Miss Ida Memorial
5th April 2021 marked the 76th anniversary of the loss of Miss Ida and all but one of her crew in Glatton. Miss Ida was an American B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’ serial number 44-8152 stationed at RAF Glatton (Conington) which was built by the 809th Engineer Battalion (Aviation) of the U.S. Army in the last months of 1942. To mark the occasion a plaque in memory of those brave young men was unveiled close to the site of the crash and made up from part of a wing spar recovered from the crash site. Please note that the location of the memorial is on private land and adjacent to an active airfield and so is not accessible to the public without prior permission and arrangement with the land owner.
Miss Ida’s final flight
On 5th April 1945 the crew of Miss Ida assembled for its briefing prior to take off, its mission No. 224 to an Ordinance Depot at Ingolstadt Airfield in Germany. At 0600hrs the fully fuelled Miss Ida laden with 12-500 GP bombs, and cases of .50 calibre ammunition began take off procedures. The first attempt failed (the plane falling back onto the runway), eventually she took off but with engine number two on fire. She slowly climbed over Holme Woods on the north side of the airfield and turned to a heading on the outward flight path over the village of Glatton about one mile away. In an attempt to abort the flight and to return to base Miss Ida fell, crashing on Glatton’s Manor Farm fields at ‘Top Hovel’. The pilot struggled to attempt a belly landing (undercarriage folded away) but she skidded along the ground, with her spinning propellers ploughed through a hedge and gouged out the tops of the deep furrows of the next field. Her starboard wing clipped a straw stack in its path and broke off, it careered through another hedge and on impact blew up at the boundary hedge of Upper Lutton Slype. The enormous explosion and earth tremors awoke the whole of the Glatton village and blew windows in on one farmhouse almost half a mile from the crash site.
First at the crash was teenager John Williams (late father of Paul Williams) who recalled the horrific scene for the book From Far Afield They Came. To his left was an enormous crater some 8ft deep and 30ft across and to his right the burning straw stack. Human carnage was strewn about the site and the smell of cordite hung low in the air. Hearing the ambulance some ¼ mile away, he went to meet the vehicle and rode back in it directing the driver to the exact spot in the nearby fields. Then he saw the sole survivor, Lt William J. P. Meng Jr. who had been thrown clear of Miss Ida when the starboard wing was ripped off and was relatively unscathed.
About three feet away from the crater, John helped the ambulance men lift the plane’s oil tank off the lower part of the navigator’s body. There was only one other body. The straw stack in the first field was like a bonfire, set alight by the fuel from the broken wing, the shells exploding with the heat spurting out from all sides. Crash crews combed the fields for survivors, human remains were collected in blankets and taken to a waiting ambulance. A timber framed cattle shed had disintegrated, its corrugated roof completely blown away and one cow in the adjoining field had its horn blown off by a piece of flying metal (it eventually had to be destroyed). Parts of the undercarriage had been blown 300 yards away and bent a plough. Once all the fields were cleared of debris, it was piled high and almost stretched from one telegraph pole to the next on the verge alongside the High Haden Road, awaiting collection. Sadly the crewmen like many other such young men before them in the prime of youth, who had dedicated their lives to freedom, lost theirs in an English field.
On the 5th April the crew of Miss Ida consisted:
Lieutenant Donald L. Snow – Pilot
Major Edward B. Dozier – Air Commander, in place of the co-pilot as Miss Ida was the lead aircraft on the mission
First Lieutenant James P Guyot – Navigator
Lieutenant William J Meng Jr – Lead Navigator (survived)
Lieutenant Harry G Vaal – Bombardier
Technical Sergeant Joseph E Adams – Air Engineer
Staff Sergeant Robert L Todd – Waist Gunner
Lieutenant Jack E Taifer – Tail Gunner
Technical Sergeant Robert W Pinckney – Radio Operator
Lieutenant Herbert L Stempler – Radar Navigator
The B-17 Flying Fortress
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a four-engined heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances becoming the third-most produced bomber of all time.
The B-17 was primarily employed by the USAAF in the daylight strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial, military and civilian targets. The United States Eighth Air Force, based at many airfields in central, eastern and southern England, and the Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, complemented the RAF Bomber Command’s night-time area bombing in the Combined Bomber Offensive to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944. The B-17 also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific, early in World War II, where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.
The B-17 developed a reputation for toughness based upon stories and photos of badly damaged B-17s safely returning to base. The B-17 dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II. Of approximately 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped on Nazi Germany and its occupied territories by U.S. aircraft, over 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s.
Sources and further reading
From Far Afield They Came… by Margaret Winham – ISBN: 09539187
Fait Accompli II: The Fireball Outfit Hardcover by James L. Bass – ISBN 0964892510
The Fireball Outfit: The 457th Bombardment Group in the Skies Over Europe by Ken Blakebrough – ISBN 0816897549
Found in a Foot Locker: The Forgotten Sacrifice of Robert L. Todd by Paul W. R. Kelly – ISBN 1438942532