Courtesy of the 458 Bombardment Group:
2Lt E.G. Walker:
“I was the Bombardier on Larson’s crew and we were scheduled to fly the position of Deputy Lead on our 18th mission. When flying deputy lead the crew Bombardier is required to operate the bomb sight, acquire the target, and synchronize as if he would drop the bombs. Then if the Leader was hit or had to leave the formation the deputy lead could take over and actually drop the bombs. An additional crew member was required to man the nose turret and assist the navigator in reaching the IP (Initial Point was a prominent object or feature on the ground where the Bomb Run actually began). This person was referred to as a pilotage navigator. Fred Staub had been selected to fly the nose turret and I met him at the briefing early that morning. The target was the Bergins Synthetic Oil Works. We discussed what would transpire and nothing unusual came up except that the target was deep in Germany.
“The take off and join up was uneventful. About an hour after take off the Group had joined on the leader at 23,000 feet and wheeled into position behind another Group. All of the Groups were in a line for mutual protection against enemy fighters.
“The flight was uneventful until shortly before the IP (Initial Point) for starting the bomb run. Some light flak was seen but it didn’t appear to cause damage to any planes. A few minutes later our #1 engine propeller ran away. Because of the drag on the left side the pilot was unable to maintain position and moved out to the side of the formation. All efforts to control the prop or feather it were to no avail and the pilot told me to salvo the bombs (8,000 Pounds) to reduce the load. I noticed that the bombs fell in a field causing no damage. Lieutenant Larson radioed Lincoln leader that it was not possible to continue the mission and requested fighter escort on the return flight to England. This resulted in 2 P-47 fighters assigned to escort us home.
“The prop continued to turn several thousand RPM in a flat position which caused extreme drag on the left side. Shortly the engine housing behind the prop turned red hot and the prop fused to the housing. This had happened to other aircraft and the prop had spun off and sliced through the fuselage. At that point the pilot lowered the landing wheels hoping the wheels would deflect the prop away. Next the prop began to wobble, slicing the front of the engine cowling to a depth of 8 inches and then it fell down underneath the wing and disappeared.
“Since leaving formation the pilot had been descending to maintain air speed and positive control of the aircraft. I learned later that the buffeting caused by the damaged engine cowling resulted in the engine drooping down at an angle from the wing which further increased drag. Later during the descent we crossed near the Ruhr Valley and came within range of the very accurate 88 MM flak guns. The Germans let go with a barrage that came close, knocking out our oxygen supply and disabling the interphone in the nose. We continued down to a very low altitude over the Low Countries. Accurate navigation at low altitude was nearly impossible and the wind at low altitude was more from the left than we thought. We knew we would not miss England but we weren’t sure exactly where we would hit the coast of Holland. It was found that we needed to transfer fuel from the left wing to provide more fuel to the two engines still running on the right wing. This would also reduce weight on the left wing. Walter Rolfe our engineer had been manning one of the waist guns but moved to the flight deck. He reported that the # 1 engine had vibrated loose and was hanging down at an angle. This created more drag on the left side and made control marginal. He told me later that the windshield was shattered and Larson was hit in the face with pieces of glass. The top turret gunner had received a direct hit in the head and had fallen down to the flight deck below the turret.
“I knew we should be approaching the coast soon and shortly I picked up water at 1 o’clock. As we got closer to the water I began to hear explosions and felt shells striking the air craft. I didn’t understand why none were penetrating the nose but shortly I saw raw fuel trickling into the nose section. I immediately opened the nose turret door and pulled Fred out backwards (you have to fall out backwards to get out). Our parachutes were handy and we helped each other snap the chest packs on. By now the fuel had ignited and I pulled the levers to retract the nose wheel doors. (Our escape hatch). When I opened the doors I could see one crew members parachute open. I later learned that was the engineer. Fred and Lt Wall, the navigator, were right behind me and I looked down to see if we had enough altitude. It didn’t look like very high but there was no alternative so I dove out head first. As I looked up I saw the aircraft with a red glow and it appeared that something fell from the aircraft. I thought it might be Fred or Wall. As it turned out it might have been a piece of the aircraft falling off.
“I did not feel my parachute open and I hit the water hard, feet first, and went very deep in the water. I was struggling to get to the surface and finally remembered to inflate one side of my Mae West (Floatation vest). That brought me to the surface in a hurry. I had become entangled in the shroud lines as I fought to rise and it took me several minutes to free myself. Then I released the parachute harness and inflated the other side of the vest. I was a little worn out by this time but I wanted to look around and see where I was. I could see that I was in a large body of water and eventually I could see the tops of high buildings when I rose on a swell. I had swallowed some salt water and had to tread to keep my head up. After several minutes I saw a buoy that apparently marked a channel. I started swimming towards the buoy in hopes that I would have something to cling to. I tired very quick and found that a current was pushing me down stream away from the buoy so I gave up that effort. Eventually I felt that I could not last much longer and began to have thoughts of giving up. Suddenly I saw a small fishing boat crossing about 200 yards down stream from me. A man was looking away from me and I tried to call out but could not make enough sound. Then I remembered the whistle that was tied to my collar button hole. I stuck it in my mouth and blew as hard as I could and I saw the man turn in my direction. I splashed water up in the air and the boat turned toward me. In a few minutes they hauled me in. I pointed to the direction the plane went but they shook their heads and finally took me to a pier where a German soldier was waiting. In a few hours I was taken to a jail in Emden, Germany. I sat with my head in my hands not knowing if anyone else had survived. Within the next hour one by one five other survivors came in.
“Ralph McGuire, the co-pilot told us that the top turret gunner had been shot in the head and was lying on the flight deck. After the aircraft ditched and began to sink, Ralph was trying to exit from the top hatch and the radio operator seemed to be hung up on something. Ralph had injured his hip during the crash and barely escaped. When he came to the surface he saw Larry Larson, the pilot, floundering several yards away. Ralph tried to get to him but could not reach him before he sank and did not resurface. We hoped to see Fred and Wall and maybe some of the others come in but we learned later that we were the only survivors.”
Larson left formation at 5140-0957 saying that he had 2 engines out, and asking for fighter support, at 0915 at 23000 feet. He was later heard over the RUHR VALLEY at 1013 calling Lincoln Leader saying he was losing altitude and expected to abandon ship.
Lt Lincoln Larson was thrown clear of the flight deck when the plane hit the water of Emden Harbor and disintegrated. Lt Ralph McGuire, also thrown from the flight deck, said it appeared that Larson's arms were broken and that he could not inflate his life vest. Larson drowned before McGuire could reach him.
LARSON, LINCOLN A
- 1ST LT USA AAF WW II
- BURIED AT: SECTION 34 SITE 2598
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard