39th Bomb Group (VH)

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"General Andrews "
B-29 # 44-69888

P-50 in flight
Photo Courtesy of J. Jacaruso, TG, P-47

Taken at Washington D.C.
Photo courtesy of Susan McDaniel
Niece of 2nd Lt William F. Blackinton

L to R Standing:
1st Lt Benjamin L. Powell Airplane Commander
2nd Lt William F. Blackinton Pilot
2nd Lt Frank L. Johnson Radar Observer
2nd Lt Robert W. Swartz Replacement Bombardier
1st Lt Claude M. Fisher Navigator
L to R Sitting:
M/Sgt David G. McCoy Flight Engineer
Sgt Richard J. Sloane Radio Operator
Sgt Jack W. Smith Tail Gunner
Sgt Paul P. Trujillo Right Gunner
S/Sgt Cloice Gene Tarn Replacement CFC Gunner
Sgt David L. Hirsch Left Gunner

 Crew 50
Honor Roll 
Jesse Ausburn
Flight Engineer
Killed in training accident stateside
1st Lt Benjamin L. Powell
Airplane Commander
MIA: 27 April 1945
2nd Lt William T. Blackinton
MIA: 27 April 1945
1st Lt Claude M. Fisher
MIA: 27 April 1945
2nd Lt Robert W. Swartz
MIA: 27 April 1945
Capt Ralph H. Hazel
Group FE
MIA: 27 April 1945
Sgt Richard J. Sloane
Radio Operator
MIA: 27 April 1945
Sgt Paul P. Trujillo
Right Gunner
MIA: 27 April 1945
Sgt Jack W. Smith
Tail Gunner
MIA: 27 April 1945
S/Sgt Cloice G. Tarn
CFC Gunner
May 1968
1st Lt Frank L. Johnson
Radar Observer
17 May 2002

After forming Crew 50 at Salina, Kansas we flew B-17 and B-29s locally. During one of our training flights in a B-17 at Salina, a fire developed while starting the No. 3 engine. Jesse Ausborn, our flight engineer, got out of the plane and called up to the cockpit when he backed into the No. 2 prop killing him. Sgt David G. McCoy was his replacement.

We flew to Batista Field, Cuba for training. Hot as heck during the day, but nice and cool in the evening. We did get into Havana for one day of sightseeing. Guards around the base were from Puerto Rico and did not speak much English. Flying back to Salina we stopped in West Palm Beach one night and in Memphis one night.

Later Cpl Cloice Gene Tarn replaced Sgt Richard S. Wildman in the CFC position. Crew 50 went to Topeka, Kansas to pick up our plane. 2nd Lt Leon Tomberg, bombardier went to hospital with pneumonia and was replaced by 2nd Lt Robert W. Swartz.

We flew to Silver Spring Army Air Corp base at Washington, D.C. for the ceremony of renaming the field to Andrew, dedicated to the memory of General F.M. Andrews (an advocate of aviation). He had been killed in a plane crash in Iceland. Mrs. Andrews was present. General Barney Giles was the speaker. After the ceremony we took off and buzzed the field with a P47 escort flying close beside, then on to Mather Field in California with a stopover at Topeka to pick-up our baggage.

Took off for Hawaii, about 500 miles out developed an oil leak on #2 engine (over the wing) forcing a return to Mather Field, Took approximately 10 days to locate and replace engine, on to Hawaii and then to Guam.

The "General Andrews" was so dedicated by General Arnold in memory of Lt General Frank Maxwell Andrews. General Frank Andrews had been one of the great pioneers of the Eighth Air Force in England. In the flight over the Atlantic, he was killed. As a tribute to this outstanding man, the U.S. Army Air Forces had named a superfortress for him and the strike at Kushira on 27 April 1945 was officially designated the General Andrews Mission. This mission resulted in the loss of its most famous plane. [View document] [pdf version]

This attack on Kushira was the "General Andrews" first combat mission. She made assembly at Tenega Shima and went over target in formation with other planes of the 39th Bomb Group. Trouble developed at the time of bombs away and bombs would not go out. The aircraft had been hit by anti-aircraft fire, and an engine was afire by a white phosphorus bomb. Soon after, enemy fighters viciously attacked the plane. With No. 1 engine burning furiously and the bomber-losing altitude, an attempt was made to get far enough away from the Japanese coast to ditch. The endeavor proved unsuccessful when the fire destroyed part of the wing and it began to disintegrate. The "General Andrews" went into a violent spin and crashed into the ocean about 25 miles off the enemy coast. Buddy B-29's and Navy Dumbo airplanes saw survivors in the water, but only three of the crew's eleven were picked up by the Submarine GATO SS 212.

Hirsch recalls ...
"Cloice G. Tarn, CFC and Frank Johnson, Radar went out through the back door. I grabbed my life raft (a second thought) and hooked it to my Mae West then jumped out the bombay.

I dropped quite a ways (worried about fighters) before pulling the ripcord. It was approximately four hours before the USS Gato picked me up. Tarn, Johnson and myself were the only ones picked up from Crew 50. Our plane P50 with a wild fire in the left wing flew a few more miles further, then lost a wing. This was approximately 25 miles off the coast. No survivors were reported."

The Missing Crew Report for this crew is 14328.

The report is a PDF file and must be viewed using a program such as Adobe's Acrobat Reader. You can download a free version by clicking here

If you already have a viewer click [here] to view the report.

Note: M/Sgt David McCoy was ill the night of the crew's first mission and was replaced by Capt Ralph H. Hazel. McCoy went to fly with Crew 56

Sources: "History of the 39th Bomb Group" ; David L. Hirsch, LG