Crew 23 – Assigned 753rd Squadron – October 7, 1943

Standing: Fred “Mase” DeNeffe – P, William McClinton – B, Alvin Shapiro – CP, Eleo Decima – N
Kneeling: Walter Libby – E, Joe Holowach – TG, Carl Valentine – TTG, John Hutchins – RO, Seth Carroll – BTG, Wendell Wadsworth – NTG

(Photo: Mike DeNeffe)

Completed Tour

RankNameSerial #Crew PositionDateStatusComments
CaptFrederick M DeNeffe0745641Pilot18-Aug-44CTAppointed Asst Sta & Grp S3
1LtAlvin M Shapiro0811452Co-pilotAug-44CTAwards - Distinguished Flying Cross
1LtEleo Decima0811390Navigator19-Sep-44CTDS to AAF 122 indef
1LtWilliam McClinton0747560BombardierAug-44CTAwards - Distinguished Flying Cross
T/SgtJohn A Hutchins, Jr11130682Radio Operator05-May-44UNKMission - Crew Load List
S/SgtWalter L Libby11052110Flight EngineerJul-44CTAwards - Distinguished Flying Cross
T/SgtWendall Wadsworth39020582Flight Engineer05-May-44UNKMission - Crew Load List
S/SgtCarl J Valentine35516360Aerial Gunner, 2/EAug-44CTAwards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/SgtSeth T Carrol35095105Tail Turret GunnerAug-44CTAwards - Distinguished Flying Cross
PfcJoe Holwatch32558010Armorer-GunnerDec-43UNKRemoved from Crew

Crew 23 trained in Tonopah, Nevada with the 458th Bombardment Group in the fall and winter of 1943.  They moved overseas with the group in January 1944.  Prior to this move, Sgt Joe Holowach was removed from the crew.  The reason for this move and his status is unknown.  Taking his place was Sgt (Pvt?) Edward D. Kobs.  Kobs came over from Crew 24, piloted by 2Lt George W. Schumann.  Kobs was listed as a Sergeant in October 1943, but when he came to Crew 23 his rank was Private.

A second crew change occurred when flight engineer Sgt Walter L. Libby was removed from the crew, also prior to deployment overseas.  He remained with the group, and completed his combat tour in July 1944 receiving the DFC.  It is not known which crew or crews he flew his missions with, although he flew the March 6th Berlin raid with Crew 28, pilot 1Lt Samuel Robeson.  Sgt Wadsworth, also held an engineer’s rating and he moved into that position on the crew.  Taking Wadsworth’s place as gunner in December 1943 was Sgt Eugene J. Veleta who flew most if not all of his missions with Crew 23 as a gunner.  Veleta completed his tour in August 1944 and was also awarded the DFC.  He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Crew 23 started their tour off with three trips in a row to Berlin.  The first, on March 3, 1944 was recalled due to weather, but the crews were credited with a sortie.  Their second, on March 6th was the first time the Eighth Air Force was able to hit Berlin in force.  And their third to the German capitol two days later.

At some point during April, after flying several missions and receiving the Air Medal, Sgt Edward Kobs, having regained his rank, was removed from flying status and assigned to the 753rd Squadron as a clerk.  He finished his time with the group as an Airman Basic (MOS 521).  Taking his place was Sgt Richard W. Lockhart who was originally a clerk in the 753rd Squadron.  He was a passenger with Crew 35, pilot 1Lt Lloyd Andrew on the group’s trip to the ETO.  Like many ground personnel in the group, Lockhart decided he wanted to fly and became a gunner.  S/Sgt Lockhart completed his combat tour and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in January 1945.

The crew flew the B-24H they ferried overseas and had named Lorelei on twenty-two of their missions.  The last time they flew the aircraft was on May 21st to Siracourt, France.  Lorelei was lost on July 11, 1944 with 1Lt Samuel Gibson’s crew when they disappeared during assembly.  No one saw the aircraft after takeoff and it is assumed that the crew and plane went into the North Sea.

Along with the crew’s “regular” missions, they flew five AZON missions, one of which was abandoned due to weather.  Most of the crew completed their combat tour in early August, several of them receiving the DFC at this time.

For some reason, Captain DeNeffe’s sortie record cannot be reconciled with group records. Several missions that are not on this record do show in various group reports that he did participate in as a first pilot.  The list presented below is a compilation of all records and group records.

Captain DeNeffe remained with the group after his tour was complete, and was appointed the assistant station and group S3 on August 18th.  He was transferred to the 70th Replacement Depot in December 1944 and returned to the States.

On September 19, 1944, after taking a well deserved leave of absence, 1Lt Eleo Decima was transferred to AAF 122 for an “indefinite” period.  This air station was Steeple Morden, home of the 355th Fighter Group and the 2nd Scouting Force.  At this time there were several 458th pilots who had completed their tours in bombers and had also volunteered for duty with the 2nd Scouts.  Along with other navigators, Decima planned the routes that the Scouts would take to report weather conditions back to the attacking bomber force.  He remained in this position until the war in Europe ended in May 1945.


DateTarget458th MsnPilot MsnSerialRCLSqdnA/C MsnA/C NameComments
24-Feb-44DUTCH COASTD1--41-29300--J4D1LORELEIDiversion Mission
21-Mar-44WATTEN, near ST. OMER10541-29300MJ48LORELEI
05-Apr-44ST. POL-SIRACOURT16841-29300MJ414LORELEI
19-Apr-44PADERBORN A/F231141-29300MJ418LORELEI
22-Apr-44HAMM M/Y251241-29300MJ419LORELEI
24-Apr-44LEIPHEIM A/F261341-29300MJ420LORELEI
26-Apr-44PADERBORN A/F281441-29300MJ421LORELEI
01-May-44LIEGE M/Y331741-29300MJ424LORELEI
07-May-44OSNABRUCK361942-50320JJ47UNKNOWN 018
20-May-44RHEIMS A/D432242-95183UJ35BRINEY MARLIN
23-May-44BOURGES452442-52274HJ33UNKNOWN 029
31-May-445 BRIDGESAZ012544-40288SJ41BAD GIRLFROM 753 RECS
04-Jun-442 TACTICAL TARGETSAZ032644-40275LJ41SHACK TIMEMaj O'Neill Cmd Pilot
14-Jun-445 TARGETSAZ062742-100341AJ418SATAN'S MATE
15-Jun-443 RAILWAY BRIDGESAZ072842-100341AJ419SATAN'S MATE
01-Aug-44T.O.s FRANCE1002944-40275LJ47SHACK TIME
02-Aug-443 NO BALLS1013042-110141O--8BREEZY LADY / MARIE / SUPERMAN
07-Aug-44GHENT1073144-40288SJ413BAD GIRL

Crew 23 – March 6, 1944

March 6, 1944: Just back from the first Eighth Air Force successful raid on Berlin.

Standing: Edward Kobs, John Hutchins, Alvin Shapiro, Seth Carroll, Eleo Decima, William McClinton, Eugene Veleta

Kneeling: Wendell Wadsworth, Frederick DeNeffe, Carl Valentine

(Photo: FOLD3)

B-24H-10-CF 41-29300 J4 M Lorelei

Crew 23 flew this aircraft exclusively until early May.  It disappeared without a trace on July 11, 1944 with Sam Gibson and crew

Public Relations Article – March 1944

Today’s German Lesson

General Release

Sgt. Edward D. Kobs of Minneapolis, Minn (RFD 1), waist gunner on the Liberator “Lorelei,” has inscribed in German below his gun position a message for curious Luftwaffe pilots. Translated it means “If you can read this you’re too damn close.” Sergeant Kobs speaks German fluently and teaches a class in the language for combat crew members in his group. He has flown on two attacks against Berlin whence his grandparents immigrated to the United States. His father was and American machine gunner in World War 1. The bomber Lorelei was named for a mythical Rhineland girl who, according to folklore, lured unwary travelers to their death. “I’d always wanted to see Berlin.” Said Kobs. “But hadn’t expected I’d get the opportunity so soon. I’d like to visit that city again after the war.”

May 31, 1944 – Azon Mission #1

Fred DeNeffe, Alvin Shapiro, and George Higgins (Nav, Crew 26)

Fred DeNeffe and Wilfred Tooman (Pilot, Crew 22)

Left-Right: Alvin Shapiro, Unknown, Fred DeNeffe, George Higgins, Unknown


Possibly taken at about the same time as the two photos above, this is an interesting picture showing several 458th airmen in front of AZON ship Bad Girl.  The caption on this photo reads, “Crew members of the 458th Bomb Group discuss their bombing mission shortly after returning to their 8th Air Force base somewhere in England.  31 May 1944”

On this date, the 753rd Squadron put up five aircraft on the first AZON raid to hit five bridges in France. Crew 26, flying Table Stuff was forced to abort because they “could not find the formation in clouds…” They were not given credit for this mission.  Fred DeNeffe and Crew 23 flew Bad Girl on this mission, and along with three other 753rd Liberators bombed a series of bridges in France.

Given the expressions on their faces, it looks like the man on the right has been the subject of an uncomfortable comment or question by the man second from left, who looks like he is awaiting a response.  Shapiro, DeNeffe and Higgins seem amused by whatever comment has just been made.


(Photos: Mike DeNeffe & FOLD3)

Crew 23 – August 1944

With the crew’s combat days over they are all smiles, awaiting orders

Standing: Richard Lockhart, Eugene Veleta, Wendell Wadsworth, Seth Carroll, Carl Valentine, John Hutchins
Kneeling: Eleo Decima, Fred DeNeffe, Alvin Shapiro, William McClinton

A very popular aircraft to pose with, the crew lines up in a unique manner.


Standing: Carl Valentine, Richard Lockhart, Gene Veleta, Seth Carroll, Wendell Wadsworth, Alvin Shapiro, Bill McClinton, John Hutchins
Kneeling: Eleo Decima, Fred DeNeffe

(Photos: Mike DeNeffe)

1Lt Eleo Decima – Navigator, 2nd Scouting Force

(Photo Courtesy: Dick Atkins)

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