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303rd BG Original Crew
359th Calhoun Crew
William R. Calhoun, Pilot
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WILLIAM R. CALHOUN CREW - 359th BS
B-17F The Eight Ball #41-24581 (BN-O)
(original crew assigned 359BS: 01 July 1942 - photo: October 1942)

(Back L-R) Maj Eugene A. Romig (CO 359BS),
Capt William R. Calhoun (P), 2Lt James S. Nix (CP),
2Lt Joseph M. Strickland (N), 2Lt George R. Dominick (B)

(Front L-R) T/Sgt Roman R. Zaorski (E), S/Sgt Charles R. Terry (R),
Sgt Richard C. Fortunak (LWG), Sgt William C. Mulgrew (BT), Sgt Willard W. Stephen (TG)

Original Crewman not in Photo: Sgt Murel A. Murphy (RWG)
(Ranks and Grades at time photo was taken in the USA)

Thirty-eight dispatched (32 credited) combat missions of LtCol William R. Calhoun:
1st Combat Tour: 1(SLC), 17 November 1942), 2(A), 3(A), 4(SLC), 5, 6, 7(SLC), 9(A), 11(SLC), 13(SLC)(A), 14(SLC)(A), 15(CLC)(A), 17(LC)
As 358th BS Commanding Officer: 19(SLC), 21(SLC), 22(LC), 25(SLC), 28(SLC), 30(LC), 32(LC), 33(SLC), 35(SLC), 37(LC), 40(SLC), 42(LC), 43(LC), 50(LC), 54(LC), 57(LC), 61(LC)
2nd Combat Tour: 64(LC), 76(LC)
With 41st CBW - Director of Operations: 94(LC), 98(LC), 123(LC), 126(LC), 213(LC) (28 July 1944)
(SLC) Flew as Squadron Lead Crew Pilot (LC) Flew as Group Lead Crew Pilot
(A) Non credited aborted missions. For Mission dates, targets and Mission Reports, see Combat Missions.

Six Non-Credited Aborted missions:

  • #02 - 18 Nov 42 - Unknown reason
  • #03 - 22 Nov 42 - (0:30 flight Hrs) - Generator out
  • #09 - 03 Jan 43 - (2:14 flight Hrs) - S/Sgt R.C. Fortunak (WG) sick
  • #13 - 02 Feb 43 - (1:43 flight Hrs) - S/Sgt Stephen (WG) and S/Sgt Adams(WG) Hands frozen
  • #14 - 04 Feb 43 - (2:17 Flight Hrs) - S/Sgt Owens (WG) Feet and Hands frozen. Tail, Ball, Waist, nose and radio guns frozen
  • #15 - 14 Feb 43 - (1:58 Flight Hrs - S/Sgt M. Murphy (WG), Sgt R. Tibbles (WG) sick
Eight B-17Fs flown by LtCol Calhoun on his 38 dispatched combat missions:
  • 41-24581 (P) '8' Ball (359BS) BN-O - Six Missions (1, 2(A), 3(3), 4, 5, 7)
  • 41-24635 (P) '8' Ball Mk II (359BS) BN-O - Twenty Missions 9(A), 11, 13(A), 14(A),15(A), 17, 21, 22, 28, 33, 35, 37, 42, 50, 54, 57, 61, 76, 123, 126
  • 41-24565 (P) Idaho Potato Peeler (359BS) BN-P - One mission (6)
  • 42-24605 (P) Knockout Dropper (359BS) BN-R - Three missions (19, 25, 30)
  • 42-3029 (P) Wallaroo (359BS) BN-N - Two Missions (32, 40)
  • 42-5434 (P) Lady Luck aka Shad Rack (360BS) PU-J - One mission (43)
  • 42-29931 (P) Satan's Workshop (360BS) PU-L - One mission (64)
  • 42-97592 (No name) (305th BG - PFF B-17G) JJ-T - One mission (213)
    (P) See the nose art photos.
Crew Notes - Original Calhoun crew members:
  • LtCol William R. Calhoun (P) - Born 10 Nov 1919 Birmingman, AL, BA Degree Sanford Univ., 2Lt 12, Dec 1941, Class 41-I, Brooks Field, TX, Original 359BS Pilot, Arrived Molesworth 20 Oct 1942 in "The '8' Ball", Commanding Officer 359BS 6 March 1943 to 22 November 1943, Transferred to 41st CBW at Molesworth as Director of Operations and Executive Officer to 23 December 1944, On 7 Dec 1948, flying as Pilot, ditched a C-54 Transport in the Pacific Ocean and spent 40 hours in a life raft (33 survivors and 4 KIA). Retired as a USAF Colonel. Completed his first 25 mission combat tour on 19 Aug 1943 (mission 61). Volunteered for 2nd combat tour. Flew on seven additional credited missions. Last mission on 28 July 1944 (Mission 98). Was awarded two Silver Star Medals.
  • 1Lt James S. Nix (CP)(KIA) - Dispatched on eleven missions (6 credited) as CoPilot with Major Calhoun (2(A), 3(A), 4, 5, 9A), 13(A), 14(A), 25, 28, 40, 57) and 4 credited missions as CoPilot with 1Lt Guy H. McClung (19, 20, 33(A), 42, 45). Upgraded from CoPilot to Pilot on orders dated 22 March 1943 and flew on 12 credited missions as First Pilot (26, 32, 36, 41, 43, 47, 48, 51(A), 52, 56, 58, 60, 61). Was KIA on mission 61, 19 August 1943 to Gilze-Rijen, Netherlands in B-17F 42-2192 G-for-George (358BS) VK-G. Was shot down by German fighters halfway between the target and the enemy coast and the B-17 crashed between Odsterhiout and Raamsponkvoor, Netherlands (MACR 2894) (4 KIA and 7 POW). Completed 22 credited missions on 19 Aug 1943 (mission 61).
  • Capt Joseph M. Strickland (N) - Dispatched on 26 missions (20 credited) missions with Maj Calhoun (1, 2(A), 3(A), 4, 5, 6, 7, 9(A), 11, 13(A), 24(A), 15(A), 17, 21, 22, 25, 28, 30, 32, 33, 37, 40, 42, 50, 54, 57) and four credited missions with other Pilots (10, 13, 26, 31). Completed 24 credited missions on 12 Aug 1943 (mission 57).
  • 2Lt George R. Dominick (B) - Dispatched on 3 missions (2 credited) with Capt Calhoun (3(A), 4, 6). Last mission on 12 December 1942 Numerous substitute Navigators used on other Calhoun missions.
  • T/Sgt Roman R. Zaorski (E) - Dispatched on nineteen (14 credited) missions with the Calhoun Crew (1, 2(A), 6, 7, 9(A), 11,13(A),14(A), 15(A), 17, 21, 22, 25, 28, 30, 33, 37, 40, 42) and 11 dispatched (10 credited) missions with other Pilots: 1Lt Nix (26, 32, 36, 42, 43, 47); Others (19, 38(A), 45). Completed 30 dispatched (24 credited missions) on 29 June 1943 (mission 47).
  • T/Sgt Charles R. Terry (R) - Dispatched on 21 (15 credited) missions with the Calhoun Crew 1, 2(A), 3(A), 4, 5, 6, 7, 9A), 11, 13(A), 14(A), 15(A), 17, 19, 21, 22, 25, 33, 37, 40, 42) and 11 dispatched (10 credited) missions with other Pilots: 1Lt Nix (26, 32, 36, 42, 43, 45, 47); Others (12, 20, 31, 38(A)). Completed 32 dispatched (25 credited) missions on 29 June 1943 (Mission 47).
  • T/Sgt William C. Mulgrew (BTG) - Dispatched on 19 dispatched (13 credited) missions with the Calhoun Crew (1, 2(A), 3(A), 4, 5, 6, 7(A), 11, 13(A), 14(A), 15(A), 17, 21, 22, 33, 37, 40, 42) and twelve dispatched (11) Credited missions with other Pilots: 1Lt Nix (26, 32, 36, 41, 43, 45, 47, 48); Others (18, 19, 20, 38(A), 45). Completed 31 dispatched (24 credited) missions on 4 July 1943 (Mission 48).
  • T/Sgt Richard C. Fortunak (LWG) - Dispatched on 16 (13 credited) missions with the Calhoun crew (1, 2(A), 3(A), 4, 5, 6, 7, 9(A), 21, 22, 25, 28, 33, 37, 40, 42) and 12 dispatched (11 credited) missions with other Pilots: 1Lt Nix (26, 32, 36, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48); Others (20, 31, 38(A), 49). Completed 28 dispatched (24 credited) missions on 10 July 1943 (Mission 49).
  • S/Sgt Murel A. Murphy (RWG) - Dispatched on fifteen (12 credited) missions with the Calhoun crew (1, 2(A), 5, 7, 9(A), 11, 13(A), 15(As Tail Gunner), 17, 21, 22, 25, 33, 40, 42) and 10 dispatched and credited missions with other Pilots: 1Lt Nix 26, 32, 41, 43); Others (10, 12, 18, 19, 20, 31). Completed 25 dispatched (22 credited) missions on 22 June 1943 (Mission 43).
  • S/Sgt Willard W. Stephen (TG) - Dispatched on eighteen (13 credited) missions with the Calhoun crew (1, 2(A), 3(A), 4, 5, 6, 7, 9(A), 11, 13(A), 14(A), 17, 21, 22, 25, 33, 37, 40) and 12 dispatched and credited missions with other Pilots: 1Lt Nix (26, 41, 43, 45); Others (10, 18, 19, 20, 31, 36, 38, 42). Completed 30 dispatched (25 credited) missions on 26 June 1943 (Mission 45).
Mission Notes:
  • 20 December 1942, returning from mission #7 to Romilly-sur-Seine in badly damaged B-17F 41-24582 The '8' Ball (359BS) BN-O flying as a Squadron Lead Crew. Capt Calhoun flew over the target twice and his Squadron formation came off the target 10 miles behind the rest of the formation. Enemy fighters found the squadron formation and made head-on attacks. When the fighters came head-one Capt Calhoun dove down. One B-17, piloted by 1Lt O.S. Witt, was forced to ditch in the English channel all ten crewmen were killed. The enemy fighters made their last pass half way across the English Channel. The '8' Ball's main spar was hit and two engines were out.. The hydraulic system was out and the B-17 was shaking violently. Capt Calhoun ordered his crew, with the exception of himself and Major Romig (CP) to bail-out as soon as the B-17 reached the coast of England. They all made successful parachute jumps. Capt Calhoun and Major Romig then made a successful wheels-up "Belly" landing at Bovingdon and the B-17 was later salvaged. The Eight Ball was stripped of her nose cone, a scarce item in those days, Capt Ross C. Bales, a 359th BS Pilot, asked the 444th sub depot (then the 328th Service Squadron) to undertake the job of designing a gun mount to fire forward through the nose cone. The completed first nose cone was installed on 427th BS B-17F 41-24610 Jose Btfsplk II and was a tremendous success and helped lead to the B-17 chin turret that first appeared in the 8th AF B-17s in October 1943.

  • 04 May 1943, mission 33, to Antwerp, Belgium in The '8" Ball Mk II. Capt Calhoun (P) and LtCol W. A. Hatcher, Commanding Officer 351st BG(H), flying as CoPilot, were accompanied by Capt Clark Gable who flew as an Observer and manned the radio room gun. Enemy fighters slightly damaged the "8" Ball Mk II. Capt Gable and his cameraman chose to begin combat filming on his VIII Air Force combat gunnery training motion picture with a seasoned B-17 group - the 303rd BG(H). He would finish filming with the 351st BG(H) when it finished it's theater indoctrination and entered combat. The finished combat film was used as the core of the motion picture "Combat America."

  • 11 January 1944, mission 98, to Oschersleben, Germany in the '8' Ball Mk II. B/Gen Robert Travis was flying with LtCol Calhoun as Air Commander and CoPilot leading the entire first Division. The flight was fairly routine until General Travis told LtCol Calhoun that the 2nd and 3rd Division aircraft were returning to England due to deteriorating weather. He said that because things were going smoothly and his 1st Division was well along, he ordered the 1st Division to proceed to bomb the target - a FW-190 assembly factory. He later claimed that he did not hear the mission recall order. The P-47 escort obeyed the recall order and returned to their bases in England. The bomb run was excellent. As soon as the P-47s left the 1st Division was attacked by German fighters in groups of 15 to 30 aircraft 303rd BG(H) gunners claimed 30 fighters destroyed, 4 probables and 9 damaged - the greatest number of claims on any of the 303rd missions. Eleven 303rd B-17s were shot down. Other Groups lost 31 B-17s. LtCol Calhoun described the mission as "The roughest he had been on - but it was worth it." Many of the crewmen on the mission, who lost many of their friends, disagreed with this assessment and thought that the price in lost B-17s and crews was too costly.

[photo from the 303rdBGA Archives]
[Researched by Harry D. Gobrecht, 303rdBGA Historian Emeritus]