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07-09-2011, 00:00   #1
 
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Finding info on a US WW2 combat death ?

Real long shot here but perhaps one of you guys may have an insight into how to go about researching the circumstances of the death of a relative in the US forces in WW2.

The individual concerned was my Fathers first cousin ( his mother being my Grandfathers sister ) which makes him my 1st cousin once removed ( I think ).
He was born in the US and enlisted in late 1941 , he served as a flight engineer / gunner on a B-17 ' Flying Fortress ' with the rank of Staff Sergeant.
He was listed as missing in action in June 1943 and some time thereafter was considered RIP.

After the war my relatives tried to learn more about his death from official sources but got nowhere with the Army / Air Force - apparently just because the war was over did not mean that a vast amount of material remained classified for many years.
However, by going through veterans groups they did manage to learn that there were survivors from his plane and they suceeded in tracing the pilot. Unfortunately the pilot it seemed was deeply traumatised and refused to discuss the matter but his wife did tell my relatives what little her husband had told her.
Basically the plane was badly shot up by flak and fighters following an air raid on Kiel and 2 out of a total crew of 10 were dead by the time the plane went into the water.
My relative was seen to get into a life raft with 3 others while the other 4 survivors got into a second raft and then..........

Unfortunately thats all we ever learnt apart from the fact that the occupants of 1 raft were picked up and spent the rest of the war as POW's but nothing was heard from or about the second raft .

I would have imagined that the survivors would have been debriefed at War's end when they were liberated in order to account for their missing comrades , the loss of their aircraft , etc.

My question is this - does anyone know of an online resource where such info may be found ? My relatives sister ( RIP ) did manage to get a copy of the post bombing intelligence report which bears out the story of 2 rafts seen in the water but no other info.

Any ideas ?

I posted here because the Research a soldier thread is really geared towards WW1 British forces.
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07-09-2011, 10:00   #2
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07-09-2011, 19:45   #3
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always worth posting name, unit, number and as much other info as possible.

Mission 63 raid on Kiel U-Boat pens 13th June 1943 by any chance?

Some of the fighters the USAAF had to contend with :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagdges...0.93_June_1943

some MACRs for June 1943

http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/s.../43JunMACR.htm

Last edited by johnny_doyle; 07-09-2011 at 19:46. Reason: typo
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07-09-2011, 20:26   #4
 
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always worth posting name, unit, number and as much other info as possible.
Spot on johnny - indeed it was that Kiel raid , I have the following days intelligence summary in front of me , it makes mention of the fact that the Germans used red flak bursts to signal the fighters to break off their attacks as a particularly intense flak barrage was about to begin.

Name - William T. Nolan
Rank - Staff Sergeant
Number - 12039406
Unit - 365 Bomber Squadron 305 Heavy Bomber Group ( as an aside , the Group Commander at the time was the then Colonel Curtis LeMay )
Date of Death - US Battlefields and Monuments site lists his date of death as June 30th - I suspect that is the date he was declared dead , he was lost on June 13th.

Returning aircraft saw what may have been his B-17 in the water with 2 dinghies deployed - position given as 54 Degress 15 min North and 05 Degrees 45 min East as per the intelligence summary.

I met his mother before she died , she remained troubled for the rest of her life over the fact that so little was known about the circumstances of his death , she wondered if he had been murdered instead of being taken prisoner.
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07-09-2011, 23:33   #5
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he appears to have enlisted 27th December 1941 in New York

http://files.usgwarchives.net/ny/new...nli1907gmt.txt


also noted as 30th June 1943 on the DPMO website

http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/wwii/reports/aaf_m_n.htm

http://www.abmc.gov/search/detailwwnew.php

but 13th June here

http://www.usaafdata.com/?q=node/123981

42-5125 is the aircraft serial number (possibly called Boom Town Jr). The crew are listed on this forum

http://forum.armyairforces.com/m83315-print.aspx


New York Memorial : FOD = Finding of Death
http://media.nara.gov/media/images/29/14/29-1365a.gif

http://media.nara.gov/media/images/29/13/29-1270a.gif

looks like he had 3years of High School
http://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-d...g=1&rid=509546
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Purple Heart W T Nolan.jpg (72.1 KB, 17 views)
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08-09-2011, 00:23   #6
 
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Many, many thanks johnny - you really seem to know your way around these sites.
Yeah , his sister said to me the last time I met her that although he would liked to have been a pilot there was nil chance of that happening as he would have required a commission and with his education that was a non-runner so he did the next best thing and became a flight engineer.

Very much a working class background I guess and leaving school at an early age was pretty common I'd say. I think he was a waiter before he enlisted.

He was an incredibly good looking guy - a cross between Errol Flynn and Montgomery Clift , he could have been a movie star with his looks.

Interesting that he is listed as a Ball Turret Gunner yet my understanding was that he was an FE / Gunner , also I had understood that 4 crew survived whereas only 2 survived - just goes to show that stories passed down through the years become unreliable with time.

Where did you get the aircraft name ?

Thanks so much again

Last edited by Delancey; 08-09-2011 at 00:41. Reason: additional info
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08-09-2011, 06:46   #7
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have you got a copy of the Missing Aircraft/Aircrew Report?

It looks like 8 crew killed and 2 prisoners of war based on the records online.
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08-09-2011, 15:21   #8
 
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Nope , the only document I have is the Intelligence / Debrief report from the following day .

On some of those links I see mention of an MACR report though I kinda have my doubts that it will yield any info.
Have you ever heard of such a report containing post war information ? By that I mean might it contain some information gained from a debrief of the survivors ?

Been really interesting to see that his aircraft was in the original Memphis Belle movie !

What I would really like to learn is a bit more about what happened after his plane hit the water - 2 dinghies deployed ( as observed by other bombers ) would suggest survivors though it has been surprising to learn that only 2 survived as opposed to the 4 I was told about.
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08-09-2011, 18:56   #9
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the aircraft name comes via this website linked to the aircraft serial number :

http://www.305thbombgroup.com/305th%20Aircraft%202.html

The photo of the crew is a bit small - any chance you might know if any could be William T?

There's a video of Curtis LeMay welcoming back Boom Town and others but it looks like a second aircraft of the same name and appears to have been filmed slightly later in 1943

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65...fort_boom-town

A F/Sgt Wood from 42-29530 Boom Town Jr escaped via the Pyrenees in Nov 1943; a S/Sgt King from the same aircraft was picked up by a MTB off Brittany in January 1944. Both "Failed To Return" after a mission on 27th August 1943. This aircraft also appears to have been called "Moonbeam McSwain"


The MARC is available from a lady on this forum

http://forum.armyairforces.com/m83315-print.aspx

I've seen a 95th Bomber Group aircraft where there are 2 MARCs; one for the time the aircraft was lost and a later one for when the POWs were released. Don't know if this was standard procedure but it sounds like it should be. I think the MARC may offer you some more information re the downing.
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08-09-2011, 21:34   #10
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the 2 POWs :

2nd Lt Olmstead (Co-Pilot)
http://bit.ly/q9exRT


SSgt Cgragen (Tail Gunner)
can't find anything on this chap (so far)


the two are mentioned on a Dutch forum re a document from a German pilot(?) and it might be worth contacting the guys there to see if it contains any info re the crash of Boom Town. It mentions the aircraft firing on Wilhelmus(?) port (Wilhemshaven?).

http://www.adoptiegraven.nl/forum/vi...t=341&start=15


a snippet from the German side of things :
http://sauce.pntic.mec.es/jcaq0000/m...13061943-1.jpg


JG-11 claimed a number of B-17s on the 13th June 1943 :

Wolfgang Gloerfeld
Heinz Jurgen Kilian
Walter Heisel
Edwald Herhold
Hermann Hintzen

but other squadrons were in there too. Horst Sack of JG-54 claimed a B-17 near Kiel on the 13th June 1943 as did Rudi Wolfhart of JG-54 and Alfred Niese of JG-26.


Based on the co-ordinates, the aircraft went down some miles off the Dutch Coast. USAAF air sea rescue in the North Sea became operational the day after the aircraft went down, rescuing it's first pilot on the 15th June 1943. There used to be picket ships located off the Dutch coast which were used by the Germans to warn of approaching allied aircraft. Possibly played a part in picking up allied airmen? It might be that German records could hold more info than US records?
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