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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 97951
Last updated: 21 February 2021
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Type:Silhouette image of generic B17 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
Owner/operator:United States Army Air Force (USAAF)
Registration: 42-32001
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 10 / Occupants: 10
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Podington/Sta 109 -   United Kingdom
Phase: Take off
Departure airport:Podington/Sta 109
Destination airport:
On 20 May 1944, during Eighth Air Force Mission 359, 638 bombers and 657 fighters were dispatched to hit targets in France and Belgium:
1. 190 B-17s were dispatched to bomb Orly Airfield (90 bomb) and Villacoublay Air Depot (73 bomb) in France; 4 B-17s were lost in crashes in England and 48 damaged; 20 airmen were KIA and 6 WIA.
2. 125 of 177 B-24s bombed Reims Airfield and marshalling yard in France; 5 were damaged.
3. 271 B-17s and B-24s were dispatched to marshalling yards at Liege and Brussels, Belgium but the mission was abandoned due to heavy cloud cover; 2 bombers were lost, 4 destroyed in crashes in England and 41 damaged; 17 airmen were KIA, 16 WIA and 17 MIA.
Escort was provided by 146 P-38s, 177 P-47s and 334 P-51s; P-38s claimed 2-0-1 Luftwaffe aircraft in the air and 1-0-1 on the ground; 1 P-38, 1 P-47 and 2 P-51s were lost (all pilots MIA) and 5 P-38s were damaged.

The worst losses of the day were those suffered by the 92nd BG. 36 planes were scheduled to take off in groups of 12 each starting at 0655 hrs, just before daylight. The fog was so bad they walked along the side of the planes to the runway. The pilots took off by "Stop Watch" every 30 seconds. The high group was successfully airborne and at 0711 hrs the lead group started taking off. Lt Jack Pearlís B-17G 42-32001 of the 326th BS was the 7th in this group. Apparently its tail wheel unlocked during roll off and the B-17 veered off the runway. The pilot attempted to get corrected and pulled back onto the runway, but just as it began to get airborne, the bomber struck part of a concrete wall, and then crashed just beyond the edge of the runway. The B-17ís load of bombs detonated, killing all the crew aboard.

The next B-17 in line, the B-17G 42-37934, also of 326th BS, piloted by 2nd Lt William E Seitz, had begun its run, but stopped approximately half way down the runway, apparently having seen the red warning flares fired by the takeoff controller and heard the radio order from the control tower to stop takeoff. Seitz turned his plane around and started back up the runway, but the following ship in line, the B-17G 42-97489 piloted by 1st Lt James E Wiggins, also of the 326th Bs, did not stop its run. Presumbaly Wiggins could not see the flares through the low hanging fog, and when he did see Lt Seitzís Fortress, it was far too late. The aircraft collided head on and burst into flames. Five crew members managed to escape from each plane, all being near the rear, before the first of five terrific explosions began, about three minutes after the collision. The final explosion was Lt Pearlís ship which had been the first to crash. All aircraft were carrying 6 X 1000 lb GP bombs.

Medical personnel were in attendance at the time of the crashes and when Lt Pearlís ship careered off into the woods, the ambulance left the control tower and started around the perimeter track towards the scene. Due to the fog, and the position of the aircraft deep in the woods, they had not located it at the time of the second crash. Directed there, the ambulance arrived at the time of the first explosion suffering slight damage from flying particles. The ambulance picked up the five survivors of Lt Seitzís crew.

Romeo Bellevance, the Line Chief, and Harry Collis, his assistant, were like many others asleep when the crash occurred. They were in a Quonset hut on the line and when the fifties started goin off, Bellevance woke Collis just as a large fragment came through the wall and took his pillow with it.

Eleven officers and nine enlisted men were killed outright, and one officer, 2nd Lt Robert E Keyser, died the following day. Four enlisted men were severely injured, and the five other slightly injured. The three aircraft were completely destroyed.

Crew of 42-32001 (all killed):
2nd Lt. Jack Pearl (pilot)
2nd Lt. William O Hall (co-pilot)
2nd Lt. Clarence E Huston (navigator)
2nd Lt. Thomas G Cassidy (bombardier)
S/Sgt. Frank T Giordano (radio operator)
S/Sgt. Dennis R Semler (flight engineer/top turret gunner)
Sgt. William F McLean (ball turret gunner)
Sgt. William I Dunbar (waist gunner)
Sgt. Edward R Thomas (waist gunner)
Sgt. James D Morrin (tail gunner)

Crew of 42-37934:
2nd Lt. William W Seitz (pilot) KIFA
2nd Lt. Robert F McGill (co-pilot) KIFA
2nd Lt. Marlin E Guisewite (navigator) KIFA
2nd Lt. Robert B Holman (bombardier) KIFA
John Kisgen (radio operator) Minor injuries
Sgt. Robert E McGriff (flight engineer/top turret gunner) KIFA
Larry Rue (ball turret gunner) Minor injuries
Chester Smith (waist gunner) Minor injuries
Albin Linquist (waist gunner) Minor injuries
George Isaacson (tail gunner) Minor injuries

Crew of 42-97489:
1st Lt.James E Wiggins (pilot) KIFA
2nd Lt. Luther H Smith (co-pilot) KIFA
2nd Lt. Charles L Herzberg (navigator) KIFA
2nd Lt. Robert E Keyser (bombardier) WIFA, died of injuries on 21 May 1944
Sgt. Harold G Howard (radio operator) KIFA
Sgt. Ralph A Villani (flight engineer/top turret gunner) KIFA
Sgt. George J Doran (ball turret gunner) WIFA
Sgt. Claudio O Mendozzi (waist gunner) WIFA
Sgt. Joseph F Lambert (waist gunner) WIFA
Sgt. Edward V Wozniak (tail gunner) WIFA



Ickwell 03.03.2020

Revision history:

20-May-2015 15:04 October1944 Updated [Total fatalities, Total occupants, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
14-May-2019 13:58 MikeM Updated [Source]
03-Mar-2020 11:32 MikeW Updated [Source, Narrative, Photo]

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