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358th Grisham Crew
Rufus W. Grisham, Jr., Pilot
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RUFUS W. GRISHAM, JR. CREW - 358th BS
(crew assigned 358BS: 17 Aug 1944 - photo: 25 Aug 1944)

(Back L-R) 1Lt Rufus W. Grisham, Jr. (P), 1Lt William H. Cox (CP),
1Lt Nicholas J. Celich (B), 1Lt Gale E. Hartel (N)

(Front L-R) S/Sgt Arnold A. Willis (TG), T/Sgt Harry R. Post (R),
S/Sgt Gerhard W. Loessin, Jr. (BT), S/Sgt Ben M. Buie (WG),
T/Sgt Edwin P. Scheuermann (E)

(Ranks and Grades at time of last combat mission.)

Thirty-six dispatched (35 credited) combat missions flown by 1Lt Rufus W. Grisham, Jr.:
233 (27 Aug 44), 234, 235, 238, 240, 245, 249, 250(A), 251, 252, 254, 255, 257, 258, 259, 260, 262, 264, 270, 271, 272, 274, 276, 277, 279, 280, 281, 286, 289, 291, 294, 296, 296, 297, 298A, 298B (7 Jan 45). (A) Non-credited aborted mission - B17 had a broken oil line. For Mission dates, targets and Mission Reports, see Combat Missions.

Missions Note:
All members of the 1Lt Grisham crew, except for 1Lt Gale E. Hartel, completed their 35 mission combat tours on 7 January 1945 (Mission 298B). 1Lt Hartel completed his 35 mission combat tour on 8 January 1945 (Mission 299)

Fourteen different B-17Gs flown by 1Lt Grisham on his 36 dispatched combat missions:

  • 43-38065 Princess Pat II (358BS) VK-J - 14 Missions 258, 259, 260, 262, 271, 277, 279, 280, 281, 294, 296, 297, 298A, 298B [C/L Salvaged 15 Feb 45 -85 missions flown]
  • 43-37590 (P) Neva-The Silver Lady (358BS) VK-Q - 4 Missions 233, 252, 272, 286 [127 missions flown]
  • 43-38238 (No name) (358BS) VK-L - 2 missions 234, 251 [67 missions flown]
  • 44-6006 (No name) (358BS) VK-D - 2 missions 249, 250(A) [100 missions flown]
  • 43-38462 (P) Teddy's Rough Riders (358BS) VK-I - 2 missions 254, 291 [73 missions flown]
  • 42-102945 (P) Sweet Pea (358BS) VK-M - 2 missions 255, 257 [C/L Continent and Salvaged 8 Jan 45 - 45 missions flown]
  • 43-38206 Silver Fox (358BS) VK-L - Mission 235 [MIA 28 Sept 44 - 10 missions flown]
  • 42-39875 (P) Buzz Blonde (427BS) GN-S - Mission 238 [MIA 10 Jan 45 - 100 missions flown]
  • 43-38176 Bouncing Betty II (358BS) VK-B - Mission 240 [MIA 289 Sept 44- 17 missions flown]
  • 43-38554 Bouncing Betty III (358BS) VK-B - Mission 270 [58 missions flown]
  • 42-31739 (P) Pugnacious Peter (358BS) VK-P - Mission 245 [MIA 11 Oct 44 - 85 missions flown]
  • 43-38442 (No name) (358BS) VK-F - Mission 264 [C/L Continent and Salvaged 28 Nov 44 - 16 missions flown]
  • 43-38563 Jackie (358BS) VK-H - Mission 276 [83 missions flown]
  • 44-8427 (P) Henn's Revenge (358BS) VK-E - Mission 289 [MIA 10 Apr 45 - 75 missions flown]
  • 43-38999 (P) Emma (358BS) VK-F [48 Missions flown]
    (P) nose art photos are available here.
Favorite B-17G - Princess Pat II (358BS) VK-J:
Flown by members of the 1Lt Grisham crew on 15 of their 36 dispatched combat missions. Was always in top mechanical condition and ready to fly thanks to the Crew Chief M/Sgt Thomas K. Harrelson, Jr. and his ground crewmen. Was lost on 15 February 1945, Mission 315. Was badly damaged on mission to Dresden, Germany, 1Lt Lawrence C. Poole, Pilot. With two engines feathered and gas supply near zero 1Lt Poole ordered his crew to bail out over England. 1Lt Poole, with his Flight Engineer, T/Sgt Rayford Pullen, made an emergency belly landing at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, England. The B-17 was later salvaged.

Crew Notes:

  • 1Lt Rufus W. Grisham, Jr. (P) - First two missions flown with experienced CoPilots - #233 - 2Lt Ernest P. Whittall, #234 - 2Lt Raymond B. Gradle. All missions flown as First Pilot. Awarded the DFC Medal in 2002 for his valorous action on mission 291 (27 Dec 1944).

  • 1Lt William H. Cox (CP) - Flew on 36 dispatched (35 credited missions):
    As CoPilot: With 1Lt Rufus W. Grisham, Jr. (P) - 28 credited missions (235, 238, 240, 245, 249, 250(A), 252, 255, 257, 258, 259, 260, 262, 264, 270, 271, 272, 274, 276, 279, 280, 281, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298A, 298B); With other Pilots on 1 mission each 2Lt Marvin W. Heckendorf (P) - (268); 2Lt Werner G. Goering (277); 1Lt Jack P. Rencher (286); 2Lt William H. McLeod (292), Unknown Pilot - As a new crew combat orientation CoPilot (288). As Tail Gunner Observer with 1Lt Campbell Miller (P) - (290).
    Upgraded from CoPilot to Pilot, effective 4 Dec 1944, on 303rd Operations Order #83, dated 5 Dec 1944. Flew one mission as First Pilot with an unknown Pilot and crew (289). William H. Cox remained in the Air Force following WWII and retired as an Air Force Colonel. He has served the 303rd BGA as Treasurer and President and has assisted a number of 303rd BG(H) members in obtaining deserved and overlooked DFC and other awards as our WWII Awards Chairman. Please see William H. Cox's biography.

  • 1Lt Gale E. Hartel (N) - Flew on 36 dispatched (35 credited missions): With 1Lt Rufus W, Grisham, Jr. 29 credited missions (233, 234, 235, 238, 240, 245, 249, 250(A), 251, 252, 255, 257, 258, 259, 260, 262, 264, 270, 274, 277, 279, 280, 281, 286, 289, 291, 296, 297, 298A, 298B); With 1Lt Walter J. Mayer (267); 2Lt Marvin H. Heckendorf (268); 1Lt John M. Twomey (276), 2Lt Werner G. Goering (283, 284, 299).

  • 1Lt Nicholas J. Celich (B/N) - Flew on 37 dispatched (35 credited) missions: With 1Lt Rufus W. Grisham, Jr., - 19 credited missions (As Bombardier - 233, 234, 235, 238, 240, 245, 249, 250(A), 251, 252, 254, 255, 257, 258, 259, 260, 262, 264, 270. As Navigator - 295. With other Pilots: As Bombardier - 1Lt Maurice M. Holm (263), 2Lt William H. Woodson (297), As Navigator - 1Lt Walter J. Mayer (271, 275, 276, 277, 278, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286), 1Lt Marvin H. Heckendorf (290, 292); 1Lt George L. McCutcheon (291); 2Lt Harley D. Snider (293), 2Lt Joseph Gordon (298A). Awarded the Purple Heart Medal for wounds obtained on mission 240 (11 Sept 1944) The flak was very heavy on a mission to bomb the synthetic oil plant at Lutzkendorf, Germany, 9 miles from Merseburg,. Lt Celich was hit by a large piece of flak on his shoulder which had hit his flak suit. A piece of shattered plexiglas hit near his eye and was imbedded near his cheek bone. Lt Celich was removed from the 1Lt Grisham crew following mission 270 (9 Nov 1944) as the result of a fear he had developed sitting in the Bombardier's seat. Squadron Operations then let him fly with other crews as a Navigator on mission 271 (10 Nov 1944) and the rest of his combat tour missions. (Purple Heart information courtesy of William H. Cox).

  • T/Sgt Edwin P. Scheuermann (E), T/Sgt Harry R. Post (R), S/Sgt Gerhard W. Loessin, Jr. (BTG), S/Sgt Ben M. Buie (WG), S/Sgt Arnold A. Willis (TG): Flew on 36 dispatched (35 credited missions) - All missions flown with 1Lt Rufus W. Grisham, Jr.
Seventeen substitute Crewmen used by the 1Lt Rufus W. Grisham, Jr. Crew
  • Four CoPilots (7 missions) - 2Lt Ernest P. Whittall (233), 2Lt Raymond P. Gradle (234), 2Lt Jack P. Rencher (251, 254), 2Lt Harry F. Hopkins (277, 286, 289).
  • Three Navigators (5 missions) - F/O Rex H. Markt (254), 1Lt Robert L. Simmons (271, 272, 276), 2Lt Seymour Kaufman (294)
  • Four Bombardiers (7 missions) - 2Lt Donald L. Birkenseer (274, 276), F/O Russell C. Finn (277-279 and 280), 2Lt Ralph S. Feeney (281), F/O Joe E. Guerieri (298A)
  • Six Toggliers (10 missions) - Sgt Keith E. Day (271), T/Sgt Lawrence Casey (272), Sgt John L. Stevenson (286, 289), T/Sgt Glenn J. Renning (291), S/Sgt Thomas J. Rowe (294, 295, 296, 297), S/Sgt Lyle M. Cox (298B).
  • Other enlisted crew positions - No substitute crewmen used.

[photo courtesy of George T. Mackin]
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]

Mission in 1944 Earns DFC for Grisham in 2002
© 2002 Hell's Angels Newsletter - by Eddie Deerfield

US Congressman Larry Combest congratulates 303rd BG Pilot Rufus W. Grisham after presenting him with the Distinguished Flying Cross at a ceremony in Lubbock, TX.
Let's put a reverse twist on an old saying, and make it "You can't see the trees because of the forest." Maybe this rationale would help explain the surge in awards for World War II veterans more than a half century after their heroic actions. Heroism was so much the norm in aerial combat against the German Luftwaffe and flak batteries that individual acts of great courage were often over- looked - like trees lost in a forest of heroic acts.

Take the case of 303rd Bomb Group pilot Rufus W. Grisham. His World War II Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded in 2002. Here's the text of the citation:

First Lieutenant Rufus W. Grisham distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as Pilot, 358th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), Molesworth, England, on 27 December 1944. During this period, Lieutenant Grisham's B-17 aircraft participated in "The Battle of the Bulge" by completing a combat bombing mission over the marshalling yards at Euskirchen, Germany. Lieutenant Grisham's aircraft encountered intense anti-aircraft fire that caused a complete loss of the number four engine, loss of three-quarters power of the number one and number two engines, and complete loss of the left tire on the landing gear. Despite these crippling effects to his aircraft, Lieutenant Grisham's superb airmanship, and quick thinking not only managed to miraculously fly his aircraft back to home station, but he saved the lives of all eight of his crewmen. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Grisham reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army Air Corps.

For bringing the heavily damaged B-17 and his crew safely back to Molesworth in December, 1944, Grisham was awarded the DFC in 2002, more than 58 years after the event. During the 364 missions that the 303rd Bomb Group flew from 1942 to 1945, there were scores if not hundreds of examples of the brand of heroism so capably displayed by Rufus Grisham. Too often, individual acts of courage in those tempestuous times went unrecognized.

Grisham credits Bill Cox, his co-pilot on the Euskirchen mission, with organizing the documentation which generated the award.

"There was an article in the Hell's Angels Newsletter telling us that the time limits had been waived for awards and decorations for WWII veterans," said Grisham. "Bill Cox called me to discuss this and wanted my permission to write a recommendation for a mission we flew to Euskirchen on Dec. 27, 1944. He told me he had all the documents and could contact all the senior officers that would be involved. I told Bill I had no objections and to proceed if he thought it might be approved." Bill Cox is a US Air Force career officer who retired as a colonel with 10,000 flying hours to his credit.

"Bill thought we had a good chance for approval," Grisham said, "but warned me that it would take at least two years. Actually, it took two years and one month. Bill got the package put together in January, 2000 and I immediately sent it on to my Congressman, Larry Combest, in Washing ton. The first step requires his approval. After the Congressman approved the request, I don't know where it went, but finally it came before a Board in the awards and decorations section at Randolph AFB in San Antonio.

"I got a call from the Congressman's office that the DFC would be presented to me in his Lubbock, Texas office on February 21, 2002. I was certainly honored and pleased to accept this award and particularly because the recommendations came from members of my crew."

What did it take to finally gain the recognition Rufus Grisham should have received in 1944? In addition to the testimony of Bill Cox. supporting documents came from 303rd group and squadron officers and crew members. George T. Mackin, 358th Squadron commander, presented a "Narrative of Mission" describing in detail the damage to Grisham's B-17 and his "distinguished and professional piloting" and concern for his crew. Engineer and top turret gunner Edwin Scheuermann praised his pilot's skill "under the most nerve-racking conditions." All told, there were 27 pages of documentation.