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Mission to Giessen, Germany
2 March 1945 | Dutenhofen, Germany
The 1st Pathfinder Squadron of the Ninth Air Force was located at Station A-72, Peronne, France. Peronne was located very near the Belgium boarder in northern France. The 1st Pathfinder Squadron was a provisional unit that did not exist except on paper but was attached to the 322nd Bomb Group. The group provided bad weather leads to all Ninth Air Force bombing groups. The Squadron flew B-26 Marauders that were equipped with the British “Oboc” radar bombing system. This device with screens and ancillary equipment located in the navigators’ compartment was designed to lead bombing groups on missions where the targets were obscured by bad weather. The fuselage code was (1H).
Captain Paul Henry Jones was pilot of the B-26B-50-MA 42-95933 with 2nd Lt. Robert L. Richmond as co-pilot. There were seven crewmen aboard.
The mission on 2 March 1945 was to Giessen, Germany. At approximately 17:20 hours while over the target, the B-26 was hit by an enemy aircraft. Their aircraft was hit from the front by two Fw 190s. In the air attack, Jones was able to return fire and hit one Fw 190 which was a long nose D9, serial No. 500 393. The Luftwaffe pilot managed to bail out before the plane crashed, but parachuted into the Lahn River. The river was especially high and fast moving and the pilot, Werner Stempel with 1.Staffel of the 1.Gruppe, drowned. Stempel was buried in the cemetery at Stockhausen a few miles west of Wetzlar, Germany.
An eyewitness account from the Missing Air Crew Report 12838 states:
Several crews of this [394th Bomb] Group reported that The Pathfinder aircraft was attacked by enemy aircraft in the vicinity of the primary target. (Giessen). The left engine of the Pathfinder aircraft was on fire after the attack but the fire was believed to have gone out although the engine continued to smoke.
Three crews believe the Pathfinder aircraft was escorted by two P-38’s to the bomb line where last seen. Another crew reports that the Pathfinder aircraft was losing altitude rapidly and was very low when last seen. This crew also reports that the Pathfinder aircraft was still in enemy territory when last seen.
Co-pilot 2nd Lt. Richmond later stated that he and two other crew members bailed out. He also stated that Staff Sgt. William DeCow, who was the radio operator on the mission, told him (Richmond) that Tech Sgt. Henry M. Isenberg was the first man to bail out, and that Sgt. DeCow had to push Tech Sgt. Robert H. Folsom, the tail gunner, out after him. The aircraft crashed in the vicinity of Dutenhofen near Wetzlar, Germany. Four crew members lost their lives.
Paul Henry Jones
Captain Paul Henry Jones (O-791273) was the pilot. He was born on 16 June 1918 in New Haven, CT, son of Henry and Isabelle (Brink) Jones. After the war, he continued his service in the U.S. Air Force until he retired a Major in 1961. He then began a career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as station manager at the High Latitude Monitoring Station on Elmendorf Air Force Base. He retired in 1984 after 13 years. Jones died at age 77 on 14 February 1996 in Anchorage, AK and was buried in the Ft. Richardson National Cemetery. For his service he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, European African Middle Eastern Theatre Medal with four Battle Stars and Prisoner of War Medal.
Robert Laffingwell Richmond
2nd Lt. Robert Laffingwell Richmond (O-772500) was the co-pilot. He was born on 10 April 1922 in Topeka, KS. Richmond carved out a successful career in entertainment and radio. While attending Washburn University, he worked as a vocalist and bass player for local bands; briefly heading his own “Bob Richmond Orchestra.” Radio station WREN hired him as talent for the “Bob Richmond Show.” He served WREN for 26 years from talent to station manager to account manager. He left in 1973 to accept a position as President of “Day-Night Window Guards” in Houston, TX. He later joined his brother, Jack, as vice-president of Pizza Hut in San Antonio, making a major contribution to it’s being one of the more successful Pizza Hut franchises in America before retiring in 1987. He was married for almost 50 years to June Spencer of Topeka. Richmond died at age 79 on 16 March 2002 in San Antonio, TX.