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Page History: 42-102659 IW-J Hard Seventeen (AKA Hard Luck)

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Page Revision: 2015/05/31 00:44




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Final Mission

The Hard Seventeen's final mission was to hit the railroad marshaling yards of Euskirchen (Mission #194). Manned by the R.B. Thompson crew on January 15 of 1945, she was struck by flack while over Kassel, Germany, damaging her engines and knocking one of them completely out. The crew opted to stay with the formation but, only a few minutes short of the target, a second engine began to race out of control and they had to shut it down. Running now only on two engines, they fell behind the main group and were forced to dump their bombs and return to base. There was some discussion as to what to do, some wanting to return to Deenethorpe, all the way back across the Channel, while others argued that it was too dangerous. A ditching in the North Atlantic would have been certain death for all in those icy waters.

Before they could make a decision, a third damaged engine failed and she began to lose altitude. The navigator, Bill Bruce, quickly located a Polish RAF base in newly liberated Grimbergen, Belgium, and they quickly turned the aircraft towards it. With visibility not much more that 2,000 feet, Thompson discovered that he was at a right angle to the runway and made the decision to go around and land downwind. As he banked right, he found a grove of trees blocking their path and veered right again only to find two tall industrial chimneys from a factory directly in their path. Lacking the time to respond and the power to pull up, Thompson was forced to fly between them. The aircraft just managed to "squeeze" through them, missing one chimney on the right by no more than three feet and the other on the left by no more than 6. Having cleared the chimneys, they were now faced with the electrical lines that powered complex. The pilot was then forced to dive underneath them, now missing the ground by not much more than a few feet. They cleared that obstacle, only to find two houses directly in their path. Thompson was then able to clear the first house but was forced to lift a wing to miss the roof of the second house.

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