Roberts Crew – Assigned 752nd Squadron –  May 27, 1944

Standing: Augustine Paredes – RO, John Robinson – G, Lyle Powell – G, George Parks – G, Stanley Pitakos – E, Dewey Guidry – TG.
Kneeling: Lester Johnson – B, Jack Roberts – P, Wallace Brown – CP, Walter Dietzgen – N.

(Photo: Annie Parks & Erik Johnson)

Completed Tour

Rank Name Serial # POS Date Status Comments
Capt John P Roberts 0813062 Pilot 04-Jan-45 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
1Lt Wallace T Brown 0701900 Co-pilot 10-Aug-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
2Lt Walter C Dietzgen 0712778 Navigator 23-Oct-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
1Lt Lester R Johnson 0698017 Bombardier 04-Jan-45 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
T/Sgt Augustine Parades 39695878 Radio Operator 02-Dec-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Stanley A Pitakos, Jr 35789484 Flight Engineer 02-Jan-45 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt John W Robinson 12086524 Armorer/Gunner 11-Nov-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Lyle J Powell 17110989 Aerial Gunner/2E 02-Jan-45 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt George W Parks 34767422 Armorer/Gunner 02-Dec-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Dewey A Guidry 38487859 Armorer/Gunner 02-Jan-45 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross

The Roberts Crew was assigned to the 752nd Squadron 458th Bomb Group ten days prior to D-Day and flew their first mission on June 10, 1944.  Two crew members, Lt Walter Dietzgen and S/Sgt George W. Parks flew on June 6th, and Parks flew again on the 7th.  Dietzgen is shown on several load lists as having flown as navigator with a number of crews.  He flew twice on D-Day; the July 12th mission to Munich with the Gulick Crew (where they lost an engine); and on an AZON mission in August.  It is assumed that he flew with various crews until his tour was complete, although the reason for him not remaining with Roberts is unknown.

Lt Wallace C Brown is believed to have flown as co-pilot until sometime in mid-July, when he was either given his own crew or flew as Instructor Pilot with new, incoming crews.  He flew a total of twelve missions as aircraft commander between July 12 and August 6, 1944.

It seems that the job of navigating frequently fell to the crew’s bombardier, 2Lt Lester R. Johnson, who had received navigator training (see A.J. Parades “North Atlantic” story below).  At some point during the summer of 1944, 2Lt Theodore E. Joiner, Jr. was assigned as the crew’s navigator.  Joiner came to the group as a navigator with F/O Harold A. Walker and crew, which joined the 458th on May 11, 1944.  On October 23, 1944 the 458th underwent a massive reshuffling of crews when the 755th Squadron was designated as a “lead crew” squadron.  Roberts and his crew were transferred from the 752nd to the 755th.  For some reason, Jack Roberts was transferred back to the 752nd on November 20th only to return to the 755th two weeks later – such is the bureaucracy of the Army!

The 458th came off of combat operations in September in order to transport gas and supplies to Patton’s army in France. Roberts and crew flew seven of these Truckin’ Missions in late September.  While these missions did not involve combat, some crews believed that they were sometimes more dangerous since they were loading their Liberators with as much fuel as they could carry in 5-gallon Jerry cans or modified fighter drop tanks.  There were a total of seven Liberators lost by the group during this time, most from accidents, but one was shot down as they strayed over enemy lines and were hit by flak.

It is assumed that most of the crew flew the majority of missions together, possibly as a lead or deputy lead prior to being transferred to the 755th Squadron in October.  The crew was not assigned a co-pilot in order to make room for a command pilot on these lead missions.  Three mission lists are available.  That of the bombardier, 1Lt Lester R. Johnson, gunner S/Sgt George W. Parks, and the pilot’s record of missions gathered from group records.  All are presented below.

It appears that most of the crew completed their required missions in November or December 1944 and were rotated back to the States.  Capt John Roberts remained with the group, and after being trained on the Army Air Forces SCS-51 (Mobile) Instrument Landing System (ILS) in January, he may have been employed as a landing control officer, but that is not known for certain. In April 1945 he was appointed to the Instructor Pilot Proficiency Board.

Missions – John Roberts as Pilot

Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Cmd Pilot Ld  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
10-Jun-44 CHATEAUDUN 61 1     42-52457 Q 7V 24 FINAL APPROACH  
12-Jun-44 EVREUX/FAUVILLE 64 2     42-52457 Q 7V 25 FINAL APPROACH  
14-Jun-44 DOMLEGER 65 3     42-52457 Q 7V 26 FINAL APPROACH  
15-Jun-44 GUYANCOURT 66 4     42-52457 Q 7V 27 FINAL APPROACH  
18-Jun-44 FASSBERG A/D 69 5     42-95179 X 7V 16 HERE I GO AGAIN MSN #1
19-Jun-44 REGNAUVILLE 71 6     42-52457 Q 7V 29 FINAL APPROACH MSN #1
20-Jun-44 OSTERMOOR 73 7     42-52457 Q 7V 30 FINAL APPROACH MSN #1
21-Jun-44 BERLIN 75 8     42-52457 Q 7V 31 FINAL APPROACH  
23-Jun-44 3 NO BALLS 76 9     42-52457 Q 7V 32 FINAL APPROACH BLANE-PIGNOT-FERNE 
24-Jun-44 CONCHES A/F 77 10     42-52455 O 7V 34 PLUTOCRAT MSN #1
28-Jun-44 SAARBRUCKEN 81 11     42-52457 Q 7V 34 FINAL APPROACH  
02-Jul-44 COUBRONNE 83 12     42-52457 Q 7V 35 FINAL APPROACH  
05-Jul-44 LE COULET, BEL 84 13     42-52457 Q 7V 36 FINAL APPROACH  
07-Jul-44 LUTZKENDORF 86 14     41-29303 H Z5 32 LIBERTY LIB  
08-Jul-44 ANIZY, FRANCE 87 15     41-29303 H Z5 33 LIBERTY LIB  
12-Jul-44 MUNICH 89 16     42-52457 Q 7V 38 FINAL APPROACH  
13-Jul-44 SAARBRUCKEN 90 17     42-52457 Q 7V 39 FINAL APPROACH  
24-Jul-44 ST. LO AREA 97 18     42-100311 A 7V 38 YOKUM BOY  
08-Aug-44 CLASTRES 108 19 WOODWARD  L2 42-50499 F 7V 4 COOKIE/OPEN POST  
12-Aug-44 MOURMELON 111 20 KUHN D1 42-50502 A 7V 1 LARRUPIN' LINDA  
13-Aug-44 LIEUREY 112 21     42-50864 B J3 2 JOLLY ROGER (II?)  
16-Aug-44 MAGDEBURG 115 22 WRIGHT L2 42-50502 A 7V 2 LARRUPIN' LINDA  
26-Aug-44 DULMEN 120 23 SPEER L1 42-50502 A 7V 3 LARRUPIN' LINDA  
25-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR08-1 --     42-52698 W 489BG T6 THE BABY DOLL 1ST FLIGHT
25-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR08-2 --     42-52616 Q 44BG T5 GLORY BEE 2ND FLIGHT
26-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR09 --     42-52616 Q 44BG T6 GLORY BEE TRUCKIN' MISSION
27-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR10 --     42-52616 Q 44BG T7 GLORY BEE TRUCKIN' MISSION
28-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR11 --     42-52616 Q 44BG T8 GLORY BEE TRUCKIN' MISSION
29-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR12 --     42-95219 W 752 T10 PATCHIE TRUCKIN' MISSION
30-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR13 --     42-52616 Q 44BG T11 GLORY BEE TRUCKIN' MISSION
05-Oct-44 PADERBORN 128 24 BETZOLD L2 42-50502 A 7V 6 LARRUPIN' LINDA  
14-Oct-44 COLOGNE 133 25 BETZOLD L2 42-50502 A 7V 10 LARRUPIN' LINDA  
22-Oct-44 HAMM 137 26 CLAGGETT L2 42-50502 G J3 12 LARRUPIN' LINDA  
26-Oct-44 MINDEN 138 ASSY     41-28697 Z Z5 A25 SPOTTED APE ASSEMBLY CREW
05-Nov-44 KARLSRUHE 142 27 WRIGHT L2 42-50504 D 7V 11 UNKNOWN 019 BALL TURRET
21-Nov-44 HARBURG 148 28 SPEER L2 42-50502 T J3 15 LARRUPIN' LINDA TYPO (S/B 502G)
11-Dec-44 HANAU 155 29 BOOTH L3 42-50608 W J3 11 FILTHY McNAUGHTY  
24-Dec-44 SCHONECKEN 157 30     42-50608 W J3 13 FILTHY McNAUGHTY

Missions – Wallace Brown as pilot

Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
16-Jul-44 SAARBRUCKEN 91 2 42-95117 M 7V 31 YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU   
17-Jul-44 3 NO BALLS 92 3 41-29340 N 7V 37 YANKEE BUZZ BOMB  
18-Jul-44 TROARN 93 4 42-95050 J 7V 29 GAS HOUSE MOUSE  
19-Jul-44 KEMPTEN 94 5 42-95050 J 7V 30 GAS HOUSE MOUSE  
20-Jul-44 EISENACH 95 6 41-28942 U 7V 22 HEAVENLY BODY  
24-Jul-44 ST. LO AREA 97 7 42-100431 B J4 29 BOMB-AH-DEAR  
25-Jul-44 ST. LO AREA "B" 98 8 41-28709 I 7V 28 LUCKY STRIKE  
03-Aug-44 2 NO BALLS 102 9 42-95050 J 7V 34 GAS HOUSE MOUSE  
04-Aug-44 ACHIET A/F 104 10 44-40281 Q J4 9 A DOG'S LIFE  
05-Aug-44 BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM  105 11 42-95050 J 7V 36 GAS HOUSE MOUSE  
06-Aug-44 HAMBURG 106 12 42-95050 J 7V 37 GAS HOUSE MOUSE

B-24H-15-FO 42-52457  7V  Q  Final Approach

“The gang’s all here except the Radio Operator, taking picture, and the navigator.  I was doing the navigation as I most usually do.  This is an older ship as you can see by the number of missions on her.  The name, not our doing, points to the day when our “final approach” will be in the direction of the good old U.S.A.!”


Sitting: George Parks, Stanley Pitakos, John Robinson, Ground Man, John Roberts, Ground Man, Dewey Guidry

Standing: Lester Johnson, Wallace Brown, Lyle Powell

Ryan TerSteeg, great-nephew of Jack Roberts, built a model of Final Approach to honor his uncle’s service. 

(May have to adjust quality settings for a clearer video)

Test Hop

“We were going on a test hop so we don’t have our heavy suits on. (Right to Left) That’s Jack next to me [wearing cap], then our new navigator, Joiner, and a ground crew man.”

1Lt Lester R. Johnson Mission List

“Our navigator [Ted Joiner] is in the pilot’s seat, the engineer [Stanley Pistakos] is in the top escape hatch, and me in the copilot’s seat.  We have no copilot because we have a command pilot on all our combat missions, so I get to be copilot on all our practice missions, and do I love it!”

1 10-Jun-44 Chateaudun
2 12-Jun-44 Evreux
3 14-Jun-44 Maison Ponthreu
4 15-Jun-44 Guyancourt
5 18-Jun-44 Fassberg
6 19-Jun-44 Regnauville
7 20-Jun-44 Ostermoor
8 21-Jun-44 Berlin
9 23-Jun-44 Blanc Pignon Ferme
Coubronne, Blangermont
10 24-Jun-44 Conches
11 28-Jun-44 Saarbrucken
12 02-Jul-44 Coubronne
13 05-Jul-44 LeCoulet
14 07-Jul-44 Lutzendorf
15 08-Jul-44 Anizay

16 12-Jul-44 Munich
17 13-Jul-44 Saarbrucken
18 24-Jul-44 St Lo
19 08-Aug-44 Clastres A/F
20 12-Aug-44 Mourmelon
21 13-Aug-44 Lieury
22 16-Aug-44 Mandeburg
23 26-Aug-44 Dulmen
24 05-Oct-44 Paderborn
25 14-Oct-44 Cologne
26 22-Oct-44 Hamm
27 05-Nov-44 Karlsruhe
28 21-Nov-44 Harburg
29 11-Dec-44 Hanau
30 24-Dec-44 Schonecken

Click on dates above for Lester Johnson’s Bombardier Briefing Forms

(Photos, Mission List, and Forms courtesy: Erik Johnson)

S/Sgt George W. Parks Mission List

1 06-Jun-44 Cherbourg
2 07-Jun-44 Lisieux
3 10-Jun-44 Chateaudun
4 12-Jun-44 Evreux
5 14-Jun-44 Maison Ponthreu
6 15-Jun-44 Guyancourt
7 18-Jun-44 Fassberg
8 19-Jun-44 Regnauville
9 20-Jun-44 Ostermoor
10 21-Jun-44 Berlin
11 23-Jun-44 Blanc Pignon Ferme
Coubronne, Blangermont
12 24-Jun-44 Conches
13 28-Jun-44 Saarbrucken
14 02-Jul-44 Coubronne
15 05-Jul-44 LeCoulet

16 07-Jul-44 Lutzendorf
17 08-Jul-44 Anizay
18 12-Jul-44 Munich
19 13-Jul-44 Saarbrucken
20 24-Jul-44 St Lo
21 08-Aug-44 Clastres A/F
22 12-Aug-44 Mourmelon
23 13-Aug-44 Lieury
24 16-Aug-44 Mandeburg
25 26-Aug-44 Oulmen
26 05-Oct-44 Paderborn
27 14-Oct-44 Cologne
28 22-Oct-44 Hamm
29 05-Nov-44 Karlsruhe
30 21-Nov-44 Harburg

(Photo: Erik Johnson / Mission List: Annie Parks)

Capt John P. Roberts “…the best darn pilot in the USAAF.”

Capt John Roberts in the co-pilot’s seat

(Photo: Erik Johnson)

Lost over the North Atlantic

Yeah, I remember the “lost over the North Atlantic” mission well.  Dietzgen, God rest his soul, was missing from the crew.  We were flying along without a navigator.  Johnson would serve as bombardier/navigator.  We left the group somewhere west of Munich, and Roberts asked Johnson if he could “dead-reckon” us home.  He said he would try.
So we started out in a Northwesterly direction.  Roberts had lost his radio compass, command radio and his liaison radio.  There was no way he could get any bearing, or get any help by communication.  The only hope was with my CW liaison (code) radio.  About an hour had gone by and everybody was dozing as we cruised at 10,000 feet.  Johnson called Roberts and said something kind of chilling.  I will remember the words to this day, “Jack, I’m lost.  I don’t know where I am.  There’s cloud cover and no landmarks.”  Then Roberts called me [and] asked me if I could get him a fix.  There was no panic in his voice.  Just a calm, every-day kind of question.  I told him I thought I could get him a fix.  It would take a minute.

Those old transmitters had nine tuning units.  They each had a short range set of frequencies.  They were about the size of a carton of cigarettes.  You pulled them out and slipped another one in its place depending on the frequency you wanted to use.  I had a pre-tuned unit to a direct finding station somewhere in the south of England that I used to practice with every time we went on a practice mission.  I thought that maybe someday I might have to use it.  Their call letters were CQ9.  When Roberts asked for the fix, I was ready.  There was one hitch though.  They weren’t on the air every day of the week.  There were days I had called CQ9 and they wouldn’t answer.  They were not ON that day.

Now I kept hoping that this wouldn’t be one of those days.  I put the tuning unit in, fired up the transmitter to its peak, and pounded CQ9 V (from) 7VGL (my call sign), E (emergency), and the codes for our problem and request for a fix.  You can imagine when I heard that beautiful 7VGL V CQ9, and then the instructions to hold down my key for an uninterrupted radio signal they could home in on.  Then they gave me our position and directions to take heading such and such in a line for home base.  They kept repeating until we got [within] sight of the coast.  I’d be willing to bet we didn’t have more than a few gallons left over after we landed.  Whew!

I remember Pitakis coming over when we got out of the airplane and kissing me on the cheek, and saying, “You did it!  You did it! You got us in!”  It seemed pretty much routine to me at the time, but supposing we hadn’t been able to get contact, and would have had to ditch in that cold North Atlantic. I just don’t think many people survived that cold – if they survived the crash.

(Photo: Erik Johnson / Story: Annie Parks)