Blue Skies: Horrific Images Captured Last Moments of USAAF Bombers

We’ve compiled a second photographic gallery of heart-wrenching images which capture the last moments before disaster of several United States Army Air Force bombers during World War II. You can find the first article here: Horrific Images Captured Last Moments of USAAF Bombers during WWII.

All additional information, photographs of the aircraft and crew members and other photographs of downed aircraft for more articles, are appreciated, feel free to contact us or reply to the article. An interesting website on the US Air Force during World War II is the American Air Museum.

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B-17 “Whizzer II” (s/n 42-5786) from the 483rd Bomb Group after being hit by Flak over the rail yards of Nis, Yugoslavia in 15 April 1944. According to sources, no chutes were observed but only nine bodies were ever found.

B-17 Whizzer II 42-5786 from the 483rd Bomb Group after being hit by Flak over the rail yards of Nis, Yugoslavia in 15 April 1944.

  • Pilot: 2nd Lieutenant James O. Preston – O-690979 – 22 Years – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: 2nd Lieutenant Harry L. Johnston – O-759373 – 21 Years – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 2nd Lieutenant Jesse D. Gresham – O-757938 – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier: 2nd Lieutenant Gordon G. Lindholm – O-698306 – 22 Years – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: Staff Sergeant John C. Toutant – 11114308 – 30/31 Years – Killed in Action
  • Gunner/Engineer: Staff Sergeant John T. Cieslak – 36297261 – 19/20 Years – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Sergeant James E. Cooper – 34665857 – 20 Years – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Sergeant Harold J. Pierce – 18051255 – 21 Years – Killed in Action
  • Waist Gunner: Sergeant Albert H. Cline – 33563970 – Killed in Action
  • Tail Gunner: Private Jack Brown, Jr. – 6396357 – 25 Years – Killed in Action

Douglas A-20J-10-DO (S/N 43-10129) of the 671st Bomb Squadron, 416th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force after being hit by Flak over Beauvoir, France on May 12, 1944.

Douglas A-20J-10-DO (S/N 43-10129) of the 409th or 416th Bomb Group after being hit by flak over Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant Robert E. Stockwell – 26 Years – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier/Navigator: 2nd Lieutenant Albert Jedinak – O-749848 – Prisoner of War (Stalag Luft 3 – Sagan)
  • Gunner: Staff Sergeant Hollis A. Foster – 25 Years – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Staff Sergeant Egon W. Rust – 38365727 – Prisoner of War (Stalag Luft – Gross Tychow)

On August 23, 1944, B-24H-30-FO Liberator “Extra Joker”. Serial number 42-95379, was a part of the 725th bomber squadron of the 451st bomber group. The aircraft took part in the raid on the Markerslorf airfield near the Austrian capital of Vienna and was attacked by two German Focke-Wulf fighter Fw 190 over the Austrian town of Turnitz. Within a few seconds, the flame enveloped the plane and it exploded. All 10 crew members were killed.

In the sequence below, you’ll see the damage after being hit, the plane catching fire and falling down out of formation, as well as the German Luftwaffe fighters surveying the scene after its victory.

A B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-95379) nicknamed Extra Joker of the 451st Bomb Group, 15th Air Force in flight. Image taken by Leo S Stoutsenberger, Photographic Officer, 451st Bomb Group - 1 A B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-95379) nicknamed Extra Joker of the 451st Bomb Group, 15th Air Force in flight. Image taken by Leo S Stoutsenberger, Photographic Officer, 451st Bomb Group - 2A B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-95379) nicknamed Extra Joker of the 451st Bomb Group, 15th Air Force in flight. Image taken by Leo S Stoutsenberger, Photographic Officer, 451st Bomb Group - 3A B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-95379) nicknamed Extra Joker of the 451st Bomb Group, 15th Air Force in flight. Image taken by Leo S Stoutsenberger, Photographic Officer, 451st Bomb Group - 4

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant Kenneth A. Whiting – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: 1st Lieutenant Alvin W. Moore – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 2nd Lieutenant Francis J. Bednarek – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier: 2nd Lieutenant Edward S. Waneski – Killed in Action
  • Top Turret Gunner: Sergeant Peter Breda – Killed in Action
  • Ball Turret Gunner: Sergeant Harry V. Bates – Killed in Action
  • Right Waist Gunner: Sergeant Joseph Garbacz – Killed in Action
  • Left Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant Milton R. Nitsch – Killed in Action
  • Nose Turret Gunner: Sergeant Elmer J. Anderson – Killed in Action
  • Tail Turret Gunner: Sergeant Oscar W. Bateman – Killed in Action

For those interested, you can find photographs of the crew men within Newsletter 11/2017 of the 451st Bomb Group here. As well as the newspaper story “The Saga of the Extra Joker“.


Consolidated B-24J-150-CO Liberator (s/n 44-40210) of the 854th Bomb Squadron, 491st Bomb Group, 8th AF is hit by light anti-aircraft (leichtes Flak) on the September 18, 1944 during a low-level supply drop mission for the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in the area of Eindhoven, Holland.

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“At approximately 4:30 p.m. they arrived at the drop zone and had to pull up to 400 feet in order to drop their bundles, most of which fell within the assigned areas. Then they began their journey home. Within a few minutes the lead plane was hit by flak and a small fire started on the right wing. “With only seconds in which to work, Captain Hunter, considered one of the best pilots in the group, picked his spot and started to bring the B-24 in on its belly. At less than 50 feet, however, the right inboard engine burst into flames. The right wing dropped and was too low when the plane hit. The instant was captured by a camera in another aircraft.

The plane then slid on the ground, crashed into a haystack and exploded. It came to rest in a field about three fourths of a mile northeast of a train overpass near the town of Udenhout, Holland. They were the unfortunate victims of a 20mm flak gun, which had been mounted by the Germans the day before in the town of Oisterwijk. (…) Because of the low altitude, no one was able to bail out. The rest of the 491st returned to North Pickenham where a missing in action report was filed on the Hunter crew and their families were notified.” [Source: Coulthart Family History Center]

One crew member, Staff Sgt. Frank DiPalma, was found walking away, severely burned, from the wreckage by some Franciscan Monks and hidden in the Huize Assisi. Father Vinkenburg and three Dutch doctors treated his severe burns and kept him hidden till the British liberated the town.

Hit by light-flak on the September 18,1944 low-level supply drop mission for the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in the area of Eindhoven, Holland.

  • Pilot: Captain James K. Hunter – (O-799024) – 22 Years – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: Captain Anthony B. Mitchell – (O-659391) – 25 Years – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 1st Lt. Harry B. Parker – (O-694701) – 27/28 Years – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier: 1st Lt. John R. Granat – (O-754955) – 28 Years – Killed in Action
  • Nose Turret Gunner: 1st Lt. William H. Byrne – (O-814244) – 19/20 Years – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: Technical Sergeant Cecil E. Hutson – (18127645) – 25/26 Years – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Technical Sergeant Barto J. Montalbano – (32692213) – Killed in Action
  • Right Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant James L. Evers – Killed in Action
  • Left Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant Frank DiPalma – Evaded Capture
  • Drop Master: PFC George E. Parrish – Killed in Action

Two B-17 Flying Fortresses (B-17G-75-BO 43-38030 “My Achin’ B” and B-17G-80-BO 43-38133) of the 305th Bomb Group collided in mid-air in heavy fog over Thurleigh airbase after returning from a bombing mission of a tank factory in Hannover, Germany on October 22, 1944; both were destroyed with all hands lost.

Returning from a daylight bombing assault on important synthetic oil plants and key communications centers just behind von Rundstedt’s lines, two B-17 Flying Fortresses collide in mid-air and disintegrate. None of the crews of either plane escaped. The fateful accident occurred only a few hundred feet off the ground as the formation roared through thick blanket of clouds that covered the base and reduced visibility to almost zero. The density of the overcast is indicated by the fact that only a few Fortresses of the formation, which numbered more than a score, are visible in this picture. This photograph is evidence of the weather hazards that U.S. Army 8th Air Force bomber crews are forced to brave almost daily during the winter months to continue without pause their sledge-hammer blows on industrial Germany and to provide tactical bombing cooperation for our ground forces. England. [Printed Caption] 

Two 305th Bomb Group B-17 Flying Fortresses collided in mid-air

B-17G-75-BO 43-38030 “My Achin’ B” of the 422nd Bomb Squadron, 305th Bomb Group

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant Philip A. Lichty – (O-816510) – 23/24 Years – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: 2nd Lieutenant Robert Coverstone – 21/22 Years – (O-763082) – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 2nd Lieutenant John L. Touchett – (O-718495) – 28 Years – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier: 2nd Lieutenant Michael J. Veraa – (O-718036) – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: Staff Sergeant Albert B. Zieglmeier – (37547381) – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Staff Sergeant Harold E. Boling – (35251603) – Killed in Action
  • Ball Turret Gunner: Staff Sergeant Nick Colaiuta – (33702503) – 19 Years – Killed in Action
  • Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant Ersel E. Lennier – (38508983) – Killed in Action
  • Tail Gunner: Staff Sergeant William R. Robinson – (13003023) – Killed in Action

B-17G-80-BO s/n 43-38133 of 364th Bomb Squadron, 305th Bomb Group

  • Pilot: 2nd Lieutenant John Mitchell – (O-825945) – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: 2nd Lieutenant William C. Shoemaker – (O-827305) – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 2nd Lieutenant Frank Watkins, Jr. – (O-2058386) – 21/22 Years – Killed in Action
  • Togglier: Sergeant Philip R. Mifsud – (13088303) – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: Sergeant Billy F. Krug – (37523751) 20 Years – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Sergeant Ashton W. Hewitt – (33740179) – Killed in Action
  • Ball Turret Gunner: Sergeant Eldon D. Peacock – (35228293) – 19 Years – Killed in Action
  • Waist Gunner: Sergeant Burton G. Jenkins – (36864750) – Killed in Action
  • Tail Gunner: Sergeant Lennard B. Lindsey – (37724434) – Killed in Action

An unnamed B-24 Liberator (Ford B-24J-15-FO s/n 42-51996) from the 783rd Bomb Squadron, 465th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, going down after a direct hit by Flak over Munich, Germany on November 16, 1944.

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A B-24 Liberator from the 465th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force going down after a direct hit by Flak over Munich, Germany on November 16, 1944. - 1 A B-24 Liberator from the 465th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force going down after a direct hit by Flak over Munich, Germany on November 16, 1944. - 2

  • Pilot: Captain Irving R. Stringham, Jr. – (O-668515) – 24 Years – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: 2nd Lieutenant Delbert C. Brimhall – (O-766411) – Prisoner of War (Stalag Luft 3, Sagan)
  • Navigator: 2nd Lieutenant Eugene C. Kipp – (O-2057947) – Prisoner of War (Stalag Luft 1, Barth)
  • Bombardier: 2nd Lieutenant Edward J. Latimer – (O-776671) – 24 Years – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: Staff Sergeant Natale A. Greco – (32696514) – 21 Years – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Staff Sergeant Pasquale A. “Pat” Gialo – (20247815) – 22 Years – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Sergeant Egbert E. Mead – (38406902) – 33 Years – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Sergeant James A. Ferguson – (35228999) – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Sergeant Albert J. Dyrda – (36692840) – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Sergeant William B. Gibhardt – (36692036) – Killed in Action

A series of three photos of B-26B-30-MA Marauder “Louisiana Mud Hen” (also known as “Circle Jerk”) of the 453rd Bomb Squadron, 323rd Bomb Group, 9th AF taken on December 23, 1944. Took a direct or near direct hit by in the port engine, the aircraft went down in a uncontrolled spin. The crew wasn’t able to bail out.

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant Joseph C. Bostick – O-700857 – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: 2nd Lieutenant James P. Hodges – O-823584 – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier/Navigator: 1st Lieutenant Howard Detel – O-712259 – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Gunner: Staff Sergeant Albin W. Les – 31287711 – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator/Gunner: Staff Sergeant Robert E. Hohimer – 19175127 – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Staff Sergeant A.C. Carrell – 34805620 – Killed in Action

Douglas A-26B-15-DO Invader (s/n 43-22359) of the 642nd Bomb Squadron, 409th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. Lost on March 21, 1945 mission to Dulmen, Germany. Took a direct hit by flak at 11:03am, about 2 minutes from bombs away. Went straight down and crashed near Velen, Germany. No chutes were seen.

Lost on the 21 March 1945 mission to Dulmen, Germany. Took a direct hit by flak at 1103am, about 2 minutes from bombs away. Went straight down and crashed near Velen, Germany. No chutes were seen.

  • Pilot: 2nd Lieutenant Donald J. Cotton – (O-760581) – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Staff Sergeant Loring E. Lord – (11091015) – Missing in Action
  • Observer/Gunner: Staff Sergeant Don E. Nord – (19109432) – Killed in Action
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3 thoughts on “Blue Skies: Horrific Images Captured Last Moments of USAAF Bombers”

  1. William Moyers

    Thank you for reminding us not only of the dangers of combat in the skies, but of the bravery, commitment and sacrifice of young men who never got a chance to live the lives they deserved.

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