Martin B-26C-45-MO Marauder
Squadron Code: FW-M
Crew Chief: T/Sgt. Elbert Goss
Asst. Crew Chief: Cpl. Verlis Rose
Asst. Crew Chief: Edward F. Higgins
June Bug was shot down by flak on Christmas day, 1945, during the Battle of the Bulge. The Group's target on that morning was a road junction at Irrel. June Bug, with 1st Lt. John A. Alexander at the controls, was the lead aircraft of the low flight of the II-Box, which was making the second run on the primary target. Four minutes from target, over Bastogne, June Bug was hit hard by Flak. Staff Sgt. Michael C. Aguilar, Engineer/Gunner, came forward from his position in the top turret to assist in the cockpit. As Sgt. Aguilar passed through the bomb bay he was thrown against the radio table and the ripcord of his chest pack parachute was snagged, accidentally opening his chute. Two minutes later the interphone was shot out, severing the vital direct verbal communications between the pilot and the bombardier. As the aircraft approached the target the intervalometer was shot out as well. Since the time remaining was too short to make the necessary adjustments, Lt. Harvey W. Allen, the bombardier, signaled to make another bomb run. In turning off the target, the ship was hit again and again by Flak; the rudder being badly damaged, both left gasoline tanks punctured, the top turret smashed and the nose Plexiglas of the plane shattered. The shattering Plexiglas cut up Lt. Allen's face. By this time the wings and the ailerons had also been shot full of holes. Lt. Alexander nevertheless brought the plane and his flight back over the target on a true and level course. Although hampered by lack of communications and the fact that the ground in the target area was blanketed with freshly fallen snow, Lt. Allen ingeniously lined up on the target visually got the ship's bombs away in the target area; the rest of the flight's bombs duly followed suit. The results of the bombing were judged "excellent."
After "bombs away," it was obvious that the aircraft would have to be abandoned. Lt. Allen and Sgt. Miller, GEE operator, guided Lt. Alexander back towards friendly territory. Losing altitude fast and perceiving an indicated air speed of only 160 mph, Lt. Alexander coaxed the ship back across the bomb line near Trier and ordered the crew to bail out. As Lt. Anderson struggled to control the rapidly descending June Bug, crew members exited the aircraft until only he and Sgt. Aguilar remained. At that point they were faced with an agonizing decision. As aircraft commander, Lt. Alexander was duty and morally bound to attempt a crash landing if Sgt. Aguilar was unable to jump. If Sgt. Aguilar elected to gather his opened chute in his arms and exit the aircraft, he faced the very real possibility that his chute would prematurely deploy and snag on some portion of the aircraft, carrying him to certain death, or that the canopy would become twisted or entangled in the shroud lines and fail to properly deploy. Considering the uneven terrain over which they were flying, an attempted crash landing was a questionable alternative. Sgt. Aguilar decided that he would jump rather than risk both of their lives. He picked up his unpacked parachute, draped it over his arm, and climbed gingerly down through the nose wheel to make his jump. Miraculously, his parachute deployed perfectly and he floated safely to earth. By the time Lt. Alexander bailed-out right behind him the careening plane was only 700 feet high; although perilously close to the ground when his chute opened, he survived the touch-down and watched his plane crash into a small creek and explode. Lt. Alexander and Sgt. Aguilar were not yet out of danger, for some American soldiers, thinking they might be Germans, fired at them before they could identify themselves. All of the men returned safely to the squadron.
Lt. Alexander was awarded
the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest military honor
for heroism in battle; no other member of the 387th Bombardment Group was
so honored. Lt. Allen received the Silver Star for effectively directing
the successful bomb run and the Purple Heart; Sgt. Aguilar received the
Silver Star for his gallant and heroic act of unselfishness.
|24 May 1945
General Orders No. 53
John A. Alexander O-699645, First Lieutenant, Army Air Forces, United States Army. For extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy while serving as pilot of a B-26 aircraft in a daylight bombardment mission over Germany, 25 December 1944. On this date, during the initial approach to the target, flak damage severed communications between Alexander and his bombardier and since contact could not be reestablished in time for accurate bombing Lieutenant Alexander continued to lead the flight on a true and level course. Midway on the bomb run another flak burst destroyed the bomb sight, shattered the plexiglass and tore holes in the wings and rudder. In spite of the great damage sustained by the aircraft, Lieutenant Alexander continued on an accurate course over the target and bombs were released with excellent results. The extraordinary heroism and determination to complete his assigned mission displayed by Lieutenant Alexander on this occasion are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States.
By Command of General Spaatz