Halseth, Edwin S. (Crew 42, 544th BS)

  • 1LT Edwin S. Halseth (P)
  • 2LT Walter L. Harvey (CP)
  • 2LT William F. McGeehan(N)
  • 2LT Charles Deigan(B)
  • TSGT Robert O. Burnes(TT)
  • SSGT David E. Kay (RO)
  • SSGT Frank L. DelMonte (BT)
  • SGT Donald A. Rutan (WG)
  • SGT Walter M. Pollard(WG)
  • SSGT John S. Bagis (TG)

Ed Halseth and crew were one of the first 7 crews in the 544th BS. They were originally issued B-17F 42-30142, coded SU*L. This aircraft was originally flown from the U.S. to Great Britain by 384th CO COL Budd Peaslee, who experienced a multitude of problems with the aircraft, necessitating an engine change prior to leaving the U.S.

The Halseth crew was scheduled to fly on the June 29th mission, but were forced to abort after the #3 engine quit once reaching 19,000 feet. The engineers at Grafton Underwood inspected the engine, flight-tested it at 5,000 feet with a partial fuel load and no bombs, but experienced no problems. This was again repeated on the missions of July 4 and July 10 with minor variations, at which point Halseth was suspected of being a coward and was replaced as pilot by Gordon Hankinson: Halseth flew as his co-pilot. The next mission was a lower-altitude mission (15,000 feet) on July 24, to Heroya, Norway. No problems were encountered.

The next day, the crew was shot down on the July 25, 1943 mission to Hamburg, Germany, aboard B-17F 42-3069 "Passes Cancelled." Again, the plane was piloted by LT Gordon Hankinson, and Co-Piloted by Halseth. The original CP, Walter Harvey, did not fly on this mission, but would later be shot down on the April 24, 1944 mission to Oberphaffenhofen, Germany. Harvey would evade capture and return to England.

On August 12, 1943, the Jesse D. Hausenfluck crew was assigned to fly 42-30142 to Gelsenkirchen, Germany. At an altitude of 19,000 feet, the #3 engine quit. Hausenfluck made the decision to let the prop windmill instead of feathering to keep from identifying the plane as a cripple to the German fighters. During heavy fighter attack, tailgunner Raymond Gregori was severely wounded in the shoulder and continued to man his guns, for which he received the Silver Star.

Two days later, on August 14, 42-30142 was flown to Little Staughton, where it was then transferred to the 388th BG. The mechanical history of 42-30142 should be taken into account when looking at the several aborts that Halseth made. The following comment was in the original page file when I (RFP) took over the site in 2002; the matter has not been further pursued: I am currently researching the history that the plane had while with the 388th BG in an effort to further clear up even the suspicion of cowardice surrounding a man who served his country and his crew to the best of his ability and judgement.