Carl McCuen

Written by Harold (Diz) Kronenberg

With the 447th Bomb Group Somewhere in England
by Carl McCuen, as retold by Harold (Diz) Kronenberg

The following narrative is written by a pilot of a B-17 Flying Fortress, who successfully ditched his plane in the North Sea.  All crew members survived.

Just before we hit the Initial Point (IP), our formation was hit by considerable and accurate anti-aircraft fire (flak).

Just after leaving the Initial Point, we encountered a head-on attack by a mass of enemy fighters. We were only one of two ships in the high squadron.  Fighters made a pass at us, hitting our #2 engine with a 20 mm shell; however, the engine continued to run okay. We left the high squadron and filled in the lead. Our #4 engine was also hit and started leaking oil, which caused the prop to run away. We attempted to feather the prop but were unable to do so. We fell behind the formation but continued to trail them. 

Somehow, we safely got away from the fighters and, it was only then, that we decided to jettison the ball turret. I had the tail; one waist gunner transferred to the nose to get some semblance of stability. We managed to maintain altitude at 20,000 feet, until reaching the Dutch coast.

About 100 miles from the coast of Holland, our radio operator obtained an accurate MF/DF fix. Another fix was obtained at the Zuider Zee. It, too, was accurate. 

While crossing the coast of Holland, we lost our #3 engine; it was shooting oil and gas. We transferred gas to #1 and #2 tanks evenly. The radio operator sent "C" signal into MF/DF section, turned on emergency IFF, and the co-pilot contacted "Colgate" on VHF. We gave them position, speed, rate of descent, etc. At this time, we were in doubt as to whether we should ditch or not.  I thought it best to, at least, notify the crew to "prepare to ditch". We were losing 200-300 feet per minute with an air speed of only 105 MPH. We managed to fly for another 45 minutes; all that time, the radio operator was sending out an SOS. "Colgate" told us they could direct us over an air/sea rescue boat. 

A few minutes later, they told us we were now over one of their boats. The radio key was screwed down, and the pilot and co-pilot windows were closed, as we prepared to "ditch". At 500 feet, the throttles were cut and full flaps were lowered. Ditching was made into the wind, and there was about a 5-foot swell, but this was difficult to tell from the air. The first contact was with the tail, as it was slightly low. 

On second impact, the ship remained level. Pilot and co-pilot went out their windows, using the top turret guns to pull themselves out. First Lieutenant Carl McCuen, the navigator, found his leg to be broken, and the left waist gunner had a badly injured head. The rest of the crew went out through the radio hatch and released the rubber dinghies, once they were outside. 

After paddling away from the stricken ship, the British air/sea rescue boat pulled along side and picked us up. McCuen was placed on a stretcher and made warm with blankets, and the injured waist gunner was given first aid, before he was taken to the hospital. The aircraft continued to float for about 35 minutes. Our crew now qualified to become members of the Goldfish Club, because they knew their job and were able to successfully carry it out.

Carl McCuen is a resident of Eau Claire and is in the insurance business.