The Harper crew arrived in late July as the 486th was making the transition to B17s. The crew was given a week to train and prepare for combat. During this time they made one familiarization flight over England before making their first combat flight on August 2nd. two days later, on their second mission, the crew would not return.
The Harper crew in #145 had been flying the #2 wing position of the second element of the low squadron. The bomber stream made their turn into Germany after flying up the coast of the mainland, and turning SE south of Heligoland. They were headed between Bremen and Hamburg, hoping to avoid German FLAK, but just as they were to turn East and head to their pre-IP they encountered a FLAK battery they hadn't expected.
LT Walthall reportedly was having trouble maintaining his position in the squadron. The crew of LT Harper's ship in the #2 slot, flying left wing, was trying to keep an eye on the Walthall ship. LT Harper, and his copilot, LT Scully, had been switching piloting duties back and forth as was customary. After having handed control of the aircraft, #145, back to LT Harper, LT Scully asked the tail gunner for a report on the Walthall crew. The bomber stream had entered the turn to the pre-IP and Walthall, in #909, could not be seen by Scully, or his tail gunner. Somehow, LT Walthall found himself under LT Harper when tragedy struck.
According to an eye witness account, a burst of FLAK detonated beneath #909, and the shock pushed the aircraft upward into #145. Aboard #145, LT Scully saw #909's wing swing up between engines #3 and #4. The shaft of #4 broke when it was struck by the wingtip of #909, and went flying off into space. A propeller of #145 bit into the nose of #909 before both aircraft began their tumble from the sky.
Some how the empennage of #145 became severed and the ship immediately went down out of control, spinning violently. Harper and Scully were unable to get control of their aircraft without the empennage, and it became apparent that the ship was doomed. LT Scully had been asked by LT Kontos' father prior to setting off for England, to watch out for his boy, who was several years younger than LT Scully. With that in mind, LT Scully left his seat, and made his way to the nose to ensure that Kontos was alright and ready to bail out. The aircraft was spinning wildly, and the aerodynamic stresses on the ship where stressing the airframe to the limit. Before the crew could bail out, the port wing tore off, taking a section of the fuselage with it. At the same time, LT Scully and Harper were sucked out of the aircraft. Unfortunately for LT Scully, the jagged metal snagged the leg of his flying suit leaving him hanging outside the now tumbling wreckage of #145. Scully used his other leg to push him clear of the aircraft, and he pulled his chute handle.
LT Scully had lost precious altitude in his struggle to free himself, and he was very low when his chute blossomed. Still, LT Scully landed hard on the roof of a building, and broke three ribs in the process. LT Scully was taken prisoner along with LT Harper and SGT Kazmer Rachak from the other aircraft. Scully and Harper would be interned at Stalag Luft III at Sagan.
The above information is derived from interviews with LT Harry Scully, LT Quentin Ingerson and SGT Rachak with additional details found in MACR 7713.
|Name||Rank||Position||First Mission||Last Mission||Status|
|Leland J. Harper||2nd LT||Pilot||08/02/44||08/04/44||POW|
|Harry J. Scully||2nd LT||Co-pilot||08/02/44||08/04/44||POW|
|Hugh S. White||2nd LT||Navigator||08/02/44||08/04/44||KIA|
|Constantine J. Kontos||2nd LT||Bombardier||08/02/44||08/04/44||KIA|
|Edward J. Sherrick||SSGT||Engineer/Top||08/02/44||08/04/44||KIA|
|Ralph E. Fleck||SGT||Radioman||08/02/44||08/04/44||KIA|
|Stanley A. Calhoun||SGT||Ball Gunner||08/02/44||08/04/44||KIA|
|John R. Warner||SGT||Waist Gunner||08/02/44||08/04/44||KIA|
|Jerome E. Argenti||SGT||Tail Gunner||08/02/44||08/04/44||KIA|
|Created 01/20/99||Modified 12/23/16|
Copyright © 1998-2016 486th Bomb Group Association.