Missing Air Crew Report no. 13883





"'Mean Whiddle Kid' flown by 1Lt Richard Althouse received several flak hits after crossing the River Elbe about a minute short of the target.  The B-17 of the 839th BS, numbered 43-37987, then circled out of the formation to the left, then passed over the formation before starting to loose altitude.  The #2 engine was seen to be windmilling but the plane leveled off with no signs of fire.  However Althouse ordered the bail-out as he said the plane had fires in both wings, two engines and in the bomb-bay.


Later another crew reported seeing the left wing break off at 1456hrs and an explosion which caused the aircraft to loose control. The Tail-Gunner, 1 Lt Peake, was badly wounded by a number of flak hits in the tail region and he left his turret and crawled forward towards the waist.  The Engineer and the Radio Operator came back past the Waist-Gunner, Sgt Harold Gustine, and bailed out of the waist hatch.  The radio operator, T/Sgt William Bressler, met Peake in the waist and asked him if he was alright.  Peake, who had a head wound that was bleeding profusely said that he was.  After Bressler left, the BTG and the Left Waist Gunner followed him.  After the other temporary Waist Gunner, S/Sgt Lincoln Hudson, bailed out Gustine went to exit himself but found that Peake was lying on the hatch having passed out either from his injuries or from lack of oxygen.  The WG helped Peake out of the hatch and then bailed out himself.  However it appears that Peake's parachute did not open, perhaps because he could not pull the release, and so he died on his first mission. For Gustine this was his second parachute descent having resorted to the silk in his sixth mission, resulting in a slight back injury.


The other casualty from the crew was Lt Oliver, the Co-Pilot, who was last seen in the bomb-bay, with a spilled chute that he was trying to gather up.  He did not exit the plane and his remains were found amongst the wreckage.  He was on his 25th mission.  The Navigator, 2Lt Douglas D Couchran, the Pilot and the Togglier/Nose Gunner, S/Sgt Aaron C Conn all bailed out of the nose escape hatch.  The crew all landed in the Jerichow area but Couchran fractured his knee on landing.  Like the others he ended up in Stalag XIA but in his case the short period before liberation was spent in the prison hospital.  This was Couchran's 34th mission, having commenced on 7th January on the mission to Paderborn."



Lt Richard L Althouse



1Lt Clyde E Oliver



2Lt Douglas D Couchran Jr



T/Sgt Thomas J Fugere


Radio Operator

T/Sgt William R Bressler



S/Sgt Aaron C Conn


Ball Turret Gunner

S/Sgt Norman D Garrison


Waist Gunner

S/Sgt Harold R Gustine


Tail Gunner

1Lt Willis E Peake

POW (actual KIA)


S/Sgt Lincoln Hudson






Photo of Stalag XIA - Altengrabow, POWs awaiting liberation

German POW camp where Althouse's crew (B-17G Mean Widdle Kid) was taken.


Note:  Dick Baer was no longer with the Althouse crew and did not go on their 34th mission.  Baer had only completed 13 missions to date, because of continued hospitalizations for sinus problems, he was assigned to the McDonagh crew with the same squadron (839th BS, 487th BG).