Neumann Crew – Assigned 754th Squadron – July 10, 1944

Standing: Albert LoRusso -N, Procter Grigg – CP, Rudolf Neumann – P, Robert Levine – B
Kneeling: Gordon Dempsey – E/WG, Robert Clark – TG, Wintzell Been – TTG, Gerard Hammel – BTG, Rudolph Gozora – NTG, Orval Sorlie – RO
(Photo: Procter Grigg)

Shot down by flak 31 July 1944 – MACR 7830

 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
2Lt Rudolf A Neumann 0702319 Pilot 31-Jul-44 POW Stalag Luft I
2Lt Procter H Grigg 0826149 Co-pilot 31-Jul-44 POW Stalag Luft I
2Lt Albert J LoRusso 0716487 Navigator 31-Jul-44 KIA Erie, PA
2Lt Robert L Levine 0717085 Bombardier 31-Jul-44 KIA Springfield, OH
Sgt Orval C Sorlie 31971043 Radio Operator 31-Jul-44 POW Stalag Luft IV
Sgt Gordon A Dempsey  12136682 Flight Engineer 31-Jul-44 KIA Ridgewood, NJ
Sgt Wintzell D Been 38366872 Top Turret Gunner 31-Jul-44 POW Stalag Luft IV
Sgt Rudolph G Gozora 42010515 Nose Turret Gunner  31-Jul-44 KIA Middlesex County, NJ 
Sgt Gerard B Hammell 12121125 Ball Turret Gunner 31-Jul-44 KIA New York, NY
Sgt Robert V Clark 18109267 Tail Turret Gunner 31-Jul-44 KIA Tyler, TX

The Neumann crew had a very short stay at Horsham St Faith.  Arriving at the 754th Squadron on July 10, 1944, they were shot down over Germany 21 days later.  They were able to fly three complete missions before the July 31, 1944 raid on the chemical plant at Ludwigshafen.  They were flying B-24H 41-95116, possibly named Junior. During the bomb run they received a direct burst of flak in the nose compartment.  The pilots lost all control and the ship nosed over violently into a spin.  Before reaching the undercast the tail was torn apart.  Four of the crew managed to bail out, but six crew members perished.

Bombardier, Robert Levine is excluded from the Missing Air Crew Report.  His name appears nowhere in any documentation that the Germans had gathered on the crew.  His status at the end of the war was “Missing In Action”, and the government issued a FOD (Finding Of Death), later changed to Killed In Action.

MACR 7830
A/C #116 was seen to receive a direct flak hit in the nose at 1312 over LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY.  A/C pulled up out of formation, lay on its side, jettisoned its bombs and fell away in a spin.  Two crews report tail assembly ripped off before A/C disappeared into solid undercast.  Reports of ‘chutes varied from none to six; most crews reporting two ‘chutes seen.

From German Documents
Mannheim-Neckarau, Neckarauer-Waldweg 142 – KU2693: 1230 hrs Liberator 98% crash fire, insignia on the outside of wings a white colored K in a dark colored circle, at the end of fuselage the figure -5- is identifiable.  No. 295116 on the tail unit, 2 prisoners, 5 dead, more dead probably buried under the debris, probably shot down by flak. Dead buried at Cemetery at Mannheim, Warrior section behind field 1 [all those killed except LoRusso]

[The Germans were fairly certain that the aircraft they had shot down was a Liberator, but could get no confirmation from those captured.]  Neumann’s report shows, “probably Liberator (the PW claims not to know the type)”; and Grigg was a little less subtle, “probably Liberator (the prisoner refused to give informations.)”


Date Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn A/C Name Comments
17-Jul-44 3 NO BALLS 92 1 41-28942 U 7V 19 HEAVENLY BODY  
24-Jul-44 ST. LO AREA 97 2 41-29596 R Z5 30 HELL'S ANGEL'S  
25-Jul-44 ST. LO AREA "B" 98 3 42-110070 E Z5 22 ELMER / LADY LUCK   

2Lt Procter H. Grigg – Co-pilot

Dear Greg,

I received the material you sent regarding your father, Orval Sorlie.  I was co-pilot of his crew during training through to our final mission and will try to recount the history of our crew.

Following graduation from Advanced Twin Engine Training at Turner Field, Albany, GA, I was transferred to Army Air Base, Pueblo, CO for transition into B-24’s.  I was assigned to Rudy Neumann’s crew as a replacement co-pilot.  The crew had been in training on B-24’s for about a month before I joined them.

I joined the crew in late April 1944 and my flight records show activity to June 5, 1944.  We trained in B-24’s with formation flying, gunnery practice, bombing practice and navigation.  About June 13, 1944, we flew to Topeka, Kansas to pick up a B-24 which we would ferry to Ireland.  This was the plane you mention named Short Arm.  It had .45 autos painted on the nose.  We flew this plane to Bangor, ME one day and Goose Bay Labrador the next.  We had trouble with the radio direction finder (RDF) on the way to Bangor and an attempt to fix it failed.

Our flight overseas was made on June 19, 1944.  It took us twelve hours to make the flight.  On the way we had overcast and undercast and for a while we were completely socked in.  At one point we flew into a clearing and saw a B-17 about 500 feet in front of us at the same altitude!!  Close call – 20 men might never have been heard from again! 

With RDF out Tony LoRusso was forced to navigate on dead reckoning with only a few drift readings.  He did a great job as we hit landfall, Donegal Bay, Ireland, right on the nose.  We left the Short Arm in Ireland for theater modifications and went on to the 458th Bomb Group at Horsham St. Faith, England.

My flying records show flight activity at the 458th between July 5th and July 31st 1944.  Some of these flights were for training and orientation.  Our combat flights were as follows:

July 17th 1944 – NoBall (Missile launching site, northern France)
July 24th 1944 – St. Lo, France
July 25th 1944 – St. Lo, France
July 31st 1944 – Ludwigshafen, Germany

Contrary to the Hollywood version, we never had a plane assigned to us with a faithful ground crew, etc.  You flew whatever plane was ready to go when a mission was on!  Our last flight on July 31st was flown in a B-24H, serial number 42-95116, and may well have been named Junior, I don’t recall a name – it’s been a long time since then.  At around noon, while on the bomb run over Ludwigshafen, we were hit by flak which knocked out all flight controls.  Rudy Neumann ordered an immediate bailout as we were peeling off to the left going into a power spin.

According to a debriefing report on our plane – “Ship 116, 754th Squadron received a direct hit in the nose and pulled out, lay over on side, jettisoned bombs and fell into a spin.  Tail assembly ripped off before aircraft disappeared into undercast.  Two chutes reported.”  There were, of course, four chutes, one each for Sorlie, Been, Neuman, and Grigg.  We were all captured in the Manheim-Ludwigshafen area and locked up at what I took to be a military hospital.  The next morning we met in a hallway under guard, but were not allowed to speak to each other.  We were processed separately and made to identify our personal items that had been removed from us earlier.  At this time we could recognize some of the items from other crew members.  We knew four of us had survived, but didn’t know the fate of the other six.

The four of us were then sent to the Wetzlar Interrogation camp.  We were in solitary confinement for 3-4 days with question sessions each day.  After release from solitary confinement we met for the last time in a separate compound just before being shipped to our POW camps.  Sorlie and Been went to Stalag Luft III-B [records show Stalag Luft IV], while Neumann and Grigg went to Stalag Luft I, Barth, Germany.  What followed was ten months as POW’s waiting for the war to end in Europe.  I believe it was May 11, 1945 when Russian troops arrived at Barth and we were freed.  There was a flak school next to Stalag Luft I with an airfield.  We were flown by B-17 to Camp Lucky Strike near Fecamp, France.  Next by ship to Boston and home.

I hope this thumbnail sketch of our crew’s experiences will help you understand some of what your father lived through.  Of course, a person’s total war experience goes far beyond what I’ve record here and varies greatly with the individual.  Those of us who were fortunate enough to survive a life-saving parachute jump and join the “Caterpillar Club” share the chance to come home and continue our lives.  We remember the ones we left behind with sadness.

Procter H. Grigg

Letter from Proctor Grigg to the son of Orval Sorlie

Procter Grigg – MACR Statements

The four crew members on the flight deck, Sgt Orval Sorlie, Sgt Wintzell Been, Lt Rudolf Neumann and myself.

LORUSSO, LEVINE & GOZORA – Last heard from at a routine crew check at I.P. Since we had  a direct hit in the Navigation compartment it is possible that LoRusso was killed directly or so injured as not to be able to jump.

HAMMEL – Last heard from at a routine crew check at I.P.  He was flying in the waist position that day.  Sgt Sorlie identified Hammel’s wallet among some personal effects in jail at Mannheim.  This would indicate that the Germans had found him and possibly have more information.  It is possible that the direct hit in the tail included the waist and that Hammel was injured so that he was unable to jump.

DEMPSEY – Last heard from at a routine crew check at I.P.  He was last seen in the waist.  Sgt Sorlie identified Dempsey’s ring among some personal effects on a table in the jail at Mannheim.  This was the guard house of an installation close to Mannheim.  The Germans should have more information.  It is possible that Dempsey was injured so that he could not obey the bail out command.  The direct hit in the tail could have included the waist.

CLARK – Last heard from at a routine crew check at I.P.  He was last seen in the tail position.  We received direct flak hits in the nose and tail.  It is possible that he was killed outright, blown from the plane, or so badly wounded that he could not bail out.

2Lt Rudolf A. Neumann – Pilot

MACR Statements
Navigator, Bombardier and nose gunner received a direct flak hit. Sgt Sorlie and Sgt Been bailed out of forward bomb bay on bail out order.  2Lt Grigg bailed out of the forward bomb bay after ship was out of control.  Ships in formation reported our aircraft losing its tail section near waist window and going out of control with no parachutes visible from the formation.

LORUSSO – Reported time from target to I.P.  Last seen at Navigator’s desk in nose section.  He is reported as Missing.

LEVINE – Killed by flak hit on nose section.  Last conversation was “Bombs away” over target.

GOZORA – Killed by flak hit on nose section.  Last conversation was Reported seeing Bombs away.

HAMMEL – Reported position of ships below our squadron before bombs away. Believe he was trapped in Ball Turret when ship went out of control.

DEMPSEY – Last contact at bail out order. Last seen during crew check-up on I.P. at left waist window.  Believe he was trapped in waist when ship went out of control.

CLARK – Last conversation on inter-phone.  Reported our position in formation just prior to bail out order. Believe trapped in tail after ship out of control and broke in two.

Sgt Orval C. Sorlie – Radio Operator

MACR Statements
Pilot, co-pilot and radio operator bailed out bomb bay about one minute after bombs away.

LORUSSO – Last heard from on inter-phone check.  Gave the information we were on the target run.  Last seen in the nose, probably killed by flak.

LEVINE – Last heard from on inter-phone check.  In the nose, probably killed – flak hit in front of the nose wheel.

GOZORA – Last heard he reported “Flak at 12:00 level, getting closer…” WHAM!  In the nose [turret], probably dead – flak hit in front of the nose wheel.

HAMMEL, DEMPSEY, CLARK – Last heard from on inter-phone check.  May not have realized how badly we were hit due to failure of inter-phone and bailout bell.