Lt. William A. Robertson, III

Verona Residence: Bloomfield Ave

(KIA-POW) – On 24 August 1944, on Mission #231 to Merseburg, Germany in B-17G #42-97291 Myasis Dragon (359BS) BN-W. Myasis Dragon was brought down on the bomb run with the bomb bay doors open. The first of a salvo of three shells took out the #3 engine. As the second exploded under the radio
room,
T/Sgt Girman loosened his flak vest and clipped on one of his parachute rings. The third flak burst came right into the bomb bay, exploding between the two bomb racks. The B-17 immediately became an inferno, and T/Sgt Girman remembers seeing the aircraft melting before his eyes. Within
seconds Myasis Dragon
disintegrated in a large explosion which showered several aircraft in the formation with debris. One piece of the falling wreckage included the ball turret with Sgt Reid Bishop inside. T/Sgt Girman was unconscious. His foot was caught in the runner of the ball turret gunners hatch
trapping Sgt Bishop inside. Soon, however,
T/Sgt Girman fell free and Sgt Bishop was able to open his hatch, grab his parachute, connect it and free himself from the wreckage. T/Sgt Girman regained consciousness as he hit denser air, and remembers seeing Sgt Bishop’s chute open at almost the same
time as his, maybe 1500 feet above ground. The spot where T/Sgt Girman and Sgt Bishop came to earth was at Torgau, more than 30 miles east of Leipzig. This town became famous as the location where the Soviet and U.S. Forces met on a bridge over the Elbe River finally linking the Eastern and Western
fronts in May 1945 and signaling the end of the Third Reich.
T/Sgt Girman came to earth within site of that bridge and within sight of Stalag IVD where he spent his first night as a POW. T/Sgt Girman and Sgt Bishop were their only crew survivors. (KIA-POW Information Source: 1997 “Going Back” story by
Brian McGuire as related by
T/Sgt Girman.)

T/Sgt Eugene E. Girman (R ) and Sgt Neldon R. Bishop (BT) were wounded and taken to hospitals at Leipzig, Hohmalk, Menmigne and Obermassfield. They then were at POW camps at Sulag Luft IV, Gross Tychow, Nurenberg and Mooseburg. They were rescued by General Patton and the 14th Armored Division on 25 April 1945, transported to Camp Lucky Strike and transported to the USA on a
Liberty Ship.

Sgt Harry R. Sansum – Was seen on the ground without a chute after the crash by Sgt Neldon R. Bishop. The seven bodies from Myasis Dragon came down over a 17 kilometer wide area; the B-17 came down 5 kilometers northeast of Bergleibenau, 5 km from Merseburg. When the Germans were looking for the
surviving Hillary crewmen, they came across an airman shot down earlier. They shot him during an escape attempt.

Crew Event: This is the crew that was flying Thunderbird on her 70th mission, 15 August 1944 to Wiesbaden, Germany, which is the subject of the Keith Ferris Mural Fortresses Under Fire. On that mission, the waist gunner was T/Sgt Jack F. Pordhan rather than Sgt Sansum.

(*) T/Sgt Girman was aboard the reconstructed Thunderbird, that is at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, TX, on its flight from Duxford, England to Houston, Texas in July 1987.

[photo courtesy of Gene Girman]
[Researched by
303rdBGA Historian Harry D. Gobrecht]

ANDERSON         ROY M          SGT    37323504  359TH     ENGR    07-16-44
BISHOP          NELDON R       SGT    39918069  359TH     B/TUR   07-16-44  08-24-44 POW

DE FILIPPIS      ROCCO          2/LT   0765628   359TH     BOMB    07-16-44  08-24-44 KIA
GIRMAN           EUGENE E       T/SGT  35582692  359TH     RADIO   07-16-44  08-24-44  POW

HILLARY          JACK R         2/LT   0757200   359TH     PILOT   07-16-44  08-24-44  KIA
PAUL             GEORGE E       T/SGT  38557309  359TH     ENGR    07-16-44  08-24-44  KIA

RICE             JOHN E         2/LT   0710315   359TH     NAV     07-16-44  08-24-44  KIA

ROBERTSON        WILLIAM III    2/LT   0819712   359TH     CO-PLT  07-16-44  08-24-44  KIA
SANSUM           HARRY R        SGT    36233045  359TH     W/GUN   07-16-44  08-24-44  KIA
WATSON           JAMES R        SGT    32282335  359TH     T/GUN   07-16-44  08-24-44  KIA

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Courtesy of Mrs. Shirley Volpe, widow of  William Robertson, III

Courtesy of Mrs. Shirley Volpe, widow of
William Robertson, III

Courtesy of Mrs. Shirley Volpe, widow of  William Robertson, III

Courtesy of Mrs. Shirley Volpe, widow of
William Robertson, III

Verona High School Class of 1940  Yearbook

Verona High School Class of 1940
Yearbook

Verona High School Class of 1940  Yearbook

Verona High School Class of 1940
Yearbook

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JACK R. HILLARY CREW - 359th Bomb Squadron (crew assigned 359BS: 16 July 1944) (Back L-R) 2Lt Jack R. Hillary (P-KIA); 2Lt William Robertson III (CP-KIA); 2Lt John E. Rice (N-KIA); 2Lt Rocco De Filippis (B-KIA) (Front L-R) Sgt Neldon Reid Bishop (BT-POW)(1); S/Sgt George E. Paul (E-KIA); Sgt Harry R. Sansum (WG-KIA)(2); T/Sgt Eugene E. Girman (R-POW)(1)(*); Sgt James R. Watson (TG-POW) Photo courtesy of the 303rd Bomb Group Association

JACK R. HILLARY CREW – 359th Bomb Squadron
(crew assigned 359BS: 16 July 1944)
(Back L-R) 2Lt Jack R. Hillary (P-KIA);
2Lt William Robertson III (CP-KIA); 2Lt John E. Rice (N-KIA);
2Lt Rocco De Filippis (B-KIA)
(Front L-R) Sgt Neldon Reid Bishop (BT-POW)(1);
S/Sgt George E. Paul (E-KIA); Sgt Harry R. Sansum (WG-KIA)(2);
T/Sgt Eugene E. Girman (R-POW)(1)(*); Sgt James R. Watson (TG-POW)
Photo courtesy of the 303rd Bomb Group Association

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VCGTimes Article

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