Robert E. Sheahan Crew, 54?th BS
Back L to R: Charles (Chuck) Sarabian (E), Robert E. Sheahan (P), Loren Logan (N), George V. Strong (CP), Gean H. Machen (WG)
Front L to R: James L. Yarbrough (TG), Henry L. Amorati (RO), Oliver M. Riley (Togglier), Gordon H. Leroy (BT)
Photo courtesy of James Yarbrough.
LEFT-George V. Strong (CP), RIGHT-Loren Logan (N)
The following account written by James Yarbrough
During the war I served with the with the 384th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, Grafton Underwood air base, Kettering, England.
It might be of interest to you that as a tail gunner on a B-17 back in 1945 our crew crash landed on Guernsey Island after hitting bad weather coming back from southern France just after the war ended.
We were flying supplies there from Kettering, England. Our home base was called Grafton Underwood. We were almost across the English channel when the weather turned sour. Our pilot, Robert Sheahan, decided to turn back south where we had just come, where the weather was clear. In the fog and at low altitude trying to spot a clearing in the weather our navigator spotted land. It turned out to be Guernsey Island.
We established radio contact with the tower, which by then had been taken over by the British. They informed us that they had about 1800 feet of grass runway and we could try to land. Since our gasoline supply was so low we decided to try it.
We got everything ready and in crash position and came in downwind because the fog was so dense we couldn't get an approach and land into the wind as we needed to. We hit and bounced twice and ran out of runway. There was a huge gun emplacement down at the far end of the runway and the pilot decided to intentionally groundloop the plane to try to stop it before we skidded on into the glider mine field on down across a narrow road. The Germans had put them there for protection against any invasion attempt by glider troops.
As we slid across the gun emplacement sideways the left landing gear broke off and came through the waist section of the plane. The right inboard engine and landing gear sheared completely off and fell by the wayside. We finally slid to a stop with the left wing sticking out over the little road, just beyond which lay the glider mines which had not been removed at that time.
The place where the right inboard engine came off left gas lines hanging down and that area caught fire. We all got out unharmed and the British fire crew from the airfield were right there on the spot in record time and put the fire out. I thank God that we made it out without any casualties. We spent the night on Guernsey and were well taken care of by the British.
They were very hospitable during our stay there. They flew us back to England the next day in a DC-3 which can handle a field that size very well. I always wondered what happened to that B-l7 that we wrecked and left at the end of the runway. I am still in touch with my engineer and ball turret gunner, sadly our pilot died a couple of years ago.