Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Living History. The Story of B-17 "My Darling Also" by Darrel Besser.

This post is just a copy of email which one I received from Darrel Besser, after Cesar Winklemann text about Sonderkommando Elbe. Im very grateful for contacting us and telling this story.

"Hi Jarek, 

I am replying to you with a little family history that I have done over the past few years. It gets a little detailed, so please feel free to use any or all of the information provided.

Major Heinz-Gunter von Kornatski
 With the increased pressure caused by American bombing raids through late 1943 - early 1944, Major Heinz-Gunter von Kornatski, an associate of Adolph Galland, proposed a new method of attack by using specially armoured fighters. These were FW190A-8/R8's with additional steel plates (3-4) bolted to the fuselage around the cockpit and armored glass added to the windscreen as well as wing-mounted 30mm Mk-108 cannon. The method used was to get as close as possible to the rear of the bomber before opening fire and even as a last resort to deliberately ram the target. This was not seen as a suicide mission, but rather it was expected that a tough built fighter could cause sufficient damage to the relatively lightly built tail surface to bring down the bomber.

JG 3
     A special Staffel (squadron=12 aircraft) was formed to test the tactical viability. Sturmstaffel 1 was the first experimental unit to fly the "Sturmbocke" (Battering Rams). This Staffel was attached to JG (Jagdgeschwader) 3. Due to their success the Sturmstaffel was expanded into a specialized "killer" gruppen (Gruppe=3 squadrons or 30-40 aircraft). This Gruppen was redesignated as IV.(Sturm)/JG3 and led by Hauptman (Captain) Wilhelm Moritz.
Hauptman Wilhelm Moritz
On 06 Mar 44 .The 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group flew a mission on 06Mar1944. The target was the V.K.F. (Vereinigte Kugellagerfabriken AG) ball bearing plant located on the eastern side of Berlin in the suburb of Erkner. A B-17 named My Darling Also (tail number 42-31578) was in this formation. This was a large scale bombing run comprised of 730 bombers from 3 Bomb Divisions.
Me 109s of IV./J.G.3 and FW190s of Sturmstaffel 1 assembled to attack the incoming bombers. These units flew to Magdeburg to form a Gefechtsverband made up of units from 1. and 7. Jagddivisionen. The assembled group of fighters numbered 41 in all and were from II. and III./Z.G. 26 as well as those of I. and II./Z.G. 76 and included at least seventy-two Bf-109s and FW190s of the I., II. and IV./J.G. 3, Sturmstaffel 1, Jagdgeschwader 302 and Jagdstaffel Erla.
One of the pilots from Sturmstaffel 1 used his FW-190 to ram the B-17 (My Darling Also), The German pilots name was Feldwebel Hermann Wahlfeldt who survived the ramming. The collision occurred between the tail assembly and the tail gunner of the B-17.
The top turret gunner on the B-17 was T/Sgt. James W. Brady who was KIA in that mission with only two surviving aircrew members.

The German pilot Hermann Wahlfeldt's aircraft was a FW 190 A-6, (werk # 470208), White 9. He was the holder of the EK I + II,and the Fighter Operational Clasp. The pilot is credited with downing 2 B-17's and 1 B-24. He was KIA on 23 Mar 1944 in a dogfight, and is buried at Ehrenfriedhof Hamburg-Harburg.

According to the 8th Air Force MACR2898, the crew of the B-17G (My Darling Also) consisted of:
  • 1st Lt. Bob Tibbetts Jr., Pilot (KIA)
  • 2nd. Lt. Alexander Ellerman III, Co-Pilot (KIA)
  • 1st. Lt. Leo T. Sharum Jr., Navigator (KIA)
  • 2nd. Lt. Richard A. Wertheim Bombadier (KIA)
  • T/Sgt. Robert E. Kidder, Radio Operator (KIA)
  • T/Sgt. James W. Brady, Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer (KIA)
  • S/Sgt. Harold J. Rohde, Ball Turret Gunner (KIA)
  • S/Sgt. Dana E. Morse, Left Waist Gunner (POW)
  • S/Sgt. Sidney A. Barratt Jr., Right Waist Gunner (KIA)
  • S/Sgt. Walter J. Davis, Tail Gunner (POW)

My Darling Also crew
"My Darling Also" casualty report
The 2 American survivors were transferred to Stalag 17B in Krems, Austria, and were liberated by the 13th Armored Division of the US Army.

The whole part of this story concerns one of the KIA's, James W. Brady who was my ex-wifes Great Uncle.

I spent a few years doing the research and hope you enjoyed my story.
25/02/1944 Raid "My Darling Also" with others B-17
Just a side note concerning my family, my Grandfather (OPA) was on a Luftwaffe Flak Crew. I also researched his military history, and was provided information from WASt and his POW information from ICRC.

Artur Heller Reported for Duty September 1940.
Erkennungsmarke: -330 - 3./Flak.Ers.Abt.26
Captured on 28 Mar 1945, in Schwalbach, Germany, while he was with Flak-Regiment 59.
Rank at time of capture; Obergefreiter
Released from POW captivity 18 Jun 1946.

Again I hope you enjoyed my bit of research, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to share it.

Darrell Besser"

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