Sgt. Howard L. Nelson, armor gunner

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Crash of B-26 Marauder 41-31710 "General Sherman" MARC 12341


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Sgt. Howard L. Nelson

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Sgt. Howard L. Nelson, armor gunner

Sgt. Howard L. Nelson (37233648) was born on 16 November 1916 in Allen County, KS, the son of John B. and Emma C. Nelson of LaHarpe, KS.  He attended college for two years and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 23 December 1940 at Garden City Army Airfield.  Nelson died in January 1975.

Mission 289 - 387th Bomb Group

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9th Bombardment Division Martin B-26 Marauders scoring direct hits on the "Kronbrinz Wilhelm" railroad bridge over the Rhine river at Engers, Germany, as part of a widespread and coordinated attack aimed at the disruption of German railway

The 387th Bomb Group (Medium) of the Ninth Air Force was based at Station A-17, Clastres, France.  Clastres was located on the northern edge of the village of Clastres, about seven miles south of the city of Saint-Quentin, France.  The 387th Bomb Group (M) was one of eight U.S. Army Air Force B-26 Marauder groups deployed in the European Theater of Operations.  Know as the “Tiger-Striped Marauders” or “Tiger Tails” because of the distinctive diagonal yellow and black stripes painted on the tails of their aircraft, the groups was made up of four squadrons: 556th, 557th, 558th, 559th Bomb Squadron (M).

The 387th Bomb Group (M) moved to Clastres in early November 1944 to keep up with rapidly advancing Allied troops.  The group quickly set up a tent city and lived in tents near the runway.  The operations tent was near group headquarters.  It was furnished with wooden benches and a large map of western Europe.  The map was marked with a grease pencil bomb line depicting the most advanced position of the Allied ground forces.  A colored string stretched between pins showed the course to the target.

Members of the groups spent their spare time improving their quarters, including building floors, furniture and improving the tent heating systems.  Building materials were scrounged from many sources including wood from bomb crates found at a German bomb dump in the nearby woods and nails form the charred ruins of an old German hanger.  Crews also had the pleasure to visit local villages which had recently been liberated.  Here they were able to meet the locals and purchase souvenirs of their time in France.

 On 14 February 1945, the 387th Bomb Group received operational orders to attack the railroad bridge at Engers, Germany.  This was to be mission 289.  From the 557th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Lt. Peter Gregorchuck was the pilot the B-26B-21 Marauder 41-1710 nicknamed the “General Sherman.”  The aircraft had identification markings of KS-A.  About 16:00 hours they were over the target and encountered heavy flak.  The pilot called for the crew to bail out.  In an eyewitness statement from Missing Air Crew Report 12341, Sgt. Howard L. Nelson stated that all three gunners bailed out the right waist window.  The toggler left the ship by the bomb bay doors.  The pilot and co-pilot remained with the aircraft and crash landed near Sayen, 9 kilometers north of Koblenz, Germany.  All were captured by the Germans.  Nelson says that he meet Sgt. William B. Harbour, the engineer/gunner and the others about five hours after the crash in a stone building on the east bank of the Rhine at Koblenz, Germany.  One of Harbour’s ankles had been broken when he landed on the ground.

  • Sayen, Germany
  • 14 February 1945

Contributor: jkurtspence
Created: September 11, 2011 · Modified: April 2, 2012

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