392nd Bomb Group

Target: Salzbergen - 16 February 1945 - Mission #239

The primary on this date was the fuel plant at Salzbergen with a secondary target of the Rheine marshalling yards. A force of 30 crews were given briefings at 0715 and 0830 but fog delayed take-offs until 1130 hours. At this time, 27 were launched with all going over the primary to release (300) 500 pounders on a GH ship, results being unobserved once again.

While the Group's mission was in progress, Wendling was closed down due to zero-zero fog conditions. As the Group force of 26 ships diverted into A-72 on the Continent, an unusual and near-tragic even took place back over the base. 1/Lt Albert J. Novik and crew, aboard #42-95031, had an extremely close call.

Mary Louise missing stabilizer
Novik's plane, minus his left rudder.

An article by Cpl Edmund Antrobus, originally in the 13 April 1945 issue of YANK magazine and reprinted in the Summer 1993 2nd Air Division Association Journal, gives more details.

"On January 16, [1945] 1/Lt Albert J. Novik of Tarrytown, NY, dived from the flight deck of his fuel-less Liberator headfirst through the bomb bay and saved his life. His leap gave him enough speed to clear the plane while it was still gliding.

On February 16, a month later to the day, he had to bail out again and tried to maneuver a second time. But the plane nose-dived before he could make it, throwing him up against a ceiling, where he stuck, looking down at a fire sweeping through the fuselage and thinking that at any moment he would be dead.

This was the climax of four and a half bad hours for Lt Novik. He had been flying with a squadron in the 392nd Bomb Group when, a few seconds after dropping his bombs, another Liberator in a higher formation had moved in on top to obtain a more compact bomb pattern. It came too close and dropped six bombs through Novik's left rudder.

Minus a huge chunk of its tail assembly, Novik's Liberator dropped 500 feet, becoming so nose-heavy that it took all of Novik's strength at the wheel to keep it from diving.

Novik, however, decided to continue over the target so that he could stay in formation as protection against enemy fighters. In this way he managed to struggle back to England, but was unable to land because clouds had closed in over the home base and emergency landing fields. Together with the rest of his group, Novik was ordered to go back and land in France. Realizing that his ship would never make it, he decided to land in England if he could.

It was getting harder and harder to hold the ship in the air. Novik was under a tremendous strain, and the back of his neck was ridged like a weight lifter's. "It was a good thing," says the navigator, F/O Wade Hampton, of Toronto, Ontario, "that we had a strong, as well as a good, pilot."

"For two hours they looked for a suitable field but all were fogged in, and at last they decided to head towards The Wash and bail out.

It was a painful decision. The ship had flown 70 missions without an abort. Everyone knew that it was in fine mechanical condition; the fact that it could fly without a left rudder was proof of that. Someone recalled that the crew chief, S/Sgt Eugene S. Goldsby of Los Angeles, was up for an award for the way he'd taken care of his ship. The gunners bailed out first, then the navigator, radio operator and engineer.

After that Novik climbed out of his seat while the co-pilot, 1st Lt. Jack H. Graves of Birmingham, Ala., hung on the controls. Then, standing, Novik took over, holding the plane steady while Graves jumped. The elevator trim tabs, which normally keep the plane in level flight, were not working, and the automatic pilot could not be used because the slight shake it would cause when it went into control would probably be enough to crash the plane. Novik found that even a 10 degree turn made the ship shudder as if its tail were breaking.

When the co-pilot hit the silk, Novik gave him 30 seconds to clear the ship and then prepared to jump from the flight deck through the bomb bay… But the second he let go of the wheel, the plane dived like a thunderbolt. Novik was thrown against the ceiling and pinned there while the plane dived 7,000 feet.

"My first impulse," Novik said, "was to try and beat my way out through the fuselage. I thumped with the sides of my fists, but the air pressure was so strong it was an effort even to move my arms. It was the sensation you have in a dream when you are running from something and your feet get bogged down in quicksand."

Dying did not occur to him - just then. "And yet," he says, "just about this time a guy gets very religious. You start praying to something super-human because you know nothing human can help you."

It was fire that made Novik give up hope. Spread-eagled against the ceiling, he saw flames sucked in from a burning engine, spread through the fuselage, and fan up towards him as if he were on a spit, being grilled alive. At that moment he lost his fear because he no longer thought he was going to live. He smelt his hair being singed. He felt, as he now put it, "eccentric and carefree." He was not delirious or suffering pain. Then, sudden, he was dropped from the ceiling, as a wing, or something came off, changing the direction of the plane. He began to claw his way through the fire up to the bomb bay. He says he didn't feel that he was escaping from death, but from death in a particularly violent form. Somehow he dragged himself to the bomb bay and fell through, and just as he cleared the bomber it exploded over his head. He pulled his rip cord but only two feet of chute came out. He pulled again, this time with both hands, and the chute opened. He was now about 700 feet from the ground. Looking up, Novik saw burning pieces of the plane floating down like enormous flaming leaves. He put a hand to one eye and when he took it away it was covered with blood. He thought he had lost the eye, but that did not seem important. All around him burning debris was falling, great chunks of it catching up with him and passing within a few feet of his parachute.

But, looking down, Novik saw that the real danger was on the ground, for parts of the burning plane had landed on the spot he was headed for. Only by luck he landed in a tree, which saved him from being roasted in the wreckage of the plane.

Men have been hurt more turning over in bed than Novik was during his seemingly interminable brush with death. His face had been burned and his hair singed, and it was the hand he put to his eye, and not the eye itself, that had been cut. As a matter of fact, his fingers hurt more than anything else; they were numb for three days after from straining on the wheel during the four and a half hours he had struggled to keep his plane in the air.

All in all, it had been a happier landing than the one Novik had made a month before. On that occasion two of his men [navigator 2/Lt Robert M. fife and nose gunner S/Sgt Richard D. Glass] had jumped through the nose wheel hatch, hit something, and been killed. This time they all landed safely and were in good condition to stand by when the colonel presented Novik with the DFC.

Mary Louise crash 16 Feb 45
Novik and crew fared better than their plane, 42-95031, Mary Louise.


16 Feb 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 659
P Crowell, R.K. 2nd Lt.
CP Berkley, J.B. 2nd Lt.
N Byrnes, W.B. 2nd Lt.
B Colquhoun, R.N. S/Sgt.
R Waggener, L.R. S/Sgt.
E Hough, J.F. M/Sgt.
RW Anastos, G. S/Sgt.
LW Tracy, R.D. S/Sgt.
TG Moffa, A.J. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 031
P Novik, A.J. 1st Lt.
CP Graves, J.H. 1st Lt.
N Hampton, W.A. F/O
B Graves, R.H. S/Sgt.
R Hildebrand, R.O. T/Sgt.
E DiMarco, F.J. T/Sgt.
RW Cheshire, W.T. Sgt.
LW Watkins, M.F. S/Sgt.
TG Buckley, C.A. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 194
P Linzmeier, R.B. 2nd Lt.
CP Fisher, R.M. 2nd Lt.
N Leonard, A.C. 1st Lt.
B Schutze, G.C. 2nd Lt.
R Hughes, C.B. S/Sgt.
E Connor, E.J. T/Sgt.
RW Specht, C.O. S/Sgt.
LW Downing, J.E. S/Sgt.
TG Watts, F. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 340
P Markuson, C.O. 2nd Lt.
CP Hutchcroft, H.W. 2nd Lt.
N Maceyra, E. 2nd Lt.
B Hunter, E.R. S/Sgt.
R Burke, J.E. T/Sgt.
E Cain, P.L. T/Sgt.
RW Monaghan, T.D. S/Sgt.
LW Howard, J.B. S/Sgt.
TG Horn, J.E. S/Sgt.
RCM Hairston, R.T. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 916
P Hummel, J.R. 2nd Lt.
CP Reynolds, J.E. 2nd Lt.
N Knudson, B.L. 2nd Lt.
B Chadwick, R.H. 2nd Lt.
R Deaton, J.A. Cpl.
E Keagle, P.E. Cpl.
RW Finney, H.H. Cpl.
LW Milchak, E.A. Cpl.
TG Powell, H. Cpl.
16 Feb 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 302
P Wolak, S. 2nd Lt.
CP Willett, C.E. 2nd Lt.
N Longenecker, J.R. 2nd Lt.
B Kutner, J.M. 2nd Lt.
R Murphy, R.C. S/Sgt.
E Bobish, A. S/Sgt.
RW Ruigh, R.E. Sgt.
LW Czop, J.A. S/Sgt.
TG Schick, F.W. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 576th Sqdn.
A/C 476
P Harcus, R.W. 2nd Lt.
CP Thompson, J.R. 2nd Lt.
N Adler, M.N. 2nd Lt.
B Brennan, R.W. S/Sgt.
R Shanley, J.V. T/Sgt.
E Thomas, E. T/Sgt.
RW Spears, D.D. S/Sgt.
LW Marshall, L.C. S/Sgt.
TG Rosenberg, J.E. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 448
P Stoddard, K.L. 2nd Lt.
CP Wilson, J.A. 2nd Lt.
N Koke, D.H. 2nd Lt.
B Ringness, J.R. Sgt.
R Logue, R.V. Sgt.
E O'Hara, R.F. Sgt.
RW Hoffman, R.A. Sgt.
LW Hores, G.P. Sgt.
TG Szews, S.M. Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 875
P Grabarkiewicz, L. F/O
CP Phillips, C.E. 2nd Lt.
N Hickson, D. Jr. 2nd Lt.
B Axvig, W.E. S/Sgt.
R Quagliano, F.A. S/Sgt.
E Duggan, J.J. T/Sgt.
RW Cooper, J.T. Pvt.
LW Baker, E.R. S/Sgt.
TG Moskowicz, S. Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 901
P Shaw, B.R. 2nd Lt.
CP Bachman, L.W. 2nd Lt.
N Anstey, M.P. F/O
B Hoover, R.C. Sgt.
R Sturm, W.A. S/Sgt.
E Kedenburg, J.H. S/Sgt.
RW Rice, W.W. Sgt.
LW Perlingiero, C.P. Sgt.
TG Schunke, C.W. Sgt.
RCM Taylor, J.L. Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 898
P Prater, W.K. 2nd Lt.
CP Levin, R.J. 2nd Lt.
N Pilcher, W.L. 2nd Lt.
B Venuti, L.C. Sgt.
R Killian, C.J. Sgt.
E Lawrence, L.J. Sgt.
RW Kegler, S.D. Sgt.
LW Healey, J. Sgt.
TG Deshantz, D. Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 792
P Enyart, D.W. 1st Lt.
CP Froehlich, S.S. 2nd Lt.
N Mertens, J.A. 2nd Lt.
B Snyderman, J. 2nd Lt.
R Gersten, G. T/Sgt.
E Aycock, C.E. S/Sgt.
RW Arneson, J.A. S/Sgt.
LW Mohan, V.L. S/Sgt.
TG Barlow, S.N. Sgt.
PN Santoro, M.P. F/O
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 118
P Scott, D.A. 2nd Lt.
CP Jordan, E.B. 2nd Lt.
N Tucker, R.A. 2nd Lt.
B Glasscock, J.B. S/Sgt.
R Berger, S. T/Sgt.
E Karas, J. T/Sgt.
RW Hanley, E.H. S/Sgt.
LW Surbaugh, E.R. S/Sgt.
TG McKee, S.P. S/Sgt.
S-27 Halpern, H.M. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 299
P Inman, C.E. 1st Lt.
CP Ondrasek, J.G. 2nd Lt.
N Lange, E.A. 2nd Lt.
B Rees, R.R. 2nd Lt.
R Flake, R.M. Jr. T/Sgt.
E Kamholz, E.J. T/Sgt.
RW Finkelstein, B. S/Sgt.
LW Evans, H.D. S/Sgt.
TG Gafin, B. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 772
P Pope, L.S. 2nd Lt.
CP Snowhill, T.B. 2nd Lt.
N Rodstein, B. 2nd Lt.
B Lane, T.C. S/Sgt.
R Reed, D.F. S/Sgt.
E Turrisi, J.R. S/Sgt.
RW Fuller, M.A. S/Sgt.
LW Dardano, F.A. S/Sgt.
TG Keach, G.T. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 577th Sqdn.
A/C 238
P Popek, E. 2nd Lt.
CP Henry, H.E. 2nd Lt.
N Frederickson, L.T. 2nd Lt.
B Irvine, E.C. S/Sgt.
R Yuhas, G. T/Sgt.
E Bombardier, W.J. T/Sgt.
RW Trofnoff, F. S/Sgt.
LW Thompson, J.R. S/Sgt.
TG Swee, F.A. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 636
P Garcia, A.R. 2nd Lt.
CP Pollack, M. 2nd Lt.
N Hoffman, W.A. F/O
B Westlund, J.K. S/Sgt.
R Nelson, D.A. T/Sgt.
E Landes, I.B. T/Sgt.
RW Pennington, M.E. S/Sgt.
LW Merda, A.J. S/Sgt.
TG Rauscher, J.G. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 446
P Rose, P.E. 1st Lt.
CP Pratt, D.M. 1st Lt.
N Rohde, C.R. 1st Lt.
B Harnden, R.G. 1st Lt.
R Croy, O.N. T/Sgt.
E Scott, W.A. T/Sgt.
RW Manelick, N.L. S/Sgt.
LW Davidson, S.A. S/Sgt.
TG Beane, H.E. S/Sgt.
S-27 Belsky, M. T/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 205
P Vaden, J.C. 2nd Lt.
CP Tichenor, N.K. 2nd Lt.
N Vrable, E.G. 2nd Lt.
B Sieg, R.J. 2nd Lt.
R Crockett, J.G. Sgt.
E Perry, C.E.O. Sgt.
RW Wojtowicz, C.T. Sgt.
LW Beaton, S.O. Sgt.
TG Smith, C.W. Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 313
P Ebersole, H.R. 2nd Lt.
CP Culp, A.B. 2nd Lt.
N Sauter, J.C. 2nd Lt.
B Greene, H.B. Sgt.
R Chew, W.B. Sgt.
E Gabris, J.M. Sgt.
RW McDonald, C.L. Sgt.
LW Flint, D.W. Sgt.
TG Lynch, H.F. Sgt.
RCM Watson, C.B. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 436
P Walker, J.R. 1st Lt.
CP Casstevens, R.C. 2nd Lt.
N Donohue, J.J. 1st Lt.
B Pataki, S.M. S/Sgt.
R Louizides, S. T/Sgt.
E Morse, J.H. T/Sgt.
RW Agoglia, E.J. S/Sgt.
LW Lingle, J.A.H. Cpl.
TG Duerr, E.E. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 495
P Tays, R.H. 1st Lt.
CP Ferguson, T.B. 2nd Lt.
N Holzinger, J.J. 1st Lt.
B Sorensen, A.C. 1st Lt.
R Berger, J.T. Sgt.
E King, C.C. T/Sgt.
RW Coury, G.A. S/Sgt.
LW Turner, M.E. S/Sgt.
TG Fetterhoff, E.E. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 240
P Bilz, J.J. 1st Lt.
CP Slayter, D.W. 1st Lt.
N Barnes, J.M. 1st Lt.
B Overman, D.T. 1st Lt.
R Fahrenbruch, K.G. T/Sgt.
E Grout, A.G. T/Sgt.
RW Poepping, R.F. S/Sgt.
LW Shea, H.A. S/Sgt.
TG Ludwig, D.J. S/Sgt.
NG Beals, B.M. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 578th Sqdn.
A/C 801
P Ansbro, M.J. 2nd Lt.
CP Wernsman, J.B. 2nd Lt.
N Lindahl, E.A. 2nd Lt.
B Christman, H.E. F/O
R O'Brien, B.M. Cpl.
E Brierley, A.R. Cpl.
RW O'Farrell, R.H. Cpl.
LW Nichols, P.F. Cpl.
TG McLaughlin, M.M. Cpl.
RCM Slater, R.E. S/Sgt.
16 Feb 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 459
P Beder, J. 1st Lt.
CP Samsell, J.A. 2nd Lt.
N Matishowski, J. 1st Lt.
B Murray, J.G. 1st Lt.
R Murgatroyd, R.S. T/Sgt.
E Morley, J.P. T/Sgt.
RW Carr, R.P. S/Sgt.
LW Roever, C.H. S/Sgt.
TG Schodrof, R.H. S/Sgt.
PN Shumaker, M.C. 2nd Lt.
NV McDevitt, J.P. 2nd Lt.
16 Feb 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 801
P Solomon, R.H. Capt.
CP Kressig, E.L. 1st Lt.
N Gridley, C.V. Jr. 1st Lt.
B Mace, J.E. 1st Lt.
R Herzlich, L. T/Sgt.
E Moeller, H.E. T/Sgt.
RW Farquharson, G. S/Sgt.
LW Psyk, E.L. S/Sgt.
TG Capik, J.H. S/Sgt.
NV Cleverdon, R.N. 1st Lt.
MN Edmundson, R.H. 1st Lt.
16 Feb 1945 579th Sqdn.
A/C 519
P McClellan, H.B. Capt.
CP Connor, J.A. 1st Lt.
N Richert, G.W. 1st Lt.
B Snoden, C.A. 1st Lt.
R Kingston, D.B. T/Sgt.
E Berger, R.F. T/Sgt.
RW Markle, J.M. S/Sgt.
LW Phillabaum, R.J. T/Sgt.
TG Denton, W. S/Sgt.
NV Fowler, R.T. 1st Lt.
PN Lipman, B.D. 2nd Lt.
Col. Johnson, L.L. flew in the lead GH ship and Capt. Pennypacker, J.E. flew in the deputy lead GH ship.
Jones, G.B. 2/Lt, copilot, flew with the 44th Bomb Group.