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Mission to Vienna, Austria
22 February 1945 | Austria
The 454th Bomb Group, 736th Bomb Squadron of the Fifteenth Air Force was based in San Giovannia, Italy in the winter of 1945.
Captain Richard J. Fry was the pilot of the B-24J Marauder 42-95522 nicknamed “Terrible Terry”. On 14 February 1945, the crews mission was to the Floridsdorf Oil Refineries near Vienna, Austria. Shortly before bombs away, the aircraft suffered a direct hit just forward of where the co-pilot was seated. Six airmen were killed instantly. This included the pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radar navigator, engineer, radio operator and one waist gunner. One airman bailed out too close to the ground and died later in a Czech hospital. Five airmen managed to bail out and landed successfully. But within were taken POW. Missing Air Crew Report 12108 was filed and gave the following eyewitness account by 2nd Lt. Donald J. Newell:
I was flying aircraft #503 in number five (5) position of the group lead box, directly behind Captain Fry, who was in number two (2) position of the same box. Approximately one (1) minute before bombs away, Captain Fry was hit by flak. I count not determine the exact location of the hit, but it appeared as if he were hit in the fuselage in the vicinity of the co-pilot’s compartment.
Fragments of his aircraft struck my aircraft, knocking out my windshield and injuring the engineer and co-pilot.
Just as bombs away, Captain Fry’s aircraft peeled up and back over the formation. My gunners reported that he disappeared in the six-tenths cloud coverage below us. No parachutes were observed by any of my crew members. The aircraft appeared to be still under control when last sighted. A very slight trail of smoke was left behind the aircraft.
Robert Smith Haws
Staff Sgt. Robert Smith Haws (19117015) was the top turret gunner. He was born on 2 February 1922 in Provo, UT, the son of Gilbert Lynn & Evaline (Smith) Haws. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 7 October 1942 in Salt Lake City, UT. He married Edna. He remembers his picture being taken on 18 February 1945. He was employed by the Bureau of Reclamation in Utah. He now lives in Ogden, UT.
In a telephone interview of Robert S. Haws on 10 April 2008, he remembered the following: Haws arrived in Italy to join his new squadron in October 1944. The photograph above was taken of Haws just before he flew on a mission in January 1945. He is wearing the Mae West, electric flight suit and his wool boots.
The 14 February 1945 mission was to be his 17th and last mission. His aircraft was in the number two position of the lead group. They were flying at 24,000 feet and had an extra navigator on-board and a crew of twelve.
The aircraft was hit at approximately 13:00 hours on the afternoon of 14 February 1945. They were carrying six 500 pound bombs. Haws managed to bail of the open bomb bay doors. He and others were sent to the town jail in Vienna, Austria. From there they took the train and walked. Four days later on 18 February 1945 they arrived at the Frankfort railway station. Their group consisted of nine prisoners lead by two guards. There were many civilians in the train station and to safe guard the POW’s, the guards put them into the basement of the railway station. Haws remembers it as being pitch black and lots of rats crawling around. Later they boarded another train for the short trip to Dulag Luft West –Oberusal interrogation center He was put into solitary confinement. He was here for several days. This is where his photograph was taken. He was also interrogated by an English speaking German soldier. Haws would only say his name, rank and serial number. The frustrated German interrogator told Haws. “I hope you go back to your cell and rot!”
Almost a month after being shot down, Haws arrived at Stalag Luft XIIId - Nuremberg. Conditions at the camp were deplorable. But with the quickly advancing Allied troops, the German authorities wanted to move the POWs to another camp. On 4 April 1945 the POW began a sixteen day march to Stalag Luft XIIa - Moosburg. During their long march, once a day the POWs were given black bread with some potato and sawdust soup to eat. Haws remembers getting three parcels from a Red Cross truck. Inside the parcels were seven packs of cigarettes which he traded for food. They arrived at Moosburg on 20 April. Only nine days later, on 29 April 1945, the POWs were liberated by Patton’s Third Army units.
On 7 May, Haws and others boarded U.S. Army Air Corps C-47’s like the ones pictured at right, to fly to France. He eventually went to Camp Luck Strike, boarded the S.S. Sea Porpoise at LaHarve, France and sailed home to America. He docked on 11 June 1945 in New York City. The next day he was processed at Camp Kilmer, NJ and the next day, 13 June 1945 boarded a train for the cross county trip back home to Salt Lake City, UT.
Russell Edward Mars
Staff Sgt. Russell Edward Mars (33104792) was the tail gunner. He was born in 1919 in Lawrence County, PA, son of Hiram Edward Mars (1895-1972) and Bertha B. (Reynolds) Mars (1895-1977) of New Castle, PA. He graduated from Mt. Jackson High School in 1938. After high school he worked at the Youngtown Sheet and Tube Company plant. He married Marian L. Book. On 29 October 1941 enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Fort Meade, MD. In 1944, he was stationed at Pueblo Army Air Base in Colorado training to be a gunner. He went to serve overseas in Italy in October 1944. From a news item published in the 7 March 1945 edition of the New Castle News: “Word has been received by Mrs. Marian Mars of 1013 Wilmington Avenue from the War Department at Washington, D.C. that her husband Staff Sergeant Russell E. Mars of the 15th Air Force based in Italy has been reported missing in action since February 14, over Austria.”
Mars died 21 January 1959 in New Castle and is buried in the Graceland Memorial cemetery, New Castle.
Edward James Stanton
Staff Sgt. Edward James Stanton (36004403) was the waist gunner. He was born on 21 December 1916 in Chicago, IL, son of James and Margaret (Newell) Stanton who were recent Irish immigrants. He attended high school for three years and on 19 February 1941 enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Chicago, IL. He may have been a police officer. He was later married to Helen R.
Stanton died on 17 December 1953 in Chicago and was buried in the Calvary Cemetery, Evanston, IL.