Date: 1945 Feb 03/03 A/C Type: B-17G   Fortress SN: 42-102951 Code: BG-Q A/C Nickname:
 File: 351 Airforce: USAAF Sqn/Unit: 95 BG - 334 BS Mission/Raid: Berlin
1 Pilot 2Lt. Richard P. Morris        all crew KIA 9 RWG not carried
2 Co-pilot 2Lt. Dean M. Ratts 10 TG Sgt. Marion L. Bell
3 Nav. 2Lt. Kenneth C. Wood 11    
4 B F/O Leonard A. Pospisil 12    
5 E Sgt. Kenneth L. Petersen 13    
6 RO Sgt. Leroy H. Hansen         MIA 14    
7 BTG Sgt. William T. Watt 15    
8 LWG Sgt. Milton L. Bell 16                    

After bombing Berlin the pilot reported to have a runaway propeller but was halfway to base. The aircraft lost contact with formation and lost altitude. Came from The North Sea towards Frisian Island Texel and was shot upon by Flak. Aircraft made a belly landing in sea at least 400m west of the Northwestern point of Texel Island. Eight men KIA and buried, 1 MIA.

Raid map, bombing Berlin 3 February 1945. The American bombers assembled over the Dutch coast and entered Holland at 'The Flak Gap' between Castricum and Egmond aan Zee. As often, a 90° course was followed over Lake IJsselmeer with the southern dike of the Northeast Polder as waypoint to Berlin. On below raid map is clearly visible the Russian Army's advance towards Berlin. On the return, somewhere Lt. Morris left formation, lost height and tried to find a position for an emergency landing. Nobody of the crew had parachuted out, all nine were together. In the approach for the landing, the .50 caliber machineguns were made inoperative.   

After reviewing several documents, grave documents and articles on the final day of 42-102951, we believe this is closest to what happened:

The aircraft flew towards Texel Island, coming from the North or East. It shot out flares to indicate problems and intent for an emergency landing. However, the German Atlantic Wall defence position 'Nordbatterie' in the dunes on the Northwest point of Texel (Slufter, pole 26) had opened fire on them and continued to fire at the bomber until and after it bellylanded in the North Sea, about half a mile from the beach. Dutch forced laborers on the site asked German Kommandant Lt. Tiemann and Oberfeldwebel Kriwan to help the airmen, but they refused. The floating aircraft was shot upon with machinegun and rifle fire. After three minutes, two crewmen climbed on the wing and waved, but they fell off/were shot off. Other crew came not in view. Some can have been knocked unconcious inside the plane during the hard water-landing, others can have exited the sinking aircraft, stayed in cover behind it but succumbed in the ice cold water (near freezing point).  

In the evening and night of 3 on 4 February 1945, the wind and swell brought the aircraft and debris to the beach. In the morning of the 4th, the Germans searched the wreck and shoreline. That evening they delivered seven coffins to the city hall in Den Burg for burial.     

Above image: Post war photo of the wreck, civilian posing on engine no. 1.  Left: Grave stone of pilot in Arlington, USA. 

During the war, already 160 Allied military had been buried in Den Burg, Texel's main community on the island. Most casualties washed ashore. In 1940 they started burial in the back of the war graves plot on row 1. On 7 February 1945, the crew of B-17 42-102951 were buried as the first (left side) on row 8, which is today the front row. Burial data 7 November 1945:

Grave 169. Officer Ratts, Dean M.
Grave 170. Onie, Milton S.
Grave 171. Bell, Marion L.
Grave 172. Unknown. "Stature tall, broad, stout. Hair dark red-blonde. Eyes blue-gray. Personel effects not found. Presumably plundered.
Grave 173. Petersen, Kenneth L.
Grave 174. Pospisil, Leonard A.
Grave 175. Wood, Kenneth C.

The unknown in grave 172 was later identified as pilot 2Lt. Richard Philip Morris.
Two men had gun shot wounds, five had drowned. 

Tail gunner Sgt. William T. Watt washed ashore 2 months later, two islands further down stream, buried Terschelling Island.

On 7 December 1945 they were exhumed by an American Quartermaster grave recovery team and reburied in American War Cemetery "Netherlands" in Margraten. In the 1949/1950 repatriation program, family choose for reburial in the USA of pilot Lt. Morris (Arlington), navigator Lt. Wood and bombardier F/O Pospisil.

Engineer Sgt. Leroy H. Hansen was never found and is MIA. His remains can have washed ashore further downstream and he can have been buried as unknown (American) airman. Then post war probably exhumed and (unsuccessfully) examined in US ID-centre Neuville-en-Condroz in Belgium (now cemetery 'Ardennes', Neupré), where he can be buried as 'A Comrade in Arms, Known but to God'.    


Link below shows in year 1950 the situation of the German gun position (Texel Nordbatterie) that fired on B-17 42-102951. The Bunker complex was build in 1943 in the dunes on the beach. Dunes move because of the wind and erosion. From 1947 to 1950 the bunkers fell on the beach and were later demolished.

File on Texel war graves 1945:
Lt. Morris' crew lay on the front row left, today the empty positions on the left hand side. 

File on US War Cemetery Ardennes:

© ZZairwar (Zuyder Zee Air War)