Stichting Vliegeniersmonument Giessenlanden WO2

Airmen Monument Foundation Giessenlanden WW2

B-17F 42-3116 - USAAF 92nd Bomb Group/407th Bomb Squadron

2nd lieutenant Harold W. Porter - Pilot POW

 

Lt Porter bailed out with the last two crewmembers who were still on board aftert the first six bailed out minutes earlier near Asperen. Porter landed near the village of Hoogblokland just north of Gorinchem. Several articles appeared in newspapers.

 

 

Click here for the articles and more photos of Lt. Porter

Staff Sergeant Jerre M. Algeo - Left waist gunner , killed in action

His body was recovered from the wreckage on August 18th 1943, three weeks after crashing. His family received the notification that he was missing on August 12th 1943 further info was received on August 19th when he was still reported missing.Than in December 1943 his death was confirmed to the family but in Febuary the sister of Jerre got a message from the wife of one of the crewmembers that he was alive and that the only casualty was the tailgunner Robert Martin. The family was ecstatic with this great news however all hope ended a month later when the war department informed the sister of Jerre Ms. Icae Algeo that he was indeed killed in action. Click on the 8th AF stars for the newspaper articles

Peter den Tek 2015

B-17 42-3116 pictured here whilst six men bail out over the village of Asperen whilst German planes are circling around.

Artist Scott Nelson

July 28th 1943, the crew of B-17F with serial 42-3116 is preparing for their first mission. Only a few weeks earlier they arrived at the USAAF base Alconbury in Huntingdonshire, England. The crew came from every corner of America. Jerre Algeo came from Missouri and had a farm together with his sister and when he received his call for military service he could have indicated he was a farmer so was exempt from going into military service but he didn’t, he sold the farm and gave it all up. Perhaps he was looking for adventure and a new challenge or perhaps he wanted to do his part for freedom in the world and fight the Germans and Japanese. Whatever the reason was he joined and ended up as waist gunner on a B-17.

Source: national archives

Waistgunners on a B-17

After going through gunnery training Jerre met the rest of the crew in March 1943. One of them was Robert Martin, a tall and strong young man from Rhode Island and a gifted football player. After graduating Robert kept in good contact with his football coach Tom Eccleston. After entering the service he wrote several letters to Eccleston during his training as gunner, the last one in May 1943.

Courtesy of Jim Ignasher

Letter of Robert Martin to his coach Tom Eccleston

On July 1st 1943 Jerre Algeo, Robert Martin and eight others set off for Europe and via Newfoundland, Iceland and Scotland they arrive at the base in England.

Early in the morning of July 28th they hear that their first mission takes them deep into Germany where the target is the Fiesseler aircraft factory at Kassel. Together with eighteen other B-17’s from the 407th Bomb Squadron, 92nd Bomb Group they take off and join other squadrons and set course east.. Over Holland they meet moderate flak but once they reach the Dutch-German border and Kassel the formations become the target of large groups of German fighter. Lt. Wooldridge is on the same mission but in a different B-17. His entry into his diary shows the dangers they were facing

 

Courtesy of Francis Bekafigo
Courtesy of Francis Bekafigo
Source : BHIC

In total 182 aircraft are send but due to severe weather only 58 reach the target and drop 109 tons of bomb.The factory receives direct hits but also other parts are hit. The buildings where hundreds of forced laborers, many Dutch, stay are also hit and many are killed on that day. One of these forced laborers killed is Leo Schuurmans from Tilburg. His remains are buried at the Dutch cemetery at Frankfurt am Main.

Obituary of Leo Schuurmans

Monument at Frankfurt am Main with the names of Dutch forced laborers who were killed.

The B-17s now turn west towards the North Sea and England and soon find themselves under prolonged attacks from German fighters stationed at the various Luftwaffe bases in Holland and Belgium. However they are not alone as they are met by American P-47 fighter planes fitted for the first time with eperimental belly tanks providing additional 30 miles of action radius taken them into Germany to the surprise of the German. However the fighters cannot prevent that on this mission 7 aircraft go missing and 24 crewmembers are killed and 47 are taken prisoner of war. Over the great rivers in Holland one B-17 also from the 407th is hit and makes an emergency landing near Wageningen. Not long after that B-17 42-3116 is hit by flak causing the plane to lose speed, they drop out of formation becoming an easy target for five German Focke-Wulf planes. Approaching the village of Asperen they are still under attack. The gunners manage to shoot down one German plane which crashes near Asperen. With the plane heavily damaged Pilot Harold Porter realizes that the situation is hopeless and he gives the signal for the crew to bail out.Co-pilot Louis Peys refuses and says that they will be able to reach England, Porter than grabs the oxygen mask of Peys and shouts that he has to get out. Six out of the ten men eventually bail out and land in and around Asperen. One man will not survive this.

Around 12:00 Jan Verweij and his father are delivering the mail in Asperen as they hear machinegun fire in the sky above them. His father shouts “take cover” and not long after that they see how a German plane crashes and a parachute is slowly descending. This is the German Focke-Wulf pilot Herbert Kind whose plane was shot down by one of the gunners of the 42-3116. Shortly after that they see more parachutes coming down; they are the six men who bailed out of the 42-3116. The air raid service of the nearby town of Leerdam notes down in their report “12:00 multiple parachutes seen”

A few hundred meters away Dielis van Steenis is working in field near Fort Nieuwe Steeg when he sees something spiraling down attached to what looks like a ribbon. When it hits the ground it is clear that this is a person. The ribbon is the damaged parachute. Sometime later the Germans arrive together with Stephen Maksin, an American they had just captured at Fort Asperen. The Germans want him to identify the body; Maksin immediately sees that it’s the tail gunner Robert Martin. The Germans arrange a local truck to take the body to the local morgue. Stephen Maksin is also on the truck and when the body of Robert Martin is unloaded he realizes that that is the last time he sees his comrade. From the morgue the body of Robert Martin is taken to Rotterdam Crooswijk cemetery where he is buried. After the war he was reburied at Ardennes American cemetery in Belgium.

 

Click here for the account of Jan Verweij

Click here for the missing aircrew reports

After pilot Harold Porter gave the bailout signal he realized that not all crewmembers had left the plane, in fact only six bailed out and the three gunners in the back of the plane were still there, Jerre Algeo, Sebastian Stavella en Ledford Mays were unaware of the signal as the intercom was not working after one of the German attacks. Harold Porter switches to autopilot and walks to the rear of the plane. There over the bomb bay he meets Sebastian Stavella who, hanging in his ball turret, had already seen that part of the crew had bailed out and decided to go back into the plane. Pilot Harold Porter is gesturing that they should all bail out. Sebastian Stavella is the only one who is not wearing a parachute as in the ball turret there is no room to wear one. Whilst he is putting on his parachute a German fighter makes another attack, 20mm bullets hit the plane and Jerre Algeo, the farmer from Missouri who was just about to bail out is hit and falls to the floor mortally wounded. Stavella manages to put his parachute on and steps over the body of Jerre Algeo and when Ledford T. Mays bails out also he makes the jump. The last he sees is the body of Jerre Algeo covered in blood. Sebastian Stavella has written about his wartime experience. Click on this recent photo of Sebastian Stavella for his account.

Sebastian Stavella in a recent Photo of him next to a B-17 ball turret which was his position on board of B-17 42-3116

After Porter, Stavella and Mays left the plane the B-17 flies on carrying only the body of Jerre Algeo. Kees Vermeer a local boy aged 13 sees how the plane approaches north of Gorinchem and is witness of the last men bailing out. The Germans are now firing with their flak at the B-17 and suddenly the B-17 breaks up in pieces over the fields between Gorinchem and Hoogblokland. The tailed ends up over a ditch and when locals rush to the scene they see the legs of Jerre Algeo sticking out of the wreckage. Kees Vermeer also goes there and sees the same legs but now the boots have been removed by locals. Click on the photo of Kees for his full story.

 

Stavella, Porter and Mays come down with their parachutes near Hoogblokland. Locals rush towards the men wanting to see those liberators but German soldiers stop them. The five men who landed at Asperen and the three who landed at Hoogblokland are all arrested and via German cells in Gorinchem they are taken to POW camps in Germany and Austria.Two men stay behind….Jerre Algeo whose body is only recovered by the Germans weeks later is buried at Schelluinen and reburied after the war at Margraten American Cemetery. Robert Martin is buried at Rotterdam Crooswijk and after the war reburied at Ardennes American Cemetery.

 

 

bron: Archieven Gorcumse Courant

Newspaper article mentioning locals laying flowers on the grave of Jerre Algeo in Schelluinen

Courtesy of nationaal bevrijdings museum

The tailend of B-17F 42-3116 lying over a ditch between Hoogblokland and Gorinchem. This is where locals find waistgunner Jerre Algeo whose legs are sticking out of the wreckage

Photo by Peter den Tek
Map by Peter den Tek

A 2013 photo of the same location

The last minutes of the plane between the first men bailing out and the plane coming down

The Crew

Harold Porter. Photo courtesy of Michael Porter
Louis Peys. Photo courtesy of Jim Peys
Sebastian Stavella. Courtesy of fultonhistory.com
Robert Martin. Photo courtesy of Richard Campbell
Jerre Algeo. Courtesy of Lockwood Luminar
Ledford T Mays. Photo courtesy of Rick Campbell

2nd lieutenant Louis M. Peys - Co-pilot ,POW

 

Co-pilot of the B-17, and after the plane was badly damaged, he told the pilot that he wanted to try to fly the plane back to base. Porter tore off Louis’s oxygen mask and shouted for him to bail out – there was no saving the plane. Louis broke his ankle during the parachute jump when he landed in a tree just outside the village of Asperen. He was captured by the Germans and taken to the local doctor who gave him first aid. He was than transported to Gorinchem and Amsterdam hospital before being sent to a POW camp until the end of the war.

Click here for newspaper articles on 2nd Lt. Peys and photos from his time at STALAG VII prisoncamp

Staff Sergeant Sebastian Stavella - Ball Turret Gunner POW

In April 2014 Mr. Stavella appeared in a US newspaper. Here is an interview with him:

 

 

Missing

Missing

KIA

Alive

Confirmed KIA

Possibly Staff Sergeant Ledford T. Mays - Right waist gunner

POW

We are still looking for photos and info of four crewmembers

 

2nd Lieutenant Albert E. Brown - Navigator, POW

2nd Lieutenant William J. Mahoney- Bombardier, POW

Technical Sergeant Stephen Maksin - Radio Operator, POW

Technical Sergeant Vincent R. Tenisci - Engineer, POW

 

In April 2013 with the help of Kees Vermeer and Anneke Bode the site where the tailend of the 42-3116 came down as seen in the photograph was located. During a survey of the area various parts were found belonging to 42-3116 such as exploded .50 casings , pieces of aluminium and cables.

Photo by Peter den Tek

Various parts found at crashsite

In June 2013 Anneke Bode mentioned that the "t' Regthuys" museum had a large machinegun donated many years ago by a local builder who found it during the construction of new houses. It was clear this was a M2 Browning .50 machinegun used on B-17s. As more B-17s crashed in the area the serialnumbers was researched and matched the serialnumber listed on the 42-3116 inventory list. A great find

Peter den Tek & M2 browning

The M2 Browning from 42-3116

On July 28th 1943 the sister of Kees Vermeer found near the crashsite a case with pilots sunglasses. The manufacturer was the American Optical Company and this clearly belonged to one of the crewmembers of the 42-3116. This is yet another remnant from the ill fated B-17.

A local farmer found in the years after the war a wooden case with a name on it. He used it for many years to store tools in but in due course of time the chest was thrown away...what a shame. But research continues on various sites so who knows what else will be found

Sunglasses found in the fields between Gorinchem and Hoogblokland