JAMES A. HEWLETT|
World War II
Memories and Biography
21 July 1944
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
11407 Eton Lane
Riverside, CA 92507
January 21, 1985
Enclosed are the following copies:
1. Letter to me from David H. Klaus, dated 8 April 1982.
2. Missing aircrew report dated 22 July 1944 with filled-in questionnaire regarding Leo Hoffman, who was killed. (The top of the MAC Report gives Klaus' Rapid City address).
3. 44th Bomb Group Personnel. Current addresses (From Klaus).
You will notice in the Klaus letter, he mentions compiling a new list of 44th personnel. I have never received such a list.
A/C No. 42-110049A - Mary Harriet
I do recall that the plane of our last flight had a name such as Mary Harriet. I do remember it had a large "S" painted on it (the pilots called it "S for shit" because it performed so poorly. I believe it was one of the early ones that had survived up to July 21, 1944)
One of the nieces of my wife showed me a book she had gotten full of accurate information regarding foreign aircraft landing or crashing in Switzerland during WWII (we were visitors there in 1982) including ours.
I'm not the "joiner" type, so would not enter the 68th organization. However, if you locate John Anderson or Jeff Young, please let me know.
JAMES A. HEWLETT
World War II
Memories and Biography
(Taken from a letter to Will Lundy)
11407 Eton Lane
Riverside, CA 92507
26 September 1982
Thank you for your letter of 14 August. I would have answered sooner, but the last part of August I was quite busy and on vacation the first three weeks of September.
Yes, I was with the 68th flying out of Shipdham in 1944. Our B-24 was shot up near Munich. We headed for Switzerland and bailed out on 21 July 1944. Below is listed our crew:
Pilot John R. Anderson 1st Lt. 0-725729
Copilot Thomas J. Young 2nd Lt. 0-819245
Navigator James A. Hewlett 2nd Lt. 0-707526
Bombardier John T. Jennings 2nd Lt. 0-698564
Engineer Gunner Leslie J. Babin, Jr. S/Sgt. 18134873
Radio Operator Gun. Edward B. Vander Weide T/Sgt. 37470100
Right Waist Gunner Harold N. Turley Pvt. 36451597
Tail Gunner Richard R. Elliott S/Sgt. 16118695
Left Waist Gunner Leo J. Hoffman S/Sgt. 13173525
Leo Hoffman was killed. His chute didn't open.
I would like very much to make contact with any one of them, particularly John Anderson or Thomas "Jeff" Young. Thanks for the addresses you sent.
During the three weeks of vacation I was in Switzerland with my wife (who I met while interned in Davos, Swiss mountain resort). We were married in USA in 1947. One of the vacation days we visited the area where we landed and talked to one hotel owner who remembers the day we came down.
I have a list of 44th Bomb Group Personnel - current addresses (Revision E). If you do not have it, let me know. I understand a new one with more names is in the offing.
21 June 1944 GENSHAGEN Germany - - - Jim Hewelett, Navigator, remembers.
The Daimler-Benz Motor Works, twenty miles south of Berlin, was to be hit, but bad weather prevented visual bombing, so Berlin was hit with unobserved results. The Group met with stiff enemy resistance, both in the air and from ground defenses. Of the twelve A/C the 68th sent up, four were damaged category "AC," two category "B," four category "A," and one category "E." Lt. Charles D. Peretti was Lead on the second squadron with Lt. Harold Morrison as Deputy Lead. Of the thirty-six A/C sent on this mission by the Group, twenty-five received battledamage. The enemy sent up four ME lO9s to give fierce resistance; they were driven off by fighter support, but not without hirts being made. "F'lak was intense and accurate, in barrage type, over the target. Some rockets were also encountered, but their effect was of little value to the GAF. (German Air Force).
This was our fourth mission and we were flying one of the group's oldest B-24s (designated by the letter "S"; the pilot and the engineer had a four-letter word for it). Apparently it consumed more fuel than normal when held at formation speed.
Our primary target was the Daimler-Benz Motor Works (armored tanks) at Genshagen, south of Berlin. But because of clouds below covering the area, which ruled out visual bombing, the drop was made on Berlin using the PFF method.
Flak was heavy, but the lead bombardier executed good evasive action and our plane, at least, suffered only moderate damage. My astrodome was shattered and there were quite a few holes in the bomb bay, but no injuries to the crew.
However, on our return, just north and west of Hamburg, we lost .5000 feet of altitude because two engines ran out of fue. On the intereom I heard some diseussions among the pilots and the engineer about "fuel transfer" which I didn't understand. Of course, we fell out of formation; the gunners stood by, poised, and along with the rest of the crew, "sweated out" the ever-pending attack by German fighters.
Now that we were out of formation, the navigation was up to me. There was less cloud cover below than at the Berlin area; by pilotage I was able to get over the west coast of Denmark. Then it was decision time. Because of the critical fuel situation, should we go down in Denmark or Sweden, or try to make it to England?
I gave Andy, lst pilot, mycalculated ETA for Shipdham. No doubt Andy, with Young (copilot) and the engineer (Babin, I think) estimated the hours of fuel remaining. On this basis, it was decided to go for England.
I gave Andy a heading over the North Sea on a line skirting the north shores of the Frisian Islands. The anxiety regarding a possible German fIghter attack continued.
Navigation from Denmark over the North Sea was by "dead reckoning" using magnetic, compass, air speed, and the estimated direction and speed of the wind at given altitudes on flight routes (wind information was given to navigators prior to take-off.
As we approached England, there was the usual low-level layer of "cotton ball" clouds which allowed us to see the sea or terrain directly below, but not ahead. At my ETA to the English coast, we started looking down through the clouds, wecontinued seeing nothing but the white caps of the North Sea.
Because of the fuel situation, the co-pilot (Jeff Young) got out on the radio to the British (who were tracking us, using the secret "Darky" code word); they gave us a northwest heading: in a few minutes we were over the coast. (My stipulated heading to the coast was too southerly from west and we had been paralleling the shore line.)
Proceeding on the heading given by the British, we were soon over Rattleaden field where we made an emergency landing. As we taxied off the runway, one engine sputtered and died.
Shortly we were back. to Shipdham, and the next day (J'une 22) we were off on another mission: thank goodness it was a "milk run" to Nucourt, a robot (buss bomb) installation north of Paris.
27 June, 1944 CREIL, France - - Jim Hewlett Remembers. - - Our 7th Mission
The site of a rail marshalling yard,bridge and tunnel at Creilwas the tatget for the 44th today.Seven AlC from the 68th were on this mission.Severe damage was sustained: one A/C, piloted by Lt. Arthur R. Anderson, landed without a nose wheel and sustained category "E" damage; three A/C sustained "B" damage; two others had "AC" damage. Only one A/C of the seven we dispatched was undamaged. The flak was intense and accurate over the target. Three 68th men were injured by flak. The 506th squadron lost two A/C; one crash landed at Manston Field,Ramsgate,Kent,with John Anderson's 68th crew on board. (a 506th squadron A/C).
This was the roughest mission in June so far. Of the entire Group, fifteen A/C were damaged by flak. Five other A/C failed to return to base, having to land at various fields due to battle damage or fuel problems. Two of these were from the 68th.sgt. Lloyd Allbright was wounded in the arm; We do not know at this time if it was serious. Two crew members were hit in various places, but were saved from serious injury by flak suits.
This mission was to be a "milk run. " The primary target was a railway marshalling yard, tunnel, and bridge. Soon we were to learn that it was not a "milk run." Our target apparently was a critical rail junction that the Germans desperately wanted to keep open for transportation of supplies to their troops resisting the Allied advance from the Normandy beach-head. The bomb run was upwind, which meant that it was slow (German anti-aircraft had time to "zero in"). The flak was intense and accurate, the worst our crew had encountered to date.
Two engines were damaged and the pilots feathered their props. The oxygen line was severed in my navigator compartment; with a fire erupting. My first thought was "bail-out time" and I fumbled frantically to unlatch the door from the bombardier's nose turret. (Otherwise, he [Jennings] would go down with the plane. He told me afterward that he thought, judging by the racket at the door, that I had been seriously injured by flak and was thrashing around in my small compartment in delirium.)
The fire which had erupted next to me was local and either I smothered it or it merely died out. So "bail-out" was no longer imminent.
By that time we had descended considerably (to alleviate the oxygen problem and because of the two dead engines), we had fallen out off ormation, heading back across the English Channel The anxiety and the attempt , at preparedness for an attack by German flghters was with.
By then the plane intercom was busy from all quarters; we learned that no one was injured but that, besides losing two engines and oxygen, the hydraulic system had been shot out. This among other things, meant no brakes upon landing. Then a crew member informed us that several American fIghters (P-51s) were flying cover above us, which eased the tension somewhat.
As I understand it, had we not found it necessary to descend below the 24-25,000 foot level as we left; the target, the two functioning engines, combined with a gradual low-power descent, would have gotten us back to England with no mechanical concerns. However now, as we approached the English coast, the effort was to maintain flying speed at a relatively low altitude with only two engines. We probably would have not made it had the boys in the P51B not led us to the nearest air field (Manston, Kent, in south east-England).
As we approached the field, Jennings and I left; our positions in the nose of the aircraftI he, to the waist with the rear gunners and I to the flight deck with Babin (the engineer) and J Vander Weide (the radio operator). We were in level flight now at about 500-1,000 feet "sweating out" the two straining engines. (The pilots told us later that they registered 55 inches of manifold pressure for a time well beyond the specified limit; from then on Pratt & Whitney was a sacred name.)
But we landed without brakes, and without the nose wheel down. For a time we rolled along the run-way; then as the nose started to descend, the pilots pulled the plane' off and we skidded for some time in the turf, nose down, and finally stopped. We quickly found available exits ahd ran to clear the aircraft in case or fire but there was none, We rejoiced that there were no injtiries. TheMaIiston people, treated us cordially on our overnignt stay and took us to lookat the plane tbe next day. It, of
course had been removed from the run-way area-but the crash landing had damaged it beyond repair (The plane may have been from the 506th squadron.)
Within a day or so we were back toShipdham, with our next mission to be on July 4th.
21 July 1944 - - OBERPFAFFENHOFEN, Germany - - - Jim Hewlett Remembers
This mission today was a long one. - - Oberpfaffenhofen, an armament center near Munich. Twenty. Seven A/C were dispatched today, including four PFF ships (two of which lead the 44th) and two with the 492nd B.G. The target was hit with unobserved results. The enemy put up about twenty.five A/C to try to offset the "heavies" attacking forces. They gave a fierce challenge, causing the loss of four Group A/C ,two of which were from the 68th. It is believed that these four planes headed for Switzerland. The Group EAC claims were: three destroyed, and one probable, none of which were made by the 68th. Two 68th A/C were damaged by fIghters and / or flak.
A/C numbers and Pilots were:
643 S Lt. Raymond L. Mondloh
224W Lt. Elmer K. Kohler
049 A Lt. John R. Anderson.
226 C F/O Donald F. Tofte.
381 D Lt. Walter T. Zerman
805 J Lt. John J. Borah
101 E Lt. Thomas L. Harrocks-Aborted Mechanical
A/C 42-110049 A, MARY HARRIET, MACR 7287 had the following men on board:
P 1st Lt. John R. Anderson 0-725729
CP 2nd Lt. Thomas J. Young 0-819245
N 2nd Lt. James A Hewlett 0-707526
San Bernardino CA
B 2nd Lt. John T. Jennings 0-698564
Baton Rouge, LA
E S/Sgt. Leslie J. Babin, Jr. 18134873
RO T/Sgt. Edward B.Vander-Weide 37470100
Sioux Center, IA .
WG Sgt. Harold N. Turley 36451597
Sault St.Marie, MI
WG S/Sgt. Leo J. Hoffman 13173525
Bloomsburg, P A
TG S/Sgt. Richard R. Elliot 16118695
The MACR states in part that this A/C was damaged at 1040 hours in the area of Munich, and number 1 engine was feathered. Bombs were salvoed before hitting the target and the A/C left formation headed for Switzerland. At this same time, they reported on VHF that they were going to try for SwitzerIand.This was the crew's eleventh mission.
When the crew congregated at Appenzell, one of the gunners, Richard Elliot, said that he had seen Leo Hoffman dead, with his chute barely open beside him. Hoffman had either bailed out the waist window or the camera hatch. Failure of the chute to open probably was due either to faulty packing or his fear of falling-and panic.
Jim Hewlett remembers:
July 21,1944 - 0berpfaffenhofen, Germany. Our crew's eleventh mission. We took off from Shipdham at 0600 and started assembling the formation. The formation left Shipdham at 0720 headed for Oberpfaffenhofen, a war industry center west of Munich, in S.E. Germany. The distance was 550 to 600 miles, a long mission.
We crossed the Channel to the mainland. About fifty miles inland we ran into high cumulus clouds in patches. We continued climbing in formation in attempt to get above them. Formation flying became more difficult as the clouds became denser. We led the low element and had particular difficulty, because the lead element would not get high enough above the clouds for us to clear them.
The whole formation, by this time, was bad. I could not find the high element at all. At about half way in from the coast line the undercast broke away, and as navigator for our crew, I picked a few check points. This visibility lasted about twenty minutes. Again, in and out of clouds, the whole formation flew. All the while, contrails made formation flying all the more difficult. Within fifty miles of the target, the clouds thinned to about three tenths.
. We made a long bomb run from the north, just west of Munich. As we approached the target it was obscured either clouds, or a smoke screen. Flak was becoming pretty thick by this time. I was on my knees between the ammunition boxes, with one hand on the bomb salvo lever (to be pulled on the order from Jennings, the bombardier). Suddenly a flak burst hit very close. I heard one fragment zing through near-by. My snap-on parachute pack, which was lying on one of the ammunition boxes, fell in my lap. Looklng the pack over, I found a sizable hole in the cloth cover. The parachute pack had stopped a fragment that probably would have hit me in the face.
We were over the target by now, but the lead ship did not drop. This caused a few remarks of disgust over our intercom system. Then I heard Andy, our first pilot, say to Young, our co-pilot "Is the pressure still droppingon number one?" In a few minutes looked out to see number one feathered.
We stayed in general formation for about flfteen minutes. Because of the extra consumption of fuel after losing one engme, it was decided to jettison the bombs. Unfortunately, through a misunderstanding among those involved, they were dropped through the bomb bay doors. By now we were a lone aircraft well behind the formation, with the anxiety of a pending German fighter attack.
The obvious question at that time was whether or not we had enough fuel to return to England on three engines. The engineer, Babin, informed us that his estimate on fuel was two hours of flying time. My flight plan said three hours to Shipdham. Andy asked me for a heading to "Sweden." I yelled back over the intercom Sweden? that's a long ways from here, Andy." Then he responded, " Ah, no, no! I mean Switzerland I looked through my maps; I did not have a map of Switzerland. I used my flak map as best I could and gave Andy a general heading for Switzerland. When we were over what I had calculated to be Switzerland, and when we found a break in the clouds below, we started to _ let down. Getting below the cloud base, we circled for one and half hours over what we believed was Switzerland, searching for an airfield that would take aB-24, without fmding one. Since fuel was getting low, the possibility of parachuting was becoming imminent.
By now, we had started referring to the crude, small scale, cloth maps of Europe that were in our escape kits. When Andy decided that we would "bail out" we were over north-east Switzerland, the key check points being Lake Constance and the Rhein River, with Switzerland being on the south and/or west side of both.
When we saw what we considered reasonably smooth terrain below, Andy gave the order and the three rear gunners, Elliot (tail), Turley (right waist), and Hoffman (left waist) went out fIrst. Then we circled back and the engineer, Babin, and radio operator, Vander Weide went out. They were followed by co-pilot Young, Bombardier Jennings, and myself. Andy continued to fly the airplane as we made our emergency descents. When we went out we were at about 6,000 feet indicated altitude. I hung onto the catwalk in the bomb bay and let the slip stream pull me off, rather than merely jumping out for fear of contact with the flapping bomb bay doors. I went out with my back toward the plane; I remember looking back to see that I was clear of the ship when I pulled the rip-cord. I remember distinctly that before I saw the aircraft moving away, I had no feeling of movement, I was suspended in space. Then there was a distinct pop as the pilot chute snapped out. When I saw the main chute string out in front of me, I braced myself for the inevitable jerk which was coming. Then I heard a terrifying rip at my shoulders. I grabed for the shroud lines for fear that my shoulder straps had started to tear. Then I realized that the rip I had heard was the breaking of the threads used to hold the straps in line for easy handling of the chute as a pack.
I looked down and saw a small village below me. For several minutes it was very silent, then I could hear voices directly below, mostly those of children shouting. The fact that I appeared to be descending to the village, rather than an open area, worried me and I started pulling on some shroud lines in an attempt to dump air and move laterally. This only started a slow, wide oscillation but I was now coming down at the edge of the village. But now I became alarmed in spotting a triangle of electric wires just below. The ground was coming up fast now. When I was about a hundred feet from the ground I kicked off a flight boot that was almost off (The other came off when the chute opened) thinking that there would be less of a chance of turning an ankle. By now I saw that I was headed for a house, and from the doorway an old lady and old man were looking up. As I came closer, they shouted loudly and retreated into the house. I was sure, by now, that I would not hit the electric wires, and I concentrated on how to minimize injuries on impact with the house. Just then, either by oscillation or wind I was carried away from the house. I bent my knees as I hit in some soft turf (in about the center of the triangle of electric wires), with no ill effects. I unbuckled my chute, but continued to hold the rip cord by its red grip.
In a few seconds I was surrounded by people. One kid had a large red flag with a white cross, confIrming that we were in Switzerland. About that time I looked over on a hill to see Young, the co-pilot, land. He lay still for a few seconds-then sat up. He was soon surrounded. Then I watched as our plane made two passes overhead. On the second one, Andy came out and made a delayed opening of his chute. He landed over the hill, past Young.
Then a Swiss girl who presumably knew a little English tried to talk to me, but with little success. The people guided me to a nearby house of the village (Gonten). As I walked in the door, I saw both of my flying boots sitting on a window seat. I indicated that I wanted to remove the electrically wired heat suit I was wearing under my flight clothing. I was led to an upstairs room for this. Suddenly, I heard a commotion in the street below. Looking, I saw a mob go around the corner following one of our crew. I presumed that it was Young, and started I : shouting his name out the window. But it turned out to be Turley, waist gunner, who joined me upstairs. In a few minutes we heard shouting in the street and looked down to see a procession headed by Young and a priest. Soon they came upstairs tojoin us. Young told Turley and me that the priest said repeatedly "una mort" which Young interpreted as "one is dead."
We wondered who it could be. I thought perhaps it was Andy, with his delayed 'chute opening. Soon the people took us from the house to the Lion Inn across the street. I was wearing my retrieved flight boots. At the inn we were given soup and wine. Shortly; Andy burst through the door and the crowd to greet us. Again, those of us present (Andy, Young, \ Turley and myself wondered who had been killed. For about one half an hour we were items of curiosity for the people, especially the children. We showed them the contents of our escape kits, our Mae Wests, our parachute rip cords (I lost mine in the process), ete. Then they made an attempt to entertain us, with a young man playing the piano, while the people sang some songs, including the Swiss National Anthem. .
Then we were taken upstairs to a rest room where we had the opportunity to wash and clean up. Soon a Swiss captain arrived with two men to take us to a nearby city, Appenzell. They informed us-that the rest of our crew had been taken there. We gathered up our belongings and they led us to a small car, and after loading our stuff into the front trunk. they asked us to crowd in, which we did. In a short time, we were at the Hotel-Restaurant Krone, overlooking a square in Appenzell. We were taken inside, where Jennings, Babin, Elliott, and Vander Weide awaited us. They informed us that Leo Hoffman had been killed; his chute had only partially opened, (one of them saw him nearby). I, for one, had mixed emotions. I was glad that I had made it safely to a neutral country, that I would be out of the war for awhile; yet, along with the others, I mourned Leo's death, he was so young. And I felt pangs of guilt. Had I had the correct maps, perhaps we could have found an airport and landed safely making parachuting unnecessary. We learned later that Hoffman was buried in a cemetery near Bern. The cemetery is exclusively for American military personnel who died in Switzerland.
At Hotel-Restaurant Krone, there was a Mr.Etter of American Express, Zurich office, who spoke English fluently. He was very helpful to us while we were in Appenzell. We stayed overnight at the hotel and were afforded a nice supper (even though food was being rationed in Switzerland), pleasant sleeping quarters, and a typical Swiss breakfast (cheese, cold bread, coffee or chocolate). Also, a Swiss hairdresser shaved us and trimmed the hair of some before we walked to the station to board the train for Dubendorf, a town near the city of Zurich. From the Dubendorf station we were bussed to a Swiss military facility where we stayed that afternoon, that night, and the next day and night. During that time, we were given medical inspections, and filled out forms (American and Swiss) regarding the emergency, and had pleasant accommodations including food, sleeping quarters, and recreation.
After a typical Swiss breakfast on Sunday morning, we were led by several Swiss civilian authorities as we all walked to the Dubendorf station where we took a train to Zurich. On the way we learned that the enlisted guys on our crew would go to a mountain resort of Adelboden in south Switzerland, while the officers (Andy, Young, Jennings and myself would go to Davos, an alpine resort near the eastern border. Needless to say, there were heart-felt good byes. Although our period of combat together was relatively short, we felt a closeness as a result of the perils we had sustained as a crew.
As we four rode the train to Davos, we were impressed with the beauty of the country-side, villages, and mountains. We were accompanied by one Swiss civilian authority. Upon our arrival at Davos Platz, they led us on our walk to one of the hotels, where we checked in.
This was the begjnning of our internment, which is \another story; a particularly pleasant one for me, since I met and courted a Swiss miss whom I married in the U.S.A. in 1947. And she is still at my side.
7 July 1944 BERNBERG, Germany
A German aircraft factory was the target for the 44th. This mission was the roughest the 68th ever flew. Three AlC and crews were lost, five planes received category "AC" damages, and three received category "A" damages, out of a total of twelve A/C the 68th put up. Only two of our A/C escaped damage. The target was hit with good to excellent results on a visual bomb run. The GAF arose and gave battle. The Group claimed five destroyed, four probably destroyed and two damaged. The 68th claimed one destroyed and one damaged. Besides the three crews MIA. there were four combat men wounded in action, one of them seriously. In addition to bullets, there was moderate and accurate flak.
AlC numbers and Pilots were:
544 T Lt. Alfred D. Bonnet
098 B Lt. Robert A. Edmonson
966 W Lt. Ted L. Weaver MIA
035 Y Lt. Donald H. Steinke MIA
I 170 G Lt. James A. Wilson MIA
I642 N Lt. Benjamin D. Ford
101 E Lt. Reuban C. Ricketts
643 S Lt. Charles D. Gayman
049 A Lt. Richard Donald
260 P Lt. Charles U. Deurell
156 R Lt. Joseph V. Principe
226 C Lt. John R. Anderson
Edmonson was Lead Pilot and Gaymon was Deputy Lead for the 3rd Squadron;
Jim Hewlett remembers: July 7, l944- - -Bernberg, Germany (our crew's 10th mission).
The target was a Junker's aircraft factory and airfield near Leipzig. Eyerything went smoothly until we turned offtne the "IP" and headed into Bernberg. Then approximately 75 ME 410s' hit our formation, coming out of the sun. our squadron lost three A/C. As we proceeded to the target, we witnessed a true air-battle. All around us B-24s were going down in flames. I could see thirty to forty chutes at one time--some of them on fire.
Flak was heavy over the target, which was well bombed by the formation, according to Jennings, our Bombardier. Jennings also re ported that he was sure he gunned down one ME 410. We returned to Shipdham in formation with minimal battle damage to our plane.