The 96th Bomb Group, 413th Bomb Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was stationed at Station 138, Snetterton Heath, England. This airfield was located six miles south-west of Attleborough at the site of a famous motor racing circuit. The main runway was 2,000 yards in length with fifty “frying pan” type hardstands and several hangers.
Mission #288 was flown on 9 March 1945. On this day, 423 B-17s were dispatched to hit the marshalling yards at Frankfurt, Germany. The crew of 1st Lt. Harvey E. Fox, Jr. was assigned to B-17 serial number 43-37789 with square C marking on the tail. At about approximately 1010 hours in the morning and over the target, their aircraft was hit by flak. Co-pilot Tierney gives the following account of the events that followed:
We were flying low section lead which when flying formation in just under the lead ship and back about 75 feet. This position give the 12 ships in a squadron excellent fire power against attacking planes. However, during the bomb run we pull out to left from under the lead ship so that the squadron resembles a diamond and provides a solid bombing pattern. The low section lead is a dangerous position to fly because the anti-aircraft gunners sight in on the lead ship and are generally hitting low and behind which is right where the low section leader is flying. We had just dropped our bombs and were assuming our position under the lead ship when we were hit knocking out number 2 & 3 engines and we had a large hole in the left wing and smoke coming into the cabin. Since the gas tanks are all in the wings, any kind of fire is cause for alarm. We now noticed the number one engine was losing oil out of the cowl flaps. The pilot gave the order to bailout. We opened the bomb bay doors to give us easy access out of the plane. I bailed out at about 18,000 feet. I pulled the rip cord and nothing happened. Since I had a front pack, I was able to snap open the pilot chute which popped open the main chute. We were briefed that the clouds would be at about 7,000 feet. When my chute finally opened, I just hit the top of the clouds. So I had a free fall of about 10,000 feet. However, there is not sensation of falling because you have no reference to measure the distant. Four members of our crew had problems with the chute opening. My navigator [F/O Gerard J. Clohessy] had a backpack on [and] there is no way he could have opened his chute. I landed going backwards into a big bomb crater about 200 yards from a flak battery so as I was getting out of my chute, three soldiers were standing there with rifles pointing at me. My radio operator [Tech Sgt. Alois J.Tlush] _went into the side of a two story building, breaking both his knee caps and three vertebrate in his back. We spent the first night in the Mannheim city jail. _
Missing Air Crew Report 12958 was filed with the following eyewitness report:
A/C was hit by flak over the target. The left wing was seen to be on fire as the a/c went into a tail spin. As it dove into the clouds below, it exploded and the wings were seen to crumble. 9 chutes were seen.
The crash location was near Mannheim, Germany.