B-17 Flying Fortress B-17 44-6397

B-17 #44-6397zoom_in

FOTO:FORTEPAN / National Archives [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


MACR: 13255


History of
B-17 44-6397

Delivered Kearney 25/7/44; Grenier 8/8/44; Assigned 416BS/99BG Tortorella 17/8/44; Missing in Action {38m} Ruhland 23/3/45 with Walter Lea, Love, Ondercik, Macerollo, Biehl, Marcus, Burch, Hamilton, Willis all to Russian lines; cp Korupp (Prisoner of War); flak, crashed Hoyerswerde; Missing Air Crew Report 13255.

Last updated: 3. April 2021


B-17 44-6397 Details

Eyewitness statements to the loss of B-17G #44-6397

I was Co-Pilot on a mission to Ruhland O/R on March 23, 1945. Our ship was flying in the No. 7 spot of the high right Baker Box. The aircraft in question 397 was flying in the No. 5 spot in the same box. Between 10 and 15 minutes before target time A/C No. 397 began to lag in formation. The altitude at the time was approximately 25500 feet. Shortly there after the aircraft in question resumed its position but almost immediately began lagging again. When the aircraft was about 500 yards behind he was heard to call “Suitcase” which was the code word meaning he was going to attempt to land in Russia. When he had lagged the first time he had called the Baker Box leader that he was going to leave to feather an engine and that another was going bad. About five minutes before “bombs away”, I turned around to see if the aircraft was in sight but was unable to see it. The aircraft undoubtedly did call “Suitcase” as one other ship relayed the message to the Squadron Leader. I did not see any engine feathered nor did see the aircraft turn around and take up a heading for Russia.

1Lt. Lars E. Cassell

I was Bombardier in870 which was flying No. 7 position. 397 called Squadron Baker several times that he was having trouble with 2 engines. He dropped behind once or twice and then stayed behind. At one time he had an engine on fire, but put it out and later feathered the engine. This was approximately 5 minutes before bomb run and he called Squadron leader, said “he was going to Russia”.

1Lt. Michael A. De Fazio

Shortly before the target, plane No. 397 dropped behind the Squadron and feathered No. 1 or 4 engine. It dropped two bombs and continued to drop behind. Fighters were in the area, therefore my attention had to be else where. When I looked again No 397 was out of sight. I do not know if it made the run or not.

S/Sgt. Henry L. Beebe

Source: MACR 13255

B-17G-50-DL #44-6397 over France. Date unknown.


B-17 44-6397 Crew

Position Rank Name Status Note
P 2LT Walter V. Lea EVD
CP 2LT Bernard J. Korupp POW
BOMB 2LT Frank P. Ondercik EVD
ENG/TT S/SGT Eugene Macerollo EVD
RO CPL Jack H. Burch EVD
BT CPL Harold A. Biehl EVD
WG CPL Milton J. Marcus EVD
WG CPL Richard J. Willis, Jr. EVD
TG CPL Bertrand W. Hamilton EVD

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