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16th February 1943

Boeing B-17F-5-DL* "Shak Hak" (s/n 42-2967 code PU-G)

off the Island of Bréhat (22)
* B-17F-1-DL according to another source

(contributors : Jean-Michel Martin, Daniel Dahiot)

Boeing b 17f 42 2968

Crew (303rd BG, 306th BS) :

All crew members "Missing in Action or Buried at Sea" listed on the "Tablets of the Missing" at the "Brittany American Cemetery" in St. James, France.

- (Pilot) 1st Lt. William H. BREED (s/n O-431245), KIA

- (Co-Pilot) 2nd Lt. Harry T. SAMPLE Jr. (s/n O-661872), KIA

- (Navigator) 1st Lt. Homer R. ALLEN (s/n O-726967), KIA

- (Bombardier) 2nd Lt. Homer N. SANTERRE (s/n O-727120), KIA

- (Radio operator - gunner) T/Sgt. Joseph M. HERBERT (s/n 32098944), KIA

- (Top turret gunner) T/Sgt. Stanley PUTALA (s/n 11010815), KIA

- (Bowl turret gunner) S/Sgt. Mathias A. KUFFEL (s/n 19079126), KIA

-(Left waist gunner) S/Sgt. Roy C. LOKEN (s/n 16046842), KIA

- (Right waist gunner) Sgt. Michael J. HALPIN (s/n 11061854), KIA

- (Tail gunner) S/Sgt. James H. LENTZ (s/n 37144914), KIA

THE STORY

Off the island of Bréhat, Côtes du Nord, Tuesday February 16, 1943.

Late in the morning, crash in the English Channel, 20 miles northeast of the island of Bréhat, of the Boeing B-17F s/n 42-2967 code PU-G. It was assigned to the 303th Bomb Group, 360th Bomb Squadron of the 8th Air Force. The tail letter was G. The nickname given by the crew to their bomber was "Shak Hak". The aircraft was based in Molesworth, Cambridge County, England.

The objective was the bombardment of the submarine base at Saint Nazaire (southern Brittany) and the secondary objective the submarine base at Kéroman in Lorient (Brittany). The co-pilot was 2nd Lieutenant Harry T. Sample Jr., the navigator 1st Lieutenant Homer R. Allen and the bomb aimer 2nd Lieutenant Homer N. Santerre. The Technical Sergeant Joseph M. Herbert was radio but if necessary could be a gunner. In the top turret was the Technical Sergeant Stanley Putala, gunner. In the bowl turret under the B-17 was Staff Sergeant Mathias A. Kuffel. The waist gunners were Staff Sergeant Roy C. Loken, on the left, and Sergeant Michael J. Halpin, on the right, who replaced the Sergeant Samuel D. Easter on this mission. The tail gunner was Staff Sergeant James H. Lentz.


The crew of B-17F 'Shak Hak' on 14th October, 1942 
(back, from left tocright) 1st Lt. William H. Breed, 2nd Lt. Harry T. Sample, Jr, 1st Lt. Homer R. Allen, 2nd Lt. Homer N. Santerre
(front - not in order) T/Sgt Stanley Putala, T/Sgt Joseph M. Herbert, S/Sgt Samuel D. Easter (replaced on 16 February 1943 by Roy C. Loken), S/Sgt James H. Lentz, S/Sgt Mathias A. Kuffel.

Photo © with courtesy of  303rd Bomb Group Association "Hell's Angels"

They took off at 8:45 am. Beforehand, the briefing informing the pilots of their objective took place at 5:30 am. All crews were on board their aircraft at 7:00 am to prepare their respective positions and ensure the good functioning of the aircraft. The 303rd Bomb Group gathered 14 bombers that day to join other aircrafts for squadron formation. The leader of this aerial armada was Colonel Robinson, assisted by his co-pilot, Captain Lew Lyle. The latter, after one hour of flight, were confronted with difficulties aboard their B-17. In fact, the on-board radio was out of order, making communication through the intercom impossible. The ten crewmen could no longer communicate with each other. The decision to leave the formation and return to base was taken immediately. A new leader was appointed by Colonel Robinson ; he gave this responsibility to Captain Fredericks, pilot of the B-17 "Iza Vailable". Now 13 in the group, the bombers headed for their objective. They arrived in the area before 10 am at an altitude of 25,000 feet, and dropped their loads of bombs, a total of 31 tons in bombs of 500 and 1,000 pounds. The mission report indicated an objective achieved, although a smoke curtain hid the base. The flak was moderate and about fifty German aircrafts were claimed. Five German fighters were seriously hit. Unfortunately, two B 17s of the 303rd Bomb Group were lost. The first, the ''Spook'', belonging to the 358th Bomb Squadron - 303rd Bomb Group, flown by Lieutenant Dunnica, was seriously hit on 3 engines and fell at sea off Crozon, killing 5 crew members. 4 were saved. They  were rescued in an inflatable canoe, despite being strafed by German fighters, but fortunately without any damage to the survivors. They joined the Breton coast and were captured on the beach.

For the second aircraft shot down, the mission of the B-17 "Shak Hak" was tragic. The aircraft operated the bombardment as planned. While flying over the target, it was hit by the Flak in one engine. Lieutenant Breed decided to return immediately to England. Unfortunately, when flying over the English Channel, it was attacked by German fighters, causing its fall in the sea about 20 miles from the island of Bréhat, 'Côtes du Nord' at that time (position : 49°00 North / 03°00 West). The ten airmen were killed in this accident. Their bodies were never found. Their names are written on the wall of the missing at the American cemetery of Saint James, in the English Channel, south of Normandy, except Sergeant Putala, whose name appears on the monument to the missing Americans in Cambridge cemetery in England. Lieutenant William H. Breed was posthumously promoted to captain in the following days.

On February 16, 1943, the 8th Air Force lost 5 other bombers during this mission over Saint Nazaire :

FINISTERE

- B-17F-25-BO 'Spook' #41-24541 (code VK-B), 303rd BG - 358th BS, off the Crozon peninsula.

MORBIHAN

- B-17F-30-BO 'The Hun Hunter' #42-5058 (code WF-H), 305th BG - 364th BS, Molac "Le Favre"

- B-17F-5-VE #42-5717 (code RD-F), 306th BG - 423th BS, Guillac "La Ville Dan"

- B-17F-27-BO 'Boomerang' #41-24611 (code JJ-W), 305th BG - 422th BS, Pleucadeuc "Etang de Gourvana"

LOCATION NOT CONFIRMED

- B-17F-40-BO #42-5175 (code GY-?), 306th BG - 367th BS, fell either off the Côtes d'Armor, or in Locoal Mendon (Morbihan). The study is in progress

SOME NOTES ABOUT THE CREW AND THE AIRCRAFT
Source : 303rd Bomb Group Association "Hell's Angels" website and the American Air Museum

1st Lt. William H. BREED (pilot)
6 credited missions as pilot (+ one mission aborted because failed to takeoff) on 3 different aircrafts :
- B-17 'Shak Hak' s/n 42-2967 (360th BS), code PU-G : assigned pilot of this aircraft on July 15, 1942 at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, 4 credited missions [missions #1, 2, 6 (failed to takeoff, not credited), 9 and 16]. One mission (#11) was flown with another crew for a total of 5 credited missions. The crew was assigned to the aircraft on July 15, 1942. They named the aircraft at Kellogg Field, Battle Creek, Michigan. At Kellogg Field from September 7 to October 13, 1942. The crew and their aircraft left Kellogg Field for Molesworth (England) on October 13, 1942 with a passenger, S/Sgt William C. Fluke (360th BS Operations Unit Staff). They arrived at Molesworth on October 24, 1942.

- B-17 'Beats Me' s/n 41-24567 (360th BS) code PU-J - 1 credited mission [mission #4 - aircraft MIA on mission # 11, on 23 January 1943, during its 7th mission, when it crashed in Morbihan, Brittany, near Pluvigner].

- B-17 'Thumper' s/n 41-24579 (360th BS) code PU-F - 1 credited mission [mission #1 of 17 November 1942 - the aircraft belly landed in England during mission #11, on 23 January 1943].

2nd Lt. Harry T. SAMPLE (co-pilot)
5 credited missions, all with William H. BREED (missions #1, 4, 9, 10 and 16).

1st Lt. Homer R. ALLEN (navigator)
5 credited missions, all with William H. BREED (missions #1, 2, 4, 9 and 16). Assigned as navigator on 'Shak Hak' on 15 July 1942 at Alamogordo field, New Mexico. Crossed the Atlantic Ocean aboard the aircraft in October 1942. Homer R. ALLEN was born on 22 January 1919. He was the son of Mr et Mrs Jessie Floyd ALLEN. He was married to Dorothy Fay ALLEN. He was from Ventura, in California. He was graduated of UCLA in 1942 (Bachelor of Science Degree). He was also a member of the campus Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC). He became officer on July 4, 1942.

2nd Lt. Homer N. SANTERRE (bombardier)
6 credited missions, 5 with William H. BREED (missions #1, 2, 4, 10 and 16 - Substitute 2nd Lt. Earl J. DUMONT on misison #9) and 1 with Capt Jacob W. FREDERICKS (mission #15).

• T/Sgt Stanley Putala (top turret gunner)
7 credited missions, 6 with William H. BREED (missions #1, 2, 4, 9, 10 and 16) and 1 with Major Richard D. CALLAWAY as right waist gunner.

• T/Sgt Joseph M. HERBERT (radio operator - gunner)
7 credited missions, 6 with William H. BREED (missions #1, 2, 4, 9, 10 and 16) and 1 with Capt. Lewis E. LYLE and Lt. Col. Charles E. MARION (mission #12). HERBERT was assigned as radio operator on 'Shak Hak' on July 15, 1942, at Alamogordo field, New Mexico. He arrived in England on board the aircraft in October 1942.

• S/Sgt Mathias A. KUFFEL (bowl turret gunner)
5 credited missions, 4 with William H. BREED (missions #4, 9, 10 and 16) and 1 with Major Richard D. CALLAWAY (mission #8). He was assigned on mission #12 with 1st Lt George J. OXRIDER (358th BS) but the mission was aborted. He was replaced by S/Sgt Allan E. MAGEE on missions #1 and 2. 

• S/Sgt Samuel D. EASTER (left waist gunner)
3 credited missions, all with William H. BREED (missions #1, 2 and 4). He was right waist gunner on mission #4. He was replaced as left waist gunner by S/Sgt Roy C. LOKEN on missions #9, 10 and the fatal mission #16. EASTER was assigned as gunner on 'Shak Hak' on July 15, 1942, at Alamogordo field, New Mexico. He arrived in England on board the aircraft in October 1942.

• S/Sgt James H. LENTZ (tail gunner)
7 credited missions, 6 with William H. BREED (missions #1, 2, 4, 9, 10 and 16) and 1 with Major Richard D. CALLAWAY (mission #8).

• Right waist gunners ; the William H. BREED crew had no regularly right waist gunner
S/Sgt Charles L. ROTH - 9 credited missions, 2 with William H. BREED (missions #1 and 2) and 7 missions other pilots as radio operator (missions #3, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11). Became POW on 23 January 1943 (mission #11 over Lorient, France) after the crash of B-17F 'Beats Me' s/n 41-24567 (360th BS) code PU-J.
- S/Sgt Roy C. LOKEN - 4 credited missions, all with William H. BREED - Right waist gunner (mission #4) or left missions #9, 10 and 16).
Sgt Michael J. HALPIN - 2 credited missions with William H. BREED (missions #10 and 16). HALPIN was assigned to 360th BS as gunner on 1st July 1942 at Alamogordo field, New Mexico, without knowing whether he was assigned to a particular crew. We don't know when he arrived in Molesworth, England.  
Sgt Billie L. STANER - 5 credited missions, 1 with William H. BREED (mission #9) and 4 with other pilots (missions #4, 5, 7 and 11).

• The 5 missions of B-17 'Shak Hak'
- 17 November 1942 : submarine base St. Nazaire, France.
Crew : 1st Lt. William H Breed (pilot), 2nd Lt. Harry T. Sample, Jr. (co-pilot), 2nd Lt. Homer R. Allen (navigator), 2nd Lt. Homer N. Santerre (bombardier), T/Sgt. Stanley Putala (top turret gunner), T/Sgt Joseph M. Herbert (radio operator), S/Sgt. Alan McGee (bowl turret gunner), S/Sgt. Samuel D. Easter (left waist gunner), S/Sgt. Charles L. Roth (right waist gunner), S/Sgt. James L. Lentz (tail gunner).

- 18 Novembre 1942 : submarine base St. Nazaire, France.

Crew : 1st Lt. William H Breed (pilot), 1st Louis M. Schulstad (co-pilot), 2nd Lt. Homer R. Allen (navigator), 2nd Lt. Homer N. Santerre (bombardier), T/Sgt. Stanley Putala (top turret gunner), T/Sgt Joseph M. Herbert (radio operator), S/Sgt. Alan McGee (bowl turret gunner), S/Sgt. Samuel D. Easter (left waist gunner), S/Sgt. Charles L. Roth (right waist gunner), S/Sgt. James L. Lentz (tail gunner).
- 3 January 1943 : submarine base St. Nazaire, France.
Crew : 1st Lt. William H Breed (pilot), 2nd Lt. Harry T. Sample, Jr. (co-pilot), 2nd Lt. Homer R. Allen (navigator), 2nd Lt. Earl J. Dumont, Jr. (bombardier), T/Sgt. Stanley Putala (top turret gunner), T/Sgt Joseph M. Herbert (radio operator), S/Sgt. Mathias A. Kuffel (bowl turret gunner), S/Sgt. Roy C. Loken (left waist gunner), S/Sgt. Billie J. Staner (right waist gunner), S/Sgt. James L. Lentz (tail gunner).

- 23 January 1943 : submarine base Lorient, France

Crew : Capt. Jacob W. Fredericks (pilot), 2nd Lt. Arthur C. Way (co-pilot), 1st Lt. Milton S. Fonorow (navigator), 2nd Lt. Otis A. Hoyt (bombardier), T/Sgt. Michael S. Hlastala (top turret gunner), S/Sgt Richard J. Smith (radio operator), S/Sgt. Howard N. Nardine (bowl turret gunner), Sgt. Harvie L. Collins (left waist gunner), Sgt. Henry G. Schneiderman (right waist gunner), S/Sgt. Gilbert A. Murray (tail gunner).
- 16 February 1943 (last opération) : submarine base Nazaire, France

 

Jean Michel MARTIN, Daniel DAHIOT. ABSA 39-45, March 2014

Sources :
- MACR Missing Air Crew Report Number : 15116.
- 303rd Bomb Group Association "Hell's Angels" website. Researched by historian emeritus Harry D. GOBRECHT.
- the American Air Museum

Color profile of B-17 - Jean Marie Guillou (Target for today)

Thank you to the Association ''Freedom's Angels'', Quimper (www.freedoms-angels.fr) and the association of 303rd Bomb Group "Hell's Angels" (website)

ANNEXE : MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 15116
Le dossier complet incluant les courriers entre la fiancée de Joseph M. Herbert, Margaret Richter, et l'armée. 
A noter également que la page 13 de ce document évoque le nom de Santree et non Santerre pour le bombardier. 

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