- Life and Times of the 341st Bomb Group (M) -
"Preserving the memory of their Sacrifices!"

OLE 768
Courtesy of
Bob Dethlefsen (story) and Clyde Dyar (photos)
( 490th Bomb Squadron )

(The following story is reprinted from Issue #77 of the 490th Flyer.   It and the photos came to us through emails received from the fine men noted above.   J. J. Barrett, editor of the '490th Flyer' was kind enough to give us permission to share it with you!)

      "Ole 768" has stirred up many memories, many members of the squadron witnessed "Wheel Up" landing in Hanchung and their memories are still fresh.   Reg Buyle and Fred Bakker have offered their versions as follows: Reg wrote that he waited for the plane to land on the strip next to the runway.   He was of the opinion that there were not enough parachutes for the double crew that was aboard.   He grabbed a CO2 extinguisher and was one of the first to arrive at the plane.   The fire extinguisher was not used.   Fred related his story while at the reunion in Portland.   He says he might have been the hottest person on the strip. He was wearing the Asbestos Fire suit with the hood in place used to get close to burning aircraft. There was no fire and Fred says he was hot enough without one. The following information comes from the Squadron History.

      On 8 April 1944, 768 flew one of its most important missions.   The target was the II span, 1800 ft. Sittang Rail Bridge, often referred to as one of the most important bridges in Asia and one of the important links in the Jap lines of communications between Rangoon and forces operations in Northern Burma.   It was to be a daring night raid, Lt. W. E. Cook of Fullerton, CA took off for the attack.   The sky was clear and a beautiful moon was beaming down on the jungles of Burma.   There was only one drawback; ground fog and haze limited the visibility to less than two thirds of a mile in the target area.   Despite this fact, Lt. Cook performed one of the finest jobs of night precision bombing ever recorded in any theatre of war.   The attack started at 2040 hrs.   Lt. Cook dropped his load of bombs and banked sharply to the left to avoid ground fire.   In completing this maneuver, Lt. Cook saw that a Burmese Spiral Pagoda located East of the bridge and North of the tracks, was directly in his line of flight.   The plane was on the deck and in order to avoid a crash, Lt. Cook banked abruptly to the right and pulled the plane up (his quick action saved the lives of all the crew).   This maneuver was not completely successful; the left wing hit the Pagoda and 4 feet of the wing was sheared off.   (During the attack on the bridge, '768' was hit by an explosive shell which damaged the tail guns and wounded the gunner).   Lt. Cook kept the plane's nose pointed toward the sky and finally leveled off at 10, 000 feet.

      In one of the most sensational pieces of flying recorded in the squadron, Lt. Cook babied the crippled ship safely back to its home base.   Later reconnaissance showed that the mission was very successful.   The second and third span of the Sittang bridge had been blown to pieces.   An airplane also suffers from combat fatigue and on 17 Sept. 1944, after flying over 724 hours, the old standby 768 was modified and made into an administrative aircraft for the squadron.   After that time, the ship flew all types of non-combat missions. It was used to ferry supplies and carry troops to rest camps on passes.

      In April 1945 the aircraft with the large skull and wings design on the nose made the trip to China with the squadron.   On 2 July of that year, Captain Edward L. Tengler, Commanding Officer, took off in 768 to take a crew to the advanced echelon base at Slam.   On arriving at the base, the wheels could not be lowered.   They returned to the home base and circled, making preparations for a crash landing.

      After circling the field several times, seven members of the crew parachuted to safety.

  Just prior to landing the left wheel lowered and locked, but this did not phase the cool and calm Commanding Officer of the "Bridge Busters".   Turning in a beautiful piece of flying, Captain Tengler landed 768 on one wheel and held it there until it lost most of its speed

  Just before the right wing tip dug into the ground, the left wheel gave way and collapsed and a perfect belly landing was accomplished.

  Of the five crew members who rode the plane in, none were injured.   '768', a gallant fighting ship, was badly beaten up and had to be salvaged.   The remains of this once proud ship, now grace the area where salvaged aircraft are kept on this field.   That's the story as it appears in the record.

      The following information was printed under the photos at the end of the document. The plane was a B-25-J #42-64768. Crash landed on 2 July, 1945 at Hanchung Air Base. The crew that brought the ship in were Captain Edward L. Tengler, Captain Gerald K. Hannnaford, Lt. William H. Aiken Jr., T/Sgt Warren A. Garrett, and Lt. Howard S. Weaver. No names for the seven who bailed out. The information came from Col. Erdin's files which were sent to Sig Krouste by Elyse Erdin. Sig received the files on a roll of micro film which he had through friends copied on 8 x 11 paper.

There is the story, was it a Commanding Officers Airplane? Who knows?

(The end of this story. But you can contact J. J. Barrett, editor of th '490th Flyer', about this story. Or, to subscribe to the 'Flyer'! Click here to send J. J. email. )