ASN logo
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 204208
Last updated: 15 April 2021
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Type:Silhouette image of generic B24 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Consolidated B-24H Liberator
Owner/operator:700th BSqn /445th BGp USAAF
Registration: 42-50329
C/n / msn:
Fatalities:Fatalities: 8 / Occupants: 10
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:in the Lille Bælt 800 m south of the island of Årø -   Denmark
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:RAF Tibenham, UK
Destination airport:
On 21 June 1944 Eighth Air Force despatched 1,234 bombers and 1,170 fighters on Mission 428 that became known as the "Poltava Mission". The bombers executed a very complex flight plan in which Berlin was attacked from all directions. This mass of bombers effectively screened an attack on the Ruhland oil installations south of Berlin by two wings of 3rd Bomb Division B-17s that then proceeded east to Russia for the first shuttle bombing mission between England and bases in the USSR (the second of operation Frantic, the first having been flown from Italy) .

496 B-17S of the 1st Bomb Division, 368 B-24s of the 2nd and 207 B-17s of the 3rd were sent to attack Berlin, under escort by 958 fighters of VIII Fighter Command (355 P-38s, 323 P-47s and 280 P-51s) and by 441 of IX Fighter Command. Berlin was bombed by 456 bombers of the 1st BD, 47 of the 2nd and 103 of the 3rd. Other targets bombed, mostly in the Berlin area, were Basdorf (80 B-17s), Genshagen (69 B-24s), Marienfelde (52 B-24s), Potsdam (40 B-24s), Niederschonweide (28 B-24s), Rangsdorf (16 B-24s), Trebbin (10 B-24s), Selvig (8 B-24s), Stendal (8 B-24s), and Bederekesa (1 B-24). 17 B-17s and 7 B-24s reported bombing targets of opportunity. 25 B-17s (16 of the 1st BD and 9 of the 3rd) and 1st BD reported losses were 16 B-17s lost and 216 damaged, 1 KIA, 10 WIA and 148 MIA, and claims of 16-20-19 by gunners. 2nd reported 19 B-24s lost, damaged beyond repair and 150 damaged, 21 KIA, 20 WIA and 182 MIA, and claims of 13-3-3. The fighters escorting these two divisions claimed 17-0-9. Nine B-17s of 3rd BD were also lost. A total of 16 fighters of VIII and IX Air Forces were lost with 14 pilots.
The Berlin raid was opposed by I. Jagdkorps. Pilots of JG 300, ZG 26, ZG 76 and L.Beo.St. 1 claimed 38 victories (17 B-24s, 13 B-17, 3 B-17 HSS, 3 B-24 HSS and 2 P-51s). JG 300 lost 11 aircraft destroyed (7 shot down and 4 without enemy action) while 5 of II./ZG 76 were shot down.

The shuttle force comprised 163 B-17s, 18 of which turned back. 72 P-38s, 38 P-47s and 57 P-51s escorted them to the target, synthetic oil plant at Ruhland, Germany. 123 B-17s bombed the primary target, 21 bombed Elsteriverda and a lone B-17 bombed Riesa due to a bomb rack malfunction; after the attack, the supporting P-51s were relieved 80 km southeast of Poznan, Poland by 65 other P-51s, of 4th FG, which were to accompany the B-17s to the USSR. Two Luftwaffe fighter groups, I. and III./JG 51, that were flying a training mission over Poland were ordered to intercept this formation and made a frontal attack on the bombers before being bounced by the escort. The American reported an attack by 20 to 30 Luftwaffe fighters. One P-51 was shot down while others claimed 6 German fighters, while 1 B-17 was lost (to unknown causes) on the flight. It had been hit by Flak, lost three engines and flew to Sweden, landing there safely. Two pilots of I./JG 51 claimed two B-17s and a P-51 shot down, each German Gruppe losing one aircraft shot down and one damaged. 144 B-17s landed in the USSR, 73 at Poltava, and the rest at Mirgorod; the 64 remaining P-51s landed at Piryatin. They reported 1 KIA, 5 WIA and 10 MIA.
The shot down P-51 has crash-landed near Bobruisk airfield and a mission map showing the destination of the flight as Poltava, a previously unknown airfield built specifically for the Frantic operation. A He 177 of 2.(F)/100 also followed the American bombers to Poltava and photographed the airfield. Luftflotte 6 had the information within hours and despatched 180 bombers to attack the American bombers.
Personnel at Poltava were alerted at approximately 2330 hours when it was announced that German bombers had crossed the front lines in the general direction of Poltava. At 0030 hours on the 22nd, Pathfinder aircraft released flares directly above the airfield and ten minutes later the first bombs were dropped. For almost two hours, an estimated 75 Luftwaffe bombers attacked the base, exhibiting a very high degree of accuracy. Nearly all bombs were dropped in the dispersal area of the landing ground where only B-17s were parked, indicating without question that the B-17s constituted the specific objective of the raiders.
Of the 73 B-17s which had landed at Poltava, 47 were destroyed and most of the remainder severely damaged. One American B-17 copilot, Joseph Lukacek, was killed. His captain, Raymond Estele, was severely wounded and died later; several other men suffered minor injuries. The stores of fuel and ammunition brought so laboriously from the United States were also destroyed. Three days after the attack, only nine of the 73 aircraft at Poltava were operational.
American personnel losses were light due to adequate warning and the network of slit trenches distant from the aircraft parking area. Russian losses were much higher since work crews were ordered to fight fires and disable anti-personnel bombs while the raid was ongoing. Butterfly bombs continued to explode on the field for many weeks thereafter. Red Air Force losses included 15 Yak-9s, 6 Yak-7s, three trainers, a Hawker Hurricane, and a VIP DC-3. Soviet anti-aircraft fire was intense but random, and perversely served to outline the field for the German aircraft. There are conflicting reports about whether Soviet aircraft engaged the enemy, but since there was no radar intercept capability, even American fighters would have been ineffective.
The well-planned German attack was led by Oberstleutnant Wilhelm Antrup of KG 55 and carried out by He 111s and Ju 88s of KG 4, KG 53, KG 55, and KG 27 operating from bases at Minsk. The operation was nicknamed Zaunkoenig. After the He 111s left, the Ju 88s strafed the field at low altitude. There were no German losses.
Recriminations between the Allies were bitter. The Soviets had insisted on defending the field themselves, despite American offers to do so, but had provided no night protection at all. The truck-mounted 50-caliber machine guns that the Soviet high command insisted would be adequate had no effect on the Luftwaffe, as no aircraft were shot down or disabled. Also, Russian and American fighter aircraft were not allowed to take off (by Soviet high-command) to engage the Luftwaffe during this attack; the reason for this is unclear. American enthusiasm for these shuttle flights waned, never to be restored. The shuttle bombing missions were not abandoned for the moment, but they were suspended until the mess on the ground could be cleaned up and the defenses of the air bases improved. Realizing that the Soviets could not adequately protect the heavy bombers from night raids, the Americans abandoned plans to permanently station three heavy bomber groups on Soviet airfields, and the two next shuttle missions, on 22 July and 4 August, were flown only by fighters of the Fifteenth Air Force.

During the raid on Berlin, the B-24H 42-50329 of 700th BS, 445th BG, was hit by Flak over Germant and headed towards northwest. When over Denmark it was attacked by a German fighter and after about 10 minutes of exchange of fire the B 24 winged over the right wing and crashed burning in the Lille Bælt 800 metres south of the island of Årø at 1242 hrs. It was probably shot down by Lt Achim Woeste of Luftbeobachtungsstaffel 7 who claimed a B-24 in this area at 1242 hrs, one hour after the last of the other known German claims. Woeste was an experienced night fighter pilot who had claimed 9 bombers at night before.

At the same time the German ship VS 410 was firing at the B-24 with its 20 mm canons and one crew member was wounded during the exchange of fire.

Apparently the 10 man crew of the B-24 bailed out before the crash but only two survived.

1st Lt Richard R. Plant (pilot) POW
2nd Lt William P. Noble (co-pilot) KIA
2nd Lt Richard F. Gall (navigator/bombardier) KIA
T/Sgt Robert M. Kimmey (radio operator) KIA
Sgt James O. Snyder (nose gunner) KIA
T/Sgt William J. Mulligan (top turret gunner) KIA
S/Sgt Robert R. Helpes (ball turret gunner) KIA
S/Sgt George Tarant (waist gunner) KIA
S/Sgt Henry J. Gordon (waist gunner) KIA
S/Sgt Francis De Paul (tail gunner) POW

Plant landed on the island of Årø. He hit his head hard when landing and was taken to the house of Reciever of Wrecks Bruhn and Doctor Meiseldt of Øsby in Jylland was called. Plant was suffering from a concussion and possible a fracture of the skull. Doctor Meisfeldt treated Plant and placed him on a stretcher and had him carriede down to the harbour where he had a motorboat waiting. Here they met a Marine-Oberleutnant who wanted to know about what the doctor intented to do with the flyer. Meisfeldt informed the German that he would call for an ambulance to meet them in Aarøsund. The German would not allow that, but after a discussion Meisfeldt was allowed to call for the ambulance from the County Hospital. The doctor was not allowed to follow Plant on the ferry to Aarøsund. The Germans brought Plant to the German Barracks in Haderslev and later to the German Lazarett in Vojens where he stayed for three days. until 24 June when he was sent to Dulag Luft, Oberursel.

De Paul was picked up from the waters of the Lille Bælt on the 22nd, the day after the crash, by a boat from the 4th Escort Flotilla and taken to Odense. On the 24th both Plant and De Paul were sent to Dulag Luft in Oberursel for questionning. They spent the rest of the war in POW camp.

Of the other crew, six were found: Gall and Kimmey were both washed ashore on Helnæs on 11 and 13 July, and were buried in Assens cemetery. Tarant was found on the southeast beach of Lyø on the 16th and was laid to rest in Fåborg cemetery. Mulligan was found on the 28th on Sandager Næs and was laid to rest in Sandager cemetery. Helpes was found washed ashore on the beach near Helnæs on 14 August and was buried here. More than year later, on 8 November 1945, the body of Noble, along with a small parachute, was found floating in the sea near the island of Barsø by a local fisherman. The body was brought ashore and taken to the hospital in Aabenraa by ambulance. After formal identification it was handed over to the British troops in Denmark who took it to Schleswig in Germany just south of the border. Noble was laid to rest in the British Military Cemetery in Schleswig.

All six were disinterred in 1948 and transferred to the American war cemetery at Neuville en Condron in Belgium. Gall and Tarant have since been reburied in the USA.

Gordon and Snyder have no known grave and their names are found on Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England.

"Air War Europa. America Air War Against Germany in Europe and North Africa. Chronology 1942-1945", by Eric Hammel. ISBN 0-935553-25-8
"The Luftwaffe over Germany. Defence of the Reich", by Donald L Caldwell and Richard Muller. ISBN 978-1-84832-741-2
Luftwaffe claim lists by Tony Wood and Jim Perry (
Luftwaffe summary losses database (

Revision history:

12-Jan-2018 12:13 Laurent Rizzotti Added
24-Feb-2020 19:41 Xindel XL Updated [Operator, Departure airport, Operator]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description