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 Jack the Ripper

324th Squadron

Capt. Nichols' Crew

sound5.gif (1201 bytes) On the Sunny Side of the Street

Serial # 41-24490 DF C

Back Row - Left to Right

Sgt. Maurice Draegert, Radio Operator (Waterloo, Iowa); Sgt. Norbert G. Mathias, Right Waist Gunner (New Riegel, Ohio); Sgt. Louis F. O'Connell, Left Waist Gunner (16045041); Sgt. L.A. Raines, Ball Turret Gunner; Sgt. Robert White, Top Turret Gunner; Sgt. Hugh Brice Major, Tail Gunner (College Park, Georgia)

Front Row - Left to Right

Lt. Cletus A. Becht, Bombardier (Louisville, Kentucky); Capt. Robert E. Nichols, Pilot (Garden Grove, California); Lt. Walter K. Davis, Co-pilot; Lt. Wheeler Burkett, Navigator (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

Not Pictured: Lt. John W. Fawcett, Navigator; Lt. Thomas Lauder, Co-pilot

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Jack the Ripper Factoid - This crew remained together on all 25 missions and flew "Jack the Ripper" half of the time.


The first full crew to fly back to the USA from the ETO and the 8th Air Corps was the crew of Capt. William J. Crumm of the 324th Squadron. They completed 11 missions in February 1943, which included Brest, Abbeville, La Pallice, Lille, Romilly Sur Seine, Lorient, Wilhelmshaven, Hamm, & Emden. They flew a modified B-17 back via the southern route of Africa, Brazil to Washington, D.C., after a short leave on to Orlando, Florida for day after day questioning on their combat experiences. From this an instructional manual "Bombing the Nazi's" by the crew of Jack the Ripper published in April 1943 as a handbook for future combat crew. In March, April, and May, they toured 30 cities promoting War Bond sales, then trained combat crews through November of 1943. They were assigned to individual duties, Crumm now a Lt. Col. was sent to Guam as a Squadron Commander, Youngblood to Aviation Cadet training for bombardiers, Deboy to AAF OCS, Masters went on a second tour as an engineer on B-17s in Italy.

Col. Crumm eventuall was promoted to Major General and was, at one time, the base commander at March A.F.B. in Riverside, California. Sent to Guam 24 years later as Commander of a B-52 force in the Pacific, he was killed in action in a collision of two of the giant bombers on the return leg of a raid on North Vietnam 7 July 1967. He had been scheduled to return to the U.S. for an important new assignment and a promotion.

The first crew of Jack the Ripper (B-17F 41-24490 DF C, 324th Squadron)

Capt. William J. Crumm, Pilot; 1st Lt. Mark H. Gilman, Co-pilot; 1st Lt. William C. Leasure, Navigator; 1st Lt. Robert L. Kleyla, Bombardier; T/Sgt. Karl L. Masters, Top Turret Gunner; T/Sgt. Peter F. Deboy, Radio Operator; S/Sgt. Andrew Markle, Ball Turret Gunner; S/Sgt. Rufus W. Youngblood, Waist Gunner; S/Sgt. J.B. O'Donnell, Waist Gunner; Sgt. G.F. Wilson, Tail Gunner.

The crew did not fly Jack the Ripper home to the U.S. The plane they flew in had been modified to meet combat demands in the ETO and was to serve as a model for future B-17 sent overseas.