Date: 1944 Aug 26/26 A/C Type: B-17G   Fortress SN: 42-97204 Code: OK-S A/C Nickname: Skylark
 File: 618 Airforce: USAAF Sqn/Unit: 384 BG - 547 BS Mission/Raid: Gelsenkirchen
1 Pilot 2Lt. Harry W. Rainey Jr.     8 crew POW 9 RWG S/Sgt. John G. Thornhill
2 Co-pilot 2Lt. J Z Rowe  (Jee Zee) 10 TG S/Sgt. Norman H. Gordon     shot dead
3 Nav. 2Lt. Charles D. Francis III 11    
4 B 2Lt. Walter S. Kendall Jr. 12    
5 E S/Sgt. Jack C. Evans 13    
6 RO S/Sgt. Richard N. Mosier 14    
7 BTG S/Sgt. Don B. Sturdivant 15    
8 LWG S/Sgt. Alfred B. Knowlton      evaded 16                    

On route back from Gelsenkirchen they had to bail out under Zwolle. They landed on the training terrain (sand heath) of the Dutch Army bases Oldebroek and Wezep, used by the Germans. Rainey was taken POW by the crew of a German tank. SS-troops shot a the parachutist in the air. On the ground, the Americans ran away but were soon caught.

While laying on the ground in hiding for approaching and shooting German soldiers, Sgt. Norman H. Gordon was hit by a bullet in the arm and the back of his neck, which killed him. The others next to him were not hit. Sgt. Gordon was buried August 29 in grave no. 663 in Heerde, next to four men a RAF Halifax crew buried a month before in grave 662, 661, 660 and 659 (crew Halifax MZ511 of 578 Sqn, shot down in the night 20/21 July 1944, also came down on the training ground).

By coincidence, the Germans found 31 August a dead airman on the training ground, a few days after the Americans were arrested. This airman was 'AT Robertson GB RAF 127900'. He is in the MACR and German documents for crew of B-17G 42-97204, but he was the pilot of the English Halifax bomber: Flight Lieutenant Alastair T. Hope-Robertson. His body had laid on the vast training ground for 5 weeks. F/Lt. Hope-Robertson was buried on the 1st September 1944 in grave 664, two days after and next to Sgt. Gordon in grave 663. Sgt. Gordon was exhumed post war and reburied in American War Cemetery 'Netherlands' in Margraten. This is the reason that there is an empty spot in Heerde today between Lt. Hope-Robertson and the others of his crew.

Four excellent photos of B-17 42-97204 'Skylark':


© ZZairwar (Zuyder Zee Air War)