B-17 Flying Fortress B-17 42-30456 / Cactus Clipper

B-17 Bomber Flying Fortress – The Queen Of The Skies 42-30456 / Cactus Clipper


MACR: 481


History of
B-17 42-30456 / Cactus Clipper

Delivered Cheyenne 4/6/43; Rapid City 16/6/43; Geiger 22/6/43; Gr Isle 28/6/43; Dow Fd 18/7/43; Assigned 96BS/2BG Massicault 6/8/43; Missing in Action {7m} Sulmona, It. 27/8/43 with Capt Bill Koch, Navigator: Capt Frank Upton, Bombardier: Walter Hendrickson, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Jim Conway, Radio Operator: Ray Resler, Ball turret gunner: Reed Chism, Waist gunner: Felix Dalessio (7 Killed in Action); Co-pilot: Chas Shuck, Waist gunner: Jim MacDonald,Tail gunner: Edgar Stewart (3 Prisoner of War); flak hit caused explosion in radio room, two chutes seen; Missing Air Crew Report 481. CACTUS CLIPPER.

Last updated: 1. November 2021


B-17 42-30456 / Cactus Clipper Details

Staff Sergeant Robert C. Ciampa, Lower Turret Gunner on B-17F No. 42-30449, 96th Bomb Squadron, which was flying in the first squadron, second element, lead plane.

We were in the second element of the first squadron, behind A/C #456 which was right wing of the first element. We had just passed the coast of Italy when I heared a puff of flak and turned around to face it. Then I heared about three more bursts and at this time saw the right wing fell off of A/C #456 and a burst of flame where it had been. It broke up in midair and I was looking at a cross-section of the fuselage, at about the radio room. There were too many pieces flying about to see any of the men in the ship. Flak came close to us so I didn’t watch for a while. Then when I looked back I saw two parachutes were open. One probably landed on land, the other over water, with the plane hitting on land close to them. They were all about in the square T-21 on target chart No. 3-138-NA. The bombs went off when the ship hit the ground and a big cloud of smoke came up.

S/Sgt. Robert C. Ciampa
Ball Turret Gunner
B-17F No. 42-30449

Staff Sergeant Andrew T. McMurdo, Lower Turret Gunner on B-17F No. 42-29595, 20th Bomb Squadron, flying in the first squadron, second element, first plane.

We were flying a tight formation and had just crossed the coast of Italy and were directly over the town of Anzio when saw A/C #456 that ahd beed flying on our right wing, pass in front of our A/C and slightly below us. I noticed the left wing was off and I saw the shadow of the shorn wing pass over our left wing. While I was looking at A/C 456 I saw a terrific explosion in the vicinity of the radio room and debris flew back toward our rear. Then the fuselage folded like a jacknife near the position of the ball turret. After the wreckage had dropped what I judge to be approximately 5000 feet I saw one parachute open, then after it fell another 5000 feet I saw one more parachute open out. The wing that was knocked off by flak fell in the ocean at approximately S-12 on target chart No. 3-138-NA and the other wreckage struck the ground at approximately N,O-35 and then the bombs exploded. The man in the first chute drifted out to sea and landed at approximately Q-2, the second chute that opened landed approximately on the beach close to the town at P-20 on the above mentioned chart.

S/Sgt. Andrew T. McMurdo
Ball Turret Gunner
B-17F No. 42-29595

S/Sgt. Walter F. Casselberry, Left Waist Gunner on B-17F No. 595, 20th Bomb Squadron, first squadron, second element, first A/C.

I was flying waist gunner’s position in A/C #595 in the element directly behind A/C #456. At the time we made landfall, which was approximately minutes before target time, two (2) batteries of flak opened fire on our Group. The first was very intense and very accurate. The first knowledge I had that A/C #456 had substained a direct hit was when I noticed a 12 foot to 15 foot section of wing tip flying over our A/C, slightly above, and at 7 o’clock. I never saw the damaged A/C till it appeared at 7 o’clock, slighty below, and approximately a thousand yards from our A/C. At this time A/C #456 was in a steep glide, leaving a large trail of smoke behind it. A search for E/A distracted my attention about this time and then I again looked for A/C #456. It was just in time to observe it crash. The bomb load exploded with the crash, throwing a large column of light smoke, which was followed by black smoke. I saw none excape from A/C by parachute. At the time A/C #456 was hit, I would judge that our altitude was approximately 22000 feet, as our bombing altitude was 23000 feet.

S/Sgt. WalterF. Casselberry
Left Waist Gunner
B-17F No. 42-29595


S/Sgt. John S. Rzonca, Tail Gunner on B-17F No. 42-29595, 20th Bomb Squadron, flying in the first squadron, second element, lead plane.

As we were going over the town of Anzio, Italy we ran into very accurate flak. A/C #456 was flying on our right, in the lead element, directly ahead of us. I first noticed a section of wing fly by directly above us, there was also equipment from the plane flying by, what seemed to be pieces of flying clothing a Mae West and a life raft. Right after this I saw one parachute open and shortly afterward I saw another parachute open much lower. While I was watching the chutes go down I saw the fuselage hit the ground a approximately N-O-35 (refer to target chart No. 3-138-NA) and explode, with a cloud of white smoke. I believe that one chute would have landed in the water just off shore, while the other would have landed about two miles farther off shore.

S/Sgt. John S. Rzonca
Tail Gunner
B-17F No. 42-29595

Staff Sergeant Edward J. Dumas, Lower Turret Gunner on B-17F No. 42-5945, 96th Bomb Squadron, flying in the first squadron, first element, lead plane.

We had just hit the coast of Italy at about 1120 hours when I heared someone say “there goes a 17” and I saw A/C #456 minus a wing, spinning and burning. Then I saw one parachute open, very close to the A/C. Almost immediately the plane started to break up and as it was floating down, a parachute came our of the tail part. Then, just before it crashed another parachute blew out of some part of the plane. The main part of the plane crasshed on land, at about S-21-22 with the tail in the water at about S-20. the first chute to open landed at about T-21 and the second chute over water at about T-20 all on target chart No. 3-138-NA.

S/Sgt. Edward J. Dumas
Lower Turret Gunner
B-17F No. 42-5945

Staff Sergeant Paul A. Smiley, Tail Gunner on B-17F No. 42-29619, 96th Bomb Squadron, flying in the first squadron, second element, second plane.

We were right wing in the second element of the first squadron, directly behind A/C #456. We had just passed over the coast of Italy, the time was about 1120 hours and the flak was starting to fly up at us. As I was glancing around at the ground I saw a piece of a wing go by and then parts of the supertructure and fuselage flew by. Just a few seconds after that the rest of the plane went by in a flat spin and it was in flames. Right afterward I saw two parachutes open about 4000 feet below us, then the plane kept drifting down and hit the ground. There was a big explosion, the bombs must have gone off. There was black smoke for about 1000 feet up.

The town of Anzio was on my left as we crossed land. The plane hit at about S-22, one chute hit after the explosion at about T-22 on land, and the other in the sea at about S-16. All on Target Chart No. 3-138-NA.

S/Sgt. Paul A. Smiley
Tail Gunner
B-17F No. 42-29619

Target Chart No. 3-138-NA

Target Chart No. 3-138-NA

William P. Koch Crew

Courtesy of Margaret Sibbernsen

B-17 42-30456 / Cactus Clipper Crew

Position Rank Name Status Note
P CPT William P. Koch KIA
CP 2LT Charles A. Shuck POW
BOMB 2LT Walter H. Hendrickson, Jr. KIA
ENG/TT T/SGT James. F. Conway KIA
RO T/SGT Raymond E. Resler KIA
BT S/SGT Reed T. Chism KIA
WG S/SGT James M. MacDonald POW
WG SGT Felix A. Dalessio KIA
TG S/SGT Edgar M. Stuart POW

Write comment