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The Crew of the 8 Ball

Inside This Site
WWII: Saving the World
The Face of Adversity
Bail Out over Brummen
Mission #266
Death of The 8 Ball
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Bail Out Over Brummen

The Crew of The 8 Ball

The crew that would fly "the 8 Ball" on its 57th mission was as typical an Eighth Air Force bomber crew as could be. The crew members were young and came from various states within the United States of America.

Pilot and airplane commander was 23-year-old 1/Lt Jack T. Davis from Athens, Georgia. His co-pilot was 2/Lt Donald L. Kohlstedt from famous Hollywood, California. The navigator was 1/Lt Vernon M. Hellesvig from Maddock, North Dakota, and the bombardier was 22-year-old Flying Officer Nino L. Guiciardi, from Creighton, Pennsylvania. These were the four officers, occupying the combat positions in the cockpit and nose of "the 8 Ball".

Immediately behind the two pilots, S/Sgt Dave Bloom from Cleveland, Ohio, manned the top turret with twin .50 caliber machine guns. He was also the engineer of the crew. Further towards the rear of the bomber T/Sgt Rex E. Lewnfield from Kalamazoo, Michigan, sat behind his radio sets. In case of enemy fighter attacks, he could also use his single .50 caliber machine gun. The belly of the plane was guarded against fighter attacks by the two .50s of the ball turret gunner, Sgt Richard A. Martin from River Route, Michigan. Sgt Everette G. Harris from High Point, North Carolina. manned the two flexible waist guns of the bomber. Finally, the last regular crew member was the tail gunner, Sgt Marvin W. Brown from Evansville, Indiana. During the flying training in the United States a second waist gunner, Sgt Anthony B. Martin had been on the crew. Upon arrival at Molesworth it was stipulated that the 303rd Bomb Group flew with one waist gunner only, due to the limited number of German fighter attacks in the recent months. Anthony Martin was transferred to another crew and unfortunately killed in action during a mission on November 21, 1944.

The Davis crew arrived at Molesworth on September 23, 1944. After a brief introduction period the first operational mission for the crew took place on October 7, 1944. For their baptism of fire, a flight of more than nine hours to Dresden, they boarded B-17G 42-97944 "Daddy's Delight". Two days later they flew more than eight hours to Schweinfurt aboard B-17G 43-38258 "Forget me not Olly". In this same bomber they bombed Wesseling on October 11. Mannheim was the target of the crew's fourth mission on the 19th, aboard B-17G 44-6309 "The Duchess' Granddaughter". On the 22nd they flew to Brunswick in B-17G 43-38609, an unnamed specimen. This fifth combat mission made the crew eligible for the Air Medal. The next day they mounted the familiar B-17G 42-97781, "the 8 Ball", for a mission to the marshalling yards in Hamm. On the 26th they boarded "the 8 Ball" again, and took it to Munster this time, for their seventh combat mission. On the first day of November Gelsenkirchen was the target and Davis and his crew bombed the oil refineries in B-1 7G 43-38878, another B-17 without a nickname.

In the early hours of November 2, 1944 the crew of Jack Davis was summoned to fly again. It was to be the 266th combat mission for the 303rd Bomb Group, the ninth for the Davis crew and fifty-seventh for "the 8 Ball". Both for the crew and the aircraft it was to have an unexpected end.

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