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Mission 258 to Hamm marshaling yards
16 February 1945 | Knettishall, England
The 388th Bomber Group of the Eighth Air Force was based at Station 136, Knettishall, England. The group’s tail code was a square H. This large airfield was located on the southern side of the Little Ouse Valley between the villages of Knettishall and Coney Weston in East Anglia countryside. The main 50-yard wide concrete runway was 2,000 yards long and had two smaller intersecting runways. There were 50 hardstands, two large hangers and airfield lighting for night flying. Barracks were mainly Nissen huts dispersed in various sites south of the field near the village of Coney Weston.
The 561st Bomb Squadron was sent to hit the marshaling yards at Hamm, Germany. This was mission #258 for the group. 2nd Lt. Charles Edward Amolsch and his ten man crew (shown at right) were flying their tenth mission aboard B-17G “Our Love” serial number 44-6622. Just over the target, the aircraft was hit with explosive flak. The flak ripped through the cockpit causing the oxygen system and stored flares to catch fire. The flak also hit number 2 and number 3 engines causing them to catch fire. The aircraft started losing altitude and the pilot was having difficulty controlling the plane which was in a steep dive. Because of the seriousness of the event, pilot Amolsch gave the order to bailout. Radio operator John E. Brown, Jr. and tail gunner Walter E. Bales jumped from the Flying Fortress. The aircraft fell from about 22,000 feet to approximately 14,000 when pilot Amolsch was able to regain control of the aircraft. Amolsch and co-pilot Lt. Blasdell were burned by the fire. The fires had been extinguished and he was able to level off and continue back to base in England. Brown was killed and Bales was captured and became POW. The other eight crew members landed safely back at Knettishall. Missing Air Crew Report 12440 was filed.
Walter Earl Bales
Sgt. Walter Earl Bales (39469093) was the tail gunner. He was born on 18 March 1920 in Bonners Ferry, ID, the son of Charlie K. Bales. After graduating from North Central High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 24 November 1943 in Spokane, WA. After he was captured, Bales was sent to Dulag – Luft where he arrived on 9 March 1945. After the war he moved to Spokane, WA where he was a boiler maker and welder for the Union Pacific Railroad for more than 30 years. He was a member of the Boiler Makers Union.
Bales died on 31 March 1993 in Spokane, WA and was later cremated.