Home Of The Swamp Fire - Serial # 42-32024 - A/C # 20292 - Fuselage Code WA-L

 Disclaimer:   Not affiliated in anyway with the 379th BGA
                                        Forty different Crews flew on Swamp Fire during 1944               
                   Do a site search and see if one of your relatives flew on the Swamp Fire

                                                                                              Also let it be known that this is not only a tribute website but a research project too. So, 
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                                    The Saga of the Swamp Fire

There was a bit of humor and speculation about the Swamp Fire spreading around Kimbolton Airfield by late October 1944, it was said that:

                     "After a new nose and tail section, a new ball turret, 16 engine changes, three wing replacements and over 1000 bullet and flak hole patches,                                                                                          there's not much of the original plane left."


 " No, there isn't much left of the original Swamp Fire, just the fighting spirit and tradition built into her and maintained by her ground and combat crewmen. She is an excellent criterion of the greatest bomber in the European Theater of Operations"
                                                                                        Commander 379th USAAF at the 100th Mission without an abort Celebration


                                         524th Bomber Squadron Patch
                                                           artwork by:
                                                     John "Bud" Sterling
                                                Crew Chief 524th BS 379th BG

Specifications of a B-17G:


74 ft. 9 in.

  Height: 19 ft. 1 in.
  Wingspan: 103 ft. 9 in.
  Max Weight: 65,500 lbs.
  Crew: 10
  Bomb Load: 8,000 lbs.
  Armament: Twelve.50-cal. machine guns


  No. of Engines: 4
  Power plant: Wright R-1820-97
  Horsepower (each): 1,200


  Range: 2,000 miles
  Cruise Speed: 160 mph
  Max Speed: 302 mph
  Ceiling: 35,600 ft.

 Generaleutnant Adolf Galland, Chief of Fighters, GAF

 "In my opinion, it was the Allied bombing of our oil industries that had the greatest effect on the German war potential."


 First to Fly ?
     The Swamp Fire had only two assigned flight crews and only one ground crew for it's entire operational time. There were other mission crews that took her out when the assigned crews were listed as 'standing down' and I have found at least 90 Airmen who were mission crews or fill-ins for the sick or wounded of these other crews.
      We have the names of most of those who flew with those crews but unfortunately have not been able to identify all of them with photos as of yet. Most of our stories and information come from official documents, personal remembrances  and diaries.  It has been our fortune to have talked with several of the air combat and ground crew veterans. We have greatly benefited from their input and could never have told or saved this story without them.
     The picture below is of a crew who had lost their aircraft in January 1944. This crew was the first to fly the Swamp Fire, while her first assigned crew was going through orientation. If you can identify any of these men please contact us. They flew around 4 missions on Swamp Fire before handing her back over to the assigned crew. We believe the list on the right is some of them.

     We have identified the pilot Kenneth  J.  Duvall who is standing 2nd from the left and the Co-Pilot Fernando  R.  Leonardy is kneeling first from the left. We thank their families for providing this information.

     Harold E. Marston  Not pictured in above photo, had lost most of his crew and their aircraft on his last mission and volunteered to replace the waist gunner of this crew for Swamp Fire's first mission. He received a leg wound and baptized the Swamp Fire with his blood on Her first mission, setting off a chain reaction affecting many airmen of the 524th Bomber Squadron & eventually the entire 8th USAAF.
 See Swamp Fire Tales for more on this event

                   First Assigned Crew
    This is the first assigned crew on aircraft serial # 42-32024 contract # 20292 and Co-Pilot Byron B. Clark gave her the name "Swamp Fire" based on an article he read about how fast this natural phenomenon traveled & the fear it caused local residents. Just what these Airmen wanted to do to the German Soldiers.
     This crew was on board for the Swamp Fire's 25th mission on 04 May 1944. This picture was taken in celebration of that feat (Note the 24 bombs above name). This crew would  fly the Grapefruit Mission as well. They had 29  of  their 30+ missions on the Swamp Fire & some of them more.

Fill-in Crew on 50th Mission 
     This is the crew who flew the Swamp Fire on her 50th mission to France on 6/22/44. They were a mission crew. They were never assigned their own aircraft. At this point some crews never got their own Aircraft due to the shortage of air and combat worthy ships. These crews were assigned to a Reserve Section in the Bomb Group & were always ready to fill-in for the assigned crews when needed.

     The Day crew is one of the most memorable of all the fill-in mission crews not only for their heroic flights and experiences while on other aircraft and Swamp Fire but it has been pointed out that on D-Day the pilot of the Swamp Fire was D. Day!
    Lt. Donald Day went on to become a career Air Force Pilot and was assigned by the Pentagon to fly teams of experts around to all theaters of operations to analyze all bombing efforts and results, to include the atomic blasts on Japan. Donald Day was a nonsmoker until the last 10 years of his life, yet he died of lung cancer January 8th 1961 just one week prior to his 40th Birthday. Was there a link? 
See Tales of the Swamp Fire Section for story on Lt. D Day " A Young Boy looks To the Sky"



Second Assigned Crew
     I would like to submit an excerpt from the diary of 1st Lt Bruce E. Mills who would be the next assigned Pilot of the Swamp Fire as soon as his indoctrination was over.
     20 June 1944- Got assigned a ship today, 42-32024.  A B-17g with a new tail. We went out and looked at the Flak holes from yesterdays raid. It looked more like an OD colored F model that someone had put a new G model nose and tail section on. It already has more than 45 missions, but I hear it is heavily armored and has a damn good ground crew.
Bruce Mills and his crew would take over command of the Swamp Fire on their second mission 6 July 1944.

The 100th Mission
Excerpt from the Diary of 1st Lt Bruce E. Mills Pilot of the Swamp Fire's 100th mission. 
November 1 (Wednesday): Thirty-sixth mission. Got up at 06:30, briefing at 07:30, take off 10:25 in Swamp Fire. Rendezvous pour, clouds up to 20,000 feet. After forming, I flew high diamond in the fourth bastard squadron. Just as I pulled in, leader slowed up and I shot on by. Then he turned to the left and I cut the high flight out as nice as you please. When I got back into formation the #2 engine, which was a rebuilt and had about 2080 hours on it (we put on ten) blew up and so we gradually fell behind the formation. At the English coast, we were ten miles behind, but I cut off a corner and gained on them. Now #3 started acting up and so we reduced power to save it, sacrificing altitude. We hit the dutch coast at 16,000 feet where we bombed transports under the clouds. They took off for the harbor at Ijmuiden, since they were just off the shore. The tail gunner reported mobile flak guns being brought to bear on us, so we peeled off and got the hell home. We crossed the English coast low, taking evasive action. Back at the field, I buzzed the ground crew tent and fired flares until taxiing onto the perimeter; 100 missions for Swamp Fire. Thirty Six for me!

                                                  Jim Mike Tolleson
After hearing that the flight crews had recommended them for an award.
"We thank the air crews for their testimony of our skills but it is they who have to fly her through hell to drop the load and get her back to us." They want her to do well too."
 He added
" A rookie crew took her out once and they brought her back in, an hour after the rest of the formation.  She was so shot up, they were on one engine, out of fuel and didn't even get to the end of the runway before listing off to the side."
"We asked him why they took such a chance on getting her back, why didn't they bail out over friendly territory or abort the mission?" He said "Hell no, I didn't want to be known as the one who cost her the record or lost her!"


 99 missions and one to go for the luckiest plane and
                                   one of the best Ground Crews at Kimbolton
 "There isn't much of the original left in total she had 20 engines replaced, 3 wing replacements, a ball turret, a tail section, a nose section changed and over 1000 bullet and flak hole patches."
 " In fact, although war damages have taken their toll on the original fuselage, she continues to be top dog in a league where the competition is pretty rugged!"
Dominick DeSalvo


 "We were out in the elements all day and sometimes all night keeping her mission ready and fit to fly"


        M/Sgt Dominick DeSalvo Awarded Legion Of Merit
      For exceptional meritorious services as Ground Crew Chief responsible for the maintenance of a heavy bombardment aircraft. M/Sgt DeSalvo achieved a remarkable and inspiring record in the maintenance of the aircraft he was responsible for and to the number of consecutive combat missions flown without abortives caused by mechanical failures. M/Sgt DeSalvo has exhibited an exceptionally high degree of mechanical skill and resourcefulness and has voluntarily worked many hours above the time imposed by duty in order to have his aircraft in operational condition for a mission. He has shown a definite talent for improvisation. Much of this time working short handed and without needed tools, he has been able to meet and overcome many unusual conditions that have arisen as well as accomplished major repair work due to battle damage. This is to include several wing and engine changes. By his skills, efficiency and devotion to duty, M/Sgt DeSalvo established this exceptional record of aircraft maintenance which distinguishes him above other men of his grade and experience and reflects the highest credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States.

                          The Grapefruit Mission

      After several attempts were called off due to weather conditions, the Grapefruit Mission got underway. Hidden from radar behind a 1300 plane raid on the Ruhr valley were three groups totaling 60 aircraft, all carrying two 2000lb bombs with wings attached. One aircraft was forced to abort because of engine trouble.
      While the 1300 other B-17s broke away and dropped their loads over various targets. The 59 remaining aircraft lined up for their run on the target: Cologne, Germany some 20+ miles away.The Allies flying bomb was about to make it's debut. 


  The Glide Bomb was flown by a gyroscopic guidance device.


 At 13:00 hours the raid began. The three groups totaling 59 planes climbed to an altitude of 19,800 to 22,000 feet at an airspeed of 140 mph. They would have to dive to gain the proper airspeed and angle needed to hit their assigned targets. Each group were at different locations and given different conditions for a greater spread around the target area. The Pilots were told to dive at a rate of 1000 to between 1500 feet per minute, for 90 to 120 seconds, reaching air-speeds of no less than 191mph to 215 mph. Altitude will be no less than 18,400 feet before release and all at a calculated course or heading, depending on cross winds at release point.
 Test flight of Glide Bombs in Florida 1943
 B-17 loaded with Glide Bombs

 This is the last remnants of the Glide Bomb code named the "Grapefruit" Flying Bomb.


      The airmen knew they had been apart of something special that day but there was some disappointment too. They also witnessed many of the flying bombs spiraling into the ground or veering off the planned course. The primary reason for the failure of most of the glide bombs were that the batteries failed to properly charge on way to drop zone & target.
     Once the glide bombs were all away the 59 aircraft made runs on secondary targets with the bombs that were stowed in their bays. They couldn't help but notice the activity over Cologne. Some of their birds may have spiraled out of control but they also knew some were creating havoc over the target too!
      Bomb run evaluation shows that 44 GB-1 Glide Bombs hit within 3 miles of target center. There were seventeen within one mile of of target center and nine hit targets of interest or note.
     I have talked with Airmen who were on this mission and some expressed that the primary reason for the battery failure was that they wore out the couplers that connected the GB-1 to the aircraft while flying too many practice missions.

   Assigned to the 524th Squadron, 379th BG, 41st Combat Wing of the 8th USAAF

              Milestones of Swamp Fire
*Completed & delivered 15 January 1944- flown to England 14 February 1944 
*Pressed into duty 21 February 1944
*Achieved 25th Mission status on 04 May 1944
*Picked to be one of 60 crews out of 2300 available, to fly the top secret "Grapefruit
        Mission"  28 May 1944
*Winner of Grand Slam Award for April/May mission statistics 1944
*Achieved 50th Mission Status on 22 June 1944
*Achieved 75th Mission Status on 13 August 1944
*Achieved 100th Mission Status on 01 November 1944- First Heavy Bomber to do so
       without an Abort.
*Crashed on landing by rookie crew after completing her 117th Mission
*Declared 'War Weary' by the Commander & Ground Crew Chief Dominick DeSalvo on
        12 December 1944
*Returned to the United States 12 July 1945
*Declared surplus 30 November 1945 moved to Kingman, Arizona
*Sold as surplus 29 December 1945 & Scrapped to make miniature B-17 Toys
*The Grand Slam was created by the Command Staff of the 8th Army Air Force.
      Only one Bomb Group ever met the standards outlined in the award. The 379th.
                                      Go to side bar and click on Grand Slam Award for more information.

* She was combat active from 21 Feb to 11Dec 1944. A total of 314 days during which she
flew 117 combat missions with only one abort(her 114th mission) . Giving her an average of flying every two & a half days.


 Hermann Goering, Commander of the German Luftwaffe

 "The Allies owe the success of the D-Day invasion to the air forces. They prepared the invasion; they made it possible; they carried it through."







Harold  E  Marston

(Not in picture See below)


Right Waist Gunner

Wounded in Action

Eugene  F  Moses

2nd Lieutenant



William  B  Dumas

2nd Lieutenant



Thomas  F  Cunningham

Tech Sergeant

Radio Operator/Gunner


William  (NMI)  Fliegel

Tech Sergeant

Engineer/Top Turret Gunner


Robert  M  McMinn

Staff Sergeant

Ball Turret Gunner


Raymond  R  Zulaski

Staff Sergeant

Left Waist Gunner


Eugene  R  Pierce

Staff Sergeant

Tail Gunner


Fernando  R  Leonardy

2nd Lieutenant



Kenneth  J  Duvall

1st Lieutenant




     Flight Crew standing L to R are:
     Edward J. Przybyla                      T/Sgt-    Radio Operator/Gunner
     Harvey "Herk" Harris                  2nd Lt-  Bombardier
               " The Mailman- Special Delivery"
     Roy E. Avery Jr                             S/Sgt-   Waist Gunner
                "Hot Lead Lunch Counter"
     Joseph L. Korstjens                       1st Lt-   Pilot
               "The Flying Dutchman"
     Andrew Stroman Jr                      S/Sgt-   Ball Turret Gunner
               "Ball O' Fire"
     Berj G. Bejian                                  S/Sgt-   Engineer/Top Turret Gunner
               "Top Gun"
    John  K. Rose                                  S/Sgt-  Waist Gunner
             "Hot Lead Lunch Counter"
    *Matthew J. Scianameo              2nd Lt-  Navigator*
              "Lost and Found Dept."
     Elijah W. "Lou" Lewis                   S/Sgt-  Tail Gunner
               "The Stinger"
     Byron B. "BB" Clark                      2nd Lt-  Co-pilot
               "The Right Hand Man" & or "The Side Kick"
     Lt. Scragg                                       Swamp Fire Mascot
                Ground Crew kneeling L to R are:
     Rube Cohn                                                     Ground Armorer
     Seymour Romoff                                         Mechanic
     James Abbott                                               Mechanic/Engineer
     Henry Gerhart                                              Mechanic
     Dominick DeSalvo                                       Ground Crew Chief
     Jim M Tolleson         (Not Pictured)       Mechanic
     Joseph Simonette    (Not Pictured)      Mechanic
     William F. Riegal     (Not Pictured)      Mechanic
 *Navigator Matthew Scianameo after the war, changed the spelling of
      his  name to Scanameo because of the correct way to pronounce it*

             50th Mission Crew
This crew flew two missions on Swamp Fire. 06 June 1944 (D-Day)and 22 June 1944 (50th mission) & both are  note worthy.
                   Kneeling Left to Right
Donald L. Day                         1st Lt-  Pilot
Ralph L. Vickery                     2nd Lt-  Co-pilot
Marshall Suloway                  *2nd Lt- Navigator
Hoyt (NMI) Edwards            2nd Lt- Bombardier
                     Standing Left to Right
Paul A. Yates                           T/Sgt Engineer/ Top Turret Gunner                       
Blaine E. McIntyre                 T/Sgt Radio Operator/ Gunner
Donald R. Lesage                   S/Sgt Waist Gunner

Stephen J.
McCabe               S/Sgt Ball Turret Gunner
Unknown                                Grounded shortly after arrival
Allen M. Whitehead               S/Sgt Tail Gunner

*  Marshall Suloway flew the D-day mission with his crew but his skills were needed for another mission and he had to fill-in on another aircraft for the 22nd of June mission on Swamp Fire. Lt. Hugh Humphrey replaced Lt. Marshall Suloway on that flight as Navigator. The members of the Day - Vickery crew flew most of their missions together except for a few where the commanders wanted new airmen to fill-in with experienced crews or experienced airmen to fly with rookie crews.

                        The  Mills/Shedlock Crew
Was the second assigned crew of Swamp Fire. This Crew took the Swamp Fire into it's next milestones of the 75th & 100 missions without an abort.
Standing L to R:
James E. Whitney                  2nd Lt- Bombardier
*John E. McCray                    2nd Lt-  Navigator
Carl A. Shedlock                    2nd Lt-  Co-Pilot 
Bruce E. Mills                         1st  Lt-  Pilot
JT (Jay-Tee) Cooper                  T/Sgt-  Radio Operator/ Gunner  
Kneeling L to R:
Delmer E. Menger                  T/Sgt-  Engineer/ Top Turret Gunner 
James S. Boston                    S/Sgt-  Ball Turret Gunner
William A. Beddard Jr            S/Sgt-  Tail Gunner
Lucas S. Conner                     S/Sgt-  Waist Gunner
* Although listed and pictured as part of the 100th mission in some publications. Records show 2nd Lt John E. McCray was KIA on 5 October 1944 of wounds received by flak. See Mission and Crews Loading and Tales Of The Swamp Fire sections of the website for more details. To find the 100th mission look for: Mission Number: 229 of the 379th flown on 11/1/1944 for the crew loading. 


     100th Mission without an abort   01 November 1944
                   First heavy bomber to reach this milestone
  John "Bud" Sterling Jr Paints On Nose Art
       (Bud was a Crew Chief on the Fatso & the Powerful Katrinka. He was between aircraft and lending a hand to prepare Swamp Fire for her first mission while  awaitimg for his new aircraft to arrive on base).
                            From  The First To The 100th  
                                                                                                                      Joe Simonette paints on 100

                                       The Ground Crew
                    The Unsung Heroes of the 379th
   The 379th had many innovative Airmen assigned to their Ground Crew Section. Many of their modifications became a standard add on when new ships arrived and when submitted and approved by Boeing Engineers those innovations were incorporated into the next production model.
    The 379th BG owes it's success to these unsung heroes. The 379th ground crews kept more aircraft mission ready and almost all of their aircraft individually carried out more missions than any other Bombardment Group in the European Theater of Operations.
    The Swamp Fire is just one example of the many aircraft of the 379th BG that reached high mission numbers.
                                               Jim Mike Tolleson- Mechanic


           Dominick DeSalvo
 Ground Crew Chief with Swamp Fire at 75 missions
              " All our hard work is paying off"


"We work very hard at fine tuning those engines, patching her up and we've even had to improvise changes in her armor because we wanted all that flew her to come back!"
                               Dominick DeSalvo


                                       28 May 1944
              Crew of the Swamp Fire load up for the mission
              Crew for the Grapefruit Mission:
         Edward J. Przybyla                      T/sgt-    Radio Operator/Gunner
         Harvey "Herk" Harris                  2nd Lt-  Bombardier
         Roy E. Avery Jr                           S/Sgt-   Waist Gunner
        Joseph L. Korstjens                    1st Lt-   Pilot
        Andrew Stroman Jr                      S/Sgt-   Ball Turret Gunner
        Berj G. Bejian                              S/Sgt-   Engineer/Top Turret Gunner
        John  K. Rose                              S/Sgt-  Waist Gunner
        Matthew J. Scianameo                2nd Lt-  Navigator
        Elijah W. "Lou" Lewis                  S/Sgt-  Tail Gunner    
        Byron B. "BB" Clark                    2nd Lt-  Co-pilot 



Supported by specially designed release hooks the Glide Bomb code named "Grapefruit" was suspended under each wing of the B-17


It took immense flying skills to effectively hit your target with the XM- 108 Glide Bomb. It had a glide path of 6 to 1 at 180mph. So in order for these crews to hit their target from 20 miles away they had to be:
On course
At the correct altitude
At the correct angle
At the correct speed
With cross wind speeds figured in (if any) for the  XM- 108 Glide Bomb to land anywhere near the desired target.

                                   (This picture was taken in Florida while testing the Glide Bomb)

Glide bombs waiting for loading

                                                                                           One of the last models of a Glide Bomb
                                                                       This model was outfitted with a TV camera for guidance

 The Last Piece Of Grapefruit
   At the time of the raid there were 140 of these bombs ready to fly and 113 were dropped on this mission. Forty four of these bombs hit target area and other explosions were seen and heard all around the Cologne area. General Hap Arnold hailed the raid a success even though bombing experts of the day said it was not effective enough to continue the program.
   These experts hadn't realized what havoc this mission had on the Civilian populace & the German military. Consider less than a month before D-Day that the German high command were receiving reports that Cologne had just been attacked by a Squadron of "Allied Suicide Mini-Bombers" that were radar proof. One can only imagine the effect this had on the German intelligence community, who had no prior knowledge, that such a weapon existed in the allied arsenal.
    It is highly likely that an awful lot of information gathering was dedicated to discovering the facts about this event & weapon, making it more difficult for their spies and agents to discover allied plans for Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion.