Mission#19 September 7, 1943 – Lt. Vernon A. Leatherman and Major Glenn E. Duncan Crash

Date: Sept 7, 43

Dispatched: 44  Aborts: 7

Mission: Withdrawal support to 1st TF 120 B-17’s   Field Order: 56/126

Time Up/Down: 07:53 hrs 09:50 hrs Leader: Lt Col McCollom

Target: Brussels

Claims Air: 00-00-00 Claims Ground: 00-00-00 Lost/Damaged: 00-01

Group led by Lt Col. McCollom made landfall at 08:31 hrs, 25, 000ft over Knocke.  Arrived at R/V point on schedule at 08.31 hrs. B-17s were late and seen to the south west. Picked up two boxes of 60 bombers 15 miles SW of Brussels, 27,000ft, 08.45 hrs.

Continued over the target ‘S’ ing over the bombers. In vicinity of Woensdrecht drove off three unidentified aircraft coming in on B-17s. Out over Haamstede. Capt. Stafford and Lt. Herfurth [ not listed in flight plans] of the Group HQ participated. One P-47 belly landed near Westleton – reason unknown – pilot safe. 20 to 30 A/C observed on Brussels airfield in dispersal areas. Types unidentified. Bombings appeared to have hit these dispersal areas. Bombing results seemed good and well concentrated on aircraft repair shop at edge of airdrome.

350th: Lt Col McCollom. T/U 07:53 hrs. T/D 09:45 hrs. Total flight time 1:52 hrs. One returned early because of radio faded out. Bombers sighted ten or fifteen miles south of Ostend where light inaccurate flak was encountered. Bombing results on airfield at Brussels was excellent. Pattern of bombs completely obscured airfield which had 20 to 30 aircraft in dispersal areas. Bombers were at 28,000ft, and the Squadron at 29,000ft. No e/a engaged, nor unusual sea or ground activities observed.

Lt Col Loren McCollom (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt John B. Rose
1st Lt Charles W. Dinse
2nd Lt Dwight A. Fry
Capt Dewey E. Newhart (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Walter L. Angelo
1st Lt William W. Odom
1st Lt Tom Lorance
Capt Robert E. Fortier (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Charles O. Durant
1st Lt John Sullivan
2nd Lt Joseph F. Furness

351st: Major Christian. T/U 07:46 hrs. T/D 09:41 hrs. Total flight time 1:55 hrs. Route in at Knocke over Brussels, south and out over Walcheren Islands.

Major Shannon Christian (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt William R. Burkett
Capt Charles L. Stafford
2nd Lt Edgar J. Albert
Capt Walter C. Beckham (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Irving Toppel
Capt Jack R. Walsh
2nd Lt Lloyd A. Thornell
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt John G. Treitz
1st Lt George N. Ahles
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton
1st Lt Vernon A. Leatherman (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley
1st Lt Francis N. King
2nd Lt Benedict E Kraft
2nd Lt Jack Terzian

At 09:58 hrs on the return, the Royal Observer Corp at Bury St Edmunds reported that aircraft YJ-N (a/c 41-6585) crashed at Westleton, Suffolk. The Pilot 1st Lt. Vernon Leatherman was unhurt:

I was leading a flight of four P-47’s back from a mission and had made landfall a few miles below Orfordness at approximately 09:30 hrs, altitude 5,000ft and descending to 2,000ft as we moved north toward home base. The other three ships had just closed in to right echelon when my engine coughed and started bucking. Immediately I switched to my auxiliary tank, but the engine started hammering and kept running rough, so I peeled up and over the flight. At the same time I lowered my landing gear to land at an airfield back about three miles.

Immediately after peeling up and turning 90 degrees from my original flight path, the engine froze tight and the propeller stopped turning. My altimeter read 2000 and I started my wheels back up because I was not close enough to the airfield to get into it without power. With the engine stopped, my hydraulic pressure dropped to zero. I started pumping the wheels up until I had to release the handle to cut the switches and belly the ship into a mowed field. I bounced the ship hard and then lifted the right wing over two haystacks and dropped it into the next field through a hedge, where it skidded to a stop.

Important parts of the engine were later found in the sump of the aircraft’s engine, but this was not to be the conclusion to the drama that day.

On hearing of Lt. Leatherman’s crash, Major Duncan flew to the scene in the Group’s Tiger Moth. He and 1st Lt. John B. Rose, his passenger, hoped to give immediate assistance to Lt. Leatherman if necessary, and further investigate the crash. Major Duncan landed in the field next to the crash and after securing the necessary information prepared to take off:

I prepared to take off for my home airdrome with Lt Rose still in the rear cockpit. I placed the aircraft in a position to permit the longest run off
the field about 6 to 700 yards in length. The lowest obstruction at the far side was a small hedge about five feet high. The wind was slightly cross to the line of take off, about 15 miles per hour. I had two enlisted men hold the wings while I revved the engine up as there are no brakes on the Moth. With the throttle wide open we started across the field, tail off the ground.

The ship was just airborne but not enough to clear the small hedge. I tried to bounce over the hedge but didn’t quit make it. The ship hit the hedge and went over on its back. The visual damage was propeller, wing and rudder. The property damage included a few sugar beets dug up. There was no injury to either passenger or pilot.

The flight was deemed contrary to flying regulations and Major Duncan’s error but Lt Col. McCollom felt that the time saved getting to Lt Leatherman outweighed any regulation.

352nd: Major Bailey. T/U 07:55 hrs. T/D 09:40 hrs. Total flight time 1:45 hrs. Withdrawal support. Course: Brussels, Woensdrecht, Haamstede. The Squadron saw several 190’s but they were too far below to be engaged. Flight plan as per Squadron records:

Major William B. Bailey (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt James N. Poindexter
1st Lt William F. Streit
1st Lt Jesse W. Gonnam
2nd Lt Wilton W. Johnson
Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Thomas J. Forkin (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Leroy W. Ista
2nd Lt William J. Jordan
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan
Capt Robert C. Durlin (Flt Ldr)
1st Lt Gordon L. Willits
1st Lt Edward M. Fogarty
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer
1st Lt Wilbert H. Juntilla

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