O’Hara Crew – Assigned 755th Squadron – July 20, 1944

Standing: Lewis Bambick – N, Delbert McCrary – CP, John O’Hara – P, Paul Bloomberg – B
Kneeling: Frank Felthouse – G, Norman McLaughlin – G, Robert Finn – E, Bernard Gittelman – RO, Wesley Bowman – G, Hubert Bourquin – G
(Photo: Fred O. Svartdal)

Crashed in Norway September 9, 1944 on Carpetbagger Mission – MACR 8420

 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
2Lt John B O'Hara 0699322 Pilot 09-Sep-44 KIA San Antonio, TX
2Lt Delbert E McCrary 0699434 Co-pilot 09-Sep-44 KIA Kansas City, MO 
2Lt Lewis T Bambick 0717317 Navigator 09-Sep-44 KIA Fredonia, KS
2Lt Paul Bloomberg 0717031 Bombardier 09-Sep-44 KIA Burlington, VT
Sgt Bernard F Gittelman 13078789 Radio Operator 09-Sep-44 KIA Philadelphia, PA
Sgt Robert T Finn 12121403 Flight Engineer 09-Sep-44 KIA Teaneck, NJ
Sgt Frank G Felthouse 19110388 Armorer-Gunner  09-Sep-44 KIA Hermiston, OR
Sgt Norman J McLaughlin  33595732 Aerial Gunner 09-Sep-44 KIA Philadelphia, PA
Cpl Wesley C Bowman 34678095 Aerial Gunner 09-Sep-44 KIA Reidsville, NC
Cpl Robert D Bourquin 35471974 Aerial Gunner 09-Sep-44 KIA Dallas, TX

The O’Hara crew is unique among the 458th Bomb Group crews in that they were only with the group for one day.  They are also the only crew known to partake in the Carpetbagger missions.  They were assigned to the 755th Squadron on July 20, 1944 and on July 21st orders were cut sending them on detached service (DS) for 90 days to Leuchars, Scotland.  There they were to partake in Operation Ball, the resupply of resistance fighters in Norway.

On September 9, 1944 the crew took off from Scotland to their drop point, to drop arms and ammunition to the Gullknappen Norwegian resistance group. Flying B-24H-10-FO 42-52196 War Bride originally from the 453rd Bombardment Group, their aircraft was designated Crupper-5.  Also along on this mission as a gunner was a veteran from the August 1, 1943 Ploesti raid, S/Sgt John P. Morris of the 389th Bomb Group.  Due to fog, rain, and icing conditions the crew crashed into Skorve Mountain killing all eleven men on board.  A memorial has been built in the nearby town of Selfjord, Norway.  Wreckage can still be found scattered on the mountaintop today.

Sgt Charles V. Kelly, a clerk with 458th HQ, had recently been reclassified from a Clerk to Gunner.  He was sent on Detached Service with O’Hara and crew, but nothing is known of his involvement with any operations at Leuchars.

The above information was gathered from Tom Brittain and Fred O. Svartdal.

For more information on this crew and incident please visit this outstanding website: The B-24 Which Crashed on Skorve Mountain.

Stateside before leaving for England

Crew Members, Standing: Wesley Bowman, Frank Felthouse, Lewis Bambick, Norman McLaughlin, Paul Bloomberg, John O’Hara.

Crew Members, Kneeling: Robert Finn Bernard Gittelman, Delbert McCrary.
Women and children unidentified.

(Photo: Beth Bloomberg)

B24H-10-FO 42-52196 War Bride

Originally a 453BG ship, B24H-10-FO 42-52196 War Bride is shown here on February 2, 1944 with a collapsed right main landing gear.

(Photo: Roger Freeman Collection)

S/Sgt John P. Morris – 389th BG

Also along as a gunner with O’Hara’s crew that night was John Morris. From MACR 8420 are statements made by two former crew members of Morris from the 389th Bomb Group:

T/Sgt Earl Zimmerman, 16098186
“S/Sgt Morris was killed somewhere in Norway. He was on a “Carpetbagging” mission at the time. A report from the underground said the plane hit a mountain and all members were killed…. He volunteered to take the place of a grounded gunner so he could finish his missions.”

S/Sgt Max C. Cavey 1707884
This crew was attacking the Campino Refineries of the Ploesti Oil Fields.  We ran short of fuel and Lt. James, the pilot, decided to try to make Turkey or if possible an Allied held island off Turkey’s Coast.  We had to land at a airdrome outside of a coast town.  We were interned taken to Ankara where we were under constant supervision of our embassy and of Major Brown, the Air Attache in particular.  All of my crew with the exception of S/Sgt Morris and T/Sgt Thompson had returned to military control when I left Turkey in December 1943.  The embassy made all arrangements for release from there.  They would be to illegible to consult.

When I left Turkey I returned to my outfit and resumed flying.  I was later shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans.  This has no bearing on Morris or Thompson, but is a more complete record of my own internship for you.

The Mystery of Crupper 5 – By Bob Koch

Here is a true story.  Maybe readers can solve the mystery.

Here is another little known secret operation involving six B-24 aircraft and one in particular with the code name of Crupper 5.  The six B-24s were part of a hastily assembled unit to drop arms and agents to the Norwegian underground between 17 July 1944 and 21 September 1944.

Why organize such a project when the Royal Air Force normally had the responsibility for supplying the Norwegian underground?  The fact of the matter was that the RAF was extremely hesitant about flying missions to Norway during the very long daylight periods of the Scandinavian summer.  Since the British Special Operations Executive was behind the Norwegian operations, they feared that a lack of supplies to the resistance fighters in Norway would cripple all that they had been working towards… a complete crushing of the Nazi forces in Norway at the proper time.

SOE couldn’t convince the RAF to fly these hazardous missions so the managed to get the USAAF to assemble what was then known as the “Ball Project.”  Six shiny black B-24s were quickly modified to carry drop containers in their bomb bays.  The USAAF aircrews flew in regular military flight gear and manned loaded .50 caliber machine guns.

The special unit was based at Leuchars, Scotland under the command of Colonel Bernt Balchen, famous arctic flyer and Norwegian aviation expert.  The first Ball Project flight was piloted by Balchen himself.  The guts of the operation were fairly simple.  Find the designated drop zone in and around the high Norwegian mountain peaks and drop the containers to the waiting ground party, then head back for Scotland.

The missions went like clockwork but not all missions made successful drops due to bad weather and consequently had to return to Leuchars.

During the late afternoon of 9 September 1944, a black B-24 (Serial No. 42-52196) with the SOE code name of Crupper 5, lifted off the crude field at Leuchars with its crew of eleven.  Their mission was to drop arms and ammunition to a Norwegian resistance group near Selfjord, Norway located several miles south of the Norwegian heavy water plant at Rjukan.  Crupper 5 did not return from that mission.

Eleven days later, Allied spies operating in the area of Selfjord sent this encrypted radio message to Leuchars, “A plane with eleven men in it crashed at Scorvefieu near Selfjord, all eleven were killed.  All the material on board fell into the hands of the Germans as an SS man was the first on the spot.”  The USAAF pilot was listed as 2nd Lt. John B. O’Hara.

Hardly any mention of this particular crash has been made in stories of missing or downed WWII bomber aircraft.  Even Balchen, in his book Come North With Me fails to mention this crash.

Not too long ago an inquiry was sent to the Norwegian Aviation Historical Society in Oslo, Norway asking for additional information regarding this old WWII crash.  Several weeks passed and a comprehensive reply was received…and herein lies the mystery!

The reply listed names of the crew (not all accurate when compared to USAAF records) and the comment that one woman’s body was found in the wreckage.  At first it was thought she may have been an SOE agent carried along to be dropped near the DZ but this proved to be false.  One gunner on the crew was listed as Norman J. McLaughlin.  The woman’s name was Amelia McLaughlin.  Were they man and wife?  Was she smuggled on board at the last minute?  Was there actually a woman on board this top secret flight?

To date the mystery has not been solved!  Two hypotheses have been offered,  One, it did happen but was covered up by the US Government; or, two, Norman J. McLaughlin had the name of his wife or girlfriend imprinted upon his dog tags and when the tags were collected by the Norwegians later they possibly assumed a woman was on board the aircraft.

Dog tags have been seen circa 1943 and 1944 where the wife’s name as well as the wearer’s name was stamped on them.  Hopefully, someone out there in BRIEFING-land can unearth a clue which will solve the mystery of Crupper 5.

[As the Missing Air Crew Report shows, Amelia McLaughlin was the mother, and next of kin of gunner Sgt Norman J. McLaughlin – mystery solved, but still an interesting write-up of this particular mission]

Skorve Mountain

Local people examining the wreckage, and standing in front of a temporary grave

Present day: Impact point below the cut in the ridgeline, examining part of a wing

(Photos: Fred Olav Svartdol)