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Plane Nearly Destroyed Over Cologne, Germany: Stars and Stripes Article
15 Oct 1944 | Cologne, Germany
TO: Stars and Stripes
for general release
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE BOMBER STATION, ENGLAND - After literally losing the nose of his B-17 Flying Fortress as the result of a direct hit by flak over Cologne, Germany on October 15, 1944, 1st Lt. Lawrence M. deLancey, 25, of Corvallis, Oregon returned to England and landed the crew safely at his home base. Each man walked away from the plane except the togglier, Staff Sergeant George E. Abbott, Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who was killed instantly when the flak struck.
It was only the combined skill and teamwork of Lt. deLancey and 2nd Lt. Raymond J. LeDoux, of Mt. Angel, Oregon, navigator, that enabled the plane and crew to return safely.
“Just after we dropped our bombs and started to turn away from the target”, Lt. deLancey explained, “a flak burst hit directly in the nose and blew practically the entire nose section to threads. Part of the nose peeled back and obstructed my vision and that of my co-pilot, 1st Lt. Phillip H. Stahlman of Shippenville, Pennsylvania. What little there was left in front of me looked like a scrap heap. The wind was rushing through. Our feet were exposed to the open air at nearly 30,000 feet above the ground the temperature was unbearable.
“There we were in a heavily defended flak area with no nose, and practically no instruments. The instrument panel was bent toward me as the result of the impact. My altimeter and magnetic compass were about the only instruments still operating and I couldn’t depend on their accuracy too well. Naturally I headed for home immediately. The hit which had killed S/Sgt. Abbott also knocked Lt. LeDoux back in the catwalk (just below where I was sitting). Our oxygen system also was out so I descended to a safe altitude.
“Lt. LeDoux who had lost all his instruments and maps in the nose did a superb piece of navigating to even find England.”
During the route home flak again was encountered but due to evasive action Lt. deLancey was able to return to friendly territory. Lt. LeDoux navigated the ship directly to his home field.
Although the plane was off balance without any nose section, without any brakes (there was no hydraulic pressure left), and with obstructed vision, Lt. deLancey made a beautiful landing to the complete amazement of all personnel at this field who still are wondering how the feat was accomplished.
The other members of the crew include:
- Technical Sergeant Benjamin H. Ruckel, Roscoe, California, engineer top turret gunner;
- Technical Sergeant Wendell A. Reed, Shelby, Michigan, radio operator gunner;
- Technical Sergeant Russell A. Lachman, Rockport, Mass., waist gunner;
- Staff Sergeant Albert Albro, Antioch, California, ball turret gunner and
- Staff Sergeant Herbert D. Guild, Bronx, New York, tail gunner.