Mid-air collision Accident Boeing B-17F-130-BO Flying Fortress 42-31016, Tuesday 4 January 1944
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Date:Tuesday 4 January 1944
Time:11:00 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic B17 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Boeing B-17F-130-BO Flying Fortress
Owner/operator:326th BSqn /92th BGp USAAF
Registration: 42-31016
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 10
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:along the Terborgseweg road, Zeddam, Gelderland -   Netherlands
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:RAF Podington /AAF Sta.109
Destination airport:
On 4 January 1944, Eighth Air Force Mission 174 was scheduled for an early hour, with a pre-dawn take off and assembly. Take-off was accomplished with a small amount of trouble, which was usual in pre-dawn take offs, and the assembly was carried out under the most trying circumstances. In their anxiety to assemble in correct Groups, Combat Wings and Divisions, the planes began shooting an excess number of flares to identify themselves, and with the large number involved in the flight the whole assembly area was very confusing.

569 bombers (439 B-17s and 130 B-24s) were dispatched to the port area at Kiel. After assembly cloud formations made necessary the use of PFF to aid in navigation. Results of bombing were unobserved due to the heavy cloud cover but 452 crew (371 B-17s and 81 B-24s) claimed to have bomber the target, and 7 B-17s and 34 B-24s hit targets of opportunity. En-route to the target, over it and on the way home the enemy fighter opposition was slight with about twenty fighters encountered on total. 11 B-17s and 6 B-24s were lost and 111 B-17s and 16 B-24s were damaged. Additional losses were 4 bombers crashed in England (one B-24 was lost in a take-off accident, one B-17 crashed during the assembly without survivors and one bomber of each type crashed on return of the raid). Bomber crew casualties were 22 KIA, 53 WIA and 170 MIA. Air gunners claimed 4-12-4 Luftwaffe aircraft.

Fighter escort was provided by 70 P-38s of 20th and 55th FG and 42 P-51s from IXth Air Force’s 354th FG. They claimed 1-1-4 Luftwaffe aircraft; 1 P-38 and 1 P-51 were lost and 1 P-38 was damaged beyond repair in a take-off accident; casualties were 1 WIA and 2 MIA.

Two groups of the 3rd Bomb Division, the 96th and 388th BG, despatched 75 B-17s to Munster as a separate operation. The only losses on this operation were the result of a mid-air collision between two B-17s of the 96th BG near the IP, both crashing in Germany. 36 other bombers were damaged and casualties were 1 WIA and 20 MIA (17 KIA and 3 POW). Escort for this operation was provided by 430 P-47s from nine Fighter Groups. They claimed 7-0-2 Luftwaffe aircraft; 1 P-47 was damaged. They were several ’firsts’ during this mission.

The bombers dropped 985 tons of High Explosive and Incendiary Bombs on Kiel, 192 tons on Munster and 84 tons on the targets of opportunity.

German pilots claimed 15 US bombers shot down, 14 of these victories being claimed by night-fighters of NJG 3 and 5 and the lost one by a JG 1 pilot.

One of the American losses this day was the B-17F-130-BO 42-31016 "Sweet Sixteen" of 326th BS, 92nd BG. It took off from Podington to join the Kiel force, but had problems formating with 92nd BG and eventually joined the 388th BG formation and attacked Münster, Germany. It was hit by Flak and by German fighters causing fires in the Nos 2, 3 and 4 engines and the radio room. All crew bailed out before the bomber crashed at Vinkwijk, behind the house od Wed Thuis, Terborgseweg, in the municipality of Bergh, Holland. The radio operator was seriously wounded during the fighter attack, but continued to fight the fire inside the B-17. Without his actions there would probably have been more casualties in the crew. He baled out but was dead when found. Of the nine survivors, eight were captured at Netterden, Ulft, Beek, Azewijn and Terborg while the last one evaded capture. This bomber was claimed by Fw. Heinz Fuchs of 6./JG 1 as his 8th victory at 1200 hrs (German time) south of Meppel.

2nd Lt Joseph C Hughes (pilot) POW
2nd Lt Bromby S Westlake (copilot) POW
2nd Lt ALbert Stern (navigator) POW
2nd Lt Ford Wade Babcock (bombardier) EVD
S/Sgt John P Tonon (engineer) POW
S/SGt Richard L Martin (radio operator) KIA
Sgt William W Ward (ball turret gunner) POW
Sgt John S Toth (left waist gunner) POW
Sgt Harold Kurlanshik (right waist gunner) POW
Sgt Raymond M Milcsik (tail gunner) POW

Babcock landed at Vosseveld, near Sinderen, near the farm "De Hutte". His descent was seen by many people, including a local collaborator, but two resistance members, Joost Boot and Coenraad Cees Poulie, still helped him to evade capture. He remained hidden in the area until 17 February then went to Belgium where he went to a number of hiding places before being arrested by the Germans on 22 June at Auderghem. He was later shipped to Germany juste before the Liberation of Brussels aboard a train with 1500 Belgian prisoners and some airmen, but the Belgian resistance group "l’Armée Blanche" (the White Army) attacked the train and enabled part of the prisoners to evade. At least six airmen, included Babcock, escaped and the next day met Canadian troops near Brussels.


"Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Volume 2. ETO Area - January 1944 - March 1944", by Stanley D Bishop and John A Hey MBE. ISBN 0-9547685-2-3
Luftwaffe claim lists by Tony Wood and Jim Perry (http://lesbutler.co.uk/claims/tonywood.htm)

Revision history:

17-Dec-2008 11:45 ASN archive Added
07-Apr-2009 03:20 Harmy Updated
01-Sep-2011 09:28 Uli Elch Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Source, Narrative]
15-Oct-2011 03:34 angels one five Updated [Operator, Source]
16-Feb-2012 04:02 Nepa Updated [Operator, Phase, Source]
05-Jan-2016 21:15 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Total fatalities, Total occupants, Phase, Source, Narrative]
02-Jan-2019 18:00 TigerTimon Updated [Time, Cn, Location, Departure airport]
02-Apr-2020 10:14 Reno Raines Updated [Operator, Departure airport, Operator]

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