Major Gale (Bucky) Cleven, CO of the 350th Squadron, 100th Bomb Group, was flying “OurBaby,” a Douglas- built B-17f S/N 42-3233, on a mission to Bremen, Germany – 8 Oct 1943. Flak over the target was intense, causing the Group to break up and leave Our Baby unprotected. Enemy fighters attacked out of the sun, causing considerable damage. 20mm shells hit #2 engine, forcing it to freeze with prop unfeathered, controls to #3 were shot away, leaving a loss in power and no way to vary that power. The cowling and lower cylinders were shot away on #4, putting it on the inoperative list
The radio gunner disclosed that the dorsal fin had been split open by exploding shells and the horizontal stabilizers were punched thoroughly. By this same attack, approximately eight to ten feet of the left wing was blown off. Buck tried to get Our Baby away from Germany and back over the Netherlands as they gradually lost altitude. Continued attacks by fighters set #1 engine on fire, forcing immediate bail-out five to ten miles from Osnabruck, Germany.
Major Cleven left the ship via the navigator hatch at about 2000 feet and pulled the rip cord after he saw the tail go by over his head. Buck remembered swinging 2 or 3 times in the chute then going right through the front door of a German farm house and ending up in the kitchen. The mother was crying and calling Buck a Luftgangster and a Terrorflieger. The papa had a pitchfork against Buck’s chest, as he tried unsuccessfully to convince them in his college German that he was really “a nice fella.” Buck and the rest of the crew were taken to a Luftwaffe station just west of the city and eventually to prison camps where they spent the remainder of the war.
The following was written by Major Gale (Buck) Cleven, 350 sqd commander, 100th bomb group, shortly after arriving at Stalag Luft 3 in late October 43.
Take off and assembly of the group was routine on the morning of October 8, 1943 for a bombing raid on Bremen, Germany. The component parts of the Eighth Air Force gradually combined to string out in a line towards the enemy coast. As the groups closed in battle formation, a steady climb was begun to enable the units to be at altitude before reaching enemy territory. Before reaching the IP (Initial Point), the door panel on the Ball Turret sprung causing malfunction, hence necessitating stowing of the guns. Flak over the target was intense, which caused the high Squadron of which we were leading, to break up leaving our wingmen. The leader of the group at this time made a violent turn to the left releasing his bombs in that attitude, then turning sharply to the right, aborted down and out of the group, with number three engine smoking. We flew straight ahead firing flares to reassemble the group, but during the confusion, the remaining ships had flown down to the low group thus leaving us alone. Turning to the right as briefed, three fighters at 10:00 high, out of the sun, attacked immediately causing considerable damage. 20 mm. shells hit number two engine forcing it to freeze, and throw oil over the left side of the plane. A gas line was ruptured permitting a large flow to whip under the left wing. The controls to number three were shot away leaving a loss in power and no way to vary that power. The cowling and lower cylinders were shot away on number four putting it on the inoperative list. Information from the radio gunner disclosed that the Dorsal Fin and Rudder was split open vertically by exploding shells, and that the air flow was widening the opening rapidly. The horizontal stabilizers were punched thoroughly by the same cause. Many control cables including all the trim tab controls were severed; in the waist position, the lines were hanging limp, thus hampering the movements of the gunners. By this same attack approximately eight to ten feet of the left wing was blown off, and small caliber shells ripped through the left side of the nose continuing on to underneath the co-pilots seat causing a fire in the blankets stowed there. The plane was cleared of all loose articles and ammunition to lighten the load in a futile attempt to fly,(Buck was trying to get to the boarder and into Holland before they bailed out) but as descent was gradually forced, hovering fighters set number one engine afire thus forcing bail-out immediately. The Navigator set the hour to be at this time approximately 3:15 p.m. I left the ship at about two thousand feet landing approximately five to ten miles North East of Osnabruck surrounded by irate farmers. (Buck left the ship via the nose hatch and pulled his rip cord after he saw the tail go by over his head. Buck remembered swinging two or three times in his chute then going right threw the front door of a German farm house ending up in the kitchen and ruining the stove. The Mama was crying and calling Buck a Luftgangster and a Terrorflieger. The Papa had Buck lying on his back with a pitchfork up against his chest. Buck was trying to explain in his collage German that he was really a helluva nice fella but wasn’t getting very far.) Since Benny (Capt. DeMarco) and I fell close together we were promptly taken to a Luftwaffe station just west of the city where our crew gradually filtered in. We stayed overnight under guard and at noon boarded a train going south traveling through Munster, Essen and Dusseldorf to Koln, changing trains at that point, we continued on to Frankfurt arriving at 1:00 A.M. Oct. 10. Slept in the station until 7:00 A.M. at which time we traveled via train to Quackenbruck in the outskirts of Frankfurt. Transferred to a street car and at 10:00A.M. came into Dulag Luft at Uberossel. Remained in solitary overnight and was interrogated by the Germans the morning of Oct. 11. Left there at 4:00 P.M. and walked a short distance to another section where personal articles were returned; then were moved to the center of Frankfurt that evening. Oct. 11 – Oct. 20 at Dulag and at 6:P.M.on the latter was transported via street cars to the railroad station where we boarded freight cars. Forty-three men to a car plus three guards. Spent three nights and two days going by the way of Erfurt and Leipzig to Sagan. Arrived at Stalag Luft 3 on Sunday morning the 23rd of Oct. at 9:00A.M.
Major Gale Cleven – Commanding Officer S/Sgt Jerome Ferrioggiaro – Top Turret
T/Sgt Thorton Stringfellow – Radio
Capt. Bernard Demarco – Pilot S/Sgt William Woodbury – Waist
T/Sgt James Barr – Waist
Flight Officer James Thayer – Co-pilot S/Sgt William Williams – Ball Turret
Nose gun position
S/Sgt Harry Calhoun – Tail
Lt. John Downs – Navigator
Lt. Francis Harper – Bombardier
SOURCES: Personal interview with Gale (Bucky) Cleven and access to his personal records. Also much thanks to Mike Faley for information about the plane and crew, Mike is the 100th Bomb Group Historian and web site manager: www100thbg.com
Print measures 23″ by 16.5″, Signed by the Pilot and the artist, 350 S/N – $40, 50 Artist Proofs – $60, + Shipping. Contact the artist