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B-17F Flying Fortress JD-V 42-29784 ("Smilin' Thru")
545th Bomb Squadron, 384th Bomb Group, US 8th Air Force


14th October 1943

On 14th October 1943 the US 1st Bombardment Division despatched 149 aircraft to bomb a ball bearing works at Schweinfurt, Germany. This day became known as 'Black Thursday' as 45 of the division's aircraft were lost in action and a further six crashed on returning to England. One of these planes was B-17F 42-29784 "Smilin' Thru" from the 545th Bomb Squadron, 384th Bomb Group based at Grafton Underwood. The aircraft had suffered battle damage and was running short of fuel. Somewhere over southern England It was abandoned by its crew, who all landed safely by parachute. The deserted plane flew on for some distance before making a surprisingly good crash landing near Gore's copse, Baydon, Wiltshire.

One of the first people to arrive at the crash site was Alf Exell: "I was in the Army Cadet Force and we were often called out, jointly with the Home Guard, to incidents in our area. I remember it was after dark but there must have been a moon because we had no difficulty finding our way around. We were told that a plane had crashed just to the south-east of the village and we made our way along a track which heads out of Baydon towards Marridge Hill. After we'd been marching for about half-a-mile we came to Gore's copse and close by were the remains of a Flying Fortress. We were hoping to find a few souvenirs, perhaps even a leather flight jacket, but US service personnel had already arrived on the scene and kept us well away".

Crew details:
Pilot - 2nd Lt. Erwin C Johnson
Co-pilot - 2nd Lt. Elliott L Gadd
Navigator - 2nd Lt. William E Bailey
Bombardier - 2nd Lt. George J Littleton
Radio Operator - T/Sgt. Sam D Ranallo
Top Turret Gunner - T/Sgt. Lawrence A Hunt
Ball Turret Gunner - S/Sgt Clement A Couture
Waist Gunner - S/Sgt. Earl S Baker
Waist Gunner - T/Sgt. Gustave Fless
Tail Gunner - S/Sgt. Lawrence L Parsons

Above: The remains of "Smilin' Thru" near Gore's copes, Baydon.

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© Copyright 2004 Roger Day