Lt. Edward J. Reppa
B-17G Commander

457th AEG - 457th Bombardment Group - 748 Bombardment Squadron - 8th Air Force
Glatton Airfield, England - 21 February 1944 to 22 June 1944

Top L to R - Sgt Stephen F. Billisits-Engineer/Top Turret Gun, Sgt John Harmke-right waist gun, Sgt Charles W. Mehring-tail gun,
Sgt Ivan W. Browning-radio operator, Sgt Kenneth L. Holder-Ball turret, Sgt Irving Feldman-left waist gun
Bottom L to R - Lt Curtis J. Overdahl-Navigator(1), Lt Edward J Reppa-Pilot, Lt George H. Stateman-Bombardier, Lt Aaron J Ayres-Co Pilot(1,2)
This photograph of the "regular Reppa crew" (crew #108) was taken in early April 1944 prior to 457th BG mission #23 on 9 April 1944.


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B-17G MISSION LOG - 1944
3 March 2019
DATE DAY EJR Mission # Original Loading List 457thBG Mission # LOCATION TARGET Aircraft Tail # Pilot Notes
21 February 1944 Monday 1   1 of 236 Gutersloh-Lippstadt, Germany 17 Nazi Airfields unknown BIG Week Day 2
Day 2 of BIG WEEK (Operation Argument 20-25 Feb 44). 861 ships up 12 lost.
25 February 1944 Friday 2 Yes 4 Augsburg & Regensburg, Germany German Aircraft Production Plants 42-97458 BIG Week Day 6
Just inside the French Coast on the way to the target, flak knocked out an engine on Lt. Edward J. Reppa's aircraft, but he continued toward the target.On the way back to England, Lt. Reppa lost another engine. The crew nursed the damaged aircraft back to England. During their gradual decent across the English channel the crew threw out everything they could (guns, ammo, gear) to reduce the aircraft weight and help it fly long enought to get the aircraft over English land (Feet Dry). The navigator (Lt Overdahl) gave Lt Reppa a heading to the closest field. They landed at RAF Lashenden near Headcorn England 120 miles short of RAF Glatton Airfield near Conington. Due to battle damage to the hydraulics, brakes were not availabe to stop the aircraft. They finally came to a stop in a deep ditch after first hitting a tree. There were no serious injuries in the crew due to the landing but according to a hand written inscription in his copy of the book Black Puff Polly a crewman was injured. Lt Reppa wrote "Ssgt Francis A. Boyson, the ball turret gunner was injured by flak and never flew again". The plane had come to its final resting place. Day 6 of BIG WEEK. 754 ships took off and 31 lost. 298 aircraft damaged 93 crew members KIA. This marked the end of BIG WEEK the first series of missions of massive formations of bombers and fighters with the goal of destroying the Luftwaffe in the air and on the ground.
8 March 1944 Wednesday 3   9 Berlin, Germany Erkner Ball bearing works 42-38104 My first Berlin mission
This was the 457th Bombardment Group's fourth mission in a row to the Erkner VKF ball bearing factory. 457th BG Missions 6 and 7 did not drop bombs due to clouds obscuring the target area. Mission 8 results were poor due to multiple issues including "vigorous enemy fighter opposition". 620 bombers from 10 combat wings flew this mission with the support of 500 escort fighters . 470 bombers hit the primary target. The rest on secondary targets. No aircraft were lost. The results for this mission were considered fair. Aircraft 42-38104 was transferred to he 92 Bomb Group on 11 March 44 after Lt Reppa's 4th mission. If one unit ran short of aircraft assets they received replacements from other units on short notice pending arival of new aircraft from the factory.
9 March 1944 Thursday 4 Yes 10 Oranienburg/Berlin, Germany HE-177 Heavy Bomber factory 42-38104 Berlin #2
19 March 1944 Sunday 5 Yes 15 Watton, France German anti-invasion Fortification 42-97470 "Oh Kay!"
20 March 1944 Monday 6 Yes 16 Frankfurt, Germany Aircraft & Submarine Parts Factory 42-31520  
9 April 1944 Sunday 7   23 Gydnia, Poland FW-190 Aircraft Factory 42-97236  
"My Ball turret gunner, Ken Holder, was credited for shooting down an enemy fighter" inscribed by E J Reppa on page 66 of Black Puff Polly by Roland Byers. 457th BG gunners claimed 12 enemy aircraft shot down on his mission but received credit for 3 destroyed, one probable destroyed and one damaged. Ball turret gunner Tsgt Kenneth Holder received credit for one kill. Tsgt Kenneth Holder, ball turret gunner, became a regular member of the crew replacing ssgt Francis Boyson who was injured on Lt Reppa's 2nd combat mission. He flew with this crew until at least 20 June 1944. The regular crew members are pictured above. The 457th BG expended 59,370 rounds of .50 cal ammunition on this day.
note:Black Puff Polly (42-97067) Pictures and its Fate on Mission # 53 (28 May 1944).
13 April 1944 Sunday 8   26 of 236 Schweinfurt, Germany Ball Bearing Factory unknown  
19 April 1944 Wednesday 9 Yes 28 Eschwege, Germany Airfield 42-38055  
20 April 1944 Thursday 10 Yes 29 Gorenflos, France V-1 buzz bomb launch site 42-97236 Aircraft crashed the next day
24 April 1944 Monday 11 Yes 31 Erding, Germany Airfields and Factories 42-38055  
27 April 1944 Thursday 12 Yes 35 Nancy & Essey, France Airfield 42-38055  
8 May 1944 Monday 13 Yes 41 Berlin, France City Center 42-38055 Berlin #3
9 May 1944 Tuesday 14 Yes 42 Luxembourg City,Luxembourg Main Railroad yard 42-38055  
12 May 1944 Friday 15 Yes 44 Lutzendorf, Germany Synthetic Oil Refineries 42-38055  
DATE DAY EJR Mission # Original Loading List 457thBG Mission # LOCATION TARGET Aircraft Tail # Pilot Notes
19 May 1944 Friday 16   46 Berlin, Germany City Center 42-38055 Berlin #4
23 May 1944 Tuesday 17 Yes 49 Epinal-Blainville, France Airfields & Railroad Marshaling Yard 42-38055  
24 May 1944 Wednesday 18 Yes 50 of 236 Berlin, Germany V-1 buzz bomb launch site 42-38055 Berlin #5
This was the 10th 457th Bomb Group mission to the BIG-B, Berlin.
Lt Ed Reppa and his crew flew this aircraft (42-38055 no name) on 9 of their previous 10 missions. They had adopted the new ship after losing their original B-24 on mission #2. On 27 May 1944 aircraft #42-38055 with Lt. Birkmans crew on board "failed to return" from 457th BG Mission 52 to Ludwigshaven, Germany. The aircraft was shot down by a Me-109. The crew bailed out and survived. 5 evaded capture and returned to England and 5 became prisoners of war. Lt Reppa's Luckey #42-38055 was also luckey to the last crew to fly it.
2 June 1944 Friday 19 Yes 57 Hardelot, France Normandy gun defenses 42-97088  
D-Day minus 4: Normandy pre-invasion bombing multiple 155mm guns above beaches
3 June 1944 Saturday 20 Yes 58 Nesles, France Normandy gun defenses 42-31615 "Snafusk Shamrock" Photos
D-Day minus 3: Pre-invasion bombing. Multiple guns above beaches.
6 June 1944 Tuesday 21 Yes 60 Arromanches Beach, France Normandy gun defenses 42-31568 D-Day invasion
D-Day Invasion: Gold Beach, the planned British Landing zone. An amazing day. The 457th Bomb Group bombed defenses above the beach from 0700 to 0720. The invasion forces would hit the beaches at 0735.
7 June 1944 Wedhesday 22 Yes 61 Falaise, France Normandy invasion support 42-97558 "Tis Me Sugar" Photo
D-Day plus 1: Invasion support. Target: Major highway intersection. Disrupt and destroy enemy forces in area of the invasion.
8 June 1944 Thursday 23 Yes 62 Etampes, France Normandy invasion support 42-38103 Aircraft transferred 11 Mar 44
D-Day plus 3: Invasion support day 3. Destroy major railroad intersection.
10 June 1944 Saturday 24 Yes 63 Gael, France Airfield 42-17190 "Hitler's Milkman" Photo
14 June 1944 Wedhesday 25 Yes 66 Le Bourget, Melun, Villaroche, France Major airports 42-102954  
Bomb large airports around Paris. 8th Air Force committed 1500 heavy bombers against eleven airfields in France and four in Belgium. The 457th BG provided 67 aircraft.
15 June 1944 Thursday 26 Yes 67 Angouleme, France Railroad Yards 42-38103 Aircraft survived war
19 June 1944 Monday 27 Yes 70 Landes De Bussac, France Nazi Fighter Airfield 42-87899  
20 June 1944 Tuesday 28 Yes 71 Hamburg, Germany Oil and Storage Refineries 42-31383 "American Eagle" Photo
21 June 1944 Wednesday 29   73 Berlin, Germany City Center unknown Berlin #6
The 457th BG sent 42 aircraft on this mission. Lt Reppa flew as deputy flight lead of the formation. Right after "bombs away" his aircraft was hit by flak. This knocked out his two inboard engines (#2 & #3). He left the formation and started back to England alone. Over the North Sea all expendable equipment was thrown out to lighten the weight. Flying barely fast enough to maintain flying speed, he was able to land the craft, using all the runway before coming to a coasting stop at the end of the runway. Twenty-four of the returning planes sustained damage. For the day the Eighth Air Force dispatched 1177 aircraft to the Berlin area. Lt Edward Reppa's story appears on page 131 of the book Black Puff Polly. This was Lt Edward Reppa's 2nd to last mission. This 450th Bombardment Group mission summary states in error that this was his last mission.

On this mission Lt Reppa was not flying with his normal crew. On a scheduled day off he was tasked to replace Lt Clyde Weid (crew #109) on this mission. Decades later Lt Reppa inscribed in the family copy of "Black Puff Polly" that his "Ball Turret gunner, Ssgt Edwyn Dempsey, was killed in action by a piece of FLAK that went through his head". The post mission report for this mission was lost. The U.S. Army Air Force database does show that Ssgt Dempsey died on this day.

22 June 1944 Thursday 30   74 of 236 Rouen, France Rouen Rail Yard unknown My Last B-17 Mission
The 457th Bombardment Group flew 24 aircraft on this mission to bomb fuel dumps across the Seine River from Rouen. The allied forces were still slugging their way from Normandy on the way to Paris at this point in the war. The bombing results in Rouen were good. 15 aircraft were damaged and none were lost. This was Lt Edward Reppa's last combat mission. He reached the magic 30 missions. Lt Reppa was rotated to a non combat flying job. This was the end of four months of high tempo operations operations that started with their first mission on 21 February 1944 at the start of BIG WEEK. Thanks to Lt Reppa's talent, team work and a dash of good luck all of his original crew plus the replacement ball turret gunner, Tsgt Ken Holder, survived the war.

The 457th Bombardment Group flew 162 more missions after Lt Reppa departed. The 457th Bombardment Group flew its last European mission (#236) on 20 April 1945 against railroad marshaling yards in the German town of Seddin just south of Berlin. The 457th BG lost their last aircraft only two days before on 18 April 1944. 9 of the 10 crew members survived the war as POWs for less than a month. 457th BG losses in 1944 and 1945 - 336 Killed and MIA and 388 POWs.

The number of missions that a bomber crew member was required to fly evolved and increased from 1942 to 1945 based on the expected attrition rate. 75% of bomber crews did not survive the first 25 missions. When Lt Reppa arrived at Glatton Field 8th AF bomber crew members were required to fly 25 combat missions before rotation to a non-combat assignment. The 8th Air Force attrition rates in 1944 were high especially over highly defended targets like Berlin and industrial targets. On 7 June 1944, the day after D-Day, the 8th Air Force increased the mission requirement from 25 to 30. No one complained. They volunteered to fly and fight and destroy the Germans and Japaneese and they were successful. The war in Europe ended on VE Day 8 May 1945. Lt Edward Reppa's amazing story is just one of thousands of young people who mobilized and saved the world in only four years."The Greatest Generation" is an understatement.

Totals: 30 Missions, 4 Months





Lt Overdahl-Nav (Pic 1), Lt Stateman-Bombardier, Lt Reppa-Pilot, Lt Ayres-Co Pilot (Pic 1,Pic 2)
USAAF Station 130 Glatton




Visit the companion site dedicated to
Tsgt John S.Klisenbauer B-24 Engineer / Top Turret Gunner -15th Air Force



Website information sources and Links:
457th Bomb Group Association - Original site
457th Bomb Group Association - Newer Site


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