Albert H. Hintenach, Mission May 23, 1944

I, First Lieutenant Albert H. Hintenach, 0797532, certify that I was an eye witness to the events described below. On 23 May 1944, we were engaged on a mission to bomb important enemy troop concentrations at Frascati, Italy. My B-24 aircraft No. 80 was flying on the right wing of 1st Lt. Robert J. Gallagher, pilot of aircraft No. 85. While on the turn preparatory to making our bomb run we encountered a barrage of intense and highly accurate heavy anti-aircraft fire. Lt. Gallagher’s heavy bomber received a direct hit underneath the waist window. Traveling upward the shell exploded and blew off the entire top of the aircraft from the antenna to slightly aft of the waist windows. Two life rafts and other equipment, including several parachutes which are customarily hung near the waist windows, were blown out by the blast. In addition, the right elevator cables were severed and left flapping. The bottom ball turret dropped to its full extended position due to the hydraulic lines being severed and added to the drag of the crippled ship by cutting down the needed air speed. Lt. Gallagher did not falter in his course after being damaged. I called to him over the radio phones and advised him to go back to the home base.

Lt. Gallagher did not reply and I believe his radio facilities were knocked out by the destructive explosion. Realizing that they were approaching the target Lt. Gallagher continued on his bomb run with his full load of six-one thousand (6X1000) pound bombs. We found the target entirely obscured by clouds which made it impossible for us to locate the target. Lt. Gallagher, although proceeding with difficulty, did not salvo his bombs and thus lighten his aircraft until all chance of hitting the target was abandoned. He kept in the formation until five minutes after the target when it was finally decided that the primary target or secondary targets could not be bombed due to the weather. Then, being over water, he salvoed his bombs through the inoperative bomb bay doors. Aircraft No. 88, piloted by Lt. Mitchell, and myself left the formation in order to escort Lt. Gallagher back to the home base and furnish protection against enemy fighters known to be in that battle area. During this time the entire inside of Lt. Gallagher's aircraft near the waist section was open to our view. It was possible to look into the damaged aircraft and see two men, evidently wounded, lying on the floor and two other crew men rendering first aid and caring for them. All this time Lt. Gallagher kept his crippled aircraft under control. At this time he was flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet and started to let down gradually as the friendly field near Naples was approached. Then coming in towards the field, Lt. Gallagher was at an altitude of 2000 feet. The air in the vicinity of the field was very turbulent.

Suddenly I saw Lt. Gallagher's damaged aircraft nose over and dive directly towards the ground where it buried itself in the ground and exploded. No occupants of the aircraft left it although they had many opportunities to do so. I believe that Lt. Gallagher's sole thought was to deliver the wounded men to safety rather than abandoning them and seeking safety for himself by bailing out.

Signed             Albert H. Hintenach, 1st Lt. Air Corps 0-797532

Witness:

John W. Preble, Jr. Capt. Air Corps, Squadron S/2