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Home >> The 464th in WWII >> Our War Stories >> The Saga of B-24 '117'

Our War Stories

The Saga of B-24 '117'

by Herman (Red) Moldenhauer (779)

      "Assigned to the 779 Bomb Squadron at Pocatello ID about 15 November '43, I was joined by my brother Ted, who had completed gunnery school at Harlingen TX. Ted was on Bob Wingfield's crew and was on Big Fat Momma when it collided with Dave Samson's B-24 on the Parma, Italy mission, Tuesday 2 May '44 (MIA p 11). Colonel Sylvan Hand bailed out thru the top hatch to be taken prisoner. Wingfield with Ted's help, landed the plane safely on the island of Corsica with Samson's right rudder impaled on the nose turret 50 calibers, with Mike Bordak in the turret." (Reference 464th BG newsletter - Jan '96). Red continues with THE SAGA OF B-24G #117, BLACK P - PAPA.

      On 21 April 1944 our airplanes and flight crews arrived at Gioia de Cole. It was a great sight after our long voyage on SS Jonathan Grout and SS Lyon. Lt. John Jones, my pilot and engineer, Noble "Chick" Shires, was really glad to see me. Little did I know what they meant.

      Lt. Jones told me that flying over the airplane was in a "tail down" attitude. The controls were always stiff and heavy. She would not get up "on step." To fly straight and level, the control wheel had to be turned 1/8 of a turn to the right.

      After the mid-air collision that Lt. Bob Wingfield and my brother Ted had been involved in, we had to fly practice missions for a couple of days. During this time, John Jones, "Chick," and I decided we would try to remedy the situation.

      We got the T.O. out and started reading. The T.O. said both ailerons should have 1 inch "down droop." The right aileron was correct, but the left one had an inch "up -droop." We thought we had found the problem. We re-rigged the left aileron, checked the up and down throw (which was even), checked the cable tension (which was within specifications). The trim tab operation was okay. We flew test hop the next day on the practice mission, but it was much worse than before. The controls were so sloppy Lt. Jones could not fly formation. And then he said, "Put it back like it was." This should have been a clue to me, but I went on--fat, dumb, and happy. This was a "G" model, made by North American.

      The next day or two, Lt. Jones told me the manifold pressure on all four engines was fluctuating all over the gauges, no steady power and very hard to fly formation. Dug out the T.D. again. This "G" model had the old oil regulated turbo controls. The oil would congeal at altitude and cause the problem. The T.O. said to drain the engine oil, replace with new oil, and flush the turbo controls. This was an all-night job plus our other maintenance.

      The next day the manifold pressure was still the same, fluctuating all over the gauges. That night we replaced #2 and #3 turbo controls, same thing next mission. We then replaced #1 and #4 turbo controls, same thing. Lt. Jones was an old B-24 pilot in Anti-Sub Command, and he never had an airplane like this "dog." We checked with other pilots, read all we could and no solutions. M/Sgt. White had a "G" model too, but no problems.

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From the Nov. '99 issue of the 464th Bomb Group Newsletter.
Published with the permission of Tony Schneider, Sec./NL Ed. (464th, 776)
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