Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Army, Army Air Forces 1
1 LT 1
29 Dec 1918 2
Fresno, California 2
15 May 1943 2

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Full Name:
Melvin R Rouch 1
29 Dec 1918 2
Fresno, California 2
15 May 1943 2
Place: California 1

World War II 1

Army, Army Air Forces 1
1 LT 1
Service Start Date:
31 Dec 1941 2
Service End Date:
15 May 1943 2
Service Number:
O-728111 1
Casualty Type:

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310thBG,381stBS, Lt Melvin R Rouch, DNB 15 May, 1943

WWII in North Africa, the 310th BG, 381st BS, Lt Melvin R Rouch


381st BS War Diary:  Additional Information for February 1943: 

More of the Air Echelon straggled in from England.  On the 13th, Lts. Kearns and Rouch, with 4 Enlisted Men.

1st Combat Mission;  Wednesday, 17 February 1943

381st BS Mission Summary:  (Ops Order ---/mission ---) Group Mission # 45:


Group Mission # 45                            Flight   12 B-25’s

Sqdrn. Mission # 28                            Escort  15 P-38’s

Take Off         13:10                           Bomb Load:  (72 x 20) Frag.

Target              14:45                           Bombs Dropped:  2(72 x 20).  2880#

Down              16:15

Total Time:  3 Hrs.  15 Min.

Weather: Enroute, visibility 7 miles. Zero at target. Visibility at opportunity target better.

Remarks:  Frag. bombs were dropped on an opportunity target, believed to be A/D.  They were well placed among the planes on the field, blowing up a building which must have contained explosives.

            Flak:  Only distant barrage over Cagliari.  No enemy fighters.  First photo taken by group turned out beautifully.


A/C No.  41-13086 (J) P. - Kearns, Archibald G., 1Lt CP - Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt Eng. - None B - Grossi, Frank L., S/Sgt G - None R - Elder, Donald W., Cpl G - Moberg, Edward (NMI), S/Sgt

2nd; Wednesday, 17 February 1943

3rd; 28 Feb. 1943

4th; Monday, 1 March 1943

5th; March 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, MARCH the 7th of 1943 was a DOOZIE!

Sunday, 7 March 1943 (continued)


381st BS Special Account:

THE 40th MISSION OF THE 381st   By Lt. Jack F. Marlow

           Do you remember the Sunday you started out for a nice quiet drive and ran into a big fire, a train wreck, and old “friend” whom you owed a punch in the nose and you gave it to him, marking one of the most eventful days of your life?            Well that just about described the 57th mission of our Group and the 40th of our Squadron.

            In the wee hours of the morning, the Colonel called six crews into the briefing room for this “nice quiet drive” which was one of our routine sea searches.  He told us that during the past week or so, several 18 plane formations had been out and that nothing had been sighted, so they were only sending six today, and he was “pretty darned sure we wouldn’t see anything.”  However, he was sending along a good escort of P-38’s in case of interception, so we had nothing to worry about.

            Lt. Thorndike, who was on this day marking his 25th mission, led the flight.  Our ship was on the right wing and Lt. Kearns, pilot, and   *****  Lt. Rouch, co-pilot  ***** were on the other.  We were rather new at the game with two missions under our belt and Kearns and Rouch had about eight.  The second element also had one comparatively green crew.

Kearns, Archibald G., 1Lt, pilot - Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt, pilot -Thorndike, Robert W., 1Lt, pilot

           We took off a little after daybreak and headed for the coast.  There was a comparatively low ceiling, along with some ground fog and a lot of low scattered scud.  By the time we put out to sea, the low stuff was gone, but the ceiling was still about 1500 feet.  Fourteen escort ships were with us.  We cruised along for about an hour over enemy waters, and finally turned on a new heading toward Sicily, when right on the horizon in front of us sat a nice juicy convoy.  It looked as if there was one merchant vessel with an escort vessel on each side.  I really didn’t know what to expect from the looks of it, because to me, who had never seen anything larger than a 7,000 ton freighter at close range, this thing looked like the Queen Mary.

            There is no thrill in the world to compare with piling into a bunch of ships at sea.  When the leader gives the signal of attack, all the motors start to roar in an effort to gain speed and the fighters get excited and start bobbing in and out like a bunch of chicks around an old hen, every thing gets pretty good.  Then when you get about 250 m.p.h. and all the ships start bearing down on the kill at 200 feet altitude and the escort vessels spot you and start throwin’ those big five inches out in the water to make spouts in an effort to clip someone’s wing and throw out heavy flak, and your gunners start answering back with .50’s, there is a lot of lead flyin’ and things are pretty hot in general.  Just about that time, some enemy fighters popped down out of the sky and some of our boys in the P-38’s spot ‘em and start up after ‘em. 

            In our ship I called the bombardier as we started on our run and told him to get set and then called the gunners and gave them their target position.  I wanted them to take everything they could find at the right of us.  Just when getting within what I thought was range, I hollered, “Let ‘er go, and damnit, melt those guns right off the turrets.”  Boy, they did.  The gunners both fired ahead of the plane but everything fell short at first and the bombardier let go with his gun and a lot of lead started to fly.  I fired a few bursts out of the pilot’s gun just before we got to the target and broke the damned thing and he was really “browned off.”  The gunners never let up, and the lower turret (which everyone had said was no good), manned in our ship by Sgt Frank A. Dittmar, put more lead on the decks of those two leading escort vessels than Carter has pills, knocking out two gun positions.   Dittmar, Francis A., Sgt, radio-gunner

            Just as we approach our target with everybody throwin’ lead, those bastards threw up two barrage balloons on the large merchant vessel but not one ship gave way.  Everyone bore right on down and all bombs hit on the bow, breaking the ship in half.  We drove right on over and dodged and ducked for a long time until out of range.

            Here is a good place to mention the work of the first pilot of our ship, Lt. D.S. Wert.  Being on the side of the formation opposite the balloons, and as the lead ship headed for the bow of the ship, he would have been forced entirely off the boat, if he hadn’t done some cool, quick thinking.  He raised about 40 feet higher than the formation; fell directly in train of the leader until the bombardier dumped his load.  This forced him a little out of formation; he avoided giving Jerry a belly shot by going right down to the deck and intercepting the formation a few seconds later.

            Also, I think Lt. Thorndike deserves much credit for leading his first attack on shipping so successfully.     Thorndike, Robert W., 1Lt, pilot

           As we left the target I looked around for the other element and one ship was dragging behind.  His Bombay doors were open and his lower turret was extended.  He looked to be in bad shape, so we took it easy on the way back.  When we got over land, he fell far behind and we thought he was going into another airport.  He came home shortly after we did and crash landed on the field.  Both pilots, and all the crew were injured, but they were home alive and safe.  The plane had over 150 holes in it.

     What had happened to him was this.  He had been unable to get in between the balloon cables and the plane next to him so he went to the left of the balloons and dropped his eggs on another ship, which sank.  But when he broke formation, a couple of enemy fighters spotted him and dove right through their own flak and shot him up pretty badly.

             Some of the bombs overshot the big merchant ship we were on and hit a smaller merchant vessel on the other side, setting it on fire.  So the report brought back was that 6 B-25’s sank two merchant vessels and left one burning.  The report read that our ships hit a convoy of three merchant vessels with an escort of one cruiser, two destroyers, and five smaller naval craft from 200 feet.  In spite of intense flak causing hundreds of holes in our aircraft, and personal injury to two officers and three enlisted men, all our aircraft returned safely after a running fight with three ME-109’s, one ME-110, and one JU-88.  Our fighter escort shot down one ME-109 and strafed the escort vessels.    All of our planes brought back battle scars.        ---------------------------------------------------

Friday 12 March, 1943 Mission;   A/C No.  41-13052 “TABOO” (F)  (Rouch - Pilot)

Friday, 26 March 1943 Mission; A/C No.  42-53444 “PUNJAB” (L)

Sunday, 28 March,1943;  A/C No. 41-13052 “TABOO” (Q)


381st BS War Diary:  Additional Information for March 1943:

ENGLAND-NORTH AFRICA  Group Mission # 59    Squadron Mission # 38

       The following Combat Crews were given credit for one complete Combat Mission, representing their flight from England to North Africa.  These flights took place between 27 December 1942 and 28 February 1943.

A/C No.  41-13086 (1/16/43) Kearns, Archibald G., 1Lt Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt None Grossi, Frank L., S/Sgt Magouirk, Tillman R., S/Sgt (Crew Chief) Elder, Donald W., Cpl Moberg, Edward (NMI), S/Sgt

Campbell, Warren B., S/Sgt (AE)

310thBG,381stBS, Lt Melvin R Rouch (DNB) 15 May, 1943

Lt Rouch;

MISSION as told by (Tuesday, 11 May 1943) Lt Pemberton;  


    Col. Hunter advised us that Intelligence Officers would be allowed to go along on missions occasionally as observers, so when Lt. Rouch asked me to go in “Punjab” with him today, I accepted; and after a 06:45 breakfast we met in the briefing room to learn all of the up to the minute facts about the Enemy flak and aircraft situation, plus the usual and important details about bombing, radio, formation and weather (by the best damn weather man in North Africa, Captain Cole).

Cole, Frederick J., Capt, Group Weather Officer

Hunter, Anthony G., Col, pilot, 310th BG Commander

Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt, pilot

            This was to be another coordinated attack with 98 B-17’s, 38 B-26’s, with their escorts, and our escort of 24 P-38’s.

            It was a beautiful morning, just cool enough for a leather jacket, with the visibility over 50 miles, and only an occasional small cloud well to the North.

            Melvin Rouch made one of his typical, smooth, in formation take-offs, with Lt. Thorndike our Flight Leader, and after a few minutes climbing and circling, the 36 Mitchells crossed the field, on course, in two nice 18 ship formations.  On our way to the coast the mountains, valleys, lakes, villages and live stock seemed to creep by, although we were indicating 200 miles per hour at 7,000 feet altitude.

Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt, pilot

Thorndike, Robert W., 1Lt, pilot

            The first sight of Bone and the Mediterranean didn’t show any activity, but soon we were able to see the port crowded with all kinds of shipping and the air fields where our P-38’s and P-40’s and Spits are based.

            By this time, 10:45, we were over the sea and a nervous convoy of 6 freighters, one with balloons flying, and an escort of 5 small naval craft put on speed and zig-zagged as they saw us approaching.  However, as we held to a steady course to one side of them, no recognition signals were fired.

            At least 60 vessels were seen in all; many in and around Tunis and Bizerte harbors, three other Allied convoys and many destroyers patrolling between Sicily and Cap Bon were the last of the battle for control of the continent was being fought --- we could see two large columns of smoke well to the South --- probably burning tanks.

            Our target was not only 40 miles to the North-East, and although we couldn’t see them, we knew the B-17’s were turning off their bombing run because smoke and dust was billowing up from the harbor area.

            I had just returned from the bombardier’s compartment in the nose, when Rouch called my attention to the flak bursting in front of us.  He was enjoying himself immensely and I began to understand why he complained so when he wasn’t scheduled for one of theses missions.  He wanted to be in on every one of them.

Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt, pilot

Tuesday, 11 May 1943 (continued)            Now things began to happen so rapidly that one man just couldn’t see all of it.  Exploding bombs were throwing up smoke that covered large sections of the city, guns were flashing along the beach road, black smoke in round puffs would suddenly appear on all sides, above and below us, there were Enemy sea planes to count in the cove just North of our target; Thorndike’s bombs were on their way down, and at that point Punjab gave three jolts as our 1,000 pounders were released by S/Sgt. Grossi, from an altitude of 10,400 feet at 11:29 Hours.

Grossi, Frank L., S/Sgt, bombardier-gunner

Thorndike, Robert W., 1Lt, pilot

            Rouch said, “Bob, do you see those two 109’s just ahead?”  I did, and the ship shook as Grossi opened up with his flexible 50 in the nose.  His shots fell short, for the 109’s were diving at the flight ahead of us and doing four or five hundred miles an hour.  However, we saw one of three go down smoking and later learned that S/Sgt. Bozovich and S/Sgt. Fox, gunners in Lt. Phillips’ and Lt. Wightman’s ships, were each officially credited with the destruction of an Enemy aircraft.  In the meantime --- this all happened in a matter of seconds as we were diving off the target --- three more Me’s attacked the rear of our formation but were driven off by our gunners and the splendid chaps in the Lightning “Pea-shooters”.

Bozovich, Matthew L., S/Sgt, gunner

Fox, Francis J., S/Sgt, gunner

Grossi, Frank L., S/Sgt, bombardier-gunner 

Pemberton, Robert (NMI) “Bob”, 1Lt, intelligence

Phillips, Carl A., 1Lt, pilot

Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt, pilot

Wightman, Henry B. "Hank", 1Lt, pilot

The return journey was uneventful; everything was calm and so peaceful that F/O Stagner moved out of the Co-Pilot’s seat and I flew (with assistance from Rouch) for a while, which was quite a thrill after a year’s lay off --- previously I had flown small grasshoppers with Horsepower ranging from 55 to 220 --- while 3,500 H.P. responded to these throttles.

Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt, pilot       Stagner, Howard C., F/O, pilot

            Shortly after landing, Lt. Therrien slid in for a crash landing on one wheel --- his hydraulic system, radio and fuselage having been shot up by explosive 20 M/M shells from one of the Enemy fighters.  Parts of two of these shells are now souvenirs which Therrien will take home at some future date.  His ship also caught fire --- twice --- but the crew took care of that as smoothly as they performed their other duties.

Therrien, Robert W., 2Lt, pilot

            After the interrogation forms had been filled out --- each man having reported to the S-2 Officers what he saw, where he saw it, and when he saw it --- we all gathered in the court yard for the good hot coffee and delicious doughnuts which the Red Cross girls serve after each mission.  It was then that word was received that Lt. Timmerman and his crew had crash landed at Bone (This was the Mitchell that we had seen loosing altitude).  Each of the 5 was badly shot up by flak and Jerry’s machine gun bullets, but they were all safe.


Mission Thursday, 13 May, 1943  and then..........

SATURDAY, 15 May, 1943;  Saturday, 15 May 1943

381st BS Extracts from Report of Aircraft Accident # ?:  (ROAA not available)


   A/C No.  41-13065 (ROAA-? crashed on return trip from Oran - cause not determined) P Wert, Donald S., 1Lt - Buried in Military Cemetery at Tunis, Tunisia CP Rouch, Melvin R., 1Lt - Buried in Military Cemetery at Tunis, Tunisia N None B Schimpf, Charles A., T/Sgt - Buried in Military Cemetery at Tunis, Tunisia E None R Fredrickson, Raymond V., S/Sgt - Buried in Military Cemetery at Tunis, Tunisia G Principe, Laurence F., Sgt - Buried in Military Cemetery at Tunis, Tunisia F None

May 1943 "Special Accounts"; 

            Several plane loads of personnel went to Algiers and Oran for the holidays.  Among them were 1st Lt. Donald S. Wert and 2nd Lt. Melvin R. Rouch, two Officers who were extremely popular and outstandingly capable.  Flying with them were T/Sgt. Charles A. Schimpf, S/Sgt. Raymond V. Fredrickson and Sgt. Lawrence F. Principe.  On their return flight from Oran they met with an accident, the cause of which has never been determined.  Pieces of the plane (41-13065) were spread over a wide area near Setif, the scene of the crash.  On 18 May, a simple but impressive military funeral was held in the cemetery at Constantine.  It was attended by 60 or more of their many friends in the Squadron.

Barbi Ennis Connolly, 57th BW Historical Researcher



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