On this day 70 years ago, Harold Wesley “Jerry” Patrick boarded a B-17 at Glatton Air Force Base in England for his first bombing mission of World War II. He was the plane’s navigator.
According to the 457th’s loading list for that day’s mission, Jerry flew with the following men:
Lt. Harry J. Whitman (pilot),
F/O Albert O. Gilbertson, Jr. (co-pilot)
Lt. Leonard Stoner (Bombardier)
Sgt. Joseph P. Melly (Top Turret Gunner)
Sgt. Howard B. Munger (Radio Operator)
Sgt. Bernard F. Sitek (Ball Turret Gunner)
Sgt. William A. Scharnhorst (Right Waist Gunner)
Stg. Charles E. Fosson (GT)
Their B-17, officially described on the loading list as Ship #113, was one of 34 bombers from the 457th on this mission. Mission board records indicate that these planes carried a total of 18 250-pound general purpose (“GP”) bombs [source]. These planes joined 1,142 other bombers and nearly 800 fighter planes on a mission to bomb targets in the Munich, Germany area.
Although this mission was Jerry’s first, the 457th had already participated in 85 others during the war [source]. The 457th had attacked Munich on previous missions but recently had been involved in different campaigns. According to Ken Blakebrough in his 1968 book, The Fireball Outfit: The 457th Bombardment Group in the Skies Over Europe (p. 33), the July 11, 1944 mission marked the 457th’s return to “the 8th Air Force’s campaign against Munich.”
Blakebrough noted that Munich, as “the birthplace of Naziism, was … a psychological target,” as well as “a center for development of jet propelled aircraft. Experimental stations, assembly factories, and operational flying fields had blossomed in the surrounding area with the focal point being the huge Allach aero works.”
Allach was owned by BMW, which staffed the factory with prisoners from the nearby Dachau and Sachenhausen concentration camps, according to Daniel Uziel’s 2012 book, Arming the Luftwaffe: The German Aviation Industry in World War II ( p. 168). Promotional photos of the plant, including images of these prisoners at work can be seen on the BMW Group’s photo archive website. (The archive includes 150 pictures of the plant. To see photographs of the prisoners, click the link above, select the radio button for “100 results per page” and scroll down. The men are shown wearing striped uniforms and working over conveyor belts.)
Other locations bombed on the July 11 mission included the Munich marshaling yard, the Munich – Riem Airfield, the German towns of Augsburg and Eppingen, and “a bridge on the Autobahn” [source].
This post is the first in a series about the World War II experience of my maternal grandfather, Lt. Harold Wesley “Jerry” Patrick. He served as a B-17 navigator with the 8th Air Force 457th Bombardment Group, 749th Squadron, which was based at Glatton Air Force Base in England.
The sources for information in this and future posts will be linked within the text. I also will compile and post a complete bibliography for this project in the near future. In the meantime, if you have any questions about anything discussed here, please let me know.