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Thread: USA B-24 Landing At English Fighter Base Near Bari, Italy

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    Default USA B-24 Landing At English Fighter Base Near Bari, Italy

    I thought I had already posted this, but now I can't find it on line. (Is there anyway to search for my posts?) Anyway, here is my original post.

    I am trying to investigate the incident described at: http://www.b24bestweb.com/badpenny-the-v5-2.htm Text is repeated below.

    "From Robert Willis (Armorer/Nose Gunner): "We slid TheBAD PENNY] on to a dirt strip adjacent to an English fighter base North of Bari. They requested we land in the dirt as they did not want to damage their runway if we blew up. We thought we were going to abandon over the Adriatic Sea or the North coast of Italy, but we made it. We slid the plane up to the edge of an old Roman store quarry. We were picked up by truck and hauled back to the 376th. As I recall, we hit the S.W. marshalling yards in Vienna again. The BAD PENNY did not recover, too many holes and the slide to first base didn't help, but we got back. It could have been worse if we went over the edge of the quarry after all that."
    Standing (L-R)
    Malcolm Willis - Tail Gunner
    Morton Fink - Engineer
    Bill McCarty - Radio Operator
    Jack Soderlund - Waist Gunner
    Cecil R. Chappell - Asst Eng/Ball Gunner
    Robert Willis - Armorer/Nose Gunner"
    Kneeling (L-R)
    Bob Westrup - Navigator
    Melvin Sossaman - Pilot
    Tom Cassidy - Co-Pilot
    Jim Esbanshade Bombardier

    My father-in-law was the radio operator, Bill McCarty, who has passed away. My research so far indicates the plan was not the Bad Penny (it was lost to mechanical problems on 31 Jan 1945) and that the actual rough landing was on 15 Feb 1945 at "Bari". This crew was part of the 376BG, 512BSq. The plane had the #4 engine feathered, #3 engine with a bad oil leak and 10 flak holes from the mission to the Vienna Main marshalling yard and did not return to base--based on the Interrogation Form that I have. There is a discrepancy in the number of the aircraft involved. It was the 512th squadron's number 26, but the aircraft number is listed as 41-28911, a plane previously reported as lost on 31 Jan 45. I think they got the 31 Jan aircraft number wrong on the paperwork--up until that time the aircraft number for #26 had consistently been 42-78353 and 41-28911 continued to fly on 13, 14, and 15 Feb 45.

    My questions for the forum are: 1) What base might they have landed at? 2) Was there a RAF base near Bari that had a dirt strip near the regular strip and an old Roman stone quarry? 3) Is there any way to find out what might have become of the B-24 (I have requested the individual aircraft record card from the Air Force's AFHRA) after being left at the RAF base?

    Any help/info/advice on this incident, the base, or where to go for further info would be greatly appreciated.

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    Could it not just be RAF Bari? From Google Maps there is what could be a quarry. At the eastern end of the - I presume old - airstrip along the coast, cf.
    http://www.rafweb.org/Stations/Stations-B.htm#Bari

    Mikkel
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    Mikkel,

    Thanks for the reply. Do you think the old strip would be what looks like an old airstrip to the east of the current airfield that runs parallel to the coast? Would the possible quarry be the dark ground to east of the strip and parallel to it? I suppose what I really need is a picture of the area from the air circa 1945. Probably not many of those laying around. :)

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    I have to stress that I am not familiar with the area - and that I agree that a 1945 aerial photo would be nice. I have marked the airstrip that I thought of and three possible locations. The two to the right were the ones I thought of initially, but checking the area again the one to tha left actually looks like a quarry. Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Thanks again, the picture if very helpful. And that site to the left certainly looks like an active quarry. Looking on Google Earth, there is another, smaller one, maybe older, just to the left of the one you pointed out. Actually, I have sent an email to the local tourist office asking if they know where a roman quarry was. For the rest, I just guess it all depends on how the old dirt and prepared strips were laid out--since those two quarries are not close to the existing landing strips. Google Earth helps me see the elevation of some of the sites. The two on the right look flat or higher than the surrounding area. The two on the left are clearly holes dug in the ground. Thanks again!

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    I have looked at the ORBs of R.A.F. Station, Bari, Italy (monthly confidential reports) and 127 STAGING POST at Bari for February 1945 and can find no mention of a US bomber landing there. Also, no activity after that date concerned with repairs or servicing. This is not conclusive but I would have expected the ORbs to mention it.
    The description 'RAF Fighter base' does not quite tie up with the activity at Bari at that time as they were mostly handling cargo and people.
    Possibly Foggia?

    Bruce
    Last edited by bruce dennis; 24th May 2018 at 15:16.
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    Thanks for the reply. The cargo aspect fits with what I have seen about RAF Bari, but I wasn't sure how knowledgeable Willis might have been or if it had once been known as a fighter base at one time. Does anyone know of a RAF fighter base in/around Foggia. Looks like the USA (at least) had tons of air bases in around Foggia. I have not done any research on the RAF at Foggia. My assumption has been that if it had been Foggia, they would have said that since it was a common emergency landing area. Also, and I suppose most importantly, is that the Interrogation Form for that flight, which I assume was prepared by the pilot or another officer, clearly puts the plane's "time down" as "Bari 1450 - plane still at Bari". I guess that would be the clincher for me that it is Bari, not Foggia. I think the next thing I have to do is try to get pictures of the Bari air base from the air so I can try to see the layout of the various landing strips.

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    Also, it looks like the ORBs were by squadron. What squadron would be responsible for an event at RAF Bari that was not related to the squadron, IE it was about a USA aircraft landing? I was able to look at an example of an ORB on the national archives site, which raised this question. What is the "127 Staging Post"? I see it is one of the "Main Units" for that period. Also looks like 62 staging post also had a detachment there during the period.
    Last edited by cjohnston2; 24th May 2018 at 18:57.

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    ORBs were kept by any 'unit' in the RAF, so the Base, each squadron on it, the AA Flight, RAF Regiment (base security), weather guys, signals etc all recorded their own activity and movements on standard forms: form 540 and 541. I looked at the base and a couple of units stationed there. I would have expected to see the US bomber mentioned in the base ORB.
    I was looking at February 15th, plus or minus a few. I believe you mentioned in your original post that this was the date you had established. Is it possible the date is off?

    Regards,
    Bruce
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    Just to add to Bruce's comments, I have been researching an airman killed when a V2 hit Deurne (Antwerp) airfield in December 1944. The station ORB simply gave the names of two men ' .. killed by enemy action'. Of the seven squadrons based at Deurne only one mentioned the incident, despite the fact that two other squadrons had 13 aircraft damaged or destroyed. Neither of these considered this worth recording.

    Brian

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