Evans Crew – Assigned 753rd Squadron – May 1944

Standing: Charles “Sam” Evans – P, Frederick Johnson – CP, Walter Cline – N, George Adkins – B
Kneeling: Max Van Buren – E, Leon Huggard – RO, Unknown, Unknown, James Michaelson


If you can identify any of the men in this photo, please contact me.

Completed Tour

RankNameSerial #Crew PositionDateStatusComments
CaptCharles S Evans0664988PilotFeb-45CTTrsf to 70th RD - Tour complete
1LtFrederick A Johnson01995867Co-pilotMar-45CTTrsf to 70th RD - Tour complete
1LtWalter M Cline0703193NavigatorJan-45CTTrsf to 70th RD - Tour complete
1LtGeorge F Adkins0698820BombardierMar-45CTTrsf to 70th RD - Tour complete
T/SgtLeon C Huggard37658158Radio OperatorFeb-45CTTrsf to 70th RD - Tour complete
T/SgtMax K Van Buren37500921Flight EngineerMar-45CTTrsf to 70th RD - Tour complete
S/SgtDarrell W Latch36476322Aerial GunnerJan-45CTTrsf to 70th RD - Tour complete
S/SgtLaurance R Matson39306112Armorer-GunnerFeb-45CTTrsf to 70th RD - Tour complete
S/SgtJames A Michaelson36214131Aerial Gunner23-Oct-44UNKOct44 Trsfr to 755th Sqdn
PvtCarl White35655588Munitions Worker08-Apr-45RFSTrsf EM Infantry Training

Charles S. Evans and crew came to Horsham St Faith on May 20, 1944 and were assigned to the 753rd Squadron.  At this time the 753rd had just begun flying AZON missions, separate operations from the other three squadrons in the 458th.  Ten specially trained crews had arrived about this same time, but Evans was not one of these.  Their first mission, however, was on June 8th, an AZON mission that was subsequently abandoned due to weather conditions, and no credit was given.  The crew would not fly again for another two weeks, when they would record their first combat mission on June 24th to a NOBALL site near St Omer in France.

About a month later, on July 20th, on the crew’s seventh mission, they would return to base with No. 2 engine feathered and upon landing their nose wheel collapsed.  They would fly seven more missions, including another AZON sortie over the next month without incident until the 18th of August.  The mission on this date, to an aircraft factory in Woippy, found Evans leading the second section with Lt Colonel Paul Schwartz as command pilot.  Near the IP they hit prop wash and collided with the deputy lead, damaging the wing of Evans plane.  They were forced to abort and return to base, but they did receive credit for this mission. (See story below).

In September, the group came off of combat operations in order to fly supplies to Patton’s army in France.  In the last few days of the month, Evans flew on two of these Truckin’ Missions.  In the latter half of October, Evans and crew were transferred to the 755th Squadron (the group’s lead squadron), and in November Evans was promoted to Captain.  After this the crew mostly flew lead missions through early January 1945.  Evans’ last mission was on January 29th.

The crew appears to have stayed together throughout their combat tour, with the exception of gunner Carl White.  He apparently got into some mischief in early October and was reduced in rank to Private and removed from the crew.  He was reclassified twice in February 1945 – once as a Telephone Operator, and once as a Munitions Worker.  In April he was transferred for Infantry Training.

The rest of the crew, having completed their combat tour, were sent to the 70th Replacement Depot at various times between January and March 1945.


DateTarget458th MsnPilot MsnCmd PilotLdSerialRCLSqdnA/C MsnA/C NameComments
24-Jun-44ST OMER78141-28719QJ338PADDLEFOOTMSN #2
29-Jun-44ASCHERSLEBEN82ABT41-28735VJ3--UNKNOWN 005#2 ENG
08-Jul-44ANIZY, FRANCE87442-51110P7V20TOP O' THE MARK
12-Jul-44MUNICH89544-40285WJ48TABLE STUFF
17-Jul-443 NO BALLS92642-52441IJ340LAST CARD LOUIE
21-Jul-44MUNICH96844-40201NJ43SILVER CHIEF
24-Jul-44ST. LO AREA97944-40275LJ45SHACK TIME
25-Jul-44ST. LO AREA "B"981044-40285HJ416TABLE STUFF
01-Aug-44T.O.s FRANCE1001144-40281QJ48A DOG'S LIFE
06-Aug-44HAMBURG1061244-40281QJ410A DOG'S LIFE
14-Oct-44COLOGNE13320BOOTHL44-40281QJ413A DOG'S LIFE
25-Nov-44BINGEN1492342-50575OJ311UNKNOWN 020
12-Dec-44HANAU15624BREEDINGL242-50740QJ311OUR BURMA
30-Dec-44NEUWIED16125QUINNL242-50504SJ316UNKNOWN 019
01-Jan-45KOBLENZ16326WAGNERL242-50504SJ317UNKNOWN 019
08-Jan-45STADTKYLL16727BOOTHL242-50740QJ314OUR BURMA
21-Jan-45HEILBRONN1732842-50608WJ319FILTHY McNAUGHTY
29-Jan-45MUNSTER17529L242-50499UJ329COOKIE/OPEN POST

July 20, 1944

B-24J-140-CO 42-110141 J4 U  BREEZY LADY

(L-R): Larry Matson, Darrell Latch, Walt Cline, Sam Evans (underneath cockpit), Ground Officer (back to camera)

Captain Evans relates what happened: “We hit a lot of air turbulence on the mission and used up most of our fuel. When we were landing, the nose wheels would just not go down.  Because most of our fuel was used up when we were landing we would have only one chance to do it. A plane was landing on the emergency strip just before us and we were given the signal to go around but I knew there was no fuel to do that, I thought the other plane was off the runway far enough so I ignored the order to go around.

“I had the crew all run to the back of the airplane so their weight and my flying could keep the nose of the airplane up till the last second as the slowed down on the runway.  I “feathered” the port engine because there wasn’t any fuel for it.  I told one of the crew to attach a parachute to the plane and toss it out so it would open up just as the wheels touched the runway because I couldn’t use the plane’s brakes.  That would cause the plane’s nose to hit the runway.

“I landed it so that the nose stayed off the ground until the very last second. The emergency truck arrived just about the time when the plane came to its final stop and as the nose gently touched the ground. My crew had to hold back my co-pilot as the ground crew officer (pictured above) yelled at me “why didn’t you wait for me to put a box under the nose before you put the nose down!”

“I had to answer for ignoring the signal to go around. I told the reviewing officer that I had no more fuel left and would have crashed if I tried to pull up. ‘I chose life for my crew.’ There was some grumbling but I never heard anything more about that.”

Note: The date of July 24, 1944 associated with this incident is incorrect.  The original photo is captioned with this erroneous date, but Evans and crew flew this aircraft on the 20th of July.  A diary entry by flight engineer Donald Shannon on the Piskin crew bears out that the date was indeed July 20, 1944: July 20 – [M7] Target was an airplane plant near Eisenach, south of Leipzig. We hit an alternate target, a marshaling yard, in a little town about 20 miles northeast of the primary target. Quite a bit of flak. Some of the planes did not drop their bombs on the alternate, so we went to another target northwest of the primary. The flak was very accurate there. Planes were jinking all over the sky. I got several pictures, but it is difficult to take good pictures from the crowded upper turret. The raid took 7 hours. Three of our planes were badly shot up. Evans’ plane landed with a collapsed nosewheel. Sparkman has refused to fly any more and Cowal was grounded on mental grounds.

August 18, 1944

B-24JAZ-155-CO 44-40281 J4 Q  A DOG’S LIFE

On this day, the 458th was assigned to lead the 96th Bomb Wing, and the Evans’ crew was scheduled to fly lead in the second section with Lt Col Paul Schwartz, (a 96th CBW officer) as command pilot. Years later, navigator Walter Cline, remembered the incident:

August 18, 1944 was a beautiful, clear day over France.  The Allied forces pushed inland to near Paris, and the war was going well.  The 458th Bomb Group was on a mission to Metz, with the initial point of the bomb run over Verdun. Our crew, flying A DOG’S LIFE, with Charles S. Evans as pilot, was leading the high right squadron at 21,000 feet.  No flak, no fighters, an ideal type mission. That ideal mission suddenly became a disaster.  As we turned on the I.P., we encountered severe turbulence, prop wash from the squadrons preceding us.  That turbulence bounced the aircraft violently, flattening us out from our turn.  At the same moment, our Deputy Lead smashed into our right wing tip, stripping eleven feet from the wing, and leaving it dangling in the wind. The drag of that broken wing sent us into a diving right turn.  Somehow, the Deputy Lead slid under us, so close that I could have reached out and shaken hands with the top gunner.  Fortunately, no actual contact was made.  However, we continued in our diving turn, dropping 6000 feet in one 360 degree turn.  (Pretty close to a spin, yes?)

As we continued to nose dive, the following conversation was heard on the intercom- “Evans, have you got it?” …no answer.

Again, “Evans, have you got it?”…Again, no answer.  

“Evans, have you got it? If you won’t answer me, I’m getting out of here.”

Finally, a slow Texas drawl came back – “Ah’ve got it”, and sure enough he did!

We straightened out at 15,000 feet, still dropping, but at least flying again.

Our bombs were still on board, of course, so we started to find a place to unload them.  We could not make a left turn to hit a rail yard ahead, so we found a convenient forest to drop them in. The Navigator was laying a course for Allied lines. According to our briefed information, Paris was still in German hands. However, our escort pilots assured us that they had been flying over Paris all day, without seeing any flak, so we altered course to go that way-but our course took us close to Le Havre, and there were a few anxious moments when flak started coming up from there.  We really were not in a position to take any evasive action. With climb power on engines 3 and 4, with full left rudder trim cranked in, we could maintain straight and level flight at 153 mph indicated airspeed. When power was reduced to reduce the strain on the two engines, we found our stall speed to be 148 mph. That wasn’t very comforting.  The fastest we could fly was 153 mph because of the damage and if Captain Evans flew below 148 mph our plane would drop from the sky for lack of lift over the wings.  Eventually we reached England, and proceeded to the crash strip at Woodbridge. There, life became a bit more complicated again. Out of necessity we flew a right hand pattern, and when we turned final, the right wing simply refused to come up. There we were, descending to touchdown, unable to fly level.

But there was no chance of going around. We were committed.  Finally as Evans flared, preparatory to touchdown, the wings reluctantly leveled, and we were down and rolling. We were a much relieved crew, and a very thankful one for the skill of Charles S. Evans.  The leading edge spar of the wing had remained intact, and from the front of the airplane it looked as though we had only lost a foot or two of wing. As we in the front section exited the aircraft, one by one we looked up to see the damage…and then our eyes slowly followed the damaged wing section down to its end – the wing was nearly broken off, nearly touching the ground about 18 inches from the runway.

(Color Profile courtesy: Mike Bailey)

Horsham St Faith – 1945

Standing: Max Van Buren, Leon Huggard, Charles Evans, Frederick Johnson, George Adkins
Kneeling:  James Michaelson, Lawrence R. Matson, Darrell Latch

Crew Information

Frederick A. Johnson – Co-pilot

Walter Meylan Cline – Navigator

Born 13 April 1921 in Greenville, South Carolina; married circa 1945.  It is not known why his high school yearbook spells his middle name incorrectly.

Walter M. Cline, 83, of Tampa, passed away Wed. May 5, 2004.  He is survived by his wife, Eleanor Cline; daughter, Mary Beth Sanders, of Texas; son, Walter M. Cline, II, of Tampa; sisters, Aleida Northrup, of Houston, Texas and Sara Beek, of Ocala, Fla.; brother, James D. Cline, of Tampa; four grandchildren, Tony Cline, of Tampa, Jennifer Hundley, of Hagerstown, Md., Robert Sanders, of Amherst, Mass. and Michael Sanders, of Ft. Campbell, Ky.; and one great-grandchild, Aiden Hundley.

Mr. Cline graduated from H.B. Plant High School in 1938. He served in the U.S. Air Force during WWII and the Korean War, retiring with the rank of Lt. Colonel. He worked for the U.S. Customs for over 38 years, beginning as a messenger and working his way up to Assistant Collector, and later Assistant District Director of Inspection for the Tampa District.

For the past 24 years, he has been co-owner and president of J. Cortina, Inc. Customs Brokers. Mr. Cline has been active in the Kiwanis Club and Propeller Club , and was a charter member of Palma Ceia United Methodist Church. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Monday, May 10 at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church, with a reception following the service in the church Fellowship Hall.

Source (Oct. 2015).

George F. Adkins – Bombardier

GALESBURG, IL – George F. Adkins, 83, of 1127 Willard Ave. died at 7:07 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, 2003, at St. Mary Medical Center.
Born May 30, 1920, in Rochester, N.Y., to Raymond A. Adkins and Ethel Hirschmann, he married Jean MacDonald in 1949.  She died in 1952. He later married Mary Eloise Eichler on Feb. 14, 1955, in Providence, R.I.  She survives. Also surviving is one nephew, John, whom he cared for.    He was a World War II Army Air Forces veteran, serving in the Second Air Division, Eighth Air Force, in the European Theater and achieved the rank of lieutenant. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University, a master of science degree from Boston University and a doctoral certificate from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a social worker in Providence, Gardiner, Mass., and Lebanon, Penn. He was the director of Brown County Family and Children Services in Green Bay, Wis., from 1961 to 1971 and administrator of social services at Galesburg Mental Health Center from 1971 until his retirement in 1986. He was a member and held offices in the National Association of Social Workers. He was a member and former president on the Human Rights Commission in Green Bay and assisted with the Human Rights Commission of Indian-Community Affairs. He also was an active member of community theaters in Gardiner and Green Bay. He was a member of the Green Bay Rotary Club and the Lincoln-Douglas Kiwanis Club of Galesburg. He was in the United States Army Air Corps, Eighth Air Force, Second Division, 458th Bomb Group, World War II, Horsham St. Faith, England. He served at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Galesburg as a lecturer and a Eucharist minister, and was a member of its Men’s Club. He was a member of The Cathedral of Green Bay Diocese, where he served as a lay reader. Burial will be in St. Columba’s Cemetery in Newport, R.I.

The Peoria Journal Star (IL), Sunday, December 21, 2003
Source (Oct. 2015)

Donald R. Conway – Gunner

Donald R. Conway was born 6 February 1923 and died 11 April 2000 at the age of 77.  He was buried at Union Cemetery in Amesbury, Massachusetts.  In 1965, he was an assistant professor, and chairman of the foreign languages department, at North Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  His wife was Clair Hollobaugh Conway.

Source (Oct. 2015)

Leon Huggard – Radio Operator

Leon C. Huggard, 82, of Plainfield, Iowa, died on Tuesday, December 28, 2004, at the Waverly Health Center, of natural causes.

Leon was born on October 25, 1922, in Waverly, Iowa, the son of Charles Wilfred and Susie Mable (Cook) Huggard.  Leon attended the Smith Grove Country School, rural Plainfield and graduated from the Plainfield High School in 1940.

Following his schooling, Leon worked in Plainfield as a section hand with the Railroad and then moved “out west” helping with the fall fruit harvest in Washington and the wheat harvest in the summer.  On February 2, 1943, Leon entered the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he served with the 215th [458th] Heavy Bomber Unit.  Leon was active with the Air Offensive Unit in Europe, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Ardennes.  Leon was discharged on September 13, 1945, and following his discharge Leon went to an electronics school in Chicago.  His only sibling, a brother, was killed in the Pacific theater in August 1944.

Following his schooling he returned to Plainfield and worked for the Plainfield Telephone Company for three years and then for Schield Bantam.  On March 13, 1947, he was united in marriage to Gertrude Schukar at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Nashua.  For seven years the couple made their home in Cedar Rapids, while Leon worked for Collins Radio, and then for 25 years they were in California where he was a naval electronics technician, involved with procurement and testing of equipment for the U.S. Navy.
After retiring in 1982, Leon and Gertrude returned to Plainfield.  Leon was a member of the Plainfield United Methodist Church. He enjoyed fishing, camping with his family, and says that he “played at” golf.

He is survived by his wife, Gertrude of Plainfield; two daughters and their husbands, Charlotte and George Stevens and Darlene and Lynn Balvanz all of Plainfield; 7 grandchildren; and 3 great grandchildren.  He was preceded in death by his parents; his son, Gregory Huggard on February 9, 2002, one great granddaughter, and his brother, Francis Huggard.

Celebration of Life Services will be held on Friday, December 31, 2004 at 10:30 a.m. at the United Methodist Church in Plainfield, with Pastor Doug Tharpe and Pastor Bill Burchit officiating.  Burial will be in the Willow Lawn Cemetery in Plainfield, with Military graveside rites conducted by the U.S. Army Reserve Unit, Waterloo, Iowa.

Source (Sept. 2015).

Darrell Ward Latch – Gunner

Born 13 November 1924 in Decatur, Illinois; married Jacqueline Carrell Harrington (Belschner) 31 May 1951; died 30 March 1997 in Omaha, Nebraska.


Lawrence R. Matson – Gunner

Born 1 July 1916 in Clatsop, Oregon; married 5 June 1942; “service end date, 14 September 1945”; died 14 December 1966 in Portland, Oregon.

Source (Sept. 2015).

Cpl Billy Conn, light-heavyweight boxing champion of the world and No. 1 contender for Joe Louis’ heavyweight crown, is pictured here during a visit to the station sick ward between matches for the Eighth Air Force “Victory Squadron” War Bond Drive.

In bed is S/Sgt Lawrence R. Matson, 167 Harrison Ave, Astoria, Ore., son of Mrs. M. R. Matson.  His wife, Mrs. Grace A. Matson, resides at Route 1, Box 238, Brush Prairie, Washington.  Sgt Matson was a logger for the Crossett and Western Co., Knappa, Ore. before his military career.  He is now an aerial gunner, and recently completed 12 missions and was awarded the 1st Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial combat. 

The others [are], Sgt James H. Estes [radio operator], (standing) Boise, Idaho, and Sgt James G. Snyder [airplane mechanic], (cup to mouth) Ellaville, Ga.  Since this photo was taken all the men have been released after treatment of minor ailments.

(Photo courtesy: Lar Matson via Jerry Leone)