1943 — Africa
Sergeant Howard H Midkiff was an Eng/Gunner on the B-25 Mitchell Medium Bomber. He was in the Original batch of men 1st assigned to the 321st Bomb Group, the 446th Bomb Squadron. He flew across the Atlantic the Southern Route, in the "now famous" Gen Bob Knapp's 321st BG.... an entire fleet of B-25 ships, the 1st to fly across in a single mass without loss. Howard was shot down in the same ship he was flown over in (A Top-Secret RADAR-equipped ship).
Barbi Ennis Connolly, Historian for the 321st BG Aug. '09
2013; 321st Bomb Group War-Diary;
Wednesday, 24 March 1943 /HOWARD MIDKIFF;
446th BS: Extracts from Missing Air Crew Report # 14577: “Airplane No. 42-13212 was hit in the radio-compartment by heavy anti-aircraft fire over the target and was seen to crash. In the interrogation by S-2 section it was reported that four (4) parachutes were seen to open.A/C No. 41-13212 (MACR-14577 shot down over target by anti-aircraft fire) P Stine, Donald A., 2Lt - MIA, POW, returned CP Cox, James L., 2Lt - KIA N None B Brewster, Ernest I., 2Lt - KIA E Midkiff, Howard H., S/Sgt - KIA R Trepple, John J., Sgt - MIA, POW, returned G Lewis, Thomas A., S/Sgt - KIA F None
Statements from INDIVIDUAL CASUALTY QUESTIONNAIRE completed by S/Sgt John J. Trepple:
“I am sorry that I will not be able to give you much information. I’ll try to explain what happened so you can better understand the situation. We were flying in formation and had just released our bombs. We were hit and as far as I know I was immediately blown or fell from the ship. I was wounded in the eyes and was unable to see at all until the next day. I could not obtain any information in regards to the rest of the crew from the Germans. I did not know anything at all about any of the crew until later (1 year) I learned that the pilot Lt. Donald A. Stine. Was alive and a P.O.W.
In April 1945 I met the pilot (Lt. Stine) in a camp in Germany. He too was blown from the ship. He gave me some information on Lt. James L. Cox. Please see his information sheet.”
“Midkiff, Howard H., S/Sgt: He did not have his parachute on at the time that we were hit. The ship blew up as I was blown (or fell) from it. I was temporarily blinded so I was not able to see if anyone else was blown out and able to open chutes.
Brewster, Ernest I, 2nd Lt: Not much only things happened so fast that I doubt that he was able to get out in time. My pilot said that he was injured. The pilot told me that Lt. Cox was wounded and either dead or unconscious at the time that Lt. Stine was blown from the ship.
Stine, Donald A., 2nd Lt: The pilot Lt. Stine bailed out through the escape hatch above the pilot’s compartment. He suffered no injuries other than a sprained ankle upon striking the ground.”
Statements from INDIVIDUAL CASUALTY QUESTIONNAIRE completed by 1st Lt. Donald A. Stine:
“Sgt. Trepple, waste gunner - rad. Oper. Was blown out by explosion of A.A. shell which blew fuselage completely in two just at spot where he was. I was thrown out thru glass roof of cockpit.
I saw no others landing by parachute, but was dazed, and could have missed them. Germans reported counting four chutes, but otherwise the bomb., Lt Brewster was in nose, Co-pilot, Lt Cox in cockpit, turret gunner, Sgt Lewis, in turret, tail gunner, Sgt Midkiff, in tail.
I have seen Sgt Trepple in Mooseberg, Germany, and on ship coming home, but no others, since before last mission.
Wednesday, 24 March 1943 (continued)
Our airplane was blown up by an A. A. shell, which battery commander who captured me reported as a 150 mm. There was no chance for anyone to check anyone else’s condition. I was dazed and the other known survivor was blinded.”
“Lewis, Thomas A., S/Sgt: His parachute was a snap-on type located near turret. He was in tail section of ship, which was severed from the front section. I believe he must have been killed.
Midkiff, Howard H., S/Sgt: Radio oper. Reported Sgt Midkiff had removed his chute just before bomb run. He was in the severed rear section of fuselage. He must have been killed.
Brewster, Ernest I, 2nd Lt: His chute, a snap-on type, was in Nav. Comp., and he’d have had to go through crawlway to get it, which would have been almost impossible, due to violence of spin.
Cox, James L., 2Lt: Germans on ground reported they had found him in wreckage, and buried his body. They showed me his dog tag.”
446th BS Special Account: Today we lost our first plane in combat. In a raid on the Tebaga North L/G, in southern Tunisia Lt. Stine’s plane was destroyed by flak. The crew included Lt. Stine, pilot; Lt. Cox, co-pilot; Lt. Brewster, bombardier-navigator; S/Sgt. Midkiff, engineer; S/Sgt. Lewis, turret gunner; and Sgt. Trepple, radio operator. Four parachutes were seen to open. No word was heard of the crew until word came that Lt. Stine was a prisoner of war. Nothing has been heard of any of the rest of the crew. The following is an eye-witness account of the loss of that plane:
On March 24, 1943 the 321st Bombardment Group was briefed to bomb the Tebaga North L/G. As we approached the target the formation spread out into bombing formation. Lt. Stine was flying on Lt. Griffith’s wing in the element just to my left. We had just dropped our bombs when I looked out to the left to observe the effect of the intense flak. Just as my eyes fell on Lt. Stine’s plane it seemed to break into two pieces aft of the turret. In the next second the forward piece nosed down and the aft section fell backwards. We then made a bank to the right and the plane left my line of vision.
PETER D. TAYLOR
Captain, Air Corps.
Brewster, Ernest I., 2Lt, bombardier, navigator Cox, James L., 2Lt, pilot
Griffith, Frank J., 1Lt, pilot Lewis, Thomas A., S/Sgt, turret gunner
Midkiff, Howard H., S/Sgt, engineer-gunner Stine, Donald A., 2Lt, pilot
Taylor, Peter D., 1Lt, pilot Trepple, John J., Sgt, radio-gunner, radar
Wednesday, 24 March 1943 (continued)
446th BS War Diary of: Williams, Wallace (NMI) “Spike”, Jr., 2Lt, pilot:
“Now we realize that this fight is no game, and it is ‘Them or us.” As missions came we began to improve. There was a lot of dissension and argument in the Group, mostly cause we were green. As I write this it actually seems comic those first weeks. We knew so little. That is where I got the full meaning of Dad’s saying ‘good soldiers make mistakes. There are no exceptions.’ We had bull sessions on combat for hours on end and cussed everybody, even Col. Knapp. ‘Col. Bob and his flying circus.’ Except when I flew, my thoughts were always at home. Brantwood, and what I was going to do when I got home. Barbie and everything.
Knapp, Robert Duane, Col, pilot, 321st BG Commander
Well to get on. I had the ‘Traveler’ then and ‘Big Moe’ Morris as co-pilot, S/Sgt Porter was my enlisted bombardier and plenty good. He is a qualified gunner, bombardier, armament man and Norden sight instructor. McKibben was engineer; Sheehan radioman. Had Mac and Zook back in the States. All in all it is a damn fine crew.
McKibben, Walter D., Jr., Sgt, engineer-gunner
Morris, Richard Pervis, Jr. "Big Moe", 2Lt, pilot Porter, Walter E., S/Sgt, bombardier
Sheehan, William F., T/Sgt, radio-gunner Zook, Urie H., S/Sgt, gunner
Well, the rains came fast and the missions slow. Everything was getting in the groove, but I had to turn back two or three times with guns out of order. Once, the escape hatch blew off about 100 feet over the end of the runway.
Six of us lived in a pyramidal tent and it was a bit crowded. There were always arguments, but we had fun anyway. That is til March 24th. That day we went at an airfield near Sousse and Don Stine was knocked down. A lucky burst of flak right in the fuselage. He is safe now in a German prison camp and his family hears from him. The 321st lost one of its best pilots and me, one of my best friends.”
Stine, Donald A., 2Lt, pilot