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Grover C Bentinck Bombardier B-17 41-24533
Sub Pens December 30, 1942 | Lorient, France
Hq. 1st Bomb Wing B-17F 41-24533 Boom Town
SPECIAL PUBLIC RELATIONS REPORT - Captain William R. Laidlaw, PRO
The unbeatable teamwork of a Fortress crew who refused to quit
fighting after they were counted out was revealed recently with the return
to their English base of eight young Americans who took part in the bombing
of Lorient on December 30th.
Sitting around the interrogation table the airmen, whose homecoming
was delayed by a forced landing at a British station, reported calmly on
what observers here consider one of the outstanding flying feats of the
year. When intelligence officers had pieced their modest narratives
together few of the experiences that can befall a bomber crew were missing.
With other crews on the 30th they had had the satisfaction of seeing their
bombs drop squarely on the target. Their ship had been severely hit by flak
and shot up by enemy fighters. After their bombardier (Grover Cleveland Bentinck) had been killed,
their tail gunner wounded and several of the others less seriously hit, they
had knocked down three Nazi fighters and probably destroyed two more.
Struggling to keep up with the formation, they had dropped from high
altitude to a mere hundred feet, at one point skimming directly across a
Nazi naval harbor. As they came home, their ship was so low that it
actually skipped against the waves of the Channel. Three times they
prepared to 'ditch', and each time the captain, with what his crew calls 'a
marvelous exhibition of piloting', pulled them up to safety. When they
finally landed in England they were flying on only two motors and were
barely able to clear the coastal cliffs.
The ship was 'Boom Town', a B-17 which got its name back in the
States because, according to the crew, 'it was always shooting oil'. The
pilot was Captain Clyde B. Walker, a quiet-spoken young man from Tulsa,
Oklahoma, who has been flying for the Army since September, 1940, and used
to be an instructor at Brooks Field, Texas.
On the afternoon of December 30th, Captain Walker and his crew
headed with a formation of Flying Fortresses for the German submarine pens
at Lorient in Occupied France. Visibility was excellent and the crew saw
their target some time before the bombing run. As their bombs dropped, the
ball turret gunner, Sergeant Oscar Green, of Great Falls, Montana, followed
their course and saw bursts on the platform between the two sub pens. Over
the intercom the crew heard the bombardier shout: 'Bull's eye!' At almost
the same moment heavy flak tore up through the nose of the Fortress and
enemy fighters dove in to attack. 'We were only hit once,' Captain Walker
said. 'That was when they knocked us out of the formation.'
The hail of flak and explosive bullets together almost blew the
Fortress out of the sky. In the nose, the bombardier was killed. A piece
of flak hit the navigator, Lt. Wilbert M. Smith, of Ashland Wis., in the
arm, passing through his flight jacket and knocking him off his seat. The
high also save Lt. Smith's life. As he lay momentarily stunned, bullets
from one of the attacking fighters swept across the navigator's perch where
he had been sitting. Simultaneously, an explosive shall ripped the bottom
out of the ball turret. Blinded by oil and escaping fumes, with his oxygen
supply destroyed and his ammunition jammed so tightly against him that he
'thought his leg was off', Sgt. Green stayed in the turret and 'kept
covering his area'. In the tail turret, Sgt. Stephen G. Krucher, of Werick,
L. I., was badly hit. Despite his wounds, the former New York City clerk
continued to fight his gun, and as one FW190 charged in on the tail he shot
half of one of its wings off, sending it down. Two minutes earlier S/Sgt.
W. W. Stroud, of Fredonia, Kansas, had destroyed another enemy aircraft.
The fighter attacked from the nose, passing so close to the sights of the
right waist gun that Sgt. Stroud could see the enemy pilot's head.
"He cam in towards the nose around 12 o'clock", Sgt. Stroud said.
"As he banked and started in on our tail I let him have it. It looked as if
part of the fuselage came off and he fell off towards the sea."
As the Fortress staggered away from the target more enemy fighters
came in, attacking the nose in pairs. Captain Walker's ship was practically
disabled. The first blast had broken the drive shaft of the No. 1 engine.
The No. 2 engine had been hit on the top cylinder and soon had only a little
emergency power left.
"The prop would run away when I advanced it a little bit," Captain
The oil pressure was giving out and flak had put a large dent in one
of the prop blades of the No. 3 engine. There was a big hole in the nose,
the ball turret was shattered, the bomb bay doors had been shot up by
shellfire, the oxygen lines were cut and the de-icing fluid was punctured.
The radio equipment was damaged and the control cable had been knocked off
"They missed the pilot and co-pilot, that's all," Captain Walker
said. "And the co-pilot had a piece of flak in his parachute."
Despite these handicaps, the pilot kept making for the cover of the clouds,
keeping up such skillful evasive action that the enemy fighters were unable
to score any more hits.
The co-pilot, Lt. Bill J. Reed, of Siloam Springs, Ark., a former student at
John Brown University, told how Sgt. Stroud took a .50 calibre bullet, and,
as the plane plunged along, worked the slipping elevator cable back on its
In its effort to keep up with the formation the Fortress was losing altitude
at the rate of 2,000 feet a minute. At 10,000 feet, the top turret gunner,
Sgt. Phillip L. Judkins, an ex-clerk from Tacoma, Wash., brought down a
third enemy fighter in flames. Sgt. John T. Frishholz, who hails from
Wilmington, Cal., and played football under Alonzo Stagg at the University
of the Pacific, had to leave his gun to put out a fire in his radio
compartment. In the waist, Sgt. Stroud and Sgt. Lewis P. Berring, a former
mechanic from Los Angeles, Cal., drove off two more FW190's which fell
smoking, but the gunners were too busy to verify their destruction.
For a few moments a Fortress from another Group came down and flew beside
"He probably saved our necks there for a little while," Captain Walker said.
"He kept them off us just long enough."
"I had time to reach back and grab my ammunition can and re-load," Sgt.
The 'Boom Town' finally ducked away into the temporary safety of the clouds.
When it came out again over the channel, it was alone, still losing altitude
at 2,000 feet a minute. All the crew were still at their posts except the
bombardier and Sgt. Krucher who was relieved in the tail turret by Sgt.
"I had to get rough with Krucher to make him lie down," the navigator said.
"Stroud cut open his electric suit to give him first aid and, when he put
the iodine on, Krucher didn't even let out a whimper."
All at once they spotted land.
"We were all looking for England," Captain Walker said. "We were looking
for land so hard that when we saw some a little off to the right we started
right in. We thought it was England and started look at the roads to see
which side the cars were running on. We saw one bicycle. Green called on
the intercom: 'That don't look like England to me!' Then, all of a sudden,
we saw the sub pens we'd bombed before and we knew it was Brest."
By this time the fortress was down to six hundred feet and still losing
"We came right over the harbor," Lt. Smith said. "They must have been
pretty surprised. We were within five miles of the merchant ships there
before they even got their balloons up."
Cutting across to the open Channel, Captain Walker passed directly between
two destroyers, neither of which had time to fire.
"Reed watched one side and I watched the other," Captain Walker said, "and
we took straight out over the harbor."
They were now flying on two engines and the pilot was worried about the No.
2 prop which was running away, threatening to wreck the ship. Several times
the ball turret bounded on the Channel and they hoped the propeller would
"I think the pilot was just doing that to gain altitude," Sgt. Stroud
remarked. He kept dragging the turret, and each time we'd bounce up about a
Presently Captain Walker gave orders to prepare for a crash landing in the
"We began heaving everything over," Sgt. Frishholz said. "Ammunition,
oxygen bottles, masks, parachutes, everything we could. Just as we'd thrown
out the last .50 calibres, two German fighters showed up overhead. I
yelled: 'Where's my ammunition!' Berring just shrugged his shoulders."
"Each time the Chief told us we were going to ditch," Lt. Reed said, "he
sent me back to get braced for the crash. Then just as I thought we were
going to hit, I'd look out and we would be going up again."
Finally they made it. Captain Walker managed to pull the ship up eight
hundred feet and they crossed safely over the English coast, landing soon
after at a British base.
"I'd like to say," Said Lt. Smith, who studied mining engineering at
Michigan Tech and joined the Air Corps the day before Pearl Harbor, "that
the crew thinks the pilot deserves very special credit."
"It's the crew that deserves that," Captain Walker said.
"I think a lot should be said about our bombardier, too," Lt. Smith said.
"You might tell about Stroud," Lt. Reed said. "He's high gunner in the
Group now. Four destroyed and one probable. Funny part is he never went to
gunnery school. He's a qualified bombardier."
Sgt. Green, who worked on a ranch and for the Great Northern Railroad back
home, said he still couldn't see how they'd made it.
"The Gremlins must have been holding us up," he said.
"Yes," Lt. Smith added, "the Gremlins were with us this time."
The co-pilot may have hit it more accurately.
"Boy!" Lt. Reed said, "We've got a real crew, no kidding."
(Story based on direct interrogation of crew. All quotes explicit.)
NOTE: Bombardier's name not mentioned because of death in action. If
releasable, he was Lt. G. C. Bentinck, Jr., of Galveston, Texas. He entered
the service on December 11, 1941, graduating from the Bombardier school at
Victorville, Cal. In civilian life he was a shipfitter.