30-January-1944 — Braunschweig, Germany
On 30-Jan-44 the 92nd split into two forces, designated as Force A, led by Col Brousseau, and Force B led by Lt Col James Griffith. One tragic incident marred the otherwise perfect coordination of the 92nd Bomb Groups aircraft. The ship piloted by 2nd Lt Wayne H. Larson, having lost altitude for some unknown reason, and attempting to regain position about 10 minutes after the target, collided with the aircraft piloted by 2nd Lt David C Russell. One of the ships exploded almost immediately, and the other spun down out of control. Both crews were from the 407th Squadron.
Details on the fate of both crews was in a state of confusion since both Aircraft crashed in the same location (one exploded mid-air). Bodies of some of the deceased were unidentifiable due to the fire in both aircraft. The Germans of course had no idea who was in which aircraft and with a number of the bodies burned beyond any recognition, some of the details of this story were not known until after the end of the war since the survivors were all interred in POW camps.
To describe the collision I am including the testimony of two eyewitnesses of the incident. First is the testimony of S/Sgt Clyde R. Hall, 407th Squadron.
"I was tail gunner on B-17 G 42-31532, flying the lead of the High Squadron. One of the ships in question waws below and one above, both slightly forward of the tail of our ship. Our ship moved out in front of them and then the lower of the two ships pulled up abruptly, colliding with the higher of the two ships. The cockpit window made contact with the bottom of the nose of the higher ship. The lower ship burst into flames, and then both ships passed from our sight, We saw no parachutes."
This is another eyewitness account by S/Sgt Alexander Phillips, 407th Squadron
"I was tail gunner on B-17 G 42-31494, and we were flying Lead Ship Second Element, Low Squadron, Lead Group. I first noticed the ships when a big burst of flame caught my eye. I saw the two ships, one on top of the other. The bottom ship was in flames. Suddenly the bottom ship exploded. The explosion of the lower ship tore the left wing of the upper ship and as it started to go down it exploded too. The lower ball turret fell out from the lower ship. No parachutes were seen."
Although neither eyewitness spotted any parachutes there were 8 survivors of the collision.
Sources: MACR's 2254, 2255, ; "The Route as Briefed" Sloan
92nd BG Archives, Mission Plans, AAR.