The Downing of S/Sgt Fred Burgin's B-24 Liberator
S/Sgt Fred L. Burgin was the top turret gunner/engineer on B-24H #42-52613 assigned
to the 723rd Bomb Squadron in the 450th Bomb Group, based in Manduria, Italy.
It was March 19, 1944, and their target was Steyr, Austria. At approximately
1400 hours, about ten minutes before the target, Fred's ship was hit by anti
aircraft fire and had to leave the formation.
One US witness, a nose gunner in another B24, saw Burgin's ship leave the
formation. When last seen Burgin's ship was at 10,000 feet and the #4 propeller
was feathered, but the plane still appeared to be under control. This witness
saw no parachutes.
Another witness, the top gunner on a different ship, saw Fred's plane
leave the formation at 24,000 feet. He reported, "The ship went down in a
20 percent glide, with one engine feathered and losing altitude rapidly."
When he saw the plane it was smoking badly, but it seemed to be under control.
He also saw no parachutes leave the plane.
In Fred Burgin's words, "We went to the initial point headed for the
target. We lost an engine and could not keep up. We dropped our bombs to
lighten the load so we could keep up. We still could not keep up. Anti
aircraft guns then knocked out our #3 engine. That made us have two engines out on
the right side. Their fighters saw us and came in firing and thatís when we
bailed out. Eight of us made it out. There were 10 on the plane."
The eight surviving crew members were captured by rural police at 2:10 PM
and were imprisoned at Stalag Luft 4. Two crewmen, Sgt Prescott and Sgt. Hentz,
went down with the plane. They were last seen in the waist or tail section of
the plane. In as much as the fighter attacks continued while the rest of the
crew was bailing out, they might have been killed before they could exit the
According to German records, the plane's impact was 200 meters west of the
middle of Burgstalit near St. Margarethen on the Raab in Steiermark. They
said it was shot down by fighters. Condition of the plane: 100% cracked up,
all the way up to the two guns in the tail gun position. The tail gun
position completely was destroyed.
There is a handwritten note in the MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) where copilot, 2Lt. Walter R. Keesling was recommending his crew for a Distinguished Flying Cross for "Flying flack shot up plane and fighting off 12 ME109s between Steyr to the otherside of Graz (20 miles). before bailing out." There is nothing in the MACR stating whether the crew was awarded the DFC or not.
Source: A special thanks to Rob Burgin, grandson of Fred L. Burgin
German Report On Downed A/C (ME-921)
Missing Air Crew Report (#3260)