457th Bomb Group 457th Bomb Group Honor Roll
Mission No. 143
750th Bomb Squadron
457th Bomb Group 750th Bomb Squadron
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Mission Narrative

Mission No. 143
Date - November 02, 1944
Target - Merseberg
The 143 mission of the 457th will be remembered by all who were with the group at that time or after. On Nov 2nd the 8th Airforce committed over 1000 bombers to oil refinery targets in central Germany.The Group was commanded by Major Peresich. The division assembly was as briefed and the group continued toward their target with a total overcast over most of the target area. On this date the 8th had excellent fighter cover and word was give that the Luftwaffe would be up in force also. As the group approached their target IP, it suddenly made a change of direction to the North and left the bomber stream. This later turned out to be a navigation error by the lead PFF plane. The group proceeded further and further away from it's fighter protection and dropped it's bombs on an unknown target. After bombs were dropped the group made a turn to the right in an attempt to return to the protection of the bomber stream and it's fighters. The low squadron fell behind on the turn and, as the turn was completed, was hit from six oclock level by about 40 or 50 FW-190's. The ensuing air battle lasted about 5 minutes but was the Group's fiercest battle of the war. The planes came in 10 abreast and struck the low squadron. White puffs of exploding 20 mm cannon fire filled the sky. The first pass knocked out most of the planes in the 12 plane squadron. The fighters circled and reattacked. Flaming and damaged planes were everywhere and soon the sky was filled with parachutes and exploding planes. The bomber gunners took a heavy toll of German aircraft but the Group lost 9 planes in this encounter. P-51's arrived and engaged the Luftwaffe planes which quickly disappeared into the clouds below. The planes lost by the group were: 42-31923, 42-106998, 43-37532, 43-37556, 43-37766, 43-37782, 43-38309, 43-38561, and 44-6155.
Plane 43-31923, 750th Squadron, named "Prop Wash" and piloted by Lt Gordon Gallagher, was flying #3 position in the high element of the high squadron. The plane was hit on the first pass of the attacking FW-190's shortly after bombs were dropped. One engine and the whole right wing was afire. They pulled up and over the #2 aircraft and began a dive.

Lt Gallagher states; "Shells from the fighters started fires in both wings. I gave the order for the crew to abandon ship but received no reply. I then sounded the alarm bell, put the plane on auto pilot and instructed the copilot to go to the nose of the plane to see if anyone needed help leaving the ship. As I left the pilots seat to go to the rear to see if anyone needed assistance, Sgt. Paul Johnson was putting on his chest-type parachute. I had just left the pilot's seat when there was a terrific flash as the plane exploded. The next thing I knew I was floating earthward".

Five of the crew were killed and four became POW's. Sgt Harold Sturman was injured by shrapnel from 20 mm shells and his leg was severly injured. He managed to bail out and landed safely and was taken to a German Soldiers Hospital where his left foot was amputated and shrapnel removed from his shoulder.

......... Crew

The crew was as follows:
     Plane s/n 42-31923     
PilotLt Gordon E. Gallagher   POW
CopilotLt Donald W. Johnson   POW
NavigatorLt Joseph C. Issacson   KIA  
BombardierLt Roy E. Gleason   KIA  
Aircraft EngineerSgt Paul W. Johnson   KIA  
Radio OperatorSgt William J. Moore   KIA  
Left Waist GunnerSgt Harold E. Sturman   POW
Ball Turret GunnerSgt Delos N. Riegle   POW
Tail GunnerSgt Melvin D. Thompson   KIA  
                                         (457th Home) (Back)            Updated 12/03/2000, 19:17:08
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the Content:  Willard (Hap) Reese (Website Author)