|1st Lt. Robert J. Gasser
487th Bomb Group, 838th Bomb Squadron
"Gentlemen from Hell"
Station 137 Lavenham, England
Call Sign: Entrap
|The C.E. Daniel Collection
|Gasser's Crew - B-17G "Tru Love"
|A wartime photograph of the crew of B-17G "Tru Love", also known as Gasser's crew. The crew are identified as follows:
Back Row: (left to right) 1st Lt Richard D. Adams (bombardier), 1st Lt Robert J. Gasser (pilot), 1st Lt Harry Katz (navigator), S/Sgt Frederick A. Belt (waist
gunner), S/Sgt Elmer Zeidman (tail gunner)
Front row: (left to right) S/Sgt Kenneth C. Drinnon (ball-turret gunner), T/Sgt William V. Bowers (radio operator), T/Sgt Jack V. Hawkins (flight engineer), 1st Lt
Robert Fuchs (copilot)
|If anyone has any additional information concerning 1st. Lt. Robert J. Gasser, members of his crew, or any other
information or items related to the 487th Bomb Group, 838th Bomb Squadron, I would enjoy hearing from you.
|This page is dedicated to the military service of 1st Lt. Robert J. Gasser, the men who served in
the 487th Bomb Group, and especially to the 233 - 487th Bomb Group men who gave their lives in
defense of our great nation during WWII.
Your service and sacrifice will be forever remembered.
| Displayed on this page is a terrific grouping of items now residing in my private collection relating to a B-17 pilot, 1st. Lt. Robert J. Gasser. Gasser, like millions of
other young American men, answered his nations call to duty during WWII, enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps and ultimately becoming a heavy bomber
pilot. Gasser would go on to achieve what all pilots wished for during the war, a successful tour of duty and a safe return home. Despite heavy losses by the
Luftwaffe in 1942 and 1943, entering into the Western European theater of war in 1944 was no less dangerous as it had been in the previous years. Piloting a heavy
bomber over France and Germany was still extremely hazardous, with the chances of surviving a full tour of duty being rare.
Like many other young bomber pilots heading off to war, Gasser was most likely thrilled at the prospect of putting all his training into practice, all the while thinking
of the dangers that lay ahead of him in the skies over Europe. In total, Gasser would lead his crew through a total of 35 missions beginning in October of 1944, ending
with his 35th mission in February of 1945.
This grouping includes his Senior Log book, His Pilots Qualification Record, a large number of photographs, original photo negatives, one of his Air Corps shoulder
patches and his D-4 flight computer.
Although a small grouping in terms of the number of items included, it is his flight log book which provides a historical and fascinating glimpse into the tour of a
bomber pilot. In addition to recording the basic flight information of each mission, Gasser filled his flight log with detailed information concerning each bombing
mission. It is difficult to imagine what Gasser must have felt as he left his airbase in England, and headed toward Hitler's Reich.
The following are the notes written by 1st Lt. Robert J. Gasser in his flight log, following his return to his
squadrons home airfield at Lavenham, England. The notes are written exactly as they appear in the flight log.
|October 17, 1944 1st Mission: Cologne, Germany
Bombed railyards in So.East section of Cologne. Flak moderate. 2 small holes in the left wing. No injured on board. No fighters encountered. 27,000'.
October 22, 1994 2nd Mission: Munster, Germany
Bombed railway junction by P.F.F. Very light flak. No fighters (enemy), 25,500'.
October 26, 1944 3rd Mission: Hannover, Germany
Bombed factory and tank works in So.West part of town, by P.F.F., fairly heavy flak, no enemy fighters, Lost #1 engine on bomb run and came home with it feathered. No one
injured. Bombed at 25,000 ft.
October 28, 1944 4th Mission: Hamm, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yard at Hamm, PFF, heavy flak, small hole in leading edge left wing, no enemy fighters. Bombed from 29,000'.
November 3, 1944 5th Mission: Meresburg, Germany
Bombed synthetic oil refining plant visually, extremely intense and accurate flak, about 9 holes in ship, no one injured on board, saw 1 B-17 and 1 P-51 go down in flames. No
enemy fighters encountered by our group. Bombed from 27,000 feet.
November 9, 1944 6th Mission: Saarbrucken, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yards here by P.F.F. Very little flak. No enemy fighters. Also bombed a German fort to clear a path for Gen. Patton's Army. Bombed from 23,000 ft.
November 11, 1944 7th Mission: Coblenz, Germany
Bombed important railroad marshalling yards here, which supplied troops in Metz-Coblenz sector. Target about 5 miles south of Coblenz. Very little flak. One flak nick in #3 prop
and dent on side of fuselage by #3 engine. No enemy fighters. Bombed from 25,000 ft.
November 16, 1944 8th Mission: Langwene, Germany
Bombed enemy troop concentrations and artillery behind lines about 10 miles east of Aachen. Very little flak and no fighters. Escorted by P-51's. Supported ground troops of the
1st Army. Carried 30-260 lb. frag bombs.
November 21, 1944 9th Mission: Meresburg, Germany
Target was the synthetic oil plant here, but we were forced to turn back because of weather. We flew around flak for 40 minutes, and finally brought bombs back. Had 20-250
G.P.s with long delay (36-144-and 2 hour delays). Had to drop them in channel. Saw 2 black Me-109s but they did not intercept us. Flak quite accurate but not intense.
November 26, 1944 10 Mission: Hamm, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yard. Flak was moderate but we didn't get any holes. Target half visual, but we bombed P.F.F. Saw five jet airplanes or V-2's. No enemy
interception. Had 12-500 lb. G.P.'s, bombed from 27,000 ft.
|December 2, 1994 12th Mission: Coblenz, Germany
Target was railroad marshalling yards at Coblenz. We did not bomb because cold front was situated directly over the target. We crossed enemy lines but saw no fighters or flak. Had
12-500 lb. G.P.'s. Brought them back. Got to 23,000 ft.
December 11, 1944 13th Mission: Gieszen, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yards, to support ground troops. Bombed P.F.F. Had 10-500 lb. GP's and 2-500 lb. M-17's. Lost #2 engine on way home + feathered it due to
excessive vibration. Saw very little flak. 29,000'.
December 12, 1944 14th Mission: Darmstadt, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yards here. Visual run, hit target very well. No flak at all. Had 10-500 lb. Gp's + 2 M-17's. Lost about 150 gallons of gas due to siphon leak on #2.
Visibility on return about 500 ft. Bombed from 25,000 ft.
December 15, 1944 15th Mission: Hannover, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yards in center of town, by P.F.F. Weather was very bad over continent. Moderate flak over target but no other flak encountered. Had 12-500 lb. G.P.'s
and bombed from 24,000 ft.
December 18, 1944 16th Mission: Mainz, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yards here, by P.F.F. Weather extremely bad over continent. West through cold front, very light flak, some over target and some at lines. 18-250 lb.
GP's and 2-500 lb. M-17's. Bombed from 27,000 ft.
December 24, 1944 17th Mission: Coblenz, Germany - Christmas Eve -
Bombed enemy fighter field behind lines. Weather was perfect and we had a visual run. Were hit by FW-190s near lines. Lost about 6 B-17's from our group in the low squadron.
Gen. Castle in lead ship was shot down. Extremely heavy and accurate flak over lines. We received several holes. Had no time to put on flak suits because of enemy fighters. We
bombed the target from 23,000 ft with 38 100 lb. GPs with excellent results. Group bombed field very good, and shot down over 19 fighters. We got 3.
December 28, 1944 18th Mission: Coblenz, Germany
Bombed southern railroad marshalling yards in city, by P.F.F. Did not see any flak at all and no enemy fighters. Had 18-250 lb. GP's, and 2-500 lb. M-17's. Bombed from 25,000'.
Very easy mission.
December 29, 1944 19th Mission: Aschaffenburg, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yards here visually. Flak was moderate but very accurate over lines and past target area. Saw no enemy fighters. Carried 10-500 lb. leaflet bombs.
Bombed from 24,000 ft. Did not hit the target very well.
December 30, 1944 20th Mission: Mannheim, Germany
Bombed the second largest railroad marshalling yards in Germany here by P.F.F. Flak was moderate to heavy but very inaccurate. Carried 20-250 lb. GP's. Bombed at 25,500'.
Mags on #2 bad, runaway prop #1 engine.
|January 1, 1945 21st Mission: Coblenz, Germany - New Years Day -
Bombed southern most railroad marshalling yards here as last resort target. Primary target was oil storage dump 10 miles east of Brunswick. Could not drop our bombs. Had 38-100
lb. GP's, bombed P.F.F. Little flak, but very accurate, got big piece in right wing tip. No fighters. Bombed from 25,500'.
January 3, 1945 22nd Mission: Aschaffenburg, Germany
Bombed marshalling yards by P.F.F. with 12-500 lb. GPs. No flak, no fighters. Bombed from 21,000 ft. Easy mission, too long.
January 6, 1945 23rd Mission: Ludiwgshaven, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yards here by P.F.F. Flak was moderate to heavy, but was not very accurate. Carried 12-500 lb. G.P.'s, and bombed from 26,000 ft. Had runaway prop
nearly entire mission. Checked out new pilot. Landed at Sudbury on return due to very bad weather at base.
January 7, 1945 24th Mission: Paderborn, Germany
Bombed locomotive repair sheds + marshalling yards by PFF. Little flak (105's). Had 12-500 lb. G.P.'s, bombed from 25,000'. #4 prop ran away all mission.
January 13, 1945 25th Mission: Mainz, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yard by P.F.F. It was the secondary target, but the primary was a bridge here to be bombed visually only. We met heavy but inaccurate flak over target,
and light but accurate flak over lines. Had 5-1000 lb. G.P.'s, and bombed from 25,000 ft. Weather on return was extremely bad, and we had no gyro horizon, ceiling was 200 - 600
ft. Landed ok.
January 14, 1945 26th Mission: Magdeburg, Germany
Bombed target of opportunity, which was a railroad marshalling yard at Osnabruck. Primary target was oil refinery at Magdeburg, but was unable to bomb. Hit rail yards good. Met
very much flak, heavy and accurate on both targets. Saw group ahead get ht by fighters, and had 7 B-17's that I saw go down in flames. Also saw big dog fight and about 10
fighters. 3-B-17's and 3 fighters blew up. Saw 14 parachutes at one time. Had 20-300 GP's. Bombed 26,000'.
January 18, 1945 27th Mission: Kaiserslautern, Germany
Bombed railroad marshalling yard and intersection by P.F.F. Only about 120 B-17's out of the 8th Air Force flew. Very little flak was seen, and none was fired at our formation. Saw
about 9 German fighters, but they did not intercept us. Carried 10-500 lb. RDX bombs and 2 M-17's. Weather was so bad back at Lavenham that we could not land. Instead landed
at field A-69 in France about 3 miles east of Laon. Bombed from 25,400'. (Returned to Lavenham the following day.)
January 20, 1945 28th Mission: Heilbronn, Germany
Bombed southern railroad marshalling yards and repair yards here by P.F.F. Weather very bad with cirrus stratus up to 27,000 ft. Very little flak encountered. Had 10-500 lb. G.P.'s
and 2 M-17's. Bombed from 25,500 ft. Weather back at base pretty good, but ran into occasional snow storms. Was about the coldest one we ever had. Was -56 Celsius at 27,000
January 21, 1945 29th Mission: Mannheim, Germany
Primary was tank factory, but bombed secondary which was railroad goods storage yards and sidings. Bombed P.F.F. Flak was moderate and fairly accurate all along bomb run and
over target. Had 6-500 lb. RDX bombs and 6 M-17's. Bombed from 26,500 ft. Weather very bad for assembly and to target, but good on return. Very cold again today at high
February 14, 1945 30th Mission: Wesel, Germany
Were to bomb bridge here but we went on to secondary, an oil dump. On bomb run #2 engine was hit by flak and we could not feather it and oil ran out. We left formation, engine
froze up due to lack of oil, and crankshaft broke, leaving prop just windmilling. Expected prop to fall off but it didn't, though by the time we landed it was coming off. Dropped our
bombs in channel, safe. Had 12-500 lb. G.P.'s. Flak moderate but very accurate, was 155 mm stuff. Saw no enemy fighters, were hit at 25,000 ft. Visual bombing.
|February 15, 1945 31st Mission: Cotbus, Germany
Primary was oil storage plant near Ruhland, near Dresden, but bombed secondary communications town of Cotbus. Hit marshalling yard and autobahn there. Had 10-500 lb. RDX
bombs, and bombed from 23,000. No flak or fighters. Had very little gas left.
February 20, 1945 32nd Mission: Nurnberg, Germany
Bombed railroad yard and station in center of town by P.F.F. Hit target quite well too. Flew around in front for about 5 hours. Got lost once. Heavy and accurate flak over target. No
one hurt. Got 3 holes. Lost 3 ships for our field. Had 20-250 lb. GP's and bombed from 25,000 ft.
February 22, 1945 33rd Mission: Ansbach, Germany
Bombed railway junction here as last resort target. Weather very bad over Germany. Had to fly in clouds for several hours. Encountered fairly heavy icing. Bombed by P.F.F.. We
carried leaflets today. Bombed from 24,000 ft. Saw only about 30 bursts of flak about 2 miles away. No enemy fighters.
February 23, 1945 34th Mission: Neumarkt, Germany
Bombed railroad yards in small town from 9,000 ft. visually. Hit target visually very well. No flak on entire mission. No enemy fighters. Had 12-500 RDX bombs. Weather very good.
February 28, 1945 35th Mission: Kassel, Germany
Bombed tank and engine plant and railroad marshalling yards here by P.F.F. Heavy but inaccurate flak. Had heaviest bomb load with 7-500 lb. RDX bombs, and 7-500 lb. M-17
incendiary cluster bombs. Bombed from 23,500 ft., and saw flames and smoke coming up through clouds over target area. Had new squadron C/O for co-pilot (Maj. Buchanan). Very
|The remarks portion of Gasser's flight log, recording the details of his 35th and
|The remarks portion of Gasser's flight log,
recording the details of his 1st mission to Coblenz.
| All of 1st. Lt. Gasser's combat flights were made from Station 137, Lavenham, England. Gasser's log also included other flights including engine runs, local training flights and
medium and high altitude practice bomb runs over England.
A second booklet, Gasser's Qualification record, shows that following his 35 combat missions, he flew with the 6th Ferrying Group, achieving qualification in B-17's, B-25's and P-38
| An entry into 1st Lt. Gasser's log on December 24, 1944, notes the downing of Brig. General Frederick Walker Castle with the simple line of: "Gen. Castle in lead ship was shot
down." Gasser could not have known the totality of the events unfolding before him.
In April 1944, Castle became the commander of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing, and was promoted to Brigadier General in November of that same year. On Christmas Eve, December
24, 1944, Brig. General Castle was flying the lead ship of an armada of over 2,000 aircraft. En route to the target, the failure of engine #1 forced him to give up his position at the front
of the flight, as he could not longer maintain formation with the other aircraft. As the formation was still over friendly lines, Castle refused to jettison his bomb load, despite the fact it
would have provided him with more speed and the ability to maneuver.
As his aircraft was unable to remain with the rest of the formation and without any kind of fighter escort, he soon became easy prey for nearby Luftwaffe fighters. Numerous
Luftwaffe fighters ripped into the left wing of Castle's aircraft with cannon fire, setting the oxygen system ablaze and wounding two crew members. Repeated attacks by the Luftwaffe
fighters started fires in two engines, creating the danger of a possible explosion. Realizing that this ship was doomed, Castle gave the order to abandon the aircraft. Castle remained
at the controls of the aircraft, allowing the members of his crew to safely bail from the doomed ship as it plunged earthward. Castle was killed when the aircraft struck the ground.
For his gallant actions, Castle would be posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. In addition, during his military career, Castle was awarded the Silver Star,
Legion of Merit, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, and five Air Medals. On January 17, 1946, Merced Army Air Field in California was renamed Castle Field in his honor.
Without knowing it at the time, 1st. Lt. Gasser was one of thousands of witnesses to this selfless act, and had a front row seat for the brave and gallant actions of a true war hero.
|Brig. General Frederick Walker Castle - CMOH
|The above photograph is used with the kind permission of the 487th Bomb Group
Association. Visit their website at www.487thbg.org/.