Corporal James Fonzo Black was an Aerial Gunner with the 12th Air Force; 57th Bombardment Wing; 310th Bombardment Group; 428th Bombardment Squadron; stationed in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, (MTO).
His Hometown was Harris County, Texas.
Tuesday, 07 September 1943
B-25C; Serial#: 42-64554; MACR:567;
Downed by unknown causes
P: MAJ. James P. Walker~O-23903~KIA~Fayetteville, Washington Co., AR
CP: 1LT. Frank A. Harder~O-728075~KIA~Spokane, Spokane Co., WA
N: 2LT. William V. Martin~O-669083~KIA~Lucas Co., OH
B: 2LT. Henry J. Hotopp~O-666670~KIA~Cook Co. IL
R: SSGT. Joseph A. Manfre~20318745~KIA~Ashley, Luzerne Co., PA
G: CPL. James F. Black~18062665~KIA~Harris Co., TX
Tuesday, 07 September 1943
428th BS Mission Summary: (Ops Order ---/mission ---) Group Mission # :
The target on the Seventh was the Trebisacce road bridges on the East coast of the heel of Italy--which cost one B-25 and crew. It was the first crew we lost since April 5th---and for this one we have no illusions as to their tragic fate. Major James P. Walker, Pilot; 1st Lt. Frank A. Harder, Copilot; 2nd Lt. William N. Martin, Navigator; 2nd Lt. Henry Hotopp, Bombardier; S/Sgt. Joseph Manfre, Radio Operator; and Cpl. James F. Black, Gunner; were lost. For the “Chief” it was the 49th raid. It was Lt. Harder’s second and last set-to with the briny deep. Once before when he
flew over cruiser death hovered near. The loss was none the less painful for the fact that structural failure of some type, rather than enemy action, was responsible. The Chief’s plane literally disintegrated after the dive to the deck just off the West coast of Italy. No flak or fighters were encountered on the trip. The Chief’s last efforts were in keeping with all that he stood for.
As pieces began tearing themselves from the fuselage, the Chief pulled his plane out of formation lest he endanger others. A wing fell off and the hulk plummeted seaward in a vertical dive from four or five hundred feet. In our opinion the Air Corps lost one of its most promising men. We shall miss them all.
The target areas were well covered by the bombing patters. Near misses were certainly scored by the bombers on all three bridges. All may have been hit. Both road and railhead were definitely severed.
It was the first of a series of raids made without escort. For Captain James C. Brock and S/Sgt. Edward Naworski it was number 50.
428th BS: Extracts from Missing Air Crew Report # 567:
A/C No. 2 42-64554 “The Chief”
(MACR-567 - disintegrated in mid air)
P Walker, James P. "Chief", Maj, Commander - KIA
CP Harder, Frank A., 1Lt - KIA
N Martin, William V., 2Lt - KIA
B Hotopp, Henry J., 2Lt - KIA
R Manfre, Joseph A., S/Sgt - KIA
G Black, James F., S/Sgt - KIA
Eyewitness Account: Chambers, Allen M., 2Lt, pilot, 428th BS
At the time of the accident I was flying on Major Walker’s left wing. We were flying about two hundred and forty miles an hour and descending about five hundred feet a minute. Our indicated altitude was about three thousand feet. Up to this time his ship acted normal in every respect. The first indication was the raft door on the left side of the
fuselage pulling loose. The raft came out partially inflated and was blown between the two tail sections. The next events happened in sequence. The metal skin around the life raft door blew off. Then the left wing flap came off hitting the vertical fin. Other parts of the wing came off near the fuselage. Major Walker then tried to pull the plane up out
of formation. The plane first went up and to the right. Then the left wing came off near the fuselage. This caused the plane to wing over to the left in rear of us. I then lost sight of the plane and didn’t see it again until we had circled down. There were two large splashes in the water with wreckage everywhere. We saw no survivors and I believe it impossible for anyone to have gotten out. We then rejoined our formation and returned
to the field.
ALLEN M. CHAMBERS, 2nd Lt., Air Corps
Eyewitness Account: Koch, Richard J., 1Lt, pilot, 428th BS
At the time the accident occurred I was flying on Major Walker’s right wing. We had just crossed the coast line on the way back to the field, making a rather gentle descent, air speed at the time was approximately 230 miles per hour. The first thing I noticed was the life raft coming out of the top of the plane. I saw it pass between the two rudders without touching either one. A few seconds later his plane violently shot upward
in sort of an abrupt motion. That’s the last I saw of the plane as it went over my head.
RICHARD J. KOCH, 1st Lt., Air Corps, Pilot
Eyewitness Account: Doolittle, Leonard N., Capt, navigator, 428th BS
At the time of the accident I was flying in the lead ship. Major Walker, who was flying our second element, moved out abreast of us. The first thing I noticed was the life raft coming out the side and hitting the tail surface. At this time the ship nosed and the left wing tip came off. The ship then went into an almost vertical climb. The ship then passed out of my sight and the last time I saw it there were two separate pieces. One
wing from the fuselage out and the other wing and fuselage. I saw these hit the water and sink immediately.
LEONARD N. DOOLITTLE, Captain, Air Corps