447th Bomb Group Association
Rattlesden, early 1944
(As assigned Nov 8, 1943)
Lt Wesley C. Hudson
Lt Willard B. Corley
Lt Norman Bishusky
Lt Joseph C. Hendrix
S/Sgt Edward J. Kelly
S/Sgt Donald M. Jungenberg
Sgt Leo A. St. Laurent
Pvt Burton L. Wilson
Sgt Charles E. Gorman
Sgt James E. Penwell
Russell Chase, of the Hopla crew, has provided the following account.
Our crew (Hopla) exited the plane at the end of the runway. We were blocking traffic, so the exchange (with the Hudson crew) took seconds. We were to fly Spare plane, Spare crew that day.
Hoppy, Charles, Tom and Fred were immediately picked up by a Jeep. Bill and Willy walked in to briefing Bldg. Bob, Tom Price, Wayne and myself remained with our equipment, for a truck.
While they were rearranging our gear, I watched Hudson takeoff all the way through the explosion. It happened so fast I finally got Shumates attention as the wings, now tinsel, sprinkled to the ground. Since we just exited the plane, we speculated explosion occurred from smoking on takeoff, from the exhaust of superchargers. That was March 27, 1944.
That was a huge explosion considering not only explosives, but add full load of bombs, full tanks of aviation gas, etc. The locals' thought the plane was over their farms because plane parts landed everywhere, which mislead the investigators. We were never questioned. Hudson began a turn to the right, but never executed the turn.
Base security was tight so we were not allowed near the crash sight.
In 1992 we attended the 50th year anniversary, and in the lounge, in the control tower, was a picture of Hudson's crew. I remarked, out loud, whatever happened to Hudson's crew and immediately drew a crowd. Tom Eastman, pilot we all knew well, became Capt of 708 Security and reported 2 German parachutes were located on the base. They suspect explosives were placed in the wheelwells. When wheels retracted the explosives detonated. The remainder of the crowd present were members of the band, who also serve as backup Security force. They reported each were assigned a B17 to guard all night, with orders to shoot without warning. One was shot, and killed, they report, who had no ID. The band was on duty every night for 3 weeks, as confirmed by all, approximately 10 present, who remembered their nights of duty.
I saw the War Dept report, which is not accurate, and understandable. If the word SABOTAGE were to leak to the masses, some would never fly again.