modified for Azon bombing;MIA Szolnok, Hungary 7/2/44 w/Olivarri
1ST EMERGENCY RESCUE SQUADRON
APO 650 U.S. ARMY
1-31 JULY 1944
2 July 1944:
Lieutenant Eisrman and crew were on patrol from 11:20 until 12:10 when given a fix at 420 38'N 160 48'E. After searching for six hours, and finding nothing, they returned to base at 1800.
At Grottaglie, Captain Gray, Lieutenant Walker and crew were on patrol for three hours.
At Ajaccio, Corsica, Lieutenant Jarman and crew were on a search for 3:25 hours but only debris was sighted in the search area.
Lieutenant Milburn and crew, with Captain Ruckman piloting, added another nine survivors to the Squadrons growing total of 52, making it now 61. The ten (1 dead) crew of an Azon, one of five B-17's with secret radio installations, was rescued in its entirety; on flight B fourteenth consecutive mission since change of station to Foggia Main--9 May 1944.
The survivors, nine in al1, are from the 301st Bomb Group, 419 Bomb Squadron located at "Long Skirt Tower", Foggia, Italy.
Take-off for the group of five "Fortresses" was scheduled for 0700 and climaxed at 0735. The target was a railroad bridge near Szolnok, Hungary. The unlucky B-17 No 232103, salvoed its bomb load in a light, inaccurate burst of flak after circling over the target for the third time.
None of the planes were shot down. At 1115 on the return flight and when about twenty miles from the Yugoslavian, coast, a heavy barrage of shell fire was sent up to a height of twenty thousand feet and flak, as thick as hail rained in all directions. The port wing and fuselage were perforated, seriously wounding the port waist gunner whose legs were riddled by flying fragments. While over the Adriatic Sea, the top of No 1 engine, began to smoke and the t1p or the wing glowed red with flames. The pilot called "Big Fence and the radio operator sent out the approximate ditching position (42o50'N-16o50'E). Their own planes, in the company with two P-38's, circled expectantly. The ditching, at 1305, occurred about ten miles off the southwestern coast of Yugoslavia. The B-17 set down on the hard surface of the water with moderate impact, and remained afloat 1 minute and 30 seconds; during which brief interim the occupants escaped with difficulty through the top hatch of the radio compartment; greatly impeded by the gun which cou1d not readily be dismounted. The dinghy's which should have sprung automatically inflated, out of the wing stowage, were at last manually released by the frenzied men. The raft in the port wing sank and was, lost; that on the starboard side floated upside down and had to be pneumatically distended with a hand pump while the crew bobbed up and down, like corks, in their life vests. The engineer stunned by a blow on the head could not pull the release cord on his Mae West and drowned before help could reach him. The dinghy was at last righted and although constructed to accommodate five; all nine climbed aboard. The drowned man was dragged aboard and repeated futile attempts at resuscitation were made. Beyond all hope, the engineer was secured to the dinghy by a length of rope. There was no panic or hysteria, even when inf1ation of the stubborn capsized life raft seemed impossible. Emergency kits and additional vests were dropped by the bombers overhead. One P-38 donated a wing tank. The fliers were in the dinghy a total of two hours and twenty minutes before being rescued by Captain Ruckman, Lieutenant Milburn and crew in PBY No 958, which took-off from Foggia Main and 1anded on a choppy sea at 1515. Deserved credit is given to Lieutenant Haynie who, with almost uncanny precision, navigated the Catalina to the exact position which was 42O 3l'N-17O 4l'E. Before landing, six hundred ga1lons of gaso1ine was jettisoned from the port wing tank to lighten the load and thereby facilitate landing and take-off operations. The "Cat" taxied up to the dinghy--a rope was thrown and caught and the raft was hove to. Corporal Giza, Surgical technician entered the dinghy and applied a splint to the waist gunner's fractured leg. The raft was steadied by Staff Sergeant Cox, Engineer, and Sergeant Hendrix, Radio Operator. Landing at home base was accomp1ished at 1755. The survivors, and the dead engineer, were conveyed by ambulance to the 61st Station Hospital.
1. Pilot 2nd Lt Olavarri, Phillip 0-747474
2. Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Thompson, Vernon D. 0-765355
3. Navigator 2nd Lt Haldeman, Jack 0-696089
4. Bombardier 2nd Lt Gale Jr, Benjamin E. 0-747952
5. Radio Oper T/Sgt Calvert, Arthur 15329821
6. Port W. Gunner S/Sgt Sawyer, Eugene W 11043413
7. Ball T Gunner S/Sgt Walker Paul G. 20441303
8. Tail Gunner S/Sgt Floyd, William B. 39659516
9. Starboard W. G. S/Sgt Benninger, Norbal 35398516
1. Engineer T/Sgt Houston, James L. 17070962
Pilot Capt Ruckman, Thomas M. 0-424164
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Mi1burn, Walter B. 0-739828
Navigator 1st Lt Haynie, Otho J. 0-725869
Crew Chief S/Sgt Cox, Allen B. 38194913
Engineer Sgt Lasater, Paul A. 17122437
Radio Operator Cpl Bols, Haro1d A. 35625492
Radar Operator Sgt Hendrix Louis L. 37224826
Surgical Technician Sgt Giza Stanley F. 36602581
Look in the PDF for July 1944, pages 1, 2, and 3.
Visit site of T.Sgt. Eugene Sawyer 419th Squadron to read Award for Soldier's Medal