Nazis used B17 after she bombed Berlin
WITH U.S. 1st ARMY, Apr. 25 – If Blumberg has been worried about Phyllis Marie, he can stop. She’s down at a German airfield at Altenburg just south of Leipzig, sitting there with eight black crosses painted big as hell all over her.
Phyllis Marie is a B17 the Germans converted to their own use after the 8th Air Force had lost her in a raid over Germany. On her nose is painted, in small white letters: Crew Chief Sergeant Blumberg.
Blumberg was obviously a crew chief who cared. Under his name are 35 little yellow bombs painted on the fuselage, indicating the big ship’s raiding record. Above are six little swastikas, emblematic of enemy aircraft shot down, foot-high yellow letters spell out the name Phyllis Marie. Underneath the pilot’s window a sign reads, “Row’s Rowdies.”
The Fortress has apparently been used for odd jobs by the Luftwaffe. They have taken out the ball turret and the bomb sight is gone.
Wooden 2x4s are stretched across the bomb bay floor and on the outside the eight iron crosses, Luftwaffe identification mark, have been painted on both sides of the tail fin, one on each side of the fuselage by the waist windows and one on the top and bottom of each wing.
Nazi mechanics replaced the inboard portside propeller with a German blade not quite the same size as a regular Fortress propeller and removed all the guns. Back toward the waist gunner's position there are still traces of blood stains on the floor. When did she go down, Blumberg, and who was aboard her?
Memorandum to Andy Rooney: The Blumberg you mentioned is M/Sgt. Harold B. Blumberg, 22, of Savannah, Ga, He's on furlough at present and we couldn't get to talk with him. But we did find out the following about Phyllis Marie. She went down Mar. 8, 1944. On a Berlin raid, she was zeroed in by a flock of enemy aircraft over Brandenburg. Observers saw from two to eight parachutes open before Phyllis hit the earth. She was piloted by Lt. Max J. Quakenbush, of Beloit, Kan.
Incidentally, Blumberg a few months later became a hero in his own right. He was flying a Fort as crew chief and waist gunner on a mission to help Polish patriots who had started an uprising in Warsaw.
Attacked by German fighters over the Polish capital, the Fort was hit. The pilot was killed. The co-pilot took over. The navigator and tail gunner were seriously wounded.
Blumberg, at the height of battle, fired from both waist gunner positions, the other waist-man having taken over in the tail. Blumberg shot down one Me109 and helped repulse the German formation.
Later, on their way home, Blumberg crawled out on the bomb bay's catwalk to repair a flak-severed control cable by using a cord from his electrically-heated flight suit.
This article appears as it did in the print edition of Stars and Stripes.