Mission#83 February 22, 1944 – Target: Aircraft Plants Bernberg. The Loss of Major Walter C. Beckham, Lt. Joseph E. Wood, Lt. Don M. Hurlburt, Lt. Edison G. Stiff and Capt. Keith A. Orsinger.

Date: Feb 22, 44

Dispatched: 50 Aborts: 5

Mission: Withdrawal Support to 300 B-17s (1st Div)

Field Order: 247 Leader: Lt Col. Duncan

Time Up/Down: 13:16 hrs     16:15 hrs

Target: Aircraft Plants at Bernberg, Oschersleben, Aschersleben, Halberstadt.

Claims Air: 04-00-00 Claims Ground: 03-00-02 Lost/Damaged: 05-03

Landfall over Schouwen Islands, 25,000ft. Flew on course R/Ving with 17 bombers 1st Div at 14:44 hrs and two Groups of B-17s in the rear at 15:03 hrs. Bombers at 18,000ft. 50+ T/E A/C on A/D 4 miles northeast of Bonn attacked by 351st Squadron, two destroyed, two probably destroyed. One larger hanger left ablaze, ground installations strafed. Major Beckham heard to say that he had six A/C in line for attack. After pulling up from this attack, he later informed his wing man that his engine was on fire and that he was forced to bail out. Two locos attacked in Germany, strikes seen on boiler. 10 miles SE of Antwerp, one Fw190 destroyed, seen to crash. In the vicinity of Diest Schaffen one Ju88 destroyed taking off from A/D. Antwerp A/D one FW190 destroyed on the ground. 8 miles south east of Munchen Gladbach 2 Me109s destroyed. Lt. Stiff received direct hit by flak 28,000ft on way in over Antwerp. Plane seen to hit ground – no parachute seen. Coming out on the deck Lt. Wood and Lt. Hurlburt hit by flak – one A/C seen smoking, the other’s engine on fire. Both turned inland. Just after R/V Capt. Orsinger was last seen in a spin possibly from E/A. Intense flak from Antwerp and Kohn. One B-17 and one P-47 seen hit by flak and go down at Kohn. No chutes seen. One B-17 20 miles off enemy coast at Haamsteede trailing smoke. Lt Col. Duncan, Capt. Charles L. Stafford and 1st Lt. Thistlethwaite of Group HQ participated.


Major Beckham 351st FS

Capt. Orsinger 366th FG (reason unknown)

Lt. Wood 351st FS

Lt. Hurlburt 351st FS

Lt. Stiff 352nd FS


1 Fw190 destroyed Lt Col. Duncan

1 T/E A/C destroyed (ground) shared by Lt Col Duncan and Major Holt

1 Fw190 destroyed (ground) Lt. Compton

1 Ju88 destroyed Lt. Compton

2 Fw190s probably destroyed (ground) shared by Major Beckham, Lt. Compton, Emory and Perpente.

2 Me109s destroyed Lt. Poindexter

1 Fw190 destroyed (ground) Lt. Newman

350th: Capt Newhart. T/U 13:15 hrs. T/D 16:21 hrs. Total flying time 03:06 hrs. L/F in at Walcheren, 14:04 hrs, 27,000ft. Close. P-47s, No e/a. Left bombers 15:12 hrs, 19,000ft. Flak Antwerp heavy, accurate. R/T normal. 7/10 coverage south and east of Ruhr. Solid overcast over western part of continent.

Capt Dewey E. Newhart (Sqdn Ldr)
Capt Barnhart (366th FG)
1st Lt John Zolner
1st Lt Richard A. Stearns
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff (Flt Ldr)
Lt McGuire (366th FG)
1st Lt Francis T. Walsh
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Abel H. Garey
1st Lt Robert N. Ireland
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt William J. Price (Flt Ldr)
F/O William W. Hargus
1st Lt Tom Lorance
2nd Lt Kenneth Chetwood

351st: Lt Col Duncan. T/U 13:10 hrs. T/D 16:35 hrs. Total flying time 03:25 hrs. Route: In at Walcheren Island, over Aachen, out at Walcheren Island. Walcheren Island at 14:03 hrs at 26,000ft. 2 Combat Wings of B-17S with Triangular markings, east of Cologne at 14:45 hrs, 22,000ft. 1 Group P-47s seen over Bruxelles at 14:50 hrs. Ju88s and Fw190s on airdrome east of Aachen. Left bombers in Aachen area. Left coast at Walcheren Islands at 15:55 hrs, zero altitude. Intense and accurate for altitude flak over Antwerp. Ground defenses on airdrome just east of Aachen very intense and accurate. Channel C contact good. Remarks: Major Beckham was last seen after making attack on six enemy aircraft lined up on the airdrome at Bonn. He called his wingman, Lt. Perpente, that he had to bail out and for him to take the Squadron home. His [Perpente’s] plane evidently not seriously hit. Lt. Hurlburt and Lt. Wood were also hit by ground installations coming out on the deck over Walcheren Islands. Both planes made a right turning evidently heading inland. Lt Wood’s plane had a small fire at the right wing root. Lt. Hurlburt’s plane seen to emit a trail of black smoke. Two damaged by flak (cat unknown). One late return also damaged. Three MIA Major Beckham, Lt. Wood and Lt. Hurlburt. One Ju88 destroyed by Lt. Compton on airdrome Diest-Schaffen. One Fw190 destroyed and two Fw190s probably destroyed by Lt. Compton. Others sharing in the two probable Fw190s are Major Beckham, Lt. Perpente and Lt. Emory [likely not counted as a credit]. One Ju88 destroyed by Major Holt and shared with Col. Duncan. Two locomotives (Germany) damaged by Major Holt. Hanger and ground installations damaged by Lt. Stanley and Lt. Treitz and Lt. Peterson.

Lt Col Glenn E. Duncan (Gp & Sqdn Ldr) LH-X 42-8634
Major Holt (366th FG) YJ-H 42-75189
Capt Charles L. Stafford YJ-A 42-75850
2nd Lt Frank J. Mincik YJ-T 42-75842
Capt Vic L. Byers (Flt Ldr) YJ-V
Lt Kerr (366th FG) YJ-F
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-I
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y 42-75856
Major Walter C. Beckham (Flt Ldr) YJ-X 42-75226
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-G
1st Lt Frank N. Emory YJ-E
F/O Cletus Peterson YJ-P 42-75149
1st Lt Gordon B. Compton (Flt Ldr) YJ-O
F/O Joseph E. Wood YJ-S 42-75647
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley YJ-B
2nd Lt Don M. Hurlburt YJ-H 42-75653
1st Lt William J. Maguire YJ-M 42-75114
1st Lt William T. Thistlethwaite (Relay) YJ-N
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Relay) YJ-L

Between 15.15 hrs and 15.55 hrs Lt Col. Duncan led the attack on 50 + twin engine aircraft. Duncan was awarded the Ju88 he attacked on the airfield and an additional Fw190. He was also credited a hanger damaged and two locomotives also damaged, shared with Major Holt [366th FG] who followed close behind:

I was Roughman White 2 with Lt Col. Duncan leading the Group. Just after R/V with the bombers, Col Duncan called for an attack on an airfield in the vicinity of Bonn. We dove from approximately 21,000ft in tight spirals to an area just east of the airdrome where we started our strafing run on the target towards the west.

As we approached the field Col. Duncan fired on a twin engine aircraft starting a fire. Selecting the same target, I fired at it also noticing a definite flare up as if another gas tank had been pierced with a resulting explosion.

We levelled off and experienced violent and accurate flak bursts all around us, discovering later that we had received a number of hits due to flak shrapnel [Flying a/c 42-75189 Holt was not awarded a share of Duncan’s t/e].

Proceeding on at ground level we next encountered a train NE and just a few miles from the field, both firing on the locomotive. We both got strikes on the engine, claiming damage. After this encounter we became separated and while apart I fired on a second locomotive in the same vicinity but farther on toward the NE, about 5 minutes after the first locomotive encounter. I saw strikes on the boiler, claiming damage.

After joining up again on the deck, Col. Duncan called my attention to a single engine a/c far off at about 500ft and proceeding across our course from the right. We flew on until the ship was well off to our left, when we turned in behind it and boosted up to full power to catch it. It proved to be an Fw190 and Col. Duncan fired. I noticed its wheels half dropped after observing strikes by Colonel Duncan. When he pulled up I fired on the e/a, then it started to dive into the ground. I continued to fire on it until I had to pull up. Looking back I saw it had crashed into the ground.

We continued on at approximately 310 degrees still at ground level. We passed over the coast without difficulty from flak or ground artillery. After staying close to the water for approximately 5 minutes, we pulled up into a climb. At about 8000ft we noticed a B-17 flying close to the water, also noticing that all four engines were operating, assuming the bomber to be all right. Having spiralled down to investigate, we climbed back up and proceeded on home. The bomber was sighted 30 to 40 miles SE of friendly coastline at Orfordness.

Following closely down onto the airfield were Roughman Blue Flight led by Major Beckham. His wing man, 1st Lt. George F. Perpente, described what happened next:

I was flying Roughman Blue 2 on Major Beckham’s wing. After making R/V with the bombers, Lt Col Duncan leading White flight, made a strafing attack on an airdrome just east of Bonn, Germany. Shortly afterward Major Beckham called and asked if it was all right to bring his section down. After getting no answer we started down from about 14000ft. We got down to about 7000ft and made an orbit. Major Beckham called and said he had some all lined up and let’s go. Then we rolled out of the turn and went down.

I saw him firing and getting strikes on some planes on the ground, and then I started to fire at them.Between following Major Beckham and trying to watch the ground I did not notice the exactness of my firing, but Emory flying Blue 3 says he did see hits on the planes. As I flew over the field I saw ahanger burning pretty badly.

They were shooting everything they could find at us. Tracers, bullets and flak were coming from every direction at us. Major Beckham then started a slight climbing turn to the right. I started to pull up with him, but he told me to stay low. I kept turning with him down low. He said for me to take a course of 310 degrees and go on home as he was going to have to bail out. I stayed with him a while longer. A little black smoke was coming out the rear of his ship, but did not seem to be on fire. Then he kept heading for a wooded area and was about 1000ft high. He called me again to go home, and at that point I left. Then I noticed that Lt Peterson, who was flying Blue 4, was right with me. We then pulled up into the clouds at 3000ft, but they only lasted a few minutes so we hit the deck and came home all the way there. Once we left the target no more flak was shot at us.

Beckham had been hit by long-range flak during his dive and, after bailing out, was immediately captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW in Stalag Luft III and Nuremberg Langwasser 49-11.

[Back to the mission] Following close behind Beckham’s flight was 1st Lt. Gordon B. Compton leading Roughman Yellow Flight:

Major Beckham made an attack on the airdrome. He said over the radio that he had six Fw190s lined up. I could not see these e/a but followed Major Beckham down anyway and fired in the same general area that he was firing at. As I closed I saw three Fw190s parked close together. I strafed and saw hits on all three, and saw one burst into flames. I pulled up off the target, turning about 90 degrees to the left, and heard Major Beckham say that he’d been hit, was on fire, and for everyone to get out.

I was about 500 ft high at this time and saw tracers coming from every direction, also flak was bursting uncomfortably close, so I hit the deck. I was now far enough south of Bonn to be able to take up a course in the general direction of home and just miss the suburbs of the town. Checking up on my flight, I found everyone present, (Lt. J. E. Wood, Lt. R. D. Stanley and Lt. D. M. Hurlburt, in that order) and that I had been joined by Lt. J. G. Treitz from Roughman Red flight.

We continued out on the deck, being shot at occasionally by ground defense, and shooting targets which got in our way. As we approached Diest Schaffen airfield from the Southeast I saw a Ju88 break out above the horizon, Northwest of the town. Apparently it had just taken off. I continued on a course that was taking us south of the town. The Ju88 flew right out in front of us at about 100ft. I then fired a short burst at the e/a allowing for 15 to 20 degrees deflection at 400 yards, saw no results, so I turned dead astern and at 150 to 200 yards fired three bursts. The first burst started the left engine smoking and small pieces began to fly off. The second burst did the same thing to the right engine. The third burst struck the tail section. There was a loss of speed in the Ju88 and I overshot to the right, noticing that the prop had stopped and that the plane had started down. I glanced up at my mirror and saw a sheet of flame as the e/a hit the ground. We then continued out, breaking landfall over Noord Bevenland Island.

Compton was awarded an Fw190 destroyed on the ground and also claimed the Ju88. Stanley and Treitz were also awarded a share with Peterson in a hanger destroyed. 1st Lt. John G. Treitz had originally been Roughman Red 3:

I was flying in Capt Byer’s flight. My Wing man had returned early because his radio was out (Lt Milligan), and the spare that filled in also returned because his belly tank would not release. After R/V with the bombers our flight followed Lt Col. Duncan’s flight down to strafe the airdrome. I lost sight of my flight so tacked on to Roughman Yellow flight and went down and strafed installations. From then on out we were on the deck, approximately 325 degrees. Flak over Bonn was intense and accurate down low.

The five of us were spread out line abreast. A Ju88 flew directly across our path after taking off. Lt Compton leading the flight pulled directly behind it and really clobbered it at close range. Pieces flew off it, smoke and flames poured out from the fuselage and left engine. Lt. Wood pulled up, and it looked like he gave it a short burst. When he passed it I pulled up and threw a few slugs at it too. The Ju88 crashed into the ground, splattering pieces and a ball of flame all over. No one could have survived.

Farther on a ground gun fired at us and I fired at it. As we were approaching the coast we were drawing fire from the guns there to, so I fired right back. As I passed over one of these guns I could see the gunner sitting beside his gun, which was pointed out to sea directly on our course. I got right down on the beach and water to give them as hard a target as possible.

Yellow flight, desperately trying to get home, were subjected to an intense barrage of flak from the shore battery. 1st Lt Compton described the further tragedy that was to strike the 351st that day:

Ground opposition was negligible (on way out) until we made landfall over Nord Bevenland. It was then that I passed directly over a battery of machine and flak guns concealed and camouflaged on the inside of the beach among what can best be described as sand dunes.

The guns operated by men in sand coloured clothing, opened up on us and Lt. Wood on my right wing said he had been hit. He pulled away from me leaving a trail of black smoke, altitude about 50 feet, and turned back toward land. Lt. Hurlburt, also on my right, was hit and turned back with Lt. Wood. I did not see Lt. Hurlburt and he did not call on the radio.

The guns continued firing until we were two or three miles out to sea, and we stayed right down on the water, until the firing ceased.

1st Lt. John Treitz, down as far as he could go, also heard the call:

We were coming out the coast on the deck at Nord Bevenland Island. Lt Wood was flying to my left and a little in front of me. Someone reported on the R/T that they were hit, at which time I saw a small fire on the wing root of Lt. Wood’s ship. He pulled across in front of me and to my right towards Lt. Hurlburt’s ship, who was flying slightly off my right. It was then that I saw Lt. Hurlburt’s ship smoking badly, evidently hit by flak.

They both turned to the right together just as we were leaving the coast when I saw the last of them. Their heading when I last saw them was about 40 degrees, only 50 feet off the ground. I did not watch them any longer because I was concentrating on staying as close to the water as possible. We were fired at well out to sea, flak bursting all around us which was very accurate [MACR 2671 and 2673 refer].

The Missing Air Crew Report Map showing the route when Hurlburt and Wood were last seen (353rd FG Archive).

The Missing Air Crew Report Map showing the route when Hurlburt and Wood were last seen (353rd FG Archive).

Lts Wood and Hurlburt are memorialised on the Tablets of the Missing in the Netherlands American Military Cemetery. Further information can be found HERE.

352nd: Capt Robertson. T/U 13:13 hrs. T/D 16:15 hrs. Total flying time 03:02 hrs. Made L/F south of course over Walcheren Islands at 14:02 hrs, 25,000ft. Our B-24s aborted and we proceeded on to our intended R/V point, and at approx. 15:00 hrs picked up one box of B-17s who flew over Bonn. We made a turn and picked up B-17s who flew over Kohn. Bomber formation and task force was good. Observed other P-47 group flying below us. Six Me109s engaged near Erkelenz, Germany at about 15:10 hrs. Two were destroyed by Lt. Poindexter and the other four believed to have been the ones who destroyed Capt. Orsinger’s plane; he was not seen to have bailed out. Lt. Newman destroyed his 190 on ground at Antwerp A/D. Left bombers near Venlo area at approx 15:00 hrs. Left coast over Haamsteede at 20,000ft at 15:45 hrs. Intense heavy accurate, repeat accurate, flak from Antwerp. This is the reason for Lt. Stiff’s NYR. Intense, heavy flak from Kohn. One unidentified P-47 seen to go down, also one B-17. “A” channel good “C” channel poor contact. Small boats seen in the harbor at Willenstad. Weather off continent clear to 5/10ths over route. Tops around 6,000ft. Note: original target was not bombed but we picked up B-17s who flew over Bonn and bombed targets of opportunity in the Ruhr. Lt. Burlingame and Capt. Juntilla circled to observe Lt. Stiff’s plane which was hit by flak and were unable to join up then. Capt. Orsinger and Lt. Stiff not yet returned. 2 Me109s destroyed by Lt. Poindexter and 1 Fw190 destroyed by Lt. Newman (ground).

Capt Raynor E. Robertson (Sqdn Ldr) SX-S
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-G
1st Lt James N. Poindexter SX-B
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer SX-Q
Capt Thomas J. Forkin (Flt Ldr) SX-W
Lt Lusby SX-V
1st Lt Robert A. Newman SX-N
2nd Lt Richard V. Keywan SX-F
Capt Keith A. Orsinger MIA SX-X 42-75140
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-O
2nd Lt Maurice Morrison SX-R
Capt Wilbert H. Juntilla (Flt Ldr) SX-K 42-75608?
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-J 42-7910
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame SX-Z 42-75683
2nd Lt Edison G. Stiff MIA SX-L
2nd Lt Wilton W. Johnson SX-U

The 352nd also had a disastrous day which started as they crossed over the enemy coast. At approximately 14.15 hrs, 7km north of Antwerpen, 1st Lt. Edison G. Stiff was lost to a direct burst of flak. 1st Lt. Gordon S. Burlingame reported what happened:

I was flying Wakeford Yellow 3 with Lt Stiff as my wing man. In the near vicinity of Antwerp, Belgium, we encountered some flak, and a group left turn was called to evade it. Our flight and Wakeford Blue flight were the last to come through the area and received a very accurate barrage at 28000ft. We were taking violent evasive action, including turns and altitude changes, when I saw Lt. Stiff receive a direct hit. His ship threw out clouds of flame and he spun down, burning all the way. I lost sight of him while making another turn. I did not see him get out or see a parachute.

Leading Yellow flight was Capt. Wilbert Juntilla:

He pulled straight up and burst into flames. He stalled and went into a spin still flaming badly. I called him but received no answer. I then watched him until the ship hit the ground. I saw no parachute, so I assume he went in with his ship [MACR 2672 refers].

Lt. Stiff is buried in the Ardennes American Military Cemetery and further information can be found HERE.

The rest of the Squadron continued and picked up a box of 1st Div B-17s around 15.00 hrs. The Squadron then made a left turn and picked up another group of bombers flying to Koln. About 10 minutes later, near Ecklenz, Germany six Me109s were encountered, with 1st Lt. James N. Poindexter accounted for two of them making him an ace:

We were escorting bombers on withdrawal from Koln. I called in two 109s at three o’clock low to my flight leader [Capt. Robertson] and he began an attack. I opened fire on the wing man of an element of e/a’s at about 350 yards and 30 degrees deflection as he was beginning an attack on the bombers. I observed no strikes on this burst so I closed to approximately 300 yards dead astern in a shallow dive and opened fire again. I observed many strikes on the wing roots and fuselage. A huge piece fell off the wing root and the canopy was blown off. The e/a burst into flame and grey smoke, then exploded in many pieces.

I then began an attack on the leader who had just shot down a Fortress in his only pass at the formation. This aircraft, an Me109, had the designation N7-5 in red letters on the fuselage. My opening fire was too great a range and deflection, however I closed very rapidly to dead astern and point blank range, firing short bursts. I observed only one huge flash or explosion in the left wing root and wing. I pulled up, almost hitting the e/a, and half rolled. His entire left wing blew off at the wheel fairings. I assumed this to be caused by the e/a’s ammunition exploding. The entire fuselage then caught on fire and the e/a tumbled and spun to the ground and crashed. My ship became half covered with oil from the debris of the e/a.

The other Me109s seen at the same time as Poindexter’s were believed responsible for the Squadron’s second loss of the day. Capt. Keith A. Orsinger, on attachment from the 366th Fighter Group, was last seen in a spin, possibly from enemy aircraft fire. I have no further information on Capt. Orsinger and there appears to be no MACR record available. His body does appear to have been returned to the US for burial around 1950. I would welcome any further clarification on his story.

On the way home from the mission 1st Lt. Robert A. Newman claimed an Fw190 destroyed on the ground, when Wakeford Red flight attacked an airfield:

I was flying Red 3 and my flight was coming out alone. I saw an e/a on the airdrome below, and as Red 2 was low on gas, just #4 [1st Lt. Richard V. Keywan] and I went down.

I made a large diving circle south of the drome and came in at ground level. I hopped a hanger and lined up on the e/a. I got very good strikes on the e/a, from wing tips to fuselage and a good concentration of hits in the engine and accessory section. I believe the e/a was starting to burn as I passed over it. I didn’t have a chance for a second pass. I believe the 190 was a new airplane as it was a silver colour. I fired 600 rounds, and except for a split second burst at a hanger, it was all on the e/a. The results were very good. I drew ineffective small arms fire from the airdrome but only had one small hit in my plane from it.

Group Lost/Damaged/ERTN:

42-75856 ABT radio out YJ-Y Lt. Milligan flying.
42-75114 ABT belly tank wouldn’t draw YJ-M Lt. Maguire flying.
42-75707 ABT turbo inoperative SX-A
42-7910 ABT prop out SX-J
42-75683 ERTN escort SX-Z
42-75608 ERTN no manifold pressure SX-? SX-K by 9/7/44
42-75065 MIA SX-L Lt. Stiff flying.
42-75226 MIA YJ-X Major Beckham flying.
42-75140 MIA SX-X Capt. Orsinger flying.
42-75647 MIA YJ-S Lt. Wood flying.
42-75653 MIA YJ-H Lt. Hurlburt flying.
42-8634 BD Cat AC LH-X Lt Col. Duncan flying.
42-75281 BD Cat AC Unknown*
42-75850 BD Cat A YJ-A Capt. Stafford flying.
42-75149 BD Cat A YJ-P F/O Peterson flying.
42-75842 BD Cat A YJ-T Lt. Mincik flying.
42-75189 BD Cat AC YJ-H Major Holt flying.

*Hopefully to confirm later.


Filed under Missions

2 responses to “Mission#83 February 22, 1944 – Target: Aircraft Plants Bernberg. The Loss of Major Walter C. Beckham, Lt. Joseph E. Wood, Lt. Don M. Hurlburt, Lt. Edison G. Stiff and Capt. Keith A. Orsinger.

  1. mmicom

    Thanks for the excellent research and posting the missions. I really enjoy reading thereports and look forward to seeing more. I’m not sure of the first mission my father flew. I think it was April or May 1944. 352nd FS.

    All the best,
    Michael R Martorella

  2. Thanks Mike – they take a little time to do but hopefully at some date in the future I’ll have all the missions covered. Your father started a bit later with the 352 didn’t he? I have December 23, 1944 as his first of 40 missions.

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