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JOSEPH GORDON CREW - 358th BS
B-17G Princess Pat #42-102453 VK-J
(crew assigned 358BS: 12 Dec 1944 - photo: Dec 1944)
(Back L-R) 2Lt Neil E. Cunningham (CP)(1), 2Lt Leonard S. Freedman (N)(2),
2Lt Joseph Gordon (P)(3), Sgt Richard S. Crigger (TG)(5)
Sgt William J. Carter (BT)(5),
Sgt Kenneth E. Boone (WG)(4),
The Lt Joseph Gordon Crew trained at Dow Field, Tampa, Florida, then to Hunter Field in mid November for staging. Received a new B-17G that the crew flew to Bangor, Maine where they were snowed in for a week. The overseas flight continued via Goose Bay, Nutz Corner in Northern Ireland and Valley, Wales.
358BS Joseph Gordon Crew. Mission #299 secondary target at Koblenz, Germany
2nd Lt Joseph Gordon was on his third mission as a Pilot. 2Lt Neil E. Cunningham, CoPilot, was on his third CoPilot mission but first with Lt Gordon. Sweet Pea, on her 45th mission, sustained a flak burst under the right wing which disabled the inboard engine. The outboard engine caught fire just as the crew was preparing to drop its bombs. The Ball Turret Gunner, Sgt William J. Carter, reported the situation to the cockpit and he was instructed to get out of his Ball Turret. At almost the same time most of the bombs were hung up and wouldn't release. Sgt LeBurn D. Sprinkles, Engineer, and Sgt Carter, both small in stature, went into the bomb bay. Sgt Carter held on to Sgt Sprinkles who pried open the bomb shackles with a large screw driver and got rid of the bombs. By the time the bombs were released a lot of altitude had been lost, the fire was out and the engine was functioning (later feathered). Sweet Pea then became separated from the rest of the formation and 2Lt Anthony J. Boland, an experienced Navigator, reported that they were lost. Sgt Charles S. Ennis, Radio Operator, got a beam from Rheims, France and the aircraft headed there. The English radio signal kept getting weaker and was finally lost after having flown over a solid overcast. It was then decided that Sweet Pea had been flying in the wrong direction for sometime and was now well over Germany. The course was reversed and after a while the English radio beam was again picked up. By this time fuel became a problem and a decision was made to put Sweet Pea down whenever a suitable place could be found. Flying down through the overcast to about 1000 feet, a cleared plowed farm field, near Tourney, France was spotted where a landing could be made. The Engineer reported that a cockpit confrontation took place between the Pilot 2Lt Joseph Gordon and CoPilot Neil E. Cunningham. Lt Cunningham took over the controls and with the assistance of Sgt Sprinkles made a wheels up landing. The frozen earth prevented much of a skip. The balance of the crew were braced in the Radio Room and Tailgunner Sgt Richard S. Crigger received a severe head bump. Sgt Carter credited Lt Cunningham with saving the lives of his crew when he took over the controls of their B-17 and made the successful belly landing. The crew spent two days in the village and were transferred by MPs to 9th Air Force base A-70 at Laoni-Courvan, France and then to Paris for one week. Air Transport then flew the crew back to England and then to Molesworth.
[crash photos courtesy of Loizy Laurent, Eureux, France]
[Researched by 303rdBGA Historian Harry D. Gobrecht]