20 February 1945 — Ludwigsburg, Germany
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.
On 20 February 1945, over 900 aircraft were dispatched to bomb the railroad marshaling yards north of the city of Nurnberg. This would be mission 260 for the group. From the 562nd Bomb Squadron, Capt. Ivan Paul Woodburn was the pilot of B-17G 44-8223 nicknamed “Miss Karen K.” This aircraft was the lead plane of the low squadron with Captain Richard Eddy Gaspard as command pilot. The Pathfinder crew of 9 operated this radar equipped aircraft using PFF methods. Heavy cloud cover over the target area did not deter the group from dropping their bombs at about 1339 hours from approximately 25,900 feet. No German aircraft were spotted but intense and accurate flak was encountered.
The “Miss Karen K” was hit by the intense flak and a large hole was torn in the number 3 tank. Pilot Capt. Ivan P. Woodburn dropped away from the formation with the number 3 engine out and having trouble with engine number 4. He gave the order to bail out. Three crewmen were killed-in-action. Co-pilot 1st Lt. Adam J. Imthurn, navigator 1st Lt. Edwin Kabcenell and mickey operator 1st Lt. Joseph J. Zaic were all killed. The aircraft crashed at Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart, Germany. The other crewmen were taken prisoner. These included commander pilot Capt. Richard E. Gaspard, pilot Capt. Ivan P. Woodburn, bombardier Capt. Robert F. Nelson, radio operator Tech Sgt. Robert L. Hill, engineer Tech Sgt. Norman J. Lynn. It is not clear the fate of right waist gunner Staff Sgt. Fletcher H. Sauls. Other reports stated the plane crashed in Italy, which appears to be in error.
Missing Air Crew Report 12549 was completed when the crew failed to return to base.