Last Known Activity
According to available records, John P. Bonnassiolle was born in Oakland, California in 1923. He completed 4 years of high school, and later worked as a tinsmth and in sheet metal repair. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on October 19, 1942. After basic training, he was assigned to the Aerial Gunnery School where he became proficient in aerial gunnery.
He was assigned to the 578th Bomb Squadron of the 392nd Bomb Group, based at Wendling, England. He was assigned as ball turret gunner on the crew headed by 2nd Lieutenant Robert R. Bishop.
On April 29, 1944, a massive raid of 751 bombers was scheduled against the Friedrichstrasse Railroad Station in Berlin. This station was a key part of the underground and elevated train system that crossed Berlin and connected the city to the other parts of Germany. Lt. Bishop's crew was one of the many scheduled crews that would take part.
Winds, weather, and clouds partially separated the bomber stream before the target was reached. This meant that part of the aircraft - the 392nd Bomb Group's B-24s - had no fighter escort. Approximately 350 enemy aircraft attacked the formation as it made the bomb run. Many of these aircraft performed double sorties in that they attacked, landed for rearming and refueling, and attacked again.
Lt. Bishop's B-24 was seen falling away from the formation with the elevator assembly badly shot up, according to reports. The aircraft eventually crashed near the town of East Mietze, north of Hannover, Germany. German witnesses on the ground stated all airmen died in the crash. Approximately one hour after the crash, a bomb exploded, sending debris throughout the small town.
German troops later recovered three bodies from the wreckage, and buried them in a small cemetery in Hannover. In 1946, the Graves Registration Accounting for POW/MIA team found additional remains plus identification tags at the scene of the crash. These remains were buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Neuville-en-Condroz, Belgium after confirmed the identity of two sets of remains.
In 2005 and 2007, teams found further evidence of American fliers. Testing with DNA confirmed Bonnassiolle's identity. His remains were returned to the family to be buried at San Francisco, California National Cemetery.
USAAF aircraft records
Stars and Stripes issue October2, 2005
The aircraft involved was B-24J #42-110105, piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert R. Bishop. 578th BS, 392ndBG. This mission was the 10th for this crew. MACR 4446 applies.
The entire crew consisted of:
2nd Lt Robert R. Bishop pilot
2nd Lt Arthur W. Luce co-pilot
2nd Lt Thomas Digman bombardier
2nd Lt Donald W. Hess navigator
SSgt Ralph H. McDonald tail gunner
SSgt John J. Karaso radio operator
Sgt James T. Blong engineer/top turret gunner
Sgt John P. Bonnassiolle ball turret gunner
Sgt John T. Harrington right waist gunner
Sgt Michael A. Chiodo left waist gunner
Although 392nd aircraft crew inventory and mission history records show this to be the crew of April 29, 1944, other records indicate that SSgt Orus Baxter, another gunner, was aboard and one of the named gunners did not fly the mission. Graves Registration lists Baxter as one identified at the crash site, however 392nd BG records state he was relieved before the mission, and Blong replaced him.
Sgt Bonnassiolle's remains were positively identified by DNA testing on June 14, 2010. Mitochondrial DNA was matched with a surviving sister.