Heroes: the Army Air Corps


"...As we started the bombing run, we faced a wall of intense flak. Almost immediately the right in-board engine was hit and the pilot was able to feather it..."



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 Bill Rosnyai

  • Branch of Service: Army Air Corps
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group, 509th Bomb Squadron
  • Dates: 1943 - 1945
  • Location: European Theater
  • Rank: 2nd Lt., Navigator
  • Birth Year: 1924
  • Entered Service: Detroit, MI


351st Bomb Group

509th Bomb Squadron



Mission: Merseburg -- December 12, 1944


      I was a navigator on a B-17 assigned to the 8th Air Force in England. I was part of the 351st Bomb Group, 509th squadron based at based at Polebrook (near Peterborough. On December 12, 1944 our mission was to Merseburg (west of Leipzig) and our target was the oil refineries.

      As we started the bombing run, we faced a wall of intense flak. Almost immediately the right in-board engine was hit and the pilot was able to feather it. Then the left out-board engine was hit, but it could not be feathered. Not only did we lose power but the engine "wind milled" causing severe drag. We dropped the bombs and headed for home which was about 300 miles to our front lines.

      Suddenly a P-51 fighter appeared and began circling us to handle any German fighters. Since we kept losing altitude we threw out the guns, ammunition, flak suits etc. and we even dropped the ball turret. We decided to stay with the plane rather than bail out rather than take our chances with the military or worse, being captured by the civilians.

      As we approached the front lines we were about at 1000 ft and we took some hits but no one was injured. Since we assumed we were in friendly territory, we looked for a spot to crash-land. Then we saw this fighter field (near Liege, Belgium) and the pilot radioed ahead to clear the runway. We landed safely but went off the end of the runway, the plane was" totaled" but we were safe.

      They took us to the headquarters and made plans to take us to Brussells. Then, in walked the fighter pilot, he had run low on gas while protecting us.



Bill Rosnyai
Bloomfield Hills, MI


The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of Mr. Bill Rosnyai

We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Bill Rosnyai our most profound THANK YOU for his personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for Mr. Rosnyai's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".



Here are some interesting links that are related to this story:

History of the 351st Bomb Group

351st Bomb Group in WWII -- A History

351st Bombardment Group

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USAF Aircraft Serial Number Search Help

National World War II Memorial

American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll



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