B17 Serial Number 42-3065

The mission  

On December 19, 1943, the Fifteenth Air Force attacked one of the most heavily defended targets in the Third Reich, the Messerschmitt aircraft factory at Augsburg, Austria. Due the atrocious weather conditions, only a fraction of the force dispatched reached the target area.  Fifty B-24s of the 98th Bomb Group and the 376th Bomb Group dropped 347 each 500-pound bombs, but they missed the Messerschmitt plant.

Heavy, intense and accurate flak was experienced, and about 60 enemy fighters were encountered. The gunners claimed an optimisticn and certainly inflated 13 enemy aircraft as destroyed, but three B-24s were lost.


                                 Alternate target: Innsbruck Marshalling Yards, Austria  

One hundred and one B-17s of the 2nd Bomb Groups, 97th, 99th and 301st dropped 1,046 each 500-pound bombs over this alternate target, hitting tracks, rolling stock, the rail lines to the east, and west of Brenner and the residential area of the city.

Some aircraft of the 2nd Bomb Group dropped their bombs in error on the town of Scwhab. Flak was heavy and accurate, and 60 plus enemy fighters were encountered. The gunners claimed an astonishing 24 enemy aircraft as destroyed but losses were high: seven B-17s were lost.   The escort played a minor role in the whole matter, with 78 P-38 Lightnings joining the bombers only during the return path and 43 P-47 Thuderbolts failing the rendez-vous with the heavies. One P-47 and onee P-38 were lost.              


The last flight of the  Boeing B-17F, serial number 42-3065  

This Flying Fortress, belonging to 429th Bomb Squad/ 2nd Bomb Group, took off from Amendola, Italy, with the following crew aboard:  
Pilot: 1st Lt. Henry S. Vogel
Co-pilot: 2nd Lt. Harry L. Ludwig
Navigator: 2nd Lt. Paul Leland
Bombardier: 2nd Lt. Donald F. Parks
Radio Operator:S/Sgt. William W. Boyer
Up turrett gunner: S/Sgt. George O. Solesbery
Ball turrett: S/Sgt. Donald J. Lewis
Left waist gunner: S/Sgt. Edward J. Fennessy
Right waist gunner: S/Sgt. Earl S. Bengston
Tail gunner: S/Sgt. James H. Redick Jr.    

Just after dropping its bombs, and after the breakaway turn, the aircraft was hit by a heavy flak shell, probably an 88mm, in the left wing section between engines #3 and # 4. The Fortress lost altitude and remained separated from the formation and was  immediately attacked by German fighters. The MACR # 1529 is not exhaustive, and some witnesses talk about a heavy flak near-miss just in front of the plane, with no mention of the fire enveloping the left wing. Other sources claim the B-17 serial number 42-3065 was finished by a German Messerschmitt Me Bf 109 G.  


“Bail out !!!”  

1st Lt. Vogel ordered the crew to bail out, and six of the airmen managed to leave the badly stricken plane: Ludwig, Parks, Leland and Bengston remained aboard the aircraft, out of control. Vogel, Solesbery, Lewis, Fennessy and Boyer bailed out to safety, while  Redick lost his life while descending to Earth. Lewis, Fennessy and Boyer have been wounded by either flak or fighters. The airmen landed in the wooded mountainous area surrounding Antholz/Anterselva while  B-17 serial number 42-3065 crashed close to a hamlet called Malga Ochsen. The five deceased airmen were buried in the Cimitero Civile di San Giacomo, at Bozen/Bolzano. After the war end, they were exhumed and interred in the USA; only S/Sgt. Redick was re-buried at the Flornce ABMC.   2nd Lts Ludwig, Leland and Parks are now at the  National Cemetery at Arlington, Texas; S/Sgt. Bengston is intererd in the Elmwood Cemetery of Lindsborg. Kansas. The other five airmen were made POW and spent the last 18 months of the war in the Stalag Luft I at Barth, Eastern Prussia where they were liberated by the Soviets in May, 1945 and later rempatriated.

Thanks to Mrs. Patti Johnson, from Prescott, Arizona USA, a volunteer-researcher, the fate of the five survivors has been reconstructed: Edward J. Fennessy died in 2004 and was interred in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery at  Rochester, New York. George Otis Solsbery died in 1981 and was interred at Tahoka Cemetery at Tahoka, Lynn County, Texas. Bill W. Boyer Sr.  Died 1995 and was interred in the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana. Henry Sebastian Vogel died in 1987 and was interred in the  Calvary Cemetery at Austin, Minnesota. No death records related to Donald J. Lewis has been found. Maybe he is still with us?        


The finding  

Mr. Giorgio Maccagnan, an old self-made man from Varese, Lombardy, used to spend his vacations at Antholz/Anterselva, Italy, back in the 1970s.  One day his host, Herr Taferner, owner of the Hotel Posta, gave him a big panel made of aluminium. Herr Taferner told him it was found in the wooded area close to Malga Ochsen and was a part of an American bomber that crashed there in December, 1943. For years, Mr. Maccagnan has thought about that panel, dreaming of being able to identify the plane one day. His wish would be to ship it back to the USA, to a museum or a Volunteer association or even to the relatives of one of the airmen aboard. Last August 8, 2020, Mr. Maccagnan contacted the Air Crash Po group and the aviation enthusiasts were able to identify the plane, to reconstruct the mission and the whole story.



Mr. Giorgio Maccagnan and his sons would be delighted to speak with relatives of any of the airmen on the final mission of this B17.  (His sons are fluent in English.)

If you would like their contact information, please send an e-mail to Ago Alberti in Soncino, Italy.
ago-109@teletu.it  Ago is also fluent in English.


Below are photos of the panel Mr. Maccagnan found