B-17 Flying Fortress B-17 42-29663

B-17 Bomber Flying Fortress – The Queen Of The Skies 42-29663


  • RCL: WF-H

MACR: 15555 / KSU/ME/KU: AV 107/43


History of
B-17 42-29663

Delivered Denver 29/1/43; Salina 3/2/43; Homestead 19/2/43; Assigned 364BS/305BG [WF-H] Chelveston 2/3/43; Missing in Action Lorient 17/5/43 with Don Tuttle, Co-pilot: Jim Aubele, Navigator: Chas Spear, Radio Operator: John Gardner,Tail gunner: Ed Seabourn, photo-Ralph Greenfield (6 Prisoner of War); Bombardier: Carl Tisone{body never found}, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Danny Gruhike, Waist gunner: Alex Schaeffer, Waist gunner: John Lyons (4 Killed in Action); Ball turret gunner: Harry Tilbury (evaded capture); enemy aircraft, crashed near Moëlan sur Mer, Fr. Missing Air Crew Report 15555.

Last updated: 15. April 2024


B-17 42-29663 Details

Statement by S/Sgt. Harold E. Tilbury – Ball Turret Gunner after returned to UK


We left Chelveston 17 May 1943 at 0940 hours to bomb Lorient. My position in the aircraft was Ball Turret Gunner. After making landfall over France we met successive waves of fighters and fought all the way to Lorient. Our plane was the last aircraft in the high squadron of the last element. Twenty to thirty Focke Wolfs were making attacks. They hit our no. 3 engine which caught fire. The attacks were being made direct to tail.

We dropped our bombs and I do not know whether we were still in formation, Out intercom was shot out – the last thing I heard was the co-pilot calling to pilot that no. 3 engine was one fire and that we’d better dive. Before dropping out bombs the tail gunner claimed one destroyed. I saw the probable go into a steep dive with white smoke pouring from its engine. The destroyed enemy aircraft exploded in mid-air.


Our no. 2 engine was set on fire after no. 3. I think our tail gunner was dead after we left the target because the attacks to tail were coming in so close. I did not see fire from the tail or casing fly from it. Just after I knew that no. 2 was on fire, I saw from my position that someone had bailed out. I think it was Sgt. Schaeffer because I came from the ball turret immediately and he was not in position at the waist gun (Sgt. Schaeffer, tail gunner, had changed positions with waist gunner – probable Sgt. Seaborn).


Sgt. Lyons was lying on the floor and I think he was dead. I did not see anyone else. The plane was circling slowing as if on „George“ and I bailed out at five to six thousand feet. When my chute opened there was a long rip in it which must have been from a machine gun bullet. My descent was so rapid that I passed the only two chutists I saw from our plane.


Later I heard they were captured by the Germans. Also heard that one of them was an officer who could speak French. I know that Lt. Aubele spoke French. The three chutes landed within an area of 2 miles not far from Moelan.


I hit the ground with great force but was not injured because I landed in mud along a river bank. On my way down I could see a car and people hurrying to vicinity where we would land. I unbuckled my chute harness and started running without stopping to hide the chute. The terrain was hilly and weeded. I met some Frenchmen after I had run about a quarter of a mile. We went about a half-mile into some woods where I crawled into a hole and they covered me with brush.

They returned an hour later with clothes which I changed into quickly. I gave them my heated suit, helmet, gloves and English boots. We ran until reaching open country and then walked as casually as possible. We went to a house but after we had been there a short time we saw a German walking up the valley. I was sent into the yard where I was to pretend to be deaf and dumb. After searching around in the valley the German went away and I was taken to a ravine and hidden. Food was brought to me there but I stayed there only two hours.

A French boy came for me and we went to the river, got a boat and pretended to fish. This was about 1500 hours and I had bailed out at 1230 hours. During the afternoon the boy and I talked to other people who were fishing. They all knew who I was and it seemed to me they were deciding what should be done with me. We stayed on the river until 1900 hours before going to a different house than first one I hade been in. It was near a village. We were told that the Germans had searched the village that afternoon. I slept in the house that night.

18 May 1943

The next morning after I got up, I went in the garden with a boy and worked for several hours before going to the river again. This time the boy and I rowed to a place where we met a friend who arranged my subsequent journey.

Source: Escape and Evasion Report 33


B-17 42-29663 Crew

Position Rank Name Status Note
P 1LT Donald A. Tuttle POW
CP 2LT James O. Aubele POW
BOMB 2LT Charles J. Spear POW
ENG/TT T/SGT Daniel E. Gruhlke KIA
RO T/SGT John H. Gardner POW
BT S/SGT Harold E. Tilbury EVD Arrived UK 31 May 1943
WG S/SGT Alexander Schaeffer KIA
WG SGT John D. Lyons KIA
TG SGT Ed O. Seaborn POW
PHOTO SGT Ralph L. Greenfield POW

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