458th Bombardment Group (H)

Ford’s Folly

B-24H-15-FO 42-52515 H

The only known picture of this aircraft, shortly after group and squadron markings had been applied in February 1944.  The aircraft, said to have been named Ford’s Folly, flew only three missions, the first two on February 24 & 25, 1944 on diversions to the Dutch Coast and North Sea; and one combat mission on which it was lost – March 6, 1944.
(From the collection of  James Archie Harper, courtesy of the James and Harper families)

Shot down March 6, 1944 – MACR 3351

On March 6, 1944, the 458BG took of on its fourth combat mission of the war.  2Lt Guy C. Rogers and crew in the 754BS were assigned B-24H-15-FO 42-52515, possibly nicknamed Ford’s Folly.  This was the crew’s first mission.

Their aircraft was hit by flak over Lake Gindow, about 10 miles southwest of Berlin, puncturing a fuel tank and starting a fire on the flight deck.  It exploded very shortly afterwards blowing Rogers and Proteau out of the plane.  The other eight crewmen never got out, the plane and crew came down in Lake Glindow, about 40km southwest of Berlin.  A number of 458th crews witnessed this and told the debriefing officers about it.  The bodies of several crewmen were still being found on the lake shore as late as June 1944.

Co-pilot, Lt Francis Proteau, stated that he was blown free of the ship when it exploded in mid-air.  In his questionnaire on MACR 3351, Proteau stated that his last contact with Radio Operator, S/Sgt Leroy Smith was, “I told him just prior to the explosion to, ‘Get out!’, to which he replied, ‘I can’t!'”  Proteau was attempting to open the top hatch to assist Engineer, S/Sgt Raymond Fiebiger out when the plane exploded.


DateTargetPilot458th MsnPilot MsnRCLSqdnA/C MsnComments
24-Feb-44DUTCH COASTRAITERD1----Z5D1Diversion Mission
25-Feb-44DUTCH COASTSCHULZED2----Z5D2Diversion Mission

Post War Recovery

An email in September 2012 brought the following information to light:

As I adopted the grave of Sgt Marvin Lademan 458 bomb group. I found some very interesting info about the crash, eye witness report [translated below] and hopefully some pictures of the engines of Ford Follies B24…they laid down in the lake where the plane crashed. In 1999 the Germans salvaged three engines and one of them is in a museum.

Kind regards
Jan de Kock

“On 6 March 1944, the Americans flew the largest daylight raid on Berlin and the surrounding industrial areas. At 12.47 clock, there was general alarm in Berlin. The offensive formations consisted of four-engine B-17 (Flying Fortress), B-24 “Liberator” and long-range fighters. After the attack, about 120 machines came south out of Berlin, including over Potsdam area. There was heavy fire Flack and violent counter-attacks of the German fighters.

“At 13.45 clock flew a burning four-engine B-24 “Liberator” over the city Weder towards Glindow. Just five minutes later there was a massive explosion and the bomber crashed into the lake Glindower. Some crew members were thrown out. Two of the parachute opened just yet and landed on the land, other sank into the lake. According to the surviving pilot Rogers consisted the crew of ten men, most of them not experienced or long term trained…that why not many parachutes opened.

“The pilot landed badly injured on a piece of farmland near Petzow. Immediately there came a man on a horse under saddle and tried to kill the pilot with his horse.. Of course, the animal refused. It was the owner of the field, who was also known for his behavior and even harmless mushroom pickers drove the gun from his forest. He’s probably not escaped his punishment …

“The pilot Rogers came to interrogation by members of the airfield Werder in the air force hospital Berlin Reinickendorf. He lost his right leg after an
emergency operation and was able to recover before the war ended in January 1945 in exchange for German pilots to return to America.The second survivor, the co-pilot came Proteau, a year after the war ended with a simple car accident [actually a flying accident].”

1999 succeeded the Zweiradmuseum Werder, who had gone in search of the traces of the past, with a lot of effort and skill, volunteer help and a little luck, the rescue of three engines of the B24 from Pratt & Whitney (14-cylindrical radial engines) from approximately seven meters depth. One of these engines is now a ground monument, also documented by numerous reports in the two-wheeler and Technology Museum Werder

Crash Over Glindow

The following is an excerpt from the book, Crash Over Glindow, by Klaus-Peter Meissner.  It was translated from German using Google Translate.

We already know that only two parachutes were sighted in the sky above Glindower See on that March 1944 day.  Two temporarily saved!  Eight young men were unable to leave the burning and then exploding plane alive.  Seven of them were in the first enemy operation.  What they knew so far were practice flights and training. Did [they] accompany fear on [their] way across the Atlantic?  Did you think of your loved ones at home?  They sensed that there would be no way back.  How were the mothers and widows who received the prepared Air Force letters?  Anyway: there were eight young lives that were wiped out there.  The rubble of the “Ford’s Folly” was found in a large area. A hull fell on the island in Glindower See. To the east of the lake one of the wings was found on a meadow. Because there was still a thin ice sheet on the lake,  – as in the surrounding gardens one could make out numerous smaller debris from the machine, not far from the island – where the three engines were later found – the ice was largely destroyed.
The fuselage of the “Ford’s Folly” was recovered in March 1944. The German aggressor needed all kinds of material to support his armor. In addition, it should be determined as soon as possible whether there were bombs on board the B-24, which will soon be excluded.  The rescue team found five dead crew members in the fuselage, three had been thrown out of the machine on impact, and only the radio operator Smith and the Navigator Hightower could be identified by the rescue teams on the basis of documents and identification tags carried alongIt was only after he returned to the United States that Rogers learned the truth that was now final for him.  He had guessed that only he and his copilot [Proteau] had survived.  But what can you do against the last spark of hope?  Extract from a letter from Rogers to the mother of Lower Rifle Marvin J. Lademan, written on April 9, 1945. “Dear Ms. Lademan, …I tried to find some information about the rest of the boys while I was in Germany,  but I was not very successful.  The war department was also unable to give me any news.  I think Marvin is unlikely to have survived the explosion, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible.  I know the tension is worse than the certainty … I think a lot about Marvin, Ms. Lademan.  He was a good boy … May God be with you!”
terrible certainty that his childhood friends, along with the other six comrades, had also died near this small town of Werder (Havel) – near a town he had never heard of before.  What would be better, he said, than to keep in close contact with his friends’ families.  He managed that until the end of his life.
The young widows of Hightower and Root Jr., Marjorie and Bernice, later remarried and started families.  In memory of her husband, Marjorie kept her name: Marjorie Higthower Kraabel.  She turned 93 and died in Missoula in September 2013.  Bernice married in 1949 and was henceforth called Kellogg.  She died in August 2014, also 93 years old.  Guy [Rogers] got tragic news a year after his return.  His co-pilot and friend Francis Proteau, whom he was so pleased to save, died in an accident during field work near Great Falls.  Francis had remained loyal to aviation.  After being released from the Air Force, he worked as an agricultural pilot.  His single-engine machine crashed while applying pesticides.  She touched a (German?) Oak on the approach.  Fate had saved him from dying over Nazi Germany in the explosion of [their] “Liberator” – now the technology of his otherwise reliable machine failed. His wife was expecting [their] first child together, a son, as was shown three months later.
And one more thing: Francis’ father and brother had worked on Wake Island, a small atoll in the western Pacific since 1941. They were civilians involved in the construction of a base for the US Navy, and on September 11, 1941 the Japanese attacked Wake Island.  Father and son were taken prisoner in Japan and taken to a prison camp near Fukuoka in Japan, where the rapporteur (also a prisoner of the diary of an American Japanese citizen) learned from the US Naval Institute Annapolis website that Father and Brother was used in inhumane conditions to build a dam, and both died of debilitation. The brother, Lawrence H. Proteau on March 23, 1943, his father, George Francis Proteau, a few days later, on March 30.  This non-attributable war had wiped out an entire family! 


B-24H-15 FO 42-52515 FORD’S FOLLY
RCL: H (754)

Original aircraft.

Lost 6 Mar 44 – crashed near Petzow, just to the west of Berlin, after being shot down by flak over the target causing the aircraft to explode. (Berlin)

(Info Courtesy: Tom Brittan)