Monday, November 12, 2012

Wild Blue Yonder Honoring my WWII dead family member

Synopsis of Willard O. Simpson and the B17 41-24515 Marie Jane: Willard was a Staff Sargent serving with the 91st Bomb Group Heavy, 324th Bomb Squadron in the Army Air Force flying B17F Flying Fortress'. Pictures and letters he sent home all related how "clerk" work kept him busy, and if it wasn't for his radio that he got to take from Jefferson Barracks in Mo. he would be really bored.

The 91st Bomb Group, 324th Squadron (DF-H) was assigned to Bassingbourn, England, 41-24515 became named "Jersey Bounce" by the pilot, Lt. Phillip Fischer when it was assigned to him in September 1942.  Later a replacement pilot, Lt. J.S. Jackson, renamed the craft the "Marie Jane" (Lt. Fischer was temporarily blinded on January 23, 1943).

From the Dailies of the 91st Bomb Group, we know that 21 aircraft were set up to attack the U-boat and shipbuilding installations at Wihelmshaven, and when they took off, "shortly after 0830 hours and after some slight difficulty got into formation above the clouds which dominated the skies over this part of England".

With bad weather conditions, and a large force of enemy aircraft, estimated to be between 100 and 150, the bomber group got into position over the Black Sea to begin their bomb run.  It was while forming up, that the German aircraft launched a most "vigorous attack" on the leading squadron. They initially  attacked in groups from 10 to 12, coming in rapid succession. As they completed their initial attack, they then moved in from below the rear and from both sides, hoping to break up the formation of Fortresses before they reached the bomb release line.

From the MARC record of Sidney L Kohn, I discovered that there was a casualty report:

Note: This Group lost 4 aircraft this date. None were identified. Two were seen to leave the formation, one east of Alte Mollen, one just after target, it headed back to Germany.
* S/Sgt SIMPSON, Willard O., 37117178, reported Killed in Action per SOS Casualty Report 449, 23 Jan 44.
Then, back to the Daillies:

The vicious frontal attacks continued, this time concentrating on the exposed right flank of the lead formation. Retchin's plane from the 323rd, flying "Tail End Charlie" in the second element had already been hit and dropped out of formation before the bomb drop. Now the fighters poured into the gap behind the second element, concentrating on the six planes in the middle of the pattern. The 324th, leading B Flight, took the brunt of the attack. "Marie Jane," leading the Flight was hit and went down with its entire crew. Two planes behind, Koll's "Desperate Journey," leading the second element was hit and going down, too.

  And so, my story of Willard O. Simpson comes to an end.  He was a wrestler in high school, had a dog and a large family. His youngest brother was born between my mother and her older brother, so they were sort of raised together. 

No comments:

Post a Comment