Chester L Peek served as Engineering Officer in the 412th Squadron of the 95th BG from November 1 1942 until they flew their planes home in June 1945. Chester and his wife Marian attended the reunion at Horham in 2009.
“That morning I was sitting in my jeep on one of our hard-stands, just to the west of the water tower watching the planes take off on a mission to Gelsenkirchen Germany. The planes, as usual, were taking off to the west. When the Rongstad plane took off it was immediately apparent that he was in some sort of trouble. The plane gained only 50-100 feet of altitude, was flying too slow and not able to climb. The pilot evidently tried to turn back to the field, (a fatal mistake) and had completed about 180 degrees of the turn when the plane stalled, the left wing went down and it crashed with a huge ball of fire.
“My assistant, Lt Beall, and I immediately drove to the scene, but had to take a round-about way and were not the first to arrive. At the house were several US Army jeeps and at least one British fire engine. We parked near the pond in front of the house and went to see what help we could be if any. I believe all the bombs had gone off before we arrived, I don't recall any explosions. The house was damaged and the thatched roof was smouldering. I asked a British fireman if they would be able to put it out. He said: ‘No, you can't put out a fire in a thatched roof'. We then joined those carrying out furniture and retrieved some from the second storey.”
Elvin D 'Doc' Imes MD: “On Friday, 19 November 1943, I was a captain in the medical corps, serving as a flight surgeon for the 335th squadron, 95th Bomb Group. I attended a briefing that morning, one of about 300 that I attended during the war. The target for the day was Gelsenkierken. After the briefing I went to the line along with the ambulance and driver to watch the plane take off. That morning I was in the tower along with Lieutenant Colonel David McKnight, the air executive, and others. Everything was more or less routine; it was unusually clear, no fog, chilly-not the normal English weather. The planes took off in orderly fashion until suddenly a plane failed to gain altitude and nosed into the ground about three-quarters of a mile from the end and to the left of the runway.
“I was on the balcony of the tower, and I immediately jumped down and into my ambulance, which was a square English type with the steering wheel on the right. Dave McKnight had a jeep that he was driving himself. My driver, a boy from Tennessee, knew all the roads around Horham and Redlingfield, and we took off at top speed for the wrecked airplane, with McKnight right behind us in the jeep. We arrived at the scene of the crash within three or four minutes.
“The road, I think, ran north and south. The plane crashed about seventy-five feet southeast of a house on the east side of the road. We stopped the vehicles about twenty-five feet south of the house. We could see the plane burning, and all that time there had been only the one explosion that had occurred on impact.
“As I got out of the ambulance there was another explosion, a bomb I suppose, and a large piece of engine cowling landed about six feet from me in the road. I ran up the road north, and my driver stayed with the ambulance. There was a kidney shaped pond or almost a medieval moat (as I remember forty-three years later) and a bridge to cross to get to the house. Dave McKnight and I ran across this bridge. We went into the house, and I looked around the north side of the house at the burning airplane. There was a crewman lying on the ground at the corner. I don't remember his rank. I could see no marks on him, and I didn't know whether he was alive or dead. I took hold of his feet to pull him around the corner of the house. At that point there was another explosion, the blast of which knocked me back. When I got up and looked around the comer of the house again the crewman was partially decapitated. I then went back to the front of the house, the thatched roof of which was then burning, and went inside. Inside the house I found Lieutenant Colonel McKnight comforting a very pregnant woman and a small child, both of whom were very frightened and hysterical. By this time the floor of the house was covered with glass, plaster, and other debris. We took them out of the house and into the ambulance.
“There were still sporadic explosions as bombs were going off, and it was a complete nightmare. After a short time, the explosions stopped, and other base personnel began to arrive, running across the fields. I left with the pregnant woman and the child and took them by the base hospital, because the woman was complaining of abdominal pains. After some time, the woman's discomfort had subsided, and I determined that she was not in labor. We then took her to her mother's home in Redlingfield, and I advised her to see her own physician or obstetrician.”
Many thanks to the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association/Red Feather Club.