Tribute to W.B. Peirce
By John Gunner
William B. Peirce and I are members at the Millville Army Air Field Museum, Millville, NJ. The airfield was a P-47 training Base during WWII. Recently I discovered that William had been a B-17 pilot and had received a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart while in combat with the 8th Air Force. Using the 398th web page I found that he was in 398th Bomb Group combat crew number 52 when that Group left Rapid City, SD for the European Theater of Operations. Bill was assigned as a co-pilot of the Taylor crew in the 602 Squadron of the 398th Bomb Group. But I was disappointed that I found no mention of the extraordinary achievement of Bill and his crew while in combat on the web site. Since I would like having Bills combat experience recorded on the 398th web page, I report the following information.
On a mission over Germany 21 June 1944, while over the target their plane was struck by heavy anti-aircraft fire. Many of the cockpit instruments were smashed, two engines were knocked out, and left side hydraulic system disabled. At this time the pilot 1st. Lt. F.W. Taylor was hit on the left hand by flak rendering it useless. The co-pilot 2nd Lt. W.B. Peirce was also hit in the leg by flak fragments. The ball turret gunner, staff sergeant Edwin N. Buck of the original Taylor crew was also wounded.
However, both pilots remained at their stations for the next four hours. They had to drop from formation and head for home. After the four-hour struggle, and working as a team, they landed at home base in England without further injury to any of the crew,
Both pilots were awarded the DFC and Purple Heart. Lt. Taylor was sent back to the USA to have his smashed hand repaired. Lt. Peirce remained in England where his leg wound was taken care of. After his recovery he flew more missions as first pilot and then as a lead pilot. However his old crew was never reformed.
The remarkable thing about this mission was that in spite of being wounded, one working the rudder and the other one on the yoke and at a very low altitude they made it back and to their base and landed without further damage to the rest of the crew.
Personal History Information
- Veteran: William B. Peirce
- Pilot, 602nd Squadron
- Date of Personal History: February 10, 2005
- Author: John Gunner
- Submitted to 398th Web Pages by: John Gunner