Army Air Force Station no: 167 Awakens.
On July 24, 1943 the American base at Ridgewell, England, awakened at dawn. The base was the home of the 381st Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Force.
Officers and men woke up at around 06.00 hr. in their sleeping-quarters, barracks called "Nissen-huts". The barracks looked like giant water-pipes, dug halfway into the ground. Thirty-two men shared one hut, while the officers only had to sleep sixteen in theirs. Everybody knew that this day there was a mission, but only a few knew where to. As always speculations started over today´s destination. They all wanted an easy target, a "milk-run", but they also knew the dangers and difficulties if a target in the German Ruhr-area was to be the place to go. This was the 11th mission for the 381st BG. The 8th AF had been in England for about thirteen months, but the 381st only a couple of months. The crews that already had five or six missions credited to them, were considered veterans. The group had had its share of lost planes during the first missions, so everybody knew both the feeling of loosing friends as well as the joy of a successful mission.
Out by the runway, the ground-crews had started preparing the aircraft for the mission. 500-pound bombs were loaded into the bomb-bays, cartridge-belts were put into place and the engines were being started. In the canteen, the kitchen-staff prepared breakfast. The crews dressed in their flight-gear, some had electric-heated suits to prevent them from freezing in the cold airstreams that always came through open hatches and gun-windows. Fliers prepared in different ways. Someone polished a medallion, another pocketed a picture of his family or girlfriend, many smoked and everyone went to the bathroom. Breakfast was served in the mess-hall, and those who had stomachs for it ate as much as possible. Afterwards the officers rushed to the mornings briefing.
Briefing Before a Mission.
The Georgia Rebel
The Georgia Rebel was an airplane with chastity in the sense that she did not sport a picture of a lightly dressed girl, as did so many others. She did however, have five red bombs painted on the nose, signifying that she was ready for her sixth mission. Pilot of the aircraft was 1st Lieutenant Osce Vernon Jones, 27. At this time he was one of the most experienced pilots in the group. Navigator was 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Lawrence Guertin, also a veteran. Others making up the crew were a flight-engineer/gunner, a radio-operator and four ordinary gunners. Two replacement-members flew this day. The bombardier, 2nd Lieutenant Charles Wesley Nevius, 24, and the co-pilot, 1st Lieutenant George Burnett McIntosh, 22. The later was the operations-officer of the 535th Squadron and as such he occasionally filled an empty seat when needed. McIntosh had been in the first "model-crew" of the 535th Squadron when the group was being put together in Pyote, TX.
When everything was checked and everyone had readied their battle-stations, there was an order to start the engines. One after another the planes taxied out towards the runway. Like two rows of waddling geese the planes slowly made their way to the start of the runway, turned around and took off with twenty-five seconds between them.
Take-off was one of the most critical moments of a flight. Heavily loaded with bombs and fuel, the planes were as heavy as they ever would be. The slightest mistake could end in catastrophe. Everything went well this day and the formation climbed through the clouds on its way to the rally-point off the coast of England.
The first position the navigators had to find was 58 10 N. and 08 50 E. That is in the middle of the Skagerack, the strait between Norway and Denmark. German fighters were stationed in both countries, and as a precaution the formation descended to low altitude for the flight towards the target. Time was now 12.00 hrs. GMT, and at the initiation-point, the formation again climbed to high altitude for the bomb-run.
The attack is reported as successful. Only 13 out of 180 aircraft fail to drop their bombs. Later intelligence-reports show that all primary targets have been hit and destroyed. Only three or four airmen are injured during the attack. There are claims of downed enemy aircraft, Fw 190´s and Me 109´s. No American aircraft is shot-down. The Georgia Rebel however, flying as lead-plane for the 535th Squadron is hit by FLAK over the target. One engine is badly damaged by splinters from a nearby exploding shell and the propeller is feathered. One of the cables to the magneto-ignition has been cut. A B-17 manages well on three engines, so the crew sets course for the return trip to England.
The decision to try and "limp" to Sweden is made. No American aircraft has yet tried this, but it seems to be the best alternative. In the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR), no: 132, a nearby aircraft reports that both inboard engines of the Georgia Rebel are stopped and fuel is leaking through a hole in one of the wings. The time is 14.18 hrs. and the position 57 20 N. and 07 30 E. just south of Norway.
Arrival in Sweden.
The aircraft passes over the southernmost part of Norway as the country borders with Sweden and passes over Fredriksstad and Sarpsborg without being fired upon. The maps are not that detailed to allow the crew to determine exactly when Swedish airspace is entered, but according to speed and heading an educated guess can be made. The crewmembers worry about being short on fuel and start to look for a suitable place to make an emergency landing.
The western parts of the Swedish county of Värmland are covered with vast forests. The terrain is very hilly and rocky with big pines and firs. When the Georgia Rebel reaches the railroad going north-south between the towns of Arvika and Årjäng, the pilots head north along the railroad-tracks. They keep at low level, 600 feet (200 metres). In the village Blomskog just outside Årjäng, farmers are busy bringing in the harvest. The pilots cannot dare to land there because of the haystacks in the field. 20 miles (30 km) further north they find a long field just by the tracks. The big aircraft passes over the field, makes a long westbound turn and comes in for landing from the south.
The crewmembers have carefully studied the ground before the decision to touch down there is made. Now they prepare for a crash-landing. The exact conditions of the field are unknown, but it looks OK. The pilot decides to belly-land as a wheels-down landing could be dangerous if the field is not flat enough. The crewmembers from the aft part of the aircraft gather in the radio-compartment, sitting on the floor, bracing themselves before touch-down.
The plane comes down over the treetops with a roar. At least half the length of the field is covered before the plane touches the ground. They suddenly see that small pinetrees grow all over the field. They snap like matches as the big aircraft plows down on them. The speed slows very fast , because this is a bog, not an ordinary field and the wet and saggy ground stops the plane effectively. The ball-turret plows a furrow in the ground and eventually the plane makes halt. Less than a yard from one of the wings is what looks like a utility-pole. The crew realizes that had the aircraft tumbled the pole, the high-current line could have fallen over it. Photos taken at the crash-site shows however, that the pole held telephone-wires.
The forward hatch is towards the ground, so exit is made through the waist-door. The summer of `43 had been relatively dry, and the bog is quite easy to walk on, although wet and saggy. The crewmembers file out of the plane, relieved the landing has gone well. Soon they are joined by a young man from a nearby farm. He speaks English, and they learn that they are in Sweden.
So close to the Norwegian border, these parts are literary crowded with border-troops. Very soon military personnel reach the crash-site and seal it off from the interested civilians that have gathered. The Swedes are informed that live ammunition is in the guns, but that there are no bombs on board. The military tries to confiscate filmrolls from the civilians, but some manage to hide their films. Curious Värmlanders mingle with the military personnel and the ten Americans who proudly show their big aircraft.
The crew is taken by car to a courthouse in nearby Långelanda, where they are given coffee and sandwiches. Soon they will be joined by Swedish Air Force Officers from the base F7 at Såtenäs.
A day later they are interviewed by Captain Löwkrantz from F7. Later they will be taken to the town of Falun for internment. Georgia Rebel is the first American bomber to crash in Sweden, but she will be followed by many, many more.
Fifty-five Years Later
In this book there was a picture of Georgia Rebel, the first USAAF bomber to divert to Sweden. I showed the picture to my father as I thought he might be interested. He is a retired historian and was born not far from Vännacka where the Georgia Rebel crashed. My father now told me an amazing story:
After a brief career in the Swedish Army he was hospitalized with Tuberculosis. In the bed next to him was a man from Vännacka. This man, Esaias Dahlin, told my father back in 1944 how he had witnessed the crash-landing of a big American bomber. This information made me very keen to further investigate the fate of the men from the Georgia Rebel.
Through the help of a former P-47 Pilot named Rip Collins of Houston, TX, I got confirmation of where to find one of the crew-members, George McIntosh. At a scheduled time, I called Mr McIntosh on the phone and we spent the next thirty or forty-five minutes in pleasant conversation. Mr McIntosh has helped me very much with my research and during the first year we had many nice and interesting conversations.
Through Mr McIntosh and other helpful people I have learnt the following about the crew of the Georgia Rebel: The crew was interned in Falun at the guest house Humlebacken.
I have found no records of what happened to the rest of the crew.
Walking on Historic Ground
One of the locals that went with us that day wrote a note to Mr. McIntosh:
The author wishes to thank the following for their help and support:
A special Thank You to:
This page last updated: 2000 11 23