Monte Ogens

MACR: 1831

Sgt. Monte Ogens was assigned to the 301st BG 419th Squadron.
Military Occupational Specialty (MOS): Photo.

Sgt. Monte Ogens, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin ASN #16047491, a photographer attached to the 301st BG, 353rd BS survived a midair collision on January 11, 1944 when the B-17F #42-30357 piloted by Richard D. Williams collided with another B-17 and crashed just south of Platanitsa (N37° 56' 58.1" E21° 51' 14.9"), north of Agrambela, Greece while on a mission to bomb the harbor installations at Piraeus, Greece.

On that fateful day, the briefed mission was for the 5th Wing composed of the 2nd, 97th, 301st and 99th Bomb Groups, to fly in a southerly course through the heel of Italy to the town of Lecce where the Wing would then take a heading of 98° degrees out over the Adriatic Sea, to a point 37°.48' N 22°.48' E over the Peloponnese peninsula of Greece. From this point the crews were briefed to complete a 90° degree turn to the Initial Point over Lagousa Island. From there the mission dictated a straight run in to the target, reassemble, and return to base. After the formation was organized and began making its way to the target, the Groups ran into a weather front of 10/10 clouds. At eighteen thousand feet they entered an overcast. The clouds were very thick and visibility was not much beyond the wingtips, making it almost impossible to see other aircraft in the formation. At that altitude, and with the thickness of the clouds, ice began to form on their wings. In such situations it was standard operating procedure for trailing squadrons in the formation to fly off course for a couple minutes to obtain some spacing from the lead squadron, which would continue to maintain its course.

However, as the 97th BG began making a left turn for their bomb run on the target, the lead ship of the 342nd BS encountered severe turbulence made by the preceding elements of the Wing. The turbulence was so severe that the lead aircraft of the squadron was forced into a steep left bank before it plummeted temporarily out of control and lost altitude at a rate of 1,000 feet per minute. By the time the pilot was able to recover and regain his place in formation, his two sister ships in the flight were nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, the pilots of the two sister ships from the flight, B-17s #42-3251 and B-17 #42-29918 found themselves alone in 10/10 visibility, unsure where the formation had disappeared to, with ice forming on their wings, and experiencing engine trouble. From what was deduced later in the accident report, the doomed B-17s made the decision to abort and turn back for the relative safety of Italy. In a tragic turn of events, their decision to return home took them directly into the path of the oncoming 301st BG.

According the the official report of the board of inquiry, the two B-17s of the 97th Bomb Group experienced engine trouble and left the formation. Instead of making a 180-degree right turn, away from the formation, the aircraft made a turn to the left and flew head-on into the 301st formation. According to Lt. John Wallace, a Bombardier assigned to the lead ship of the 301st BG, and flown by the Group CO, Lt. Colonel Barthelmess, he was startled to see a pair of 97th BG B-17s emerge out of a cloud about 20 degrees to the left and aimed straight at his ship. Almost Instantly, both B-17s bracketed his ship, with one passing closely over his right wing that clipped the vertical stabilizer, and the other closely passing beneath the left wing. Almost immediately, Tail Gunner Felton Pullin witnessed a big ball of fire that lit up the clouds, as the B-17s collided with one fortress in the lead element, and two B-17s in the second element. P-38 pilots, flying low cover escort under the overcast, reported watching pieces of B-17s raining from the sky for what seemed like five minutes. Despite the tragic accident, the 5th Wing carried on to Piraeus, and bombed the target with reported excellent results. After leaving the target area, about thirty German Luftwaffe fighters swarmed the formation, and the 5th Wing limped home to Italy.

There were eight B-17s that fell out of the sky simultaneously. 13 Americans survived. 64 perished.

Monte, along with the Greek Orthodox priests from the nearby Ekklisia Agios Georgios Monastery, buried his fellow crew members; pilot William D. Williams; co-pilot Thomas A. Shields; bombardier Jerome Elkins; flight engineer Roland Des Ruisseau; ball turret gunner Thomas H. Harkey; waist gunner John W. Day; and tail gunner James H. Young. Navigator Neil F. Daley and radio operator Foster D. Rappleye also parachuted to safety. Williams, Shields, Harkey and Young have been reinterred to a common grave at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, Section 82, Site 28.

Monte made his way nightly from village to village with the assistance of the Greek resistance fighters until he got to Zacharo, Greece where there was a submarine waiting for him to transport him to England. He was MIA for three months before he was able to get word to his parents that he was alive.

Monte married Mary Gollusch in 1949 and had three children; Kate (1951), Andy (1952), and Dan (1954). He owned a successful insurance agency in Milwaukee. Monte passed away on December 7th, 1985

The following information on Monte Ogens is gathered and extracted from military records. We have many documents and copies of documents, including military award documents. It is from these documents that we have found this information on Sgt. Ogens. These serviceman's records are nowhere near complete and we are always looking for more material. If you can help add to Monte Ogens's military record please contact us.

Rank Order Date Award Ribbon & Device

SGT

GO 24

11/22/1943

AM

Air Medal (AM)

SGT

GO 24

11/22/1943

AM/OLC

Air Medal (AM) Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC)

SGT

GO 24

11/22/1943

AM/2OLC

Air Medal (AM) Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC)

SGT

GO 24

11/22/1943

AM/3OLC

Air Medal (AM) Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC)

S/Sgt

1616

07/06/1944

AM/4OLC

Air Medal (AM) Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC)

4/6/1943 Presidential Unit Citation


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