Ford B-24M 44-50838 blown in half by an Me 262, 4 April 1945

Horrific Images Captured Last Moments of USAAF Bombers during WWII

We’ve compiled a 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. All additional information, photographs of the aircraft and crew members and other photographs of downed aircraft for a second article, are appreciated, feel free to contact us or reply to the article.

UPDATE: We’ve created a second article: Blue Skies: Horrific Images Captured Last Moments of USAAF Bombers during WWII!

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On August 4, 1944, Douglas A-20G-30-DO Havoc (SN 43-9502) of the 644th Bomb Squadron, 410th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force, receives a direct flak hit in the tail section, completely severing it whilst on a mission to Rouen, France. The plane maintained position for just a few seconds, long enough for a quick photographer to snap this picture, before it took a nose high attitude and entered a tight spin. Amazingly enough, both gunners managed to escape the plane and ended up in a German POW camp, however the pilot was killed.

Douglas A-20G-30-DO Havoc (SN 43-9502). 644th Bomb Squadron, 410th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant Thomas G. Walsh – O-382914 – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Staff Sergeant Fred Herman – 9073871 – Prisoner of War (Stalag Luft 4, Gross Tychow)
  • Gunner: Sergeant Karl W. Haeuser – 9330347 – Prisoner of War (Stalag Luft 4, Gross Tychow)

The American B-17G “Powerful Poodle” takes a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire (Flak) over Ludwigshafen, Germany during her 10th, and last, sortie. She went down at 11:25, November 5, 1944. All of the crew were killed.

The American B-17G Powerful Poodle takes a direct hit from Flak over Ludwigshafen, Germany during her 10th, and last, sortie. She went down at 1125, Nov. 5, 1944. All of the crew were killed.

  • Pilot – 2nd Lt. James E. Alleman – Killed in Action
  • Copilot – 2nd Lt. John J. Story Jr. – Killed in Action
  • Navigator – 2nd Lt. Clifford E. Rowe – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier – 2nd Lt. Jerome B. Rottman – Killed in Action
  • Radioman – S/Sgt. Paul H. Bast – Killed in Action
  • Engineer – S/Sgt. Louis Bonnacci Jr. – Killed in Action
  • Rear Gunner – Sgt. Joseph E. Brent Jr. – Killed in Action
  • Bottom Turret – Sgt. Curtiss G. Craig – Killed in Action
  • Right Waist Gunner – Sgt. Jasper J. Richardson – Killed in Action
  • Left Waist Gunner – T/Sgt. Shepherd G. Litsey – Killed in Action

May 19, 1944, B-17G Fortress “Miss Donna Mae II” drifts under another bomber on a bomb run over Berlin, Germany. A 1,000 lb bomb from the B-17 #42-97791 ‘Trudy‘ above, tore off the left stabilizer and sent the B-17 plane into an uncontrollable spin. All of the 11 souls on board were killed.

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant Marion U. Reid – Killed in Action
  • Co-pilot: 2nd Lieutenant Lew Carter – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 2nd Lieutenant Roger Tessier – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier: 2nd Lieutenant Stan Duffield – Killed in Action
  • Flight Engineer: Technical Sergeant Lee Kieffer – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Technical Sergeant John Boone – Killed in Action
  • Ball Turret Gunner: Staff Sergeant Ludwig Huth – Killed in Action
  • Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant Jim Kalahar – Killed in Action
  • Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant Dick Brennan – Killed in Action
  • Tail Gunner: Staff Sergeant Willard Christensen – Killed in Action
  • T/Sgt John Davis – Killed in Action

Fuel tanks of the B-24H Liberator “Little Warrior” (42-94812), 861st Bomb Squadron, 493rd  Bomb Group, 8th  Air Force, explode over Fallersleben, Germany, after being hit by anti-aircraft fire on June 29, 1944.

The official photograph released by the U.S.A.A.F. was altered at some point, the actual photograph show the “Little Warrior” in an upward direction (nose-high) and already slightly banking to the right. The actual photograph can be seen beneath the edited one. [Source of original photograph: American Air Museum.]

Fuel tanks of the B-24H Liberator Little Warrior with the 861st Bomb Squadron explode over Fallersleben, Germany, after being hit by anti-aircraft fire, June 29 1944.

“A B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-94812) nickname “Little Warrior” of the 493rd Bomb Group in flight with its engines aflame. A veteran has handwritten on the reverse: ‘To Roger Freeman, from a friend, Clifford Stocking. I took the picture 493rd BG, 862nd Sqd.'” Clifford Stocking took the photograph from the plane “Green Hornet”.

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A B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-94812) nickname Little Warrior of the 493rd Bomb Group in flight with its engines aflame.

  • Pilot: 2nd Lieutenant John L. Hansen – Killed in Action
  • Copilot”2nd Lieutenant Sidney A. Benson – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 2nd Lieutenant Jerome Levy – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier: 2nd Lieutenant Malcolm M. Stich – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Staff Sergeant Billy B. Gomillion – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: Technical Sergeant Vernon J. Polzin – Killed in Action
  • Ball Turret Gunner: Staff SergeantCyrus R. Aidala – Killed in Action
  • Nose Turrent Gunner: Staff Sergeant Sylvanus G. Haskell – Killed in Action
  • Tail Turrent Gunner: Staff Sergeant Walter A. Boykowski – Killed in Action
  • Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant John E. Sanders – Killed in Action

On July 22, 1944, during an air attack on a Japanese seaplane base and barge landing at Kokas, Enga, Dutch New Guinea, a Douglas A-20G-25-DO Havoc light attack bomber, serial number 43-9432, was hit by anti-aircraft gunfire and crashed into the sea. The A-20, named Bevo, had been assigned to the 387th Bombardment Squadron, 312th Bombardment Group, based at the Hollandia Airfield Complex. (Colorized by Royston Leonard).

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant James L. Knarr – Killed in Action
  • Gunner: Staff Sergeant Charles G. Reichley – Killed in Action

B-24H Liberator bomber “Blue I” (41-28853) of 783rd Bomb Squadron, 465th Bomb Group, US 15th Air Force exploding in mid air after being hit by anti-aircraft fire (Flak) over German, November 20, 1944. Lieutenant Colonel Clarence Jack Lokker, on his last mission, was leading B-24’s to their target at Bleclihammerm, Silesia, Germany. While over the target the plane received a direct hit and blew up. Some of the crew were able to bail out before the explosion.

B-24H Liberator bomber of 783rd Bomb Squadron, 465th Bomb Group, US 15th Air Force exploding in mid air after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany, 1944

  • Pilot: Lieutenant Colonel Clarence J. Lokker – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: Captain Milton Duckworth – Prisoner of War
  • Navigator: 1st Lieutenant Joseph Kutger – Prisoner of War
  • Radar: 1st Lieutenant Joseph Whalen – Prisoner of War
  • Bombardier: 1st Lieutenant Robert Hockman – Prisoner of War
  • Bombardier: 2nd Lieutenant Grosvenor Rice – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Staff Sergeant Edmund Miosky – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Gunner: Technical Sergeant Lee Billings – Prisoner of War
  • Waist Gunner: Sergeant James Bourne – Prisoner of War
  • Top Gunner: Sergeant Jack Rabkin – Killed in Action
  • Tail Gunner: Sergeant Paul Flynn – Killed in Action

Bomber B-26 “Marauder”, serial number 43-34565 “Gratis Gladys”, 7I-B, 497 Squadron, 344th Bombardment Group, 9th U.S. Air Force is crashing to the ground after receiving a direct hit in the left engine during the bombing of Erkelenz, Germany on February 23, 1945.

Bomber “Marauder” B-26, serial number 43-34565 Gratis Gladys, 7I-B, 497 Squadron, 344th Bombardment Group, 9th U.S. Air Force is crashing to the ground after receiving a direct hit in the left engine during the bombing of a Erkelenz, Germany on February 23, 1945.

  • Pilot: Captain Carl Chapman – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: 1st Lieutenant John Sheehan – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 1st Lieutenant Kenneth Bowdish – Killed in Action
  • 2nd Lieutenant James Harl – Killed in Action
  • Flight Engineer: Staff Sergeant Ballard Bentley – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Technical Sergeant J. Herndon
  • Gee Operator: Frederick Storey – Killed in Action
  • Tail Gunner: Staff Sergeant W. Williamson – Killed in Action

On April 4, 1945, Liberators of the 2nd Air Division were attacked by Me-262 jet fighters, Approximately fifty German jet and rocket fighter aircraft engaged the formation causing a total loss of eight B-24 Liberators, three of which were from the 448th Bomb Group. One of them was B-24M (S/N 44-50838) “Red Bow”, which was downed by a rocket from a Messerschmitt Me 262.

Ford B-24M 44-50838 blown in half by an Me 262, 4 April 1945

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant Robert L. Mains – Killed in Action
  • Co-Pilot: 1st Lieutenant John E. LaRiviere – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 1st Lieutenant Allan L. Lake – Killed in Action
  • Observer-Top Turret: 2nd Lieutenant George S. Alexander – Killed in Action
  • Engineer-Flight Deck: Technical Sergeant Frank S Merkovich – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Technical Sergeant Charles E Cupp Jr – Prisoner of War
  • Left Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant Harry J. Allen – Killed in Action
  • Nose Gunner: Sergeant Charles H. Daman – Killed in Action
  • Right Waist Gunner: Sergeant Anthony C Villari – Killed in Action
  • Tail Gunner: Sergeant Stuart D. Van Deventer – Killed in Action

Boeing B-17G Wee-Willie 42-31333 LG-W, 323th Squadron of 91st Bombing Broup, over Kranenburg, Germany, is seen after the port wing was blown off by Flak on April 8, 1945. A Flak hit between fuselage and #2 engine caused a massive fire which detached the port wing, resulting into a explosion, causing the B-17 to go into a dive.

B-17G Wee-Willie 42-31333 LG-W, 323th squadron of 91st bombing group, over Kranenburg, Germany, after port wing blown off by flak.

  • Pilot: 1st Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, O-774609, California – Prisoner of War
  • Copilot: 2nd Lieutenant Woodrow A. Lien, O-778858, Montana – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: Technical Sergeant Francis J. McCarthy, 14148856, Tenness – Killed in Action
  • Togglier: Staff Sergeant Richard D. Proudfit, 14166848, Mississippi – Killed in Action
  • Engineer: Staff Sergeant Wylie McNatt, Jr., 38365470, Texas – Killed in Action
  • Ball Turret Gunner: Staff Sergeant William H. Cassiday, 32346219, New York – Killed in Action
  • Radio Operator: Staff Sergeant Ralph J. Leffelman, 19112019, Washington – Killed in Action
  • Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant James D. Houtchens, 37483248, Nebraska – Killed in Action
  • Tail Gunner: Sergeant Le Moyne Miller, 33920597, Pennsylvania – Killed in Action

The U.S. Army Air Force Consolidated B-24L-10-FO Liberator, s/n 44-49710, named “Stevenovich II”, of the 779th Bombardment Squadron, 464th Bombardment Group, shot down by Flak during an attack on ground troops near Lugo, Emilia Romagna, Italy, on 10 April 1945.

 The U.S. Army Air Force Consolidated B-24L-10-FO Liberator, s/n 44-49710, named "STEVENOVICH II", of the 779th Bombardment Squadron, 464th Bombardment Group, shot down by Flak during an attack on ground troops near Lugo, Emilia Romagna, Italy, on 10 April 1945.

  • Pilot: Lieutenant Colonel James H. Gilson – Killed in Action
  • Copilot: Captain Charles H. Foote – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: 1st Lieutenant Robert J. O’Leary – Killed in Action
  • Navigator: Captain Lacey P. Morton – Killed in Action
  • Bombardier: Captain George R. Wall – Killed in Action
  • Radar: 1st Lieutenant Edward F. Walsh – Prisoner of War
  • Engineer/Gunner: Technical Sergeant Jerrold R. Ruben – Killed in Action
  • Radio/Gunner: Staff Sergeant Charles F. Montegut – Killed in Action
  • Engineer/Gunner: Staff Sergeant Robert C. Rogers – Killed in Action
  • Aerial Gunner: Staff Sergeant Norman S. Cope – Killed in Action
  • Aerial Gunner: Staff Sergeant Melvin C. Thomason – Killed in Action
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