S/Sgt John L. Roth

January 11, 1944

Chicago, Illinois - Margraten

 

 

 

 

 

 

John L. Roth was born in 1924 and lived in Chicago, Illinois. He was a student before he joined the USAAF on October 27, 1942.

He became a waist gunner in Lt. Claude Hickey's crew in Moses Lake, Washington, where the flight crews of the newly formed 447th Bomb Group came together for final training before being sent overseas. The crew had been together since training in the USA and were one of the original crews of the 447th Bomb Group.

John Roth married just before the 447th Bomb Group flew overseas to England.

447th Bomb Group
710 Squadron

8th USAAF

On January 11, 1944, they were part of Jimmy Doolittle's first Maximum Effort raid against aircraft factories and Luftwaffe installations. This raid was a taste of the offensive that was to come in February known as "Big Week." The Hickey crew was not scheduled to fly this day, but as this was an maximum effort mission they were awoken early in the morning to attend briefing. This was to be the crew's 5th mission. After take off, the Hickey crew and two other planes of the 447th could not find the rest of their Bomb Group and tagged along with the high squadron of the leading 94th Bomb Group. The target was the Focke Wulf Aircraft Factory at Braunschweig (Brunswick). When the bomber force approached target a recall was received. The air bases in England were suffering from increased fog conditions. The planes were recalled for fear that the airbases would be closed-in by the time the planes would return. The 94th BG decided to press on due to the fact that they were about 25 miles from the target.

From left to right: 2nd Lt. Claud Hickey, Pilot; 2nd Lt. Justin Kegley, Co-pilot; 2nd Lt. Jerome Moskowitz (Morse), Navigator, 2nd. Lt. Vernon Devitt, Bombardier; S/Sgt Joseph Rokow, Engineer/TT; S/Sgt Robert E. Schooling, Ball-turret gunner; S/Sgt John L. Roth, Waistgunner; S/Sgt Johnny Deerr, Tailgunner.  (Picture courtesy of Mr. Jerome Morse)

Obstructed by a cloud, the lead bombardier failed to positively identify the target before it was too late and the flight leader, Col. Thorup of the 94th BG, decided to go around and attempt a new bomb run. The other Bomb Groups following the 94th did see the target, released their bombs and turned to fly back to their bases. This left the 94th BG and the three 447th planes on their own. Due to the recall, all fighter support was also withdrawn and the bombers were left to fend for themselves. While on the bomb run, the crews could see a great number of twin engine Luftwaffe fighters assemble just outside the target area. They were actually seen taking off at the nearby airfield of Wunstorf. Flak over the target area was medium to heavy.

Immediately after they left the target area and were out of reach of the German flak guns, the Luftwaffe fighters attacked en masse. The sky was full of chaos. German fighters pressed home their attacks and wouldn't let up. The twin engines Bf110s fired rockets at the B17s. Within a short period, many Allied bombers and Luftwaffe fighters were shot down.

The Hickey crew was attacked from astern by three Bf110s, who managed to cripple two of the B17's engines with rockets. The Hick's Hack, as the crew had named their B17, dropped from formation and was no match for the attacking fighters. All of a sudden, the three Bf110s came in for an attack with their guns blazing. This made them an ideal target for the tail gunner, S/Sgt Johnny Deerr.

S/SGt. Deerr shot down the first two Bf110s in rapid succession. Both were seen to crash by the crew. In the meantime, waist gunner S/Sgt John L. Roth was fatally hit by either the guns and cannons of the attacking fighters or by flak. The crew tend to think that S/Sgt Roth was hit during one of the first strafing passes made by the attacking Bf110s.

The third Bf110 veered away and continued his attack on the straggling bomber. It launched its last rockets at the Hick's Hack, crippling a third engine. Flying with one engine was impossible and Lt. Claude Hickey decided to crash-land the plane. The navigator, Lt Morse, and bombardier, Lt Devitt, used their parachutes. They landed safely and were taken POW by a hostile crowd of German civilians.

When the Hick's Hack crash-landed just south of the town of Wagenfeld, the plane broke in two. Besides S/Sgt John L. Roth, ball turret gunner S/Sgt Robert E. Schooling was also killed on this mission. All other crew members were wounded.


Margraten, The Netherlands

S/Sgt John L. Roth was buried in the cemetery for POW's and Russians in the German town of Diepholz. After the war, his remains where interred at the American Cemetery at Margraten, The Netherlands

 

Acknowledgements:
2nd Lt. Jerome Morse, Navigator
2nd Lt. Justin Kegley, Co-pilot
S/Sgt Johnny Deerr, Tailgunner

Sources:
They Called Us Kriegies, unpublished manuscript by 2nd Lt. Jerome Morse
Written account by 2nd Lt Justin Kegley
Telephone interview with S/Sgt Johnny Deerr
MACR 2512

 

Directions to Margraten American Military Cemetery

If you have any suggestions, comments or additional information, please contact me.

This website is dedicated to the men and women who died and/or are buried in The Netherlands during World War II.

 

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