Richard F. Baer : Duties of the Copliot : Brief Timeline : Mission Notes : Map of Missions : Mean Widdle Kid Shot Down

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- By Stacy Scharch -



B-17 copilot, fifteen (15) missions with 487th Bomb Group, January 7 to April 21, 1945.  Campaigns: Air Offensive, Europe; Rhineland;

Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe.


Crew and Aircraft Assigned:

  1. Althouse Crew:

    Commanded by 1/Lt Richard L. Althouse; served thirteen missions total on three B-17s.

    B-17G Mean Widdle Kid #43-37987 missions #1-5, 7-11, 13 (11 total)

    B-17G Paddlefoot #42-97969 mission #6 (The History of the 487th Bomb Group (H)

    B-17G Snake Bite #43-38042 mission #12


    Two Crews of Mean Widdle Kid


  2. McDonagh Crew:

    Commanded by 1/Lt John McDonagh; served two missions total.

    B-17G Gravel Gertie #43-39188 missions #14 and #15 (487th Bomb Group (H) Association)



RICHARD F. BAER, born in 1923, of Madison, Wisconsin and was the eldest son of Pauline (Farrell) and Raymond W. Baer.  The family purchased and moved into their first house in the West Lawn Heights neighborhood of Madison at 2206 Hollister Avenue that same year.  Dick's father, Raymond, worked as manager of Globe Baking Company for his father, Charles E.H. Baer, who was president of the corporation.  In 1928, Ray Baer started up a successful insurance agency that is still in existence today.  In 1936, the Baer family moved into a new larger home in Nakoma, a new neighborhood development on Madison's west side.  The new home had five bedrooms, an attached double garage, and was completely clad in brick and topped with cedar shingle roof.

He was a graduate of Madison West High School in 1941.  It was during his freshman year, at University of Wisconsin in Madison, when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration Baer joined the Army Air Corps as a private, one year later, on December 7, 1942.  

As a cadet, Baer attended flight schools in the states of Texas, Arizona, California, and Florida where he became skilled at flying basic single and advanced multi-engine aircraft under the U.S. Army Air Force. 

On January 7, 1943, Dick completed basic training and received the "Champion Athletic Award" certificate, the title of which he found humorous.  The United States Army Air Force selected him for pilot training on August 23, 1943 and sent him to Texas Technical College, Cadet Training Detachment in Lubbock, Texas. 

A few months later, in a telegram dated December 2, 1943 to his parents and siblings, Dick announced he 'soloed' in an Army aircraft trainer at cadet school.  He describes his fond experience of learning to fly in a 1943 AAF Christmas card to his family, featuring aircraft formation photo of the Ryan PT-22 "Recruit" primary trainer. 

Continuing his ongoing training as a cadet for another six months, he finally graduated as a pilot Second Lieutenant on June 27, 1944 and received an "Advanced Pilot School Diploma".  With high spirits, he sent his parents a telegram from Pecos, TX proclaiming, “...WINGS AND BARS ARE MINE. MUST REPORT TO YUMA ARIZONA JULY 9TH..."  Father, Raymond, replied to his son's news with a poem he wrote entitled, "THIS DAY MY SON PUTS ON HIS WINGS". 

Dick had two weeks of leave and returned home to his family in Madison before resuming further training.  Originally, he was scheduled to report to an advanced flying school and airfield near Yuma, AZ to undergo aerial formation flight training.  Dick's wife, Anne Baer, said he was sent to California for advanced training instead.

He may not have gone to Yuma, AZ for as long as first expected, if he did at all.  According to an old military pass/ID card found in his scrapbook, dated October 7, 1944, Lt. Baer was stationed at MacDill Field in Tampa, Florida, a major staging area for Army Air Corps flight crews, and received "transitional training" in a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress.

On October 25, he sent another telegram home to his family, in Madison, letting them know again that he was, “okay”.  Then on December 13, 1944, while embarking for Europe, he sent another telegram from "NYJ".  Anne Baer said he went over on a converted troopship the Ile de France, an old French luxury liner, taking the 21-year-old airman across the Atlantic Ocean to the United Kingdom into the European Theater

Richard F. Baer was assigned to the 839th Bombardment Squadron, part of the 487th Bombardment Group, 4th Bomb Wing and the 3rd Air Division of the Eighth Air Force under the command of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) at Station 137 Lavenham, Suffolk, England. 

Around 1943, the USAAF was given parcels of farmland to build an airfield, which included several operations buildings and housing for its airmen, in preparation for the Allied invasion.  The airfield is located in the remote countryside of Suffolk County, England, about 70 miles northeast of London and two miles northwest of Lavenham, an old medieval village.  It is a peaceful community of about 2,000 inhabitants with several half-timbered medieval cottages, mansions and a unique old church. 

Station 137 was built as a temporary base and housed the entire 487th BG.  It had a total complement of about 300 officers and 1,500 enlisted men to fly and support 48 heavy bombers for the 836th, 837th, 838th and 839th Bombardment Squadrons.  The 487th was also nicknamed "Gentlemen From Hell"; its patch included a caricature of a red devil worn on crewman jackets.  The base was barely two years old when Dick and his crew arrived for combat duty. 

Lt. Baer was with the 839th Bombardment Squadron and copiloted a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress (a/c #43-37987) called Mean Widdle Kid.  The ten-man crew was commanded and piloted by Lt. Richard L. Althouse.  Their ship was one of a dozen or more B-17s that made up the 839th Squadron.  The nose art on their Flying Fortress was a cartoon figure of a popular cartoon character called Junior the Mean Widdle Kid, a young troublemaker portrayed by comedian/actor Red Skelton.  The caricature was painted on the left side of the B-17’s nose, and shows Junior marking off the number of missions completed by the crew from 34 to 35, the final number need to go home.

Every crewmember was required to complete 35 combat missions before their tour of duty ended.  Dick only completed 15 missions due to surgery for problematic sinuses and the end of war in Europe.  Many of his missions typically departed by 05:30 or later from Station 137.  “Daylight bombing”, as it was known, required crews to be woken as early as 02:00 to dress, eat breakfast then assemble for mission briefing where their target was unveiled.  These young men, many between 19-22 years old, routinely spent several hours cramped inside their ships on air raids over German occupied territory. 

Formation take-offs were carefully planned and calculated down to the second.  Each aircraft had to take off in specific order every 30 seconds, fly straight for a specific amount of time, turn 180 degrees, then pull into position alongside the leader’s wing to form their squadron, all while ascending in altitude.  Typically, nine Flying Fortresses were in a squadron.  Each squadron had a lead plane; they followed to join up with, usually three, other squadrons to assemble their group.  Bomb groups joined other groups to form a bomb wing.  Bomb wings assembled into divisions, forming an armada of as many as 2,000 planes on some missions. 

As crews like the Mean Widdle Kid departed England, enroute to targets in Europe, they typically flew over the North Sea into enemy territory. 

Crews spent long periods packed inside the tight compartments of their B-17s all loaded with high explosive bombs.  Pilots struggled to maintain tight orderly formation while flying alongside each other at speeds over 200 mph.  They typically flew at high altitudes of around 35,000 feet where temperatures often reached -30°F or more.  Riding in an unheated and non-pressurized cabin required crewman to wear electrically heated suits and breath through oxygen masks above 10,000 feet.

These formations had a precise staggered pattern with only 50-feet of horizontal and vertical space separating each bomber plane. This allowed for simultaneous bomb release and minimized hits from enemy fire to an armada of deeply stacked B-17s that often stretched for miles.  There was little room for error, separating each four-engine bomber.  Any evasive maneuver, while being pummeled by overwhelming German air defenses, could not be made without colliding into another Fortress. 

Everyone had to stay in position and on course along a predetermined route even, while under fire.  It was almost impossible to avoid collateral damage from another ship if you were in its path of its debris.  Pilots had to keep cool and fly straight through enemy attacks from both ground and air while maintaining precise control of their bulky aircraft.  Meanwhile, the other crewmembers worked the .50 cal. machine guns, scanning the skies for "bandits" and shooting back as they strafed their ships,  There was a lot of activity aboard a Flying Fortress.

These B-17 crews had a high mortality rate as they conducted bombing raids in Europe against the Nazi regime during WWII.  U.S. airmen routinely encountered flak (anti-aircraft artillery) from the Wehrmacht's 88mm ground batteries as well as, gun and cannon fire from enemy aircraft.  Flak exploded all around the B-17 groups and many crews witnessed other planes go down, often just feet away with their friends onboard.  Crewmembers felt helpless as their bombers flew into flak barrages with black clouds of smoke filling the sky.

Pilots struggled to avoid mid-air collisions by bumping into each other.  It was a tall order to maintain a safe distance, stay on course, return enemy fire, and wait frantically for the bombardier/togglier to throw the switch dropping the bombs.  If clouds or smoke obscured the target, they would have to return to destroy the target or select another “target of opportunity.” 

They had to fly right through artillery explosions; the sound was a hailstorm of shrapnel hitting the outside of their B-17, or much like gravel hitting metal.  A near hit would penetrate the thin aluminum skin and damage their mighty yet vulnerable Flying Fortresses.  A direct hit was usually fatal.  In some instances, Fortresses sustained direct hits and miraculously returned with heavy battle damage.  B-17s were rugged aircraft; they could sustain heavy battle damage from flak and gunfire. 

It was not too uncommon to see a battle damaged B-17 with vital parts missing following a mission.  Some would return to base without wing tips, vertical stabilizers, rudders, flaps, or with the entire nose of the aircraft gone.

As soon as the Bombardier hit the switch, the plane abruptly jumped after releasing 8,000 pounds of bombs at once.  Squadrons then maneuvered to change direction and headed toward a predetermined rally point, to return to England, flying back through more barrages of flak and bullets from enemy fighters.

By the time they were out over sea, crews could regain their composure; assess each other and their planes for battle damage.  It was now several hours later from the time they began their day.  Not until safely landing could a B-17 crew consider a mission completed.  

On 20 Jan 1945, during his 6th sixth mission, Dick’s plane began experiencing engine and navigational instrument failure. Just two minutes before dropping bombs on their target, the situation became unstable prompting half of the crew to bail out over France.  Baer wrote in his diary, “Finally managed to set her down at a little field near Britinge twenty minutes south of Paris.”  His wife Anne said, “He didn’t want to put on a parachute and jump, instead, he decided to risk crash landing.  He didn’t like bailing out, even during training - he really didn’t like heights.”

Separation papers indicate Lt. Baer logged 254.50 hours of flight time when discharged from the Army Air Force on January 26, 1946. 

Today, the control tower at Station 137 still stands, thanks in part to recent restoration efforts by preservationists, and is now a museum dedicated to the men of the 487th Bomb Group.  The countryside is peaceful again and the old paved runways are reclaimed farmland.

Four long years after Pearl Harbor, picking up where he left off, as so many young WWII veterans did, Dick Baer returned to civilian life and resumed his education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  However, the lessons were far different from the one’s he learned in the cockpit of a B-17 Flying Fortress over Germany.



Duties and Responsibilities of

The copilot is the executive officer - your chief assistant, understudy, and strong right arm. He must be familiar enough with every one of your duties - both as pilot and as airplane commander - to be able to take over and act in your place at any time.

  • He must he able to fly the airplane under all conditions as well as you would fly it yourself.

  • He must he extremely proficient in engine operation, and know instinctively what to do to keep the airplane flying smoothly even though he is not handling the controls.

  • He must have a thorough knowledge of cruising control data, and know how to apply it at the proper time.

  • He is also the engineering officer aboard the airplane, and maintains a complete log of performance data.

  • He must be a qualified instrument pilot.

  • He must he able to fly good formation in any assigned position, day or night.

  • He must he qualified to navigate by day or at night by pilotage, dead reckoning, and by use of radio aids.

  • He must be proficient in the operation of all radio equipment located in the pilot's compartment.

  • In formation flying, he must be able to make engine adjustments almost automatically.

  • He must be prepared to take over on instruments when the formation is climbing through an overcast, thus enabling you to watch the rest of the formation.

Always remember that the copilot is a fully trained, rated pilot just like yourself. He is subordinate to you only by virtue of your position as the airplane commander. The B-17 is a lot of airplane; more airplane than any one pilot can handle alone over a long period of time. Therefore, you have been provided with a second pilot who will share the duties of flight operation.

Treat your copilot as a brother pilot. Remember that the more proficient he is as a pilot, the more efficiently he will be able to perform the duties of the vital post he holds as your second in command.

Be sure that he is allowed to do his share of the flying, in the pilot's seat, on takeoffs, landings, and on instruments.

The importance of the copilot is eloquently testified to by airplane commanders overseas. There have been many cases in which the pilot has been disabled or killed in flight and the copilot has taken full command of both airplane and crew, completed the mission, and returned safely to the home base. Usually, the copilots who have distinguished themselves under such conditions have been copilots who have been respected and trained by the airplane commander as pilots.

Bear in mind that the pilot in the right-hand seat of your airplane is preparing himself for an airplane commander's post too. Allow him every chance to develop his ability and to profit by your experience.





7 Dec 1942

Enlisted in Army Air Corps as private. (NARA)

Date unknown

Texas Tech College, Cadet Training Detachment in Lubbock, TX

7 Jan 1943

Received "Champion Athletic Award" for completing Army fitness training.

23 Aug 1943

Selected by U.S. Army Air Force for pilot training at Texas Technical College, Cadet Training Detachment in Lubbock, TX.

02 Dec 1943

The day he “soloed” in trainer aircraft for first time.

27 Jun 1944

Awarded the "Advanced Pilot School Diploma" receives wings at base in Lubbock, TX.  Air Wings (with propeller in vertical position) pinned in his scrapbook.

Jul 1944

Dick went to California, Santa Monica area (or Stockton) because training was interrupted. (Anne Baer)

7 Oct 1944

Stationed at MacDill Field - Tampa, FL for transitional training. (Source: USAAF military pass/ID card)

25 Oct 1944

Stationed at MacDill Field - Tampa, FL  (Source: telegram), 3rd Air Force, Air Defense of Southeastern USA an Army Air Force operational training field using B-26s, and B-17s.

13 Dec 1944

Location unknown, Western Union Telegram, "NYJ". Initials may indicate New York/Jersey? (Probably his port of embarkation.) Crossed Atlantic on the Ile de France, a French liner converted to a troopship.

   Dec 1944

Arrived at Station 137, Lavenham, Suffolk 487th Bombardment Group. Assigned to 839th Bomb Squadron crew number 197.

Crewmembers Military Occupational Specialty
Richard L. Althouse MOS# 1091 (Pilot, B-17)
Richard F. Baer

MOS# 1091 (Pilot, B-17)

Douglass D. Couchran Jr. MOS# 1034 (Navigator)
William R. Bressler

MOS# 0757 (Radio operator, mechanic, gunner)

Thomas J Fugere MOS# 0748 (Flight engineer, mechanic, gunner)
Aaron C. Coon MOS# 0612 (Airplane armorer, gunner)
Norman B. Garrison MOS# 0611 (Aerial gunner)
Stephen V. Giltinan Jr.

MOS# 0611 (Aerial gunner)

Harold R. Gustine MOS# 0611 (Aerial gunner)

  7 Jan 1945

Arrived at Station 137, Lavenham, Suffolk 487th Bombardment Group. Assigned to 839th Bomb Squadron crew number 197.

   Dec 1944

Arrived at Station 137, Lavenham, Suffolk 487th Bombardment Group. Assigned to 839th Bomb Squadron crew number 197.

   26 Jan 1946

Discharged from US-AAF







All missions departed from Station 137, Lavenham, Suffolk home base of 487th Bomb Group.  Quotations by Lt. Richard F. Baer, USAAF.


1st Mission

Sunday, January 7, 1945

Paderborn - marshalling yards 51L42' N - 8L45' E

PFF bombing @ 22,000 ft.

Time OET 02:40 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Seven (7) crews began takeoff at 7:45 am. 


Dick Baer writes:  "So called 'milk run' no bandits (fighters) saw one burst of "Flak" - had a rough time finding field after peel off over Splasher Seven.  Over enemy territory (OET) 02:40.  No losses"





2nd Mission

Monday, January 8, 1945

Frankfurt - marshalling yards 50L06' N - 08L40' E

PFF bombing @ 26,000 ft.

Time OET 01:07 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-eight (38) crews began takeoff at 6:25 am.


Dick Baer writes:  "McCarty landed in France - engine trouble.  Sinus bothered hell out of me.  No bandits - moderate flak on bomb run - received first flak hole in horizontal stabilizer.  Henderson lost #1 engine, aborted after target bombed. Over enemy territory 01:07.  Garrison passed out in waist, Gustine was sick, Giltinan spilled chute in tail, Fugere had to crank bomb bays open & closed.  Saw France & White Cliffs of Dover for first time."





3rd Mission

Saturday, January 13, 1945

Mainz - marshalling yards

PFF bombing

Time OET 02:40 hrs

Mission length: 07:30 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-eight (38) crews began takeoff at 7:51 am. 


Dick Baer writes:  "Very moderate flak, no battle damage, no bandits.  On oxygen for 5 hours.  Formation horribly messed up as everyone was ahead of schedule.  Coming home flight indicator went out, had to let down through 5,000 ft. of undercast on C1.  Home field had 0-0 rating - really sweat out that landing couldn't see 50 yards.  Circled field three times - beautiful landing by Haus. (Althouse)





4th Mission

Sunday, January 14, 1945

Magdeburg - oil refinery

Visual bombing

Time OET 3:00 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-eight (38) crews began takeoff at 7:35 am. 


Dick Baer writes:  "Moderate to heavy flak, no battle damage, bandits in area attacked group ahead and knocked out ten ships - ME109's.  Saw two P51's and one B17 blow up.  Anderson aborted over North Sea because of oxygen.  DeSelms aborted right over German coast with runaway prop.  Moser & Nyland had mid air collision over Germany, went down. North Sea looked awfully good after being over Germany so damn long."

Notes about 4th mission:  The author of The history of the 487th Bomb Group (H) states, "... two B-17s in the rear of the high Squadron collided in the target area.  It was thought they were piloted by Lts Kochczynski and Nyland, flying in positions number 10 and 11.  At 1:28 pm Kochczynski peeled off to the right, heading northwest, with his rudder knocked off and his top turret damaged.  Nyland peeled off to the left after salvoing his bombs, with his tail section damaged and two engines out.  German flak crews took advantage of the excellent visibility to throw up a moderate, accurate flak barrage in the target area.  S/Sgt Blair R. Campbell, gunner on Lt Pezzato's crew, was seriously wounded by a flak fragment.  Lt Moser's aircraft, number 12 in the high Squadron, was hit in the rudder and also left the formation... The Squadrons did not reestablish Group formation.  The high Squadron followed the others back to Lavenham, and the first aircraft landed at 1602.  It was a bad day for the Group.  Four aircraft were missing, three had major damage, and eighteen had minor damage."

Lt Jack Leon who had flown his second mission that day recalled, "The old boys around here say its the toughest mission they have seen."

Lt Harry T. Nyland, pilot of the 838th BS, ordered the bailout after encountering heavy enemy fire and engine trouble after passing through the Berlin flak corridor.  Everyone escaped except the navigator who was shot up, but Lt Nyland and  William H Rhett (copilot) took the ship down and belly landed the plane to try and save the navigator who died on impact.  The rest of the crew was captured by the Germans that day. (The History of The 487th Bomb Group)





5th Mission

Thursday, January 18, 1945

Kaiserlautern - marshaling yards

PFF bombing

Time OET 0:30 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-two (32) aircraft began takeoff at 7:35 am. 


Dick Baer writes:  "Milk run of all milk runs.  No bandits - no flak visible.  Weather bad over home field so landed in France near town of Laon - didn't get to leave base, single runway - bomb pocked field.  Took off next morning and flew home without any weather trouble."


The Althouse crew was one of 21 ships that landed at two airfields near Laon, the rest of the Group in other nearby areas of France. (The History of The 487th Bomb Group)





6th Mission

Saturday, January 20, 1945

Heilbronn - marshalling yards

PFF bombing

OET 01:20 hrs

B-17: Paddlefoot #42-97969

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-four (34) crews began takeoff at 7:25 am. 


The 487th BG led Task Force-B. Dick Baer writes: "AIR MEDAL - HA!  Two minutes before target on bomb run #1 prop ran away - were unable to feather it - began to burn itself out.  Coughran, Gustine, Giltinan, Garrison bailed out - no navigational instruments - radio compass and G-Box were out.  Finally managed to set her down at a little field near Bretinge twenty miles south of Paris.  Were marooned in France until Jan. 28.  Flew Air Transport Command back to Bovingdon and then a train from London to Bury St. Edmunds.  Giltinan still missing now on Jan 29."


"Most crews arrived (back to base) between 15:00 and 16:00, but one crew landed in France.  Richard L. Althouse's crew was on its 6th mission in B-17G 42-97969 Paddlefoot and copilot Richard F. Baer wrote about the mission in his diary:" (The History of The 487th Bomb Group)





7th Mission

Thursday, February 1, 1945

Wesel - autobahn bridge

Mission length: 05:30 hrs.

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-four (34) crews began takeoff at 11:56 am.


Dick Baer writes: "This undoubtedly was the milk run of all milk runs.  We were awakened at 07:30 with briefing at 09:00 - takeoff at 12:00.  No bandits - no flak.  Target time 15:30 landing time 17:30 - 05:30 hrs. long mission.  Hughes - instructor gunner rode in Giltinan's place today - still no word from Gil - not even a critique today - no difficulties encountered."





8th Mission

Saturday, February 3, 1945

Berlin - communications

PFF bombing; OET 03:30 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-nine (39) crews began takeoff at 7:35 am.


Dick Baer writes: "Biggest surprise mission in a long time as there were no enemy fighters whatsoever and only moderate flak.  Were really sweating it out however as every thing was going too smoothly.  No mechanical difficulties encountered until arriving back over England, then #2 and #4 prop governors began acting up.  Left formation and landed alone.  Were over North Sea for 03:00 hrs.  Safe and happy in my Nissen hut."

9th Mission Tuesday, February 6, 1945

Chemnitz - populace, built-up area of town; OET 04:00 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-nine (39) crews began takeoff at 7:06 am.


Dick Baer writes: "Most messed-up mission the 8th Air Force has flown to date.  Timing and navigation was completely un-coordinated.  Another group bombed abreast of us.  On the way back the group was diverted to France and then recalled back to England.  My sinuses were killing me so we couldn't let down very fast.  We landed just south of Brussels near Mons and stayed with 487th Fighter Sqd.  Came back on the 8th of February."


"Lt Althouse landed at Chievres..." (The History of The 487th Bomb Group)

Duty Interrupted
Wednesday, February 14, 1945

"Nose Surgery"

Dick Baer finally went into hospital after putting off surgery for an ongoing chronic sinusitis condition that effected him during high-altitude missions.

Crew Photo Friday, March 16, 1945
  Mean Widdle Kid crew

10th Mission

Wednesday, March 21, 1945

Wittmundhafen - J. P. airfield

Visual bombing

Time OET 01:20 hrs

Mission length: 05:00 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-nine (39) crews began takeoff at 6:07 am.


Dick Baer writes: "Flew #3 spot in lead (formation).  Another milk run.  No bandits and no flak, just a shallow penetration northeast of the Zuider Zee.  This was my first operational mission since my operation.  My sinuses were quite painful but I think I can stick out 25 more missions.  5 hr. mission, takeoff 06:45 landing 11:45.  Clobbered the MPI of two intersecting runways."


MPI = main point of impact


11th Mission

Thursday, March 22, 1945

Kupferdreh - barrack area &

motor pool.

Visual bombing

Time OET 00:13 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Forty-five (45) crews began takeoff at 8:35 am. 


Dick Baer writes: "Another milk run - two in a row -wow!!  No bandits, meager inaccurate flak. 05:30 hr. mission -more like it.  Really clobbered the target.  Flew #7 spot in the high, this was #26 for Haus."


Allied ground forces were preparing to cross the Rhine river and requested support to bomb tactical targets.(The History of The 487th Bomb Group)


12th Mission

Friday, March 23, 1945

Holzwickede - marshalling yard

B-17: Snake Bite #43-38042

Crew: Althouse



Photo: damaged rudder


Newspaper story: "Madison Flier Saves Buddies In Damaged Plane"


Dick's Oak Leafs citation

The first of forty-two (42) crews began takeoff at 9:30 am.


Dick Baer writes: "OAK LEAFS - HA!  Today we flew with Rattlesdon as #7 in their high.  On bomb run we hit prop wash and were forced to leave formation.  We dropped our bombs on a target of opportunity, and turned left to R.P. (rally point).  We joined up with Mendelsham of 93rd Wing and flew #13.  Their #11 ship was hit over the lines by flak losing his left wing tip and #1 engine.  He lost control of plane and his #4 prop cut off our rudder - then he crashed into the ship on our left wing and they both went down."


The unfortunate aircraft that was hit by flak when crossing the battle lines was Lt Myron A. Bolser's B-17G 43-38971 of the 34th Bomb Group at Mendelsham.  Bolser and the eight other men on his crew were killed.  The other B-17 that Bolser's aircraft struck was Lt Charles H. Bruckman's B-17G 42-31582 of the 447th Bomb Group at Rattelsden.  He and six others of his crew perished.  Two men miraculously survived the mishap.  Richard Althouse managed to keep his B-17 flying and returned to Lavenham.  The tower log entry at 3:56 pm noted that he "made a long straight in approach and landed OK."  (The History of The 487th Bomb Group)





13th Mission

Saturday, March 24, 1945

Varrelbusch - jet airfield

Mission length: 05:30 hrs

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse

Thirty-nine (39) crews began takeoff at 5:37 am on "Operation Varsity" the Allied airborne operation to cross the Rhine river.


Dick Baer writes: "Another milk run - in fact didn't even see any flak - only a 5 1/2 hr. job.  We supported an airborne offensive which dropped behind the German lines around Wesel in direct support of Montgomery's troops.  Landed at 11:20 and hit the sack.  Many rumors that we were going to fly two missions today - thank God we didn't as I am dragging - some groups did and the 8th really was up in force today.  Three task forces.  Sinuses are beating me up again.  Haus is going to get D.F.C." (Distinguished Flying Cross)





Special Orders

Saturday, March 31, 1945


"'Special Orders'  AAF Station 101: Camp Lynn, High Wycombe, Bucks County, England AAF Station 511: Moulsford Manor, Berkshire" (Air Force Rest Home)


(This was probably the other time he was hospitalized for sinusitus.)





34th Mission* (shot down)

Tuesday, April 10, 1945

Briest, Germany - airfield


Copilot: 1Lt Clyde E Oliver,

(Dick Baer not with crew)

B-17: Mean Widdle Kid

Crew: Althouse


Note: Plane destroyed by flak, two crew fatalities.

Thirty-nine (39) aircraft began takeoff at 10:07 am.


Airfield at Briest - Four Aircraft in group shot down, 3 by Me-262, 1 by flak - 3 other aircraft evidently lost, but no MACR on them. (487th Bomb Group (H) Association)


Lt Althouse's B-17 in the lead Squadron had escaped the fighter attacks, but was hit by flak.  It circled out of formation to the left, and passed over the formation with the number 2 propeller windmilling.  It began to lose altitude, but leveled off with no sign of fire.  Then one observer reported seeing the left wing break off and an explosion which caused the aircraft to spiral out of control.  The crew of B-17G #43-37987 "Mean Widdle Kid" was shot down over Germany at 14:56 hrs. See (MACR #13883)





14th Mission

Friday, April 20, 1945

Neureppin - marshaling yards

Berlin area

Time OET 01:15

B-17: Gravel Gertie

Crew: McDonagh

Dick Baer writes: "Milk run -no flak -no bandits.  Flew #10 in low with McDonogh & crew -good man.  Only over enemy territory 01:15, oxygen 03:00.  Very uneventful got to see a good bit of devastated Germany -Wesel is a terrible mess."





15th Mission 

Saturday, April 21, 1945

Ingolstadt - Autobahn & road center

Mission length: 09:00 hrs

B-17: Gravel Gertie

Crew: McDonagh

Dick Baer writes: "Milk run as far as enemy opposition no flak seen -no bandits but the weather -worst I've ever seen.  Assembly was okay -then began to run into scud -finally were flying formation through solid cloud banks.  Lost formation - tacked onto Bury St. Edmunds and bombed with them.  Lost them due to prop wash, went into tight spiral when McDonogh got vertigo.  Lost 3,000 ft., horizon tumbled - pulled out - flew home alone above bomber stream.  Nine hour mission."



After April 21, 1945; the 8th Air Force stopped flying missions in the European Theater of Operations due to a lack of targets.




View Dick Baer's Missions in a larger map




Mean Widdle Kid Shot Down:

On April 10, 1945 at 14:56 hrs (almost 3:00 p.m.) B-17G Flying Fortress #43-37987 was hit by flak and went down in the Jerichow area of Germany. It was the last mission for many in this crew.  Flying in Dick Baer’s place as Co-Pilot, 1st Lt. Clyde E. Oliver was killed in action. Oliver went down with the plane on fire, and was last observed in the bomb-bay trying to gather up a spilled parachute moments before the ship exploded.


See the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR #13883). The Tail-Gunner, 1st Lt. Willis E. Peake, was on his first mission and suffered a head wound.  Barely conscious when he was bailed out, his parachute didn’t open, and became the other casulty.  The remaining crew was captured by German infantry and became POWs at Stalag XIA - Altengrabow,  They spent a month in the German prison camp from 10-Apr-1945 until 12-May-1945 after being returned to U.S. military control following liberation. The prison food was "horrible", according to pilot Dick Althouse's son, a concoction of discarded scraps and spoiled food mixed together as slop.


Crewmembers aboard Mean Widdle Kid on April 10, 1945:


Pilot (P)

Lt Richard L Althouse 


Co-Pilot (CP)

1Lt Clyde E Oliver 


Navigator (N)

2Lt Douglas D Couchran Jr


Engineer (E)

T/Sgt Thomas J Fugere


Radio Operator (RG)

T/Sgt William R Bressler


Togglier (T)

S/Sgt Aaron C Conn


Ball Turret Gunner (BTG)

S/Sgt Norman D Garrison


Waist Gunner (WG)

S/Sgt Harold R Gustine


Tail Gunner (TG)

1Lt Willis E Peake


Temporary Waist Gunner (WG)

S/Sgt Lincoln Hudson





Names in Dick's diary:

  1. Anderson:  Possibly, Donald R. Anderson, Pilot 839th BS?

  2. DeSelms:  Roy V. DeSelms, Pilot 839th BS "Dinah-mite" B-17G #44-8694 Note: Assigned to the 487th on 2-Feb-45.

  3. Henderson:  Possibly, Zeno M. Henderson Pilot, 839th BS?

  4. Hughes:  Gunner-instructor, took Giltinan's place (MIA) on "Mean Widdle Kid" February 1, 1945.

  5. McCarty:  Possibly, Harold J. McCarty, 1st Lt Pilot 836th BS #43-38816 B-17G Note: 12-Oct-44 transferred to 487th from 305th, 12-Jan-45 battle damaged, forced landing continent, 21-Jan-45 salvaged.

  6. McDonogh: [sic] John McDonagh, pilot ‘Gravel Gertie’ #43-39188 of 839th BS.  Assigned to 487th BG on 3-Mar-45.

  7. Moser:  James L. Moser 2nd Lt Pilot 838th BS “Our Baby” B-17G #43-38002 11-Jul-44: Assigned to 487th.  14-Jan-45: “...mid-air collision with Nyland over Germany, went down.”  Crashed into church at border of the village Rhode, 21 km east of Brunswick. All crew bailed out and survived, POW.

  8. Nyland:  Harry T. Nyland 2nd Lt Pilot 838th BS “Yankee Maid” B-17G #43-37933.  2-Jul-44: Assigned to 487th. 14-Jan-45: Lost #4 engine dropped from formation. Immediately attacked by six Me109's. Six crew bailed out but pilot/co-pilot made belly landing. "B-17 Flying Fortress Story" indicates mid air with #42-98013.

    B-17G #42-98013 of 838th BS, 30-Jun-44: Assigned to 487th, 14-Jan-45 either collided with German fighter, or other B-17 #43-37933 ("Yankee Maid") of 487th. A German report states it collided with a German fighter. After bombing and the collision, the B-17 peeled off in NW direction. It went into a spin and exploded in mid-air.

    Moser & Nyland involved in mid-air collision over Germany on 14 Jan 1945.


About the 487th Bombardment Group (Heavy)


Lavenham airfield was built during 1943. The technical site and administrative buildings were on the southern side of the airfield as were most of the dispersed temporary buildings which gave accommodation for 2,900 personnel. Concrete for the runways and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of perimeter track totalled 190,000 cubic yards (150,000 m3) and that for roads and buildings 52,000 cubic yards (40,000 m3). Bricks used in buildings ran to 4,500,000 and excavations for all sites amounted to 679,000 cubic yards (519,000 m3).


The airfield was opened in April 1944 and used by the United States Army Air Force Eighth Air Force. Lavenham was given USAAF designation Station 137 (LV).


The 487th Bomb Group arrived from Alamogordo AAF New Mexico on 5 April 1944. the 487th was assigned to 8th. Air Force, 3rd. Air Division, 4th Combat Bombardment Wing, and the group tail code was a "Square-P" or "Box-P". It's operational squadrons were:

  • 836th Bomb Squadron (2G)

  • 837th Bomb Squadron (4F)

  • 838th Bomb Squadron (2C)

  • 839th Bomb Squadron (R5)

The group flew both the B-24 Liberator and the B-17 Flying Fortress as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign and began combat in May 1944, bombing airfields in France in preparation for the invasion of Normandy, then targeted coastal defenses, road junctions, bridges and locomotives during the invasion. The unit's first commander was Lieutenant Colonel Beirne Lay, Jr., a prominent Hollywood screen writer until he was shot down on 11 May 1944 in one of the group's earliest actions. He was shot down over enemy territory but evaded capture and was returned to duty. After the war, he wrote the screenplay for the 1949 film, Twelve O'Clock High.


Aided ground forces in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The 487th Bomb Group attacked German troops and artillery positions to assist British forces near Caen in July; struck gun emplacements to support the Allied effort at Brest in August and to cover the airborne attack on Holland in September 1944. Flew a few missions against German industries, refineries, and communications during the period May-August 1944, but operated almost solely against strategic targets from August 1944, when conversion to B-17's was completed in March 1945.


The 487th also attacked oil refineries in Merseburg, Mannheim, and Dulmen; factories in Nuremberg, Hanover, and Berlin; and marshalling yards in Cologne, Münster, Hamm, and Neumünster. Aided ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945, and turned again to support and interdictory operations in March 1945 as the Allies crossed the Rhine and made the final thrust into Germany. Group nickname was "Gentlemen From Hell".

The group flew 185 combat missions and sortied 6,021 aircraft. Total tonnage dropped - 14,641. 33 aircraft were Missing In Action, and 24 lost in other operations. Enemy aircraft lost were 22 destroyed, 6 probable, 18 damaged.

The group returned to Drew AAF Florida during Aug-Sep 1945, and was inactivated on 7 November 1945.


Bruning AAFld, Neb, 20 Sep 1943
Alamogordo AAFld, NM, 15 Dec 1943-c. 13 Mar 1944
Lavenham, England, 5 Apr 1944-26 Aug 1945
Drew Field, Fla, 3 Sep-7 Nov 1945.



Lt Col Charles E Lancaster, 4 Oct 1943
Lt Col Beirne Lay Jr, 28 Feb 1944
Col Robert Taylor III, 12 May 1944
Col William K Martin, 28 Dec 1944
Lt Col Howard C Todt, May 1945
Col Nicholas T Perkins, 3 Jun 1945-unkn.



Learn More About:

Army Air Corps Pilot Training Program

Time table of course length, flight hours, and aircraft type


Army Air Corps Flight Training in WWII

Detail of flight training programs


Eighth Air Force Bomb Groups (ETO)

The 8th Air Force's Bomb Groups, Wings, and Divisions. (links to all 39 Bomb Groups included)


German Fliegerabwehrkanone (aka Flak)

Anti-aircraft artillery, Nazi air defense system



Army Air Force abbreviations


PHOTOS: Station 137 Lavenham, Suffolk airfield today

128 photos of airfield and buildings taken in 2009


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