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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
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,
Sources: FB, Fiskeritidende, Estes debriefing.
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