Charles L. Stevenson
Charles L. “Steve” Stevenson was the navigator of Herman’s original crew. He and Herman flew side by side in “the nose” of the B-17, and they became close friends.
On January 11, 1944, Herman did not fly with his crew …. he was out with a broken ear drum. Smithy and the crew flew in the B-17 “Weary bones” toward a fighter aircraft factory at Halberstadt … deep penetration into Germany and only 144 miles from Berlin. On that date, according to the Air Force Historical Studies Office, the 8th Air Force bombers met fierce opposition, estimated at 500 fighters encountered, and 60 bombers were lost.
During these attacks, the nose of Weary Bones was struck by shell fire. The bombardier called on the intercom: “The navigator has been hit!” He was the only crew member close enough to give aid to his wounded comrade but Steve died instantly. Smithy wrote this account in the year 2000, saying that “the horror of those few seconds during the afternoon of January 11, 1944 still remains to haunt the surviving crew members of Weary Bones.
Smithy learned that Lt. Burton C. Gustafson, the bombardier that replaced Herman that day, was shot down on May 24, 1944 on a mission to Berlin and was made a POW. The last information was that Lt. Gustafson was living in Connecticut but Smithy was not able to find him nor have I.
I was able to find an online Memorial to Charles L. Stevenson. Tragically, on September 2, 1949, Steve’s brother, Captain Edwin R. Stevenson was killed when the Army C-47 he was piloting crashed near Anchorage AK. I would love to make contact with the family of Charles L. Stevenson, Herman’s comrade in “the nose.” Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Herman was deeply affected by this. If not for his ear drum he would have been sitting next to Steve. He wrote soon afterward:
WE WILL REMEMBER
… And we shall say to him, when we meet once again “over there” … “There were no tears, we bowed our heads, each with a silent prayer, each with a personal thought … through each flight you were with us, in spirit, in guidance, as it always was …
We will remember with each bomb dropped, each mile flown, each letter written … yes, Steve, we will remember”.
In memory of Charles Stevenson, Navigator, killed in action January 11, 1944, Halberstadt Mission. Herman Allen January 15, 1944.