Last Known Activity
Robert H. Ade was born in 1918 in Pennsylvania. He was residing in that state when he was drafted and inducted into the Army on November 5, 1941, at Fort George G. Meade, Pennsylvania. He was assigned as a private to the Army Air Corps. His NARA enlistment record states he had completed 2 years of high school, and was single with no dependents.
After completing basic training, he received orders to aerial gunnery school. When he graduated from that training, he was promoted to Sergeant and assigned to an operational training unit where he received combat crew training and further instructions in aerial gunnery.
In early 1943, he was deployed to England where he was assigned to the 91st Bomb Group, based at Bassingbourn, England. He was then further assigned to the 401st Bomb Squadron , and after transitional training, began flying combat missions.
On one occasion, February 16, 1943, he was acting as the ball turret gunner on B-17 # 42-5337 under the command of Lt. John W. Carroll. In flight, at 23,000 feet altitude, the turret's heating system became inoperative, and Ade fell unconscious. The aircraft aborted, and Ade was medically treated upon returning to base.
On April 17, 1943, he was scheduled to fly as part of Lt. John W. Wilson's crew on the bombing raid against the aircraft assembly plant at Bremen, Germany. Heavy flak was encountered over the target, and after bomb drop and the aircraft attempted to turn to the return route, enemy fighters engaged the formation.
A lone flak burst under the wing jolted the aircraft Ade was in, and a fire began in the left wing. Head-on attacks from fighters put a large hole in the left "cheek" of the aircraft, and blew out all Plexiglas coverings. The pilot was shot in the head, the navigator received bullet wounds in all four extremities, the bombardier was hit in the leg on two different ocassions, and the co-pilot was severely wounded. The engineer, in the top turret, was also wounded, but dropped down to check the aircraft.
He noted a fire had erupted in the radio room, and was spreading rapidly, being fueled by the oxygen supplies. He opened the bomb bay doors and dropped out of the aircraft through the open doors. By now, the fire had engulfed the interior of the aircraft. Somehow, the four wounded crewmen, including the radio operator, managed to bail out before the ship broke in two at the radio room and crashed in flames near Wunsdorf, near Bremen.
The wounded men were all captured and medically treated by German troops. They remained POWs until war's end. Five bodies were recovered from the wreckage, and were buried at the Waldfriedhof Cemetery in Vechta, Germany. They were moved after the war to the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium where SSGT Robert H. Ade lies in Plot B, Row 32, Grave 26.
USAAC-USAAF Aircraft Inventory Records
NARA Enlistment records
SSgt Robert H. Ade was the ball turret gunner on B-17F #41-24459, nicknamed "Hellsapoppin'" and assigned to the 401st Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 15523 applies and identifies the crew as:
1 Lt John W. Wilson p
1 Lt 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 TSgts Thompson and Earney were the survivors. All others were either killed in the attacks or trapped by the fire and could not bail out.
Different accounts list different MACR numbers to this incident. These vary from 5520 (a P-51 shot down in 1944,) 15520 (a B-17 from the 368th Bomb Squadron,) 15522 (a B-17 of the 401st lost on the same mission.) The number 15523 is the correct number.
Service photo source: