458th Bombardment Group (H)

“BIG DICK” Hard to hit

B-24J-100-CO 42-100433 J3 B

The only known photo of the nose art on “BIG DICK” Hard to hit

Shot down  August 6, 1944 – MACR 7891

BIG DICK”, Hard to hit was not an original group aircraft, but came to Horsham St. Faith prior to the group’s first combat mission on March 2, 1944. On March 3rd, Capt Royce B. Glenn and his lead crew in the 755th Squadron flew this aircraft on the raid to Berlin, which was abandoned due to weather just after crossing the enemy coast. Over the next five months several crews flew “BIG DICK” Hard to hit on 37 combat missions with only two aborted attempts.  Capt Glenn and crew flew it on 23 of their 32 credited sorties.  On August 6, 1944 Lt Thomas E. Hancock and crew were shot down over Hamburg while flying this aircraft as deputy lead.  Ten of the twelve crew members were KIA.


DateTargetPilot458th MsnPilot MsnCmd PilotLdRCLSqdnA/C MsnComments
21-Mar-44WATTEN, near ST. OMERBITTLER106BJ35
22-Apr-44HAMM M/YWHITLOW2511BJ311
09-May-44ST. TRONDGLENN3818BJ319
29-May-44TUTOW A/FMcNAMARA5017BJ325
25-Jul-44ST. LO AREA "B"BRUMBY989BJ335

March 22, 1944

Left: Capt Royce Glenn and crew (73) pose in front of B-24J 42-100433 upon return from Berlin.  Nose art has not yet been applied and the navigator’s window is an early modification that would be changed to a round window at some point in the future. Right: Major Donald Jamison, 755BS Commanding Officer, in the co-pilot’s seat. The crew flew in the deputy lead position on this date, with Major Jamison as command pilot.

T/Sgt David W. Colwell

Following is a copy of the summary of the recommendation for the “Bronze Star” for technical Sergeant David W. Colwell, 39091473.

T/Sgt Colwell has been crew chief of airplane B-24, 42-100433 from 24 February 1944 to 3 July 1944.  From the first training mission through 30 consecutive combat missions, Sergeant Colwell’s aircraft has not had to turn back due to an mechanical failure.  On the 31st mission, an abortion occurred due to an internal engine failure that resulted in a dangerously low oil pressure for the weight of the bomb load carried.

Sergeant Colwell’s airplane has participated in many deep penetrations of the continent which consist of 5 missions to the Berlin area, 12 missions to central Germany, 1 trip to Biarritz, France, and 5 missions to the coastal area of France.

Sergeant Colwell’s aircraft has had the usual amount of battle damage which necessitated rapid, careful repair work.  Many of these repair jobs have been completed in a minimum amount of time with a skeleton crew under very trying climatic conditions.  At the time of the abortion of aircraft 433, it had flown 383 combat hours without an engine change which is a direct result of careful maintenance and a thorough knowledge of aircraft engines.

Sergeant Colwell has shown untiring effort, application of technical skill and devotion to duty in keeping the airplane assigned to him in perfect mechanical condition.  He has, by his leadership and resourcefulness, inspired his ground crew to the highest degree of efficiency which has greatly influenced the morale of the combat crew flying this aircraft.  Sergeant Colwell, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services as crew chief of a ground crew responsible for the maintenance of a heavy bombardment aircraft, has been a credit to himself and the armed forces of the United States.

755th Squadron records May/June 1944

August 6, 1944

August 6, 1944 Mission Oil-Hamburg, Germany.
John E. Chamberlain, Captain USAAF
Assistant Group Operations, 458th Bomb Group


I was assigned 458 BG as a pilot and assistant group operations officer along with Captain Charles H. Booth. One of our jobs as Asst. Group Ops. was to brief the missions. We would take turns. I would brief a mission and Chuck would be free to fly. Then Chuck would brief and I could fly. It was my turn to fly this time. Chuck brief. As staff officers we were not assigned crews. When we were assigned to fly a mission it was as a command pilot in command of a flight of more than one aircraft. The command pilot would sit in the right seat assume copilot duties and take command of the entire flight. The left seat was flown by the lead crew pilot especially trained with the crew for the job.

On Aug 6 Chuck briefed and as I had forgotten my binoculars lent me his. To this day whenever we make contact the very first comment he makes is to bitch about my never returning his binoculars. Tom Hancock crew was assigned as lead crew this mission. I was to fly as command pilot.

On Aug 6 Chuck briefed and as I had forgotten my binoculars lent me his. To this day whenever we make contact the very first comment he makes is to bitch about my never returning his binoculars. Tom Hancock crew was assigned as lead crew this mission. I was to fly as command pilot.

The flight to target was not too eventful as best as I can recall. A couple areas of flak. I don’t remember any fighters. As we approached the target however the sky was unbelievable. A solid mass of black flack bursts. We hit the IP on schedule and turned on our planned heading to the target. Time has dimmed the memory a little but at 15 seconds from bomb release – hard to describe there was a crunch we seemed to stop in mid air. An airplane to a pilot is a living operating entity of which you are apart of-this life suddenly stopped and became just a hunk of junk. No controls no nothing. Over my left shoulder I could see fire. To get a better look I opened my seat belt. A bad mistake. The ship flipped and I was thrown bobbing about like a ping-pong ball. The ship turning over and over. Flying about I could see the wings both come off. Suddenly I could see Tom flying about with me. He was able to open the top hatch. One second it would be above me-to the side-next below. Tom would try to help me thru the hatch. The ship would flip and I would fly off someplace. I would try to help him thru the hatch. The ship would flip again. Tom would be thrown aside.

Finally after it seemed an eternity I felt myself falling back towards the flame in the bomb bay. There was a gigantic burst of light and I felt myself blacking out. Time passed don’t know how long. I woke up falling through the air on my back. My first thought was. God I must be about to hit the ground. Get that chute open. I pulled the rip chord and chute opened with a jerk. It jerked my flight boots off and I subsequently walked over a lot of Germany with out any shoes.

We were bombing at 23,000 feet I believe. Thereabout anyway. When my parachute opened it looked to be at around 800 or 900 ft. above the ground. At that period of time there were three types of parachutes in use. A chest type that had to be clamped when needed to the harness that the person wore, a seat type and a back pack – both fastened to their harness in those respective positions permanently and worn at all times. They stayed with you at all times but were awkward to move about with. Tom and I were both flying with backpacks, which stayed with us when we were blown out of the airplane. The ship spun and blew up so fast after being hit that there was no time for any one to find and clamp on a chest pack. All other crew members may have been wearing chest packs, as they needed to be able to move about. Exception! Ball turret gunner. Tail turret? Don’t know. Upon opening my chute the first thing I remember was how quiet it was. No aircraft no guns. Dead quiet. Then I could hear small arm fire.

Looking down I could see a person walking out of a large pond of shallow water. It turned out to be Tom. He had his arms above his head. I could see a small group standing on the bank. They were shooting into the water about him. I later found him to be unharmed. They must have been trying to scare him. I don’t see how they could miss at that distance. Looking about I saw a small group of people were running towards me. They would stop and shoot at me with small arms. I found myself trying to remember. How do you steer a parachute? Try to make a difficult target. I tried pulling here and there on the lines. Swinging. Nothing seemed to have much effect. Again they must not have been really trying to hit me because nothing touched me. I know I would not have missed had I been pulling the trigger. Descending in the chute I seemed to kinda black out briefly now and then but assessing for injuries I found a large flap of my scalp torn loose hanging down over my forehead. I patted it back in place I found that a piece of shrapnel had pierced the palm of my right hand between the 4th and 5th metacarpal to exit and was sticking out of the dorsal surface of the hand. I pulled it out of my hand and was going to save it as a souvenir but I passed out and lost it. I don’t remember landing on the ground.

The next thing I knew I was standing on the ground with my parachute off. An old guy in civilian clothes had me by the arm and was yelling at me in German. My immediate reaction was to shake him off. He fell to the ground. That precipitated a loud burst of screams. There was a deep slit trench to the right of my feet. It was filled with women and children all screaming like mad. I suppose I did look pretty rough with my scalp half pulled off and blood all over me. At that 20 or 25 German soldiers in dull blue uniforms and a few young boys in uniform all armed with rifles or burp guns pointed at me came running up. All yelling but no one pulled a trigger. They corralled both Tom and I and marched us off with hands over our heads. Ever try holding hands over your head for a prolonged period of time? Exhausting. After a time we were allowed to place hands on head. At least that is what we did and no one objected. They marched us a ways to a covered air raid shelter dug out of the ground with two bunks carved out of the sidewalls. It had an open door and slit cut out for a window. They shoved us inside and posted a guard with a rifle at the open door. We flopped down on the bunks. I passed out again. Later I was shaken awake by someone who was speaking in English. It was dark out. He asked if I was beaten by the troops or was I injured in the crash. I told him it was the crash. He stuck a cigarette into my mouth and lit it. I remember nothing more until I woke up.

It was day. The cigarette was burnt out between my fingers. They rousted us out. We were put into a truck. A rather large one with stake type sides. It was filed with straw. They had us climb in on top of the straw. We soon discovered that there were dead bodies under the straw. They drove into Hamburg to a large cemetery. Don’t remember seeing any headstones. There were large piles of dead bodies in all stages of decomposition stacked everywhere. We were forced to pull off the straw and set about trying to identify the remains. Most bodies were in pieces and badly mangled. Very difficult to identify. Some had dog tags. Most did not. Tom tried to identify those who did not. I was not much help as not being a member of Tom’s crew I had never known any of them before this. Two members were missing. We did not tell the Germans who in case they had evaded. We told the Red Cross later after enough time had elapsed to facilitate escape – if by some miracle they had. The Germans then had us carry the remains over to an empty spot. We did so. I said a little prayer.

We were then loaded back onto the truck and we drove farther into Hamburg. They drove us around for a while showing us the terrible destruction we and our kind had done. We were delighted to see the beating we were giving them. They drove us to a building and put us with a group of other prisoners shot down elsewhere. One poor guy was lying on a blanket unable to stand or walk. He had landed in his parachute among a group of civilians. He had been stabbed numerous times with ice picks or screwdrivers. I was ranking officer in the group. I complained to everyone I could find demanding medical help. After a 2-day wait they took him away to a hospital they said. I never saw him again. We were in a few days taken to Dulag Luft, an interrogation center in Frankfurt on the Main. Another story.


Courtesy: John Chamberlain, 2003


B-24J-100 CO 42-100433 “BIG DICK” HARD TO HIT
RCL: B J3 (755)

Accident at Morrison AAF, West Palm Beach, FL, on 22 Jan 44.
Lead aircraft.
Lost 6 Aug 44. (Hamburg)
MACR 7891

(Info Courtesy: Tom Brittan)