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Charles Seth 1943
Charles Seth is my great uncle and a veteran of WWII. He served as part of the 466th Bomb Group in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a navigator, which was based out of AAF Station #120 near Attlebridge, England. During his service he navigated, mainly, aboard two different B-24 'Liberator' bombers, Lovely Lady and Lovely Lady's Avenger (see below). On June 21, 1944 he was involved in a crash landing in Lovely Lady's Avenger, but I think his stories are best told in his own words...
"Most of the planes got their names from the pilots and crews. There wasn't really any normal procedure to cover this. A name was picked and the crew chief saw to it that the nose art was handled..."
|Designation:||B-24H-15-FO||Mfd. By:||Ford Motor Company|
|Serial #:||42-52569||Mfd. In:||Willow Run, MI|
[If anyone has any further information at all on the Lovely Lady (including photos!), please email me.]
"The original Lovely Lady was flown by us from the States to Europe via the Southern route
which was from
Florida to South America,
across the south Atlantic to Africa and then up to England.
We flew Lovely Lady for 3 missions (#2, 5 & 6) over germany,
it was too damaged to fly it was lent to another crew
who crash landed it on a mission that very next day.*
We then flew about 9 missions in borrowed planes [names?]. I think it was one of these borrowed planes that we flew back to England without instruments (as told in the newspaper article, see below). I noticed in that article they got the name of the plane wrong - they call it "Lovely Lady II" which was incorrect - that story went through several people from the time we related it to the news at our base in England and the time it was published in the Watseka, Illinois paper.
After borrowing planes for awhile, we were thereafter issued a later "J" model B-24 which we named Lovely Lady's Avenger..."
* The other crew, #619, flying Lovely Lady on mission #7, April 9th, 1944 crash landed her at a farm called Saksfjeldgard, south-east of Rodly on the island of Lolland, Denmark. Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) #3844. Some of that crew didn't make it and were apparently (temporarily) interred there.
|Designation:||B-24J-145-CO||Mfd. By:||Consolidated San Diego|
|Serial #:||44-40093(N?)||Mfd. In:||San Diego, CA|
"We also flew Lovely Lady's Avenger for a number of missions, starting with mission #38 on May 27, 1944, prior to the mission in which we ended up in Sweden (see Last Bombing Mission below), beginning with mission #38 on May 27, 1944. I noticed that the picture I had of the nose art (see upper right) shows 3 bombs painted on the plane. When we took it to Sweden we had 12 bombs painted on it (each bomb is for one combat mission), so that picture was taken at the air base shortly after we got the plane (could have been when the name was painted on it). The large 'U8' on the fuselage (shown on one of the crash photos) was code to indicate the 786th Bomber Squadron."
You can read about the 466th Bombardment Group at the following sites.
To the right you'll see the various insignia relating to Charles' plane crew. The first is the insignia for the 466th Bomb Group. The second is the tail pattern and colors for the 466th Bomb Group (each Group's tail pattern and colors uniquely identified it). The third is the insignia for the 786th Bomb Squadron of the 466th (the other squadrons in the 466th were the 784th, 785th and 787th Bomb Squadrons).
Not shown are two other insignia. First there was a "Circle-L" on the top of the right wing, which was the "tail code" for the 466th Bombardment Group. Second, there was an N which was the RCL, or Radio Call Letter.
The village's name refers to the bridge (brycg) reportedly built by Ætla and is 8 m NW of Norwich. The air base there, designated AAF Station #120, was used by the 466th Bomb Group from 7 Mar 1944-6 Jul 1945. It was originally built for the RAF No. 2 group light bombers, then later saw use by the 319th (B26 Marauders), the 466th Bomb Group (B24 Liberators), RAF 105 and 88 Sq. (Bostons, Blenheims), and No. 320 (Dutch) Sqdn.
The base is now a turkey farm, with the tower used as offices.
"The full designation of my crew was Crew #609, 786th Bomber Squadron, 466th Bomb Group, 2nd Air Division, 8th Army Air Force. My crew's pilot was Lt. Leo Mower from Fountain Green, Utah. The one newspaper article of mine had Mower's name mispelled and home town wrong, in case you noticed (see below). I didn't join this group until Feb. '44, just before leaving for Europe, and therefore I didnt know any of the crew until then." Note, the call sign for the 786th Bomber Squadron was "Agram."
Crew # 609, taken after crash landing in Sweden.
Crew members were...
Back Row, L-R
Sgt. George Hamas, Waist Gunner, #120 50 694 (New Jersey)
Lt. Charles A Seth, Navigator, #161 36 477 (Illinois)
Sgt. James (Jim) Nelson Branum, Nose Gunner, #??? ?? ??? (?)
Sgt. Edward E Magalski, Engineer, #33057256 (Pennsylvania)
Front Row, L-R
Lt. Lynn J Fostmeier, Co-Pilot, #170 25 486 (Minnesota)
Sgt. Walter Taylor, Radio Operator, #153 82 203 (Indiana)
Sgt. Harry Brainard, Tail Gunner, #121 68 077 (New York)
Lt. Leo Mower, Pilot, #??6 79 093 (Utah)
"Our total was 23 missions flown, with 30 missions being the maximum limit at that time. I verified my records and found that I flew the following missions: 2-5-6-9-10-12-14-19-20-26-36-38-41-43-44-47-50-53-56-58-60-61 and our last one No. 64!! Mission #47 was D-Day." (See 466th Missions List for date and other details on these missions.)
|The bridge in this Google map appears to be the rebuilt modern day bridge.|
June 17, 1944 (11 days after D-Day)
"This clipping (below) shows a railroad bridge, near Tours, France, that was on a main supply line. We were in Lovely Lady's Avenger and carried 2000 lb bombs that day. For better bombing coverage we were ordered to bomb from around 5,000 feet instead of our regular 20,000 feet, a height unusual for heavy bombers. The raid was carried out in the afternoon instead on early morning, another aspect of this raid that was different than typical bombing runs."
"The picture in the clipping shows that we did a pretty good job on the bridge. Every thing worked well and all planes returned safe."
June 21, 1944 (15 days after D-Day)
"Left England in Lovely Lady's Avenger at 5 am heading for Berlin with a full load of 500 pound bombs for delivery to air fields and munitions plant..."
"Weather was clear and cold (Outside temp at 20,000 feet was minus 40 below zero). Made trip to Berlin, made bomb run and headed for home when anti aircraft guns filled the sky with lots of flak and exploding shells. We were hit in two engines (note feathered props on one engine), started to loose speed and altitude and couldn't keep up with group so we were flying alone. Had ideas of bailing out but one of the gunners had holes shot in his parachute so decision was made to stay with plane as long as we could . We were down to about 10,000 feet and made quick decision to go to Sweden (neutral country) which was about 100 miles or so across the Baltic sea. It was about 500 miles or so back to England across the North Sea which was very cold water (couldnt last long if we had to ditch the plane there - easy decision)."
"About half way to Sweden a German fighter plane started chasing us and we couldnt fire back, but 2 American P-38s, my favorite fighter, came to our rescue and chased him off."
"While we were heading for Sweden and we knew the plane was badly damaged, we realized our hydraulic system was damaged and the nose turret, which James Branum, was in, wouldn't turn because we were low on hydraulic fluid, so he was stuck (Locked In). We had a manual system to turn the turret so the doors would open, so he could get out. As I was turning the crank, the chain kept creaking and cracking, and we were afraid it might break. Jim said to me, QUOTE Charlie if you break that chain I will haunt you the rest of your life (we laughed about it much later). The chain didn't break, we got him out Ok, and finished up getting ready for landing in Sweden."
"Made it to southern tip of Sweden and the little town of Malmö (see map) and crash landed on a little hill just short of runway... not quite enough power to pull up over the hill. That is where the pictures were taken."
"Every one of us (8 fliers) got out Ok - just a little shaken up but nothing serious. As this was a neutral country we were treated very nice and well taken care of. We stayed at the Grand Hotel in Rättvik, Sweden (190 miles north west of Stockholm) for our 5 months visit to Sweden. It was a nice hotel and a nice little town on Lake Siljan."
"One of the pilots, after finishing his missions, was assigned to air transport command, flying night missions to and from Sweden in an unmarked, black painted B-24. That was good for me and my crew..."
"In early December we were put on a plane and flown to Ireland, then to England back to our old base. Few days there and then by air to New York, by train to Chicago and then by train to Bloomington, IL. Arrived there Dec 23 to be home by Christmas."
"Sixty years ago. It has been a long time....."
Whenever an air crew went missing, there was a Missing Air Crew Report, or MACR, filed. The report regarding Crew #609 (Charles' crew), when they went missing (i.e. crash landed in Sweden), was MACR #6164.
The above left crash photo was provided by Charles Cadogan in the UK. The photo was marked "Bulltofta, Malmö" and dated "June 1944." The photo was discovered in his late grandfather's photo album. His grandfather was a Swede named Hans Wachtmeister, who lived in Malmö during WWII and was head of the department of construction of Malmö harbour (byggnadschef vid Malmö Hamnförvaltning). Hans was a keen and prolific photographer as well as an aircraft enthusiast, enjoying early passenger flights within Europe before WWII.
Note the N on the tail and the "Circle-L" on the wing. The N was the RCL, or Radio Call Letter. The "Circle-L" was the group's tail code.
The above right crash photo was taken by an unknown photographer. However, I found the image posted by "Rudolf Filip" in this britmodeller.com forum post, here.
Two more images of Lovely Lady's Avenger after it crashed. The color photo is wonderful, and was provided by Ingemar Melin, who told me, "The photo was taken by a young guy that had purchased a camera and was lucky to find this plane where he took this famous shot. The photo then came into the hands of a good friend of mine, Nicklas Östergren. He made postcard prints of it, which at the time were spread into the circle of aviation historians."
Mr. Melin also wrote this text about the crash:
"The 21th of June it was crowded at Bulltofta. The day before had not less than 21 heavy American bombers that landed there. This day there would be 8 more planes to land. Four Liberators and four fortresses. One of Liberators was "Lovely Ladies Avenger" from the 466th Bomb Group, flown by Lt. L. Mower. Over the radio, he announced that they had problems with two engines and fuel leakage. He was advised to call for fighter escort and either try to reach Sweden or jump. Just before 11:00 he landed at Bulltofta, but due to leaky hydraulic system there were no working brakes. The plane came in from the north, went off the track, and rolled up over the crest of Hohögsbacken (today near the entrance of IKEA). Below the hill they came to a halt. The crew of eight men escaped unhurt, but the plane was scrapped on site. An opportunistic amateur photographer took a picture with his box camera just when 'Lovely Ladies Avenger' breaks the edge of the hill."
"Her very spectacular landing in combination with the fact that her location was reachable for civilans made her probably one of the most photographed US bombers in Sweden..."
Throughout WWII, Sweden (a neutral country) saw forced & crash landings on their soil by a large number of both Axis and Allied damaged aircraft. And because of its location at the southern tip of Sweden, for Allied pilots and air crews Bulltofta airfield in Malmö, Sweden was one of several easier alternatives to flying a heavily damaged aircraft back to their originating air base in England. The peak of this activity for Malmö was June 20th-21st, 1944, when at least 25 bombers force landed at the small Bulltofta airfield... including Lovely Lady's Avenger on the 21st.
See other sections of this page and also the newsletter article "Bulltofta: June 20-21, 1944" in the link below for more information. The article even mentions specifically the forced landing of Lovely Lady's Avenger and includes another photo of the aircraft after the crash!
Sweden: After the Flak (pdf)
Bulltofta, Malmö, Sweden (Wikipedia article)
Malmö, Sweden (Wikipedia article)
The first clipping tells about Charles' MIA status when his bomber went missing (i.e. when they crash landed in Sweden). The second clipping tells about his safe return. Note that the details of his safe return were not revealed at that time...
This clipping tells about how, on a previous occasion, Charles had helped his pilot bring their instrument-crippled aircraft in for a safe landing (this is also mentioned briefly in the third paragraph of the clipping just above left). Note that the name of the pilot, his home town, and the name of the aircraft were reported incorrectly. The pilot was actually Lt. Leo Mower from Fountain Green, Utah. The aircraft's name was actually Lovely Lady.