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Lt. Richard Farnsworth 344th BG Silver Star Winner

Farnsworth Crew

Wheels Inc. with crew. 344th BG 495th BS Wheels Inc. with crew. 344th BG 495th BS

I received this initial e-mail from Zach Farnsworth <foreverrooted@yahoo.com>

My grandfather flew a b-26 listed on your website- 44-68098 Wheels Inc. Y5-G. I Have been looking for info and pictures of the plane. If you could look for me I would appreciate any help.

Thanks Zach

I sent Zach the above picture and information about the plane, 44-68098  Wheels Inc.  Y5-G.

I heard from Zach Farnsworth again;

“An archivist at The Arizona Aerospace Foundation did this research of their data base for me.  On March 22, 1945 a Lt. Farnsworth of the 495th Bomb Squadron, 344th Bomb Group crash landed a flak damaged Martin B-26 Marauder at airfield A-92 St-Trond airfield in Belgium. The aircraft’s serial number was 44-68098, the aircraft carried the name “Wheels Inc.” I looked and we unfortunately don’t have a photo of the aircraft. I have attached a PDF that contains scans of two personal narratives from the book 344th Bomb Group (M) “Silver Streaks”: History & Remembrances World War II, edited by Lambert D. Austin. The two narratives are written by men who knew your grandfather. Each has a paragraph that describes how your grandfather was awarded the Silver Star.

Harry Loveless said, ” Dick Farnsworth, A friend and fellow Arkansan, was flying deputy lead in my flight on this mission (my 33rd) and as a result of his bravery and skill, earned the silver star. His plane sustained flak damage and, after returning to A-78, a crewman began hand cranking down the landing gear. Unfortunately, only one gear came down; the other did not. Dick decided to gain altitude and have everyone bail out. However, one crew member discovered that his parachute had been severely damaged by flak. Dick gave his own parachute to the crewman and all bailed out except Dick, who then brought his plane down for an emergency landing, walking away unscathed.”

Jim Stalter said, “Mission #8 March 24. Rhine crossing day. The group attacked three targets this day and lost 3 airplanes and two crews. Two of my pilot friends were involved. Lt. Ware and crew were killed. Lt. Farnsworth, whose airplane was badly shot up, gave up his chute to his wounded tail gunner, bailed the crew out then crash-landed the tattered remains of the airplane. For this action he was later awarded the silver star. Lt. Smith and crew were also lost.”

Mr Kevin Klesta with the University of Akron, sent Zach the same picture as I did, but he added;

I found a photograph of Wheels, Inc.  The ground crew who worked on the plane are posing in front of it. The note attached to the photograph reads:

  “’The Wheel’ – Y5-G – #44-68098 – This was an extra plane that they sent us in France and we had no one to crew it.  That made me [Jack Terrill] Crew Chief; Jimmie D. Weir, our Line Chief, and Jake G. Hohweiler, one of our Flight Chiefs, were the two mechanics; John R. Hildreth was Communications Chief; and Vinzenzo DeCrosta, Henry W. Rainwater & Frank J. Richter were the Armament boys. One Captain and six Master Sgts. That is the way it got its name of ‘The Wheel.’” *

*Obviously the name of the plane in the photograph is Wheels, Inc. Not sure if it was later changed when your grandfather flew it or if Terrill just misremembered the name.

I received a great anecdote from Harold Aiken who was Farnsworths co-pilot at the time of this incident-

“I was the copilot on that flight. The target was Tours. Intense accurate flack was experienced. The fuel transfer pump was damaged. Fuel could not be transferred to the tank feeding the engines. There was not enough fuel in the main tank to cross the channel. I requested the local controller for permission to make an emergency landing at a newly developed field. The field was 3,000 feet of pierced planks. Too short for  a conventional runway..He said DO NOT lock the brakes as it will tear up the runway. We landed at almost stall speed, Full flaps and the nose wheel was held as high as possible until lack of speed caused it to come down. With light application of brakes, we ended up in the bushes off the end of the runway. The plane was not damaged in landing nor in the bushes. None of the crew had any flack damages. We left the plane and rode a transport back to our base.

That was my mission No. 12″

-Harold Aiken

I’ve also attached a pdf with documents mentioning your grandfather.

Here are the items from that PDF. (Click each item to enlarge)

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