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Crash of "Black Nan"
Pictures & Records
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The "Black Nan" was the lead plane for the group as it bombed enemy positions north of Luga, Italy, on 10 April 1945. This type of mission was a easy one. They took off only a short distance away near Foggia. The target was not a major city that would be defended with anti-aircraft. The German air force was almost non-existant by this time of the war. "Black Nan" had a weather radar mounted in the position of the belly gun turrent which added 1 extra crew member for a total of 11. The weather radar wasn't needed as it was a perfectly clear day.
A photographer in a plane off to the Black Nan's left began taking photos as they dropped their bombs. The flight continued in a Westerly direction. The photographer continued to take photos of the formation as flak began to explode in front of their formation. In one photo, only the tail of the Black Nan could be seen. This photo recorded the second the Black Nan was hit; a dirty pall of smoke and a large piece of metal flying aft and some smaller pieces. The next photo captured the large B-24 as it rolled over on its back, almost inverted. It was hit near the #1 Engine(far left) which blew the wing in half. With the loss of lift on the left wing, the aircraft rolls over on its left side.
Once the B-24 begins a death roll, the crew are usually pinned in due to the centrifugal forces. The weather radar operator was an extra crewman and since his specialty wasn't needed, he was standing in the bomb bay area. As it turned out, he was able to jump free of the aircraft as it rolled over. He was the only survivor of this crash.
Google Search "The Saga of Black Nan" for a PDF file that shows a sequence of photos taken of Black Nan, including the one of it exploding.
- 10 April 1945
464th Bombardment Group(H), 779th Bomb Squadron(H)
Pilot: Lt-Colonel James H. Gilson
Co-pilot: Capt. Charles H. Foote
Navigator: 1st-Lt. Robert J. O'Leary
Capt. Lacey P. Morton
Bombadier: Capt George R. Wall
Radar Bombadier: 1st-Lt. Edward F. Walsh
Engineer/Gunner: T/Sgt Jerrold R. Reuben
S/Sgt Robert C Rogers
Radio Operator/Gunner: S/Sgt Charles F. Montegut
Gunner: S/Sgt Norman S. Cope
S/Sgt Melvin C Thomason