Brumby Crew – Assigned 755th Squadron – June 3, 1944

Standing: Don Fraser – B, Ed Wilcox – CP, Julius Sabo – PFF Nav, Birto Brumby – P, Harold Simeone – Ptg Nav, Elmo Geppelt – N
Kneeling: Doyle Matz – E, Bob Larimer – RO, Wells Gardner – WG, Stan Hammell – TG, George Strickland – TTG, Bob Voss – WG

(Photo: taken Autumn 1944 – Mike Bailey)

Brumby Crew – Completed Tour

RankNameSerial #Crew PositionDateStatusComments
CaptBirto R Brumby0603251PilotFeb-45CTAwards - Distinguished Flying Cross
1LtEdwin E Wilcox, Jr0819235Co-pilot26-Feb-45CTAir Crew Leave
1LtElmo W Geppelt0707038Asst Sqdn NavigatorFeb-45CTAwards - Distinguished Flying Cross
1LtDonald A Fraser0698541BombardierFeb-45CTAwards - Distinguished Flying Cross
T/SgtRobert W Larimer35252363Radio OperatorFeb-45CTTrsf to 70RD - Tour Complete
T/SgtDoyle M Matz36635539Flight EngineerJan-45CTTrsf to 70RD - Tour Complete
S/SgtWells M Gardner13088477Armorer-GunnerMar-45CTTrsf to 70RD - Tour Complete
S/SgtStanley E Hammell32757149Armorer-GunnerFeb-45CTTrsf to 70RD - Tour Complete
S/SgtRobert E Voss39558562Armorer-Gunner/2EFeb-45CTTrsf to 70RD - Tour Complete
S/SgtGeorge L Strickland34687481Armorer-Gunner/2EFeb-45CTTrsf to 70RD - Tour Complete

Click names above for photos by Elmo Geppelt

Lt Birto Brumby’s crew arrived at Horsham St. Faith on June 3, 1944 and was assigned to the 755th Squadron.  All new pilots coming into the group went out on a mission with an experienced crew to see how things worked.  To this effect, according to the load list of June 7, 1944, Brumby flew his first mission as co-pilot with Lt Frank W. Curtis to Lisieux, France. The entire crew flew its first mission on June 10th in a veteran 755th Liberator named TAIL WIND.  For their first ten missions Brumby flew as a wing crew.  On July 25th the entire crew was sent to AAF 120 Attlebridge, ostensibly to learn the art of being  a lead crew. Included on the orders was Lt Paul Bloomberg, listed as PN (pilotage navigator).  He had been assigned a few days before with Lt John B. O’Hara.  On the 27th, his orders were rescinded and he was sent to join his original crew at Leuchars in Scotland where they had been sent on 90 days TD.  Tragically this crew was lost on September 9, 1944 when they flew into a mountain on a resupply mission.

It appears that Brumby’s crew flew a 466th BG aircraft on August 9th, as they are listed as group deputy lead on the mission to Saarbrucken.  They most likely received additional training with the 466th and returned to Horsham in late August. The crew’s remaining missions would all be flown as lead crew, all but three of these leading the group. When the crew was chosen to be a lead crew, Lt Edwin Wilcox (co-pilot) was displaced by the command pilot on most of these lead missions. It is believed that he flew the majority of his missions with another crew.

Lead crews generally carried three navigators. The pilotage navigator usually sat in the front turret which afforded him an unobstructed view.  His sole purpose was to identify visual references on the ground, with the aid of maps and charts in order to determine where the aircraft was at any given time.  The second navigator was the DR (dead reckoning) Navigator.  Dead reckoning “is the process of estimating one’s current position based upon a previously determined position, or fix, and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time, and course.”  Finally a PFF or Radar Navigator, commonly referred to as the Mickey Operator (due to the equipment being codenamed “Mickey”) was utilized.  On B-24’s, the “Mickey” equipment was generally situated on the flight deck, behind the pilots and adjacent to the radio operator.  On some models the “Mickey” equipment and operator were positioned in the forward portion of the bomb bay.  All three navigators worked together to afford the best possible position of the formation at all times.

On Brumby’s crew Lt Elmo W. Geppelt was the DR Navigator.  He had trained with the crew in the States and had flown to England with them.  Geppelt was elevated to Assistant Squadron Navigator for the 755th in December 1944, completing his tour in February 1945.  The pilotage navigator was Lt Harold M. Simeone, who had been assigned with Lt Joseph N. French’s crew on June 7, 1944. Simeone completed his tour of missions in December 1944 and Lt Richard I. Morrison replaced him.  Morrison was originally on Lt Lester C. Skidmore’s crew, having been assigned on August 13, 1944. Morrison received the DFC in April 1945 and was sent on TD (Temporary Duty) to the 492nd Bomb Group on May 5th, just before the German surrender.

Lt Julius E. Sabo became the crew’s “Mickey” Operator.  He came to the 458th as an individual replacement on September 19, 1944 and was placed in the 752nd Squadron.  Only nine days later, on September 28th, Sabo was sent on Air Crew Leave.  It is possible that he had been flying combat missions with another group, as the concept of Air Crew Leave was to give flyers a break from missions, and usually was granted about halfway through a combat tour. On November 6th he was transferred to the 755th Squadron and presumably began flying with Brumby.  Sabo was awarded the DFC in February 1945 when his combat tour was complete.  He was suspended from flying in March (as was the custom for those who had completed their tours) and in April was sent to the 96th General Hospital in Worcestershire, England for combat fatigue. He returned to the States in May 1945.

On the June 21, 1944 Berlin mission, the formation was on the return leg, when a burst of flak hit just under the armor plate on the pilot’s side.  A piece of shrapnel hit the steering column underneath Brumby’s hand, driving pieces of the column into his hand.  He estimated that if the piece of flak had not hit the steering column it would have hit the co-pilot.  After a couple of weeks recovering, he was back to flying.  He ended up taking the steering column home with him as a souvenir.

Brumby’s crew also boasted the oldest combat flyer in the 458th.  Sgt Wells N. Gardner was one of the crew’s waist gunners and was 46 years old.  He had served in the field artillery in France in World War I. (See Stories Page: A Tale of Two Gunners).

Brumby completed his tour as a Captain in February 1945.  Ed Wilcox and Don Fraser were transferred to the 752nd Squadron in May and March 1945 respectively.  The enlisted men on the crew completed their combat flying at various times in early 1945.  All were sent to the 70th Replacement Depot for reassignment to the ZI (Zone of Interior).

Brumby Missions

DateTarget458th MsnPilot MsnCmd PilotLdSerialRCLSqdnA/C MsnA/C NameComments
10-Jun-44CHATEAUDUN61241-29359JJ341TAIL WIND
14-Jun-44DOMLEGER65442-95120MJ311HOOKEM COW / BETTY
21-Jun-44BERLIN75642-51097TJ324UNKNOWN 022
11-Jul-44MUNICH88742-100433BJ332BIG DICK HARD TO HIT
17-Jul-443 NO BALLS92842-100425DJ319THE BIRD
25-Jul-44ST. LO AREA "B"981042-100433BJ335BIG DICK HARD TO HIT
09-Aug-44SAARBRUCKEN10911D242-95569GT9--466BG/784SQCOMPOSITE SQDN 466/458
14-Oct-44COLOGNE13316HENSONL142-95557E+7V5LADY PEACE
17-Oct-44COLOGNE13517WILLIAMSONL142-51939AJ32UNKNOWN 028
19-Oct-44MAINZ13618WRIGHTL142-95557E+7V8LADY PEACE
26-Oct-44MINDEN13819HENSLERL142-95554EJ32UNKNOWN 050
25-Nov-44BINGEN14921HENSLERL142-95610D+J35UNKNOWN 037
12-Dec-44HANAU15624O'NEILLL142-50954AJ39UNKNOWN 021
31-Dec-44KOBLENZ16225O'NEILLL142-95557HJ316LADY PEACE
08-Jan-45STADTKYLL16726not listedL142-50684BJ311A&G FISH SHOPPE
14-Jan-45HALLENDORF17027HOGGL142-95610DJ310UNKNOWN 037
29-Jan-45MUNSTER17528JAMISONL144-48837LJ33UNKNOWN 041
09-Feb-45MAGDEBURG17929O'NEILLL142-51936IJ310UNKNOWN 027

Lt Col Jamision’s Last Mission – January 29, 1945

Standing: Elmo Geppelt, Don Jamison – Cmd P, Birto Brumby, George Strickland, Julius Sabo, Bob Voss, Unknown (Crew Chief), Unknown (Flgt Eng)
Kneeling: Stan Hammell, Don Fraser, Wells Gardner, Bob Larimer, Dick Morrison

(Photo: Elmo Geppelt)

Lt Col Donald Jamison – 755th Squadron CO

Lt Birto R. Brumby – Escape Photo

(Courtesy: James Olney)

Sgt Wells N. Gardner