twelve men of our original Squadron, who had been left stranded in the States because the were unable to find immediate plane transportation across.

M/Sgts William H Davis, Claude Raines, Joseph J Maggiancalda, T/Sgts Marion Hansen, Charles Clay, Donald Knovich and S/Sgts Glenn M Pence, Robert R Bole, Clement Morris, Rodney Goodlett, Elias Toplansky and John W Nicklson owned the twelve familiar faces.

One of the new crews was piloted by 2nd Lt Leland L Sears’ with 2nd Lt George A Montz, copilot, 2d Lt Guy O Bayless, navigator, 2d Lt Franklin Merriell, bombardier and Sgts Dale W Cook (we lost one Sgt Cooke and picked up another, Sgt Cooke… perhaps that is indicated of this damn war, a man is lost and another one… an exacted counterpart, takes his place) George Skrba, William C Ward, Robert R Jennings, Harry B Mokring and Dayton C Volz rounding out the crew.

F/Os Clarence J Cole and Charles J Vita, 2nd Lts Robert J Poteet, Charles W leavens and Sgts Rodney E McDonald, Edsel N Griffin, Hugh Goddard, Frank M Caputo, Anthony Sabella and Lucion Corneleu made up the other crew.

– 5 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)
16 April 1944

The marshalling yards at Braser were scheduled to be the target for the twenty second mission, but because of a ‘closing in’ of the weather our men hit the secondary target, the marshalling yards at Severin.

All ships reached the target and returned safely.

27 April 1944

Another marshalling yard was to bear the results of today’s mission. “Bombs Away” was heard over Sofia as our men knocked hell out of another important enemy communication line in support of the Russian advance.

All ships reached their target and returned early.

18 April 1944

Today was an ‘off’ day, no mission scheduled.

We took advantage of the day to inaugurate our intra-Squadron Soft Ball League. The opening game saw the gunners defeat the Radio Operators-Engineers to the score of 3 to 2… It was a beautifully pitched ball game with S/Sgt Copper hurling for the winners and opposing S/Sgt Taylor on the mound for the losers. This kid Copper can really throw that ball in, comparing with the finest pitchers we’ve ever seen.

In the evening game, Armament defeated Headquarters 7 to 3.

A great deal of enthusiasm was displayed by those participating, auguring a fine, enjoyable league.

19 April 1944

The mission scheduled for today was cancelled.

In the evening Communications met Engineering in their initial soft ball game. M/Sgt Davis displayed a good, fast ball but his team mates were unable to play up to the standard of his pitching allowing Communications to win the game.

T/Sgt Julius Halmund, ordnance section chief, was transferred to Group Headquarters. He was to be the ammunition inspector for the Group. We all hated to see him leave the Squadron, but our loss was their gain.

Another replacement crew reported today, piloted by 2nd Lt Ray P. McLaughlin Jr and with 2nd Lt David Yaun as co pilot, 2nd Lt George N McGuire as navigator, 2nd Lt Robert L Brown as bombardier, and Sgts Christopher Apple, Lloyd J Adams, Donald F Brown, Herbert B Brinnell, Robert J Norwood and Robert T Foley.

– 6 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)

20 April 1944

Today was the twenty fourth (24th) mission in which our Squadron participated. Our planes blasted the Opicina marshalling yards at Trieste with all returning safely.

2nd Lt Richard Fallon and Sgt Leo Gadua were sent on to the Signal Hg and Hq Co, 12th Fighter Comd, for advanced courses in in Cryptography.

21 April 1944

Our planes bombed the marshalling yards at Bucharest again hitting the enemy’s communication line. All of our aircraft returned safely.

22 April 1944

No mission was scheduled for today.

Orders were received promoting 2nd Lts Archer and Fallon to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. It was received as good news by everyone as they were both among the most popular officers in our Squadron.

23 April 1944

Today our planes bombed the aircraft factory at Bad Voslau, Austria, with excellent results. The entire factory was evidently destroyed for fires could be seen burning from fifty miles away.

Twelve enemy planes vainly attempted to intercept our Squadron but our gunners and the escorting P-38s easily dissuaded them from their purpose. At least one enemy aircraft was shot down by our gunners.

Pictures of today’s mission indicated that the target had been completely wiped out. This was the most successful mission to date with commendation letters received from General Twinning, Colonel Upthegrove and Colonel Munn.

2nd Lt Q.D. Poe received the Distinguished Flying Cross for the extraordinary manner in which he led his flight on this mission.

24 April 1944

Never resting on their laurels, our crews took off on their twenty seventh mission to bomb the marshalling yards at Bucharest. The target was hit and all of our planes returned without incident.

25 April 1944

Our ships took of on their twenty eighth mission to bomb the aircraft factory at Turia.

It began horribly, with the worst disaster to date.

– 7 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)
On the takeoff, Lt. Lemmer had difficulty in getting off the ground. Finally, reaching the end of the runway, he lifted his ship. But it was too late, for he was unable to clear a string of high tension wires. The ship crashed. With full fuel tanks and bomb bays loaded, the plane immediately exploded, scattering the ship all over the countryside. The entire crew was killed.

2nd Lts Lemmer,Nells, Poteet, Roberts, T/Sgt Katchor and S/Sgts O’Neill, Cooper, Demski, Pennington and Demski were the men who paid the supreme sacrifice.

All of our other planes reached and hit the target without incident although heavy flak and some fighter resistance was encountered. But, as the planes came for the landing another crash occurred killing three men and hospitalizing five others. The accident involved one of our new, replacement, crews, that of 2nd Lt. M.S. Jones who had just recently joined our squadron.

Running perilously low on fuel, Lt Jones left his pattern and attempted to make the landing strip crosswise. As he neared the field, not over a mile away, his fuel supply became completely exhausted and the pilot had no other alternative than to set his ship down immediately. Unfortunately, an orchard was the only available field on which he could land. The plane was totally wrecked.

S/Sgts Jackson and Hoegenka were killed instantly. 2nd Lt Silva, the copilot, was severely wounded necessitating a brain operation which could only be performed in Bari. Capt Black, our operations officer, flew the injured man to Bari where an operation was immediately performed. But, the injury had been too sever and Lt Silva passed away a few days later.

2nd Lt Sturreck, F/O Poulsen and Sgts Bogie, Martin and Jahn received injuries necessitating hospitalization. None were too serious and all were subsequently released.


26 April 1944

Scheduled mission was cancelled. No other change.

27 April 1944

Scheduled mission was cancelled.

Capt Black, our operations officer, was transferred to the 759th Squadron.

Squadron Order No 20 appointed 2nd Lt Billy S Warren, former assistant S-3 officer to S-3 officer and 2nd Lt John A Morin as assistant S-3 officer.

– 8 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)

28 April 1944

Meeting intense enemy flak our planes bombed the port installations at Sanstefene on their twenty ninth mission.

All ships reached annd hit the target, but on the trip home one our planes were lost.

Lt. Zimmer, whose crew was the first to join our Squadron as part of the original cadre, left the formation and attempted to set his ship (damaged by the flak) down in the vicinity of Naples. The ship WAS under control, but just as Lt Zimmer was about to set her down the plane caught fire and exploded killing the entire crew.

1st Lt Zimmer, 2nd Lts Blair, Q.D. Jones, Clamers and S/Sgts Griffin, Harrigan, Banta, Sazula, Mitchell and Read were lost.

Two replacement crew joined our Squadron made up of the following men:

2nd Lt Bruce M Smith, pilot
“ George A Skeglund, copilot
“ William J Grenfell, navigator
“ Warren R. Zwink, bombardier
Sgt Jesse H. James
S/Sgt Buford L Enson
Sgt James F Scartelli
Sgt Loy H Wicks
Sgt Melvin Mendelson
S/Sgt Charles T Smith
2nd Lt John F Brownell, pilot
“ Richard S Sheehy, bombardier
“ Gordon S Landis, navigator
“ Newton M Baughman, copilot
Sgt William P Whelan
“ John B Carroll
Pvt P.G. Perkins
Sgt James R Mortimer
“ Robert J Sirois
Pfc Vitus I Crandall

2nd Lts Horton and Schumacher were released from the 26th General Hospital at Bari. Both had been wounded by enemy flak and were now recovered from their injuries enough to rejoin our Squadron.

– 9 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)

29 April 1944

Our planes bombed the munitions works at Toulon, France with what believed to be good results. A little flak but no fighters were encountered.

All of our ships, with the exception of one, reached and hit the target, and returned safely. The failur of this one ship to reach the target, its crash at sea and the subsequent rescue of the entire crew is a tribute to the skill of our men.

Flying at twenty two thousand feet, 2nd Lt Wilton Munson was leading his flight toward the target. Everything was going off smoothly, when about five minutes prior to the target, an unidentified explosion occurred. Several burst glanced off the wing of the plane, spattering lead into the cockpit. Fortunately no one was injured, but the No 1 and No 2 engines had evidently been damaged for their props began to ‘run away’. Quickly Lt. Munson feathered his No 1 prop but was unable to bring No 2 under control as it had frozen from loss of oil.

Losing air speed rapidly Lt. Munson, realizing that he was endangering his entire flight, dropped out of formation and headed back for Corsica, the nearest friendly base.

The plane was losing altitude rapidly, dropping from 200 to 300 feet per minute and was kept under control by the pilot and copilot who found it necessary to ‘stand’ on the right rudder together. Reaching eight thousand feet, Lt Munson knew that he would be unable to reach land and decided to ditch the ship. Advising the crew, he ordered preparations to be made for a crash landing at sea. The bombs were uslvoed, equipment in the dinghies secured and all guns, ammunition and excess equipment thrown overboard, while the copilot and Radio operator transmitted distress signals.

At 800 feet the pilot decided to ditch. Coming in with full flaps and power off, the ship’s tail hit the water at 100 miles per hour. Seconds later the nose hit the water. Stopping its forward motion the plane immediately began to sink, finally completely submerging. Holding their breath the crew remained under water for about five seconds until the plane bobbed back to the surface of the sea, allowing them to abandon the ship. Within thirty seconds the crew left the plane and were standing on the wing. Unable to launch the dinghies because their valves were frozen, the men pulled them outside and launched them by splashing sea water on the valves. With four men climbing into each boat the dinghies were pushed away from the plane, one by the copilot who towed it to the end of the wing, the other pushed away by the swimming bombardier.

Opening one unit of Sea Marker and using an opened parachute for a sea anchor, the men could nothing more than hope their signals had been heard and await rescue.

– 10 –

(War Diary, 758th Bomb Sq, April 1944)

Their signals had been heard for two hours later a PBY found them and carried the crew back to Corsica.

2nd Lt James P McConologue’s crew joined us today, consisting of 2nd Lt Donald K Kilgore as copilot, 2nd Lt Richard Lins as navigator, 2nd Lt Gerald A Slusser as bombardier and with the enlisted made up of Sgts Kenneth F Albord, Donald M Brown, Robert W Sutton, Alfred A Skubel and Salvatore Grippardi.

30 April 1944

Our planes bombed Milan, Italy, hitting the railroad yards. Results looked good. Some flak was experienced and all our ships returned safely, chalking up their thirty first mission.

—- end —–

Source: Hillin, Robert W. “War Diary, 758th Bombardment Squadron (HV).” Historical Records, 459th Bombardment Group (Heavy), April 1944. Reel B0607, Microfilm 1249-1259.