The Crew — Dec. 1, 1943
By Eileen P. Duggan
On Dec. 1, 1943, my father didn’t die. But the rest of his B-17 bomber crew did. And he spent the rest of his life trying to fulfill the purpose for which he was spared.
The crew of Mizpah II, officially aircraft No. 229794, of the 322nd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group (known as the Ragged Irregulars), 8th Air Force, was based in Bassingbourne, England, during World War II. 2nd Lt. Les Duggan Jr., my dad, was the co-pilot of the crew with whom he had trained in Washington state and Oregon. As the end of 1943 drew near, the 322nd was training Lt. Harry Hollinger to pilot his own crew. His trial run would be a combat mission to Germany with Mizpah II and other aircraft. On Dec. 1, Lt. Duggan sat out so Hollinger could fly.
The mission target was Leverkusen, Germany, but over Vossenack, the formation of bombers and fighters met enemy fire. The Mizpah II was one of five planes that were lost that day at Vossenack, three of them with the 322nd Squadron.
It was the thick of WWII, and the Western Allies were making bombing runs over Germany, in efforts to put an end to the Nazi regime’s numerous grave misdeeds. On Dec. 1, 1943, the 91st Bomb Group sent three squadrons including 28 aircraft to assist in a bombing raid of a chemical works plant at Leverkusen, then were diverted because of cloud cover to a secondary target at Solingen. The Mizpah II was one of those bombers. Although the crew referred to their plane as Mizpah II, in honor of a previous Mizpah that ditched at Stuttgart three months earlier, the 91st labeled it as a no-name B-17G, serial No. 229794. The plane was piloted that day by Leonard (Andy) Anderson and trainee co-pilot Hollinger.
Also on the mission was the Wheel ’N Deal, co-piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert Dickson, who happened to be Hollinger’s best friend. Incidentally, Dickson also was substitute pilot flying with a crew not usually his own. While forming up over England, Dickson’s and Hollinger’s planes were mixed up in the planned formation, when another bomber had to abort from the mission.
When they neared the target, flying at about 26,000 feet, the American B-17 bombers attracted 40 to 50 German Luftwaffe Focke-Wulfs on their tail. For about 20 minutes from 1140 and 1200 hours, the Flying Fortresses had no fighter escort. During this period, …
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