Gilbert Crew – Assigned 753rd Squadron – February 18, 1945

Standing: John Shaeffer – B, Paul Schmutz – N,  Kenneth Gilbert – P, Theodore Crowley – CP
Kneeling: Robert Sullivan – E, Joseph Balint – TG, Robert Stalder – G, Theodore Parsons – RO, John McNaughton – G, Stephen Wodecki – G

(Photo: Ted Parsons)

Flying at the End of Hostilities

 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
2Lt Kenneth O Gilbert 0782443 Pilot 20-Apr-45 FEH Sqdn Mission List - Zweisel, Ger
2Lt Theodore P Crowley 02066499 Co-pilot 18-Feb-45 FEH Assigned
2Lt Paul E Schmutz 02073230 Navigator 09-Mar-45 FEH Landing accident - Wing weather ship 
2Lt John Shaeffer Bombardier Feb-45 UNK Not assigned with crew
Sgt Theodore K Parsons 36587678 Radio Operator 09-Mar-45 FEH Landing accident - Wing weather ship
Sgt Robert T Sullivan 11105239 Flight Engineer 09-Mar-45 FEH Landing accident - Wing weather ship
Sgt Joseph J Ballint 13187884 Aerial Gunner 20-Feb-45 FEH Promoted to Sgt
Sgt John W McNaughton  12165180 Aerial Gunner 20-Feb-45 FEH Promoted to Sgt
Sgt Robert L Stalder 39572540 Armorer-Gunner 20-Feb-45 FEH Promoted to Sgt
Sgt Stephen J Wodecki 3340534 Aerial Gunner 20-Feb-45 FEH Promoted to Sgt

2Lt Gilbert’s crew flew a brand new B-24L named Luck O’ The Irish to the ETO in February 1945.  Like so many crew’s before them, their brand new Liberator was taken away from them and sent to a bomb group who needed a replacement.  The crew was then sent to the 458th. Bombardier, Lt John Shaeffer was not assigned to the 458th with Gilbert.

They came to the group during the final stages of the air offensive in Europe, and after an indoctrination period, they were deemed ready for combat.  Their first task with the group was to fly a weather mission in the 458th’s assembly ship Spotted Ape on March 9, 1945.  In the days before Doppler Radar, their mission was to fly east and see what kind of weather the crews were going to encounter on the day’s mission. It was on this job as weather ship crew that they had their first (and luckily only) mishap at Horsham.  (See below)

Gilbert’s crew flew eight missions before the Eighth Air Force ceased operational missions in the ETO on April 25, 1945.  They flew six different aircraft on these operations.  The crew’s last mission on April 20th was to a railway junction near Zwiesel/Eisenstein, Germany where there was a little confusion as the group records show: The bombardier had difficulty in locating the exact position of the first priority target, several [towns] having a like appearance.  The target which he did synchronize on proved to be north of Eisenstein, and this error was not discovered until he was almost abreast of Zweisel and too late to make a correction.  When the error was discovered the bombardier and navigator realized that the target on which they were actually sighting was the same railway which continued south and formed a part of the first priority target.  Both pilot and command pilot gave permission to attack this target of opportunity.


Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
10-Mar-45 ARNSBURG 201 1 42-110141 U J4 47 BREEZY LADY / MARIE / SUPERMAN   
22-Mar-45  KITZINGEN 210 ABT 44-10602 E J4 -- TEN GUN DOTTIE #2 ENG TEMP
30-Mar-45 WILHELMSHAVEN 215 3 42-110163 M J4 78 TIME'S A WASTIN  
04-Apr-45 PERLEBERG 217 4 44-10602 E J4 42 TEN GUN DOTTIE  
08-Apr-45 UNTERSCHLAUERSBACH  221 5 44-40273 T J4 50 HOWLING BANSHEE  
10-Apr-45 RECHLIN/LARZ 223 6 42-50740 Q J4 34 OUR BURMA  
20-Apr-45 ZWIESEL 229 7 42-50740 Q J4 36 OUR BURMA

February 1945

Photographed in the States with their brand new Liberator – the crew wouldn’t have it for long


Standing: Robert Sullivan, Robert Stalder, Theodore Parsons, John McNaughton, Stephen Wodecki, Joseph Balint
Kneeling: Paul Schmutz, Theodore Crowley, Kenneth Gilbert

(Photo: Patricia McNaughton)

B-24H-10-DT 41-28697 Z5 Z Spotted Ape

Spotted Ape getting the group together…

(Photo: FOLD3)

Above: March 9, 1945 and Right: After salvage

(Photos: Mike Bailey & Brendan Wood)

Gilbert and part of his crew were chosen to man the assembly ship on a weather mission on March 9, 1945 with an experienced co-pilot in the pilot’s seat.

STATEMENT of 2d Lieutenant WILLIAM B. CHENEY, JR, Pilot, 753rd Bombardment Squadron, 458th Bombardment Group (H), AAF 123, APO 558.
“I returned to the field in the assembly ship on 9th March 1945 and entered a normal traffic pattern at 1400 feet, airspeed 150. Turned on approach and started descent. Touched down near end of runway and ballooned slightly. Last airspeed that I heard engineer call out was 125. When the plane settled to the ground there was about 5 degrees crab to the left. The plane was edging near the side of the R/W. I tried to kick out crab with rudder without success. I applied right brake and the brake pedal snapped off. My right foot slipped up and over the pedal. I yelled to Lt. Gilbert to get on the brake because mine was broken. At first he did not understand what was wrong. By the time he applied brakes we were well off the R/W headed about 10 degrees from R/W 05. Marks in the dirt show that right brake was applied about 100 feet before the left brake. Marks showed that both wheels were locked and sliding on damp grass. The track of the nose wheel was in the center of the [main] wheels when the plane left R/W, but as the plane moved on the nose wheel track came closer to left wheel track. The course of the plane was in a straight line from the R/W to an old dispersal area 150 feet from where the airplane came to rest. When the plane’s left wheel hit the pavement of the dispersal area the course of the plane was altered due to the increased friction on the left side. The plane turned sideways and both main gear snapped off. “



See full Accident Report

(Photos: Mike Bailey & Brendan Wood)