ABOVE: A study of Big Yanks markings
Click on image for a closer view
LEFT: A photo of Big Yanks crew.
UNIT: 840th Bomb. Sq. (H), 483rd Bomb. Gp. (H), 306th Combat Wing, 5th Air Division, 15th AF, MTO
"BIG YANK" was named by Crew Chief Irvin "Irv" Davis. The nose-art included a portrait of the wartime President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was painted by Italian artist Mario Rucci. "BIG YANK" completed 50 combat missions as the mount of various crews. After VE-Day, the B-17 was converted for passenger use with the so-called "Homebound Airlines", part of the "GREEN PROJECT" which utilized ex-combat aircraft returning to the USA to transport returning servicemen as well. "BIG YANK" was subsequently selected as an Air-Sea Rescue plane and was used at least once in this role to drop a boat to a downed American fighter pilot in the Adriatic Sea. As the 483rd BG was deactivated at Pisa, Italy in September 1945, "BIG YANK" was returned to the USA. The plane's last flight was to Walnut Ridge, Arkansas on December 28, 1945. A picture of "BIG YANK" is displayed at the Boeing Flight Museum at Seattle, Washington.
William S. Strapko
Clair E. Harper
Edwin F. Levin
(1) Franklin R. Harrison, Jr.
Howard C. Wehrner
Cecil E. Shellabarger
(4) Jack T. Lengsfield
(2) James H. McIntyre
Kenneth E. Roberts
Louis E. Brown
(3) Lincoln F. Broyhill
North Tonawanda, New York|
Des Moines, Iowa
Kew Gardens, Long Island, New York
Clostsa, New Jersey
Garden City, Michigan
New Orleans, Louisiana
Irvin H. "Irv" Davis
Port Allegheny, Pennsylvania|
After President Roosevelt passed away, on Sunday April 15, 1945, a special memorial service was held at Sterparone. "BIG YANK" Radio Operator Albert Bishop was fittingly chosen to play "Taps".
On April 27, 1945, McIntyre was relieved to the USA. After VE-Day - Brown, Broyhill, Harrison, Lengsfield, Roberts and Shellabarger went to the 301st Bomb Group on May 18, 1945. Eventually, all crew members returned safely home to the USA.
Strapko, Harper, Levin, Wehner and Bishop were sent to Pisa, Italy to become part of the so-called "Homebound Airlines". When the 483rd BG was deactivated, the remaining five-man Strapko Crew went to the 2nd BG at Naples, Italy and were assigned a "war-weary" B-17 "O, MOM" (For Ohio, Michigan, Oklahoma and Minnesota) for the return flight to the USA.
Radio Operator/Gunner Albert Bishop remembers: "Our 'Red Tail' 99th (Ftr. Sq.
) fighter escort took off as soon as the Me 262s' presence was announced on
combat radios. 'BIG YANK' had 'Tail-end Charlie' position. They dived into
us, firing, with flaps down at about 20-30 degrees and noses up attitude
setting up a very good target for our gunners at our slow airspeed."
From an interview published May 3, 1945, in the Des Moines, Iowa "Plain Talk"
Tail Gunner Lincoln Broyhill recalled: "I saw four jets attacking a lone B-17 from another group. The B-17 knocked down one of the enemy fighters before it flew in a crippled manner towards the Russian lines. The remaining three fighters came at our plane. Two of them came right behind each other at my position. They were about 1000 yards away when I started cutting loose with my guns. The first (Me 262) made a pass at 200 yards and my tracers were going right into its fuselage. Suddenly it went down in flames. The second came into my sights after the first had dropped. I kept shooting away because he was getting into my hair. Suddenly, it also spiraled down. Upon hitting the ground, it burst into flames. Because I had my guns spitting lead so rapidly, they jammed."
Ball-turret Gunner Cecil Shellabarger recalled: "I began shooting at the third enemy plane when it was about 800 yards away and when he came within 100 yards of our tail, he peeled off. He seemed to stand on end when all at once, he fell off on his left wing. I shot at him again and hit him between the wing and fueslage. He went down into a straight dive and about 4,000 feet from the ground, it disintegrated."
Engineer/Top-turret Gunner Howard Wehner recalled: "They started coming right at me. I kept my guns trained on them and 'bingo', two more jets were going down in flames."
RO/G Al Bishop recalled:
Due in no small part to the achievements of the Strapko Crew of "BIG YANK" on
the Berlin mission of March 24th, the 483rd Bomb Group was awarded a
Distinguished Unit Citation - However, the crew was somehow overlooked, on
this day, for any personal awards. They did receive a considerable amount of
recognition in "Stars and Stripes" and newspapers in the USA. There is a
further effort to get awards for the crewmembers in recognition of their
significant accomplishments and the connection to FDR.
BACK TO BIG FRIENDS MENU
BACK TO MAIN MENU