|Death: ||Apr. 24, 1944, Belgium|
Gunner S/Sgt. Elton F. Helmke KIA
Hometown: Glatonia, Nebraska
Squadron: 579th 392th Bomb Group
Awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart
Pilot 2nd/Lt. Carl F. Ellinger KIA
Missing Aircrew Report: #04292
Date Lost: 24-Apr-44
Serial Number: #44-40105
Aircraft Model B-24
Aircraft Letter: "B-Bar"
Aircraft Name:(NO NICKNAME) 1st Mission
Cause: direct hit from AA Crew of 9KIA 1POW
Briefing for (28) crews was conducted between 0430-0500 hours with (26) aircraft beginning take-off at 0900. Lieutenants Colburn and Zacarelli of the 577th and 578th Squadrons were assigned lead Bombardier tasks. The 392nd was scheduled to follow the 96th Combat Wing B-24s this day as its sister 14th Combat Wing group the 44th was completely grounded due to an outbreak of ptomaine poisoning. While no enemy aircraft were encountered, the AA fire experienced was light but accurate
MISSION LOSS CIRCUMSTANCES: Eye-witness reports from returning crewmen of other planes (Lts. Ambrose, Kamenitsa, and Weinheimer) stated that the Ellinger ship received a direct hit from AA guns at position 50-50 N; 03-20E at 1558 hours on route back from the target and this flak had struck the aircraft just behind the wing section with the plane starting down and disintegrating before striking the ground and, no chutes were seen. The reported downing would place this aircraft roughly over Belgium territory. No other accounts of any type were available.
INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS OF CREWMEN FATES: Sgt Hasenfratz later recalled that after flak hit his aircraft, the front section exploded into flames and the tail section spun out of control toward the ground. He and two other crewmembers were in the tail section as it plunged 18,000 feet to the ground. Hasenfratz was the sole survivor.
After the war, the Army conducted extensive investigations in the area where this plane crashed. Local residents told them that the B-24 crashed in flames near the communities of Arbres, Maffles, and Meslin-Eveque, Belgium, at about 1600 hours after the anti-aircraft battery at Chievres had fired at it. There was one survivor, who came down in the community of Meslin l'Eveque and was taken prisoner. The bomber burned for almost 24 hours. On the afternoon of 25 April, Germans arrived at the crash site and recovered a total of five bodies. One of them, presumably a gunner, was found near the farm "Tilly" with his machine-gun turret wrapped around him. These five men were buried in the Chievres Communal Cemetery. The remains of another man were found the next day by a farmer, placed in a wooden box, and buried in his garden. Over the next several days, residents found identification tags for Harvey H. Weeks Jr., Aubrey D. Coble, and Carl F. Ellinger, and other personal items in the wreckage. These were all turned over to Allied authorities after the war.
BURIAL RECORDS: The only burial accounts that exist are those listings for the recovery and interments of Sgts. Helmke and Weeks, as follows: In the U.S. National overseas Military Cemetery of the ARDENNES: Helmke (Grave C-1;9-8) and Weeks (Grave A-38-51). 2/Lt Ellinger, 2/Lt Morton, 2/Lt Hall, and S/Sgt Coble are interred at Ft McPherson National Cemetery, Section F Site 1226B.
Crew of 44-40105
2nd/Lt. Carl F. Ellinger Pilot KIA
2nd/Lt. Neil H. Morton Co Pilot KIA
2nd/Lt. Joe L. Wieland Navigator KIA
2nd/Lt. Ross H. Hall Bombardier KIA
T/Sgt. Aubrey D. Coble Engineer KIA
T/Sgt. Ralph Olson Radio Op. KIA
S/Sgt. Harvey H. Weeks, Jr. Gunner KIA
S/Sgt. Harry E. Phillips Gunner KIA
S/Sgt. Elton F. Helmke Gunner KIA
S/Sgt. Merle J. Hasenfratz Gunner POW
Note: Entered the service from Nebraska.
Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial
Arrondissement de Liège
Plot: Plot C Row 19 Grave 8
Maintained by: John Dowdy
Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
Record added: Aug 07, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56358691
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