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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 199893
Last updated: 21 December 2020
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Date:07-JUN-1944
Time:
Type:Silhouette image of generic B17 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress
Owner/operator:534th BSqn /381st BGp USAAF
Registration: 42-97238
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 9
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:English Channel off Guernesey Island, Channel Islands -   United Kingdom
Phase: Combat
Nature:Military
Departure airport:
Destination airport:
Narrative:
On 7 June 1944 the Eight Air Force flew raids against the airfields that might be used by the Luftwaffe against our invasion forces, and 9 B-17s of 534th BS, 381st BG, took part in an attack on the German airfield at Kerlin/Bastard, France. Runways and main buildings were reported as being well hit. There was no enemy fighter opposition and flak was only meager. However, flak damage to engines on Lt. Martyniaks aircraft, the B-17G 42-97238 "Our Captain", forced him to ditch several miles from Guernesey Island just off Cherbourg Peninsula. It was reported that the entire crew was picked up and returned to England with only minor injuries to some of the crewmen. All other A/C returned safe to base.

The following was recorded in 381st BG War Diary on 8th June 1944:

"Nine Flying Fortress crewmen returned to their home base today in borrowed RAF clothing after surviving a ditching just off the French coast last night in "invasion" waters bordering the beachheads of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. Grinning and unharmed except for minor cuts and bruises suffered when their Fortress "Our Captain" plunged into the channel at dusk yesterday, the crew told a story giving high praise to the efficiency and skill of the Air-Sea Rescue Service.

"Our Captain" was struck by flak while raining its bombs on an airfield at Lorient, France. Fragments smashed into the No. 4 engine, causing both to start leaking oil and gasoline.

2nd Lt. John A. Martyniak, of 355 Washington St., Taunton, Mass., gave his faulty engines "full boost" to maintain his position in the formation, but the Fortress gradually slowed and began lagging behind. Finally the two engines lost almost all power and the No. 3 engine began malfunctioning. Lt. Martyniak called by radio for fighter protection. Heading for the Channel, "Our Captain" lost altitude at the rate of 500 feet a minute, but the pilot believed a long glide to England might still be possible and ordered his crew to jettison all moveable equipment except the ball turret.

Navigator 2nd Lt. James G. Manion, 513 Dewey St., Rochester, N.Y. gave the shipís position to the radio operator, T/Sgt Paul E. Stewart, of 1743 N. Luna St., Chicago, Ill., and contact was made with Air-Sea Rescue. As the bomber dropped lower and lower toward the sea, the pilot called off altitude every 100 feet, keeping the Air-Sea Rescue well informed of his Fortís position. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew except Lt. Martyniak and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Richard L. Kellum, of Williamsburg, Ohio, crowded into the radio room and braced themselves according to plan for the imminent ditching.

"Our Captain" struck tail first, then slid into the water on its belly, shaking up the men in the radio room and slightly injuring several of them. Water rushed into the radio room through the camera well so rapidly that it half filled the tiny compartment by the time the men had climbed through the hatch in the ceiling.

Though the huge bomber sank in little less than two minutes, the crew cleared their rubber dinghies from the ship and inflated them, but within a few minutes a pair of British Spitfires had sighted the stranded airmen. They were now floating in water less than a score of miles from the Channel Islands, where, according to news reports of the day, Allied paratroopers were attacking German defenses.

"But we didnít see any invasion ships near us," said ball turret gunner S/Sgt. Lloyd S. Jackson of 667 N. Howard, St., Akron, Ohio. "We must have been south of their path."

The two Spits were joined by several more British fighters within 10 or 15 minutes, and the aircraft circled above the dinghies, protecting the Americans from possible strafing. A Wellington bomber arrived at the scene an hour after the ditching. It circled for half an hour, calculating wind and drift, then dropped a motor launch by parachute from an altitude of about 300 feet.

"The launch floated down supported by the parachute," Lt. Martyniak said. "When it hit the water, there were sharp explosions and the chutes were blown clear of the boat. It was beautifully carried out."

"Our Captain" crew maneuvered their dinghies to the launch and climbed aboard. as a safety measure, they tied the dinghies to the rear of the emergency boat, but trying to start the motor of the launch was another problem. One motor sputtered into action finally, but the propeller became fouled in the dinghy lines and the motor quit. The drenched crew worked strenuously until they managed to start the second motor. After proceeding for about a mile they met a high powered rescue ship and were taken aboard. The motor launch was secured to the larger shipís stern.

"And soon after we started on our way home," Sgt Jackson said, "The same thing happened to that shipís motor that happened to the one on the launch. Its propeller got tangled in a line, and the motor quit. They had another, though, and we came home on that one."

The men were given dry clothing, hot food and medical attention at an Air-Sea Rescue Station in southern England. After a nightís sleep, they flew back to the home base aboard the Fortress "Yankee Rebel".

Others in the crew not already mentioned were 2nd Lt., Ray L. Stewart, of 1503 Mt. Vernon, Yakima, Wash., bombardier; S/Sgt Darrel E. Longley, of Newburg, Ore., top turret gunner and engineer; S/Sgt Albert W. Fahey, of 2118 Magnolia St., Sioux City, Ia. waist gunner; and S/Sgt Wayne M. Coffey, of Lenoir, N.C. tail gunner.

Sources:

http://www.381st.org/UnitHistory/WarDiaries/534thBSWarDiary.aspx
http://www.381st.org/UnitHistory/WarDiaries/381stBombGroupWarDiary.aspx
http://www.381st.org/UnitHistory/Data/AircraftInventory.aspx
http://www.northhillakron.org/Military/Military.htm


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
22-Sep-2017 17:06 Laurent Rizzotti Added
23-Mar-2020 15:42 DG333 Updated [Operator, Operator]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description