Last Known Activity
John Paul Hurdle was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and entered the military service there.
The first mention of him in records found indicate he was assigned to Knettishall, England in September, 1943, part of a deployed B-17 crew with the 388th Bomb Group. Because of basic training, flight engineer school, and gunnery school, it is suspected he enlisted in late 1941 or early 1942 to arrive in England with TSgt rank and flight experience.
The crew he was assigned to flew 27 missions, but only received credit for 22 as there were five aborts. There were 2 aborts for engine failure, 1 because the navigator lost consciousness, 1 because the tail assembly iced over and the aircraft could not keep up with the formation, and 1 because the assembly aircraft and the squadron could not be located in cloudy weather.
On May 25, 1944, the crew was alerted for a bombing mission against German war facilities in France. Resistance approaching the target was not heavy, but at the target, flak was intense. The aircraft took direct hits and engines #3 and 4 were both set afire. The aircraft went into a tight spin and exploded before hitting the ground.
Evidently the crew managed to bail out as the crash report lists 2 Killed in Action and 8 taken Prisoner of War. Actually, 2 of the crew evaded capture and eventually were returned to Allied hands.
TSgt Hurdle was found dead, and eventually buried in the Normandy American Cemetery at Collesville-sur-Mer, France. He lies in Plot D, Row 6, Grave 39.
USAAC-USAAF Aircraft Inventory Records
American Battlefield Commission records
THe aircraft involved in this incident was B-17G # 42-31741, nicknamed "Thunderbolt," and assigned to the 562nd Bomb Squadron. Previous names for this aircraft were "Hi Fever" and "Haughton Hazy."
Missing Air Crew Report 5264 covers this incident and 388th BG assignment records names the crew as:
Cpt James E. Zengerle p
1 Lt Albert B. Millin c-p
1 Lt Walter H. Travis nav
2 Lt Wayne A. Barnett bomb
TSgt John P. Hurdle eng/tt gun
TSgt William J. Lazar r/o
Tsgt Albert H. Bibbens, Jr wg
TSgt Eugene J. Bensen lwg
SSgt Louis , Lefevre tail gun
TSgt Edward H. Leonard btg
However, 388th Bomb Group loading and mission lists present a different story. Some of the differences incude:
TSgt Lazar was actually the right waist gunner
TSgt Albert H. Bibbens was actually the radio operator
SSgt Louis M. LeFevre was not on the flight as he was KIA in February, 1944. No tail gunner was aboard
TSgt Edward H. Leonard was shown with middle initial "A."
The MACR indicates 8 POW, 2 KIA.
Other records indicate Zengerle and Millin evaded; Hurdle listed as KIA; Barnett listed MIA; all others POW.
TSgt Bibbens only flew 3 missions with crew and was usually right waist gunner, and on last mission, flew as R/O.
Identification of crew picture:
left to right
Capt R.E. Bynum (not on crew)
Although the 562nd Bomb Squadron had an aircraft named "Joho's Jokers" (#42-30265), the Zengerle crew never flew it, according to mission logs, so it is unclear why they are posed in front of this aircraft.