|Birth: ||Oct. 2, 1908|
|Death: ||Oct. 1, 1943, Austria|
Sergeant Bittner served with the 44th Bomb Group, 67th Bomb Squadron aboard U.S.
Army Air Corps B-24D Liberator #42-41017. Shot down by Bf 109G-6 near Wiener
Neustadt, Austria. Five crew were killed and five survived and became P.O.W.'s.
Gunner Sgt. Harry H. Bittner KIA
Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
Squadron:67th BS 44th Bomb Group
Awards Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters
Pilot 1st/Lt. Reginald L. Carpenter DFC POW
Target: Airframe Plant for Messerschmitts, Wiener Neustadt, Austria
Date Lost: 01-Oct-43
Serial Number: #42-41017
Aircraft Model B-24D
Location: over target Austria
Cause: fighter planes. 5KIA 5POW
Two months after Ploesti, The Group attacked the assembly plant and suffered many casualties. The official records reported that we had eight planes lost, but later it was learned that one crew had landed okay at Bari, Italy
The second of the three 67th Squadron aircraft lost was that flown by lst/Lt. Reginald L. Carpenter and co-pilot 2nd Lt. Carroll H. Pratt. S/Sgt. Frank Paliga, radio operator, wrote these pertinent facts: “I had flown 24 missions with my original crew under Lt. Abernathy, but as I had missed one mission with them. They completed their tour and I was assigned to this crew for my 25th – and last. This was a completely new and strange crew to me, so I tried to get acquainted with Irwin, Bittner, and Brady before the mission. John Irwin told me that he was worried about jumping out of a plane at high altitude in an emergency. He thought that if he pulled his ripcord as soon as he left the plane, he would die from lack of oxygen. But on the other hand, he was worried if he made a free fall for quite a distance, he would pass out from the speed of falling and would not be able to pull the ripcord and therefore die from the fall. His plan was that he would hold his hand over the chest pack and pull the ripcord before he jumped. Then, he would make a free fall and if he passed out, his hand holding the chest pack would go limp and his chute would then open and save him. Unfortunately, he would soon have an opportunity to test his plan. “On the day of the Wiener Neustadt mission, at approximately 1130 hours, we were heading over the target with the bomb bay doors open ready to drop our bombs when we were struck from 12 o’clock, a little high, by what seemed to be 40 to 50 or even 70 fighter planes. They flew through our formation and shot down and/or crippled a large number from our bomber force. The heavy concentration of enemy planes was a bit more than our gunners could handle. The flak was also very heavy going in toward the target. “I noticed that we had two engines on fire from my position in the top turret, and soon a third engine fire erupted about that time. The bail out bell rang and John Irwin poked me in the leg to call my attention to my chest pack that he was trying to hand me. You couldn’t wear one in the turret. So I climbed down out of the top turret and took the chest pack that Irwin handed me. At that moment the plane was in a shallow dive. While I was on the flight deck putting on my parachute, Irwin stepped down onto the catwalk in the bomb bay to get ready to jump. When I got to the catwalk, John Irwin was lying face down on the catwalk next to the burning bomb bay gasoline (auxiliary) tanks with his parachute inflated out of the bomb bay and the shroud lines between the catwalk and bomb bay tank. The open chute was pulling him tightly against the catwalk and the burning tanks. I tried to pull on him to free him and drop him out of the plane but the pressure of the inflated chute made it impossible. I was running out of oxygen and jumped, pulling my ripcord as soon as I got out of the plane. “I never met or heard from anyone from our crew or knew who might have been killed or made it out of the plane except William Brady, our tail gunner. He and I spent the balance of the war in Stalag 17B at Krems, Austria.” William Brady said, “Our [original] aircraft was a brand new one with ball and nose turrets – 4-Q-2. When I had been a regular crewman on Kolliner’s crew, I flew with him and Pappy Moore in SUZY Q. And so were several gunners on this ship. I saw SUZY Q get hit and go down... “Edward D. Bryl had flown 40 to 60 missions in the RAF and had been awarded the English DFC for those many missions. He was our tail gunner and was blown completely out of that turret and into the tail section. I went back and checked him out but he was already dead. Harry Bittner, ball turret gunner, was hit and killed on the very first pass by the enemy planes and was the first to die. Yeatts, right waist gunner, was hit by bullets and was knocked over against me, and then fell to the floor. I helped him, got him back on his feet, and he then started shooting again. Later, he was again hit by flak or enemy machine gun fire and fell dead. “Berthel Swensson, bombardier, had obtained a very small dog someplace and took him on this mission. I believe that Berthel was hit by a 20-mm and probably killed, not leaving the ship. I managed to jump out, opened my chute and then felt the explosion as the ship blew to pieces. Many parts fell around me as I went down. All in the rear of the ship were dead. Paliga was burned by the fire in the bomb bay and flight deck.” Co-pilot Carroll Pratt wrote that, “Berthel is believed to have been seriously wounded because the navigator, Charles Selaski had blood over his flight jacket when he landed – and never saw Berthel get out. He could have ‘frozen’ and could not jump, but more probably was dead or dying at that time. “After dropping our bombs, we were being damaged by both flak and fighters but it was the fighters that ultimately got us. Carpenter sent me back, along with Paliga, to help put out the fires. We found the bomb bay doors partly open, the fires beyond controlling, so Paliga soon bailed out. Later, I saw Irwin lying on the catwalk and his chute trailing out the door. I got down, put my arms around him in a bearhug, and we both went out. However, the force of that dragging chute tore him from my grasp, taking some of my fingernails with him. I looked back and saw one man coming down with his chute burning and that could have been Irwin – and he did not survive.” Somehow Carpenter survived the explosion, parachuted safely.
Crew of #42-41017
1st/Lt. Reginald L. Carpenter Pilot POW
2nd/Lt. Carroll H. Pratt Co Pilot POW
2nd/Lt. Charles J. Selasky Navigator POW
1st/Lt. Berthel Swensson Bombardier KIA
S/Sgt. Frank Paliga Engineer POW
S/Sgt. John F. Irwin Radio Op.
T/Sgt. Roy J. Yeatts Gunner
S/Sgt. William R Brady Jr. Gunner POW
Sgt. Harry H. Bittner Gunner
S/Sgt. Edward B. Bryl Gunner KIA
MICHIGAN SGT 67 AAF BOMB SQ WORLD WAR II
Grand Lawn Cemetery
Plot: Section T Block S
Maintained by: John Dowdy
Originally Created by: Laura
Record added: Jan 20, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 13073345
Added: Jul. 7, 2011
Added: Sep. 18, 2010