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Wednesday, February, 24, 1943 - Lake Charles, Louisiana: 386th Bomb Group.

Foggy conditions prevented flying between 0800 and 1130 hours, however by lunch time weather conditions improved and flying was resumed at 1300 hours. The 386th Group Lockheed Hudson B-34 tow target ship was at work over the gunnery range. It suddenly developed a fuel system problem. It is not known if it was a fuel pressure drop or a fuel transfer pump malfunction. Second Lieutenant Roy Andes was forced to crash land his aircraft AJ 223 in the marshland due east of Pelican Island, which is located on the southeastern shore of Lake White - eight miles north of the Gulf Of Mexico.

The crew scrambled out of the wreckage, but the radioman was missing! Pilot Roy Andes ran back to look for him, just as the plane exploded. The 552nd Squadron pilot died of injuries sustained in the explosion. The co-pilot and two enlisted men escaped injury. Two other enlisted men were picked up approximately twenty-four hours after the crash. Staff Sergeant Billy T. Davenport died of a toxic condition brought on by a severe case of insect bites!

Wednesday, April 14, 1943 - Lake Charles, Louisiana:

Another full schedule of flying from 0800 to 2000 hours. A 552nd Squadron flight leader, one Lieutenant Leland Perry, was talking with Lieutenant Ralph Marble and some other pilots - he said, "We’ve got to have some short communication identification for talking over the radio. When I say this is "MERT", you will know it’s me talking! "MERT" was a telephone operator on the popular Fibber McGee and Molly radio show of the times. Eventually a name and picture was painted on the nose of Perry’s ship, then known as "MERT’S FLYING CIRCUS", 131616 RG-H.

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Lake Charles, Louisiana early 1943.  386th B.G. Commander Colonel Lester Maitland, center of photo is shown inspecting in front of their Lockheed Hudson B-34 Tow-Target ship.  On February 24, 1943, this aircraft with tail number 229 crash landed and then exploded in a swamp, leaving two of its crew dead!

Hankey Photo Collection

Chester P. Klier
Historian, 386th B.G.

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