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358th Woodson Crew
William H. Woodson, Pilot
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WILLIAM H. WOODSON CREW - 358th BS
(crew assigned 358BS: 26 Oct 1944 - photo: Manchester, NH, Oct 1944)

(Back L-R) 1Lt William H. Woodson (P)(KIA), F/O Russell C. "Michael" Finn (B)(KIA),
2Lt Leon P. Foltz (N), F/O Harold A. Lanigan (CP)(POW),
T/Sgt Richard A. Brown (E)(KIA)

(Front L-R) S/Sgt R.L. Burnette (BT)(KIA), T/Sgt Victor J. Gramiak (R)(KIA),
S/Sgt Lloyd S. Riley (WG)(KIA), Sgt Peter J. Farrell (TG)(KIA)



WILLIAM H. WOODSON CREW - 358th BS
B-17G #42-97557 Mercy's Madhouse (358th BS) VK-X
(photo: 1 Dec 1944)

(Back L-R) 1Lt William H. Woodson (P)(KIA), F/O Harold A. Lanigan (CP)(POW),
F/O Russell C. "Michael" Finn (B)(KIA), T/Sgt Richard A. Brown (E)(KIA)

(Front L-R) Sgt Peter J. Farrell (TG)(KIA), T/Sgt Victor J. Gramiak (R)(KIA),
S/Sgt Lloyd S. Riley (WG)(KIA), S/Sgt R.L. Burnette (BT)(KIA)

Ranks and Grades at time of last combat mission.

Twenty-five credited combat missions flown by 1Lt William H. Woodson:
270 (9 Nov 1944), 271, 272, 274, 275, 277, 279, 280, 281, 282, 284, 285, 287, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 295, 296, 297, 302, 303, 304, 306 (22 Jan 1945).
For Mission dates, targets and Mission Reports, see Combat Missions.

Seven B-17Gs flown by 1Lt William H. Woodson on his twenty-five credited combat missions

  • 42-97292 (No name) (358BS) VK-N - Mission 270
  • 44-6006 (No name) (358BS) VK-D - Missions 271, 272, 275, 277, 279, 280, 281, 282, 284, 285, 287, 296
  • 43-38238 (No name) (358BS) VK-K - Missions 274, 290
  • 43-38530 (No name) (358BS) VK-G - Missions 292, 293, 294, 297, 302, 303, 306
  • 42-102945 Sweet Pea (358BS) VK-M - Mission 295
  • 43-38554 Bouncing Betty III (358BS) VK-B - Mission 296
  • 43-38065 Princess Pat II (358BS) VK-J - Mission 304
Crew Notes:
All crewmen, except 2Lt Foltz (N), flew their last mission on 22 January 1945 (Mission 306)
  • 1Lt William H. Woodson (P)(KIA) - First mission (270) flown with combat orientation CoPilot 2Lt Raymond B. Gradle from the 358th BS 1Lt Walter J. Mayer crew. All 25 missions flown as the crew First Pilot. Completed 25 credited combat missions.
  • F/O Harold A. Lanigan (CP)(POW) - Stood down on mission 270. Flew on all of the other 2Lt Woodson credited combat missions. Completed 24 credited combat missions. Became a POW on mission 306. Escaped twice and was recaptured twice. Was promoted to 2Lt on 25 January 1945 three days after becoming a POW. Was a professional Airline Pilot following WWII.
  • 2Lt Leon P. Foltz (N). Flew on three credited missions with 1Lt Woodson (270, 271, 272). Became a Lead Crew Mickey Navigator (MN) and flew on 23 missions as a Mickey Navigator (300, 306, 312, 313, 314, 319, 323, 324, 327, 328, 330, 331, 332, 338, 340, 342, 344, 348, 345, 350, 354, 358, 362). Was promoted from F/O to 2Lt on 23 Feb 1945 following mission 319.
  • F/O Russell C. "Michael" Finn (B/N)(KIA) - Flew on eighteen credited missions with 1Lt Woodson: As Bombardier (270, 271, 272, 274, 275, 282); As Navigator (297, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 295, 296, 297, 302, 304, 306) and seven missions as Bombardier with other Pilots (277, 279, 280, 281, 284, 285, 303). Completed 25 credited combat missions.
  • T/Sgt Richard A. Brown (E)(KIA)(*), T/Sgt Victor J. Gramiak (R)(KIA), S/Sgt R.L. Burnette (BTG)(KIA)(*), S/Sgt Lloyd S. Riley (WG)(KIA), Sgt Peter J. Farrell (TG)(KIA)(*) Flew on all of the 1Lt Woodson 25 credited combat missions.
    (*) Three crewmen who are buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten, Netherlands.
  • T/Sgt Ray A. Cooper (Togglier)(POW) - Only flew on the last mission (306) with the 1Lt Woodson crew as a substitute Togglier Was the regular Waist Gunner and Togglier with the 1Lt Clyde E. Freeman Crew and was flying as a substitute for regular Bombardier F/O Leon P. Foltz. T/Sgt Cooper flew on 25 missions with 1Lt Freeman and 5 missions with other Pilots.
  • Substitute Crewmen used on the 1Lt Woodson crew missions. - Substitute Toggliers or Bombardiers from other crews used on 19 missions (277, 279, 280, 281, 284, 285, 287, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 295, 296, 297, 302, 303, 304, 306). Substitute Navigators from other crews used on 10 missions (274, 275, 277, 279, 280, 281, 282, 284, 285, 303).
Mission Notes:
  • Mission 182 - 4 Dec 1944 to Soest, Germany - The 1Lt Woodson crew was one of fifteen 303rd BG B-17s to land in Continental Europe. Excessive time and fuel was used in the formation assembly in England requiring landing in Continental Europe when fuel shortages occurred on the return trip from Soest, Germany. The 1Lt Woodson crew landed at Airfield A-70 at Laon, France and returned to Molesworth on the next day 5 Dec 1944
  • Mission 306 - 22 January 1945 to Sterkrade, Germany - One of Germany's most highly defended target cities. The 1Lt Woodson crew was flying as the leader of the four B-17 High Element of the 303rd BG(H) formation. A very accurate flak barrage occurred about 1:38 PM, a few minutes before bombs away. 1Lt Harry D. Gobrecht, Pilot was flying below the left wing of the 1Lt Woodson B-17 with 1Lt Richard H. Gmernicki Pilot flying above the left wing. They reported sere the 1Lt Woodson B-17 hit by the intense anti-aircraft fire. The left wing broke off, the B-17 went down with the left side burning, and it exploded in the air. Two parachutes (F/O Lanigan and T/Sgt Cooper) were seen about the time that the 1Lt Woodson B-17 exploded. T/Sgt Cooper (Tog) exited through a hole in the nose. F/O Lanigan (CP) was able to escape from the spinning B-17 despite the centrifugal force caused by the violent spinning. F/O Finn (N) was mortally wounded in the nose and was unable to exit. The other crewmen were killed in the crash of the B-17 at Mulheim, Germany. 2Lt Lanigan was taken to a local police station where he was "bullied" by the German in charge. He was given first aid for his injured left ankle and foot plus facial cuts. He was shown the dog tags of 1Lt Woodson (P), Sgts Burnette (BTG), Gramiak (R) and Riley (WG) and was advised that Sgt Farrell (TG) had one leg torn off. T/Sgt Cooper (Tog) was taken to a different police station but later joined up with 2Lt Lanigan. The night of January 23rd was spent in an air raid shelter during a RAF bombing raid. They were taken to a German fighter field, were further interrogated, and managed to escape through a small basement window. Captured again near the Dutch border they were kept on the move for over a month before reaching a railroad station at Landshut. Germany. 2Lt Lanigan again escaped accompanied by a P-51 Pilot. Three days later they walked into some German Home Guards and were again captured. They were placed with a group of Army Officer POW's with whom they stayed until rescued by elements of General Patton's Third Army.

[top photo courtesy of Harold A. Lanigan - second photo courtesy of George T. Mackin]
[Researched by 303rdBGA Historian Harry D. Gobrecht]