Robert V. Swegel
Please consider my notes to the crew mission records for the Warner Crew. Personal recolections by surviving crew members DO NOT agree with the official records from The National Archives.
[ Note: In all cases, only "Official Records" are used in the Military Heritage Database Program. ]
Group Mission #322 on 3-21-45
James P. Hall did not fly with this crew. Oscar A. Richardson flew as Engineer.
Group Mission #325 on 3-23-45
Frank LaFazia did not fly with this crew.
Group Mission #329 on 3-30-45
Robert Kirsching and James Hall did not fly with this crew. Al Liebner flew as Radio Operator. Oscar Richardson flew as Engineer.
Group Mission #330 on 3-31-45
Charles Daughtry and James Hall did not fly with this crew. Al Liebner flew as Radio Operator. Oscar Richardson flew as Engineer.
Group Mission #339 on 4-14-45
James Hall did not fly with this crew. Oscar Richardson flew as Engineer.
Group Mission #340 on 4-15-45
George Phillips did not fly with this crew. Oscar Richardson flew as Engineer.
Group Mission #344 on 4-25-45
William Comely did not fly with this crew. Oscar Richardson flew as Engineer.
Robert V. Swegel
On our 3rd mission February 25, 1945, we went to Aschaffenburg, Germany and bombed railway yards. We had meager flak at the target.
On our return, we were getting low on gas due to flying high right position, and according to pilot, Bill Warner, had to pull a lot of power to keep up with formation. We left formation and were headed for gas at B-53 in France, when the pilot asked how long to fuel and landing? The navigator gave him tIme and ETA. After he and the engineer looked at our fuel, he asked, was there anything closer where we could land? He did not think we had enough fuel to reach B-53. The navigator looked at charts & told him a field was close. He asked for heading. We guessed at heading to turn and told him to turn and the navigator would recalculate and correct. He did and also let down on deck under the clouds. Our Gee equipment went out, radioman had been given the wrong frequencies insert for that area that day (he was an excellent radio man). The navigator recalculated our position and heading, and the pilot corrected. About that time we flew over two Piper cubs (I assume artillery spotters) parked -on a small grass runway. Pilot asked us what we thought. We said we believed we are on courses to the airfield, straight ahead, but was not 100% sure, because we were dead reckoning and low to the ground under overcast.
Bill, our pilot, said we could not fly much longer and he wanted to land on small grass field. His decision of course, we agreed, let's do it. The navigators went back to waist with all of the crew except Engineer, Billy Grau, who insisted he stay up front and count air speed (not much needed as pilot and co-pilot were going to slow the plane down as much as possible ). We were all in ditching position in back (and then one gunner called pilot, he was afraid to attempt landing, wanted to climb back up and then bailout). We had just enough time to grab him, push him down against the others and lay flat on the waist deck with feet against small raised step. The place came in with wheels down as
recommended. We landed on grass, ran out of it shortly, and plowed through a farm road into an adjoining field. One landing gear collapsed, the front end scrubbed against the ground, breaking our front turret loose. Catwalk beam in bomb bay dug into the ground. Pilot and co-pilot's feet were literally on the dirt, the tail high in the air. Everyone in waist was ok. I did the only forward flip of my life during the crash, but unhurt.
We opened the hatch and jumped or dropped 15 feet or so. I thought the plane would explode or burn. After I ran good distance and heard no explosion, I turned and saw the front of the plane and thought that the pilot and co-pilot were badly injured. I ran back and tore the fire extinguisher loose from the nose section and checked all engines for fire. The engineer was the only person hurt (he stayed up front with pilots and Martin Upper Turret broke loose and knocked him against a bulkhead and broke his shoulder). Meanwhile, everyone in the back was dropping through the rear hatch with the man behind holding the hatch open. The last man out was Scorpio the Armament waist gunner. He dropped out and hatch door dropped closed on his hand with two fingers caught between smooth flat surfaces. He was hanging in the air with no support and much higher than we could reach.
An Army Major was driving a jeep along a side road but would not cross the small ditch at roadside. After a few choice words from the crew that didn't show any respect for his rank, he crossed the ditch. We climbed onto the jeep and supported Scorpio who could push up on the hatch with his free hand. He dropped out in our arms. His fingers swelled to twice their normal size and were very badly bruised, but the skin was not torn or the fingers broken. After about a week they were ok again.
The pilot and navigator took the engineer to a hospital for care. We spent the night with coarse English blankets on wooden slat beds with no mattress. When returning the next day to the crash site, we found that the co-pilot and crew spent the night in the Prince of Monte Carlo's Chateau and easily located the wine cellar. They also had a deep bathtub and French maids. The engineer was shipped back to the states. They flew us to B-53 in France, in a C-47. We made two attempts at takeoff with two planes before we flew a war weary B-24 back from the continent to Walton, a base in England. An army truck took us back to base at Shipdham.
Note: We checked while in Laon, France, and there was an airfield (an A-26 Base) just over the hill. That was what I had calculated, but we may not have had enough gas to reach it.
March 3, 1945 - Mission #4
Target - Rothansee Oil Refmery, which we hit with excellent results. When we turned off the target, the sky was black with flak. The No.1 engine was hit and caught fire. The pilot had to feather the engine. We got some pieces in the nose turret and pieces hit beside of me to my left. Our bomb bay doors were hung open and we could not close them. Hydraulic fluid was leaking all over the plane. Our electrical system was knocked out, so no interphone or radio. This happened before we could notify formation and ask for fighter support. At this point, we had no Gee equipment, no radio, and no electric compass. We did have our magnetic compass. We tagged along with each formation that came by until we could not keep up. We were flying an average heading toward the coast. We knew if we headed toward friendly lines we would be low and receive too much flak in the Ruhr Valley and maybe Hanover, so we kept Bill flying the direction we were headed and hoped we had enough gas to make it.
We were doing the pilotage when we came to a hole in the clouds. The pilot and navigator were passing notes back and forth on our charts. Finally, we hit the Zider Zee and then turned south. that way we missed flak and had a chance of reaching an airfield. They issued each navigator a photo stat (black and white) of their best estimate of where the fighting and lines were that day. There were two rivers and a canal. The fighting was along the middle stream. We told the pilot and he informed the crew. He also told the crew they could jump if they wanted to do so, as we had crashed on the mission before.
We finally let the nose gunner out of his turret, because before that, the wind would have blown all the navigators charts away. He had been in that turret with no communication except, hand signals, since the target. The nose gunner went up to the flight deck and came back, saying the pilot was going to jump. The navigator climbed up to the pilot and told him there was an airfield a few more miles in front of us where we could land. We tried to send nose gunner, Sgt. Bengston to waist to tell the crew we were going to try and land but he had his chute on and could not get through the up rights on the catwalk in bomb bay and got hung up. With the bomb bay doors open and our hands cold from no heat since target, we were afraid to work with the parachute as it might open. The navigator told him to just stand there and hold on and wait for us to land.
The five in the waist bailed out. We landed on the RAF Typhoon Fighter Base near Vogel. The pilot and co-pilot who had both been flying with two feet on the rudder pedal since the target, got us landed and stopped with no or very little hydraulic pressure. We were near the field when our five started jumping and the Typhoon Base crew had counted chutes. They all had but (one), it was reported.
The crew went to the Base Hospital to be checked out. I didn't get there as soon, since I thought we jumped over enemy territory, and since I had trouble getting my chute open while falling. I remember that I was knocked unconscious twice on the way down.
Because I didn't adjust my harness in my crotch and the shock knocked me out. Regaining consciousness again, I further had to get the chute fully open, by spreading the risers, and again the shock put me out. The next thing I knew I swung through some high trees and landed in a field. Upon getting my senses and seeing a farmhouse nearby with people and motorcycle troops who I thought were Germans. I ducked into an evergreen tree farm. About that time the troops started chasing me on their motorcycles and I kept dodging them by running thru the rows of trees, sometimes curling myself around the base of the trees so as to hide. That continued for about an hour or so until being so tired they caught up to me and to my relief, found out they were not Germans, but British troops, trying to find me. When they got me, I told them that I wasn't about to be captured by farmers with hayforks, since I was informed as to what Germans did to captured flyers. Then they took me to the Base Hospital where the rest of the crew was. They thought that I was probably dead since some people saw that I was having trouble with my chute and never did see it fully open.
When we finally got back to England we were sent immediately to a rest home for seven days. That was the life, with breakfast in bed and orange juice, sheets on the beds and nothing but rest.