Crew 28 – Assigned 753rd Squadron – October 14, 1943

Standing: Sam Robeson – P, Waldo Spangelo – CP, Gordon Heiser – N, John “Red” Welch – B
Kneeling: Robert King – TTG, Ira Melton – E, Joseph Fleenor – RO, Joe Bowman – TG, Marvin Morrow – BTG, Paul Wilson – NTG
(Photo: Max Dinges)

Completed Tour

 Rank  Name  Serial #  Pos Date Status  Comments
Capt Samuel C Robeson 0745940 Pilot 01-Dec-44 CT Appointed Assistant Ops Officer
1Lt Waldo N Spangelo 0811258 Co-pilot 26-May-44 CT Trsf from 753rd to 754th Sq w/6 EM 
Capt Gordon H Heiser 0811613 Navigator Jan-45 CT 753rd Squadron Navigator
1Lt John B Welch 0752912 Bombardier 13-Jun-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
Pvt Ira Melton 19165111 Airplane/Engine Mech  30-Jun-44 RECL Reclassified - Clerk/Typist
T/Sgt Joseph M Fleenor 34503893 Radio Operator 13-Jun-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Paul G Wilson 16088405 Armorer-Gunner Jul-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Robert L King 33470563 Armorer-Gunner/E 13-Jun-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
T/Sgt Marvin M Morrow  18184884 Flight Engineer 13-Jun-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross
S/Sgt Joe C Bowman 33525176 Armorer-Gunner 13-Jun-44 CT Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross

2Lt Samuel C. Robeson and crew received their combat training with the 458th at Tonopah, NV during the last few months of 1943, and moved overseas with the Group in January 1944.  According to Sam Robeson’s log book, his crew departed Hamilton Field, CA on January 10, 1944 and arrived at Horsham St Faith 25 days later on February 4th.  Crew 28 flew their first mission, a diversionary feint designed to pull Luftwaffe fighters from the main bombing effort, on February 24th, in support of “Big Week”.  The 458th flew halfway to the continent over the North Sea and turned back without spotting any enemy aircraft.

On March 2nd, the 458th flew their first credited mission.  The target on this date was the marshaling yards at Frankfurt.  Flying Ye Olde Hellgate, the Liberator that they picked up in California two month’s prior, Robeson was forced to turn back after crossing the enemy coast due to their #3 supercharger being inoperative making it impossible to keep up with the formation.  The crew did receive sortie credit for this mission.  German fighters were seen and, according to the combat form filled out at debriefing, some of the gunners got in a few bursts:  Two FW-190’s from 5 o’clock dived in and peeled off to right and continued until driven off by P-47.  Three FW -190’s on left just hung there while two FW-190’s attack[ed] tail and swung toward left.  All were driven of by the two P-47’s.  Men fired at fighters, but none brought down.”

The crew completed nine missions in the month of March.  It was also during March that Ira Melton left the crew.  He is shown in subsequent Group records as a Private with his MOS as an Airplane & Engine Mechanic.  While several of the crew were rated as flight engineers, it appears that Marvin Morrow may have stepped into that position, replacing Melton.

April was a busy month for this crew, flying on 14 of the group’s 16 missions, including two missions on April 27th.  They were forced to abort three times (all due to mechanical difficulties), but were credited with 12 missions. The first abort occurred on the April 9th mission to Tutow, Germany.  The crew was forced to turn back when the #4 engine connecting rod was thrown through the crankcase due to an internal failure.  They received credit for this mission.  The second abort came four days later on April 13th when the crew had to leave the formation because their #2 supercharger flexible coupling connecting air duct and supercharger blew out due to high manifold pressure.”

The last abort the crew suffered in April was on the second mission of April 27th.  This was the 458th’s first attempt at two missions on the same day, and Crew 28 took part in both.  Robeson and crew flew a different 753rd ship on this date, a B-24H originally named Dream Boat, but which had recently acquired the ignoble title of Spare Parts.  The first mission to the Bonnieres Constructional Works in France took place in the morning. All aircraft returned to base and most, but not all were reloaded with fuel and bombs and took off that afternoon for the marshaling yards at Blainville in France. Flying the same aircraft, Robeson was forced to abort due to another supercharger failure.

The crew finished out the month on a high note, however, as S/Sgt Marvin M. Morrow was credited with an enemy aircraft destroyed on the April 29th mission to Berlin.

May was the crew’s last month of flying and they completed their tour on May 31st after flying 11 missions, including a recall on the 10th and an abort on the 20th.

The crew was tied with a 752nd Squadron crew, that of Lt Jack K. Umphrey, in being the first crew(s) in the group to complete a combat tour. Both of these crews had started out in the 753rd Squadron, but were transferred at the end of May to make room for the ten AZON crews coming into the 753rd.  Umphrey went to the 752nd and Robeson to the 754th.  S/Sgt Robert L. King (Crew 28) was the first man in the group to get his 30 missions in.

Samuel Robeson was promoted to Captain in November 1944 and was appointed as the 753rd Squadron Assistant Operations Officer.  He remained in this capacity for several months, finally leaving the group for the States on March 21, 1945.

Gordon Heiser also remained with the 753rd Squadron, becoming the Squadron Navigator. He was also promoted to Captain in February 1945 and left for the States on the same day as Sam Robeson.


Date  Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn  Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn  A/C Name  Comments
24-Feb-44 DUTCH COAST D1 -- 41-28705 -- J4 D1 YE OLDE HELLGATE Diversion Mission
02-Mar-44 FRANKFURT 1 1 41-28705 H J4 1 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
05-Mar-44 BORDEAUX/MERIGNAC  3 2 41-28705 H J4 3 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
06-Mar-44 BERLIN/ERKNER 4 3 41-28705 H J4 4 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
15-Mar-44 BRUNSWICK 7 4 41-28705 H J4 6 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
16-Mar-44 FRIEDRICHSHAFEN 8 5 41-28705 H J4 7 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
22-Mar-44 BERLIN 11 6 41-28705 H J4 10 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
24-Mar-44 ST. DIZIER 13 7 41-28705 H J4 12 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
26-Mar-44 BONNIERES 14 8 41-28705 H J4 13 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
27-Mar-44 BIARRITZ 15 9 41-28733   J4 8 RHAPSODY IN JUNK  
05-Apr-44 ST. POL-SIRACOURT 16 10 41-28705 H J4 14 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
08-Apr-44 BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM 17 11 41-29276 T J4 4 The ROTTEN SOCK  
11-Apr-44 OSCHERSLEBEN 20 13 41-29273 Q J4 16 FLAK MAGNET  
13-Apr-44 LECHFELD A/F 21 ABT 41-28705 H J4 15 YE OLDE HELLGATE  #2 SUPER CHGR
18-Apr-44 BRANDENBURG 22 14 41-28705 H J4 16 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
19-Apr-44 PADERBORN A/F 23 15 41-28705 H J4 17 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
22-Apr-44 HAMM M/Y 25 16 41-28705 H J4 18 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
24-Apr-44 LEIPHEIM A/F 26 17 41-28705 H J4 19 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
25-Apr-44 MANNHEIM A/F 27 18 41-28705 H J4 20 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
26-Apr-44 PADERBORN A/F 28 19 41-28705 H J4 21 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
27-Apr-44 BONNIERES 29 20 41-28706 F J4 13 DREAM BOAT/SPARE PARTS  
29-Apr-44 BERLIN 31 21 42-100408 D J4 10 BEASTFACE  
09-May-44 ST. TROND 38 22 41-28705 H J4 26 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
10-May-44 DIEPHOLZ REC -- 41-29489 L J4 -- UNKNOWN 014 RECALL BEFORE EC
11-May-44 EPINAL 39 23 41-28733 P J4 25 RHAPSODY IN JUNK  
12-May-44 BOHLEN 40 24 41-29489 I J4 2 UNKNOWN 014  
20-May-44 RHEIMS A/D 43 25 41-28705 H J4 28 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
21-May-44 SIRACOURT 44 26 41-28705 H J4 29 YE OLDE HELLGATE  
23-May-44 BOURGES 45 27 42-95165 S Z5 6 COOKIE  
24-May-44 VILLEROCHE 46 28 42-95108 M Z5 3 ENVY OF 'EM ALL II  
30-May-44 ZWISCHENAHN A/F 51 29 42-95108 M Z5 5 ENVY OF 'EM ALL II  
31-May-44 BERTRIX 52 30 42-95108 M Z5 6 ENVY OF 'EM ALL II  
12-Aug-44 MOURMELON 111 OBSV 41-28721 G J4 -- DOWNWIND LEG Col ISBELL Observe A/C 

B-24H-10-DT 41-28705  J4 H  Ye Olde Hellgate

Robeson’s crew flew this aircraft on 21 of their 30 missions

Photo: George Reynolds

P-47D 42-26272 “Angel Eyes” keeps close watch on Crew 28 on one of their early missions

Photo: Max Dinges

AZON Officer’s Lunch – May 1944

Gordon Heiser (on left, looking over shoulder) and Sam Robeson (seated far right)

Photo: Max Dinges

Around Horsham…

“Outside barracks, just before chow time. That explains the hungry look…”
Rear: Waldo Spangelo, Bill Kramer – CP Crew 26, John Welch
Front: Eleo Decima – N Crew 23, George Higgins – N Crew 26, Elmer Lanini – B Crew 26, Sam Robeson, John Sullivan – N Crew 25
(Photo: Bill Kramer)

Above: Co-pilot Waldo Spangelo

Left: Sam Robeson and Gordon Heiser

(Photos: Anne Zimmer & Max Dinges)

Back row: Unknown, Sam Robeson, Waldo Spangelo, Gordon Heiser, John “Red” Welch
Front row: Unknown, Unknown, Marvin Morrow, Unknown, Paul Wilson, Joseph Fleenor
(Photo: Max Dinges)

Crew 28 & Crew 27 are First to Complete Combat Tour

There had been some speculation on just what crew or crews, would break the tape first on their operational tour, but the final honors were bestowed on LT. SAMUEL ROBESON of the 753rd Sq., and LT JACK UMPHREY of the 752nd Sq., and a number of their original crews who started as a team back in the States.

However, the honor of being the first combat member of the group to finish first, went to S/Sgt Robert L. King. A member of Lt. Robeson’s crew. Sgt. King gained this honor by filling in as a spare gunner on another crew when his A/C was non-operational on one mission.

The groups’ first mission was flown on March 2, and in exactly 98 days, these two crews had completed 30 missions each over Germany and occupied territory, finishing their tours on 31 May 44. It is an undisputed fact, that those first missions during March and April were the toughest flown by the group, and, it is to the credit of the leadership shown by these officers, that not one of the men who flew with them were wounded in action though they had undergone some of the fiercest enemy fighter opposition and had taken all the flak Jerry could throw at them.

To add further laurels to those already bestowed on them, not once in 30 missions did Lt. Umphrey abort, and but three abortions mar Lt. Robeson’s record, and those for mechanical rather than personnel failures.

To tell of their experiences would take ages, but one cannot forget the morning of May 29. Lt. Umphrey took off this morning, but shortly after take-off his A/C developed a hydraulic leak and he was forced to return to base. He transferred with his crew to another A/C and taxied to the runway, only to be informed that the plane was not ready for operational flight. After taxiing back to the dispersal area, he transferred to a third liberator and took off one hour and forty minutes later than his formation, crossed the north sea alone, and caught up with a formation forty miles inside of Germany and proceeded to bomb the assigned target.

Then when “Pop” (as Lt. Robeson is known to his crew), brought the boys home on two engines after a deep penetration into Germany. “Pop” was forced to leave the formation after being hit by flak knocking out two engines. During the long solitary journey home, he was beset upon by a German fighter but managed to scare him off. The new co-pilot advised bailing out or landing in Switzerland, but “Pop” knew his plane and quietly said, “Stay put, I’ll get you back”, and his crew, knowing “Pop” always kept his word, worried no more.

Talking to these men, one does not gather an impression of boastfulness or bravery, they simply state “We had a job to do, we were trained for it, we knew how to do it, and we just did it”. How the hell can you lose with men like that?

The following named men head the roll of honor as the first combat members of the group to finish their tour with an outstanding record and an inspiration to those who follow.


753rd sq.                                          752nd sq.
1st Lt Samuel C. Robeson              1stLt Jack K. Umphrey
1st Lt George R. Heiser                  2nd Lt James W. Bryan
1st Lt J. B. Welch                             1st Lt Lawrence G. Shapiro
T/Sgt Joseph M. Fleenor               S/Sgt Gus A. Sasinowski
S/Sgt Marvin M. Morrow              S/Sgt Percel A. Koroleski
S/Sgt Joseph C. Bowman
S/Sgt Robert L. King

Excerpt from 753rd Squadron records