The 490th Bomber Group, 850th Bomb Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was based at Station 134, Eye, England. The airfield was located in the Suffolk countryside south of Norwich. The bomber group originally flew B-24 Liberators but in August 1994 converted to the B-17. The 490th had the lowest number of aircraft losses of any bomb group in the Eighth Air Force.
2nd Lt. Carl J. Faust, Jr. (O-832129) was the pilot of the B-17 G serial number 43-38068, nicknamed “Magnificent Obsession” on the 9 March 1945 mission to bomb a large factory and castings plant at Frankfort/Main, Germany. After their early morning briefing, Faust and his crew went out to hardstand 26, south of the runway to climb aboard “Magnificent Obsession.” The aircraft took off from Eye at 06:00 hours. Faust and his aircraft joined up with the combat formation, flying in the outside left position of the low box. This was a vulnerable spot. As they approached the target and were ready for bombs away, the aircraft was hit by flak. The resulting burst of flak crippled one engine and started a fire below the flight deck. Faust radioed to Captain McLean, leader of the upper box, requesting a course to the nearest landing field in friendly territory. The group leader radioed back to try and stay with the group back to friendly territory. At the same time, engineer Roy E. Caver jumped down from the upper level to try and extinguish the fire. He did so without the use of oxygen.
Faust responded to the group leader that he would have to break from the formation because one engine was shot, he had an oxygen leak and fire on board and two of his crew had been injured. Harry R. Pardue, the navigator, and Robert L. Green, the radio operator, had been hit. Green was wounded in the neck. The group leader gave him a heading for the emergency landing field and informed him that is was 150 miles ahead. The group leader also contacted for fighter cover of the crippled aircraft. The fighter escort stated they had already picked him up and would follow Faust.
As the situation continued to worsen, Faust considered whether to give the bailout order. The bombs were jammed, unable to be released and there were two badly injured crewmembers. Not wanting to abandon the crew or have the bombs explode, Faust ordered the crew to prepare for a crash landing.
Realizing that he still had a full load of bombs, Faust ordered waist gunner Paul W. Winkel and others to put the cotter pins back in the two five hundred pound bombs and the 42 one hundred pound bombs. Rapidly losing altitude, Faust searched the countryside for a safe place to land. He noticed a small airfield and attempted to bring the damaged aircraft down. He ordered the engineer Roy Caver down to the radio compartment and called for the crew to brace for a crash landing. Ball turret gunner George K. Bryant, tail gunner Lloyd K. Wells, Jr. and Roy Caver were all seated on the floor and ready for the impending crash. Wells was in the middle and sustained some injuries. Bryant was killed when he was hit by the radio jamming transmitter set and Caver was severely injured and taken to a hospital in Herborn where he died of his injuries ten days later. Faust later lamented: “I wish now I had told him to stay on the flight deck because we survived.”
The aircraft crash landed in a meadow near the village of Gusternhain with such force that it almost completely broke into two parts. Faust and his co-pilot Ollie O. Hurst were captured by German soldiers and taken to a small jail in the town. Here they were given a small loaf of bread and a sausage. The next day they were taken by truck to the POW transit camp at Wetzlar. Faust later remembered that he forgot to take the meager food with them and wished they had because it was many days before they had more food.
The other airmen went to the hospital in Herborn with their injured crew. They were liberated 18 days later by advancing Allied troops. Missing Air Crew Report 12947 was filed when the crew failed to return to base. Included in the MARC was a letter by Faust requesting that all his crew members be rewarded or decorated “for remaining with plane and wounded crewmen during last mission.”
Landing gear cylinders and other parts of 43-38068 were discovered in a local barn about to be torn down. The owner’s father had collected military items from the former Luftwaffe airfield and from the B-17 crash at Gusternhain. They are now located in the Herborn local history museum.