Tech Sergeant Chester J. Piolunek, ASN 11082192

Radio Operator, Mechanic, Gunner - Phillips Crew

10th Air Force / 7th Bombardment Group / 436th Bombardment Squadron

Enlisted: 12 August 42

Africa, May 1944 (Piolunek, middle row, right)
(Photo courtesy of Chester J. Piolunek, Jr.)

Accident Report - Crash of B-24J 44-40619 (A/C #66)(Pdf Format)

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Statement of eyewitness -     "We had a normal take-off and climbed into formation. Pulling off to the right about 1000 feet. The pilot requested me to go to the nose and center the P.D.I. I did so and as I started back the plane banked to the left. When I reached the flight deck I saw that we had left the formation and were losing altitude rapidly. Both pilot and co-pilot were exerting full right aileron and right rudder. The pilot rolled in eight degrees of right rudder trim and some elevator but met with no visible results.
    The co-pilot called out to the crew to prepare for crash landing and I assumed ditching position behind the pilot's armor plate. I remained in that position until the ship struck the ground and stopped sliding.
    From the inspection of the surrounding area after the crash I saw that we had reversed our direction of flight 180 degress and had gone through an irrigation dyke in the rice paddy. This, in all probability is what caused the ship to turn around.
    The altitude at the time of loss of control was about 1500 feet."
- Harold E. Bauer, 2nd Lt., A.C.

Statement of eyewitness -     "Had taken of from Madhaiganj runway and were climbing steadily till reaching 1500 feet. Seemed to by flying smoothly and still climbing when I heard an explosion of some kind. Thought it was an engine back-firing, but the noise seemed to be coming from the bomb bays, and all the engines were running perfectly as far as I could see. The plane then went into a bank and still losing altitude. I imagined we were now heading home, back to the field, but we still kept losing altitude and the plane wouldn't pull entirely out if its bank. Just missed hitting tree tops of a small Indian village, when Co-pilot called over the inter-phone saying we were going down for a crash landing and for us to get into ditching positions. No sooner gotten down in the left hand side of bomb bay bulkhead, then we hit the ground. After plane had stopped sliding, I got out and assisted the other members of the crew as best I could." - Foster A. Tull, Sgt., Tail-Gunner

Statement of eyewitness -     "On the morning of December 1, 1944, we made a normal take-off and pulled into formation. The formation flew over the field and turned on course. Immediately after take-off the master switch on the C-1 was turned on to warm up the auto-pilot. The formation leader had informed us it would be alright to fly a loose formation employing the C-1 auto-pilot. The C-1 master switch had been on some twenty to thirty minutes before it was centered and clutched in. We were at 1500 feet indicated altitude.    After Lt. Phillips had the auto-pilot set up to his satisfaction he told me to get in the left seat, which I did because I was anxious to get all the left seat time I could, having hopes of being checked out as first pilot.
     At about the time I got my safety belt fastened the aircraft went into a bank to the left, about ten degrees or more. The C-1 was switched off immediately and Lt. Phillips was flying the aircraft manually. The engineer was sent aft to check the controls. Lt. Phillips called me to help him on the controls. With full right rudder and right aileron the aircraft leveled a little, but was still banking to the left, perhaps five degrees. It continued to turn. The engineer reported that the control cables were O.K. We were losing altitude fast, about 500 feet per minute. I increased the power, donít know just how much. I was busy helping on the controls. I increased the R.P.M and opened the throttles, I remember seeing all four needles on the manifold pressure gauge go past 40 inches. I called on the interphone for the crew to prepare for a crash landing.
     Things were happening pretty fast by now. We saw a good spot to set down in and were bending every effort to get enough control for a normal belly landing. Somewhere along what could be called a final approach I hit the flap handle, however I have no idea of how much flaps we had when we hit the ground. Before we hit we had full right aileron, full right rudder, full up elevators, and power off. It seems to me, though it isnít quite clear, that we were drifting to the left when we hit, in addition to a slight turn though the wings were almost level. About the time the ship hit the ground it hit one of the dykes you see in the rice paddies, at such an angle as to throw the plane around to the right. The aircraft traveled approximately 450 feet after it hit. It was sliding sideways and turning to the right as it went. The fuselage was rolled up to the bottom of the pilotís cockpit. The underside of the left wing was practically on the ground at the root.
     The only member of the crew pinned in was the navigator, he was pinned between the flight deck floor and the top turret. The turret did not leave the track, the floor came up closing the space. There was no fire. We removed the navigator within twenty to thirty minutes.
     The aircraft was completely demolished. I have no idea as to what caused it to act as it did."
- Aaron L. Raymer, 2nd Lt., AC

436th BS Personnel

7th BG Personnel