Crew 69 – Assigned 755th Squadron – October 21, 1943
Ditched in the English Channel March 16, 1944 – MACR 3490
|2Lt||Neil A J Peters||0747178||Pilot||16-Mar-44||KIA||Tablets of the Missing - Cambridge|
|2Lt||Theodore F Wagner||0811473||Co-pilot||16-Mar-44||KIA||Tablets of the Missing - Cambridge|
|2Lt||Gasper DeSimone||0811448||Navigator||16-Mar-44||RTD||Ditched in English Channel|
|2Lt||John N Hulse||07528?9||Bombardier||16-Mar-44||KIA||Tablets of the Missing - Cambridge|
|S/Sgt||George W Conlogue||31282312||Radio Operator||01-Apr-44||RTD||Placed on Flight Status|
|T/Sgt||Carl P Lee||14123992||Flight Engineer||16-Mar-44||KIA||Tablets of the Missing - Cambridge|
|Sgt||Richard G Lowry||35599337||Top Turret Gunner||16-Mar-44||KIA||Died of Wounds, Buried Cambridge|
|S/Sgt||James J Duffy||35683062||Ball Turret Gunner||16-Mar-44||KIA||Tablets of the Missing - Cambridge|
|Sgt||Michael F Marino||34503062||Waist Gunner||16-Mar-44||KIA||Tablets of the Missing - Cambridge|
|Sgt||Peter F Morrone||31324040||Tail Turret Gunner||16-Mar-44||KIA||Tablets of the Missing - Cambridge|
Crew 69 flew a total of five credited sorties in early March 1944. On the March 16th mission to Friedrichshafen, the crew sustained damage from fighter attacks and attempted to make it home across the English Channel. The control surfaces were severely damaged, making their chances for success very slim. Accounts of this part of their last mission are varied, as the letters below prove, and there is no official account that can be found of what the true circumstances of their ditching were.
While it is not known for certain, there is evidence from the three letters written to Neil Peters’ aunt and uncle, that 2Lt John Hulse and Sgt’s James Duffy, Carl Lee, Michael Marino, and Peter Morrone bailed out into the Channel shortly after leaving the coast of France when the ship momentarily lost control and the bail out alarm was sounded. Control was regained at about 1000 feet. It is not known just how much further the ship flew, but it is possible that it went some distance. The crew eventually ditched (or crashed) into the water and only three men, Lt Gasper DeSimone, S/Sgt George Conlogue, and Sgt Richard Lowry made it out of the plane. Sgt Lowry died a short time later. The men were picked up by RAF Air Sea Rescue and returned to England.
Gaspar DiSimone is not mentioned in 458th records again, and while George Conlogue’s name appears on a flight roster of all the enlisted combat men in April 1944, it is doubtful that either man flew additional combat missions. Conlogue was recuperating at a military hospital in New York in June 1944.
“Ship crashed somewhere in English Channel. Survivors – 2d Lt. Gasper (NMI) De Simone, 0-811448, S/Sgt. George Weston Conlogue, 31282912, and Sgt. Richard Grensler Lowry, 35599337, were picked up by British Air Sea Rescue Corps and take to Hospital, Dover. Sgt. Lowry died in hospital and Lt. De Simone and Sgt. Conlogue are seriously injured. Information as to what actually happened is unavailable at this time as men in hospital have been transferred and as yet haven’t been able to ascertain whereabouts of transfer.”
|Date||Target||458th Msn||Pilot Msn||Serial||RCL||Sqdn||A/C Msn||A/C Name||Comments|
|24-Feb-44||DUTCH COAST||D1||--||41-29331||--||J3||D1||BLONDIE'S FOLLY||Diversion Mission|
|03-Mar-44||BERLIN||2||2||41-29288||--||J3||1||BIG-TIME OPERATOR||HENSON Cmd P - 3rd SECTION|
|15-Mar-44||BRUNSWICK||7||4||41-29331||F||J3||4||BLONDIE'S FOLLY||Took off twice - gas cap loose|
|16-Mar-44||FRIEDRICHSHAFEN||8||5||41-29331||F||J3||5||BLONDIE'S FOLLY||FTR - DITCHED IN CHANNEL|
B-24H-10-CF 41-29331 F Blondies’ Folly
2Lt Neil A.J. Peters
Letters to Neil Peters’ Aunt & Uncle
Dear Mrs. Peters,
I have recently received both your wire and letter and I’m answering just as soon as I can. I can really understand how anxious you must be for some good news of Neil. You would have heard from me much sooner if I had had your address and I’m grateful that you wrote to me and in that give me the opportunity to write to you.
I’m very much afraid that this letter is going to be a bitter disappointment to you. In order to write you a sincere letter, Mrs. Peters, I must be truthful and utterly frank.
On the afternoon of March 16, we were returning from Friedrichshafen, Germany after having successfully bombed the airplane assembly works there when we were attacked by fighters. There were at least a dozen attacking planes and our ship suffered quite a number of hits making it difficult to fly normal. After a quick check of the crew, I was relieved to learn that no one was hurt. We had been losing altitude all the time till we got to Holland when for no good reason our plane got out of control and started to dive. At which time Neil decided to abandon ship and gave the order to bail out. There were five men in the back end of the ship who jumped immediately. They were: Lt. John Hulse, Sgt. James Duffy, Sgt. Carl Lee, Sgt. Peter Morrone, [and] Sgt. Mike Marino. Before the rest of us could jump the plane again got out of control, this time over the Channel. Our altitude was so low that before we could bail out the plane crashed into the water. The next thing I remember was waking up in an English hospital approximately six hours later. Sgt. George Conlogue was in the bed next to mine. We were both in pretty bad shape. After repeatedly questioning my rescuers I learned that Sgt. Lowry had been killed in the crash, but no one seemed to know just what happened to Neil and his co-pilot Lt. Ted Wagner.
I’ve hoped and prayed since then that by some miracle both of them are safe, but under the circumstances that seems to be too much to hope for. Neil and I became great friends. He was a great guy, Mrs. Peters and I’ll cherish the memory of him for so long as I live.
This has been a difficult letter for me to write, Mrs. Peters and in closing I sincerely hope that I haven’t hurt you unnecessarily.
Your obedient servant,
Gasper A. DeSimone
Westover Field, Mass.
August 24, 1944
On Oct. 1st 1943 I was assigned to a bomber crew, Lt. Peters was the pilot and commander of that crew. A fine young man ambitious, studious and always willing to oblige anyone at anytime. Lt. Peters was liked by every crew member. We trained in the States until Dec. 31st then started overseas, from Florida to Puerto Rico to South America across to Africa and on Feb. 1st we landed on our home base in England Horsham St. Faith about two miles from Norwich. March 2nd we made our first raid on Frankfort, Germany, March 6th we made our second raid on Berlin. We were the first heavy bombers to bomb Berlin. March 16th we made a raid on Augsburg, Germany. We dropped our bombs and started on the way home. We were 60 miles east of Paris when enemy fighters attacked us, they shot us up pretty badly and the left waist gunner was wounded. We got a few of their planes, but we were greatly outnumbered. Finally our own fighters drove them off. Lt. Peters told the crew that he was going to try to get the ship back to England. Our control cables were shot out and our right wing was down. We could not bring it back up with the controls gone.
As we crossed the French coast Lt. Peters told us to prepare to ditch the ship. We were going to crash before we could reach the English coast. The ship went out of control at about 4000 feet. It started into a dive so Lt Peters pushed the warning bell to bail out. Lt Hulse, Sgt. Morrone, Sgt. Duffy, Sgt. Marino, and Sgt Lee were in the waist of the ship and were not heard of after the warning bell had been sounded. I believe that they bailed out when the bell was sounded. Lt. Peters regained control of the ship at about 1000 feet altitude then gradually settled the ship onto the water. I had my back to the back of Lt. Peter’s seat so that I would not be thrown forward when the plane hit the water. Lt. Peters and Lt. Wagner were at the controls. Lt. DeSimone and Sgt. Lowry were on the fight deck. The plane hit the water with a terrific crash and I was knocked out by the impact.
I came to under the water, but God only knows how I got out, to my knowledge Lt. Peters and Lt Wagner never moved after the plane crashed. Lt. DeSimone, Sgt. Lowry and myself got out. Sgt. Lowry did not live. We inquired about the rest of the boys, but [there wasn’t] anyone who could give us any information. The British picked us up in a flying boat. I hope to hear from someone soon who knows the whereabouts of the boys who bailed out. I am sorry if this letter has caused any uneasiness in the family, to the best of my knowledge this is exactly as our disaster occurred. If it had not been for Lt. Peter’s great courage and ability to handle the crippled ship, none of us would have been here to tell about it.
Please forgive me again if I have caused any uneasiness.
Staff Sgt. George Conlogue 31282312
Livermore Falls, ME
Mrs. Rudolph Peters,
I have been away on vacation and your letters came during my absence. I had recently returned from Mitchell Field, NY where I had visited my son that is in the hospital. He told me they flew from New York to South America and from there to Dakar Africa, then over the Mediterranean Sea to England.
After staying there a short time they went out on a mission as it is called, over France somewhere. Their second mission was over Germany that is over Berlin, when the anti-aircraft fire was most dense. Their third and last trip was over to a part of Germany, down in a corner between France and Switzerland, where the Germans have some ammunition factories. They had dumped their load and were about to return home when it was noticed that one plane was lagging behind. The boys dropped back and found it had been hit badly in the engagement when the German planes intercepted them, this left two planes alone behind the rest. The Germans saw this and 12 of their planes cut in behind the main squadron and started shooting. Although they were outnumbered 12 to 2 they did the best they could. My son said he saw two German planes go down that they shot down, didn’t know if the other plane got any or not, the other plane was shot down and they saw no more of it. The plane the boys were in got hit five times through the middle with the German 20MM cannon they carry on their plane. This weakened the plane, but they got clear and started for England. That was sixty miles east of Paris.
They set out to try landing in Switzerland, but did not want to be interned, started to bail out over France, but it was German held territory and did not like that, so kept going with steering controls out of order and a plane practically out of control. My boy was radio operator, and notified England they would probably hit somewhere in the Channel, to be ready to pick them up. They hit the water seven miles off the coast of England, the plane broke in two pieces and sank soon. The waves were about four feet high and most if not all of them were knocked unconscious. My son came to when it was sinking. He said the cold water washing over him brought him to consciousness again. At first he thought it was no use to try, but he saw a light spot thru the water over his head and came up thru it the first try. He found the navigator was up on top when he got there.
That was on March 16th and they stayed in the water one hour and ten minutes before being picked up. They were given a hypo in the back and did not regain consciousness for two days. My boy’s right leg was badly broken between ankle and knee. At first they thought he might lose it, but it is still there, but not well yet. His left foot was broken and he received a cut over his temple across the side of his head. They took the cast off his right leg about two weeks ago and in four days put another on. Don’t know just what will be the final results, the navigator received a broken leg.
It is with regret that I must inform you that the rest of the crew did not rise to the surface and that only my son and the navigator were saved. I know how you feel and what your thoughts are, as it was Sunday night when one of our legion men came to me and told me my son had been killed in action over Germany. For a week I did not know the difference then I got a notice that he was seriously injured, but no details. I did not know until I visited him in the hospital in this country, he was first in hospital in Surrey, England.
If there is anything else I could advise you on, write me or you might write him, Staff Sgt George W. Conlogue 31282312 AAF No Hospital BKs T 304 Mitchell Field, Hempstead Long Island, NY
David E. Conlogue
Letters courtesy: Ben McDonald
David Conlogue’s letter to the father’s of Frank Marino & James Duffy
LIVERMORE FALLS, MAINE
Mr. P. J. Duffy
Mr. Frank Marino
Your letters rec’d by me this p.m. and I will make an effort to answer them clearly for you. It is with regret that the information is unfavorable and will give you some information that you perhaps have as yet not read. I have just returned from Mitchell Field, NY where I went to see my son that is in the hospital there and will tell you the story as he told it to me.
They were in Hamilton Field, Calif. and got orders to fly to New York which they did. After being there a few days an officer walked into their quarters and said for the 458th bomb squadron to be ready in 10 mins. as they were going over seas. And they went with only the clothes on their back. No time to pick up anything. Their first stop was Florida, from there to So. American and flew in the night across to Dakar, Africa which took 12 and a half hours. They stayed there a few days and ate plenty oranges, bananas and pineapple of which they were very fond. Leaving Dakar they crossed Casablanca and headed over the Mediterranean sea for Northern Ireland where England has a large airfield. The boys were only given 10 minutes notice of going, but when they got there the first night they heard the Germans broadcasting on the radio about the American 458th bomb squadron landing even called the CO by name and wished them all the good luck in the world.
After a short stay in England they went over occupied France on a mission. Their second mission was over Berlin, where the anti-aircraft fire from the ground was so dense the Germans would not let their own planes go up in it, but sent them up after it stopped. Their third and last mission was across France to a German town, down in the corner of Germany near Switzerland. I do not remember the name correctly, but it has a “bourg” on it. They had dropped the bombs and were returning to England, when the pilot of the boys plane noticed a plane of their squadron had dropped behind and as the pilot of their plane and the pilot of the plane that had dropped behind were chums it was decided by their pilot to drop back and see what was the matter with them. It was found the plane had been damaged and could not keep up. This left the two planes behind and alone.
Breaking formation the way this pilot did is strictly against rules and subject to severe punishment, but it was too late as a bunch of German planes had sighted them alone and skirted the squadron, coming in behind, they shut the boys off. The first burst of fighting killed the waist gunner, a position my son had been in up to that mission. Previously he had been doubling as a waist gunner and Radio Opr. He told me he saw two German planes go down that their plane accounted for and did not know of any more or not. Also did not know if the other plane got any or not. The plane the boys were in got hit five times through the middle by the small 20MM cannon the Germans carry on their planes. These shells exploded and tore holes three feet wide each time they hit. This weakened the plane and it did well to hang together besides the 50 caliber bullets that went through it. Of course, at the same time they had only two planes to the Germans twelve. There was not much chance. The other plane fell over German territory, but the boys got away and could have made a landing in Switzerland, but did not want to be interned. Besides the plane would have broken up on any airfield the condition it was in.
They were then 60 miles east of Paris. When over Paris they started to bail out but at the last moment decided they were over German held territory and didn’t like that. The indicator was showing a steady drop of altitude but as they were up 22,000 at the time, decided to go as far as they could. My son stayed at the radio sending out an SOS trying to get something to come out on the English Channel which they were headed for. They were doing well in keeping the ship up, but as the control rigging was damaged, the only way they could steer the plane was by shutting off the motor on one side then open them up and shut off the other side. When they reached the English Channel, they had lost considerable altitude. There was a fair wind on the Channel and the waves were about four feet high at the time. They plane was going out of control when they hit the water, and as the tail hit first they thought it would level out but must have struck the middle across a wave. And as that was a very weak part at the time, it broke into two pieces and as near as I can figure it, all except the navigator were knocked unconscious. My son received a broken right leg, a broken left foot and received a cut the whole length of his head on the left side above his temple. That is what knocked him out. The ship did not float long.
He was unconscious and came to when the cold sea water washed over him. At first he was too far gone to try, but saw a light spot over his head through the water and decided to try it once. Was very luck and came through it the first try. On coming to the surface he found the navigator had come up. His leg and head were bleeding badly. Tied a cord to his leg with his belt but could not make it stay. Lost so much blood he needed two transfusions. He and the navigator were in the water one hour and ten minutes before being picked up on March 16th. The rest of the crew did not get out of the plane. This was seven miles off the coast of Dover, England. The two were taken to a hospital in Surrey Eng. and my boy was later flown to Mitchell Field, NY where he is now.
I am very sorry to write you this letter but think you must know the truth. I was first notified my son had been killed, then told he had been shot down over Germany. Then notified he had been seriously injured and did not know until I saw him just what, as the Gov’t will not let them write of their injuries. I have another son at Scott Field, Ill that will go overseas about Sept. so my worries are not over yet. I know how to sympathize with you and know just how you feel. As for the first week we thought our own son had been killed.
I know it is poor consolation, but that silver star that has turned to gold will forever be a symbol of love that will never die and live in the memories of friends and relatives until the end of time. Sure those that have gone, gave their lives that others might live free.
Letter courtesy: Mark Fields
Peters Crew Escape Photos
Escape photos, courtesy: Jim Olney
Neil Peters and cousin Gracie Jones
Photos: Ben McDonald