On February 11, 2024, it will be 80 years since the Kentucky Babe crashed near our village of Le Quesne.
In the papers of our father, Germain BOURGOIS, we found the letter sent by the US embassy in thanks for the help provided to the members of the crew as well as two photos.
The other helpers from Le Quesne listed on your web page are Madame Paule Guérout, resistance fighter and member of the Bourgogne network, and Mr. Oscar Crépy. They are not the only ones; there were other people who intervened. The baker who gave the clothes of her late husband (a prisoner of war who died in Germany in January 1942), the women who went to join Sokolowski and others...
In one of these photos are Landers, Sokolowki, and in the other there is also Rutherford and two young girls from the village who escorted them on their travels until they were taken care of by the Bourgogne network.,
Heldman, Hayvood, Spining were taken over by other helpers further west and other networks.
Carson, Riley, Lynch and Richey were taken prisoner and Howards died during the attack who is buried in Colleville Cemetery.
I am looking for documents and photos that would allow us to remember and expose this fact to the people of Le Quesne, Beaucamps and neighboring villages (Rutherford came across Beaucamps).
I would like to have more information on the Kentucky Babe, on the mission.
I would like to be able to identify all the members of the crew, and have a photo in uniform for each of them, information on their military career, and know what happened to them after the war.
Spining's daughter came to the scene and handed over some documents to the resistance museum in Forges les Eaux;
Is it still possible to contact other families and by what means ? Thank you for helping us.

  • I am sure others can provide more information and how to search the National Archives files, but I did find this information online from Eric Stevens on Flickr:

    Kentucky Babe
    B-17F-75-BO. 42-29863. 351st Bomb Group. 509th Bomb Squadron.

    Once named "Aint it Gruesome" and painted over for the name "Kentucky Babe", thus adhering to rules by the 8th AAF edict about contentious names.

    August 12th 1943 Actor Clark Gable flew on this aircraft on a secondary target run on Bochum after weather obscured the synthetic oil plant at Gelsenkirchen. Pilot John Carraway was also joined by 351st operations officer Maj. Theodore "Ross" Milton as an observer. Gable wedged himself behind the top turret gunner for a better view as German fighters made five passes through the 351st's formation. A 20mm shell came up through the aircrafts flight deck, cut off the heel from Gable's boot, and exited out the fuselage one foot from Clark's head, all without exploding.

    October 10th 1943, landed at Bungay. Pilot Maj. James T. Stewart.

    November 16th 1943, landed at Kirmington. Pilot Cap. Richard E. Hathaway.

    November 26th 1943, landed at Wendling. Pilot Lt. Robert M. Spika. Damage: Two holes created by flak on the right stabilizer. Two holes top of left wing caused by shell cases, one flak hole above co-pilot's window.

    January 11th 1944, landed at Wendling. Pilot Lt. Marvin A. Brooksby.

    On February 11th 1944 this aircraft was shot down on the Frankurt Main mission after flak hits and enemy aircraft destroyed engine #3, and inflicting other damage. A B-17 being shot down at 12:35PM on this day is the possible claim of Oberleutnant Wolfgang Kosse of Sturmstaffel 1 (Jagdgeschwader 3), stationed out of Dortmund.

    Aircraft crashed a mile south of Inval-Boiron, 12 miles NW of Poix-de-Picardie. Only aircraft lost this day.

    Cap. John P. Carson Junior. (POW), Stalag Luft 1. Barth-Vogelsang.

    Lt. Merlyn E. Rutherford (escaped), Marie-Odile, Pyranees, Espange, Gibralter, to UK on 3/4/1944

    Lt. Henry M. Heldmann (escaped), Marie-Odile, Pyranees, Espange, Gibralter, to UK on 3/4/1944

    Lt. William H. Spinning (escaped), Marie-Odile, Pyranees, Espange, Gibralter, to UK on 3/4/1944

    T/Sgt. Joseph R. Haywood (escaped),Marie-Odile, Pyranees, Espange, Gibralter, to UK on 3/4/1944

    T/Sgt. John R. Landers (escaped), Marie-Odile, Pyranees, Espange, Gibralter, to UK on 3/4/1944

    S/Sgt. Richard C. Howard (KIA), American Miltary Cemetary Colleville-sur-Mer.

    S/Sgt. James W. Riley (POW), Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow.

    S/Sgt. Dave E. Lynch (POW), Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow.

    S/Sgt. Joe R. Richey (POW). Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow.

    John Paul Carson Jr. later became a Lt. Col. in the USAF (1920-1965)

    Lisa Sharik

  • Below are the Escape and Evasion Reports for the crew members who evaded:

    Sokolowski, Stanley A. (SSGT.) EE-697.pdf

    Landers, John. (TSGT.) EE-696.pdfHaywood, Joseph A. (TSGT.) EE-544.pdf

    Three files are too large to upload.  The following links will take you to the National Archives Escape and Evasion Reports for these three soldiers.

    Rutherford, Merlyn I. (2nd Lt.

    Spinning, William H. (2nd Lt.)

    Heldmann, Henry M. (2nd Lt.)

  • Thank you for your information which is very useful to me.
    I would like to go further.
    I am attaching two photos.
    On the first are Landers, Rutherford and Sokolowski as well as the two young women who escorted them to Le Quesne to hand them over to the “Bourgogne” escape network.
    On the second I think it was the crew of the Kentucky Babe on the day of the crash.
    I wish you could identify them in each of the photos.
    Is there a department at the Pentagon that could tell me about the careers of these aviators ?
    What happened to them after the war ?
    Colette Bourgois


    It seems our community has provided good resources for you to consider. In addition to those suggestions, you might want to consider the information below.

    World War II Combat Operations Reports, 1941–1946 are among the textual records in our custody. This series consists of the original mission reports pertaining to specific targets.  These reports were filed by the units and sometimes include encounter reports by pilots, aerial photographs, and loading lists. The reports are arranged by units, and identification of the group or squadron and a date of interest are necessary before a search can be conducted. We do not have a name index to these records. If you are able to confirm the unit as well as the date of the mission you may be able to identify files listed in this series that are of interest for your research. A listing of files in this series is available in NARA's online catalog through the link posted above. If you are able to identify specific files in this series and would like to know more information about these non-digitized records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RR2R) via email at

    An additional series of records that may be of interest for your research is the series, Case Files Relating to French Citizens Proposed for Awards for Assisting American Airmen, 1945–1947. Within this series we were able to identify files for Germain Bourgois (Box 941), Paule Guerout (Box 1038), and Oscar Crepy (Box 974). For more information about these non-digitized records, please contact the National Archives at College Park - Textual Reference (RR2R) via email at

    If you are able to identify the crew members and would like to know more about them we suggest that you request a copy of their Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF). OMPFs and individual medical reports for individuals who served with the U.S. Army (including Army Air Forces) who were separated from the service after October 1912 and before 1960 are in the custody of NARA's National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis. In many cases where personnel records were destroyed in the 1973 fire, proof of service can be provided from other records such as morning reports, payrolls, and military orders, and a certificate of military service will be issued. Please complete a GSA Standard Form 180 and mail it to NARA's National Personnel Records Center, (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138-1002. Veterans and next of kin of deceased veterans also may use eVetRecs to request records. See eVetRecs Help for instructions. If there is any information requested by the form that you do not know, you may omit it or provide estimates (such as for dates), but the more information you provide, the easier it will be to locate the correct file if it survived the fire. For more information see Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), Archival Records Requests. 

    Archival OMPFs may also be requested by visiting the Archival Research Room at the National Archives at St. Louis. Please see the linked web pages for more information.  Please email for further assistance prior to making an appointment.

    Photographs of U.S. Army Air Forces planes and aircrews are in the custody of the National Archives at College Park - Still Picture (RRSS). Please contact RRSS via email at

    If you are interested in information on the Kentucky Babe, the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution has custody of a microfilm copy of the Air Force and Army Air Force aircraft history record cards. The cards list a plane's serial number, place of manufacture, and manufacturer's contract number, and may include information for each month that the plane was in service, the place of assignment, cumulative flying hours, and any repairs or accidents. They cover information from the date the plane was put into service to the date it was destroyed or withdrawn from service.  For more information about the microfilm, please contact the National Air and Space Museum Archives, 14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151 or email

    Unfortunately the National Archives does not have the present addresses of former service personnel or their survivors on file.  Please review Locating Veterans and Service MembersLocate Military Members, Units, and Facilities and Finding Living People in the United States for information and/or resources to assist you with locating the person you seek.

    We invite you to continue the conversation with community members on History Hub, but should you have follow up questions for the staff at Archives II, please email us at so that we can assist you further. 

    We hope this assists you with your research! 


    Textual Reference Archives II Branch (RR2RR)

    [RR2RR 24-05600-SZ]

  • Hello, My Name is Karen Hendrickson, John Landers was my father. We have heard many stories over the years of the kindness of the underground when he was on his journey out. Please reach out if I can help with any validation for what these amazing resistance workers did to save so many Americans. I do have his military picture and a picture of the crew with him. 

  • Hello Karen,

    I am very happy that you found and responded to my message. It's extraordinary !

    Yes, I would like to have your photos. 

    I would also like to able to identify the others members of the crew.

    I think I have the photo on the day of the crash but it is not good quality. Can you help me please ?

    I am sending you a photo found in our family papers. Which one is John ?

    I am curious to know what John told you. 

    Thank you very much.

  • Hello,

    I'm Katie, and Joe Haywood was my grandfather. I heard stories of his escape as a child, ending in Andorra with a massive meal. I have been doing more research in the last couple of years on the details of his crash and escape with the help of the resistance. In the group photo, he is in the back row, the farthest right. Thank you for sharing your story above; it offers some new information. Please contact me if you'd like more information. 

  • J'ai été très heureux de vous lire.

    J'ai résumé l'évasion de votre grand-père.

    Le vendredi 11 février 1944, après l'attaque mortelle du Kentucky Babe alors qu'il rentrait chez lui endommagé après un bombardement sur Francfort, les aviateurs sautèrent en parachute, (sauf le Sergent Howard qui était décédé). Ils débarquent dans un secteur où l'armée allemande est très présente. Quatre d'entre eux ont été faits prisonniers, les six autres se sont évadés séparément : Spinning vers Aumale, Helmann et Haywood vers le SE, Rutherford, Landers et Sokolowski ont été rapidement récupérés par des assistants.

    Heldmann et Haywood se sont vite retrouvés et se sont dirigés dans la mauvaise direction, directement vers un aérodrome et un camp d'entraînement pour sous-officiers allemands. Ce n'était pas facile pour eux de trouver de l'aide, il y avait des Allemands partout, même chez les villageois. Ils ont erré pendant sept jours, marchant la nuit et se cachant dans des granges jusqu'à ce qu'un agriculteur connaissant la résistance les mette en contact.

    Le réseau "BOURGOGNE" les emmène à Paris en train. Puis après leur avoir fait des papiers d'identité ils les ont escortés avec d'autres (quatorze personnes) toujours en train jusqu'à Foix, au pied des Pyrénées.

    Ils ont traversé la montagne la nuit avec un guide jusqu'à Andorre. Faire ces trails nocturnes en haute montagne en mars a dû être éprouvant ; Le Consulat britannique les a récupéré alors et a organisé leur rapatriement. Ils sont rentrés au Royaume-Uni depuis Casablanca le 3 avril 1944.

    Les détails de l'évasion de Heldmann et Haywood sont décrits dans E&E 544 (et 543).

    Je souhaite identifier tous les membres d'équipage sur la photo et je recherche les familles d'autres aviateurs.


    [Moderator note: translation provided]

    I was very happy to read you.

    I summarized your grandfather's escape.

    On Friday, February 11, 1944, after the fatal attack on the Kentucky Babe while returning home damaged from a bombing raid on Frankfurt, the airmen parachuted, (except Sergeant Howard who had died). They land in a sector where the German army is very present. Four of them were taken prisoner, the other six escaped separately: Spinning towards Aumale, Helmann and Haywood towards the SE, Rutherford, Landers and Sokolowski were quickly picked up by assistants.

    Heldmann and Haywood soon found each other and headed in the wrong direction, straight toward an airfield and training camp for German NCOs. It was not easy for them to find help, there were Germans everywhere, even among the villagers. They wandered for seven days, walking at night and hiding in barns until a farmer with knowledge of the resistance brought them into contact.

    The “BURGUNDY” network takes them to Paris by train. Then after giving them identity papers, they escorted them with others (fourteen people) still by train to Foix, at the foot of the Pyrenees.

    They crossed the mountain at night with a guide to Andorra. Doing these night trails in the high mountains in March must have been trying; The British Consulate then collected them and organized their repatriation. They returned to the United Kingdom from Casablanca on April 3, 1944.

    Details of Heldmann and Haywood's escape are described in E&E 544 (and 543).

    I want to identify all the crew members in the photo and am looking for the families of other airmen.


  • Bonjour Karen, 

    je reviens vers vous avec une autre photo, votre père John Landers doit être l'un des des deux. Pouvez-vous me dire lequel c'est ?

    j'aimerais retrouver d'autres famille de l'équipage du Kentucky Babe, pouvez-vous m'aider ?

    Je vous en remercie.


    [Moderator note: translation provided]

    Hello Karen,

    I'll come back to you with another photo, your father John Landers must be one of the two. Can you tell me which one it is?

    I would like to find other families from the Kentucky Babe crew, can you help me?

    Thank you.


  • FEBRUARY 11, 1944 -- * -- FEBRUARY 11, 2024

    80 years since the crash of the KENTUCKY BABE - A Helper's children remember.

    The B17 Kentucky Babe, is a legendary cinema plane which was used for a propaganda tour in the US with Clark Gable and which was taken to England by James Stewart, before being assigned to the 351st Bomber Group at Polebrook.

    On the morning of February 11, 1944, he took off with his unit to bomb an arms factory in Frankfurt am Main with the following crew:
    - Captain and Pilot John Paul jr Carson
    - Lieutenant and Co-pilot Merlyn E Rutherford
    - Lieutenant and Navigator Henry M Heldmann
    - Lieutenant and Bombardier William H Spinning
    - Sergeant and Mechanic Joseph R Haywood
    - Sergeant and Radio John R Landers
    - Left Gunner Sergeant Richard C Howard
    - Right Gunner Sergeant James W Riley
    - Sergeant Belly Gunner Dave Eugene Lynch
    - Sergeant Tail Gunner Joe Robert Richey
    - Sergeant and Photographer Stanley Andrew Sokolowski.

    The Kentucky Babe was hit by Flak just after dropping his bombs. Engine 3 was destroyed as well as the electrical system forcing him to leave the formation and return to his base alone. The left machine gunner, Sergeant Richard Howard, was fatally wounded. He is buried in the Colleville cemetery (Omaha Beach).

    He no longer had any defenses following the damage previously suffered. Arriving near the Channel, he was attacked again by Flak and a fighter came to shoot him down. It went out of control, spun out and had to be immediately evacuated. It crashed south of Inval Boiron towards Neuville Coppegueule.

    The ten crew members parachuted around 2:30 p.m. They all fell within a radius of approximately 5 km around Beaucamps le Vieux.

    - Machine gunners Riley and Richey were injured either during the attack or by fire from the German army on the ground. They were treated at Amiens hospital and then taken prisoner.

    - Machine gunner Lynch was also taken by the Germans.

    - Captain Carson had the misfortune of coming face to face with a patrol and was arrested.

    - Lieutenant Spinning, who fell near Neuville Coppegueule, hid and wandered for several days from farm to farm before finding a farmer who put him in contact with the Resistance. He was evacuated by the Shelburn network via Paris and Brittany, he returned to England by boat and was the first to return to England on March 17, 1944.

    - Lieutenant Heldmann and Sergeant Haywood hid while waiting for the German soldiers to abandon their search, they found themselves at night near a wood. They too wandered for several days from barn to barn until they spotted a lone farmer who put them in contact with the Resistance. Their repatriation was organized by the Burgundy network: Paris, Toulouse, Foix, Andorra Gibraltar and Casablanca They returned on April 4, 1944. These two men were careful and were very lucky because they wandered near the land German aviation center of POIX and a training camp for Wehrmacht non-commissioned officers.

    - Lieutenant Rutherford landed near Beaucamps-le-vieux and after a day of observation, he approached the houses. It was discovered by a resident who hid it at home and handed it over to the Hornoy Resistance network. .

    - Sergeants Landers and Sokolowski landed at the end of Le Quesne. Two women went to meet Sokolowski and hid him in a barn with the help of our father, while Landers was hidden in a small cellar by another man, thus shielding them from the German army's search. In the evening Landers was taken back to the barn with Sokolowski where they were fed and dressed in civilian clothes. A lady from Le Quesne, speaking English and a member of the Resistance, handed them over two days later to the correspondents of the Burgundy network in Hornoy where they found Rutherford.

    The attack by the RAF on the Amiens prison on February 18 put the German troops in turmoil, forcing our three escapees who had been transferred there to remain hidden. Furthermore, the arrest of several members of the Burgundy network in the South-West of France and a roundup among resistance fighters in Hornoy compromised their evacuation. They remained hidden in Amiens and the region for several weeks before being evacuated to Paris and heading to Spain. They did not arrive in England until June 1, 1944.

    The farmer from Le Quesne who hid and fed them was our father: Germain BOURGOIS.
    Thanks to the combined action of the population, the Resistance and escape networks, six members of this crew were able to escape the German camps.

    This is a summary of their adventure, pieced together from the E&E reports and testimonies we collected.