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B17 Damn Yankee, Crashed 1st December 1943


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I'm not really a fan of dug items, except when they come out my own region and I know the history behind the object.

On 1 December 1943, a B17 'Damn Yankee' (Boeing USAAF Ser#41-24557) was shot down over Jabbeke, Belgium on its way back from a bombing raid on Germany. AC belonged to 384th BG, 545th BS, 8AAF, based at Station 106 at Grafton Underwood.
Casualties included 5KIA, 4POW and only the pilot Lt Sundlun (who would become Governor of RI later) escaped to Switzerland.
In December 1993, Mr Sundlun came back to Belgium to unveil a monument at the crash site, which is about 5 miles from where I live....

In the 80s, several items from the plane were still being discovered in the fields of the crash. Among them was this A11 Flying Cap, which has a special place in my collection. Inside has rotted away, especially around the earcups and there's a hole (shrapnel?) on the left side, right thru the AAF logo... If this piece could talk...

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More info on the crash....

On a bombing mission to Solingen, Germany, December 1, 1943, a B-17F "Flying Fortress" of the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Squadron is on its 13th mission piloted by ship commander Lt. Bruce G. Sundlun. Over the target, planes of the 384th encounter intense flak and Damn Yankee's #4 engine is hit, causing the propeller to begin to windmill. Losing speed and altitude Damn Yankee falls behind the group and earns the dreaded title of a "straggler". Navigator, Lt. Reino O. Jylkka, gives the heading for England when suddenly tail gunner Sgt. Frank Lekas, calls out "enemy aircraft at six..." but had no chance to finish. Focke Wulf 190s, from Jagdgeschwader (JG 26), assault the "Fortress" from 6, 7, and 8 o'clock destroying the left horizontal stabilizer and tail gunner's cabin, killing Sgt. Lekas. One 500 pound bomb, caught in the bomb bay since the bomb drop, is released by bombardier, Sgt. George C. Hayes, who is killed by gunfire while in the doorway of the bomb bay. On the intercom an agonizing cry is then heard "Oh...they got me bad". Ball turret gunner, Sgt. Harry F. Cologne is mortally wounded.

The fighters continue firing when the #2 engine is hit and begins smoking. Attempts to feather the propeller fail. The situation is now desperate, with the tail now shot to pieces, the rudder useless, the intercom out, the fuse box shattered and oxygen leaking freely. Diving and losing altitude fast, Damn Yankee reaches cloud cover but it does not provide sufficient cover. Fighters again assault the stricken bomber hitting the control cables, instrument panel, and automatic flight control equipment while severely wounding radioman Sgt. Charles L. Snyder. Gunners in the B-17 fire back a constant stream hitting two 190s, disintegrating one. At 5000 feet the #2 engine is on fire and partial control of the aircraft is maintained. With the ball turret crippled and the top turret gun jammed, the FW 190s shoot out both waist guns killing gunners Sgt. Chester P. Snyder and Sgt. Mike J. Cappelletti.

Under extreme duress, pilot Lt. Sundlun and co-pilot Andrew V. Boles struggle valiantly to maintain control of Damn Yankee. With hope of reaching England now gone and the ship in danger of exploding, the crew is ordered to bail out. Navigator Lt. Jylkka and top gunner Sgt. William M. Ramsey are the first to bail out through the nose hatch, and, after sending an S.O.S., Sgt. Charles Snyder bails out. As the ship rapidly descends from 1800 to 1200 feet any notion of a crash landing is abandoned. With barely enough altitude, Lt. Sundlun and Lt. Boles bail out over Jabbeke, Belgium. The crippled, out of control B-17 rolls over in a sharp 180 degree left turn and crashes into a turnip field at 1240 hours. Of the five surviving crew members who had bailed out safely, only pilot Lt. Sundlun avoids capture by escaping to Switzerland

f_poll.gif '29th,Let's Go!' f_poll.gif

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Hi Johan, that's a sad sad tale, I hate to hear these stories of bombers being slowly and methodically being shot to pieces with the dying crews incapable of returning fire or defending the plane.

 

My friend Brian Goodman, who you may have met, carries the Star and Stripes at Grafton Underwood every year in remembrance of the 384th. He has known many of the surviving veterans over the years, but sadly there are less and less.

 

Cheers ( Lewis )

.

Young enough to care and enjoy militaria - Old enough to remember as surplus

 

" Life's too short for reproductions "

 

 

Life is like a tank of gas, the closer you get to a quarter tank, the faster it goes 

 

.

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  • 4 years later...

Today marks the 70th anniversary of this sad event.

 

While I had been planning to visit the monument today, as I have done most years ( see http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/128810-my-68th-anniversary-tribute-to-b17-f-damn-yankee/?hl=jabbeke ), unexpected events prevented me from doing so...

 

Will be driving by the site on the way back from work next week though...

 

Johan

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Sobering account and a sad piece of history yet, it is preserved for future generations.

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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An amazing story, I am always humbled when I read these true accounts. I knew so many of these brave men when I was growing up, and yet they were just friends of my parents or the father's of my buddies, just regular guys who never made a big deal out of their service. A different time and a different generation, alas, how soon they become merely memories.

 

Larry

Member of the Company of Military Historians

http://www.military-historians.org

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