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david leigh-smith
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On This Day…May 17th.

May 17, 2019 · in Photo Collections · · 7 Comments

The crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress ‘Memphis Belle’ is shown at an air base in England after completing 25 missions over enemy territory on May 17, 1943.

They are, left to right:

Tech. Sgt. Harold P. Loch of Green Bay, Wis., (top turret gunner)

Staff Sgt. Cecil H. Scott of Altoona, Penn., (ball turret gunner)

Tech. Sgt. Robert J, Hanson of Walla Walla, Wash., (radio operator)

Capt. James A. Verinis, New Haven, Conn., (co-pilot)

Capt. Robert K. Morgan of Ashville, N. C., (pilot)

Capt. Charles B. Leighton of Lansing, Mich., (navigator)

Staff Sgt. John P. Quinlan of Yonkers, N. Y., (tail gunner)

Staff Sgt. Casimer A. Nastal of Detroit, Mich., (waist gunner)

Capt. Vincent B. Evans of Henderson, Texas, (bombardier)

...and Staff Sgt. Clarence E. Wichell of Oak Park, Ill., (waist gunner)

The crew celebrate after landing back in England after their last sortie over the submarine pens at Loerient, France, on May 17th.

Although not the first Fortress to achieve 25 missions (as noted in this series, that accolade belonged to ‘Hell’s Angels’), the Belle is certainly the most famous. Perhaps more impressively, the Captain and pilot, Robert Morgan, managed to survive another 26 missions (in B-29s) - and two marriages (although he never did marry his Memphis Belle, Margaret Polk).

Above, Tech. Sgt. Hanson, radio operator, kisses the ground on the flightline at Bassingbourn, England after the crew successfully completed its 25th mission on May 17, 1943.

Captain Robert Morgan, below, with ‘Dauntless Dottie’, named for his first wife. Morgan’s son, Robert Jr, says of his father, “he was always called a hero and hated it. Dad always told me , the only true heroes were the men who didn’t make it back”.

The Belle’s last mission was a fraught affair as the group were attacked by a squadron of FW190s on their way back from the target. Although shot up, the Belle obviously survived, and a legend was born.

B-17F ‘Mary Ruth - Memories of Mobile’ and the 401st Bomb Squadron flying toward the German U-boat pens at Lorient, France, on May 17 1943. This photo was actually taken taken from aboard the “Memphis Belle” on her last combat sortie.

One for Joe @konda24 Caputo. US Navy tug boat YTM 466 at the Mine Warfare School, Yorktown, Virginia, United States, 17th May 1945.

RAF Bristol Beaufort crews preparing for a raid on the German battleship ‘Prinz Eugen' On 17th May, 1942.

F4U-1 Corsair of Green Cove Springs (VF OTU-1), Florida, crashed due to engine failure on May 17th, 1945.

Have to include a carrier. The Ticonderoga (CV-14) underway off San Diego, California, after departing Naval Air Station, en route for Vietnam, 17 May 1972.

Lockheed test pilot Milo Burcham (featured previously ‘OTD...) flies the 5,000th production P38 Lightning, made on May 17th, 1944.

Captured Messerschmitt Bf 110D ‘The Belle of Berlin’ in British markings on an aerodrome in North Africa. This aircraft served with II/ZG76 in Iraq and was captured after a forced landing near Mosul in May 1941. It was used as a communications aircraft by No.267 Squadron RAF.

Grumman F4F 3 Wildcat (VF-6) White 6 testing floatation devices in the wings. Ensign H. E. Tennes deliberately ditched his Wildcat in San Diego Bay due to damaged landing gear that prevented him from landing ashore. The white 6-F-2 fuselage code indicates that this Wildcat was assigned to VF-6 of the Enterprise. It is painted in one of my favourite schemes, the monochromatic, overall light ‘Specular Gray’ scheme.

The ‘flotation bags’ in this photo have deployed just as they were designed to, and although they were ditched (excuse the pun) before the US entered the war (due to weight issues) and they were still installed in aircraft up until the Spring of 1941.

Messerschmitt Bf 109G10 Erla captured (USAAF designation T2 123) by US forces on Freeman Field, 17th of May 1946.

Another Erla-built G10, ‘White 15’ of 5.JG 52 in Germany, May, 1945. Judging by his body language and expression, I think he’s saying Goodbye to Gustav.

Hawker Hurricane Z3186 ZR assigned to 71 Eagle Squadron, RAF. On 17th May, 1941 F/O Stanley Michel "Mike" Kolendorski of 71st (Eagle) Squadron was scrambled to intercept Ju88's and He111's coming across the channel.

At 20,000 ft they came across the escorting Bf 109s of JG 53 ‘Pik As’ over the Thames Estuary, turned his aircraft sharply to engage with the enemy, only for a second pair to drop in behind him and open fire. Mike was killed in his cockpit as no attempt to bale out was observed. His squadron colleagues confirmed his aircraft crashing into the ground. A naturalized American, son of Polish immigrants, Kolendorski had been living in California with his wife Charlotte May prior to enlisting in the RAF in Canada and moving to the U.K.

Spitfire MkVb of RAF 303 (Polish) - RFH BM144- escorting a B-17 carrying Field Marshall Montgomery on 17th May 1943.

Reader reactions:
19  Awesome

2 additional images. Click to enlarge.

7 responses

  1. I like the way you managed to fit the Big E in, David.

  2. Ah, you noticed, Robert? Thanks for checking in my friend.

  3. The picture of the P-38 was supposedly taken over / near the Orlando area. Back then I believe it was called the Pine Castle Army Airfield.

    The F4U at Green Cove Springs happened not too far from Jacksonville NAS. Green Cove Springs was an OLF “outlying Field” for Jacksonville and Cecil Field.

    Both locations are not too far from my home.

    Florida was very active in training fledgling pilots for the USNavy and the Army Air Force. The weather was the primary reason, as this location (and similarly the Southwest / California regions) offered more days of good flying weather than the rest of the Country.

    This is definitely one of your best postings my friend.

    You have this series dialed in perfectly.

    Please don’t change a thing.

    I have added a few pictures of a B-17 that I recently took. These are of the current Memphis Belle. It was going through it’s annual inspection and needed some repairs to keep it in the Sky.
    I hope you approve.

    Thanks again for making my day a whole lot better.

    “Liked “

  4. Awesome loads of information. Thanks David. Love the B17. Seen the sally b fly loads. Awesome sight in the sky.

  5. Very welcome, Glenn. Thanks for dropping a comment - hope you make it a regular stop.


  6. Great photos, David! Seeing these "OTD"s is great for us who like history ... & good photos.

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