w

A Bittersweet B-26 Valentine Story



February 14th, 1945 was a day when young couples should have been expressing their love. Not so this day during World War II. My dad, Frank Carrozza flew his 65th mission on January 22. He and several members of the Shopworn Angel crew were in lockstep and had earned their transfer stateside.

This article will focus on Harry Zuest. It all started when historian, Alf Egil Johannessen connected me with a woman named Cheryl. She had posted a letter looking for help. Alf thought I might be able to get involved. Cheryl wrote:

Finding survivors who knew Harry Zuest – 12/14/2004 12:41:28 PM

My mother, Marguerite, was engaged to Harry Zuest, who was killed over Germany February 14, 1945. Harry called her Josie. My Mother passed away last December and I have found Harry’s letters to her (2 years worth).

I am looking for any buddies who may remember him and are willing to help me fill in the gaps of his life. His letters are very beautiful and I would like to get to know him and his relationship to my mother.

Many thanks
Cheryl

Now I’d love to read parts of some of the letters to help remind me of the fears and dreams of airmen in those days. Perhaps Cheryl will share some of them with me one day.

The third crew of the Shopworn Angel (42-95917 Y5-J) was in place this Valentines day. According to USAAF records (MACR 12344) the crew included,


Pilot: Captain Thomas Brennan
Co-Pilot: 2nd Lt F. LaFountaine
Engineer Gunner: Sgt. E. Monahan

Radio Gunner: Sgt. K.F. Pace

Tail Gunner: Sgt. W.A. Delavan

Bombardier: 2nd Lt. H.W. Zuest

x

I was able to get some pretty specific information from some sources that came to me miraculously. First an eyewitness report from Donald Moomaw:

“The Shopworn Angel, was in slot three of the lead flight when she went down,. It is as clear in my mind as if it were two hours ago.

This is to best of my memory; the target, Engers RR Bridge, a very well protected target, and lots, lots, lots of heavy flak. This mission we did not go on the bomb run in the regular formation, we went trail formation (see diagram below), all the flight lined up, one back of the other, the flights back of the lead were 500 ft below the flight ahead. I was #2, right wingman of the lead plane, Piloted by Major Clay, I am sure your father would remember him. Shopworn Angel #3 , left wingman. A glancing vision, I saw the right engine on fire, the co-pilot half out of seat, facing the pilot, and I am sure he was saying we are on fire, and generally the fire spreads, Shopworn Angel pulled out of formation to left, no idea of what happened after that.”

formation33

“I have never heard a thing about the [fate of the] crew, and do not know of anyone who would have any information. If they did not show up as a POW, they died in some manner. The [ possibility of] help of escaping with aid from the underground, is just not feasible, we were very deep into Germany, and there was not going to be any help from the civilians, they (survivers) would be fortunate if you were not killed by them. I am not aware of any crews making a report of the incident at the end of the flight. We were under extremely heavy flak, and incidents could go unnoticed. My fleeting glance was second or two, getting hit, and leaving the formation was a matter of seconds, so it could go unnoticed by other crews. I have thought about this incident many times over the years, and any information would be very welcome.”

So what happened to the crew? Did Harry Zeust survive the crash? Was Mr, Moomaw correct that the German civilians would be a threat? The answers to all of these questions came to light when again I heard from an unlikely source who I did not know up to this tie. I got an e-mail from Mrs. Dorothy Zeust DiNunzio. The sister of Harry Zeust. She wrote:

My brother, Harry W. Zuest, enlisted in the Air Force in June, 1943 (6 weeks before high school graduation) instead of waiting to be drafted. I believe he trained in Jefferson Barracks, MO, Texas, and attended Knox College in IL. After flight school he was sent to Bombardier School. When he finished that training he was made a Bombardier/Navigator on a B26. After graduating in August 1944, he had a week of leave and in November 1944 was able to come home for 12 hours before shipping out. He then went to England then to France and flew his mission from there.
On February 14, 1945 he was on a bombing mission when their plane was hit. Capt. Brennan told Harry & the co-pilot LaFontaine to bail out to lighten the plane. Neither one had been wounded. He wanted to bring the plane down to save he wounded gunner(s). Capt. Brennan was able to land the plane but was captured. He was put on the back of a truck with a noose around his neck. They couldn’t get the truck started because they were using coal for lack of gas. A Luftwaffe officer came along and saved his life. He told him some of his buddies were not so lucky. Harry and LaFontaine were captured and hung by civilians.
Capt. Brennan contacted my mother and told her about the mission after he returned. Harry was missing for a year then declared dead. A friend of his was in Germany during the Occupation and was able to confirm the information on his hanging, where he was buried and then moved to Margraten Cemetery in Margraten, Holland. My daughter, Debbie, and I were fortunate to go and visit Harry in August 1995, fifty years later.
My brother was only 20 years old when he died and I was left with a very big void in my life.

Here's a great picture of the "Third Crew" provided by Dorothy J. Zuest DiNunzio.Here’s a great picture of the “Third Crew” provided by Dorothy J. Zuest DiNunzio.

Leave a Reply