The 493rd Bomb Group, 863rd Bomb Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was based at Station 152, Debach, England. This airfield was located northeast of Ipswich in the Suffolk countryside. The 493rd Bomb Group was nicknamed “Helton’s Hellcats.”
On Saturday, 3 March1945, the Eighth Air Force dispatched 1,102 bombers and 743 fighters to bomb oil refineries, oil plant equipment works, motor transport factory and rail bridges in north central and eastern Germany. The 493rd was to bomb a secondary target at Hildesheim with 38 B-17s. There were scattered clouds but unrestricted visibility that day.
2nd Lt. George Graff was the pilot of the B-17G serial number 43-39050. At 1027 hours his aircraft was attacked by enemy fighters. The number two engine caught fire and Graff tried to slip the flames out by going into a nose dive. The effort was unsuccessful. They continued to lag behind the formation with “C” squadron. Unable to put out the fire, he gave the order for the nine man crew to bail out. The aircraft descended into the clouds and exploded. Three crewmen were listed as killedin action (KIA). The plane crashed near Hildesheim. The five crewmen who bailed out were captured and sent to a prisoners of war camp. Missing Air Crew Report 12886 was filed when the crew failed to return to base.
However, one crew member who was listed as KIA, ball turret gunner Sgt. Francis M. Mungavin did manage to parachute to the ground only to suffer severe injuries and was sent to hospital. See his story below.