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CHARLES E. JOHNSON CREW - 427th BS
(crew assigned 427BS: 13 May 1944)
(Back L-R) 1Lt Alexander Dombrowski (B), 1Lt Charles E Johnson, Jr. (P),
1Lt Aloysius R. Pero (N), 1Lt Richard E. Gable (CP)
(Front L-R) S/Sgt Alfred Pruett (WG), S/Sgt Alfred K. Hollritt (BTG),
S/Sgt Thomas J. Conlan (WG), S/Sgt Walter C. Yonge (R),
T/Sgt Madison I. Alston (E)
Not in photo - S/Sgt Richard C. Gude (TG)
(Ranks and Grades at time of last combat mission)
Twenty-six credited combat missions of 1Lt Charles E. Johnson:
165 (30 May 1944), 166,168, 169, 170, 171, 174, 175(S), 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181(A), 182, 183(A), 184, 185, 186, 187, 201(DLC), 207(LC), 208(LC), 213(LC), 214(LC), 221(LC), 224(LC), 231(LC), 238(DLC)(9 Sept 1944). (A) Non-Credited aborted mission -- (S) Non-Credited spare B-17 - Not required & returned to Molesworth -- (LC) Lead Crew -- (DLC) Deputy Lead Crew. For Mission dates, targets and Mission Reports, see Combat Missions.
Some of the missions flown while assigned to the 305th BG(H) at Chelveston (As a PFF Lead Crew) are not included on the above mission list. 303rd BG(H) records do not include the 305th BG(H) missions, when the PFF Lead Crew was flying with another 1st Division Bomb Group. The number of additional missions flown by the 1Lt Johnson crew while assigned to the 305th BG(H) is not known.
His Navigator Pero and Bombardier Dombrowski were excellent in their craft and this is why they were chosen as a lead crew. Being a lead crew a commanding officer was usually in the co-pilot's seat. Co Pilot Richard Gable would fly in the tail gunner position as a gunner/observer. Because of D-Day and the amount of missions being flown there tour lasted from May 1944 until October 1944. Later Richard Gable got his own crew and did another tour. An interesting note is that Top Turret/Engineer Madison I. Alston came from the 15th Air Force where he had just completed 50 missions! He was the oldest crew member at a reported 40 years old, the other crew members were half his age!
Some of the aircraft flown by this crew (after their new B17G was taken away on arrival in England) were Shoo Shoo Baby (first mission), Betty Jane, The Flying Bison (a war weary wreck as dad recalled!), My Yorkshire Dream, Aloha the an un-named B-17 #42-97096 and many on Sweet Rose O'Grady (a real nice flying aircraft) plus a few others including PFF B-17’s from the 305th BG.
Some strange missions included the GB-1 Glide Bomb raid and a very strange mission that they flew on July 22, 1944. Lt. Gable and my father recall that they were scrambled for a "Night leaflet" mission. [Actually it was an afternoon mission with at take-off time of 1513 hours and return to base at about 2100 hours.] They never did this before! An attempt was made on Adolph Hitler's life two days earlier. 8th Air Force Mission #488 dispatched seven B-17s (3 305th & 4 306th) to Bremen, Hamburg & Kiel that afternoon. All dad remembers is flashing a beacon out the tail gunner’s position for the other 305th aircraft, he said he never saw any of them due to the horrible weather conditions. Records also show the 4th fighter group provided escort. Thirty four P-51s as fighter cover flew that evening, one crash landed in Audley End after takeoff killing the pilot and another P-51 crashed on return in Carlton Hawthorne but the pilot sustained no injuries.
Quite a lot of history for a crew photo! Most of my information is from the Might in Flight book and 303rd CD, Roger Freeman books and of course this website. I now have some true mission and crew records for my dad’s combat crew. Through the 303rd BG Association my Father was reunited with his Co-pilot 2Lt Richard Gable, 2Lt Alexander Dombrowski and 2Lt Aloysius R. Pero. Just a few years after attending the “Final Mission” at Molesworth, England in 2000. My Father Alfred Hollritt passed away in May 2005, the final crew member Mr. Pero just passed away in 2007. They will forever fly together on this website.
CHARLES E. JOHNSON CREW - 427th BS
(crew assigned 427BS: 13 May 1944 - photo: Drew Field, Tampa, FL)
(Back L-R) 2Lt Richard E. Gable (CP), 2Lt Aloysius R. Pero (N),
2Lt Alexander Dombrowski (B), 2Lt Charles E Johnson (P)
(Front L-R) Sgt Walter C. Yonge (R), Sgt Alfred Pruett (WG),
Sgt Alfred K. Hollritt (BTG), Cpl Anthony J. Bassone (E),
Sgt Thomas J. Conlan (WG), Cpl Mario J. Grove (TG)
(Ranks and Grades while at Drew Field)
This photo was taken in March 1944 at Drew Field (Tampa) Florida. This is the location of the Tampa airport today. My Dad (SGT Alfred Hollritt) had just formed up with the crew 6-J-31 with 2nd Lt. Charles E. Johnson as pilot in Hunter Field, Georgia (near the new 8th Air Force Museum in Savannah). Now they were training together in Florida for the first time as an Army Air Force Crew. This is an "unofficial" group photo they took and it holds some interesting little stories.
First, Dad was originally drafted into the army until the day they lined up a large group of infantry soldiers at Fort Dix New Jersey and separated a small group of them and said, "You’re in the Army Air Corp now!" After that it was Gunnery training and then aircraft mechanics training until he was assigned to this crew. Dad knew right away he would be the Ball Turret gunner as he realized he was the shortest man in the crew!
During training this group acquired some "War Stories" - Spotting a German U-boat while flying a training mission off Florida, on closer investigation they realized they were being fired at! They lost a B-17 crew in a crash off Florida during a low level training flight. They heard latter on that fishermen found some dog tags in a shark that was caught off the coast. And on one occasion a high ranking officer pulled them off a flight line for an impromptu flight. The strange thing was he had luggage with him that they loaded on the plane. It turns out he needed a ride to another Air Base to start his R&R!! Well as they approached this Field they were told it was a B-26 training base with a very short runway, no problem they thought until they noticed all the burn marks from aircraft crashes around the end of the runway! Well after setting down and drawing a crowd from the base that had their first up close look at a B-17, they were treated to lunch by the officer. He said his farewells and then dad’s crew noticed all the B-26 guys taking bets on the chances of their B-17 crashing on takeoff! That's all Lt. Johnson had to see because as they roared down the runway he pulled the gear up at mid field and pulled around to Buzz the crowd; Dad said he could still see the unhappy gamblers faces today.
Within a few weeks of the photo this crew was on there way to England, Even that trip was an experience. Dad was able to notify his Mom in Clifton New Jersey that she may see him before they depart for combat. Sure enough after picking up a sparkling new B-17G in New Jersey they took a little sight seeing tour on their way to England. Turns out the Pilot lived in Millburn, NJ so they circled his house, then it was off to my fathers home town of Clifton New Jersey. Well as they approached the town they had to make two passes to find Dad's house just off Main Ave. and on the second low level one they saw his Mom on the front porch waving a sheet so they could spot her. Dad had a perfect view sprawled out in the nose of the Flying Fortress. When he turned around there was not a dry eye in the aircraft as they Buzzed down Main Avenue. On the way toward Gander Newfoundland they fly over his father’s grave in Shelton, Connecticut. His Dad had just passed away in 1943.
After taking the trip across the Atlantic they were assigned to the 303rd Bomb Group, 427th Bomb Squadron at Molesworth. If you compare this photo with the top photo taken in England, you will notice two members are different. CPL Anthony Bassone never made it overseas after accidentally discharging a Colt .45 into his leg in the barracks back in Florida. The bullet ended up coming to rest on a bunk near the rest of the crew! And CPL Mario Grove (TG) was soon bumped off the crew when they started flying lead crew radar equipped Pathfinder B-17s with the 305th out of Chelveston. Dad lost his beloved Ball-Turret to the H2X radar dome and flew waist gunner position but went on to complete 26 missions with the 303rd.
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]