Airwar over Denmark

Airwar over Denmark

 By Søren C. Flensted

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B 17F 42-5883 ditched in the north Sea 25/7-1943.


The aircraft belonged to USAAF, 8 Air Force, 384 Bomb Group, 544 Bomb Squadron and was coded SU-D.
T/O Grafton Underwood. OP: Hamburg.


The aircraft was christened ”Wearie Willie”. After having bombed Hamburg Tail Gunner S/Sgt Barton C. McDufie and Ball Turret Gunner T/Sgt William J. O’Donnell ran out of ammunition. The aircraft was attacked several times and when it reached out over the sea several 20 mm rounds exploded in the nose. Simultaneously three engines were hit and “Wearie Willie” had to leave the formation while still under attack from Fw 190 and dive to 5000 ft. During the dive Bombardier 1.Lt David H. Davis was thrown out of the upper hatch but managed to cling to the fuselage. When the pilot 1st Lt Thomas J. Estes levelled the B 17 off, Davis was thrown back into the radio compartment.

Soon after “Wearie Willie” ditched in the North Sea under continues fire. The crew who apart from the above mentioned consisted of Co-Pilot 2.Lt James M. Merritt, Navigator 1.Lt John J. Dubois, Top Turret Gunner T/Sgt David L. Cochrane, Radio Operator S/Sgt Fred S. Wagner, Left Waist Gunner S/Sgt George Ursta and Right Waist Gunner S/Sgt James M. Self entered the two dinghies and paddled 15 metres away before the aircraft sank. After having been in the dinghies for 36 hours the crew sighted a ship and started paddling in the direction of it.
 
After about three hours they were picked up by the fishing vessel FN 73 “Ternen” of Frederikshavn and Skipper Martin Sørensen. Sørensen had spotted the dinghies quite a while ago but had thought them to be German and there fore had been in no big hurry to take them onboard. “Ternen” was at a point 50 miles west of Esbjerg and Sørensen agreed to take the flyers to a point 50 miles off the English coast and then sail back to Esbjerg.

On the next morning at 11:30 they were observed by a Halifax which circled them for hours.
 
When “Ternen” came as close to the coast as possibly while still having enough fuel to return to Esbjerg the flyers made up a sign saying “SOS-Bring boat”. The Halifax answered by means of Morse: “Rescue launch coming”. The launch arrived after two hours and the flyers were transferred to it after having left their cigarettes, thee and life west for the fishermen.
“Ternen” returned safely to Denmark.

 


                                                        (Via Finn Buch)

Wagner, McDuffie, O’Donnell, Self, Davis, Estes, Merritt,
Ursta

 

Sources: FB, Fiskeritidende, Estes debriefing.

 

 

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