Cecil Carlton McWhorter, continued…
On his final mission, Cecil McWhorter was left waist gunner on the Charles E. Cregar, Jr. crew of the 511th Bomb Squadron of the 351st Bomb Group on the October 3, 1944 Mission #213 to the Nuremburg Railroad Marshaling Yards. They were aboard B-17G 43-38518, which was a new ship assigned to the 511st Bomb Squad/351st Bomb Group less than two weeks before on September 21 according to Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log. Cecil was on his twelfth mission with the 351st.
On October 3, 1944 the Cregar crew consisted of:
- Pilot, 1st Lt Charles E. Cregar, Jr., SN O-1043908
- Co-pilot, 2nd Lt Sanford N. Groendyke, SN O-819086
- Navigator, F/O James D. Timmie, SN T-124869
- Bombardier, 1st Lt John F. Dwyer, SN O-1283565
- Top Turret Gunner/Engineer, T/Sgt Edward L. Huth, SN 32447653
- Radio Operator, S/Sgt Elwood A. (Ziggy) Zigenfus, Jr., SN 13152369
- Left Waist Gunner, S/Sgt Cecil C. McWhorter, SN 6285927
- Ball Turret Gunner, S/Sgt Charles E. Weller, SN 35263548
- Tail Gunner, S/Sgt Thomas W. Richardson, SN 15195066
All on board were taken prisoner of war with the exception of bombardier John F. Dwyer, who lost his life on that mission.
The details of MIssing Air Crew Report 9358 (MACR9358) explain what happened on October 3, 1944 to the Cregar crew.
According to witnesses from other aircraft in the formation, the Cregar crew’s 43-38518 left the formation at 1150 hours under control for causes unknown. Pilot Donald Hadley noticed that Lt. Cregar’s plane failed to turn with the formation coming off the target. Hadley reported no visible signs of damage and all four engines turning. There were no fighters in the area, but there was moderate flak. Cregar never caught up with the formation and descended under control out of sight. Hadley saw no parachutes and heard no radio call from 43-38518.
Another witness, tail gunner Jack Tucker, reported much the same as Donald Hadley, adding that as the plane left the formation, it began to lose altitude and traveled in an easterly direction. He saw nothing to indicate that Cregar’s plane was damaged and the last he saw of them, they were flying at about 8500 feet (descending from their flying altitude of 25,500 feet).
Either Hadley or Tucker later added that thirty minutes after the aircraft left the formation, the pilot was heard to call for fighter support over VHF.
According to Individual Casualty Questionnaires included within the Missing Air Crew Report, just after Bombardier John Dwyer released the bombs and was observing the results, he was hit by flak and killed. One of the responders to the questionnaire (probably the navigator James Timmie, who would have been in the nose of the B-17 with Dwyer) reported,
The first shell burst about ten feet in front of the nose slightly to the right. A small fragment entered his head thru his steel helmet, earphone, and skull and started profuse bleeding. I administered firstaid to no avail and in a few minutes he was dead. His body was left with the plane, which did not burn, when last seen.
The pilot left formation in an attempt to fly the badly damaged ship to Switzerland.
The radio operator, Elwood Zigenfus, and tail gunner, Thomas Richardson, both reported that the pilot and co-pilot remained at the controls while the rest of the crew, with the exception of bombardier John Dwyer who was dead in the nose of the ship, assumed ditching positions in the radio room.
None of the men bailed out of the ship, but instead rode it down to a crash landing. The men reported that the ship struck the ground using various landmarks:
- At Stellman (300 m west) 12 km west of Donauwoerth at 1230 hours
- 10 miles south of Ulm
- Near Dilligen, Germany
- Near Elms, Germany
- At the small village of Stattinham
Bombardier John F. Dwyer (born September 10, 1918) was found dead in the aircraft after the emergency landing. His date and place of death were listed as October 3, 1944 in Stillnau at Leipheim/Donau. His initial date and place of interment were October 7, 1944 at Leipheim/Donau town cemetery.
One of the crew said that the German guards reported that Dwyer was given a military funeral near where the ship went down, a small town named Dillingen. According to Findagrave.com, Dwyer was later re-interred at Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial at Saint-Avold, Department de la Moselle, Lorraine, France.
The pilot, Charles Cregar, summarized with:
The target was RR Yards in Marsburg. They were at the target at 11:55 a.m. at an altitude of 26,000 feet. They left the formation at the first turn off the target. He didn’t bail out nor did any of the other members of the crew. He wrote:
All members of crew remained in the plane until we crash landed. One member was killed by the flak burst which knocked out our four engines. All other members uninjured then or in the crash landing that followed.
A German interrogator informed me voluntarily that Lt. Dwyer had been buried in Leipheim, “with full military honors just as if he had been a German officer.”
On pilot Charles Cregar’s page on the American Air Museum in Britain website, his son wrote about memories of his dad, in part,
Dad would never discuss the war, Mom said it brought up terrible memories. He regretted the death of his one crew member, and never discussed POW with anyone…Dad had fun, enjoyed friends including Ernie Kovacs (TV comedian), who was a childhood friend and Ziggy (from the flight crew). Never would eat potato soup or cabbage, apparently a POW thing.
Bombardier John Dwyer’s page includes a photo and notes,
Killed in Action (KIA) Crashed near Stellnau in B-17 4338518.
Lt. Dwyer was a member of the International Guards before Pearl Harbor and first served with the Infantry, then being transferred to the air corps. He received his training at Santa Anna, Cal., Las Vegas, Nev., Carlsbad, NM, and Avon Park, Fla.
He was overseas from July 1944, and had completed twelve missions. Lt. Dwyer received the Presidential Group Citation and a posthumous Purple Heart.
Tail gunner Thomas Richardson’s page includes a photo,
Pages for the remainder of the crew, including Cecil McWhorter, do not include any additional information or photos.
Thank you to 384th Bomb Group researcher Keith Ellefson for getting me a copy of Missing Air Crew Report 9358.
If you are a relative of 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil C. McWhorter, or others on the Charles Cregar crew, or RAF airman Laurie Newbold, please Contact Me.
To be continued…
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018