W.H. Johnson Crew

to 11/43  Harvard AAB, Nebraska
11/43 in transit by air
11/43 - 4/44 711th Sqdn, Rattlesden
(Original crew)
Missions Flown:  20
Assigned Aircraft:  42-31161 Spare Parts

The W.H. Johnson crew 
with 42-31161 Spare Parts

(Order uncertain)
Lt. W.H. Johnson, P
Lt. Harold W. Whitely, CP
Lt. WIlliam S. Fancher, N
Lt. George H. Ney, B
Sgt Frank J. Hazzard, ENG
S/Sgt John A. Higgins, ROG
S/Sgt Kenneth L. Zieger
Sgt Elbert J. Williams
Sgt Paul E. Simpson
S/Sgt Peter Bartkus, TG

No Date Target Aircraft
1 1/11/1944 BRUNSWICK 42-31161 Spare Parts
2 1/29/1944 FRANKFURT 42-31161 Spare Parts
3 2/3/1944 WILHELMSHAVEN 42-31161 Spare Parts
4 2/4/1944 FRANKFURT 42-31161 Spare Parts
5 2/10/1944 BRUNSWICK 42-31161 Spare Parts
6 2/21/1944 DIEPHOLZ 42-31161 Spare Parts
7 2/25/1944 REGENSBURG 42-97501 Gum Chum
8 3/3/1944 BERLIN - RECALL 42-31161 Spare Parts
9 3/4/1944 BERLIN - RECALL 42-31161 Spare Parts
10 3/8/1944 BERLIN 42-39886
11 3/13/1944 NOBALL NO. 74 BOIS DE LA JUSTICE 42-31161 Spare Parts
12 3/15/1944 BRUNSWICK 42-31161 Spare Parts
13 3/16/1944 AUGSBURG (See story below) 42-31161 Spare Parts
14 3/23/1944 BRUNSWICK 42-31161 Spare Parts
15 3/26/1944 NOBALL NO. 93 LA SORELLERIE 42-31161 Spare Parts
16 3/27/1944 MARIGNAC CHARTRES 42-31161 Spare Parts
17 4/1/44 LUDWIGSHAFEN 42-31161 Spare Parts
19 4/11/44 ARNIMSWALDE 42-97176
20 4/13/44 AUGSBURG 42-31719

 

From the Public Relation Office, Rattlesden, 16 March 1944

     AN EIGHTH AAF BOMBER BASE, England -- The "Flying Fortress, "Spare Parts" almost became just that on a recent bombing mission over Augsburg. A shot out engine, loose prop and leaking oil tanks were a few of the mishaps encountered by Spare Parts on that day. 1st Lt. William H. Johnson, 23, of Minneapolis, Minn., piloting Spare Parts was flying in number three position in the lead squadron at 19,000 feet. Upon crossing the French coast they were not greeted as usual by heavy bursts of flak which is generally very strong in that area. Noticing this, the crew members on "Spare Parts" were settling back to enjoy a milk run when suddenly in the distance they saw their dreams shattered. For bearing down on the formation were about forty FW190's with their 20mm cannon flashing orange from the wings, and their machine guns projecting bright tongues of flame from the fuselage. 
     "They came in a big mass head-on attack, smashed right through our Group," said 2nd Lt. Harold W. Whiteley, 23, of Limerick, Maine describing the scene. 
     "I saw one of our planes low and to the rear of us fall out of the formation on fire, I saw two chutes before she blew up," added Staff Sergeant Peter Bartktus, 30, of Lowell, Mass. On the second attack by the enemy fighters the FW's split up and came back in attacks all around the clock. 
     "They came in so close that I could plainly see the markings on the ships and could even make out the faces of the pilots," said Staff Sergeant Kenneth L. Zeiger, 19, of Mishawaka, Indiana. This attack lasted for about fifteen minutes when suddenly the FW's left. However Spare Parts' escort was not gone for long for a few minutes later ME109's and 110's appeared on the scene displaying tactics very familiar to the crew. 
     "They climbed to our level and lobbed their rockets at us. I saw ten of them at one time line up and let go their rockets simultaneously," remarked Technical Sergeant John A. Higgins, 19, of Kew Gardens, L.I.N.Y. 
     Luckily for Spare Parts the rockets went high of their mark. A few of the ME110's, a bit bolder than the rest, came in very close, did half a roll exposing their armor protected bellies to our fire. They kept coming in with their guns blazing. However, one of them made the fatal mistake of getting within range of Sgt. Bartkus' fifties. 
     "It was duck soup," said tail gunner Pete, "there he was right in my sights at six o'clock level about 500 yards off. I let him have a burst, the plane went into a loop, then I saw two chutes come out of the damaged plane. It then started to spin and disappeared under our plane." 
     By this time Spare Parts had started on her bombing run, when suddenly number three engine went out. The plane was vibrating badly and the prop threatened to come off at any moment. Lt. Johnson gave the order to stand by to bail out. However a few minutes later the plane wasn't vibrating as badly as before, consequently he rescinded the jump order. It was impossible to keep up with the formation so the pilot gave the bombardier orders to drop his bombs immediately, and that he would try to make it to Switzerland. But the Jerry fighters had different ideas, every time Spare Parts attempted to head for the land of the Alps the murderous fire of the enemy aircraft forced them back on their original course. There was only one thing left to do and that was to try to catch up with the rest of the formation. 
     "Right then we were the proverbial clay pigeons; we were being attacked by fighters on all sides," top turret gunner, Technical Sergeant Frank J. Hazzard, 35, of Chicago, Ill., declared, "and the tail gunner did a wonderful job of warding off the attacked from both the top and the rear of the plane." 
     In order to lighten the load of the ship and thus increase her speed, everything moveable was thrown out of the aircraft, flak suits, extra ammunition, even the bail turret was ' jettisoned in a final attempt to increase the speed of the plane. With its lighter load Spare Parts managed to catch up with her formation, and from then on the danger of fighters was over. An escort of P-51's had picked up the formation and was convoying the bombers home. However, Spare Parts was still having its troubles, the loose prop was windmilling, causing the ship to vibrate worse than ever. 
     "I could just see that prop coming off and flying right smack through our nose but luckily she hold on until we reached home," said 2nd Lt. William Fancher, 27, of Walton, N.Y. Back in the waist of the ship still another danger was present. A leaking oil tank was throwing the black liquid up through the empty space where the ball turret had been and was covering the waist of the ship with a sheet of oil. 
     "All we were afraid of was that our oxygen system might start to leak and if the oil and oxygen ever got together we would have been blown sky high, but again fate seemed to be on our side and the only thing that happened was that the waist gunner and myself got our faces awfully dirty from the flying oil," remarked Staff Sergeant Elbert J. Williams, 25, of Kansas City, Mo. 
     Safely back at their home station the crew members of Spare Parts minus a few of her parts were none the worse for their experience. 

From the Public Relations Office (After April 13 1944 Mission)

Technical Sergeant Frank J. Hazzard, 35, of 2541 Belden Ave, Chicago, Ill., top turret gunner on a Flying Fortress at this Eighth AAF Bomber Station in England tells of his experience when he was forced to bail out of his flaming plane over England after it had returned from a mission to Augsburg. The fortress had made it across the channel on one engine, badly shot up, losing altitude all the way and limping along at the speed of about 70 miles per hour. 
     "For about twenty minutes after we hit the French coast and were well on our way to Augsburg everything went along smoothly but then suddenly all hell began to break loose. A terrific explosion sounded directly beneath my turret, I knew we had been hit pretty badly because I heard the co-pilot saying that he was going to feather number four engine and that number three was out also. The power line in my top turret was hit also, rendering my guns useless. All four officers had been wounded by the flak so I proceeded to the cockpit to see if there were anything I could do. The co-pilot had been hit in the arm rather badly; I cut his sleeve open and bandaged his wrist and arm. The pilot had been hit also in the back of the neck but he told me to take care of the navigator first. I then went to the nose of the ship and saw that the navigator had been hit in the leg. I slit open his trouser leg; the wound was bleeding very badly and I knew he must have been in great pain but all the time I was working on his leg he stood up and continued to navigate the ship. The bombardier had also been hit in the arm but the cut was not bleeding so I figured that he would be OK. 
     "About this time the co-pilot called and asked me to transfer the fuel from number four to number one engine. This done I proceeded to throw all my ammunition and ammunition boxes, flak helmet, and other moveable equipment out of the plane in order to lighten the load. I went to the nose and did the same thing there. About this time we were hit again and number one engine went out. We were flying on one engine and losing altitude and flying speed all the time. I guess we were in a pretty bad spot but I was too busy running from my turret to the nose to the cockpit and back again to think too much about it. 
     "Down in the nose I put another bandage on the navigator's leg. By this time I knew the leg must have been paining him horribly but he still continued to navigate the ship. He did a wonderful job, in my opinion he deserves a lot of the credit for getting us home. When we hit the channel we were flying at 8,000 feet, when we finally reached the English coat we were at 1500 feet. Just as I was thinking that we were going to make it back home in one piece, I felt the ship vibrating something awful, looking out of my window I saw that she was on fire. I was in the nose at the time, tapping the navigator on the shoulder I showed him the fire. He nodded his assent. I then went back to the pilot's compartment, I saw the Bombardier on the catwalk of the bomb bay looking for his chute. I remembered that he had left it in my turret position so I immediately went there and got the chute since the Bombardier because of his wounded arm couldn't get the chute on I snapped it on for him and assisted him in getting out of the plane through the open bomb bay. "By this time I thought everyone outside of the pilot and myself had left the ship, I looked towards his seat and saw him getting up preparing to jump. Later on I found out that he had never gotten out of the plane but had been killed when it crashed about a half mile from where I jumped. 
     "We were now at 800 feet so I figured it was high time for me to get the hell out of the plane. I went out through the bomb bay. When I landed I saw the co-pilot a few feet away. The first thing he said to me was, 'Combat's rough, you can get hurt at this sort of thing.' It struck me very funny at the moment but I guess there's nothing very humorous about what we went through. If it hadn't been for the courage and skill of our pilot in bringing the ship home the wreck it was on one engine; and for the wonderful job done by our navigator even though he was in constant pain and weak through loss of blood, we never could have made it back." 
     Sergeant Hazzard fails to give credit to his own part of the day's activities. It was he who in all probability saved the-lives of the co-pilot and the navigator by rendering First Aid to both of them. And if he hadn't waited to see that everyone got out of the plane before he jumped, the bombardier would never have gotten out and would probably have been killed in the crash. His clear thinking and courage in the time of crisis, his disregard for his own safety is typical of the courage so often found among our bomber boys in the continual drama that goes on in the skies every time our planes take off to carry the war to Hitler's Europe.