Tuesday March 18, 1942, in B-17-B # 38-264 for what ever reason I can’t remember, I was scheduled to fly, the Officer of the Day came by our tent to make sure I and my crew were awake. We already had our breakfast, and were removing the stabilizer chocks, before winding up the engines. It was a clear morning with the sun just starting to light up the sky. After our walk around of the plane, my asst. engineer took up his post with the fire extinguisher in front of the engines. I boarded the plane looking for any irregularities on my way to the flight deck. I took the left seat, opened the window, called out ‘clear’ and started # 2 engine. It caught right away, I then set that throttle in fast idle, wound up and started # 3 engine. After the asst. engineer came on the flight deck, I checked the freedom of movement of the controls; I then advanced the throttles and moved out of the revetment towards the runway crossing. After making a visual check of anything on the runway, I opened the throttles a tad, taxied over to fuel storage then cut off the engines so that men could top off the tanks. Then I restarted the engines, taxied to the hard stand in front of the terminal and cut the engines again. I exited from the plane to greet the pilot and copilot. I handed the pilot A-1 forms saying that every thing was in good order. The pilot Fredrick E. Price 1st Lt., copilot August C. Seiferman 2nd Lt. and navigator 2nd Lt. Robert H. Sedwick moved to their positions with me following. The following is from my copy of my interrogation by G2 the next day when the man flew in from Washington, D.C.
G2 Tell me in your words what happened.
F. H. [Frank P. Hohmann ASN 6982391]
I was awake at 4:15, showered, shaved, dressed, Time 5:00am
Walked across the field to the tower to get a cup of coffee and returned to my plane. Time 5:29am Officer of the day checked me as being on alert for mission. Time 5:30am with crew chief, removed chocks from rudder, elevators and ailerons and stowed them in the plane on the port side of the tail wheel. Finished ground check and climbed aboard plane, took left seat, released elevator lock control into floor just behind the console, the crew chief took the right. Called “clear” to my asst. engineer who was manning the fire extinguisher, started # 2 engine, then started # 3 engine, checked all dials and gauges, OK, pulled the control yoke all the way back to my chest, and moved the plane out of the revetment, to the taxiway and made my way to the fuel dump to top off the tanks.
G2 Why did you have to pull the control yoke back to your chest?
FH Sir. If the elevators are not held in the ‘up’ position with the engines running, the plane can and will nose over.
G2 OK. What did you do next?
FH Signed for the fuel, started the same two engines and taxied to the terminal, shut down the engines and waited for the pilots to board. Time 5:56 am. Officers came aboard near 6:00 am. Nothing to sign off on the plane. Pilot started all four engines after checklist and taxied to the run-up hard stand. I was in my position for take-off. Pilot told me to go back and make sure the crew were in their proper take-off positions, I did, the radioman wanted to know why I had come into his radio shack. Told him, Pilots orders. Started back to the flight deck through the bomb bay, felt the plane move and by the time I got to my usual take-off position for take-off, the pilot had the plane rolling on take-off. First thing I noted was that the props were out of sync. I was taught to use the prop controls to keep the props in sync, part of my job. Pilot told me “don’t touch the controls” I said, Sir #2 & #4 props are out of sync. No answer. Then I saw that the plane was tail high and the turbos on #3 & 4 were running away, put my hands on the turbo controls to adjust then, when the pilot hit my hand away, by that time I knew the pilot was in trouble, as the plane was turning left off the runway. The plane headed across the grass towards the terminal. A diagonal water run-off ditch was across our path, the plane didn’t clear the ditch, that’s when the landing gear was torn off. The plane slid about another 50’ and stopped. The Officers went out the side windows, as did the Bombardier and Navigator. I saw a little blue smoke coming from the # 2 engine, pulled the fire extinguisher for all four engines, turned into the bomb bay, checked the fuse pin on the depth charge. My good friend John Molitoris pulled me out of the side door, I told him that I wanted to get the hand fire extinguisher just to make sure the # 2 was not really burning. When I got around to the nose of the plane, my crew was nowhere in sight. An officer took me in his car to this room in the grandstand, where I stayed until, you sir came in today.
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