View Full Version : Medivac C-47 shoot down

James A Pratt III
18th March 2013, 23:37
I believe i read somewhere that in late 1944 a USAAF medivac C-47 got lost in bad weather flew over German lines and was shot down by flak. The crew was all taken POW. Included in the crew was a female flight nurse who was possibly the only US female POW of the ETO. Is this accurate?

18th March 2013, 23:41
You may be referring to Reba Whittle.



Laurent Rizzotti
18th March 2013, 23:42
This is what I have in my database:

Reba Zitella Whittle was born on August 19, 1919 in Rocksprings, Edwards County, Texas, and studied at North Texas State College, before attending the Medical and Surgical Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in San Antonio. After graduating Whittle enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps on 10 June 1941 at Fort Sam Houston. With the rank of second lieutenant, she was assigned the Station Hospital at Albuquerque Army Air Base, New Mexico, where she served as a general duty ward nurse, later being transferred to Mather Field, Sacramento, California.

On August 6, 1943, Whittle was accepted by the Army Air Forces School of Air Evacuation to train as a flight nurse. She arrived at the school at Bowman Field, Kentucky, in September. The six-week course was designed to make the nurses largely self-sufficient during the flight, and they were trained to treat pain, bleeding and shock, attending to patients in the absence of a physician. Whittle graduated with excellent grades on November 26, 1943, and on January 22, 1944, she departed for England aboard the RMS Queen Mary with 25 other flight nurses of the 813th Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron. The 813th MAETS was initially based in RAF Balderton, Nottinghamshire, and later at RAF Grove, Oxfordshire. Between January and September 1944 Whittle flew on 40 missions logging over 500 hours flight time.

On September 27, 1944, Whittle left England on a mission to collect casualties from Advanced Landing Ground A-92 at St. Trond, Belgium, aboard the C-47B 43-48395 of 310th Ferry Squadron 27th Air Transport Group. However, her C-47 was hit by German flak and crashed about 4 km outside Aachen, Germany, having apparently strayed far from its intended route, as Aachen and St. Trond are 70 km apart. The aircraft usually carried military supplies and sometimes troops on the outward flight, and then casualties on the return, so were not marked with the red cross.

In her diary as reported by LTC Mary E.V. Frank in the book "The Forgotten POW: Second Lieutenant Reba Z. Whittle, AN" (1990), the following appears:
"(I) was sleeping soundly in the back of our hospital plane until suddenly awakened by terrific sounds of guns and cracklings of the plane as if it had gone into bits … Suddenly looked at my Surgical Tech opposite me with blood flowing from his left leg … But to see the left engine blazing away – is simply more than I can express …" (Frank, 1990, p. 10)

In the crash, Sgt Jonathan Hill, her surgical technician, was wounded in the arm and leg, one of the crew, Cpl Chester D Bright, was killed, and the other (1st Lt Ralph T Parker (pilot), Sgt Harold R Bonser and 2nd Lt David L Forbes) were badly hurt, and Whittle herself suffered from concussion, and injuries and lacerations to her face and back.

The crew crawled from the wrecked and burning aircraft and spotted what they believed to be British soldiers; they were in fact German soldiers who immediately captured them. They were taken to a nearby village and treated for their immediate injuries, then driven to a hospital nearby where a German doctor asked Whittle questions about her occupation. In her diary -- now in the possession of her husband, Stanley Tobiason, and researched by Lt. Col. Mark Clark, a military historian -- Whittle wrote that the German doctor "at last shook his head and said, ’Too bad having a woman, as you are the first and no one knows exactly what to do.’ "She became the first and only American military female prisoner of war in the European Theater.

At the time of Whittle’s capture, she and Tobiason, an USAAF officer, were engaged. When he learned of the C-47’s disappearance, Tobiason talked his general into allowing him to use an aircraft, gathered a volunteer crew, and flew his own search-and-rescue mission for his fiancee, without success.

The crew was then taken to Auswertestelle West ("Evaluation Office West"), the main Luftwaffe interrogation center at Oberursel, just to the north of Frankfurt. Whittle was separated from the rest of her crew and lodged at the nearby Hohemark Hospital, part of Auswertestelle West designed to provide immediate aid for wounded prisoners.

On October 6, she was transferred to Reserve Lazarett IX-C(a) at Obermaßfeld. This was a military hospital run by British medical staff for Allied POWs, part of Stalag IX-C. On October 19, she was moved to another POW hospital, IX-C(b), at nearby Meiningen, where she worked with burns patients and at the rehabilitation center for amputees. After several weeks she was seen by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who notified the State Department, and began to negotiate her release. Whittle was eventually repatriated, leaving Stalag IX-C on January 25, 1945. She was transported by train to Switzerland along with other prisoners who were being returned on medical or psychiatric grounds, then flew back to the United States.

At least at one point during her captivity Whittle was provided with an overcoat for warmth (Frank, 1990, p. 15), and according to Whittle “My room was very comfortable with a large down comforter, curtains and spotless…” (Frank, 1990, p. 20). This experience is very different than the one had by the women held by the Japanese.

On February 7, 1945, Whittle received the Purple Heart for the injuries she received during the crash, and on the 17th was awarded the Air Medal, "For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flights...in unarmed and unarmored aircraft." On March 2, she was promoted to first lieutenant.

After a medical assessment and treatment at the Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C., and Brooke General Hospital, San Antonio, she was given 21 days convalescent leave. On May 11 she returned to duty, and a week later was sent to the Army Air Forces Redistribution Station No.2, at Miami Beach, Florida, where after another medical assessment her flying status was suspended on the grounds of recurrent headaches. Whittle served as a ward nurse at the AAF Regional and Air Debarkation Hospital, Hamilton Field, California, from June 15, 1945. On August 3, 1945 she married then Lieutenant-Colonel Stanley W. Tobiason at Hamilton Field, and then applied to be released from active duty. On August 31, 1945, she appeared before a Disposition Board which determined her to be fully qualified for military service. Her orders stated, "Relief from Active Duty is not by reason of physical disability." She was discharged on January 13, 1946.

Whittle continued to suffer from an assortment of physical and psychiatric problems. She sought compensation from the Veterans Administration, and in 1950 began a series of appeals for military medical retirement. Despite diagnoses of post-traumatic encephalopathy, chronic severe anxiety reaction, and early lumbosacral arthritis, her appeals were denied. Finally, in January 1954 the Army Physical Disability Appeal Board agreed that she was relieved from active duty by reason of physical disability, and thus eligible for retirement pay benefits, but as her disability was not "combat incurred", it was backdated only to the time of her application, April 1952. Her retroactive pay amounted to $3,780. After another review of her case an additional $999 was added. Had she received retroactive pay from the date of her discharge in 1946 it would have totaled $13,760. In 1960 she appealed for the full amount of retroactive pay, but this was rejected. Whittle made no further attempts to pursue her case. However, Tobiason says his wife was never bitter over her anonymity. She had been ordered by the Army not to talk about her experiences -- a common wartime regulation to protect military personnel still held by the enemy. She never did talk about those experiences, even to her family.

Reba and Stanley Tobiason had two sons, one of whom became a naval aviator and served in Vietnam. Reba Whittle Tobiason died of cancer on January 26, 1981.

In April 1983, Colonel Tobiason wrote to the Department of the Army following the announcement of the honoring of the Army and Navy nurses captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, which stated that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration knew of no other American military women to have been taken prisoner. On September 2, 1983, Reba Z. Whittle was finally given official prisoner of war status. When that acknowledgment finally came, her husband said, "She would have been very delighted."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reba_Z._Whittle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reba_Z._Whittle)
http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent/1,12044,ML_whittle_bkp,00.html (http://www.military.com/Content/MoreContent/1,12044,ML_whittle_bkp,00.html)
https://digital.lib.washington.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1773/20875/Hillius_washington_0250O_10499.pdf?sequence=1 (https://digital.lib.washington.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1773/20875/Hillius_washington_0250O_10499.pdf?sequence=1)
http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=11668 (http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=11668)
Annotations made on MACR 9621 (http://www.fold3.com/document/38218832/ (http://www.fold3.com/document/38218832/))
http://www.usaafdata.com/search (http://www.usaafdata.com/search)
http://aad.archives.gov/aad/fielded-search.jsp?dt=466&tf=F&cat=WR26&bc=sl (http://aad.archives.gov/aad/fielded-search.jsp?dt=466&tf=F&cat=WR26&bc=sl)
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aachen (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aachen)
http://www.maplandia.com/germany/nordrhein-westfalen/koln/aachen/kreisfreie-stadt-aachen/ (http://www.maplandia.com/germany/nordrhein-westfalen/koln/aachen/kreisfreie-stadt-aachen/)

Bruce Dennis
19th March 2013, 02:08
Hi James,
This event was in a thread from 2008:


Hope this helps,

19th March 2013, 18:13
Hi guys

Most interesting.

Is there a wartime photograph of Reba available?


20th March 2013, 09:21
Hi Brian,

I shall send you my bill:)


All the best,


20th March 2013, 12:01
Thanks Dave

If you should send me your Bill, I'll send you my wife in exchange!!


21st March 2013, 14:46
OK, Dave, not interested then!

Did any British (or other nationality) female medics lose their lives on such flights??


21st March 2013, 17:51
Well, it's a very generous offer, Brian. Don't get me wrong:)

LACW Margaret Campbell:


As an aside, I happen to have the service file of Sgt Douglas Schneider, the RCAF pilot on this Dakota where LACW Campbell was killed. As there are extremely distressing parts of the story, especially post-crash and post-war, I hesitate to post them here.

Can you PM me your email address, Brian?



21st March 2013, 18:18
Many thanks, Dave

My e-mail address is briancullauthor@fsmail.net

I've posted it publically previously.


Laurent Rizzotti
21st March 2013, 23:31
Not especially a medevac flight, but on 17 April 1944 a Red Cross nurse was killed when a Lufthansa Ju 52 was shot down by US fighters:

On 17 April 1944 the 82nd FG flew as escort for a B-17 5th Wing mission to Belgrade. Their 97th FS were the only squadron to engage enemy aircraft in the air. They encountered 2 Ju 52s and 2 He 111s some 20 miles NE of Belgrade. 1/Lt. William W. Patterson shot down one Ju 52. The remaining Ju 52 and one of the He 111s were both hit by more than one of the P-38 pilots and shot down. After gun camera review Patterson was given credit for the He 111 while Captain James A. Force,Jr. was credited with the second Ju 52. The second He 111 escaped. The American pilots thought the enemy aircraft might have been returning to base after being scrambled on warning of the incoming raid.

Patterson was later awarded the Silver Star for this action. Apparently the gunner in the He 111 that was shot down damaged three P-38s, two of which were later crash-landed in Italy and were written off. The third damaged P-38 was Patterson’s, but he managed to land safely at an airfield in Italy with one engine shot out.

Ju 52/3m g8e W.Nr. 130859 1Z+FH of 1./TG 1 came down in flames at Pancevo. All 4 crew members were injured, however, the pilot, Ofw. Willi Lichy, died at the military hospital 521 at Belgrade on the same day.

Second victim was unarmed Ju 52/3m g14e W.Nr. 640996 D-AOCA “Harry Rother”, which was enroute on Lufthansa’s scheduled service E.17 from Vienna to Belgrade, continuing to Sofia, Thessaloniki and Athens with a crew of 3. Aboard were 4 passengers and a large load of mail. The radio operator had noticed the downing of the other Ju 52 and the crew tried to escape in vain by changing direction and flying close to the ground. Hits were received from the rear and from starboard and the plane caught fire immediately. It crashed at Stara Pazova (Alt-Pasua in German reports) about 26 km north of Semlin (Zemun) airfield. Three of the four passengers, among them a Red Cross nurse, were killed in the crash while the fourth died at hospital after two days. The pilot, 47 year old Flugkapitän Kurt Vogel, died of his serious injuries on 23 April 1944, while the two other crew members survived with only minor injuries.

http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=23304 (http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=23304)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stara_Pazova (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stara_Pazova)
http://www.maplandia.com/serbia-and-montenegro/vojvodina/stara-pazova/ (http://www.maplandia.com/serbia-and-montenegro/vojvodina/stara-pazova/)

On 14 June 1944, an US nurse died during a "pleasure" flight over UK:

Mary E. Chubb was born on May 7, 1913 to Harry N.C. and Ethel A. Chubb, who lived at 79 West Court Street in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She was one of seven children: Harold M. C, Mary, Anna V., Herbert H., Martha F., Donald V, and Sarah A. Mary suffered illnesses in her youth, and gained a deep respect for Nurses. Her goal in life was to become a Nurse to help others in their time of affliction. Mary attended the Doylestown High School, graduating in 1931. She was known as a quiet mild mannered teen. The yearbook “The Torch” says: "Mary would like to be a nurse if her health permits. We know she is going to be a success in anything she does."

Mary Chubb attended the Chestnut Hill Nursing school and graduated as a Registered Nurse. She then served as a private duty nurse in Chester County staying with her patients. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mary enlisted in the Army on December 8, 1942. She entered the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), specifically in the Army Nurse Corps. Mary was assigned to 181st Medical Dispensary, Aviation stationed in England.

On June 14, 1944, 2nd Lieutenant Marry E. Chubb died in the crash of the AT-6D Harvard 41-34655 of 8 Fighter Command HQ at Ryton-on-Dunsmore between Rugby and Coventry, England. Her father, Harry sought more information about the circumstances of Mary’s death. The Adjutant General, J. A. Ulio, (Major General) responded in a letter dated August 4, 1944. He informed Harry that Mary was the only passenger on the aircraft. The pilot, 1st Lieutenant Harry R Wayland “was accustomed to flying a B-17 type aircraft but he was flying a different type at the time of the accident.” He further stated that Mary died in the line of duty. In fact the Harvard lost its port wing in flight. The two people aboard, Wayland and Chubb, were both killed.

Mary was interned at the Brookwood Military Cemetery in England. After the war, her parents were contacted by the Army with the offer of returning the body to America for reburial. This was a difficult decision on her father, Harry. His wife, Ethel, had just suffered a stroke, and their son Donald was killed in service a month before Mary. Harry made the tough decision, after weeks of consideration and correspondence, to not bring her home for burial. He understandably did not wish to cause Ethel any additional stress attending two memorial services for their children.

Mary was removed for permanent burial to the Cambridge American Military Cemetery, in Cambridge, England, on May 18, 1948 with full military honors.

Mary’s brother, Donald V. Chubb (pictured at left with Mary) who was a co-pilot of a B-17, died when his aircraft exploded over the English Channel, while returning heavily damaged from a mission on May 8, 1944. He served in the 547th Bomber Squadron, 384th Bomber Group, Heavy and was interred in the Normandy American Cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

http://dsf.chesco.org/heroes/chubb/mary_chubb.htm (http://dsf.chesco.org/heroes/chubb/mary_chubb.htm)
http://www.aviationarchaeology.org.uk/marg/crashes1944.htm (http://www.aviationarchaeology.org.uk/marg/crashes1944.htm)
http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Jun1944O.htm (http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Jun1944O.htm)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryton-on-Dunsmore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryton-on-Dunsmore)
http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=52.366814,-1.434499&spn=0.1,0.1&t=m&q=52.366814,-1.434499 (http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=52.366814,-1.434499&spn=0.1,0.1&t=m&q=52.366814,-1.434499)

Laurent Rizzotti
21st March 2013, 23:41
Closer to the subject, two US nurses killed in air crashes:

27 July 1943:

The C-47 41-38643 of 54th TCS, PTCG, crashed 12 miles NE of Naknek Army Air Base, Alaska. Among the killed were the pilot, Carl T Moore, and a nurse and a technicien of Flight A, 805th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron, that were flying medical air evacuation in the area. The nurse, Lt Ruth L Gardiner, was said to have been the first American nurse to have died in the line of duty during WWII.

http://www.au.af.mil/au/afhra/wwwroot/numbered_studies/467615.pdf (http://www.au.af.mil/au/afhra/wwwroot/numbered_studies/467615.pdf)
http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Jul1943S.htm (http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Jul1943S.htm)

24 February 1944:

The C-47 41-7725 of 12th TCS, 60th TCG carried to their death its aircrew (including Robert S Smith (pilot) and Cpl John H Arp) and their 18 passengers (a nurse, 2nd Lt Elizabeth J Howren, and a technician from 807th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron and their 16 patients) when it crashed into the side of a mountain during an aerial evacuation. Apart form this accident, no deaths or harmful effect were noted among the 51 419 patients evacuated by auir in the MTO between September 1943 and May 1944.

http://www.au.af.mil/au/afhra/wwwroot/numbered_studies/467615.pdf (http://www.au.af.mil/au/afhra/wwwroot/numbered_studies/467615.pdf)
http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Feb1944O.htm (http://www.aviationarchaeology.com/src/AARmonthly/Feb1944O.htm)
http://www.abmc.gov/search/wwii_unit.php (http://www.abmc.gov/search/wwii_unit.php)

21st March 2013, 23:53
If you are looking for US Army nurses killed in air accidents, 22 in a single C-46 in India was the largest single loss of life of female personnel in the war.

Terrible, preventable accident. The O-6 that authorized the flight shot himself in remorse. My uncle (to whom I dedicated my Osprey on C-47s in the Pacific/CBI) identified the bodies from their dental records, recognizing some work he himself had done.

22nd March 2013, 08:34
David, have you the serial number, names to allow the chaps read up on that one?

23rd March 2013, 22:06
The Internet suggests it was a C-47 of the 11th CCS, 41-18554, Capt Nicholas J. Mandoukos (of NY) PiC, 4 March 1945.

I'd always heard it was a C-46.

Is anyone aware aware of any published sources on this accident? A C-46 full of nurses is tragically close to being the Titanic with radial engines.

23rd March 2013, 22:37
There is an account of the accident in book "The Aluminum Trail by Chick Mars Quinn

Bruce Dennis
23rd March 2013, 22:51
Hello David and all: there was a discussion on another forum a few years back with good responses.


My father mentioned this a long time ago. He was a founder member of 2CCS and, I believe, knew someone in the C-47 crew.


23rd March 2013, 23:21
The MACR for this crash, a C-47, is on fold3.com. The plane was attempting to land and made a turn too low and crashed. There are 27 names, all listed KNB (Killed Non Battle). The pilot was Nickolas J Mandoukas and the co-pilot was John J Lukaszczyk. Of the 25 passengers, it appears only 15 were female nurses (an N in their serial number and clearly a woman's name for 14 of them, the other was a woman Red Cross Nurse). The other 10 were male officers, one was listed as in the medical corps, one in the signal corps and the rest so not identified.

Out of curiosity, I looked up one of the names who was not identified as to branch of service.

Capt Charles Loucks was in the 3 Combat Cargo Grp.

24th March 2013, 17:40
Hi RSwank

Is there any chancethat you could list the names of the female nurses, please?

You wouldn't believe it, but only one hour ago I cancelled my one-month trial with Fold3.com!!


24th March 2013, 18:59
I will try to attach the page. This is the page of nurses. Note all have serial numbers starting with N except for the Red Cross Nurse. (If you have trouble reading the page, you can download it then enlarge and read it locally.)

24th March 2013, 21:05
Hi RSwank

Many thanks indeed - excellent.

Much appreciated