Summary

Lt Francis is on the right in the photo below.

Death:
06 Sep 1943 1
Abbeville, France 1
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Personal Details

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Death:
06 Sep 1943 1
Abbeville, France 1
Cause: KIA 1
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Target:
Stuttgart 1

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  1. Contributed by 92ndBG
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Stories

A/C 42-30010 Shot Down 6-Sept-1943

Abbeville, France

Asher Crew
3 images

VIII Bomber Command mount their largest bombing mission to date. 338 B-17's dispatched against aircraft industry targets in Stuttgart.  Losses amounted to 45 B-17's. Not all losses were from combat damage, many ditched in the North sea  due to fuel depletion.

Lt George Francis was flying with his regular crew on this mission.  He had been assigned to the "Asher" (Pilot) Crew as Navigator, on AC 42-30010, markings PY X of the 407th Bomb Squadron.  The AC was attacked by fighters on the way in to the target at Stuttgart Germany.  Between Abbeville, France and Amiens France. The AC fell from formation with FW-190's following it's decent.  The AC was seen to explode, most likely from a cannon round hitting the bomb load.  Three parachutes were seen by eyewitness's that were members of other crews. The three crew members that managed to exit the AC prior to the explosion landed to the southeast of Abbeville, 2 were captured and interred as POW's. One Evaded and returned to duty (Pfannebecker, Radio Op).  The three survivors were Wilson (L waist), Plyer (Tail) and Pfannebecker (Radio Op). Enemy fighter opposition was savage and sustained.  Battle damage was severe, three 92nd BG Aircraft went down over the continent.  Other AC returned damaged and some crash landed in England.

Sources:

MACR 739; see photos

Chronology "Air War Europa" Chronology; Eric Hammel

"The Route as Briefed; John Sloan

"Bits & Pieces of the Mighty Eighth";  Andrews, Adams, Woolnough

92nd Bomb Group Archives

 

I discovered some additional information about Lt George R. Francis' last flight on 6-Sep-43. Captain (later Brigadier General) Kemp McLaughlin was piloting the lead aircraft on the mission to Stuttgart. In the co-pilot's seat was the mission commander, Major McGehee Word. The following are Cpt McLaughlin's words; "Just after we entered the Continent we began to get fighter attacks, and Lt Asher - flying on my left wing - called for permission to pull out of the formation to check a smoke problem in his bomb bay. He slid to his left about 300 feet and all seemed to be okay, when suddenly his airplane blew up in midair. Large chunks of airplane and engines went hurtling through the sky, leaving several parachute canopies floating through the air like autumn leaves, with nothing hooked to them. They were the parachute bundles that the crewmen had laid beside their gunnery positions and never had a chance to put on. It was a sickening sight, because we all knew that the poor devils were falling to earth without a chance to survive, a scene that we'd seen many more times." Quoted from "The Mighty Eighth in WWII, A Memoir Brigadier General J. Kemp McLaughlin (Ret)

One slight correction: From what I've found online, it looks like the two of the crew that evaded were William Rice and James Wilson. I found their E&E reports here: Wilson - http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-289.pdf Rice - http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-297.pdf What I know is that Otto Pfannebecker (Radio Op) was in fact, a POW. His leg was broken when his parachute was cut down from the tree in which he landed. In setting the leg, the doctors at the Obermassfeld Hospital 1249 removed around three inches of bone, for which Otto had to wear an elevated orthopedic shoe for the rest of his life. As one of the few members of Asher's crew to survive, Otto considered his escape from the plane nothing short of a genuine miracle, and considered every day of his remaining 63 years a gift from God. Otto died on December 27th 2006 at the age of 91. He is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. -Kevin Hough (Otto Pfannebecker's grandson)

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