Stories

Flight of the Navigator - Charles Seth
466th Bomb Group, US Army Air Corps

by Bob "Soda Pop" Curtis

Charles Seth served as part of the 466th Bomb Group in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a navigator, based out of AAF Station #120 near Attlebridge, England. During his service he navigated, mainly, aboard two different B-24 'Liberator' bombers: Lovely Lady and Lovely Lady's Avenger. On June 21, 1944 he crash landed in the Lovely Lady's Avenger. These are his stories in his own words...

Aircraft Nicknames

Charles Seth Most of the planes got their names from the pilots and crews. There wasn't really any normal procedure to cover this. A name was picked and the crew chief saw to it that the nose art was handled...

The original Lovely Lady was flown by us from the States to Europe via the Southern route which was from Florida to South America, across the south Atlantic to Africa and then up to England. We flew Lovely Lady for 3 missions (#2, 5 & 6) over germany, after which it was too damaged to fly it was lent to another crew who crash landed it on a mission that very next day.

We then flew about 9 missions in borrowed planes. I think it was one of these borrowed planes that we flew back to England without instruments (as told in the newspaper article, see below). I noticed in that article they got the name of the plane wrong - they call it "Lovely Lady II" which was incorrect - that story went through several people from the time we related it to the news at our base in England and the time it was published in the Watseka, Illinois paper.

After borrowing planes for awhile, we were thereafter issued a later "J" model B-24 which we named Lovely Lady's Avenger...

The other crew, #619, flying Lovely Lady on mission #7, April 9th, 1944 crash landed her at a farm called Saksfjeldgard, south-east of Rodly on the island of Lolland, Denmark. Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) #3844.

We also flew Lovely Lady's Avenger for a number of missions, starting with mission #38 on May 27, 1944, prior to the mission in which we ended up in Sweden, beginning with mission #38 on May 27, 1944. I noticed that the picture I had of the nose art shows 3 bombs painted on the plane. When we took it to Sweden we had 12 bombs painted on it (each bomb is for one combat mission), so that picture was taken at the air base shortly after we got the plane (could have been when the name was painted on it). The large 'U8' on the fuselage (shown on one of the crash photos) was code to indicate the 786th Bomber Squadron.

Attlebridge, England (AAF Station #120)

The village's name refers to the bridge (brycg) reportedly built by Ætla and is 8 m NW of Norwich. The air base there, designated AAF Station #120, was used by the 466th Bomb Group from 7 Mar 1944-6 Jul 1945. It was originally built for the RAF No. 2 group light bombers, then later saw use by the 319th (B26 Marauders), the 466th Bomb Group (B24 Liberators), RAF 105 and 88 Sq. (Bostons, Blenheims), and No. 320 (Dutch) Sqdn.

The base is now a turkey farm, with the tower used as offices.

Crew

The full designation of my crew was Crew #609, 786th Bomber Squadron, 466th Bomb Group, 2nd Air Division, 8th Army Air Force. My crew's pilot was Lt. Leo Mower from Fountain Green, Utah. The one newspaper article of mine had Mower's name mispelled and home town wrong, in case you noticed. I didn't join this group until Feb. '44, just before leaving for Europe, and therefore I didnt know any of the crew until then." Note, the call sign for the 786th Bomber Squadron was "Agram."

Missions

Our total was 23 missions flown, with 30 missions being the maximum limit at that time. I verified my records and found that I flew the following missions: 2-5-6-9-10-12-14-19-20-26-36-38-41-43-44-47-50-53-56-58-60-61 and our last one No. 64!! Mission #47 was D-Day.

Bombing Mission #58: Tours, France

June 17, 1944 (11 days after D-Day): A newspaper clipping (below) shows a railroad bridge, near Tours, France, that was on a main supply line. We were in Lovely Lady's Avenger and carried 2000 lb bombs that day. For better bombing coverage we were ordered to bomb from around 5,000 feet instead of our regular 20,000 feet, a height unusual for heavy bombers. The raid was carried out in the afternoon instead on early morning, another aspect of this raid that was different than typical bombing runs. The picture in the clipping shows that we did a pretty good job on the bridge. Every thing worked well and all planes returned safe.

Bombing Mission #64: Last Bombing Mission

June 21, 1944 (15 days after D-Day): Left England in Lovely Lady's Avenger at 5 am heading for Berlin with a full load of 500 pound bombs for delivery to air fields and munitions plant...

466th Bomb Group Insignia Weather was clear and cold (Outside temp at 20,000 feet was minus 40 below zero). Made trip to Berlin, made bomb run and headed for home when anti aircraft guns filled the sky with lots of flak and exploding shells. We were hit in two engines (note feathered props on one engine), started to loose speed and altitude and couldn't keep up with group so we were flying alone. Had ideas of bailing out but one of the gunners had holes shot in his parachute so decision was made to stay with plane as long as we could . We were down to about 10,000 feet and made quick decision to go to Sweden (neutral country) which was about 100 miles or so across the Baltic sea. It was about 500 miles or so back to England across the North Sea which was very cold water (couldnt last long if we had to ditch the plane there - easy decision).

About half way to Sweden a German fighter plane started chasing us and we couldnt fire back, but 2 American P-38s, my favorite fighter, came to our rescue and chased him off.

Made it to southern tip of Sweden and the little town of Malmö (see map) and crash landed on a little hill just short of runway... not quite enough power to pull up over the hill. That is where the pictures were taken.

Every one of us (8 fliers) got out Ok - just a little shaken up but nothing serious. As this was a neutral country we were treated very nice and well taken care of.

In early December we were put on a plane and flown to Ireland, then to England back to our old base. Few days there and then by air to New York, by train to Chicago and then by train to Bloomington, IL. Arrived there Dec 23 to be home by Christmas.

Sixty years ago. It has been a long time.....

History of Lovely Lady's Avenger

On June 21, 1944, while on a mission to Berlin, 0093 was significantly damaged by flak which put out two of its engines. The 1Lt Leo Mower crew was able to limp off to Malmo, Sweden and land at the Bulltofta air field there. The ship was wrecked in the crash landing. Nevertheless, all eight crew members survived with only minor injuries.

The aircraft displays standard 96th Bomb Wing, 2nd Air Division markings. These include the red and white stabilizer Group markings with the specific in squadron aircraft letter on the horizontal white band. The 786th BS placed a bar on top of their in squadron aircraft letters. The serial number was placed on the inner aspect of these control surfaces as well. By late 1944, well after this aircraft was lost, the 786th BS painted their engine cowlings yellow.

The aircraft's name came as a response to having lost their original Liberator "Lovely Lady" with a different crew on it. Thus, "Lovely Lady's Avenger" came to be. The "s'" was painted over the red fire extinguisher door. Existing photos show nine mission markers on the bolted on armor plating for the pilots. This was a very distinctive indication that a ship belonged to the 8th AAF through 1944. Service Depots did these in theatre modifications prior to releasing the ship to its receiving Group.

Much thanks to Bob Curtis for graciously allowing us to provide this story. For more information, you can also view Soda Bob's Website.


Photos

Lovely Lady's Avenger, B-24J, 44-40093
Lovely Lady's Avenger, B-24J, 44-40093

Lovely Lady's Avenger, B-24J, 44-40093
Lovely Lady's Avenger, B-24J, 44-40093

Memorial Plaque Memorial Plaque 466th Bombardment Group
Memorial Plaque Memorial Plaque 466th Bombardment Group

446 Bomb Group at Attlebridge
446 Bomb Group at Attlebridge

446 Bomb Group over Germany
446 Bomb Group over Germany

Newspaper Clipping - Charles Seth, Missing in Action
Newspaper Clipping - Charles Seth, Missing in Action

Newspaper Clipping - Charles Seth, reported as safe
Newspaper Clipping - Charles Seth, reported as safe

Newspaper Clipping - Charles Seth, Instrument Flying
Newspaper Clipping - Charles Seth, Instrument Flying

Newspaper Clipping - Charles Seth, bombed bridge
Crew #609, taken after crash landing in Sweden

Lovely Lady's Avenger, crash landing in Sweden
Lovely Lady's Avenger, crash landing in Sweden

Lovely Lady's Avenger, crash landing in Sweden
Lovely Lady's Avenger, crash landing in Sweden

Lovely Lady's Avenger Repaint
Lovely Lady's Avenger Repaint