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Pitsenbarger Crew R-26 (619)
 Pitsenbarger Crew R-26
Back row, left to right...
Jack Bliss, navigator
Frank Cser, bombardier
Elmer Pitsenbarger, pilot
James Nendel, co-pilot
Front row, left to right...
Joe Zwinge, radio operator
Presley Farris, engineer
Curtis Anderson, waist gunner
Cyril McQuade, waist gunner
Frank Villelli, ball turret gunner
Hank Stec, tail gunner
Pitsenbarger Crew R-26 Summary
In May of '44 the Pitsenbarger Crew signed out for a B-24 J, 42-99911 to fly over to England. Perhaps they thought they were going to keep it since they named it LUCKY STRIKE. Records show that their flyover ship was transferred to the Royal Air Force.
The Pitsenbarger Replacement Crew was assigned to North Pickenham during the tail end of June. After some in-house training they were assigned to the 856th BS on 3 Jul 44 and designated as Crew 619.
By our count, the Pitsenbarger Crew R-26 flew 10 missions with the 492nd. We haven't confirmed exactly who was on every one of these flights, but will post any information we find.
Sgt Stec was wounded in action from flak during their second mission. He was replaced by S/Sgt Barber. After recovery, Stec was reassigned to the McLaughlin Crew 801, which had earlier been reassigned to the 856th.
In between the Crew's third and fourth missions, Sgt Anderson flew five other missions with other crews.
Their fifth mission came close to being their last. They lost one engine over target to flak. By throwing everything they could out of the plane, they were able to limp home.
According to Sgt Anderson, the Crew did not fly again until 25 July. We have other sources showing three more during this period. Anderson also stated that they flew missions on the 1st, 3rd and 4th of August. We will investigate this while we go through the mission folders. In doing this project, we extensively research and rewrite each mission page one at a time.
Sometime between the Troarns and St Lo missions, Sgt Vellelli flew three missions with other crews. Anderson also wrote that on the August 1st mission to Anizy they flew without Vellelli. He did not say if someoe else took his place.
Their last mission was their worst one with the Group. They got hit by flak and lost two engines, but they still managed to bring it home. Pitsenbarger had clearance from the tower to land. However, another pilot with the 492nd, Fleming, decided to come in without permission from the tower. The two planes were on a collision course. The wings of the two planes clipped each other. Pitsenbarger crashlanded his ship onto the runway. His plane was destroyed. Sgt Barber was killed. The others were injured, but only Pitsenbarger and Nendel were hospitalized for a week or two.
The Fleming Crew wasn't so lucky. Nine of the ten men were killed as their plane crashed on the runway. The tenth man died eleven days later in the hospital.
After recovering, the Pitsenbarger nine-man crew was transferred to the 801st/492nd BG and assigned to the 857th BS. Since they were now flying Carpetbagger missions, they only needed an eight-man crew. Sgt McQuade was cut from the crew and sent to the 466th BG.
They flew seven Carpetbagger missions and two gas hauling missions to supply General Patton's tanks. By October, they began training for a new type of assignment.
On 9 October, they flew a training mission called a Round Robin. The exercise called for low altitude flying, navigating by visual landmarks instead of instruments. While in a box-end valley in Northern England, a nasty rainstorm blew in bringing their visibilty to almost zero. Just as they began to abort the exericse, they ran into a mountain. The accident claimed the lives of 9 men. Only Sgt Anderson survived.
Two of the men killed that day were from ground units. It was common practice to let some of the non-flyboys tag along on practice exercises for the thrill. This is why there were ten men on board instead of eight.
The details are best described by Russell Ives who wrote a book about the Pitzenbarger Crew entiled, I Come From California (see our Library section). Ives also wrote an article for the HAPPY WARRIOR, the 492nd's official newsletter. We reprinted his article on this website. See "A Replacement Crew" under Stories at right.
More Info
8 pictures
Fleming Crew R-47
by Russell Ives
by Russell Ives
Links to missions
flown by the
Pitsenbarger Crew R-26
are below in their
Mission Record
BG website
Original Roster for
Pitsenbarger Crew R-26 (619)
Position / MOS Name Rank Serial # Notes
MOS 1024
Pitsenberger, Elmer D 2nd Lt O-699724 Promoted 1st Lt
Transferred to 801st/492nd
KILOD, 9 Oct 44
Buried at Cambridge, E-3-9
MOS 1024
Nendel, James D 2nd Lt O-553334 Transferred to 801st/492nd
KILOD, 9 Oct 44
Buried at Cambridge, E-1-80
MOS 1034
Bliss, Jack F/O T-125474 Transferred to 801st/492nd
KILOD, 9 Oct 44
Buried at Cambridge, E-2-22
MOS 1035
Cser, Frank 1st F/O T-125564 Transferred to 801st/492nd
KILOD, 9 Oct 44
Buried at Cambridge, E-0-7
MOS 748
Farris, Presley E S/Sgt 35128655 Promoted T/Sgt
Transferred to 801st/492nd
KILOD, 9 Oct 44
MOS 757
Zwinge, Joe W Jr S/Sgt 39412668 Promoted T/Sgt
Transferred to 801st/492nd
KILOD, 9 Oct 44
MOS 611
Anderson, Curtis Jr Sgt 39138297 Promoted S/Sgt
Transferred to 801st/492nd
WILOD, 9 Oct 44
MOS 757
McQuade, Cyril J
Sgt 33282314 MOS changed to 611
Promoted S/Sgt
Transferred to 466th BG
MOS 612
Villelli, Frank A Sgt 37563633 Promoted S/Sgt
Transferred to 801st/492nd
KILOD, 9 Oct 44
MOS 757
Stec, Henry
Sgt 32822690 Promoted S/Sgt
Reassigned to McLaughlin Crew 801
Promoted T/Sgt
Transferred to 801st/492nd
WIA, Sep 44
AAD records spells his name Hinry
  Others Who Flew with Pitsenbarger Crew R-26
Barber, Bradford F S/Sgt 14107943 KIA, 6 Aug 44
MOS 754
Lowblad, Charles T Cpl 39329860 KILOD, 9 Oct 44
Buried at Cambridge, E-2-120
MOS 747
Watson, Clarence S Cpl 39406449 KILOD, 9 Oct 44
Body never recoverd
Listed at Cambridge, Wall of the Missing
Pitsenbarger Crew R-26
492nd BG Mission Record
856th Bomb Squadron
Primary Target Mission Notes
 Link to Mission 48 page 48
11 Jul 44 42-110148 Munich, Germany Target: Railroad station
 Link to Mission 49 page 49
12 Jul 44 44-40146 Munich, Germany Target: Railroad station
 Link to Mission 50 page 50
13 Jul 44 42-50313 Saarbrucken, Germany Target: Marshalling yard
 Link to Mission 52 page 52
18 Jul 44 44-40146 Troarns, France Target: Tactical
 Link to Mission 53 page 53
19 Jul 44 44-40146 Russelheim, Germany Target: Marshalling yard
Bombed Koblenz
 Link to Mission 55 page 55
21 Jul 44 44-40146 Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany Target: Aircraft factory
 Link to Mission 56 page 56
24 Jul 44 44-40067 St Lo area, France Target: Tactical
 Link to Mission 57 page 57
25 Jul 44 44-40146 St Lo area, France Target: Tactical
 Link to Mission 64 page 64
5 Aug 44 42-50518 Brunswick, Germany Target: Aircraft manufacturing
 Link to Mission 65 page 65
6 Aug 44 44-40146 Hamburg, Germany Target: Oil refinery
Lost in landing accident, 1 KIA, 2 WIA
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Page last modified Tuesday, October 4, 2011.