• Plage Bonaparte à Plouha (Côtes d'Armor) - Haut-lieu de la Résistance

  • Sacy-le-Grand (Oise) - Mémorial en souvenir du F/O H. H. MacKenzie (RCAF)

  • Supermarine LF Mk.Vb Spitfire EP120 - G-LFVB - (The Fighter Collection)

  • Le Cardonnois (Somme) - Stèle à la mémoire de l'équipage du Boeing B-17 #42-31325, 452nd Bomb Group

  • B-17G-85-VE 44-8846 - F-AZDX - (FTV)


8th February 1944  


452nd Bomb Group

730th Bomb Squadron

8th Air Force

Le Cardonnois (Somme)

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452nd Bomb Group

February 1944: the air offensive on the Reich is increasing both day and night.

On 8th February, hundreds of American bombers of the 8th Air Force took off from their bases in South-East England to make a large-scale raid over Germany.

Stationed since early January on the base at Deopham Green, Norfolk, the 452nd Bomb Group was assigned, among many others Bomb Groups, to this strategic raid and sent 21 of its Boeing B-17.



            452nd Bomb Group

The young crew, although trained over many long months were still inexperienced. This was the third mission of the Group but its first over Germany.
The main target for the day was the marshalling yard at Frankfurt-on-Main, and possibly other opportune targets.

After taking off at dawn and getting into formation, the huge aerial fleet began crossing the English Channel heading towards Germany.

One of the 21 bombers belonging to the 452nd Bomb Group, participating in the raid was the B-17G # 42-31325.

This was the first mission for the crew.

2nd Lt. Robert O. LORENZI Pilot  21  Evaded Spokane, Washington
2nd Lt. Robert L. COSTELLO Co-pilot 27 Evaded New York, New York
2nd Lt. Paul R. PACKER Navigator 23 Evaded Chicago, Illinois
2nd Lt. Abraham W. ROSENTHAL Bombardier 25 KIA Binghamton, New York
S/Sgt. Donald E. KIRBY Top turret gunner 21 POW Columbus, Ohio
T/Sgt. Edward J. SWEENEY Radio-operator 22 Evaded Brooklyn, New York
S/Sgt. Raymond W. LENTZ Ball turret gunner 23 POW Toledo, Ohio
S/Sgt. William C. FISCHER Right waist gunner 25 POW Anamosa, Iowa
S/Sgt. Clyde D. TINKER Left waist gunner 33 POW Erwin, Tennessee
S/Sgt. Rene P. GILMAN Tail gunner 28 POW Chicago, Illinois


2nd Lt. Robert O. LORENZI  2nd Lt Robert L. COSTELLO   2nd Lt. Paul R. PACKER  2nd Lt. Abraham W. ROSENTHAL       
                 2nd Lt. LORENZI                                 2nd Lt. COSTELLO                               2nd Lt. PACKER                      2nd Lt. ROSENTHAL
S/Sgt. Donald E. KIRBY  T/Sgt. Edward J. SWEENEY  S/Sgt. William C. FISCHER   
S/Sgt. KIRBY                               T/Sgt. SWEENEY                             S/Sgt. FISCHER

Getting near the target, the German air defence opened up, trying to shoot them down and disrupt the formations. Large caliber shells peppered the aircraft with shards of metal, but the course was maintained despite the losses.
The bombers had to cross at all costs this hell of fire and steel.

The bombing completed, it was every plane for itself. The aircraft now had to try to reach their bases in England despite the harassment of German fighters.

The turbochargers # 3 and # 4 of 2nd Lt. Lorenzi's B-17 were hit by flak. The aircraft lost power. The pilot was forced to abandon the formation.
On board the gunners were wounded. Soon, enemy fighters appeared, attacking several times, this now isolated prey.

2nd Lt. Rosenthal left the front of the aircraft to help the injured airmen and took the tail gunner position, replacing his crewmate. Returning fire at the enemy fighters, he was mortally wounded.

Reaching the outskirts of Montdidier, the Flying Fortress was irretrievably hit by flak defending the town. The pilot ordered the crew to evacuate the aircraft. Nine parachutes were strung out in the sky. The last ones to evacuate the aircraft landed in the area of Welles-Perennes and Sains-Morainvillers in Oise.

Le Cardonnois

The aircraft continued its flight, engines on fire, and went crashing down in the middle of the fields, near the village of Le Cardonnois (Somme) with the lifeless body of 2nd Lt. Rosenthal still aboard.

The pilot Lorenzi, the co-pilot Costello, the navigator Packer and the top turret gunner Sweeney were lucky to be rescued by French patriots.

The radio-operator Kirby, the gunners Lentz, Fischer, Tinker and Gilman were captured shortly after landing.

The injured were cared for in German hospitals and all will end the war in Stalags in Germany. There will follow for them 18 months of captivity. They were often moved from camp to camp, walking hundreds of miles, especially suffering from hunger and cold during the terrible winter of 1944/1945. Their ordeal will end in April 1945 with the liberation of the camps by the Allied Armies.

For over a month, the four escapees were hidden from house to house in the department of Oise, waiting for the right moment to reach England.

Throughout their escape, French families opened their doors to these men who had fallen from the sky, sharing what little food they had, giving them false papers and civilian clothes.

2nd Lt. LORENZI - False identity card     2nd Lt. COSTELLO - False identity card
The false identity cards of 2nd Lts. Lorenzi and Costello
Taken in charge by the Shelburn escape network, the four escapees then reached Paris and the Saint Brieuc and Plouha area, in Brittany.

On the night of 19th to 20th March 1944, with about fifteen other airmen, they clandestinely embarked aboard a corvette of the Royal Navy to England, under the very noses of German soldiers stationed on the cliffs.

Plouha - Bonaparte Beach
Bonaparte Beach - Plouha
Landmark of the French Resistance
8th February 1944 was a black day for the 8th Air Force which lost a total of 13 bombers. Six crashed in our region, at Catheux, Chevincourt, Monchy-Humières, Roye and Le Cardonnois.
From all of these six aircraft, 27 airmen were able to escape, 23 were taken prisoner and 10 were killed in action.


On 28th May 2011, a ceremony was held at Le Cardonnois (Somme) in honour of the crew.

The book "Tail End Charlie", describing in detail the story of the bomber and its crew, is available from the author. Use the "Contact" page.


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