B-17 Flying Fortress B-17 42-97176

B-17 #42-97176zoom_in



MACR: 4939


History of
B-17 42-97176

Delivered Cheyenne 7/2/44; Gr Island 15/2/44; Presque Is 4/3/44; Assigned 710BS/447BG Rattlesden 4/3/44; Missing in Action Brussels 20/5/44 with Archibald E. Town, Co-pilot: Bob Lewis (2 Returned to Duty); Navigator: Duane Kesterke, Bombardier: Chas Oulehla, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: John Harwell, Radio Operator: Gustave Secunda, Ball turret gunner: Simpson Gray, Waist gunner: John Schomburger, Waist gunner: Everett White,Tail gunner: Art Baker (8KIA- actually drowned); en route to target was shot down accidentally by a B-17 of another group testing its guns, crashed Channel. Missing Air Crew Report 4939.

Last updated: 13. July 2022


B-17 42-97176 Details

Ship #176 was shot down by friendly fire. It was struck by .50  cal bullets of unknown friendly aircraft while test firing guns.

Fire broke out on left wing when about in Mid-Channel on route into the target. The entire crew seen to bail out before aircraft dove into water.

Only the body of left waist gunner John T. Schomburger was recovered.

Eyewitness Statements to the loss of B-17 #42-97176

We were flying about 20000 feet, about 23 miles out from the English Coast when Lt. TOWN (pilot) called to me “No Aileron Control”, I then gave a quick glance around and could see the right wing on fire and a row of holes in it, they appeared to be bullet holes. I then tried to call the crew but the radio was out and Lt. TOWN was trying also. Lt TOWN turned in alarm and engineer went to nose to tell crew. I then followed the engineer in bailing out of the bomb bay doors, from which the bombs had been dropped as soon as we were clear of the formation. I saw two chutes on the way down on was known to have been the engineer because his chute opened just below my.

2Lt. Robert C. Lewis
Co-Pilot B-17 #42-97176

Was flying lead in the high squadron. 25 Miles from the English Coast altitude about 20000 feet. My first indication of trouble was the lack of Aileron control. I switched on AFCE and had no control with that. A gas fire started behind #4 engine. A row of holes from the trailing edge to the engine was causes by someone test firing his guns and I believe is what caused the damage. I tried to call the lead ship, could not transmit, then tried station frequency and it was dead, inter phone system was also out. I threw the alarm switch and had the engineer tell the navigator and bombardier to bail out. Then the engineer and Co-Pilot went into the bomb bays, and jumped. I had previously jettisoned my bombs, (on electrical system). I had turned the ship with rudder back towards the English Coast, then left my seat walked back through the bomb bays and opened the radio door and looked back through the ship. I could not see anyone back there so I left the ship through the bomb bay. At the time I jumped, I could see no any other chutes around.

1Lt. Archibald E. Town
Pilot B-17 #42-97176

Source: MACR 4939


B-17 42-97176 Crew

Position Rank Name Status Note
P 1LT Archibald E. Town RTD
CP 2LT Robert C. Lewis RTD
BOMB 2LT Charles H. Oulehla KIA
ENG/TT T/SGT John Thomas Harwell KIA
RO S/SGT Gustave Secunda KIA
BT SGT Simpson Bogard Gray KIA
WG S/SGT John T. Schomburger KIA
WG S/SGT Everett W. White KIA
TG SGT Arthur R. Baker KIA

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