Mission#88 March 4, 1944 – Target: Berlin. The Loss of Lt. William R. Burkett, 351st Fighter Squadron.

Date: Mar 4, 44

Dispatched: 36           Aborts: 2

Mission: Withdrawal support to 1st & 2nd ATF, 660 B-17s

Field Order: 260        Target: Berlin

Time Up/Down: 13:03 hrs     16:18 hrs

Leader: Lt Col: Rimerman (A) Major Pidduck (B)

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

“A” Group

L/F Flushing 22,000ft, 14:45 hrs. Flew to planned R/V point. No bombers seen. Contrails to north turned out to be P-47s and P-51s. Bombers reported by Denver 1-6 to be below overcast. Investigation made but no bombers see. No e/a seen. Accurate flak believed Hamm and Rotterdam. L/F out Hook of Holland, 27,000ft, 15:34 hrs. Lt. Burkett last seen approx. Vicinity Liege. Lt Col. Ben Rimerman and Capt. Charles J. Hoey of Group HQ participating.

351st: Lt Col Rimerman. T/U 12:57 hrs. T/D 16:05 hrs. Total flight time 03:08 hrs. Route: In at Walcheren Island, out at Rotterdam. Withdrawal support. [L/F in] Walcheren Island at 13:34 hrs, 24,000ft. P-47S and P-38s [seen]. Rotterdam at 15:53hrs at 26,000ft. [Flak] Heavy and intense over Ruhr. One NYR Lt. William R. Burkett. Lt. Burkett was last seen in the Liege area where he turned back to give escort to Lt. Weaver, who had called on R/T saying that his oxygen was almost out. Later a call was heard on R/T saying ‘I almost hit compressibility and am at 4,000ft, I might have to bail out, maybe I can straighten it up.’


Lt Col Ben Rimerman (Gp & Sqdn Ldr) YJ-H
2nd Lt Irving Toppel YJ-I
1st Lt Francis N. King YJ-P
2nd Lt Frank J. Mincik YJ-M
1st Lt Frank N. Emory (Flt Ldr) YJ-E
2nd Lt George F. Perpente YJ-G
F/O Cletus Peterson YJ-P
Capt Frederick H. Lefebre (Flt Ldr) YJ-L
2nd Lt John G. Treitz YJ-J
2nd Lt Jack Terzian YJ-W
2nd Lt William J. Weaver (Flt Ldr) YJ-N
1st Lt William R. Burkett YJ-A 42-75850
2nd Lt Harry D. Milligan YJ-Y
2nd Lt Francis L. Edwards (Not dis) YJ-F 42-75570
2nd Lt Richard D. Stanley (Not dis) YJ-R 42-75507
Capt Vic L. Byers (Not dis) YJ-V 42-75563

In the vicinity of Liege 2nd Lt. William J. Weaver’s aircraft developed a fault with his oxygen supply forcing him to descend through the overcast to a breathable altitude:

I was flying on the left wing of Lt. Burkett in number three position when my oxygen regulator became inoperative. I called Lt. Burkett and told him I had to go home and had to go down to a level where I did not need oxygen. He called back saying he was coming with me. I made a left turn out of formation and he did likewise. He called me to make a right turn and get on his wing, which I did.

We flew in close formation skimming over the tops of the clouds at 24,000ft. Twice he called me while flying like this, asking if I was all right. Both times I replied saying I was all right so far but had to get down right away as I had full emergency oxygen on and still was getting very little oxygen. We then started to descend through the clouds together, flying a course of around 300 degrees, which was roughly the course home.

We descended about 4,000ft together in close formation. Then Lt. Burkett started a turn to the right with me on the inside of the turn. The turn began getting steeper and steeper until my airplane was shuttering almost to the stalling point. I called to Lt. Burkett to make a left turn and I received no answer. I called him a second time to make a left turn, and gain I received no answer.

Suddenly my plane did a high speed stall from the sharp angle of bank and I made a stall recovery. Just as I made the recovery Lt. Burkett faded away from me in the clouds. This was somewhere in the Liege area.

I then pulled up into a steep climb and my airspeed fell off sharply. I immediately put the nose down and went into a steep dive with both wing tanks on. The airspeed hit 600 mph and with the altimeter reading 8,000ft I tried the controls which were frozen solid. I then gave two rolls of trim tab and pulled back on the stick with both hands. I broke out of the clouds at about 3000ft, and at the same time the plane pulled out of the dive, pulling right back up into the clouds.

When I last saw Lt Burkett he was in a steep right bank with his left wing tank on and his right one off [MACR No 2793 refers].

Bill Weaver returned alone on instruments and landed at Duxford. 1st Lt. William R. Burkett flying YJ-A (a/c 42-75850) evidently did not escape from the dive and remained with his aircraft. Lt. Burkett from Jefferson, Iowa is buried in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Belgium. More information can be found HERE.

352nd: Major Bailey. T/U 13:01 hrs. T/D 16:08 hrs. Total flight time 03:07 hrs. Withdrawal support to 1st and 3rd Div of B-17s. Made L/F in on course at 24,000ft at 13:44 hrs. Did not R/V with bombers. Observed P-38s coming out, they called us and said “No Big Friends -Mercury”. Controller said B Fs still in there. We observed flak to our left and turned to investigate and found other P-47s and P-51s over Ruhr. We went NE and then W. Left coast over Watwijk ann Zee at 15:33 hrs at 28,000ft. No flak directed at our Squadron. Active cumulus with hi cirrus layer at 26-28,000ft over entire route. Few thin spots. One Group of B-17s seen returning home as we made L/F in. Denver 1-6 talked to us and said they were with Big Friends at 16,000ft and everyone was happy. We never did see them.

Major William B. Bailey (A Group) SX-U
1st Lt Charles W. Kipfer SX-Q 42-75544
1st Lt Clinton H. Sperry DNTO SX-G
1st Lt Robert P. Geurtz SX-I
1st Lt James N. Poindexter (Flt Ldr) SX-H
2nd Lt Joseph A. Schillinger SX-S 42-75691
1st Lt William F. Streit SX-K
2nd Lt Glenn G. Callans SX-V
Capt Charles J. Hoey (Flt Ldr) SX-Z
2nd Lt Donald J. Corrigan SX-W
1st Lt Gordon S. Burlingame SX-M

“B” Group

350th: Major Pidduck. T/U 14:02 hrs. T/D 16:25 hrs. Total flight time 02:23 hrs. L/F on course 14:50, 24,000ft. No R/V with bombers. P-47s. Left coast at Ostend 15:50, 26,000ft. Flak Koln Heavy intense accurate. R/T normal. 8/10-10/10 alto cumulus 6/10-8/10 stratus over continent. Swept area from Dutch islands to Koln to Brussels to Ostend along the bomber route.

Major Stanley R. Pidduck (Sqdn Ldr)
1st Lt John H. Winder
1st Lt John Sullivan
1st Lt Chauncey Rowan
1st Lt Wayne K. Blickenstaff (Flt Ldr)
F/O William W. Hargus
1st Lt Joseph F. Furness
1st Lt Carl W. Mueller
1st Lt John L. Devane (Flt Ldr)
2nd Lt Richard L. Bedford
1st Lt Melvin P. Dawson
1st Lt Robert S. Hart
Capt Robert E. Fortier
1st Lt Charles O. Durant

352nd: Capt Robertson. T/U 13:59 hrs. T/D 16:19 hrs. Total flight time 02:20 hrs. Withdrawal support to 1st and 3rd Div of B-17s. Landfall at Schouwen Islands 14:45 hrs at 24,000ft. No R/V made. L/F out at Knocke 15:55 hrs at 27,000ft. Heavy, intense, accurate flak at Cologne and Munchen. Point of deepest penetration S of Cologne. Proceeded on course but never saw the bombers at briefed R/V.

Capt Raynor E. Robertson (B Group) SX-R
2nd Lt Joseph L. Knoble SX-O
2nd Lt Wilton W. Johnson SX-Y
2nd Lt Hildreth R. Owens SX-F

Group Aborts/ERTNS/MIAs

42-  75691 ABT supercharger out SX-S Lt. Schillinger flying.
42-  75544 ABT oil leak SX-Q Lt. Kipfer flying.
42-  75850 MIA YJ-A Lt. Burkett flying.
42-    8608 ERTN oil leak LH-D
42-  75157 ERTN belly tank not draw LH-Y
42-    7903 ERTN belly tank not draw LH-?
42-  75507 ERTN oil leak push rods YJ-R Lt. Stanley flying.
42-  75563 ERTN pilot illness YJ-V Capt. Byers flying.
42-  75570 ERTN gas fumes in oxygen YJ-F Lt. Edwards flying.





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