B-17 Flying Fortress B-17 42-30705 / Ther-N-Bak

B-17 #42-30705 / Ther-N-Bakzoom_in



MACR: 1303


History of
B-17 42-30705 / Ther-N-Bak

Delivered Denver 15/7/43; Colorado Springs 16/7/43; Kearney 6/8/43; Topeka 12/8/43; Scott 17/8/43; Assigned 347BS/99BG Oudna 31/8/43; transferred 414BS/97BG Depienne 14/11/43; Missing in Action Rimini 27/11/43 with Oscar C. Stedman, Jr.; enemy aircraft, crashed Rimini; Missing Air Crew Report 1303.

Last updated: 27. July 2023


B-17 42-30705 / Ther-N-Bak Details

I Robert R. Niemela, 39303798, 340th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bombardment Group (H), AAF, saw the aircraft in question crash on 27th Nov. 1943: As I saw it:

About 20 minutes before we reached the target our Squadron became separated from the Group while flying through an overcast we made our bomb run last and turned left off of the target in the direction heading for home. As we did this we were again rejoined to the Group and continued on for about 15 minutes when the fighters came across the front of our Squadron and circled to the rear. I saw this ship that was straggling behind the formation and immediately the fighters went for it. It looked as though there were at least seven fighters attacking it from all quarters. Soon after I saw flames coming out of the number four engine and the ship began a 360° turn and going down. When it had completed about half of the turn I saw 2 parachutes open in succession. A third chute opened shortly afterward. The plane had completed its turn and was burning fiercely. Just at that moment it exploded and the pieces flew all over like flak. The last I saw of it was the pieces burning on the ground scattered over a very large sector of the land. I saw at too great distance to be able to see whether anyone left the ship.

S/Sgt. Robert R. Niemela
97th Bomb Group (H)


Statement made by Major Marvin M. Waldroup, Jr., O-438086, on 4 June 1946

Action occurred 27 Nov 1943, on a mission of the 97th Bomb Gp (H) 414th Sqn, based near Tunisia. The target was Rimini, northeastern coast of Italy. A few minutes before nearing the target we encountered heavy overcast, part of which were broken and towering. We lost an engine which I believe was #1, and we were forced to leave or lead position in the flight and salvo our bombs,

Lt. Stedman, who was piloting the ship, seemed extremely nervous, and to my belief placed the ship too far out and behind formation. I told him to give the engine the gas so that we could try to catch up and get back into formation again and hang on in the rear.

We had difficulty in keeping up, but soon the group flew over a town heading out to seem, and no bursts of flak observed, which made it obvious that German fighters were in the air. By this time we had become separated from our P-38 fighter escort. The circle which the group was making out to sea was made in order to get a good run on target.

Then I told to Lt. Stedman, after he had asked me what to do, to make a short cut across the circle in order to catch up with the group, and not to follow them all the way around. As we approached land, slightly ahead of the more rapidly moving group coming in, another B-17 with one engine feathered, was overtaking us from the rear, coming up on our right wing. Instantly, and for no reason that I could see, Lt. Stedman made a short turn to the left and went into a nearby overcast. I asked him what he was doing, and told him to get back into the formation and head back towards the group. He replied that he thought he had seen a plane from an advance group than ours to the left on its way back home, which had completing bombing. This seemed impossible to me due to the overcast.

About this time, still in the overcast, and as we broke out, the #3 engine began lose power, slowing our speed even more. About this time I observed about 25 ME 109 German fighter aircraft coming in to attack us. I saw no friendly ships near us except one other apparently disabled B-17 which was being relentlessly shot up by the enemy fighters. However, it was not on fire the last time I saw it and was flying alone. This first burst of fighter fire raked our B-17, apparently from the rear to the front apparently from the tail to the nose.

T/Sgt. Ray A. Shipe, of Highland Park, Chicago, was hit apparently in the stomach and chest by a full blast of 20 MM cannon shells and bullets. He apparently died instantly while firing at his post in the line of duty.

We were raked by continuous fire from this time on and soon the #2 engine began to blaze and the entire left wing. Then I told Lt. Stedman that we should try to get everyone out even though the inner phone was shot out by first burst of fire. We were having difficulty keeping the ship level and it seemed to be going in a slight spiral to the left. I dropped down between our seats and yelled to Lt. Parks and Lt. Shube to jump. Lt. Parks seemed to be fastening on his chute when I turned to go back up in my seat to let Lt. Shedman make his jump. I had intended to be the last one to jump from the plane because I was senior in rank. The cockpit of the plane was shot all to bits and how any of us escaped alive is a miracle to me.

Just I turned to get into my seat everything went black, and that was caused apparently by the concussion of the ship exploding.

From information received from S/Sgt. Joseph S. Christie, RFD #1, Box 209, Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, I learned that my chute apparently was blown open even though I was unconscious, and I was picked up by Italian police where Sgt Christie found me, bleeding from the nose and mouth nad with a wound in the forehead, and I seemed to have a spinal injury.

We were carried to the civilian hospital at Citta di Castallo, but I was still unconscious, and was then transferred to a German military hospital, at Arezzo, where I regained consciousness for the first time five days later.

Sgt. Christie had been shot in the legs and we were both treated here. I was extremely weak for about 3 month and slept most of the time in hospitals and in Stalag Luft #1, where I was later transferred. I kept Sgt. Christie in my room and with me up to Frankfort on the Main, where we were interrogated and where he was sent to Austria and I was sent to Stalag Luft #1. I did not see him again until Camp Lucky Strike in France in May 1945.

I have given a copy of the information Sgt. Christie wrote for me at my request at Lucky Strike, to the Notification Section.

Sgt. Christie was blown out from the ship but regained consciousness while falling and was able to pull his rip cord.

From information available, it is evident to me that Sgt. Christie and I are the sole survivors.


Statement made by S/Sgt. Joseph S. Christie on 18 May 1945

When we dropped out of the overcast I suddenly heard the voice of T/Sgt SHUPE who yelled “FIGHTERS”. Immediately I heard the rattle of machine gun shells cracking through the ship, although I hadn’t seen where the fighters attacks were coming from. Evidently they came from the tail and low. On this first pass the oxygen line on the ball turret was shot off and caught fire. My interphone was also shot away on this attack. S/Sgt MELTON got out of his turret and watched the fire from the hose burn out and then entered the radio room.

A few seconds later another burst of shells rattled through the plane, and to the best of my knowledge they came from the 109 that SHUPE and I firing at. He was making his attack from 4 o’clock high. During the second attack by a 109 SHUPE and I kept firing until he came in as close several hundred yards. I observed he was blazing fiercely from ahead of the pilot’s cockpit. The attack came from 4 o’clock high.

It seemed to me as though SHUPE had been doing the best shooting as I observed his tracers. Whether the fighter went down I do not know for I was kept very busy. Also one of the 109’s came streaking down from approximately 2 o’clock and passed my waist windown [sic] with a terrible streak of smoke pouring from under his wing. I gave him a few bursts as he went by. He was headed for the ground when I last observed him. I estimated eleven enemy fighters attacking as.

S/Sgt. SANDIFORD who is the left waist gunner, and I kept blazing away at the 109’s that attempted to make attacks from 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. Evidently we kept them away for no shells pierced the ship from either 3 or 9 o’clock. On this last attack the left waist gunner punched me and pointed to me that out [sic] #2 engine was on fire and blazing. We already had #1 feathered.

Immediately after this S/Sgt SNYDER came rushing out of his tail position and on his way to the radio room stopped and gazed at us as both us waist gunners kept blazing at the fighters that swarmed around our plane. Pieces of shrapnel and fire scattered all through the plane. Then SNYDER entered the radio room and closed the door thus leaving two of us in the waist. Shortly after this SANDIFORD rushes back to open the escape hatch. Evidently he couldn’t get the release open. At this time I am at my position still firing and as I glance to see what he is doing he motions me to come back and give him some help. I rush back and we both pulled the release open.

I quickly ran back to my position and kept firing at 2 Me 109’s that were flying along with us. During this time SANDIFORD had kicked the escape hatch open. He looked out the hatch when suddenly another burst of machine gun and cannon fire pierced the ship.

On this attack both of us were hit by either cannon or machine gun fire. SANDIFORD was hit somewhere in the stomach as far as I can remember. He was thrown completely around and he suddenly hit the floor. I was also hit in the right leg and knocked to the left side of the ship. Since my face was turned toward the rear of the ship I was able to observe all this.

I immediately got up and tried to fire at 2 fighters that were coming in at approximately 6 o’clock high but they were far to the right and my gun kept hitting the rear of the window. At this time pieces of shrapnel and fire raked all through the ship. The ship seemed torn to pieces. It then dawned on me that the ship was headed for the ground for it made a slight left bank. I then went back to see if I could do something for SANDIFORD but it seemed that there was no use. My right leg was bleeding terribly for the blood had seeked through my pants, my heated suit, and through my overalls. It seemed as though I couldn’t stand up anymore and I remember it seemed as though everything was red to me.

At this time I was looking out of the hatch. The next thing I remembered I was falling with my feet down toward the earth. I had a difficult time pulling my rip cord but somehow I managed to pull it out. I remembered the flutter of the chute and shortly after it opened I realised what had happened.

I then suddenly looked around to see if I could observe any more chutes. I observed one chute which was lower than mine and I also noticed small pieces of metal floating down beside me. I also heard a crashing noise which seemed to come from ground. I could see small fires spread over the mountain sides.

When I hit the ground I was carried to an Italian farmhouse by several Italians. The farmhouse was several hundred yards away. As soon as I entered the house I tore my clothes off and applied the tourniquet to my right leg. I removed this from my first aid kit I carried. I remained at this home until an Italian soldier came up and looked me over. They then took me down the mountainside on a sleigh driven by oxygen. After traveling about three kilometers an Italian girl who spoke English told me that one of my comrades was in a building not far away. The took me to this spot and here I found Capt. M. M. WALDROUP who was unconscious and was bleeding from the mouth and nose. That evening three Italian soldiers took us in a small car to an Italian Civilian Hospital at CITTA DI CASTELLO. We were shot down somewhere in this vicinity.

We remained here until December 1st when the German soldiers took us to a German Military Hospital at Arezzo. All during our time at CITTA DI CASTELLO, Capt. WALDROUP was yelling for his mother and knew nothing what was going on. On our stay at CITTA DI CASTELLO I had a slug removed from my right leg. One of the slugs hit me above the knee and lodged in my leg just below the penis. The other piece hit slightly above the first and came out after it had gone through my leg several inches.

I also had a small shrapnel wound on my right elbow. Capt. WALDROUP was bruised on the forehead and on the jaw. He seemed to be in a very serious condition. He gained consciousness on our first day at Arezzo, December 1st. He also had trouble opening his mouth and he seemed to have an injured pelvis.

This story of our fate to the best of my knowledge is true and correct.

S/Sgt. Joseph S. Christie

Capt. WALDROUP requested that I write this from the time we first met the enemy fighters till we arrived at the Arezzo Military Hospital where he regained consciousness.

May 18, 1945


B-17 42-30705 / Ther-N-Bak Crew

Position Rank Name Status Note
P 1LT Oscar C. Stedman, Jr. KIA
CP CPT Marvin M. Waldroup, Jr. POW
BOMB 2LT Walter B. Parks KIA
RO T/SGT Clarence W. Vaughn, Jr. KIA
BT S/SGT James R. Melton KIA
WG S/SGT James W. Sandiford KIA
WG S/SGT Joseph H. Christie POW
TG S/SGT Milton H. Snyder KIA

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