The Arrowhead Club

Floyd Martin Vevle

The story of the Vevle twin brothers in the 8th Air Force, continued…

To recap, Lloyd Vevle was a co-pilot in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England. Lloyd lost his life on the 384th’s September 28, 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany. Involved in a mid-air collision, Lloyd could not bail out of his B-17G and his body was recovered near Ostingersleben, Germany. His parents were likely notified of his death on January 28, 1945.

Less than 100 miles from Grafton Underwood, Lloyd’s twin brother, Floyd Vevle was part of the 390th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force based in Framlingham, England. Floyd was co-pilot of the Alvin J. Morman crew.

On January 14th, 1945, the 390th Bomb Group flew a mission to Derben, Germany. The target was an underground oil storage depot. The Morman crew was aboard B-17G 44-8426 and was made up of:

  • Pilot, 1st Lt. Alvin J. Morman
  • Co-pilot, 1st Lt. Floyd M. Vevle
  • Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack A. Simon
  • Togglier/Nose Gunner, 1st Lt. Robert C. (or G.) Springborn
  • Radio Operator, T/Sgt. Robert G. Hehr
  • Top Turret/Engineer T/Sgt. Mario J. Manfredini
  • Ball Turret, S/Sgt. James F. Stieg
  • Tail Gunner, S/Sgt. Samuel W. Barton
  • Waist Gunner, S/Sgt. Leon J. Cousineau

Floyd Vevle crew photo

Nearing the I.P. (Initial Point of the bomb run) at about 1240 hours, their squadron was attacked by approximately one hundred German FW 190’s and ME 109’s in the area between 5300N-1200E and 5220N-1250E at about 1240 hours.

With information from the Missing Air Crew Report, MACR11719, I will try to piece together the series of events that took place aboard 44-8426.

As a result of the enemy aircraft attack, the interphone system of communication was disabled and a wing was on fire. The crew resorted to the use of signals to convey to each other that the ship was going down. Radio Operator, T/Sgt. Robert G. Hehr and Waist Gunner, S/Sgt. Leon J. Cousineau were either killed instantly or mortally wounded in the initial attack, or succumbed to anoxia (oxygen deprivation).

Tail Gunner S/Sgt. Samuel W. Barton bailed out first, likely from the tail gunner’s emergency exit. Reported by an unknown crewmember, Barton observed Cousineau before he left the ship and said Cousineau was in a daze.

Top Turret Gunner/Engineer T/Sgt. Mario J. Manfredini made his way to the front escape hatch where he met Co-pilot 1st Lt. Floyd M. Vevle. Vevle motioned Manfredini to bail out before him. Vevle, standing behind Manfredini, was wearing his parachute and was himself prepared to bail out. Manfredini noted that Pilot 1st Lt. Alvin J. Morman was “still at the controls trying to keep plane level when I jumped.” Morman was also observed wearing his chute. Manfredini does not know if Vevle followed him out, but reported that Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack A. Simon did follow him out and that Togglier/Nose Gunner, 1st Lt. Robert Springborn followed Simon.

Simon reported that “with the engineer [Manfredini] gone, I entered the escape hatch and stood up beside Lt. Vevle and verified by signs that we were going down (wing fire not visible from nose) and that he and the pilot, Lt. Morman were alright. With that information I left the ship. The togglier, Sgt. Springborn, leaving the ship only seconds later apparently, states that no one was standing in the escape hatch, and though from his position he could not be sure, he does not believe there was anyone in the pilots compartment. (From personal conversations later). The engineer [Manfredini] also verified at the time of his leaving the ship the pilot and co-pilot were uninjured.”

By this point, the following crew members have bailed out of the ship:

  • Tail Gunner, S/Sgt. Samuel W. Barton
  • Top Turret/Engineer T/Sgt. Mario J. Manfredini
  • Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack A. Simon
  • Togglier/Nose Gunner, 1st Lt. Robert Springborn

Surviving crew members believed that Vevle and Morman may have engaged the autopilot and gone to the rear of the ship to help other crewmen still on board.

Simon reported what happened next, information he gleaned from conversations with Ball Turret Gunner S/Sgt. James F. Stieg. Simon wrote, “Despite the visible fire, he [Stieg] remained at his position in the turret until he was wounded in the leg.”

Stieg continued the story. When Stieg emerged from the ball turret, he noted that Hehr “was wounded.  Last seen slumped over the radio table.  Being seriously wounded myself, I was unable to crawl to him.” Additionally, Manfredini reported that Stieg said Hehr was wedged between his table and chair. He was not trying to get loose, so Stieg thought that he was either dead or wounded severely and unable to get out of the plane. Stieg wrote that Cousineau “was fatally wounded by enemy aircraft.”

Simon continued: “Manning a waist gun against fighters which continued to attack, until wounded again, he [Stieg] then tried to get out the waist escape hatch, but was unable to get the door off, because the emergency release would not operate. He estimates this action consumed approximately fifteen minutes… Being unable to get out, and in a weakened condition, he endeavored to protect himself from flames then entering the fuselage when the ship blew up hurling him into space where he was able to parachute to safety.”

Stieg elaborated, “He [Cousineau] was fatally wounded by enemy aircraft. He was lying next to me on the waist floor prior to the ship’s nosing over and going down – but all of a sudden I heard an explosion and evidently it blew me clear.” After being blown out of the aircraft, Stieg parachuted to the ground near Potsdam. Ball Turret Gunner S/Sgt. James F. Stieg was the fifth and last crewman to leave the plane alive. When asked in the questionnaire if he bailed out, James F. Stieg wrote, “No – blown out and parachuted to safety.”

Simon continued, “Because of the erratic flight of the aircraft, he [Stieg] assumes that the ship was flying out of control. Although he did not go forward of the radio room, he feels that there was no one in the pilot’s compartment.” Though he didn’t feel anyone was in the pilot’s compartment, Stieg did not report seeing either Morman or Vevle in the waist. By this time, Morman and Vevle, if they had remained in the pilot’s compartment, may have been killed in the continuing attack or may have succumbed to anoxia.

Simon reported that “When I bailed out, I landed a few kilometers southeast of the small town of Freysach (spelling?) Germany. It is my understanding that Sgt. Manfredini, Sgt. Springborn, and Sgt. Barton all landed within a few miles radius.”

Barton, Manfredini, Simon, Springborn, and Stieg all became prisoners of war. Stieg was hospitalized. All of them eventually returned home.

Springborn “thought aircraft struck the ground in a small lake” and Manfredini “was told [the] plane exploded in air.” Stieg reported that the aircraft “struck the ground near Potsdam, Germany when it exploded.”

Cousineau, Hehr, Vevle, and Morman were assumed to be in the ship when it struck the ground or blown out when it exploded. Hehr and Cousineau were in the waist, Vevle and Morman may have still been in the cockpit. According to Stieg, Hehr and Cousineau were dead. The condition of Morman and Vevle was not known.

Simon reported that “The only additional information was obtained from the German colonel who interrogated me, who for some unexplainable reason called me in just before my release from the interrogation center to inform me of the disposition of my crew. According to his statement, the bodies of Lt. Vevle, Lt. Morman, Sgt. Cousineau and Sgt. Hehr were found in the airplane. The others were accounted for as prisoners of war except for Sgt. Stieg, regarding who whereabouts he was uninformed. At that time, it was later learned from Stg. Stieg, he was in a hospital in Berlin. It is possible that a more exact position of where the aircraft crashed may be obtained from Sgt. Stieg.” German authorities at the Interrogation Center told other survivors that Lt. Vevle, Lt. Morman, Sgt. Cousineau, and Sgt. Hehr were found in or near the wreckage of the airplane.

The questionnaire filled out by survivors of the crash asked each respondent to explain Pilot Lt. Morman’s fate in part or wholly on supposition. Responses included:

  • “By remaining at the cockpit site until reasonably sure that all had left the ship it is probable that successive fighter assaults reported by the lower turret gunner resulted in the pilot and co-pilot being hit and wounded badly or killed. This is purely an assumption.”
  • “Anoxia victim trying to help crew members while ship on auto pilot.”
  • “Believe he was trying to hold the plane in level flight so crew could get out.”

Responses to the same question regarding Co-pilot Lt. Vevle included:

  • “By remaining at the cockpit site until reasonably sure that all had left the ship it is probable that successive fighter assaults reported by the lower turret gunner resulted in the pilot and co-pilot being hit and wounded badly or killed. This is purely an assumption.”
  • “I was the last man to leave the ship and as I glanced back toward the pilots compartment I couldn’t see his feet. He must have going back in the ship succumbed from anoxia [deprivation of oxygen].”
  • “Believe that for some reason unknown to me he went back either to the cockpit or was trying to make his way back to the waist to warn other crew members since interphone and the alarm system were shot out.”

Responses regarding Waist Gunner Sgt. Cousineau included:

  • “Dead either from wounds or [lack of] oxygen.”
  • “Apparently killed by one of the initial assaults which put the plane out of control (fire).”

Responses regarding Radio Operator Sgt. Hehr included:

  • “Apparently killed by one of the initial assaults which put the plane out of control (fire).”

Manfredini also reported on the tragic death of a member of another 390th crew. “S/Sgt. [Victor] James Perrotta killed while trying to escape at Dulug Luft at Wetzlar, Germany.  Saw it happen.”

The entire squadron of eight aircraft, of which 44-8426 was a part, was lost. Killed aboard 44-8426 were:

  • Pilot, 1st Lt. Alvin J. Morman
  • Co-pilot, 1st Lt. Floyd M. Vevle
  • Radio Operator, T/Sgt. Robert G. Hehr
  • Wait Gunner, S/Sgt. Leon J. Cousineau

Taken prisoner and eventually returned home were:

  • Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack A. Simon
  • Togglier, 1st Lt. Robert C. (or G.) Springborn
  • Top Turret/Engineer T/Sgt. Mario J. Manfredini
  • Ball Turret, S/Sgt. James F. Stieg
  • Tail Gunner, S/Sgt. Samuel W. Barton

One source (http://www.fieldsofhonor-database.com/index.php/american-war-cemetery-henri-chapelle-v/50115-vevle-floyd-m) states that Floyd Vevle was initially buried at the Wachow Community Cemetery, but that after the war, his body could not be found.

Even though the German Colonel at the Interrogation Center reported that four bodies were found in the crash, MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 17119 which covers the loss of the crew, does not report that his body was found at the crash site. MACR11719 shows that Robert G. Hehr, Leon J. Cousineau, and Alvin J. Morman were found dead near the place of the crash, 3.5 km west of Wachow and 20 km northeast of Brandenburg. Interment was January 16, 1945 in the community of Wachow. Floyd Vevle’s name was not included among the dead.

MACR11719 Page 18

MACR11719 Page 27

Within a 109-day period of WWII, Oliver Vevle lost both of his twin sons, Lloyd and Floyd. Both in the 8th Air Force. Both Co-pilots. Both killed in action over Germany. Floyd is still considered missing.

Floyd Vevle is memorialized on the Tablet of the Missing at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium. Floyd earned the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Floyd’s twin brother, Lloyd Vevle of the 384th Bomb Group, is buried in Plot C, Row 37, Grave 20 at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium. Like his twin brother, Lloyd earned the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Thank you to Keith Ellefson, combat data specialist for the 384th Bomb Group research group for providing me with a copy of MACR11719.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

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2 Comments

  1. David M Hehr says:

    Sincere thanks for piecing together this detailed account of what happened over 70 years ago to these brave young airmen, each of them heroes. T/Sgt. Robert G. Hehr was my father’s cousin from Buffalo, New York.

    David M. Hehr

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