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21 February 1945 | Dulken, Germany
The 492nd Bomber Group, 858th Bomb Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was based at Station 179, Harrington, England. The most westerly of the Eighth Air Force combat bases was located 5½ miles west of Kettering in the Northants countryside. It was the home of the Eighth Air Force’s Special Operations Group. Their B-17’s were painted black and known as the “Black Liberators.” Weather and other operational difficulties confined the activities during the early weeks of 1945.
Mission 840 for the Eighth Air Force occurred on the night of Wednesday, 21 February 1945. With the help of the Royal Air Force Pathfinder Forces, 25 B-24 Liberators were sent to bomb the power and gas stations at Duisburg, Germany. At approximately 21:00 hours and near the target, the crew of 1st Lt. Gordon E. Wiebe’s aircraft, a B-24JEH (H) with serial number 44-49500 was hit by enemy fighters according to Missing Air Crew Report 12585. The following account of the events is found in Ben Parnell’s book, The Carpetbaggers. “Missing was the crew of Lt. Gordon F. Wiebe. Their Pathfinder B-24 had crossed the Rhine and was on its bomb run when it was suddenly coned by several searchlights. It dropped markers and bombs successfully, with several hits in the target area; but, still in the searchlights, it was attacked by fighters. No. 1 and No. 2 engines were hit making evasive action impossible. The bomb bay became a mass of flames, and both the tail-gunner and left waist-gunner were wounded. The tail-gunner was hit again on subsequent attacks. The left waist-gunner, wounded in the arm by a 20mmm shell, stood by his gun as the fighter made second and third attacks, hitting No. 2 engine again. An attempt was made to put out the fire in the bomb bay without success, and as nothing was heard from the tail-gunner it was thought that he was dead. The left waist-gunner had by now been hit in the leg. The interphone was shot out and the B-24 was out of control. As the plane began to lose altitude, S.Sgt. Karl E. Fasick, the right waist-gunner, and S.Sgt. Gilbert Smith, the left waist-gunner, decided to bail out. Fasick opened the escape hatch, helped Smith out, and jumped.
As Fasick descended he saw two chutes above him, and Smith saw three below him. It is known that seven of the crew managed to jump successfully. Fasick and Smith were both captured by Wehrmacht troops, along with Lt. Thomas G. Fraser, copilot, Lt. H.R. Smith, Mickey operator, S.Sgt William D. English, radio operator, and S.Sgt. Steve Ferman,(sic) engineer. The seventh man to jump was not among those taken prisoner by the German troops. It is believed that the tail-gunner, Staff Sergeant Riedell, did not bail out and went down with the airplane. Three members of the crew were unaccounted for: Lt. Gordon Wiebe, pilot, Lt. John M. Stolberg, navitator, and Lieutenant Glover, bombardier. Fasick and Smith were held as POWs in a German hospital in Steenwijk, Holland, until April 12, when they were liberated by the Canadian First Army.
The aircraft crashed at approximately 20:20 hours three kilometers southwest of Dulken which was 18 kilometers southwest of Krefeld, Germany. German authorities stated the aircraft was 33% destroyed with 1 airman dead and four captured. The following two crewmembers became POWs.
William D. English
Staff Sgt. William D. English (39042033) was the radio operator and flying his fifth mission. He was born on 11 July 1925 in Piedmont, CA son of Arthur E. and Gertrude M. English. After he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 15 March 1943 in San Francisco, CA. He died on 5 December 2003 in Orange, FL.
Staff Sgt. Stephan “Steve” Forman (36659392) was the engineer. He was born on 31 August 1924 in Chicago, IL son of Peter J. and Pauline (Knatow) Forman. Both of his parents were born in Poland. After he was liberated, Forman returned home to the states aboard the USS Monticello on 3 June 1945. On 27 December 1956, Steve married Marjorie Stevens in Chicago, IL. He died on 30 June 1983 in Beltrami County, MN.