Ruark Crew – Assigned 755th Squadron – May 1944

Kneeling: Robert Ruark – P, Robert Jones – B, Theodore Childs – CP, Irwin Eiring – N
If you can identify the enlisted men, please contact me.
(Photo: Childs’ Family)

Completed Tour

Rank Name Serial # Crew Pos Date Status Comments
1Lt Robert N Ruark 0812314 Pilot Oct-44 CT Completed Tour
1Lt Theodore Q Childs 0761884 Co-pilot Jan-45 CT Completed Tour
2Lt Irwin Eiring 0712780 Navigator 29-Jun-44 POW Shot down w/Perkinson Crew
1Lt Robert L Jones 0698018 Bombardier Oct-44 CT Completed Tour
T/Sgt Merritt B Neil 11058583 Radio Operator Oct-44 CT Completed Tour
T/Sgt Emerson C Goodman  34597849 Flight Engineer Oct-44 CT Completed Tour
S/Sgt Gordon O Bybee 37357424 Aerial Gunner Sep-44 CT Completed Tour
S/Sgt Donald I Friesen 37475117 Aerial Gunner, 2/E Sep-44 CT Completed Tour
S/Sgt Joseph H Meissner 37309951 Aerial Gunner, 2/E  6-Apr-44 UNK Movement Orders Casper, WY 
S/Sgt Robert Russell, Jr 32768314 Aerial Gunner, 2/E Oct-44 CT Completed Tour

Robert Ruark and crew were assigned to the 458BG at some point in late-April or early-May 1944; 755BS records do not indicate anything more precise than that.  S/Sgt Joseph H. Meissner’s name is not mentioned in any 458BG records, and his status after the crew left Casper, Wyoming is unknown.  The crew were on station for nearly a month prior to their first mission on June 6, 1944.  As was customary, a new crew would generally fly with an experienced pilot on their first mission in order to learn the intricacies of flying combat in the ETO. On this mission, Ruark and crew flew were assigned as “Instructor Pilot” 1Lt William C. Rowland, an original group co-pilot who had been given his own crew in June.  On this particular occasion, Rowland is listed as pilot, while Ruark was co-pilot.  Theodore Childs, the crew’s regular co-pilot is not listed as flying with the crew on this date.  For all the excitement of their first mission, combined with the fact that the invasion was taking place, the crew must have been extremely disappointed when they were forced to abort due to an “internal failure” on their No. 1 engine.  They were not awarded sortie credit.

Four days later on June 10th, their second attempt to start their combat tour was successful when the group’s target was a Luftwaffe airfield near Chateaudun, France.  Seven additional missions, including the crew’s second abortive attempt on June 20th, followed.

On June 29th, the groups’ last mission of the month, navigator 2Lt Irwin Eiring was assigned to fly with the Perkinson Crew who were on their second mission.  Eiring was filling in for Perkinson’s navigator who had been hospitalized with a sinus infection.  They too had an Instructor Pilot on this day, 1Lt Robert Hannaman, one of the 755BS Operations Officers.  They experienced mechanical difficulties, losing an engine while crossing the Channel, but elected to continue.  Over the target they lost another engine, and were forced to bail out shortly thereafter.  The entire crew was captured fairly quickly and spent the rest of the war as POWs.

The Ruark Crew kept busy throughout the summer, flying eight missions in July and ten in August. By mid-September they had amassed 28 of their required 30 combat sorties. However, their last two would have to wait for more than a month as the 458th, along with several other 2nd Bombardment Division Liberator groups, were pulled from combat operations in order to ferry gasoline to Patton’s army in France.  Ruark participated in no less than nine of these “Truckin’” flights, hauling several thousand gallons of gas in their wings tanks and specially designed tanks in the bomb bays.  Flights began at Horsham and ended at recently captured Luftwaffe airfields at either St. Dizier or Lille, France.  The crews received no credit for these “missions” which, given the excess of fuel on board, and the B-24’s known propensity to have less than ideal (leaky) fuel systems,  were deemed by some of the airmen as more hazardous than combat!  The group did lose seven aircraft and two crews during these operations.  On September 30th, Ruark and Childs are listed in Special Orders going on “Air Crew Leave”.  It is possible that the rest of the crew also went on leave at this same time although records do not indicate this.

October saw the group back on combat status, but Ruark did not fly until the 19th.  Ruark’s last recorded mission was on October 26th to bomb the Mitteland Canal Aqueduct near Minden, Germany.

On October 23, 1944 the 458th underwent a massive reorganization of crews.  The 755BS was designated for lead crews only. All lead crews in the other three squadrons were moved into the 755th and all non-lead crews in the 755th were distributed to the other three squadrons.  In all, 34 crews were transferred throughout the group.  Ruark and Childs are listed as moving from the 755BS to the 752BS, but none of the rest of the crew were listed on these orders.  Instead, there were several men from another crew, and some individual replacements that made the move with Ruark and Childs. Three of the crewmen had been part of the Humke Crew, one of those lost during Truckin’ Operations.  These three gunners did not fly on the date the rest of their crew was lost.  Three additional crewmen on the movement orders had been assigned in August and October, coming to the 458th as individual replacements, not as a part of a crew.  After Ruark flew his final mission a few days after the move, these six enlisted men on the movement orders with him, flew with a variety of other pilots.

The only thing known for certain about the rest of the original Ruark crew is that they finished their missions.  Two of the gunners, S/Sgts Gordon Bybee and Donald Friesen are shown being transferred to the AFRD (Replacement Depot) in September 1944, having “completed a combat tour”.  The rest of the crew, Lt Robert Jones, T/Sgt Merritt Neil, T/Sgt Emerson Goodman, and S/Sgt Robert Russell, followed in October, their tours also complete.

Family members of co-pilot Theodore Childs mention that he was wounded on one of his missions, although I can find nothing in available records to indicate when this might have occurred.  Childs was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for completing a combat tour in January. This gap between the completion of his tour and the rest of his crew may be explained by a period of convalescence after being wounded.


Date Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn Serial RCL Sqdn A/C Msn A/C Name Comments
06-Jun-44 COASTAL AREAS, FRA 56 ABT 41-28735 V J3 -- V ABORT - Ruark CP
10-Jun-44 CHATEAUDUN 61 1 41-29300 Y J3 29 LORELEI  
14-Jun-44 DOMLEGER 65 2 41-29300 Y J3 30 LORELEI  
15-Jun-44 GUYANCOURT 66 3 42-52441 I J3 32 LAST CARD LOUIE  
18-Jun-44 FASSBERG A/D 69 4 41-29300 Y J3 31 LORELEI MSN #1
19-Jun-44 REGNAUVILLE 72 5 42-95183 U J3 9 BRINEY MARLIN MSN #2
25-Jun-44 ST. OMER 80 6 42-50320 W J3 24 UNKNOWN 018  
28-Jun-44 SAARBRUCKEN 81 7 41-29300 Y J3 33 LORELEI  
02-Jul-44 COUBRONNE 83 8 42-95050 J 7V 25 GAS HOUSE MOUSE  
05-Jul-44 LE COULET, BEL A/F 84 9 42-50320 W J3 27 UNKNOWN 018  
06-Jul-44 KIEL 85 ABT 42-50320 W J3 -- UNKNOWN 018 ABORT - #3 ENGINE
07-Jul-44 LUTZKENDORF 86 10 42-52441 I J3 37 LAST CARD LOUIE  
08-Jul-44 ANIZY, FRANCE 87 11 42-52441 I J3 38 LAST CARD LOUIE  
13-Jul-44 SAARBRUCKEN 90 12 42-50320 W J3 28 UNKNOWN 018  
16-Jul-44 SAARBRUCKEN 91 13 42-100311 A 7V 34 YOKUM BOY  
17-Jul-44 3 NO BALLS 92 14 41-29342 S J3 31 ROUGH RIDERS  
24-Jul-44 ST. LO AREA 97 15 42-52441 I J3 42 LAST CARD LOUIE  
03-Aug-44 2 NO BALLS 102 16 42-50320 W J3 33 UNKNOWN 018  
04-Aug-44 ROSTOCK 103 17 42-50320 W J3 34 UNKNOWN 018  
05-Aug-44 BRUNSWICK/WAGGUM 105 18 42-50320 W J3 35 UNKNOWN 018 COMPOSITE w/466BG
07-Aug-44 GHENT 107 19 42-50320 W J3 37 UNKNOWN 018  
09-Aug-44 SAARBRUCKEN 109 20 42-50320 W J3 39 UNKNOWN 018  
11-Aug-44 STRASBOURG 110 21 42-100407 R J3 39 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
12-Aug-44 MOURMELON 111 22 42-52441 I J3 47 LAST CARD LOUIE  
15-Aug-44 VECHTA 114 23 42-95120 M J3 39 HOOKEM COW / BETTY  
18-Aug-44 WOIPPY 116 24 42-95183 U J3 34 BRINEY MARLIN  
24-Aug-44 HANNOVER 117 25 42-50320 W J3 40 UNKNOWN 018  
26-Aug-44 DULMEN 120 ABT 41-29288 L J3 -- BIG-TIME OPERATOR ABORT - #3 TURBO
05-Sep-44 KARLSRUHE 122 26 42-50320 W J3 42 UNKNOWN 018 ABORT - SORTIE CRED
08-Sep-44 KARLSRUHE 123 27 42-95316 N J3 44 PRINCESS PAT  
11-Sep-44 MAGDEBURG 126 28 42-100407 R J3 48 LITTLE LAMBSY DIVEY  
25-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR08-1 -- 42-99997 P 755 T4 NOT 458TH SHIP 1ST FLIGHT
25-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR08-2 -- 42-99997 P 755 T5 NOT 458TH SHIP 2ND FLIGHT
26-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR09 -- 42-99997 P 755 T6 NOT 458TH SHIP TRUCKIN' MISSION
27-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR10 -- 42-99997 P 755 T7 NOT 458TH SHIP TRUCKIN' MISSION
28-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR11 -- 42-99997 P 755 T8 NOT 458TH SHIP TRUCKIN' MISSION
29-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR12 -- 42-99997 P 755 T10 NOT 458TH SHIP 2ND FLIGHT
29-Sep-44 HSF to LILLE TR12 -- 42-99997 P 755 T9 NOT 458TH SHIP 1ST FLIGHT
19-Oct-44 MAINZ 136 29 42-51206 S 7V 9 THE PIED PIPER  
26-Oct-44 MINDEN 138 30 42-95316 H 7V 49 PRINCESS PAT

1Lt Theodore Q. Childs – January 1945

(Courtesy: Childs’ Family)