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S/Sgt Clifford A. Gustafson - 419th Squadron


The Loss of John Kraynyak's Buddy: S/Sgt Clifford A. Gustafson, ASN-17054878, 15th AF, 301st BG, 419th BS, August 24, 1944

S/Sgt Clifford A. Gustafson, #17054878 entered the service from Box 123, Route #1, Ault, Colorado. He was a good friend of Sgt. Kraynyak. His crew position was as a Tail Gunner. According to Sgt Kraynyak, he was a "True Airman". Sgt. Gustafson came to the 419th from an unknown B-24 outfit. He became qualified as a B-17 Tail Gunner.

Before he was declared Missing In Action, he was wounded over Austria when a 20 mm shell exploded in the tail section, peppering his back with shrapnel, severing nerves in his right arm, and leaving no sensation in some of his fingers. As a result of his injuries, he was offered a trip back to the United States. He refused the offer, opted to recuperate, and return to the 419th to complete his missions. For the wounds received in action against the enemy on 26 June 1944 over Austria, he was awarded the Purple Heart. His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three Oak-Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart.

On 24 August 1944, the 301st BG was part of the 5th Bomb Wing attack of the Paradubice Aerodrome, Czechoslovakia, during which 158 bombers unloaded 381 tons of bombs. The twenty-six 301st B-17s receiving mission credit achieved good coverage with their bomb loads. Twenty miles northeast of Steyr, Austria the Group observed twenty FW-190s, two of which attacked the bombers. Overall, the 15th Air Force lost fourteen heavy bombers on August 24th, and logged one of its last high-claim days, 29 Luftwaffe claimed destroyed by the bombers, and ten claimed by the fighters.

From 22-24 August 1944, the Italian-based heavies lost 59 bombers and seven fighters, while it claimed 140 Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed. The 301st's only loss for the day, however, was caused in an unusual way. 2nd Lt. Stanley A. Peterson's B-17, "Smiling Elsie" # 44-6364 caught fire over the Adriatic Sea after being hit by a 301st Gunner test-firing his .50s. 2nd Lt. Stanley A. Peterson ordered his crew to bail out over water, and he completed calls to Air Sea Rescue and attempted to ditch the aircraft in order to get rubber boats to the crew. Some parachutes were observed from the aircraft. While maneuvering for descent the aircraft was observed to explode. For his heroic actions on 24 August 1944, 2nd Lt. Stanley A. Peterson posthumously received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with an Oak-Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart.

The crew of 2nd Lt. Stanley A. Peterson'sB-17, "Smiling Elsie" # 44-6364 who were killed on August 24, 1944 was:

CURTIN, JOHN M - PFC 12139071 NY 24-Aug-44

EISENSTEIN, ALEX - 2nd LT O-2058368 IL 24-Aug-44

GUSTAFSON, CLIFFORD A - S/SGT 17054878 CO 24-Aug-44

PETERSON, STANLEY A - 2nd LT O-753813 IL 24-Aug-44

WHITE, FRANK J - S/SGT 33573243 PA 24-Aug-44

The surviving crew members of 2nd Lt. Stanley A. Peterson's B-17, "Smiling Elsie" # 44-6364 on August 24, 1944 were:




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