Sizzle's - 42-29952 - Last Mission


The following narrative is compiled from recollections of my father 1st Lt. Edwin L. (Ted) Smith, copilot, numerous local residents of Maastricht, Holland (crash site), and 305th Bomb Group; 364th Squadron Operations Office Report narratives of S-2 & S-3 (dated 15 Oct. 1943/declassified) in Chelveston, England.

Scheme from book Ron Putz completed by Oswald Ortmanns.

Murdock’s ‘Sizzle’ is right behind McDarby’s.

Mission planning

The Headquarters, 1st Bombardment Division provided the bomb load detail order at 18.18 hr 13 October 1943. The order called for all available aircraft to be loaded with 6x1000 lb. bombs (NL 6x500 kg) for each aircraft. Following this a Field Order was received at 23.34 hr with flight plans and mission details, the briefing set for 07.20 hr and take-off at 10.20 hr on 14 October 1943.

The 305th Bombardment Group was led by Major C. G. Y. Normand, 2nd Lt. J.W. Kane, Pilot; 2nd Lt. J.J. Edwards, Navigator, and 1st Lt. J. Pellegrini, Bombardier and was the second of nine groups of the attacking force.

The 1st Bombardment Division was comprised of the 91st, 92nd, 303rd, 305th, 306th, 351st, 379th, 384th, Bombardment Groups (Heavy) totaling 149 B-17 aircraft and P-47 aircraft from the 353rd Fighter Group.

This does not correlate with accounts indicating 9 groups totaling 291 a/c.

Mission description

There were eighteen aircraft of the 305th BG that took off at one minute intervals starting six minutes late. The total elapsed departure time was 25 minutes. All aircraft ascended individually through two layers of solid overcast over the field. Weather reported one layer with tops at 7000 feet. Assembly was above the overcast above the field with seventeen aircraft completing the formation.
One aircraft (no. 42-37726) from the high squadron was unable to find the formation and was unable to fly the mission returning to West Reynham. There were two additional aircraft that had to return early. The first aircraft (no. 42-30081) turned back due to oxygen system failure and landed at Great Ash Field. The second aircraft (no. 42-30375) returned to base due to no. 1 engine failure (broken exhaust stack on #7 cylinder).

Because the group assembly was behind schedule and neither the 92nd nor the 306th groups were in sight, the 305th group moved out to Daventry and then on to Spaulding arriving there nine minutes early. A 360 degree turn was made over Daventry and attempts were made to contact the Combat Wing Leader via VHF radio but apparently the Combat Wing Leader did not receive the radio transmissions. A complete Combat Wing formation was seen in this area and the 305th group leader moved out on course through Oxfordness and joined two other groups 30 miles short of the enemy coast and flew the briefed route to the target.

The following is the official narrative of the Lead Group Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack J. Edwards: At the time of Wing Assembly, three or four Groups were visible flying around Thurleigh but no flares were fired. While waiting for the flares to be fired to identify our Wing, we ran a bit short on time and proceeded on to Daventry where we expected to join our Wing. Upon reaching Daventry, no Groups were sighted so we proceeded to Spaulding, our next point, where we arrived prior to the briefed time by about six minutes.
We circled over and as only one complete Wing was visible we were forced to proceed on to Oxfordness. We attempted to call the 92nd Bombardment Group which was leading but received no answer, although we could hear them at various intervals. As we approached Splasher 6 we heard the leader say that he was going below the overcast and I therefore assumed that he was still actually below the overcast and we would be able to join them when they broke through. At this time we were at the briefed altitude and had followed the briefed altitudes to this point. We left the English Coast at Oxfordness two minutes late and without having joined our Wing. At about 30 miles short of the enemy coast we sighted two Groups following us and started an 'S'  to fall in with them under the assumption that they were our Wing. After we joined them it was discovered that they were the 351st and 381st Bomb Groups. We subsequently joined them as Low Group and proceeded on the briefed route to the target. Shortly after our P-47 escort left us, we were attacked by enemy fighters with the attack continuing for 3 hours and 14 minutes. We arrived home still with the one ship left in our Group after leaving the Target.

According to log of Bombardier, 1st Lt. J. Pellegrini, the Initial Point was Würzburg and bomb run conditions were a ground speed of 238 miles per hour at an altitude of 21,600 feet where the air temperature was 20 degrees below zero.

Crash Site. Photo from Cee Bee.

Sizzle’s finale

The copilot 1st Edwin L. (Ted) Smith's account of the attack began by describing that this was only his third mission and that he still was not completely familiar with B-17F landing procedures. He apparently felt that command was not as concerned with landing aircraft as with getting bombs to the target. He had also expressed the view that as 'Tail-End Charlie'ˇ their crew did not expect to return from this mission. 1st Lt. Smith and his crew from the 'Uncouth Bastard'ˇ aircraft no. 42-29988 which was piloted by Capt.(?) D. Engler had been re-assigned to 'Sizzle' for this mission (number 115) with 2nd Lt. Murdock as pilot. It is unknown why this re-assignment was done.

His account begins stating that he remembers glancing at his watch which read 14:10 hr (London time). Ted was the formation flyer that day because of their position in the formation. Because of this he did not see very much outside of the formation but all of the guns were heard to be engaged. Suddenly there was a massive explosion between number one and number two engines. The number one engine had been knocked out and the supercharger on number two was damaged. It has been expressed that 90% of a B-17 pilots skills were engine management and that the supercharger 'buckets' were notoriously sensitive with sluggish waste-gate operation because of hydraulic fluid gelling at altitude.

This explosion dazed Ted for 30 to 45 seconds and knocked the pilot, 2nd Lt. Murdock unconscious. Ted later realized that it had been an air-to-air bomb (rocket). The Intelligence Office (S-2) Report confirms the use of twin engine enemy aircraft standing out from the tail lobbing rockets into the formations. These rocket installations were described as being carried one under each wing. There would be a long red streak followed by a dark burst similar to that of flak. These twin engine enemy aircraft were firing these rockets from about 1400 yards away. Munitions of this type typically use proximity fuses and do not require a direct hit for detonation.

On regaining consciousness Ted relates that that they were so far out of formation that they would never catch up with only two starboard engines operational. He immediately started for the deck at redline speed, hoping to fly the Autobahn to return. At this point they were engulfed by German fighter aircraft and Army Air Corps Intelligence Reports indicate that approximately 400 enemy aircraft were engaged during that mission. The two returning crews stated that they had never seen so many enemy aircraft before. The attacks by twin engine aircraft were from all directions but primarily from 10 to 2 o'clock singly and in groups of 3, 4, and 5. After their passes were made, the single engine aircraft would attack simultaneously from above and below in such rapid succession that there was no opportunity for the gunners to look around.

At this point Murdock regained consciousness and was demanding control of the aircraft. Ted now realized it was hopeless as well as dangerous to attempt to continue and ordered the crew to bail out. Murdock and Kiggins were to follow but Ted did not realize that the intercom was out of order. Because of this tail gunner S/Sgt. Menzies did not know of the bail-out order until he saw the other crew members going by and bailed out also. As Ted left he noted that Miller and Manahan had left. He bailed out at about 5000 meters after having dropped down from 8000 meters. During his descent two German fighters made a couple of passes by him which was the most terrifying experience of the entire day. He was certain that they were going to shoot him.

Capture and aftermath

Ted Smith goes on to relate the details of his capture. Upon landing he realized that his nose was skinned and bleeding. His left ear drum was ruptured and there was a flesh wound in his left leg. Being too exhausted to unsnap his parachute, a young local resident boy 12 or 14 years old unsnapped it for him. He was able to sink the 'chute'ˇ in the Maas River. He saw someone across the river motioning him over. It may have been tail gunner Sgt. Lester Levy who had landed on the Mechelen (Belgium) side of the Maas River. The landing of Ted Smith was near the small village of Elsloo-Stein where the local villagers informed the German infantry of his whereabouts who subsequently picked him up at rifle point.

Dutch researcher P.H. Luijten of Tilburg, Netherlands relates what local residents observed. The aircraft 42-29952 was noticed for the first time after it had already left the formation and was flying much lower than the 'boxes'. It was under heavy attack by three Luftwaffe single engine fighters, probably Fock-Wolf FW-190'. 'Sizzle'ˇ was reportedly heading east just entering Dutch territory when suddenly it veered south. Immediately after this it was noted that several crew members bailed out while the aircraft continued to drop lower in altitude. Over Maastricht the B-17 turned left and circled steeply down and crashed in an open field near a soccer field (Geusselt) between Maastricht and Au(m)by. Shortly after that there was a large explosion when the bomb load exploded. Just before the crash some crew members managed to escape the aircraft. German troops arrived very quickly and caught them all. All of the prisoners were transported in an open car, heavily guarded to the prison in Maastricht.

Local residents checking the wreckage found the body of S/Sgt. T. E. Dienes but could not determine why he was unable to bail out. There was possibly a second victim found in the wreckage which may have been the pilot, 2nd Lt. Murdock. The German intelligence kept 1st Lt. Smith in solitary confinement for ten days trying to find out what happened to him as Murdock was not in the POW camp either. Ted Smith later received numerous letters from Murdock's wife after the war inquiring if he had any knowledge of him. The Missing Air Crew Report had Murdock listed as KIA. Years later his body was returned to his family for interment. Another casualty was navigator 2nd Lt. Manahan who was one of the first to bail out. One account had his parachute having been shot through by one of FW-190's. Another eye witness account describes his parachute as never having opened. He smashed into the dike about 15 feet away from some workmen. This was south of where 1st Lt. Smith landed near the same canal paralleling the Maas River by the village of Geulle. Some members of the underground attempted to reach the survivors. Apparently S/Sgt. J. E. Miller was caught with the French underground and did not survive the war.

WS: Mr George C Kuhl in his book says Dutch underground and a possible date of death 26 March 1945; 17 months after the crash. Pity it does not tell us where Mr Miller’s grave was found.

Shortly after starting the march south to the detention facility Ted Smith related that they saw parts of another B-17, engines, wheels, etc. scattered about. This aircraft was suspected to be from the first crash near the village of Beek which would have been aircraft number 42-37750 (Lang). Shortly after (14:11 hr) there was a huge explosion in the distance which may possibly have been the bomb load of the 'Sizzle' which was the second crash near the village of Amby.

WS: In Dutch documents Limmel is mentioned as crash location.

Ron Putz of Heerlen, Netherlands has found evidence that another local crash of a B-17 from the 305th BG; 364th Squadron, aircraft number
42-3436 (McDarby). Records show that this aircraft carried tail codes of WF R and was shot down near Aachen by Bf-109's at 13.45 hr.

Additional German Luftwaffe records indicate that 'Sizzle' was claimed shot down by Major Seifert, the Gruppe Commander of II./JG 26 at 13.40 hr local time on the outskirts of Maastricht. Another German report goes on the state that 'Sizzle' was completely destroyed by the detonation of the bomb load.

T/Sgt. Thelma Berto (Jockey) Wiggins landed near Tongeren, Belgium and was brought to Trooz (near Liege, Belgium) where a doctor treated his injured right heel for a shrapnel wound. He subsequently returned to England and active service.

WS: Mr Wiggins (Jockey) went back to the UK via the Comet line.

From info on the internet he met with Tom Appplewhite and together they travelled via Brussels, Lille Paris, Dax, Sutar, Anglet, San Sebastian, Madrid to Seville (E) where he and others got on the Norwegian ship The Lisbeth and were hidden in the ship’s propeller shaft to travel to Gibraltar (11 January 1944). From there (17 January) they flew by RAF to London.
They crossed into France from Belgium on 23-24 December 1943 guided by Mrs Amanda Stassart and into Spain on 28-31 December.
He first met members of the Comet Line on 5 November 1943 and crossed the Pyrenees on 28 December 1943. His heel injury opened again while crossing these mountains.

Mr Wiggins’ E&E Report 327
Tom Applewhite’s detailled escape story

Sizzle's Air Crew

Mr Murdoch was first reported MIA for the Germans did not report his death. An investigation made clear that he was KIA on 14-10-1943. (book George C Kuhl page 147).
Photo from CeeBee.

KIA: Navigator 2nd Lt. J. C. Manahan - Interred AMC Margraten, Netherlands

KIA: Top Turret Sgt. Russell J. Kiggins - Interred AMC Margraten, Netherlands

KIA: Right Waist Sgt. Tony E. Dienes - Interred AMC Margraten, Netherlands


Co-Pilot 1st Lt. Edwin L. Smith - Deceased 1997; Interred Camp Ripley Military Cemetery, MN

Left Waist Sgt. Lester J. Levy - Deceased 1995 - Interred Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia?

Tail Gunner S/Sgt. William B Menzies - Unknown
Ball Turret Sgt. John W. Lloyd - Unknown


Bombardier Sgt. John E. Miller - Interred in Santa Barbara Cemetery, Santa Barbara County, California
WS: His date of death says 14 October 1943, although he may have died after that date; for Mr George C Kuhl in his book says that is said/rumors that he may have worked with the Dutch underground and died on 26 March 1945; 17 months after the crash. His actual place of death is not (yet) known.

Radio Operator Sgt. Thelma Berto (Jockey) Wiggins - Deceased 1976 -
Interred Lithonia City Cemetery, Lithonia, DeKalb County, Georgia

Sizzle - USAAF 42-29952
Delivered: Denver 17/3/43; Smokey Hill 5/4/43;

Selfridge 21/4/43; Assigned 96 BG Grafton Underwood

25/4/43; Andrews Field 13/5/43; transferred 364 BS/

305 BG [WF-J] Chelveston 31/5/43; MIA Schweinfurt

14/10/43 w/Murdock; enemy aircraft, crashed Maastricht,

Holland; 5KIA 5POW (see above);

Missing Air Crew Report 917


Back to the 305th BG while on The Second Schweinfurt Mission.

Back to the story I started to find out why and how Donald Paul Breeden could get missing.