DK Williams Crew – Assigned 753rd Squadron – November 17, 1944

Standing: Donald Williams – P, Charles Russell – CP, Thomas Hanley – N, Gerard Boucher – B
Kneeling: Stanford Huff – G, John McDermott – BTG, Roland Porter – RO, Carl Peterson – TG, Conrad Schmidt – E, Leonard Wood – NTG
(Photo: Gerard Boucher)

Flying at the End of Hostilities

 Rank  Name  Serial #  Crew Pos Date  Status  Comments
1Lt Donald K Williams 0775685 Pilot 25-Apr-45 FEH Last Mission
1Lt Charles M Russell 0831812 Co-pilot 17-May-45 FEH Trsf to 754BS
2Lt Thomas E Hanley III T129675 Navigator 25-Apr-45 FEH Last Mission
2Lt Gerard J Boucher T5394 Bombardier 25-Apr-45 FEH Last Mission
T/Sgt Roland S Porter III 11120780 Radio Operator 25-Apr-45 FEH Last Mission
T/Sgt Conrad J Schmidt 33729130 Flight Engineer 25-Apr-45 FEH Last Mission
S/Sgt John J McDermott 13200439 Ball Turret Gunner 25-Apr-45 FEH Last Mission
S/Sgt Carl E Peterson 16188015 Tail Turret Gunner 25-Apr-45 FEH Last Mission
Sgt Leonard E Wood 15313758 Nose Turret Gunner 23-Feb-45 KIA Flying w/Bechtel-Collision
S/Sgt Stanford W Huff 32920706 Armorer-Gunner 25-Apr-45 FEH Last Mission

2Lt Donald K. Williams crew was originally assigned to the 753rd Squadron.  Their first mission was to Koblenz on January 1, 1945.  On February 10, 1945 the crew was transferred to the 755th Squadron to be a lead crew.  Since the nose turret would now be occupied by a pilotage navigator, Sgt. Leonard E. Wood, the nose turret gunner, was transferred to the crew of 1Lt Russell J. Bechtel and he remained in the 753rd Squadron.  It was a fateful move. 
Not two weeks later, on February 23, 1945, while approaching the base on return from a mission over Germany, Bechtel’s B-24 collided with another 458th Liberator flown by 2Lt Daniel F. Hunt, Jr. and crew of the 754th Squadron.  Both aircraft broke apart in the clouds and crashed about ten miles north of Horsham St, Faith.  Leonard Wood and the rest of Bechtel’s crew were killed and only three men out of nine were able to bail out of Hunt’s aircraft.
Williams crew flew their first mission in the 755th the next day, February 24, 1945 to Bielefeld marshalling yards.  They flew 21 missions altogether, including the last flown by the 458th on April 25, 1945 leading the group before combat operations ceased.


Date Target 458th Msn Pilot Msn Cmd Pilot Ld Serial Last 3 Sqdn A/C Msn A/C Name Comments
12-Dec-44 HANAU 156 1     41-28980 980 J4 14 UNKNOWN 009  
25-Dec-44 PRONSFELD 158 2     42-110163 163 J4 40 TIME'S A WASTIN  
28-Dec-44 ST. WENDEL 160 3     42-110163 163 J4 42 TIME'S A WASTIN  
01-Jan-45 KOBLENZ 163 4     44-40277 277 J4 31 MISS USED  
03-Jan-45 NEUNKIRCHEN 165 5     42-50449 449 J4 30 HEAVENLY HIDEAWAY  
10-Jan-45 SCHONBERG 168 6     44-40118 118 J4 26 WE'LL GET BY  
13-Jan-45 KAISERLAUTERN 169 7     41-28980 980 J4 17 UNKNOWN 009  
16-Jan-45 MAGDEBURG 171 8     42-50555 555 J4 13 BABY SHOES  
29-Jan-45 MUNSTER 175 9     42-110163 163 J4 50 TIME'S A WASTIN  
06-Feb-45 MAGDEBURG 178 MSHL     --   -- --   MARSHALING CHIEF
24-Feb-45 BIELEFELD 188 10     44-10618 618 J3 4 UNKNOWN 038  
27-Feb-45 HALLE 191 11     42-50516 516 J3 23 STARDUST  
02-Mar-45 MAGDEBURG 194 12     44-10618 618 J3 6 UNKNOWN 038  
05-Mar-45 HARBURG 197 13     42-50504 504 J3 27 UNKNOWN 019  
17-Mar-45 HANNOVER 205 14     42-50684 684 J3 13 A&G FISH SHOPPE  
19-Mar-45 LEIPHEIM 207 22     42-50608 608 J3 24 FILTHY McNAUGHTY  
21-Mar-45 HESEPE 209 15   L2 42-51936 936 J3 22 UNKNOWN 027  
31-Mar-45 BRUNSWICK 216 16   L3 44-48837 837 J3 22 UNKNOWN 041  
05-Apr-45 PLAUEN 218 17     42-51939 939 J3 30 UNKNOWN 028  
07-Apr-45 KRUMMEL 220 18   L2 42-51743 743 J3 32 UNKNOWN 006  
09-Apr-45 LECHFELD 222 19 BLACK D1 44-48837 837 J3 27 UNKNOWN 041  
15-Apr-45 ROYAN AREA 226 20 RUE D1 44-49261 261 J3 19 UNKNOWN 042  
19-Apr-45 ZWIESEL SCR -- ANDERSON D1 44-50892 892 J3 -- UNKNOWN 055 SCRUBBED
25-Apr-45 BAD REICHENHALL 230 21 HERZBERG L1 44-49910 910 J3 10 UNKNOWN 044 Maj Lavell CP

February 23, 1945

Approximately 1527 on 23 Feb 45 B-24 449 and B-24 596, in formation with the 458th Bomb Group, collided in mid-air about ten (10) miles north of AAF Station 123.  Altitude at time of collision was about 16,500 feet, visibility about 1 mile reduced to 200-300 feet in clouds.

Ship 596 was flying #3 position and ship #449 was flying #4 position ion the hole element of the second squadron.  Just before the accident the element leader had aborted, and no one had assumed the lead.  All ships were flying their relative position when a layer of dense clouds were entered.  A few seconds later, as reported by the survivors of ship #596, another ship appeared very close just below their left wing.  Almost immediately the ships came together.

The right wing of ship #449 was torn off and it evidently went into a spin immediately.  the ship was destroyed by fire.

Ship #596 crashed about 1-1/2 miles from #449.  It was scattered over a large area and appeared to have broken up several thousand feet above the ground.

Cause of accident 100% unknown

Recommendations: None.

B-24H 42-50449 J4 W  Heavenly Hideaway

2Lt Milton Feldman became a POW on June 29, 1944 while flying with another crew.

Wreckage of #449, Heavenly Hideaway (left); and #596, Hell’s Angel’(right)

Sgt Leonard E. Wood

The following letter was written by the 458BG Adjutant, Captain Charles R. Carter, to the mother of Sgt Wood (right).  Interesting to note the letterhead on the original letter.

Mrs. E. M. Wood
212 5th Street
Middleport, Ohio

My Dear Mrs. Wood:

It is with profound sorrow that I extend to you, on behalf of the Officers and enlisted men of the 753rd Bombardment Squadron (H), my heartfelt sympathy on the death of your son, Sgt. Leonard E. Wood, 15313758, who was killed in action while participating in a combat mission against the enemy on 23 February 1945.

Your son’s plane was returning from an aerial mission over Germany when, due to weather conditions and poor visibility, it collided with another airplane.  The plane crashed near Hunts Farm, Speyton, Norfolk, England.  The entire crew was killed.

We who have been privileged to know and serve with your son in this campaign, share your loss, but we share too, the pride you must feel in him.  Leonard was laid to rest at an American cemetery, Cambridge, England, in a burial ceremony at which a Protestant Chaplain officiated.  His final resting place will forever be hallowed ground to those of us who remain to carry on the struggle for which he gave his life.

The Commanding Officer expresses the earnest hope that you will be consoled by the knowledge that you son died courageously, a credit to his Family, his Squadron and his Country.

Charles R. Carter
Captain, Air Corps

Shadow box with Wood’s Air Medals and Purple Heart, wings and what appears to be an identification disc.  The items at bottom right which include a dog tag and a ring were retrieved from the wreckage of his aircraft.

Sgt Leonard Wood’s headstone at Riverview Cemetery, MiddleportMeigs CountyOhioUSA as it appeared in 1945 (left) and today.
BORN NOV. 10, 1925
(All items courtesy Wayne Wood)