Last Known Activity
Gilbert F. Andrews was born in Virginia in 1923. His mother was Kate B.Andrews (deceased 1987)
According to his NARA enlistment record, Andrews enlisted on June 20, 1942 at Richmond, Virginia as a private in the Army Air Corps. His record also states he had completed 4 years of high school, and that his civilian employment was in the actors and entertainers career field.
After basic training, he was assigned to aerial gunnery school. Upon completion of this course, he was promoted to Sergeant and was sent for further training as a combat crew member. In early 1943, he was assigned to the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingbourn, England. He was then assigned to a crew of the 401st Bomb Squadron.
He flew several combat missions, and was tasked to participate in the bombing raid on the FW-190 aircraft assembly plant at Bremen, Germany. The bomb run was made, and during the turn-off-target, a flak shell exploded under the left wing of the B-17, starting a fire in that wing. At the same time, a head-on firing pass was made by three German fighters. The attack blew a large hole in the nose, and blew out all the Plexiglas. The pilot was shot through the head, the co-pilot was wounded several times, and the bombardier was shot in the leg twice. The navigator was severely wounded, as was the engineer in the top turret.
The engineer dropped from his position and surveyed the situation. A fire had broken out in the radio room, and was being fed by the oxygen supplies. The engineer opened the bomb bay doors and dropped out. Four other wounded crewmen bailed out, but the pilot and gunners were evidently killed. The aircraft broke into two pieces at the radio room, and crashed in flames about 20 miles south of Bremen, near Wuntsdorf.
The five wounded crewmen that bailed out were captured by German troops, treated, and sent to POW camps. Five bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the B-17, and buried in Waldfriedhof Cemetery in Vechta, Germany. After the war, the bodies were removed to the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium, where SSgt Andrews lies in Plot B, Row 11, Grave 17.
USAAC-USAAF Aircraft Inventory Records
NARA Enlistment records
The aircraft involved in this incident was B-17F # 41-24459, nicknamed "Hellsapoppin'" assigned to the 401st Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 15523 identifies the crew as:
1 Lt John W. Wilson p
1 Arthur A. Bushnell c-p
1 Lt Robert C. Barton nav
1 Lt Harold Romm bomb
TSgt Norman L. Thompson eng/tt gun
TSgt Howard A. Earney r/o
SSgt Robert H. Ade btg
SSgt Walter Bohaczyk lwg
SSgt Clifford E. Cadle rwg
SSgt Gilbert F. Andrews tail gun
Lts Bushnell, Barton, and Romm, along with TSgs Thompson and Earney were the survivors.
Much confusion exists among accounts as to the correct MACR number. It is given as 5520 (actually for a P-51,) 15520 (a B-17 of the 368th Bomb Squadron,) 15522 (a B-17 of the 401st shot down on the same mission.) The number 15523 is correct, and provides details of crash and crew.