Arthur Marozas: a tail gunner on a mission to bomb Berlin

By KBJR News 1

Credit: Grant Marozas

Arthur Marozas (B-17G #42-97311 Shoo Shoo Baby)

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    Arthur Marozas (B-17G #42-97311 Shoo Shoo Baby)

    (Grant Marozas)

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May 19, 2014 Updated May 25, 2014 at 10:26 PM CDT

Note from granddaughter of Arthur Marozas, Ramona Marozas:

My grandpa was a tail gunner on a bomb crew who was making a run over Germany. They were shot down and landed in Poland. He knew the Polish language so he was able to understand them. My grandmother has informed me that ‘The Underground’ (people who were trying to help the allies) smuggled the whole crew back to England. From what my grandpa says, the crew was lucky to have crash-landed in Poland and not Germany. “Had we crashed down in Germany, you wouldn’t be here,” my Grandpa has said.

I love him so much, and most of my childhood memories with him are this: All of the grandkids surrounding him in a circle while he told us his war stories. My grandpa currently resides at a senior facility in Rochester, MN. He remembers his war stories like they were yesterday, and enjoys telling his stories.

*Important note: Arthur Marozas’ handwritten story will be posted here in the near future.

303rd BG Mission Reports:

303rd BG (H) Combat Mission No. 339
18 March 1945
Target: Marshalling Yard at Berlin, Germany
Crews Dispatched: 39
Length of Mission: 8 hours, 32 minutes
Bomb Load: 5 X 1,000 lb. H.E. M44 bombs
Bombing Altitudes: 26,500, 26,200 and 27,500 ft.
Ammo Fired: 0 rounds

The Berlin, Germany marshalling yard was the first priority target (visual) and the second priority target (H2X). The third priority target was the airfield at Ludwigslust, Germany. Two aircraft returned early after reaching enemy territory. Both were considered credit stories - #42-97311 Shoo Shoo Baby - plane nickname, 427BS (Lt. Demian) and #44-6006 (No Name), 358BS (Lt. Taub).

Thirty-eight Fortresses dropped 185 1,000 lb. H.E. bombs on the second priority target by PFF (H2X). There were 6/10 low clouds with tops at 7,000 feet, a high haze with tops at 24,000 feet, and dense, persistent contrails in the target area that prevented visual bombing. Results were generally unobserved, but a number of crews reported hits in the city and a few saw the marshalling yard.

There was no enemy air opposition and friendly support by 179 P-51s was very good. Flak was intense and quite accurate in the target area, especially for the low Squadron. Some fire was also encountered on the route out. Seven aircraft had major battle damage and fourteen, minor damage. One 359BS crewman received a shoulder wound from flak.

Twi 427BS aircraft and crews landed in Russian territory. The missing crewmen were unhurt and later returned to Molesworth. The Nos. 1 and 3 engines of #42-102411 Miss Lace - plane nickname, 427BS, were disabled. 2Lt. Robert W. Krohn, pilot, opted to go toward the Russian lines across the Oder River. He landed at a Warsaw, Poland fighter field where his B-17 was left.

2Lt. James C. Cassels’ Nos. 2 and 4 engines in #44-6921 (No Name), 427BS, were out. The left aileron was knocked out by flak and the No. 4 gas tank was damaged and gas and oil were lost. A wheels up landing was made on a temporary airstrip along a bomb damaged main runway at Nasieisk, Poland (25 miles NNW of Warsaw).

Both aircraft encountered Russiak YAK fighters who gave the crew some scary moments. The crews were interrogated and feted by Russian Officers and quartered in Polish homes. Following some interesting experience with the Russians and Polish civilians they were transported back to American facilities and thence back to Molesworth.

The following is a narrative of what happened by the pilot, Robert Krohn, “A One Way Trip for Miss Lace”:

On our fourth mission, we were assigned the beautiful Miss Lace to deliver a few presents to Adolph. The date was March 18, 1945, and the delivery point was the dreaded Big B (Berlin). As we reached the I.P., the target location was plainly visible by the concentration of flak thrown at the groups ahead of us. Bombs away! Just as the bomb bay doors were closed, we lost the prop control on No. 1 engine. The set free prop went to 3400 R.P.M.s, causing a tremendous vibration. We slipped from our place information and were trying to keep up when we lost No. 3 engine. The 303rd was the last group over the target that day, so we were left alone.

M.E. 262s were making runs through the returning groups, so a decision had to be made. At briefings, we were told that if in trouble, turn East and visit the Russians,for they had driven to the Oder River.
The decision was made to go East. Not long after we entered Russian held territory, two Yak fighters approached from the rear.

One stayed at 6 o'clock high and the other pulled in very close on the left side; so close, we observed the pilot drawing our tail insignia on a note pad. He gave us a quick wave and was gone. By this time, we were down to about 8,000 feet and noticed a cloud deck forming beneath us. Not knowing how far it extended and how thick it might get, we decided to get beneath it to be in position to locate a landing site when the time came.

A break in the clouds afforded us a chance to spiral down, and in doing so, the windshield iced up with the moisture on the cold plexiglass. An occasional look out the opened side window until the ice dissipated, showed us there were no obstructions ahead. Cruising along on two fans at 1,000 feet over miles and miles of farmland created a very peaceful scene, but we still had to put the Lady down somewhere.

Christen, the navigator, reported we should be nearing the Vistula River, and then we would turn South to Warsaw, where we should find a place to land. About 10 minutes later, we spotted a long line of trees bordering the river, and off to the right was Warsaw, what was left of it. Look! There's a plane, and another, and another. Small Russian biplanes were practicing takeoffs and landings on an airstrip. We circled the field until the planes had landed and out of the way. A red flare gave us clearance to land.

What we didn't know, was when the Germans were driven from the area, they mined the field and blew it up. The Russians filled the holes and rolled it smooth so their small planes could use it, but Miss Lace would sink into each fill. This caused a tail up - tail down, each time the wheels entered a filled hole. In one respect, this was fortunate, for without a hydraulic system, the brakes were useless and each hole slowed us down. As we rolled to a stop, the right landing gear was in a hole and by the time we exited the plane, the right wing was almost to the ground. At that moment, a staff car drove up and out popped a Russian officer who turned out to be the commandant of that area.

He wasn't particularly impressed with the name Krohn, a good German name on the flight jacket, and there was a brief thought of being shot on the spot. Fortunately, Minoff, our ball turret operator, conveyed to him that we were friendly Americans and soon all were smiling. Next to the airfield were perhaps 25 or 30 homes and apartments, some two and three stories, which had not been destroyed when the Germans departed. It was in these units, occupied by Polish families, that we were billeted. Kindig and I were housed with a shoemaker, his wife and two daughters.

Since all my grandparents were from Germany and often spoke in German, many words and phrases became known to me. Most Poles had knowledge of the German language and thus we communicated. We had meals, such as they were, at the Russian mess hall. They consisted of potatoes, black bread, carrots, and borscht.

A party was held in our honor one night, and to the menu they added pigs knuckles and vodka. Their vodka tasted very similar to the result of sucking too long on the hose while sip honing gasoline. Those of us who drank, were asked to toast Stalin and Roosevelt by each Russian across from us, and being outnumbered, we proceeded to get staggering drunk.

The airfield was almost two miles from Warsaw proper, and together, we waited on the dirt road leading to the city to hitch a ride. It wasn't long before a horse drawn wagon came by and gave us a ride. At the edge of town lay the power station in shambles; twisted rails snaking some fifty feet in the air. An estimated 95 percent of the city was reduced to rubble and burned. Shortly after we left our transportation, a Polish man approached us and in broken English, asked if we were Americans. He immediately became our tour guide.

One street which sustained minimum damage, had begun to show signs of becoming the town center with a few shops open for business. Our guide took us to where we could exchange English Pounds for Polish Z lotys. First stop was a shop to buy tobacco and papers to roll our own cigarettes, for by this time, we had exhausted our supply brought with us.

During the three trips into Warsaw, we probably never saw over 100 people in this area at one time, and they were extremely friendly when they discovered we were American flyers. They shook our hands, and even received hugs from some of the older women. It was through these contacts we gained the impression that the Poles hated the Russians even more than the Germans. At least when the Germans overran Poland they paid the people a living wage for their forced work.

Word finally reached our American base at Poltava, Russia, that our crew was in Warsaw, and on the seventh day, a C-47 arrived. The pilot said he was going on to Lodz to get a fighter pilot, and would return the next morning to get us. He left us two cases of Crations and a case of cigarettes. This called for a farewell party!

In the city, we had seen a shop with a small supply of red meat; a commodity very few people had the means to purchase. We bought the entire lot of perhaps five or six pounds, and with the C rations, made up a grand meal for about 20 people in the immediate area that evening. All the smokers got packs of cigarettes, and one of the older men produced a bottle of Schnapps that had been carefully saved for a special occasion. A wind-up Victrola provided music for dancing, and at that time, the war seemed to be far, far away.

The following morning, after a tearful good-bye with our hosts and new made friends, we departed for Poltava. There, we were provided with showers, clean clothes and good food for the first time in a week. Even the G.I. bunk was like heaven, after the boards and comforter back in Warsaw. Our next stop was Tehran, Iran. One would never know a war was going on here, for the Officer's Club had all the brands of liquor known, and a three-piece orchestra playing dinner music in the dining room. It would have been nice to fight the rest of the war in Tehran.

From here we flew to Cairo, Egypt, and since our money was running low, we were able to replenish our supply at the American base. This prompted some of the crew to go on sick call, for there were sights to be seen in Egypt. First stop was the famous Shepherds Hotel and Bar, and sitting on the veranda drinking mint juleps. Then the Red Cross tour to the Sphinx and the pyramids were most interesting, including the ride on a smelly camel. Next was a visit to the British Museum, where all the ancient artifacts removed from digs and pyramids were kept. The gold and jewels were a wonder to behold, and each room was guarded by a soldier with a submachine gun.

After two great days in Cairo we were "well enough" to travel. We were on our way to Naples, Italy, the next day with a stopover in Tunis, Tunisia. Naples had been blacked out since the war began, and the night we arrived, the lights were turned on for the first time. Streets were packed solid with people shouting, singing, hugging and kissing. One would have thought the war was over. The following day, we were on our way to London, with a refueling stop in Paris; just long enough to stretch our legs and no chance to see the sights.

The following day, a bus ride completed our journey back to Molesworth. The next morning, we rejoined the war effort. "Lt. Krohn, it is 4:30-breakfast in 45 minutes. Briefing 5:45."

The following article is from a Hell's Angels Newsletter from December 1989:

B-17G #42-97311 Shoo Shoo Baby (427BS) GN-O
(crew assigned 427BS: 28 Feb 1945 - photo: 10 Mar 1945)

Shoo Shoo Baby was the B-17 in which Correspondent Walter L. Cronkite flew on "D-Day" 6 June 1944 on a mission to attack a bridge at Caen, France. Pilot was Captain Robert W. Sheets.

Crew Changes: Monyok (WG) Crew deletion. Crew size was changed from 9 to 8 men

Crew incident: On 18 March 1945 mission #339 to Berlin, Germany in B-17G #42-102411 Miss Lace (427BS) GN-P. Experienced intense and accurate flak. The #1 and #2 engines were disabled. Lt Krohn opted to go toward the Russian lines across the Oder River. The B-17 was left in Poland. B-17G #44-6921 (No name) (427BS) GN-F, piloted by Lt J. Cassels also landed in Poland and joined up with the Krohn Crew.

Both B-17 encountered Russian YAK fighters who gave the crews some scary moments. The crews were interrogated by Russian Officers and quartered in Polish homes. Following some interesting experiences with the Russian and Polish civilians they were transported to American facilities and thence back to Molesworth via Russia, Iran, Egypt, Italy and France.

The Krohn Crew flew its first mission on 12 March 1945 and 11th and last mission on 25 April 1945 - the 364th and last 303rd BG(H) mission. Probably for the first time since the 303rd BGA was organized in 1975, a complete crew attended a reunion. That honor was achieved in Norfolk by Lt. Krohn's crew which celebrated their forty-fifth anniversary. Lt. Krohn's crew was formed in the US in October of 1944. They arrived in England and eventually joined the 427th Sqdn. of the 303rd on Feb. 26, 1945.

Posted to the web by Ramona Marozas