|Death: ||Mar. 22, 1945, England|
Com. Pilot Major Leonard J. Barnes KIA
Squadron: 579th BS 392th Bomb Group
Awards: Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross with (4) Oak Leaf Clusters,Purple Heart
Pilot Captain. Robert B. Grettum KIA
Target: Schwabisch Hall Germany
CASUALTIES NOT LISTED IN MACR
Date Lost: 22-Mar-45
Serial Number: #42-51150
Aircraft Model B-24H
Aircraft Letter: "Bar-U"
Aircraft Name: "I WALK ALONE" on its 42nd mission
Location: Whitehouse Farm, Horstead, England.
Cause: Accident Crew of 12 8KIA 4RTD
This mission would see one of the most regrettable and tragic mishaps which occurred in the closing days of the Group's combat operations. A Squadron Commander and a Lead crew would be lost as the bombers returned to base, both of whom had long experience in the 392nd. The strike for this day was the jet airfield located on the high plateau just east of the city. At 0530 hours, (30) crews were briefed and all began launch at 0800 hours on schedule. Enroute and target weather were excellent making visual bombing successful. Of the (1366) 100# bombs impacted in the target, (93) percent hit within 2000 feet of the MPI. There were no enemy fighters confronting the formation and flak was negligible. However, as the bombers coasted in and were letting down toward Wendling, an unfortunate accident occurred in the lead ship from the 579th. Captain Grettum's crew flying lead with Major Barnes, Commander of the 576th, acting as Command Pilot and on his 44th mission of a second tour, had their ship set afire by flares which exploded on the flight deck of the bomber.
This tragic accident occurred as the Group aircraft were descending for landing at Wendling approximately (20) miles west of Great Yarmouth. The detail account by surviving crewmen on what actually what took place in this flare gun mis-firing on the flight deck of the Group Leader's aircraft was given verbatim afterwards.Capt. Good placed a flare in the flare pistol to be fired as they approached the station. He then turned toward the front to watch the approach. As he turned he heard the pop and saw the flash of a flare behind him. He believes that the pistol fell from its mount and fired as it hit the deck. The flare was a double star flare. Capt. Good saw one unit of it which he tried to extinguish; the other unit apparently fell in the bag of flares on the flight deck igniting most of these simultaneously. In a matter of seconds the flight deck was completely filled with very dense smoke, and flames were burning all over the forward part of the ship.
T/Sgt Munden was standing in the bomb-bay when the first flare went off. He came forward to help extinguish it when the other flares went off. Capt Good yelled to him to get a fire extinguisher. He remembers pushing Capt Swangren out of the way who had in the meantime left the flight deck and was standing in the well immediately behind the flight deck.
T/Sgt Munden tried to get through the flames to get the extinguisher on the flight deck, but he couldn't make it. He saw the flames were beyond control so he yelled for everybody to get out, and then left himself by the rear bomb bay. Lt. Bader tried, ineffectually, to stamp out the flames and then left by the forward bomb bay.
By the time Capt Good reached the nose compartment, flames were burning along the tunnel and in the nose itself, making it virtually impossible for him to return to the flight deck. He told Lt. Peters to bail out, then got his own chute and bailed out. They both left by the nose-wheel door.
Major Barnes was Commander of the 576th Bomb Squadron at the time of this accident. He had flown many successful missions as "CA" (Command Pilot) in many Lead ships of the 392nd and reportedly, this mission was the final one of his second tour of combat missions with the Group. He is buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery at CAMBRIDGE, England in Grave D-3-20. His awards were a Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross with (4) Oak Leaf Clusters, however, no Air Medal or Purple Heart citations are noted for him. He was a native of California. Capt Swangren is also interred at CAMBRIDGE in Grave F-1-125 as is Sgt Baker in Grave F-2-142. Capt Swangren's awards are noted as the Distinguished Flying Cross with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Sgt Baker's awards were an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart. Sgt Baker's home state was New York while Capt Swangren's was Illinois. S/Sgt Egler is buried in Gettysburg National Military Park, Section 2, Site 458, and Capt Grettum is buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery, Section C, Site 652. No information is available on the subsequent interments of the other three men killed in this regrettable accident.
The "I WALK ALONE" crew
Major Leonard J. Barnes Com. Pilot KIA
Captain. Robert B. Grettum Pilot KIA
1st/Lt. John J. McCormick Co Pilot KIA
Capt. Roy Swangren Navigator KIA
Capt. Robert E. Good Bombardier RTD
T/Sgt. Franklin R. Munden Engineer RTD
T/Sgt. Morton Baker Radio Op. KIA
S/Sgt. Martin G. Egler Gunner KIA
S/Sgt. George Sabolish Gunner KIA
S/Sgt. Gale A. Chatterton Gunner KIA
S/Sgt. Charles H. Bader RTD
1st/Lt. James L. Peters Pilotage Navigator RTD
Note: Entered the service from California.
Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial
South Cambridgeshire District
Plot: Plot D Row 3 Grave 20
Maintained by: John Dowdy
Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
Record added: Aug 06, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56287577
Added: Jul. 4, 2016
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